The Book of Judges illustrates the disastrous consequences of breaking fellowship with God through idolatrous worship. Sin separates from God. The Lord requires commitment from His people. When we commit sin, the Lord in His love chastises us until we come to full repentance. When we cry out to Him, the Lord faithfully responds to us. He forgives us, brings deliverance to us, and restores fellowship with us.
The purpose of the Book of Judges is threefold: 1) historical, 2) theological, and 3) spiritual. Historically, the book describes the events that transpired during a specific period in Israel’s history and provides a link between the conquest of Canaan and the monarchy. Theologically, the book underscores the principle established in the Law that obedience to the Law brings peace and life, and disobedience brings oppression and death. Spiritually, the book serves to show the faithfulness of the Lord to His covenant. Whenever His people repented and turned from their evil ways, the Lord always forgave them and raised up Spirit-empowered leaders to deliver them from their oppressors.
The main body of the book (3:7—16:31) illustrates this recurring pattern within Israel’s early history. The Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord (apostasy); the Lord delivered them into the hands of enemies (oppression); the people of Israel cried out to the Lord (repentance); and in response to their cry, the Lord raised up deliverers whom He empowered with His Spirit (deliverance).
Simply stated, the reason for this rapid decline was sin—individual and corporate. The first step away from God was incomplete obedience (1:11–2:5); the Israelites refused to eliminate the enemy completely from the land. This led to intermarriage and idolatry (2:6–3:7) and everyone doing “whatever seemed right” (17:6).
Two stories are appended to the Book of Judges (17:1—21:25) in the form of an epilogue. The purpose of these appendices is not to establish an end to the period of the judges but to depict the religious and moral corruption that existed during this period. The first story illustrates the corruption in Israel’s religion. The second story in the epilogue illustrates Israel’s moral corruption by relating the unfortunate experience of a Levite at Gibeah in Benjamin and the ensuing Benjamite War.
As you read the book of Judges, take a good look at these heroes from Jewish history. Take note of their dependence on God and obedience to his commands. Observe Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from history and living only for the moment. But most of all, stand in awe of God’s mercy as he delivers his people over and over again.