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Who were the Judges?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » History » Joshua, The Judges | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A. “The Judges” were the leaders of the Jewish people for close to 350 years of Jewish history. The fifteen Judges, shoftim (pronounced SHOHF-team) in Hebrew, reigned in consecutive order (with some overlapping) from 1228 to 879 BCE.

B. The era of the Judges was a time in which the Jewish nation was still climbing towards total independence. This era followed the reigns of Joshua and the Elders, and was followed by the establishment of Jewish kingship. Under the Judges, the Jewish nation was in a semi-autonomous state, caught between King Solomon’s total sovereignty and supremacy and Joshua’s battles against the pagan nation-clans squatting on Holy Land territory.

C. The theme of the Judges’ leadership was spiritual maintenance. While the Jews were led by these dynamic personalities, they maintained their relationship with G-d, and during the brief intermissions of leadership between shoftim’s terms, they neglected their relationship with G-d. The shoftim’s role was more reactive than proactive, repairing breaches in the dam of Jewish identity as opposed to building and fortifying new dams.

Under the Judges, the Jewish nation was in a semi-autonomous state, between King Solomon’s total sovereignty and supremacy and Joshua’s battles against the pagan nation-clans
Who were the Shoftim?

1. The Names and Dates

a) Otniel Ben-Knaz ruled from 1228 to 1188 BCE;

b) Ehud Ben-Gerah ruled from 1188 to 1107 BCE;

c) Shamgar Ben-Anat ruled during Ehud’s final years, died 1107 BCE;

d) Devorah (the only woman among the Judges) ruled from 1107 to 1067 BCE;

e) Gideon Ben-Yo’ash ruled from 1067 to 1027 BCE;

f) Avimelech Ben-Gideon ruled from 1027 to 1024 BCE;

g) Tolah Ben-Puah ruled from 1024 to 1001 BCE;

h) Yair HaGil’adi ruled from 1003 to 981 BCE (overlapping Tolah and Yiftach);

i) Yiftach HaGil’adi ruled from 982 to 976 BCE;

j) Ivtzan ruled from 976 to 969 BCE,

k) Eylon HaZevulon’i ruled from 969 to 959 BCE;

l) Avdon Ben-Hillel HaPir’atoni ruled from 959 to 951 BCE;

m) Shimshon ruled from 951 to 931 BCE;

n) Ayli HaKohen ruled from 931 to 891 BCE; and

o) Shmuel Hanavi ruled from 890 to 877 BCE.

2. The Warriors

Many of the Shoftim led the Jewish people into battle against foreign powers who held military domination over ancient Israel during their reigns. These warriors include Otniel Ben-Knaz, Ehud, Devorah, whose army routed the Canaanites, and of course, Shimshon, whose legendary physical strength crushed the might and morale of the Philistines during his reign and for twenty years after his death.

3. The Career Highlights

While some of the Judges are sparsely described, and others’ careers are richly detailed, each of the Judges offered their unique contributions. Most engaged in political and/or military battles with hostile kingdoms and forces surrounding Israel, while others maintained short and/or peaceful rules. Above all, though, they were judges—above their political and social duties, they judged their people, serving as Halachic authorities in all cases of Jewish law.


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Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Joshua
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.