On Sunday our church finished our expositional series through the book of Judges. The following is an outline of the book along with some big-picture themes and takeaways.
Outline of the Book of Judges
- Double-Intro (1:1-3:6).
- Insufficient Conquest (1:1-2:5) [Israel’s “inheritance” jeopardized]
- Insufficient Saviors (2:6-3:6) [Israel’s idolatry showcased]
- The Judges Cycle (3:7-16:31) [idolatry → oppression → crying out → deliverance →]
- The Othniel Cycle (3:7-11)
- The Ehud Cycle (3:12-31)
- The Barak Cycle (4:1-5:31)
- The Gideon Cycle (6:1-8:28)
- [The Abimelech Account (8:29-10:5)]
- The Jephthah Cycle (10:6-12:15)
- The Samson Cycle (13:1-16:31)
- The Double-Outro (17:1-21:25)
- Religious Anarchy (17:1-18:31) [Israel’s idolatry showcased]
- Civil Anarchy (19:1-21:25) [Israel’s “inheritance” jeopardized]
Themes & Takeaways from Judges
A Cycle of Disobedience and Deliverance
- God’s people repeatedly do evil in God’s eyes/sight (2:11; 3:7; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; cf. 14:3, 7; 19:24). Said differently, they do right in their own sight/eyes (same word) as a result of there being no king during those days (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). These refrains structure the book.
- Israel goes through a cycle of (1) committing idolatry, (2) God handing them over to oppression, (3) crying out to God for deliverance, and (4) God raising up a judge to deliver them. This cycle is introduced in 2:6-3:6 and is then carried through the six judges in 3:7-16:31.
- There are a total of twelve judges in the book, thus representing the twelve tribes. This is the story of all of Israel, in other words. If the Abimelech narrative is counted, there are seven cycles in the book, potentially symbolizing the fullness of Israel’s downward spiral. Alternatively, if Abimelech’s account is not included, that would leave us with six cycles, potentially deliberately one less than seven (six) and thus signifying incompletion and longing for something more (David?)
- The cycle, among other things, testifies to God’s grace. After hearing of Israel’s idolatry, we expect that God would hand them over to their oppressors. This is what they deserve. What is undeserved (and in this sense unexpected) though is that God would listen to their cries over and over and keep supplying deliverers for them. The book of Judges is a book of God’s grace demonstrated over and over, his longsuffering and patience with his wayward people. God treats us, not on the basis of what we deserve, but with deliverance. God relentlessly pursues his people. And this—God’s relentless grace, not human righteousness—is then, and can be, the only basis for future hope, both for Israel then and for us now.
- As also demonstrated by the above cycle, our repentance is often quite short-lived, as we frequently go right back to our sin as soon as we get relief from its consequences. We are slow to learn. We often fail to appreciate grace even right after we’ve received it.
- Thus the book of Judges is a book about “insufficient saviors” (judges). It presents a cycle of saviors (“judges”) who ultimately prove insufficient to secure permanent deliverance and rest for God’s people. The judges only brought temporary deliverance, namely, for as long as they lived. Immediately after they die, the people again rebel and return to idolatry. A more permanent solution is needed. And as they go on, each subsequent judge proves progressively worse and worse. We are meant to despair of the judges as a solution. In this way, the book of Judges anticipates Jesus, who is God’s appointed savior who brings complete and permanent rescue and rest for God’s people. The inadequacy of the judges produces a longing for Christ, the all-sufficient savior-king.