Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Outline and theme of the book of Judges

I. The battles of Israel (1:1-36)
II. The punishment of Israel (2:1-5)
III. The corruption of Israel (2:6-23)
A. The cycle of disobedience-delivery (2:11-23)
a. Sin
b. Servitude
c. Supplication
d. Salvation
e. Silence
IV. The Lord tests Israel (3:1-6)
V. The Lord sends judges to save Israel (3:7-5:31)
A. Othniel (3:7-11)
B. Ehud (3:12-30)
C. Shamgar (3:31)
D. Deborah (4:1-5:31)
E. Gideon (6:1-8:35)
a. Abimelech (9:1-57)
F. Tola (10:1-2)
G. Jair (10:3-5)
H. Jephthah (10:6-12:7)
I. Ibzan (12:8-10)
J. Elon (12:11-12)
K. Abdon (12:13-15)
L. Samson (13:1-16:31)
a. Samson and Delilah (16:1-21)
VI. Tribal idolatry (17:1-19:30)
A. Idolatry of the tribe of Dan (17:1-18:31)
B. Idolatry of the tribe of Benjamin (19:1-30)
VII. Israel’s anger towards the Benjaminites (20:1-21:25)

Theme of the Book of Judges

The book of Judges is the continuation of the book of Joshua; however, its theme and historical development differ totally from what is narrated in Joshua. It is believed that the book of Judges is part of the work of Deuteronomistic Historians due to the emphasis on the story of Israel and the Promised Land.
Two great themes can be extracted from the book of Judges: Apostasy and Kingship. Each theme relates with the prior and the subsequent books. Thus, apostasy, relates to the death of Joshua and the lack of a God-fearing permanent leader and the theme of kingship relates to the following books where the people become desperate for a ruler. Let us first give a close look at the theme of apostasy in Judges.
The people of Israel disobeyed God’s command to expel the several pagan people groups who were living in the land prior to the Israelites’ conquest. For this reason, God said that He was not going to drive the pagan groups out of the land and that these people would be like thorns for the Israelites and their gods like traps to them (Judges 2:1-3). The words of God come true when an entire generation after Joshua began to worship other gods because they did not know the Lord or Joshua. Even worse, whenever God raised judges to save the people from the hands of their enemies, they would stubbornly return to worship false gods. God then became angry with the peoples’ attitude towards him, and he decided to allow the other nations to subjugate Israel.
Israel’s apostasy however is somewhat cyclical. Every time God raised a judge, the people returned to God. However, as soon as the judge died, the people would once more prostitute themselves to the Baals and other fake gods. The cycle of Israel apostasy can be outlined as follow.[1]
· Israel forgets Yahweh;
· Yahweh sells Israel into oppression;
· Israel cries out in petition to Yahweh;
· Yahweh raises up a deliverer that becomes a hero.

This chaotic situation of Israel in the book of Judges implies that sooner or later the nation of Israel would shift from theocracy to monarchy. God was supposed to be the ruler over Israel but the people rejected God’s kingship. The book of Judges reflects the beginning of the transition of the administration in Israel. It seems that the people rejected the Torah and the God of the Torah when they got settled in the land. Bruce C. Birch puts in this way, “[I]t could also be that the ‘no king’ formula is subtly understood as the failure of Torah governance and the disregard of the God of the Torah as the true king in Israel.”[2]
Monarchy is the next step in Israel. This is also part of the influence of other nations around Israel that have a human king as ruler. Israel completely lost sight of God and thought that a human king would make the difference. Unfortunately, Israel’s assumption was not true and beginning with Saul, Israel entered in a new era in their history. But they entered not only an era of expansion and power, but also, an era of defeat and division.

[1] Bruce C. Birch, A theological introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 207.
[2] Birch, A theological introduction to the Old Testament 210.

Rodrigo Serrao
Note: Copy of this material is allowed and free, since the source is cited / A reprodução dos textos é permitida e gratuita, desde que citada a fonte.

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