Ehud’s Escape -- By: Brian Janeway
BSpade 14:1 (Winter 2001) p. 15
[“For sheer melodrama—gruesome murders, sexual exploits, superhuman feats of strength, a bizarre mutilation—no tabloid can offer you more, “So reads the introduction to the Book of Judges in the Quest Study Bible. Such a juicy enticement to begin the study of Scripture! Hopefully, this study will be motivated by more noble incentives!]
The Book of Judges
In the book of Judges, we encounter the stories of Israel’s “judges,” from the root spt, meaning “to deliver” or “to save” in this particular context. But the general meaning of the word is multifaceted and encompasses many functions obscured by the simple rendering. They include the actions of “govern,” “decide,” “rule,” “vindicate,” and “deliver.” With cognates in both Akkadian and the Mari archives, it is often used in the Old Testament in parallel with dyn, implying a predominately legal function of the word “judgment.” Whereas the root dyn is used only 25 times, the use of spt is attested in 180 references. (Mafico 1992:104–05).
The Book of Judges contains a series of “cycles” wherein Israel experiences God’s blessing, falls into spiritual complacency and idolatry, suffers at the hands of enemies, repents of its evil ways and is delivered by one of the judges. Rabbinical tradition holds that the prophet Samuel authored Judges. The book itself, however, makes no claims of authorship. It seems likely a prophetic associate of Samuel’s was the actual author based upon certain chronological indicators in the text (“in those days there was no king in Israel.” 17:6, 18:1, 21:25) and its place in the prophetic division of the Hebrew Bible (Baker 1982:638).
The Time of the Judges
The period of Judges is entangled in the discussion over the date of the Exodus and Conquest. Many modern scholars want to compress the events of Judges into an intolerably short period of about 200 years. But a straightforward reading of the text (like 11:26 where Jephthah claims the Israelites had been in the land for 300 years) along with 1 Kings 6:1 (480 years from the time of Solomon) date Judges ca. 1400 BC - ca. 1050 BC (the appointment of Saul), a span of approximately 350 years.
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