Saturday, May 10, 2008

Judges: Location and Date

Location & Date: “Dark Ages of Israel”

Judges tells the history of the nearly powerless Israelite tribes during their first 350 years (1415 -- 1065 BC) in the hill country of Canaan. Judges (Hebrew: Shophetim, “judges,”) measures time from the end of Joshua’s Wars (1415 BC) to the Coronation of Saul (1065 BC). It records the history of Israel from Joshua to Samuel, the last of the judges and first of the prophets. It bridges the gap between Joshua and the rise of the monarchy.

The text of Judges was compiled while the Jebusites were still in control of Jerusalem (1:21), meaning that David had not yet overtaken that city (1018 BC) (2 Samuel 5:6-9). Also, Judges 1:29 refers to Canaanites living in Gezer, which did not come under Israelite sovereignty until the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16f; 1 Chronicles 6:67). If one takes the reference to ‘captivity’ in Judges 18:30-31 to indicate the Philistine captivity of the Ark of the Covenant (and Psalm 78:61 supports it), one demonstrates that Judges was written after the Ark of the Covenant was removed from Shiloh (1 Samuel 4:3-11, 21) and during the period of the monarchy (Saul’s reign: 1065-1025 BC) because it mentions four times “in those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

Some judgeships were not nationwide and overlapped; therefore the total of years served by the judges of 410 years could fit into 350. Judges mentions long periods of rest and servitude (3:11, 14, 30; 5:31; 8:28, etc.) Jephthah refers to 300 years of Israelite settlement in the Transjordan (Heshbon and Aroer – 11:26), so it covers a long period of history. Based on all this information, it seems likely that Judges was written between Saul’s coronation (1065 BC) and David’s capture of Jerusalem (1018 BC).