The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 9]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Judges

(pp.81-91)

A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Foot-Moore

B) Chapter Summary:

“The Book of Judges falls into three parts, namely, (1) Judg. i. 1-ii. 5, which intrudes, as has already been observed, between the close of Joshua and its immediate sequel in Judges ii. 6 ff.; (2) Judg. ii. 6-xvi. 31, stories of a succession of champions and deliverers of Israel in the centuries preceding the establishment of the kingdom; (3) Judg. 17-18; 19-21, two additional stories laid in the time of the Judges. In the Christian Bibles the story of Ruth, which also is said to have occurred in the days of the Judges, follows.”1

“Another feature of the book is the systematic chronology in which the frequency of the numbers twenty, forty, and eighty (forty years being in the Old Testament equivalent to a generation) at once strikes the attention; see iii. 11, 30; iv. 3; v. 31; viii. 28; xiii. 1; xv. 20 (xvi. 31). In several other instances the figures vary a little on either side of twenty (eighteen, twenty-two, etc.).”2

“The duration of the oppression is given in the introduction of the story; the period of peace and prosperity which succeeded the deliverance, at the end; see, e.g., iv. 3; v. 31. In the same way the life of Moses is divided into three parts of forty years each; Eli judged Israel forty years; David and Solomon each reigned forty years. It can hardly be doubted that this chronology is artificial, and that the key to it is found in 1 Kings vi. 1, which reckons four hundred and eighty years (i.e. twelve generations) from the exodus to the building of Solomon’s temple; but the actual figures in Judges and Samuel do not foot up to this sum, and there are some gaps in the series, namely, the years of Joshua after the conquest, the rule of Samuel, and that of Saul. The symmetry of the scheme has been broken by intrusions or accidental omissions in the later history of the book.”3

“About the oppressions the author of Judges had clearly no information independent of what he extracted from the stories of the deliverances in his sources. In accordance with his theory of national sin and national disaster he converted what are in the stories themselves local conflicts, involving particular tribes or regions, into oppressions and deliverances of all Israel; where the story tells of raids by the Midianites, for example, the introduction gives them the Amalekites and the Eastern Bedouins for allies, and extends the devastation these wrought across the whole country to the neighbourhood of Gaza. The exaggeration of the evils and the emphasizing of the moral, as in other cases, invited later editors to amplifications in the same spirit. Of the heroes who delivered Israel from its oppressors the author made a succession of dictators (“judges”), who differed from the kings after them chiefly in that their office was not hereditary, and to most of them he gives in his chronology a long reign.”4

“The stories recount the exploits of local or tribal heroes, and doubtless represent the traditions of the regions or tribes concerned; with the union of the tribes under the kingdom, however, these traditions became the common property of the nation, and more than one writer made collections of them. As in the patriarchal legends, two strands may be distinguished, which have such affinities with the Judæan and the Israelite histories in the Hexateuch respectively that they are naturally regarded as the continuations of J and E.”5

“Judges i. 1-ii. 5, as has been pointed out above, is foreign to the connection in which it stands, and can only have been introduced there by a late compiler or editor. It is a remnant of the most historical, and presumably the oldest, account of the establishment of the tribes in western Palestine. That, in completer form, it had originally a place in the Judæan history (J) is unquestioned, and in that work it may have been closely followed by stories of exploits such as those of Ehud, Barak, Gideon. Inasmuch as it contradicted the theory of the complete conquest and extermination of the Canaanites, it was left out of the works which described the conquest in that way, but scraps of it were subsequently introduced in Joshua, and finally the whole restored in its present position. It is easily seen that the recurring apostasies into Canaanite heathenism, as well as such stories as those of Deborah and Barak and of Abimelech, assume that the Canaanites had not been killed off to the last man, but, on the contrary, were very much alive; and, in fact, the authors of Judg. ii. 20-iii. 4 feel the necessity of explaining why God had allowed these heathen to survive.”6

“The historical value of the stories in Judges is very great. However large the element of legendary embellishment may be in them, they give us a picture of the social and religious conditions in the period preceding the founding of the kingdom which has an altogether different reality from the narratives of the exodus and the wanderings.”7

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