The era of the Judges of Bible History occurred during the approximately 200-300 relatively chaotic years after the death of Joshua to the time of Samuel, Saul and David. The original Hebrew word for judge was pronounced shaw-fat, meaning to judge, or govern.
Origin Of The Judges
The judges were usually heads of families or tribal elders. The system was established during the Wilderness Journey just before Mount Sinai, on the advice of Jethro, to relieve Moses of the great burden of doing it all himself:
"On the morrow Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from morning till evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning till evening?"
"And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God and his decisions."
"Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it alone. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace."
"So Moses gave heed to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves." (Exodus 18:13-26 RSV)
There were numerous judges. Some of the best-known are:
- Gideon led the Israelites to an exceptional military victory over the Midianites.
- Eli served as both a judge and high priest.
- Deborah was a judge and prophetess.
- Samson is one of the most famous, and was perhaps the last judge before Samuel.
- Samuel is sometimes regarded as the last of the judges (1 Samuel 7:6,15-17) and the first of the prophets (1 Samuel 3:20)
Fact Finder: Did Samson have The Holy Spirit, far back in the "Old" Testament?
See also By The Book - Judges and The Holy Spirit In The Old Testament?