Discerning time in Judges
Discerning time in Judges
Most of us expect to find a book laid out in chronological order. The bible itself is not laid out this way, particularly our English bibles. The book of Judges also does not reveal its contents in chronological order. The book is basically divided into two parts. Part one, chapters 1-16, is the introduction and the history of the various judges. Part two, chapters 17-25, was aptly labeled "The Moral Mess" (Smith, OT Survey series).
The last section not only is out of chronological order with the first part, some of the events it records actually happened within a few years of the death of Joshua. The record of the Danite migration (chs. 17-18) is also recorded in Joshua 19. This leads us to think that the event most likely transpired very early, maybe even before the death of Joshua. Wilbur Fields writes: "The act that these events occurred early during the period is shown by the fact that Judges 18:30 mentions Moses' grandson Jonathan as living when those events occurred. Moses' son was born nearly forty years before the exodus, perhaps about 1470 B.C. (Ex. 2:22). It is improbable that Moses' grandson was living after 1300 B.C. Judges 20:28 also mentions Aaron's grandson Phinehas as being alive at the time of the events in Judges 19-21. Another evidence that Judges 17-21 tells of events early in the period of judges is that Hosea 10:9 refers to the sin at Gibeah (described in Judges 19) as the beginning of Israel's sins in the lad. Also, in Judges 20:47 we learn that the tribe of Benjamin was reduced to 600 men by warfare during the period of judges. But by the time of Kings Saul and David enough years had passed that Benjamin had increased back to many thousands (1 Chr. 12:29)." (Old Test. History, Wilbur Fields).
Writers then, as now, often arranged their material to teach various lessons and to illustrate various principles. The write of Judges was not just giving a chronological listing of events but was teaching about the very nature of the apostasy of Israel during that time. We read of the idolatry, lawlessness, immorality, and disunity of the people. We see their devious handling of the commandments of God in the way the side-stepped their oath to provide brides for the tribe of Benjamin.
Twice the writer mentions that "in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25, see also 17:6). Of course many of the kings that follow this period also neglected the Word of God and pursued their own course in this world. What does it look like when people's only law is what is 'right in their own eyes'? Read these last chapters of Judges.
Brother Doy Moyer recently wrote: "Freedom, without moral boundaries, is not true freedom, but is servant to all that is wrong and pernicious. Such pseudo-freedom is only dressed up to look free, hiding the shackles that inevitably repress and destroy who we are and what we are meant to be." (see his Facebook page).