The Chronology of Judges: Another Look -- By: David L. Washburn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 147:588 (Oct 1990)
Article: The Chronology of Judges: Another Look
Author: David L. Washburn


The Chronology of Judges: Another Look

David L. Washburn

Bible Teacher
Powell, Wyoming

The question of chronological sequence in the Book of Judges is related to the date of the Exodus. If the late date of the Exodus is accepted, the length of time required for all 12 recorded judges to follow one another becomes impossible.

Even if the early date is preferred, though, a strict order of succession still yields some 100 years more between the Exodus and David than is allowed by 1 Kings 6:1, which states that 480 years elapsed between the Exodus and the fourth year of Solomon’s reign.1 Jephthah’s remark in Judges 11:26 complicates matters further, for he seems to have claimed that 300 years had passed since Moses’ defeat of the Ammonites.2

Most evangelical commentaries treat the Judges question only as it relates to the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1.3 On the basis of this verse, one must either accept the possibility that some of the judges overlapped or regard 1 Kings 6:1 as an interpolation (as Garstang did4 ).

Suggested Solutions

Many have noted that several judges seem confined to a particular region,5 and have suggested schemes for arranging them.6 Geden claimed that “the geography of the judgships [sic] reveals the fact that there were three districts, a north, an east, and a southwest district; the historian goes round these districts in regular order four times.”7 It is difficult to see how he arrived at this design. If the judges are taken in their written sequence, Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar all came from the south (not necessarily from the southwest); Deborah, Gideon, and Tola were in the north; Jair and Jephthah served in Gilead; Ibzan was a southerner; Elon a northerner; Abdon lived in the central hills (which fit none of Geden’s districts); and Samson worked in the southwest. There seems to be no geographical pattern here, much less a fourfold cycle such as Geden proposed.

Keil and Delitzsch’s approach is equally imaginative, especially at the end of the cycle of the judges. They sought to reconcile the 20 years of Samson, the 40 years of Eli and the unknown term of Samuel with t...

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