ESV - 1 After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, "Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?
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Most of the book of Judges is the record of 14 judges God raised up to deliver Israel from oppression by surrounding nations. The judges were Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak (Bedan of I Samuel 12:11), Gideon (Jerubbaal), Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. Some of these are mentioned in the “faithful hall of fame,” Hebrews 11. They are Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, Hebrews 11:32. But overall, the book is a record of years of apathy, apostasy, and anarchy, Judges 2:17, 17:6. One problem of the book is determining the number of years during the time of the judges. If all the time references are added up, the total is well over 500 years which does not make sense. It was just 480 years from the Exodus to the building of the temple by Solomon, I Kings 6:1. Of the 480 years, 40 were for the years in the wilderness, 40 for the reign of Saul, Acts 13:21, and 40 for the reign of David, I Kings 2:11. This leaves 360 years. Then, in Judges 11:26, Jephthah questions the king of Ammon as to why they had not recovered their territory in all the 300 years they could have. This would be from the time of Joshua to Jephthah. This leaves 60 years from Jephthah to Saul. When Paul spoke in the synagogue in Antioch, Acts 13:20, he mentioned 450 years. The way it reads in some versions, it seems to be connected to what follows, the time of the judges. Instead, it is the total time from God choosing Isaac to the partition of Canaan for the twelve tribes of Israel. The words “all this” refers to what was before in Acts 13:17-19. The solution to the unrealistic figures in Judges, is to correctly translate Judges 3:11, 3:30, 5:31, 8:28. These seem to suggest the land had rest for 40 or 80 years, which would be quite lengthy, especially Ehud’s 80 years. The better translation is that the land had rest in the 40th or 80th year, and identifies the judge at that time. To explain, every 40 years, the people rested (not at war) and the Book of the Law was read before all the people who made a covenant. Moses initiated it with Deuteronomy 27-30, and Joshua implemented it, Joshua 8:30-35. Then 40 years later Joshua and the people made the covenant again, Joshua 23:6-24:28. Much later, the crowning of Saul, which was the 400th year after the Exodus, was at the tenth reconfirmation of the covenant, I Samuel 11:14. A chart of the early observances of the covenant every 40 years looks like this up to Jephthah: 0 – Joshua entered the land 40 – Joshua at Shechem 80 – Othniel 120 – Ehud (80th year after Joshua) 160 – Deborah and Barak 240 – Abimelech 280 – Jair 300 – Jephthah The book of Judges shows that God works even in the bleakest of times to bring the erring back. He will not forsake His people.
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