The Time of the Judges in Context

While considering the moral lessons from the time of the Judges, there is both a repetitious cycle and a downward spiral. The repetitious cycle and the downward spiral of disobedience, sin, evil and moral chaos started at the beginning of Genesis in the Garden of Eden, and it gets worse from there. Genesis 6:5 states, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (NIV).  Then several generations later the Israelites are again in moral chaos. Deuteronomy 12:8 states, “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes” (ESV). Again several generations later the book of Judges also reports moral chaos and evil, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:11; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1) and in 17:6 and 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (ESV).

Throughout this history God shows patience and love towards his people by disciplining and restoring them. Thus, he protects them from a quick downward spiral to destruction and oblivion. The book of Judges fits within this narrative, but takes on a new form and level of moral chaos. The Israelites ceased to remove the Canaanites from the land which resulted in continual interaction with Baal worshippers; thus, they were constantly tempted to forsake Adonai and worship Baal. Eventually, they apostatized and worshiped Baal and the other gods of the Canaanites. This led to the Israelites adopting Canaanite practices which led to all types of sin, lawlessness, darkness and oppression among God’s people. They completely abandoned Adonai and their lives became identical to the Canaanites. Adonai raised up Judges to deliver his people and restore them to a proper relationship, but most of the judges were not immune to apostasy, and so they too became corrupt and wicked.

Thus, there is a downward progression of evil and wickedness during this era, but it is part of a downward trajectory that has been taking place throughout the story of God’s people. The time of the flood and the time of the Judges present much of the same issues when it comes to disobedience, sin, evil and moral chaos, and so herein lies the point for a repetitious cycle in the book of Judges. Whatever takes place in the the time of the Judges needs to be viewed within the larger Old Testament narrative.