The reliability of Judges (Judges 12)

Bilderesultat for dan high place and altar

Illustration: Dan high place and altar area

The book of Judges is often regarded as an amalgamation (the process of combining or uniting multiple entities into one form) of history, legend and single fiction. The findings of archaeology, however, have demonstrated that we have a good reason to maintain the accuracy of the accounts preserved in this book. Drawing together the essential data, we can summarize evidence that supports reading Judges as a trustworthy account:

  • Immediately after the conquest the Israelite tribes were engaged in securing their assigned allotments. It was a time of conflict and turmoil. A group of about 100 letters written by Canaanite kings to the king of Egypt indicates that there was much hostility in Canaan approximately 50 years after the conquest. A people called Habiru (a term which the name Hebrew may have been derived) were attacking the cities and taking over the land.
  • Early in the period of the Judges, Eglon, king of Moab, built a palace at Jericho where he collected tribute from the tribes (Judges 3:15-30). A palace from the time of Eglon matching the Biblical description has been excavated at Jericho.
  • Judges 4-5 documents a the demise of Hazor, the most powerful city-state in Canaan, at the hands of a coalition of Israelite tribes. Excavations there reveal destruction at this time (second half of the thirteenth century B.C.) so severe that the city never recovered. Evidence points to the Israelites as the most likely agents. This victory made Israel the strongest force in th region.
  • An inscription of Pharaoh Merneptah, who ruled from approximately 1210-1202 B.C, states that he annihilated the Israelites. Although the boast was far from the truth, the inscription demonstrates the Israel was an important group in Canaan at that time.
  • Early in the twelfth century B.C. the tribe of Dan migrated from its original allotment west of Benjamin to the city of Laish in northern Galilee (Judges 18). The Philistines, who had taken over the southern coastal area, had most likely forced them out. At the site of Laish, renamed Dan, excavations uncovered a burn layer dating to the early twelfth century B.C. (Judges 18:27) and subsequently occupation by newcomers who used a new type of pottery known to be of Israelite origin.
  • In the mid twelfth century B.C. Gideon’s son, Abimelech, attempted to become king of Israel (Judges 9). The ill-fated affair took place at Shechem where abundant evidence has been found to corroborate the Biblical account, including the destruction of the city as recorded in Judges 9:45.

The stories of Judges are not legends or myths, but gritty and often tragic accounts of the follies of God’s people. Archaeological evidence strongly supports taking the stories at face value.


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