The Book of Judges - Dr. Brian J. Bailey - E-Book

The Book of Judges E-Book

Dr. Brian J. Bailey

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Can you imagine being ruled over and governed by judges? Not a king, a president, or a prime minister, but a judge! The nation of Israel was ruled in this fashion for approximately 350 years. During this time, Israel entered into a continual cycle of rebellion, judgment, and repentance. Read Dr. Bailey’s account of how you can avoid cycles of rebellion in your life by taking heed to the warnings given in this book, that you may be found among those who walk in the fear of the Lord, finding peace and rest and inheriting eternal glory.

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A Verse by Verse Commentary

Dr. Brian J. Bailey

“The Book of Judges”

© 2000 Brian J. Bailey

Front cover design:

© 2005 Zion Fellowship, Inc.

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in articles or reviews.

All Scripture quotations in this book are taken from the

King James Version Bible unless otherwise stated.

Published by Zion Christian Publishers

Revised March 2005 (Version 2.0)

Published as an e-book on August 2014

in the United States of America

E-book ISBN 1-59665-164-4

For more information, please contact:

Zion Christian Publishers

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Phone: (607) 565 2801


Editorial Team: Joyce Aw, Carla Borges, Rebecca Blodgett, Suzette Erb, Sarah Heyer, Mary Humphreys, David Kropf, Justin Kropf, Denise Miller, and Caroline Tham.

We wish to extend our thanks to these dear ones for without their many hours of invaluable assistance, this book would not have been possible. We are truly grateful for their diligence, creativity, and excellence in the compilation of this book for the glory of God.


The book of Judges is a record of the history of Israel, from a short time after their entrance into the Promised Land until the time of the High Priest Eli and Samuel the prophet. The book of Judges is one of the historical books of the Bible along with Joshua, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Many Bible scholars believe that Samuel was the author of Judges.

Judges is situated chronologically between Joshua and 1 Samuel, and it covers a period of about 350 years. The book of Ruth occurred during the time of the Judges during the Midianite invasion, and the respite accorded by Gideon. The period of Judges was a time in which the children of Israel “did that which was right in their own eyes.” The chaotic state which resulted illustrates poignantly what happens when man is left to his own devices. What may seem solely like a historical account not applicable for today is actually full of great spiritual lessons to be learned by the diligent seeker. We are plainly shown the effects and consequences of sin and making wrong alliances. We also see the fruit of repentance, which is rest.

It is due solely to the interventions of the Almighty that Israel emerged as a nation after this epoch in their history, for the period of the Judges was characterised by cycles of rebellion. This is basically the theme of the book (Jdg. 2:16 19). Their repeated cycles of rebellion caused the Lord to bring oppressors upon them. This in turn induced His people to call upon Him in their bondage. When they cried out to the Lord, He would raise up a judge to bring deliverance. After each fresh deliverance from their enemies, Israel enjoyed a period of rest and tranquility. Unfortunately, they would then forget the Lord again and not walk in His ways. The whole cycle would repeat.

There were seven stages to each of these cycles—rest, rebellion, repression, repentance, ruler, release, and rest. Notice that each cycle begins and ends with rest. When the children of Israel began to forget the Lord and forsake His ways, they started on their downward path. Only when they came to true repentance did the Lord begin to restore them and lift them back up to a state of rest once more. These cycles could be illustrated like this:

The ruler who was raised up by God to bring deliverance to the children of Israel in bondage was called a judge. The Hebrew word translating “judge” is “shophetim.” In other nations, “shophetim” are called governors. Therefore, although translated “judge” in the English Bible, the word “judge” does not convey the full sense of their office. The position was a high government rank that carried with it the responsibility for governing of the territory under their command.

In Assyria, this official came, generally speaking, from the nobility and was appointed by the king to represent him and rule on his behalf in a certain area of his realm. This was not true of the Israelite judges. The Lord raised them up, and their power and authority lay in the anointing that the Lord gave them. They were essentially military leaders who defeated the oppressors of their people and then governed the people’s civil affairs during the period of ensuing rest. There were a total of 13 judges who reigned over Israel in the book of Judges.

Dr. Brian J. Bailey


To really appreciate the setting of the book of Judges, we must first look at the historical background and chronology. Some dates are helpful in enabling us to understand the sequence of these events in Holy Scriptures.

The reign of King Solomon began in 971 B.C. This is a precise, fixed date in history from which other events may be calculated. This date is rarely disputed because it is so well documented. First Kings 6:1 states, “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.” The construction of Solomon’s Temple, which began in the fourth year of his reign (967 B.C.), took place 480 years after the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. This places the Exodus in the year 1447 B.C. Prior to this there were 430 years of captivity, reckoned from the time of the original descent into Egypt by Abraham until the time of the Exodus. Exodus 12:40 says, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”

In Acts 13:17-20, the Apostle Paul gives us a very accurate record of the history of the children of Israel from their sojourn in Egypt until their conquest of Canaan land. The King James Version of Acts 13:17-20 is not very clear, so we will quote the New International Version: “The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about 40 years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.”

The way the KJV reads in Acts 13:20, the period of the Judges was 450 years, when, in actuality, this 450 years was the time preceding the period of the Judges. The NIV clarifies this by noting that the 450-year period encompasses 400 years in Egypt, 40 years in the wilderness until the crossing of Jordan, followed by 10 years of conquering the land of Canaan until the first judge Othniel.

With Othniel begins the reign of the Judges, a period of about 350 years until the time of the prophet Samuel (circa 1400 B.C.—1050 B.C.). King Saul began reigning in about 1051/1050 B.C., and reigned for 40 years, followed by a 40 year reign by David (1010 B.C.—971/970 B.C.). Then, as we have said before, Solomon began his reign in 971 B.C.

Returning to the chronology of the Book of Judges, we are helped by the statements of Jephthah, who states in Judges 11:26: “While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?” (Circa 1110 B.C.)

The chronology of Judges actually starts in the book of Joshua since there are overlapping portions, specifically with respect to the account of the taking of Hebron by Caleb and Othniel. The capture of Hebron is recorded both in Joshua 15:16-17 and Judges 1:12-13. “And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife” (Josh. 15:16-17).

We may determine the date of the taking of Hebron thusly. The Exodus occurred in 1447 B.C. The children of Israel came to Kadesh Barnea two years later in 1445 B.C. At that time Caleb was 40 years old (Josh. 14:7). Upon their entry into the Promised Land 38 years later, he would have been 78 years old (1407 B.C.). However, seven years later when he requested Hebron (Josh. 14:10-15), Caleb was 85, meaning that Hebron was taken approximately in the year 1400 B.C.

Therefore, the events of this book cover the turbulent period in Israel’s history from about 1400 B.C.—1050 B.C., from the conquest of Palestine to the beginnings of the monarchy. Though the land had been generally conquered and occupied under Joshua, many important Canaanite strongholds had been bypassed, leaving their subjugation to individual Israelite tribes. The book of Judges describes this warfare, as the Hebrews tried to complete their occupation of the land. The judges were military and civil leaders ruling during this time when the nation was a loose confederacy. Some of the judges ruled concurrently since each one did not necessarily rule over the entire land.


Introduction   (1:1 - 3:7)

Othniel –The First Judge (3:8-11)

Ehud –The Second Judge (3:12-30)

Shamgar –The Third Judge (3:31)

Deborah –The Fourth Judge (4:1 - 5:31)

Gideon –The Fifth Judge (6:1 - 8:35)

Abimelech –The Sixth Judge (9:1-57)

Tola –The Seventh Judge (10:1-2)

Jair –The Eighth Judge (10:3-5)

Jephthah –The Ninth Judge (10:6 - 12:7)

Ibzan –The Tenth Judge (12:8-10)

Elon –The Eleventh Judge (12:11-12)

Abdon –The Twelfth Judge (12:13-15)

Samson –The Thirteenth Judge (13:1 - 16:31)

The Idolatry of Micah (17:1-13)

The Wickedness of Dan (18:1-31)

The Death of a Concubine (19:1-30)

Vengeance upon Benjamin (20:1-48)

The Restoration of Benjamin (21:1-25)



Numbers 32 & Joshua 14-21

* These were the original tribal boundaries, but with time many alterations were made to them.



1:1 - 3:7

The book of Judges opens with the statement that Joshua has died (see also Judges 2:8). Following this, we are given a detailed modus operandi (a method of operating) of the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.  Although the land of Canaan had been conquered during the time of Joshua, Israel had never possessed their full inheritance.  Each of the tribes of Israel were responsible for subjugating the enemies in their particular portions of the land, but there were still many Canaanite strongholds still held by their enemies.  We should also note that these opening chapters (from 1:1 - 3:4) are not sequential in their presentation and some of the events occur prior to Joshua’s death.

Judah Possesses Their Inheritance

1:1 -“Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” The book of Judges opens with a scene that took place after the death of Joshua. The elders who outlived Joshua and the rest of the Israelites asked the Lord for guidance in choosing the tribe who should go up first to fight against the Canaanites.

1:2 -“And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.” The Lord chose the tribe of Judah to go up first. This was a fulfilment of the prophecy by the patriarch Jacob over his son Judah, that the sceptre (or leadership) would not depart from Judah (Gen. 49:10). God further promised that He would fight for Judah and give their enemies into their hands.

1:3 -“And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.” Judah asks for Simeon’s help in their battle with the Canaanites. The attachment that the tribe of Judah had for the tribe of Simeon can be explained from Genesis 49:7, where Jacob, their father declared that Simeon would be scattered among the tribes of Israel. The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon was largely within the tribe of Judah. As we read in Joshua 19:9, “Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.”

1:4 -“And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.” The Canaanites were descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, who was the son of Noah (Gen. 10:6). In fact, most of the inhabitants of Canaan were descendants of Ham, who had been cursed. His descendants include the following ten nations: the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgasites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, the Hamathites, and the Canaanites (Gen. 10:15-20). They were all occupants of the land that God had promised to Abraham and his seed, settling in the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

The name Canaanites over time became synonymous with merchants, but they were also engaged in agriculture (cf. Zech. 14:21. See Strong’s H3669). The Perizzites dwelled in villages, while the Canaanites mostly dwelled in walled cities. The city of Bezek was near Gezer—approximately 20 miles from Jerusalem.

1:5-7 -“And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.”

Adonibezek, meaning lord of Bezek, was their king. The Israelites pursued him, and when they caught him, they cut off his thumbs and his big toes. It is interesting that the Israelites inflicted upon him the same punishment that he had meted out to 70 other kings. This punishment would disable him from using weapons.

The punishment of Adonibezek illustrates one of the most important truths in the Word of God. It is repeated again and again in Holy Scripture from Genesis to Revelation: We reap what we sow. If we sow good, we will reap good, but if we sow evil, we will reap evil as did Adonibezek. Paul says in Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” If we kill by the sword, we will die by the sword (Rev. 13:10). We must not be deceived into thinking that we will not reap the consequences of our actions. The Lord metes out the punishment that fits the crime in this life as well as in the life to come (Rev. 20:12).

1:8 -“Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.” Here it is declared that Jerusalem was taken by Judah, but evidently they did not hold it for very long. The Jebusites obviously had returned to occupy Jerusalem by the time the Benjaminites sought to acquire their territory. In fact, the Jebusites remained there until the time of David, when he took the city (2 Sam. 5:6-9).

The Conquest of Hebron

The conquest of Hebron was a very important event in Israel’s history. Hebron, which literally means “seat of association,” was the dwelling place of Abraham and Sarah as well as their burial place. It was later given to Caleb as his inheritance. Since Caleb wholly followed the Lord (Num. 32:12), Hebron speaks of the inheritance of those who are wholehearted.

Years later, King David reigned for seven and a half years in Hebron before he took Mount Zion, the ultimate inheritance and the dwelling place of God. These two cities (and mountains) speak of spiritual experiences and inheritances. As believers, we must first learn all the lessons of Hebron and be wholehearted for the Lord before we can ascend the holy hill of the Lord—Mount Zion.

1:9 -“And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.” After their conquest of Jerusalem and the Jebusites, the armies of Judah and Simeon then turned toward the south to Hebron, which is situated 3,000 feet above sea level, about 19 miles south of Jerusalem.

1:10 -“And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.” “Kirjatharba” means the city of Arba. Arba was an outstanding warrior among the Anakim, a tribe of giants with very long necks.  He was also the father of Anak (Josh. 14:15; 15:13).  These giants (or Nephilims in the Hebrew) were from the same tribe that the ten spies sent out from Israel had encountered about 40 years before, when they spied out the land.

Numbers 13:22 says, “And [the Hebrew spies] ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak...” At that time Israel had been filled with unbelief and failed to enter into the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13:32-33).  It was later, during the time of Joshua, that these giants were summarily dealt with.

Caleb is credited with the slaying of these three giants as recorded in Joshua 15:13-14: “And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, even the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron. And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.”  Caleb was from the tribe of Judah (Num. 13:6) and would have been the commander of the army of Judah.

It is a solemn fact that if we do not fulfil the Lord’s purposes, He will raise up someone else to accomplish the task. Let us pay full heed to the warning in Hebrews 4:1: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”

1:11-12 -“And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher. And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.” Kirjathsepher, an alternate name for Debir, means “the city of the book.” Undoubtedly, it was a city where writers congregated.

Judah attacked Debir, which is about 11 miles southwest of Hebron. The ancient city of Debir is associated with the modern-day city of Tell Beit Mirsim. This city still has the two functioning springs of cold water which provide water for the local farmers.

Joshua 15:15-16 says, “And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher. And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.” These verses are identical to Judges 1:11-12. Therefore, we may assume that the chronological order changes here. This event took place during the lifetime of Joshua, several years after Caleb requested Hebron as his inheritance.

1:13-15 -“And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether [or lower] springs.” We are now introduced to the beautiful character of Achsah.

I spoke over 30 years ago about this beautiful woman of God in a certain Bible School. One of the students whose wife was then pregnant named his firstborn daughter Achsah. She is now a beautiful young lady and very worthy of the name she bears.

The reason that I lauded the character of Achsah is simply that she moved her husband in the right direction—seeking all that the Lord had for them both. She prompted Othniel to ask for his godly, physical inheritance—the upper and nether springs. The Lord gave us the command in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” A wife has a tremendous influence on her husband. She will either strengthen him in the right way or in the wrong way.

Jezebel, for example, encouraged her husband to do wickedly. First Kings 21:25 says, “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.” Jezebel actually urged or incited her husband Ahab to do wicked things.

Therefore, wives must understand that they are the stimulus behind their husbands’ actions, and they will either confirm their husbands in the path of God or in the path of wickedness.

Achsah wanted Othniel to receive all that God had for him, to get God’s full blessing. Every wife should seek to emulate the character of Achsah so that through prayer and godly encouragement they move their husbands to press on into all that God has for them. This is a true helpmate.