Ancient Israel: the Period of the Judges

This week in our unit on Ancient Israel the students learned about the period of the Judges. In the Israelite context, Judges did not, as you might expect, arbitrate in legal matters, but rather delivered the Israelites from foreign oppressors in the land of Canaan. The period of the Judges might be called the Israelite “Dark Ages,” as it was a time of continual violence, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The Judges, despite delivering the Israelites from foreign oppression, were often themselves morally flawed individuals. According to Jewish tradition, the most famous Judge, Samson, known for his great strength, was a womanizer and a vengeful man. In fact, for the later Jews who were writing this history, the fact that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” was tied to the fact that “in those days there was no king.” The Israelite monarchy would later be seen as an institution given to preserve moral order.

We will continue with the period of the United Monarchy next week.