Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

It is a great pleasure to acknowledge and thank those who have contributed to this volume in so many ways. In the past generation of scholarship, important trends were established introducing new ways of examining and understanding texts. I owe a great debt to these scholars for creating a strong base of scholarship from which to build...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xxi

The book of Judges is one of the best and least known of the books in the Hebrew Bible. The stories about Samson and Delilah, and Deborah and Baraq are some of the most loved in literature and Hollywood. Despite the popularity of some characters and the stories in which they play a role, others, such as Achsah, the unnamed...

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Chapter 1. Setting the Stage: Judges 1:1-36

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pp. 1-23

The opening chapters of Judges introduce the themes of the book and are the starting point for the major trends, sub-themes, and language plays used throughout the text. The first two chapters are traditionally treated as a conquest narrative added to the text at some later time by the Deuteronomist.1...

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Chapter 2. A Look Back and a Look Ahead: Judges 2:1-23

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pp. 25-33

Judges 2 begins with communication between the Israelites and their deity, looks back to the time of Joshua where precedents had been set, provides an overview of what is to come, and ends with what happens when the Israelites do exactly what they are prohibited from doing. There are many problematic features in this unit such as...

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Chapter 3. Final Bridge to the New Generation: Judges 3:1-14

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pp. 35-43

This chapter includes the final introductory material, which focuses on the first and prototypical judge Othniel. According to the Masoretic notes, a new unit begins with 3:1. New themes are introduced at this point, though the unit is well integrated into the previous chapter. Judges 3:8-11 is the last of the bridges from the introductory material to...

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Chapter 4. Ehud: Judges 3:12-30

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pp. 45-52

Ehud is the first leader for whom the narrator provides a story and detailed information about the situation encountered. A careful analysis of the story reveals the David/Saul polemic, tension with Ephraim, and foreshadowing of tales to come as the judges deteriorate from some of the attributes found in the Othniel model.1...

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Chapter 5. Deborah: Judges 3:31-4:24

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pp. 53-83

The story of Deborah shows how the spiral continues downward. This is done through the figure of Baraq, who should have been the judge and primary hero. His shortcoming, according to the world-view espoused in the biblical text, is that he allowed many of his responsibilities to be coopted by a woman. Women are prominent in this story...

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Chapter 6. The Poem of Deborah: Judges 5:1-31

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pp. 85-97

The poem of Deborah is a complicated text because it may contain some of the oldest literature in the MT.1 Many of the words which appear in it are otherwise unknown or difficult to translate because the forms are so archaic. It is poetry, rather than prose, and it is difficult to translate poetic license. A glance at the various translations will...

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Chapter 7. Gideon/Jerubbaal: Judges 6:1–8:35

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pp. 99-131

In the chapters which focus on Gideon/Jerubbaal, Israel’s relationship with the deity continues to decline. The issue of leadership is again prevalent here, with a focus on such aspects as: how a leader is chosen, reasons for fighting, rewards, and succession. The character of the individual heroes has reached such a low level that Gideon, the leader...

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Chapter 8. Abimelech: Judges 9:1-57

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pp. 133-151

Abimelech continues Israel’s degeneration. Abimelech took power, possibly from Gideon/Jerubbaal’s sons, in what was a blatant attempt at kingship. Neither the deity nor any actions on behalf of the deity or the people of Israel are referred to in the context of this effort to gain control. There is little to recommend any of the players in this passage...

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Chapter 9. Some Minor Judges: Judges 10:1-5

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pp. 153-158

This unit contains accounts of the “minor judges,” so designated because the book does not contain stories of their accomplishments but only gives brief information describing an aspect of the character. The inclusion of minor judges brings the number of leaders in Judges to twelve, the number of tribes in Israel. This may explain why five minor...

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Chapter 10. Jephthah: Judges 10:6–12:7

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pp. 159-186

The Jephthah episode is surrounded by references to minor Judges. A transition from the first set of minor judges is facilitated by focusing on those who were from the same general area which would be important in the Jephthah narrative. The transition concerning Israel’s present crisis is included in this chapter because it follows the pattern seen...

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Chapter 11. More Minor Judges: Judges 12:8-15

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pp. 187-191

The next three judges are similar to the minor judges introduced prior to Jephthah, i.e. they are called minor not because their actions were insignificant but because of the amount of information provided about them and, to a certain extent as well, the types of activities in which they engaged. There is little information concerning any of them...

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Chapter 12. Samson: Judges 13:1–16:31

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pp. 193-227

Samson is the last major judge in this book and was leader at the lowest end of the scale, just before Israel plunged to its absolute nadir in Judges. In Samson the Israelite deity made a last attempt at temporary leadership, engaging the leader from before his birth. Samson abused almost every aspect of the office of judge. He began the pattern...

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Chapter 13. The Danite Migration: Judges 17:1–18:31

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pp. 229-244

The focus of the next unit is the tribe of Dan as it seeks a new home, finds it, and takes it. In the process they come into contact with an Ephraimite, a Levitical priest, and a statue of dubious legitimacy in the eyes of the Israelite cult, which has been made from money from an unknown, possibly tainted, source. The story is filled with intrigue...

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Chapter 14. The Raped Pîlegeš: Judges 19:1–20:7

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pp. 245-269

Chapter 19 of the book of Judges presents what is, for the modern reader, one of the most distressing stories in the entire Bible. A woman was thrown to a gang of thugs and raped, possibly to death. Neither her husband, her father, nor the person who brought them into his home, protected her.1 The aftermath of the episode escalates into a civil...

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Chapter 15. Civil War: Judges 20:8–21:25

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pp. 271-285

This chapter concerns the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelites. The apparent cause has already been stated by the Levite in the previous chapter. As noted there, his account to the Israelites was not precisely what had been narrated in the previous chapter. The Israelites did not evaluate the man’s story, nor did...

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Conclusions

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pp. 287-290

This study argues that the book of Judges stresses the theological message that during the narrative period of Judges the Israelites strayed from their deity. The deity repeatedly responded by appointing temporary leaders or judges. Each judge acted progressively worse than the predecessor had, leading Israel finally to anarchy and civil...

For Further Reading

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pp. 291-298

Subject Index

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pp. 299-305

Index of Biblical References

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pp. 306-317