The book of Judges recounts the up-and-down experience of the Israelites during the centuries between Joshua and Samuel (about 1400-1050 B.C.). The author of the book is unknown, but the date of writing was probably between the institution of the monarchy under Saul and David's capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites ( Judges 1:21; 2 Sam. 5:6-9).
The name of the book comes from its title for the leaders after Joshua (Jud ges 2:16-19). It appears that their "judging" primarily involved gaining justice for the Israelites by delivering them from oppression. (verse 16).
Under Joshua, the Lord defeated powerful forces opposing the Israelites. Following generations had the task of completing the conquest through faith in God's power. But their military momentum ground to a halt and went into reverse in proportion to their disloyalty to Him.
Because the Israelites broke the Lord's covenant by mixing with the inhabitants of the land and worshiping their gods, He could not complete the fulfillment of His promises to them. He allowed the inhabitants of the region to harass and oppress them. This is one way the Lord sometimes punishes His unfaithful people; He withdraws His protection so that their enemies prevail against them. In their misery, the Israelites would return to the Lord, whereupon He would raise up a "judge" to deliver them. When this leader was gone, they would fall into worse apostasy than before. Thus, the period of the "judges" was characterized by downward spiraling cycles of apostasy, repentance, deliverance, and worse apostasy.
While the book of Judges provides many negative examples, there were those, such as Deborah, Barak, and Gideon, who were faithful to the Lord and stood out like bright lights amid the prevailing darkness. Risking everything from a human point of view, they placed their lives in the hands of God and were victorious against seemingly impossible odds. These courageous individuals, "who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises" (Heb> 11:33, NRSV), teach us that there are no limits to what we can accomplish for God and for His people when we trust in Him and allow His Spirit to move us (Judges 3:10; 6:34 A>; 11:29 ).
The most positive message of the book of Judges is the persistence and patience of God's love. His people abandoned Him time after time, but He was always ready to receive them back. The struggles of God's people at that time are typical of their struggles in every era and especially in our era, immediately prior to the final overthrow of the united forces of evil.