The Meaning of the Minor Judges: Understanding the Bible’s Shortest Stories -- By: Kenneth C. Way

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 061:2 (Jun 2018)
Article: The Meaning of the Minor Judges: Understanding the Bible’s Shortest Stories
Author: Kenneth C. Way


The Meaning of the Minor Judges:
Understanding the Bible’s Shortest Stories

Kenneth C. Way*

* Kenneth C. Way is Associate Professor and Chair of OT and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, CA 90639. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: The notices about the so-called “minor judges” (Judg 3:31; 10:1–5; 12:8–15) are strategically arranged in the literary structure of the book of Judges. They are “minor” only in the sense that they are shorter than the other stories, but their selective thematic emphases (especially on foreign deliverers, royal aspirations, outside marriages, “canaanization,” the number twelve, etc.) indicate that they are included with editorial purpose. The minor judges therefore have major importance for understanding the theological message of the book.

Key words: book of Judges, canaanization, donkeys, foreigners, marriage with outsiders, minor judges, royal aspirations, seventy, twelve

The book of Judges is a somewhat neglected book in Christian pulpits and Bible curricula today. If the stories of Judges are known or taught, usually only the so-called “major” judges attract interest while the remaining narratives (especially from chapters 1–2, 17–21) suffer from neglect. But the so-called “minor” judges are perhaps the most neglected parts of the book, no doubt because of their positioning (between the major cycles), brevity, and their presumed unimportance which may derive from the unfortunate label “minor.”

But it is my contention that the three passages (3:31; 10:1–5; 12:8–15)1 describing the minor judges contribute a great deal to the theological meaning of the book of Judges because they reinforce the progressive patterns and themes of the whole book, provide thematic transitions between cycles, and bring the total number of leaders to twelve in order to indict all Israel. The essential themes that emerge from a study of the minor judges may be summarized as follows: (1) foreigners may serve as deliverers; (2) judges are acting like kings by asserting status, building dynasties, and making alliances; (3) judges are arranging marriages with outsiders (probably non-Israelites); (4) the twelve leaders in chapters

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