Book summary

Judges covers the period of time between Joshua’s death and Israel’s first king, Samuel. God’s people continually fall into unfaithfulness and disobedience, and also face assault from neighoring nations. God raises up a series of leaders — called judges — to get them back on track and deliver them from these enemies.

During the leadership of each judge, Israel prospers, but when their leadership ends then Israel quickly falls back into sin and the cycle is repeated. This book records twelve judges, who are usually split into groups of six major judges and six minor judges.

Judges of the Israelites


Major judge

Minor judge



Othniel (vs. Aram)


Ehud (vs. Moab)




Deborah (vs. Hazor)


Gideon (vs. Midian)







10:6 to 12:7

Jephthah (vs. Ammon)








Samson (vs. Philistine)

Chapters 1:1 to 3:6 — Israel abandons faith

Ch 1:1 to 2:5 — Israel fails to purge the land

  • When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. (1:28)

  • The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” (Judg. 2:1-3)

Ch 2:6 to 3:6 — Israel’s downward spiral

  • Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. (Judg. 2:18-19)

Chapters 3:7 to 16:31 — Israel’s judges

Ch 3:7-11 — Othniel (vs. Aram)

  • The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. (Judg. 3:7-9)

  • So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. (Judg. 3:11)

Ch 3:12-30 — Ehud (vs. Moab)

  • Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. (Judg. 3:20-22)

Ch 3:31 — Shamgar

  • After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. (Judg. 3:31)

Ch 4-5 — Deborah (vs. Hazor)

  • She [Deborah] sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” (Judg. 4:6-7)

Ch 6-8 — Gideon (vs. Midian)

  • [Gideon was also known as Jerub-Baal.]

  • “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.” (Judg. 6:15-17)

  • Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised — look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew — a bowlful of water. (Judg. 6:36-38)

Ch 9 — Abimelek

  • [Abimelek was one of Gideon’s (Jerub-Baal’s) sons.]

  • He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. (Judg. 9:5)

Ch 10:1-2 — Tola

  • After the time of Abimelek, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. (Judg. 10:1)

Ch 10:3-5 — Jair

  • He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. (Judg. 10:3-4)

Ch 10:6 to 12:7 — Jephthah (vs. Ammon)

Israel sins again
  • Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. (Judg. 10:6-8)

Jephthah makes a vow
  • And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judg. 11:30-31)

Jephthah honors his vow
  • When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.” (Judg. 11:34-35)

Ch 12:8-10 — Ibzan

  • After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. (Judg. 12:8)

Ch 12:11-12 — Elon

  • After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. (Judg. 12:11)

Ch 12:13-15 — Abdon

  • After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. (Judg. 12:13)

Ch 13-16 — Samson (vs. Philistine)

Samson’s strength
  • The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. (Judg. 14:6)

Samson’s vengeance on the Philistines for killing his wife
  • So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” (Judg. 15:6-7)

Samson and Delilah
  • After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. (Judg. 16:19)

  • Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. (Judg. 16:21)

Samson’s death
  • “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judg. 16:28)

Chapters 17-21 — Appendix on Israel’s corruption

Ch 17-18 — Idolatry

  • Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judg. 17:5-6)

Ch 19 — Immorality

  • But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. (Judg. 19:25)

Ch 20-21 — Civil war on the tribe of Benjamin

  • The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. (Judg. 20:20)