Judges - No King....no God?

Before reading, here are a couple thoughts about the setup for the book of Judges.  Chronology is almost impossible to pin down.  Even though each cycle from sin to salvation is given a number of years of oppression then a number of years for peaceful rest, to total all those years generates a calculation either too long or too short for what we know about the time from Moses to King David.  It appears the author is giving us snippets and vignettes from this time, as evidence each tribe gets a representative judge.  Then in the middle of the of the list of judges, full attention and space is given to the man Gideon.  The structure alone suggests the author is not recounting a linear history, but has a design in place, without Gideon being highlighted as the ideal judge.  

The book begins by giving the third-born tribe of Judah a new preeminence, guaranteed by God’s stamp of approval.  This has been coming for some time, even in Genesis, we find the older two brothers abdicating their leadership responsibilities, until Judah himself, in spite of his failures, failures humiliating him into leadership, takes charge in their encounter with the disguised Joseph.  Judah’s tribe takes Joshua’s mantle and leads the people in another military victory, and the first judge we encounter, Othniel, is from this tribe.

Not only does Judah receive pre-eminence, but Benjamin is spotlighted for his failures.  Right next to Judah’s early victory, Benjamin fails to subdues it’s inheritance and even loses a major city previously won.  Then in the last chapters, Benjamin’s failures are placed on display before the entire nation of Israel, bookending Judges with their own disaster.  The only positive light Benjamin receives is the judge Ehud who delivers his people from Moabite oppression, but even Ehud follows Judah’s Othniel.  

Tradition ascribes the authorship of Judges to the prophet and final judge Samuel.  Samuel transitioned the nation from a confederacy of judges to a monarchy, begrudingly anointing the Benjamite Saul as first King, only later to anoint God’s kingly choice in the unexpected David from the tribe of Judah.  Samuel in organizing the material of Judges is setting us up for Judah’s ascendance and the failure of Benjamin as a choice to the rule the nation.

By choosing a judge from each tribe, Samuel reminds us no tribe, no family, no person in Israel escapes the cycle from sin to salvation.  

They are all guilty, and their failure will eventually move the nation from the ideal of theocracy to a less than desirable, but effective, monarchy.  

As readers, we catch ourselves in the same spot, forgetting God, and doing what is right in our own eyes, because there is no king in our life as well.  
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