The judges period (Judges 1)

The period of the judges extended from the end of the conquest, around 1400 B.C., until Saul was anointed king of Israel in approximately 1050 B.C. An Egyptian document, Papyrus Anastasi I, describes Canaan at that time as something like the American “wild west”, with roads nearly impassible by chariot and boding ever-present dangers from wild animals and robbers. During this era Israel functioned as a tribal society led by leaders called judges, and its religious centre was at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1).

By the late thirteenth century B.C. the Israelites were the major political power in the region. That changed, however, with the invasion of the Philistines in the early twelfth century B.C. The Israelites were almost continuously at war with the Philistines for the next two centuries, until David finally subdued this troublesome adversary once and for all.

A major socioeconomic change took place in the eastern Mediterranean region during the period of the judges. The city-states that had predominated in the Late Bronze Age were destroyed in the late thirteenth and early twelfth centuries B.C., ushering in the Iron Age. Rural shepherds like the Israelites could no longer depend upon the city-states for produce and were forced to settle down and become agriculturists in order to survive. Thus, while the Israelites were pastoralists, dependent largely upon flocks and herds for their economic security (Genesis 46:32-34, 47:3, Exodus 12:38, Judges 5:16) and dwelling in tents (Judges 20:8) at the beginning of the judges period, by the time of Gideon, around 1190 B.C., at least some of them had become farmers living in villages (Judges 6:3-4, 11, 27-30, 37).

Many scholars claim that the record of the conquest in Joshua is idealistic, with a more realistic account detailed in Judges 1. However, the two books identify the same list of cities that could not  e conquered (Joshua 13:3-4, 15:63, 17:11-12, 16, Judges 1:27-36). The focus in Joshua is not on those failures but rather on the victories resulting from remaining true tpo the Lord. Judges, n the other hand, emphasizes Israel’s failings during a period when the people of God followed the pagan ways of the nations around them.

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