Judges - 03 Major Periods

Chapter 3

Brief Summary of Major Periods

At this point, it would be helpful to mark out the major periods of the book of Judges and the experience of God’s people. The book divides into three sections as Dr. Leon Woods indicates in his book, Distressing Days of the Judges. The first division is from 1:1-3:6, and this deals with their failure to possess the land and summarizes their condition religiously. The second division, 3:7-16:31, records the history and exploits of the judges along with the intervening periods of sin and degeneration of the people. The last division, 17:1-21:25 gives two stories that illustrate the conditions that existed through the entire period of the judges. These conditions caused the recurrence of their times of discipline under God’s chastening hand.

In keeping with our purpose to relate this book to the events of the church age, we will divide the book into other parts that help to delineate the typical relationship that exists between these periods and the seven churches and their characteristics in Revelation 2-3. We will note that there were six periods of servitude that came between seven phases when major judges ruled to deliver the people. These periods are marked each time by the repeated expression; the children of Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” (2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1). The domination by an enemy was the direct result of their departure from the Lord, an act that was evil in the Lord’s sight, regardless of how they expressed it in moral conditions. Such departure, for us as well as for those addressed by the Lord in Revelation 2-3, is the root of the evil conditions that follow. Faithful practices and moral lives cannot exist without close adherence to the Lord and fidelity to His Word.

We can link those periods under their different conditions with the enemies and servitude that followed, to divide the book into essentially seven sections that roughly correspond with the periods of church history. Each judge that God raised up was a deliverer from the particular enemy that preceded him, as follows:

Church Period    Phase/Judge         Enemy

Ephesus        Beginning (ch. 1-2)        
Marked by a good start, but with failure to go on well and maintain the conflict to possess the land. Ch. 2:1 reveals the problem...they had left their first love for God.     Mingling among their enemies resulted with unfaithfulness to God. This resulted in their servitude to

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Place where Abraham was when God called him…represents the attraction of the former life and natural affections. World allowed in life resulting in its control.

Smyrna        Othniel (ch. 3:1-11)
Deliverance of people being sustained in persecution through the encouraging Word of God at the right time. Overcoming through weakness yet in the power of God working through His Word. This was followed by domination of Israel by

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Pride of Man and desire for self-exaltation of the flesh.     Self-indulgence seen and desire for comfort. This condition led to

Pergamos        Ehud  (ch. 3:12-30)
Delivered from Moab’s persecution and oppression through union with the world resulting in its favor.
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Materialism, commercial activity, prosperity. All promoted in Pergamos and became a bondage.

Thyatira        Deborah/Barak (ch. 4:1-5:31)
Characterized by a woman in authority. Victory over Canaan accomplished by a woman (Jael) living in pilgrim character, driving the tent peg through the temples, the source of wrong thoughts and ambitions. Yet men, who God intended to lead, are seen in Barak to be weak and unable to take responsibility to act for God.

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Contention caused by power of a kindred people marked by strife and contention to rob God’s people of blessing, resulting in spiritual impoverishment.

Sardis            Gideon (ch. 6:1-8:35)
Name means “cutter down” and suggests the reformation period and recovery. Followed by rule of a man not raised up of God who dominated God’s people (Abimelech), yet Jotham represents a faithful remnant during this period.

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and Philistines also. Self-will and human wisdom exercised. The result of a walk without faith as Lot. Sardis had a “name to live, but  thou art dead.”

Philadelphia        Jephthah  (ch. 11:1-12:7)
Man humbled and despised and with much weakness. Could not reconcile or unite God’s people. Fighting between Israelites as people of God.
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Religious people professing salvation, living in the land but without having had the pathway that marked Israel. Element of a different character than others; was not one of the nations they were to destroy upon entering the land.

Laodicea        Samson  (ch. 13:1-21:25)
A deliverer marked by self-will, doing what pleased him. People satisfied with Philistine domination, moral decay and spiritual departure evident. God’s people actually worse than men of the world. Resulted in last conditions described with spiritual idolatry and moral evil that was caused by every man doing that which was right in his own eyes.

These are not intended to suggest absolutely clear similarities between the events of Judges and the church age. However, the same could be said about other typical pictures of the church age such as the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13, the sequence of kings of Judah and Israel, and other typical relationships that have been drawn. These are presented so that we might learn some of the underlying principles and patterns that have also been unfolded in the dispensation of the church. We also need to learn lessons that apply to our lives and to assembly practices in our day.

May God help us to learn something from this book of Judges that may help us to recognize the need for faithful perseverance in our lives personally and in assembly testimony generally in view of His coming and our being gathered together unto Him (2 Thessalonians 2:2).