Magistrates Of Israel
The era of the Judges of Bible History occurred during the approximately 200-300 relatively tumultuous years after the death of Joshua to the time of Samuel, Saul and David. The original Hebrew word for judge was pronounced shaw-fat; it meant meant a governor, or magistrate.
"thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth"
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:
"And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses [see also The Education Of Moses] sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?"
"And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and His laws."
"And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace."
"So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves." (Exodus 18:13-26 KJV)
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: When will come the "judgment day" for all who have ever lived?
See When Will You Be Judged?