MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED|
CHAPTER VII THE PERIOD OF THE JUDGES
IN OUR studies thus far we have unraveled the Biblical chronology up to the
year 2559 A.H., the date of the end of the wars of conquest. We must advance a
step and trace the reckoning of time through the stormy period of the Judges.
There are many difficulties connected with this part of our study; in fact,
some of the knottiest problems of chronology appear in this period. That the
problem is a real one is evident from the fact that certain scholars have
advanced so very many theories concerning the times and have offered many
hypotheses to account for the facts. Some of them find the data irreconcilable
and resort to the famous tricks of commentators and chronologists -- emending
the texts, deleting certain passages and claiming that they are later
additions and interpolations. Others, having a definite idea of the time from
the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon's reign, emend the text, alter the
numbers, and juggle the figures in order to make the data fit into the
preconceived chronological scheme. These efforts, though put forth by honest,
sincere men, have beclouded the issue very materially and have hindered a
solution to the problem. Although the situation is as stated, we shall address
ourselves in this study to a thorough, scientific search for the facts. We
must do so by analyzing all of the relevant matter and by evaluating properly
I. ANALYSIS OF THE LITERATURE OF THE TIME
The writings from this period consist of the books of Judges and Ruth, and the
first seven chapters of I Samuel. The book of Judges begins the history
immediately after the death of Joshua and traces it to the end of the
Philistine domination of Israel (chapters 1-16). Chapters 17-21 constitute an
appendix of the book, giving two outstanding events which illustrate the
lawlessness of the times. The book of Ruth might properly be called a second
appendix. It presents the pure and noble side of Israelitish life in the midst
of turbulent times. One can appreciate it only by reading it with the book of
Judges as the dark background. In the first seven chapters of Samuel we have a
of the period of the judgeships of Eli and Samuel. As we shall see, Samuel's
period of judging Israel terminated with the coronation of Saul.
Judges 1 presents a brief survey of a determined effort on the part of the
Israelites, after the death of Joshua, to get full possession of the Land and
to exterminate their enemies. In chapter 2:1-10 we have an account of the
appearance of the Angel of Jehovah to the children of Israel at Bochim,
reprimanding them for delinquency of duty and for the worship of foreign gods.
This failure is explained in verses 6-10 as having occurred after the death of
Joshua and the elders who outlived him. Since he lived to be 110, it is most
likely that the elders who were his contemporaries outlived him by only a few
This indictment of Israel by the Messenger of the Covenant serves as a preface
to the introduction of the first section of the book (2:11-3:6). The first
main division, however, consists of Judges 3:7-10:2.
In order to understand this portion of the book, one must be thoroughly
familiar with the contents of the introduction. History repeats itself; it
runs in cycles. This principle was true with reference to Israel in the period
of the Judges especially. Each one of these cycles consisted of four distinct
elements: apostasy, servitude, return to Gad, and deliverance. Whenever they
forsook the Lord for other gods, the Almighty delivered them over into the
hand of some foreign oppressor who subjected them to the severest bondage
possible. When their lots became unbearable, they in sincere repentance
returned to the Lord, crying for deliverance. Upon their calling on Him
genuinely, He responded and brought deliverance, raising up a judge whom He
empowered and who always led the nation to victory.
In this first section we have four cycles of this routine of history. When
Israel first apostatized, the Lord delivered her into the hands of
Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, for 8 years. Othniel brought
deliverance and she had a period of rest for 40 years. After the second
apostasy she was delivered into the hands of the Moabites for 18 years. Ehud
was the judge who brought deliverance, which was followed by a period of 80
years rest. Shamgar delivered Israel during the oppression of Jabin, as is
seen in Judges 5:6-7. The period of his judgeship must not be added to the
total number of years since it is included in the oppression under Jabin king
of Hazor. This position is further confirmed by reading 4:1-3,
which states that Israel did evil after Ehud was dead, and God delivered her
into the hand of Jabin for 20 years.
The third cycle, therefore, is recorded in chapters 4 and S. At the conclusion
of 20 years of servitude under Jabin, Deborah and Barak were raised up to
bring deliverance. Following this mighty event Israel had rest for 40 years.
The fourth cycle of experiences is recorded in chapters 6 to 8. This time the
Lord delivered her over to Midian for 7 years. Gideon was the judge who
brought deliverance. Then she had rest for 40 years.
Following the death of Gideon, we have an innovation in Israel's history known
as the usurpation of Abimelech. This is found in 8:33-9:57. Following his
experiment was the period of the judgeship of Tola, which lasted for 23 years.
Jair was the second judge to arise in Israel. He administered office for 22
In 10:6-16 we have an introductory statement to the second division of the
book (chapters 10:3-16:31) .
The last two cycles of Israel's experiences during this period are recorded
here. Jephthah's speech and his life-history appear in chapter 11. In 12:7-15
is found a brief statement of several judgeships. Following this account in
chapters 13 to 16 is the record of the servitude under the Philistines, which
ended with the judgeship of Eli. At the conclusion of the work (chapters
17-21) are added two appendices.
This brief analysis and running survey of the contents of the book will enable
us to understand the chronological problems involved as we attempt to unravel
II. THE JOSHUA-JUDGES CHASM
As was stated in the previous chapter, we do not know the year of Joshua's
death, the last dated event in the book of Joshua. N either are we given the
first year of Israel's servitude to Mesopotamia. There is, therefore, an
interval of time which properly may be called the Joshua-Judges chasm. Many
spectacular guesses have been made and efforts have been put forth to
ascertain the length of this interim in order to give us a complete
At this stage of our investigation we cannot determine its length, but must
designate it by the algebraic sign x denoting an unknown quantity. With this
as the syr'1bol of the unknown period we can, by the simple processes of
addition and subtraction, as we shall see, make the proper deductions and
determine the value of x.
III. THE PERIOD FROM THE FIRST YEAR OF CUSHANRISHATHAIM TO THE FIRST YEAR OF
We have already seen that the war of conquest ended in 2559 A.H. To this date
we add a symbol for the Joshua-Judges chasm, x, and get the date x + 2559 A.H.
as the time for Israel's plunge into sin which brought on the first cycle of
experiences, about which mention has already been made.
The first chronological data appearing in the book are recorded in chapter
3:7-11. Here is found the record of the first cycle of experiences consisting
of apostasy from God (vs. 7), deliverance into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim,
king of Mesopotamia for 8 years (vs. 8), Israel's cry to God for deliverance
(vs. 9), His saving her through Othniel (vs. 9), and a period of 40 years'
rest (vs. 11). Here then are 8 years plus 40 for the first cycle.
The second cycle is recorded in 3:12-14. In this instance, when Israel
apostatized from God, He delivered her into the hands of Eglon king of Moab
for 18 years (vs. 14). Ehud was raised up of the Lord to bring the
deliverance. Following his victory Israel had rest for 80 years (3:30). Thus
ends the second cycle. This period therefore covered 98 years.
In 3:31 we have an account of Shamgar's smiting 600 Philistines with an
ox-goad and of saving Israel. Some commentators have considered that he judged
Israel for an unknown time subsequent to the 80-year rest following Othniel's
victory. They, therefore, think an indefinite period existed between the
second and the third cycles. This position is untenable in view of the
statement found in 5:6, 7 which locates the days of Shamgar during the
oppression of Jabin king of Hazor, who headed the northern confederacy in
opposition to Israel. In Deborah's statement she said that in the days of
Shamgar the rulers ceased in Israel and all commercial relations were
suspended until she arose as a deliverer in Israel. The days of Shamgar,
therefore, immediately preceded the time when Deborah arose, and she with
Barak wrought their conquest. Hence no time can be allotted to Shamgar since
his days coincided with those of the oppression by Jabin. Further confirmation
of this position is found in 4:1 which states that Israel again did that which
was evil in the sight of God, when Ehud was dead. This statement shows again
the parenthetical character of the statement regarding Shamgar's exploits and
connects the third cycle of history with the second one; therefore the
servitude under Jabin, which
lasted for 20 years (4:2, 3), followed the 80-year period of rest brought
about by Ehud (3:30).
We recall the fact that Hazor was destroyed by Joshua. The Biblical record has
been wonderfully confirmed by archeological discoveries made by Professor
Garstang (Josh. 11:10-15). The destruction of Hazor and the crushing of the
northern confederacy by Joshua occurred at the close of the war of conquest in
2559 AH. According to Sir Charles Marston, who was associated with Professor
Garstang in his Palestinian excavations, archeology confirms the Biblical
account on this point. Hazor was wiped out about 1400 B.C.E.
According to Judges 4:3, the oppression under Jabin lasted 20 years. When,
however, Israel cried to God, He raised up Deborah the Prophetess, who
summoned Barak to lead the host of Israel in a war for independence. The
Canaanites were routed in the famous battle on the banks of the Kishon. The
enemy was completely routed, because of the divine assistance granted Israel.
When the victory had been won, Deborah sang her famous song recorded in Judges
5. Following this deliverance the land had rest for 40 years (6:31).
Again the people sinned and departed from the Lord, who on this occasion
delivered them into the hand of Midian for 7 years (6:1). At the conclusion of
this period the nation cried to God by reason of the oppression, and He sent a
prophet who explained the entire situation (6:7-10). Following this incident,
the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon whom He called and commissioned to
lead the host of Israel against the Midianites (vss. 11-24). Gideon
immediately prepared for the conflict by sacrificing to the Lord and by
issuing a call to arms to which there was a ready response. Lest Israel might
think that she had beaten off the enemy, the Lord required Gideon to reduce
his army from 32,000 men to 300. The account of this unprecedented action and
the battle which followed is found in chapter 7.
The jealousy of the Ephraimites arose and caused trouble, as it always does.
Gideon would not be turned aside by any such folly, but pressed on for a
complete victory. Hence his men passed over the Jordan "faint, yet pursuing."
What in military terms is called "mopping up" was completed. The entire army
of the Midianites was annihilated (8:4-12). On the death of Gideon the
children of Israel again did that which was evil. On this occasion the Lord
allowed them to be
oppressed by the apostate son of Gideon, namely, Abimelech, who ruled with a
ruthless hand (9:22). Finally in the battle of Thebez Abimelech was slain
Upon his death there arose to save Israel Tola, who judged the nation for 23
years. At this point of her history there seems to have been a change in the
form of government. During the period which we have just recounted, she cried
to God, and He "raised them up judges. . . and saved them out of the hand of
their enemies all the days of the judge" (2:18) . With the death of Abimelech,
however, judges arose to administer the affairs of state. The language seems
to indicate a change in God's giving rulers to His people.
At this point of the investigation it becomes necessary to make a microscopic
study of the passage introducing the last two cycles of apostasy, crying to
God, and deliverance, the account of which is found in 10:6-16. Jair, we are
told, in 10:3, judged Israel 22 years. Following this summary of his reign
(10:3-5), appears the introduction to these last two cycles. This statement is
followed by the incidents leading up to Jephthah's negotiations and messages
to the representatives of the children of Ammon (10:17-11:28).
At this point chronologers have the greatest difficulty of the entire period.
Are the 22 years of Jair's judgeship included in the 300 years of peaceful
possession of the territory in dispute? In other words, when did Jephthah make
his speech in which he referred to these 300 years? Some contend that he made
it in the first year of Jair, whereas others claim that it was delivered at
the end of the 18 years of Ammonite oppression. The solution to this problem
is the key to the understanding of the entire situation. In order to approach
this investigation properly, one must analyze 10:8, 9.
8. A. And they broke and crushed the children of Israel
A. In that year (the first year of Jair).
B. Eighteen years (after the last year of Jair).
B. All the Children of Israel who were beyond Jordan in the land of
the Amorites which is in Gilead.
9. And the Children of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight
even against Judah
and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, and
Israel had great
The translation and the arrangement of these verses were made by Mr. Anstey.
In verse 8, line 2 supplements line 1, and line 3 completes
the meaning of line 4. Anstey is quite right in his claim that the verbs of
line 1 are to be supplied in the second part of the parallelism. No other
meaning can possibly be placed upon these words. By this interpretation the 22
years of Jair's reign are separated from the Ammonite oppression-without any
overlapping. Thus the children of Israel were crushed by the Ammonites in the
first year of Jair's reign. Upon the death of Jair, 22 years later, they
overran all the country, not only that which was east of the Jordan but also
the territory west of it.
"Jair was a Gileadite. He had 30 sons that rode on 30 ass colts, a sign of
princely rank and governmental authority; and they had 30 cities called
Havoth-Jair, or the villages of Jair, in the land of Gilead. It is not said
that Jair delivered Israel, but in Judges 2:18 we read that 'when the Lord
raised them up Judges then the Lord was with the Judge, and delivered them out
of the hand of their enemies all the days of the Judge,' so that, although it
is not said that the Lord 'raised up' Jair, but only that he 'arose,' it is
most probable that the writer means us to understand that the Ammonites 'broke
and crushed' the children of Israel in the first year of Jair in such a way
that they wereaDtet6Urecover Heshbon and the territory to the south allotted
to Reuben, but not Gilead and the territory to the north allotted to Gad, and
not any of the rest of the land of Israel, until the death of Jair, when they
crossed the Jordan and completely subjected all Israel on both sides of the
river and oppressed them for 18 years until deliverance came by Jephthah.
"The 22 years of Jair will therefore be included in the Chronology as an
entire period, complete in itself, and distinct from the 18 years of the 5th
servitude under the children of Ammon, by which it is immediately succeeded.
But neither of these two periods will be included in the 300 years of Jephthah
(Judges 11:26), because in 'that year,' the 1st year of Jair, the children of
Ammon ‘broke and crushed' the children of Israel, threw off their yoke, and
recovered possession of Heshbon, and other towns on the east side of Jordan,
so that Jephthah could not say that ‘Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns,
and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coast
of Arnon' (Judges 11:26) at any time during the 22 years of the judgeship of
Jair. Still less could he say that Israel dwelt in these cities at any time
during the 18 years of the Ammonite oppression when all Israel, on both sides
of the Jordan, was completely subjugated and reduced to a state of servitude
by the children of Ammon."(Romance of Bible Chronology).
One remaining point must be cleared up. If the expression, "that year," of
verse 8 refers to the first year of Jair, why is not the account of his
judgeship (vss. 3-5) mentioned before the reference to the crushing of Israel
"that year"? A glance at the statement concerning Tola's judgeship (10:1, 2)
might furnish a clue to the solution of the problem. The writer of the book
simply summarized the administration of Tola in a few words with a statement
concerning the duration of his administration, death, and burial. There were
no events of outstanding importance to record;
hence we have the brief resume of his term of office. Following the precedent
set in this case, the writer gave us a resume of Jair's reign in similar form
(vss. 3-5). Having done this, he wished to call our attention to an
outstanding event which characterized the first year of Jair, but, in order to
do this, he explained in verses 6 and 7 the causes underlying the trouble;
namely, Israel's apostasy from God, and then informs us that the Ammonite
oppression which affected the tribes in Transjordan occurred in "that year."
This expression can refer only to the first year of J air. A case similar to
this one is found in II Chronicles 29:1f. In verses 1 and 2 of this passage we
have a summary of the reign of Hezekiah, which continued for 29 years. In
verse 3, however, the writer takes us back to the 1st month of the 1st year of
this 29-year reign and tells us what this monarch did at that time. The two
cases are parallel. "That year," therefore, refers to Jair's first year. As
Anstey has shown, Jair arose and began his administration of 22 years'
duration. During this period, however, the Ammonites held possession of the
re-conquered territory east of the Jordan which they had wrested from Israel
in Jair's first year. During his administration they made no attempt to
conquer the west Jordan territory. Upon his death, however, they overran it
and held the tribes in this section in servitude for 18 years. In other words,
the Ammonites held the country in Transjordan, which they had recaptured,
during the 22 years of Jair's judgeship and the 18 years of their oppression
of all Israel; they held this section for 40 years. They, however, held the
west Jordan territory only during the 18 years of their domination. At the end
of this 18-year period, Jephthah arose as a deliverer in Israel, threw off the
Ammonite yoke, and, as we shall see, judged Israel for 6 years.
In view of the facts just presented, we are driven to the conclusion that
Jephthah made the speech recorded in Judges 11 in the first year of Jair. At
that time Israel had, for 300 years, been in peaceful possession of the
territory in dispute. As we have already seen, this territory was conquered in
the 40th year of the Exodus, namely, 2552 AH. Jephthah, therefore, made his
speech in the year 2852 AH. When we add the years of servitude and rest
together with the 3 years of Abimelech's usurpation and the 23 years of the
judgeship of Tola, we have a total of 279 years. Since the disputed territory
was conquered in 2552 A.H., we must add 1 year to this date in order to state
the year of the entrance into Canaan
and 6 more in order to express the date of the close of the war of conquest,
which was 2559 AH. We have let x equal the years constituting the gap between
the close of the Wars of Conquest and the first servitude. The total number of
years of servitude and rest is 279. The year of Jephthah's speech was 2852 AH.
Our equation then may be stated thus: 2559 + x + 279 = 2852. Transposing in
the proper order, we have x = 2852 - 2559 - 279, or 14. The gap between Joshua
and Judges, therefore, is 14 years.
Below I will give a tabulation of these figures which was worked out by Anstey.
There is a difference between his and my calculations. This pertains to the
wars of Canaan. He made an incorrect deduction and calculated the wars of
Canaan as lasting 7 years whereas they continued only 6. His error, however,
does not affect the chronology of the period, since it pertained only to the
unknown gap between Joshua and Judges.
years years years
From the Conquest of Heshbon to its
re-conquest by Ammon probably in the
1st year of Jair (Judg. 10:3-8; 11:26) . . ... ..
From Conquest of Heshbon to Entry
(Ex. 12:40, 41; 40:17; Deut. 2:14-37;
Josh. 4:19; 5:6)......
From Entry to Division of Land, 2553-2560........... 7
(Here follows the so-called Joshua-Judges Chasm)
From 1st Servitude, under Cushan, to 1st Year of Jair,
1st Servitude, under Cushan (Judg. 3:8) . . . .. 8
Rest by Othniel (Judg. 3:11)............. ... 40
2nd Servitude, under Eglon (Judg. 3:14) . . . . . . 18
Rest by Ehud (Judg. 3:30) ..... ............ 80
Judgeship of Shamgar (Judg. 3:31) included
in 3rd Servitude under Jabin (Judg. 5:6, 7)
3rd Servitude, under Jabin (Judg. 4:3) . .. ....... 20
Rest by Barak (Judg. 5:31) . .. .. .. .. . ....
4th Servitude, under Midian (Judg. 6: 1)........ 7
Rest by Gideon (Judg. 8:28) . . . . . . . . . 40
Usurpation of Abimelech (Judg. 9:22) . . . . . . 3
Judgeship of Tola (Judg. 10:2) .. .... .......
23 278 286
The so-called Joshua-Judges Chasm, from the Division
of the Land to the 1st Servitude under Cushan.. =
ISRAEL UNDER THE JUDGES
From the 1st Servitude under Cushan to the
Election of Saul
rest usurp judge
1st Servitude, under Cushan. .......... .......... 8
Rest by Othniel.............................
2nd Servitude, under Eglon..................... 18
Rest by Ehud................... .........
(Judgeship of Shamgar included in 3rd Servitude
under Jabin, Judg. 3: 31; 5:6, 7)....
3rd Servitude, under Jabin. . . .. . . .. ... . 20
Rest by Barak.............................. . .
4th Servitude, under Midian. . . . . . . . . . 7
Usurpation of Abimelech...................
Judgeship of Tola
Judgeship of Jair
5th Servitude, under Ammon............... .. ... 18
Judgeship of Jephthah
Judgeship of Ibzan
Judgeship of Elon
Judgeship of Abdon........................
6th Servitude, under the Philistines... . . . . 40
(Judgeship of Samson included in 6th Servitude
under the Philistines, Judg. 15:20) . .
Judgeship of Eli
Judgeship of Samuel....................... 20
(N.B.-I Sam. 7:13-17 is a Review, not a
continuation of the history)
Totals.. ...... . .. .. . .. . .. ... .
.111 200 3 136
IV. THE PERIOD FROM JAIR TO SAUL
Having verified the chronological data found in Judges 3-10 with the blanket
statement of 300 years mentioned by Jephthah from the 40th year of the Exodus
to the last year of Jair, we are now prepared to investigate the remaining
chronological data found in the books of Judges and I Samuel 1-7. To the 22
years of Jair's reign we add the 18 of Ammonite oppression (10: 8), and this
total we augment with the following: 6 years for J ephthah's administration
(12:7); 7 for Ibzan; 10 for Elon; 8 for Abdon (12:14). This gives us a total
of 71 years for these minor judgeships and the one servitude under Ammon.
At this time Israel sinned again, and the Lord once more delivered her into
the hands of the Philistines for 40 years (13:1).
During this oppression Samson judged Israel for 20 years (15:20; 16:31). These
are not to be used in the computation of the chronology since they coincide
with the 40 years of the Philistines.
Following the Philistine servitude was the judgeship of Eli, who held office
for 40 years (I Sam. 4:18). He was succeeded by Samuel the prophet, who judged
Israel during the time the ark of the covenant was at Kiriath-jearim -- 20
years; It is clear from the narrative that Samuel's tenure of office followed
that of Eli.
At the end of this 20-year period there was a mighty turning to God on the
part of Israel who had been more or less indifferent to spiritual things, and
who had even gone off into idolatry. When the Philistines heard of this great
revival, they invaded the country. But Samuel led the people, who were helped
of the Lord. A great deliverance was wrought. A stone was set up to
commemorate the victory. This was at the end of Samuel's 20 years of
A careful reading of I Samuel 7:13-8:3 shows that this section is a resume of
Samuel's administration, looking both backward and forward from this special
occasion. In the following paragraph we learn of the demand which the people
made for a king. As we shall presently see, this new departure followed the
The period of office of the minor judges amounts to 71 years, which brings us
71 years after Jephthah's speech, namely, to 2923. To this total we add 40
years for the Philistine oppression, 40 for the Judgeship of Eli, and 20 years
for the administration of Samuel. The times of the judges, therefore,
terminated with the year 3022. The monarchy began in 3023 AH.
As seen in the tables under Section III and the data just presented, the total
number of years for the judges was exactly 450. This is what the apostle Paul
clearly declared in Acts 13:19, 20. There is perfect harmony between the data
found in Judges and the statement of the great apostle.
When we add to this number the 14 years of the Joshua-Judges chasm, the 6
years of conquest of Canaan, the 40 of the wilderness experiences, and the 84
years of the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon to the latter's fourth year,
we have a grand total of 594 years. Thus by pure calculation we see that there
were 594 years from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon when the temple
was started. But in I Kings 6:1 we learn that there were only 480. There is a
discrepancy of 114 years. When we remember that, during this time Israel was
out of fellowship for the 111 years of the servitudes and the 3 years of the
usurpation of Abimelech, we
see that she was in God's favor only 480 years of the 594. In view of these
facts we must consider these 480 years as theocratic. God's clock,
figuratively speaking, stops when Israel is out of favor with her Maker.
With the close of the 20 years of the judgeship of Samuel, a new era was
ushered in known as the monarchy, which will be discussed in the next chapter.
Thus in our tracing the chronological question we have come to the year 3022
as the last of the 20 years of Samuel's administration. The first year of the
monarchy, as we shall see, was 3023 A. H.
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