The Book of Judges – Sefer Shoftim
The seventh among the 24 Tanakh bible books, the “Book of Judges” is also considered to be among the oldest. As its name suggests it revolves around the role and the lives of the thirteen Biblical judges who were indispensable in delivering and practicing justice for the Israelites and also instrumental in inculcating the practice of Torah (popularly known as the Pentateuch) among the Hebrews. The Torah is very significant for all the Bible readers since it not only introduces the readers to the concept of Genesis, but also talks about the Divine Covenants which form the base of the Old Testament. This book of Judges narrates the stories of the biblical judges who were like the champions of justice owing to their knowledge about Yahweh, the god of Israel. The judges played an important role in relieving the oppressed Israelites from the hands of their oppressors.
Although the incidents or stories recorded in this book of Judges do not have historical evidence it is considered to be a part of antiquarian history genre of literature. There are controversies related to the time to which the book of Judges dates to. According to a school of thought the events recorded in this book of Judges span across the 14th century B.C to 11th century B.C., however, some feel that the events and incidents recorded here dates back to older times that are during the 8th century B.C. The story is about the various Judges who act as a median between God and Israelites. Every time the Israelites are filled with arrogance and disobey Yahweh they face the divine wrath which leaves them destroyed and shattered. It is at this juncture that God sends the Judges to show them the path to redemption so that the equilibrium could be restored.
The Book of Judges is divided into three parts, comprising the Prologue which serves as an introduction gradually moving onto the body of the book of Judges which narrates the main events and incidents surrounding the lives of the Judges finally concluding with the epilogue.
The Prologue again has a diptych structure where one part narrates the story of the Israelites worshipping Yahweh but with time as they deviate to worship other foreign gods they invite the wrath of Yahweh and consequently punished. In the second half of the book of Judges they are made to go through circuitous ways of struggle when they seek for Yahweh’s blessings finally attaining relief from their penitence. The main body of the book of Judges’ narrative unfolds six different stories about each of the concerning six Judges who fights against the oppression of Israelites in the hands of their unjust Philistine rulers. However, the stories are very loosely arranged and do not necessarily conform to a strict chronological fashion. The epilogue concludes with the disintegration of the Israelites as a whole.
The theme of Obedience and subservience looms large in the Book of the Judges. We see that the sufferings that befall the Israelites are a culmination of their own misdeeds. The book stresses on divine Sovereignty and our acceptance of it.
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