Who Were the Judges in Israel?

HomeChristianity and the BibleWho Were the Judges in Israel?

Between the death of Joshua and the inauguration of King Saul, the ancient nation of Israel didn’t have specific human leaders at the top of the food chain, running the show.

Moses’ generation didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. The next generation did, and they fought battles and took land as God directed. As we read in Judges 2:10-11, after that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.

This began a cycle of rebellion that lasted over 300 years:

Today we think of judges as those presiding over a court of law, pronouncing judgement on criminals. The Hebrew sapat is a lot like that, only it was God who did the judging. He chose certain individuals to free Israel from their oppressors, and we call them judges. Here’s what Judges 2:18 tells us:

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.

The definition of sapat is to judge, govern, vindicate, or punish. There were 12 judges. Some claim they each came from a different tribe of Israel, but that’s not what the Bible tells us… another reminder to do your homework! Each name is linked to the passage about them… some short, some long, some spread across multiple books in the Bible.

Shamgar(not mentioned, probably not an Israelite)
Deborah(Unknown, possibly Issachar)
Ibzan(not mentioned, possibly Judah)

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