After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel served the lord while the generation who knew God were still alive. Then there arose a generation who didn’t know God and they constantly sinned against God. Soon enough God left them in the hands of their enemies and they cried out unto God; this made God raise judges in Israel every time his people cried out unto him for help.
the Lord raised up judges to save them from their enemies.Judges 2:16
The Israelites at this time had judges instead of kings. The judges of Israel were chosen by God and not elected by the people or through a power tussle. The first judge of Israel was Othniel and the only female judge of Israel was Deborah.
The judges were leaders raised by God to rescue the Israelites from the oppression of their enemies. The Israelites often move closer to God and serve God wholeheartedly whenever judges were alive and living among them. The office of a judge in Israel was an honourable one that requires dedication and service.
Roles of the Judges of Israel
Judges had specific roles in Israel. Each of the judges performed different functions as required by God. Some of the roles of judges in Israel include;
- They served as military leaders who often lead the people in times of war.
- They were responsible for enforcing law and order in the land of Israel
- They served as a force binding the people together.
- They acted as the mouthpiece of God to the people.
- They helped to keep the focus of the Israelites on God.
Not all the Judges performed all the roles listed above but each of the judges performed at least one of the roles. There were about 13 judges in Israel before the coronation of Saul as the king of Israel.
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Names of the Judges of Israel
Othniel (Judges 3:7-11)
Othniel was a biblical judge who is identified as the first judge of Israel. He was the younger brother of Caleb. His name Othniel means “God’s strength or the lion of God”. Othniel led the children of Israel to war against the king of Mesopotamia; Cushan-rishathaim who enslaved the Israelites for eight years.
The name of his wife was Achsah; she was the daughter of Caleb. Othniel married her after he won the battle against Debir (Joshua 15:16 Joshua 15:17). She was given to him as a reward for his bravery and might. He was a judge of Israel for forty years before he died.
Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
Ehud was raised by God to deliver the Israelites from the Moabites after the Israelites sinned against God and were oppressed by the Moabites. Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin and he was left-handed. His name Ehud means “united or strong”. Israel rested for eighty years under Ehud.
Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
Shamgar was the son of Anath. He killed six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. The Bible didn’t tell us more about him.
Deborah (Judges 4-5)
Deborah was the fourth judge of Israel and the only female judge of Israel. Her name Deborah means “Bee”. She was a prophetess and the wife of lapidoth; the people often come to her for judgement and direction. She worked hand in hand with Barak in leading the Israelites into battle.
Deborah was respected and loved by the people. She was so important that Barak refuses to go to war without her even though God has commanded him to fight the battle with an assurance of victory. Deborah is an example that God isn’t gender bias.
Gideon (Judges 6:11-8:33)
Gideon in the bible was referred to as “a mighty man of valour”. He is also called Jerrubbaal. He was from the tribe of Manasseh. Gideon started his cleansing of the land from his father’s house. He destroyed every altar of Baal in his father’s house before he fought with the Midianites.
Gideon went into battle with only three hundred men and he came back victorious. His story is a clear expression that God can use anyone for his glory.
Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
Tola (means “Crimson worm” or “scarlet stuff”). He was from the tribe of Issachar, the son of Puah. He judged Israel for twenty here years.
Jair (Judges 10:3-5)
Jair was a Gileadite and he had thirty sons. The bible didn’t credit any exploit to his name but he judged Israel for twenty-three years.
Jephthah (Judges 10: 6-12:7)
Jephthah was a Gileadite and the bible referred to him as “a mighty man of valour”. He was the son of a harlot who was most likely his father’s concubine. God decided to use him irrespective of his background or genealogy. A gesture that proves God doesn’t judge a man based on the circumstance around his birth. God only seeks a man who is willing to fulfil his plans and follow him.
Another important lesson we can learn from his story is the importance of making vows to God after careful thought. Jephthah made a vow unto God and he was obliged to sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering in other to redeem his vow. Jephthah judged Israel for six years before he died.
Ibzan (Judges 12: 8-10)
Ibzan judged Israel for seven years before he died. He was from Bethlehem and his exploits weren’t mentioned in the bible.
Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
Elon judged Israel for ten years; he was a Zebulonite.
Abdon (Judges 12:13-15)
Abdon judged Israel for eight years; he was a Pirathonite.
Samson (Judges 13-16)
Samson was a man filled with the Holy Ghost from the tribe of Dan. He was a Nazarene; separated from his mother’s womb. Samson was called to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines. The Lord gave Samson extraordinary strength which made it impossible for the enemy to defeat him.
Samson’s bane was his love for philistine women which was against the command of God. He was caught in the trap of the philistines because of his love for Delilah. Samson judged Israel for twenty years. Samson died with the enemies.
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Samuel is usually considered the last judge of Israel because he anointed a king for Israel. Saul was Israel’s first king after the Israelites told God they wanted a king like other countries around them.
Frequently Asked Question
Who were the 12 judges of Israel?
The names of the 12 judges of Israel are: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.