- Biblical  Chronology -
THE  JUDGES  OF  ISRAEL





The era of the Judges of the children of Israel spans the period from the
Exodus to the crowning of Saul.


The central verse which defines this period of time is;


    1King   6:1   And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth
                  year after the children of Israel had come out of the
                  land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign
                  over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second
                  month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

[ NB: The period of 480 years in Hebrew is presented as,
            "in the eightieth year and four hundred year".
      Implying the 80th year of the kings, after 400 years of the judges.]
 

This 480 years can be further subdivided as follows,


         Exodus to Promised Land           40  yrs    Exod  16:35
         Promised Land to Saul            360  yrs
         Reign of King Saul                40  yrs    Acts  13:21
         Reign of King David               40  yrs    1King  2:11
                                          ---
                                          480


[ NB: The reigns of David and his son Solomon overlapped. Solomon was
      crowned early because of the threat of David's son Adonijah,
      1Kings 1:5-48. The 4th year of Solomon's reign mentioned in
      1Kings 6:1 marked the completion of the 40 years of King David. ]
 

The period of the Judges therefore spanned 400 years (40 + 360 yrs).
This period started with the leadership of Moses and finished with Samuel
officiating over the crowning of Saul.

[ NB: The 450 years of Acts 13:20 is often discussed in relation to
      the Judges period, the KJV & NKJV versions deeming this period
      to pertain to the time between the allotment of Canaanite land
      and the start of the leadership of Samuel. Other versions, such
      as the NIV & NASB, correct this obvious chronological inaccuracy
      and accurately link the 450 years to the preceding text which
      discusses the period between the choosing of the fathers (ie,
      Abraham, Isaac & Jacob) and the allotment of Canaanite land. ]


Scripture provides the following chronological information. 

    ** Judge / Enemy **     ** Years **  ** Reference **

    Moses                         40      Deut  34:7, Exod  7:7
    Joshua                         ?      Josh  23:1
    Elders                         ?      Judg   2:7
    Cushan-Mesopotamia             8      Judg   3:8
    Othniel                       40      Judg   3:11
    Eglon - Moab                  18      Judg   3:14
    Ehud                          80      Judg   3:30
    Philistines                    ?      Judg   3:31
    Shamgar                        ?      Judg   3:31
    Jabin - Canaan                20      Judg   4:3
    Deborah (and Barak)           40      Judg   5:31
    Midianites                     7      Judg   6:1
    Gideon                        40      Judg   8:28
    - (spiritual harlotry)         ?      Judg   8:33
    Abimelech                      3      Judg   9:22
    - (before Tola saved Israel)   ?      Judg  10:1
    Tola                          23      Judg  10:2
    - (before Jair arose)          ?      Judg  10:3
    Jair                          22      Judg  10:3
    Philistines/Ammon             18      Judg  10:8
    Jephthah                       6      Judg  12:7
    Ibzan                          7      Judg  12:9
    Elon                          10      Judg  12:11
    Abdon                          8      Judg  12:14
    Philistines                   40      Judg  13:1
    Samson                        20      Judg  15:20, 16:31
    Eli                           40      1 Sam  4:18
    Samuel / Israel laments       20      1 Sam  7:2
                                ----
                                510+  years  (399+ yrs & 111+ yrs)


The total number years, even without the inclusion of the missing years,
significantly exceeds the expected value of 400 years. 


300 YEARS


Fortunately the Judges period can be better understood by considering
the period of 300 years mentioned in the following verse;


    Judg  11:26  While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages,
                 in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities
                 along the banks of the Arnon, for three hundred
                 years, why did you not recover them within that
                 time?


These words were spoken by Jephthah to the king of Ammon, soon after
Jephthah was appointed commander of his people.  


[ NB: The cities of Heshbon and Aroer were taken by the children of
      Israel after they crossed over the river Arnon (Deut 2:24-36).
      This happened 38 years after the spies were initially sent to
      spy out the Promised Land (Deut 2:14). ]


This 300 year division of the Judges period provides us with the
following. 


    ** Judge / Enemy **              ** Total **    ** Should Be **

    Moses                                  40              40

    Joshua to Jephthah                   320+             300

    Jephthah to Saul                      150              60
                                         ----             ---
                                         510+ yrs         400 yrs


Therefore, Judges 11:26 enables us to subdivide the 360 years of the
Joshua to Saul period into 2 periods.


1ST - JOSHUA TO JEPHTHAH


    ** Judge / Enemy **       ** Years **

    Joshua                         ?
    Elders                         ?
    Cushan-Mesopotamia             8
    Othniel                       40
    Eglon - Moab                  18
    Ehud                          80
    Philistines                    ?
    Shamgar                        ?
    Jabin - Canaan                20
    Deborah (and Barak)           40
    Midianites                     7
    Gideon                        40
    - (spiritual harlotry)         ?
    Abimelech                      3
    - (before Tola saved Israel)   ?
    Tola                          23
    - (before Jair arose)          ?
    Jair                          22
    Philistines/Ammon             18
    1st year of Jephthah           1
                                ----
                                320+   (should be 300 yrs)


Apart from the duration of the leadership of Joshua, this period in the
biblical chronology is marked by many missing shorter periods of time. 
This suggests the actual chronology of this period is to be determined
not by adding up the years, but by matching to a common recurring theme.


A critical question to be answered for this period is the duration of
the leadership of Joshua.
To answer this question one must take note of the age of Joshua when
he died 110 years (Josh 24:29 & Judg 2:8) and that at the time of the
Exodus he was described as a young man (Exod 33:11). Although a young
man, ie no older than 30 years of age, he was at the time mature enough
to lead the children of Israel into battle (Exod 17:9,13). 
These facts advise us that Joshua, after serving under Moses for 40
years, must have led the children of Israel for at least another 40
years.


This means that now we are trying to reduce a total of 320+40+? years
to a total of 300 years.


To reduce the total several views have in the past been proposed.

   - Reduce the 80 years of leadership indicated for Ehud.
     (There is a lack of a valid reason to do so.)

   - Include the counts for the oppression brought by Israel's
     enemies within the periods of leadership of the Judges.
     (The text does not imply this is to be done and Judg 2:18-19
     strongly indicates the periods of oppression followed the
     death of each judge.)

   - Overlap the leaderships of the judges.
     (Although some judges appear to have been raised up from
     certain regions, eg Jephthah from Gilead, there is no
     indication of any overlapping leaderships. Even the briefly
     discussed judges Tola and Jair are implied to have saved
     all Israel.)     


To reduce the total it is proposed that the following verses have been
incorrectly rendered and understood.

  Othniel    Judg  3:11  So the land had rest for forty years. ...
  Ehud              :30  ... And the land had rest for eighty years.
  Deborah          5:31  ... So the land had rest for forty years.
  Gideon           8:28  ... And the country was quiet for forty
                         years in the days of Gideon.

That these verses are referring to a 'fortieth year', or in the case
of Ehud a 'eightieth year', rather than to the length of the leadership
of these judges. So that these verses refer to an occasion observed
every forty years! An occasion, which to be properly observed, would
require peace in the land of Israel.


Since Joshua was a judge for at least 40 years, we would expect to see
this occasion being celebrated at least once during his leadership. In
reality we twice see Joshua connected to its observance.

Prior to the death of Joshua the people were gathered at Shechem,
Josh 24:1. There they made a covenant to obey God and setup a large
stone as a witness under the oak. (It should be noted that the normal
resting place of the ark of God at that time was not Shechem, but
Shiloh, refer Josh 18:1.)

This observance was a repeat of events which had occurred shortly after
the children of Israel first entered the Promised Land, Josh 8:30-35.
Josh 24:1,25 mention the city of Shechem because this was the city
adjacent to Mounts Ebal and Gerizim.

The initial instructions for the observance are found in Deut 11:29-30
and Deut 27:1-26. These instructions do not state that the ceremony was
to be repeated every forty years, this can only be inferred from the
examples provided in Scripture.

It is noteworthy that this observance required the attendance of the
entire congregation; including women, children and strangers (Josh 8:35).
This is why it was so important for Israel not to be at war every fortieth
year.


Apart from the example of Joshua and the repetitious reference to forty in
the account of several of the judges, we also find Shechem and Mt Gerizim
mentioned in reference to the judge Abimelech, Judg 9:1,7. Even further
along in time we find that after the destruction of Shechem (Judg 9:45)
there is a gathering at Gilgal to "renew the kingdom", 1Sam 11:14. This
being the 400th year after the Exodus at the crowning of Israel's first
human king, Saul, previously God had been Israel's king. Therefore this
occasion was the 10th re-confirmation of the covenant with God.

[ NB: Gilgal is a city commonly located adjacent to the Jordon and the
      city of Jericho. However, it seems from 2Kings 2:1-5 that there
      was also a city by the same name located North of the city of
      Bethel. This second Gilgal appears to have been the city located
      near Mts Ebal and Gerizim (Deut 11:29-30). The city could have
      been the Gilgal which was one of the three cities which Samuel
      regularly visited, 1Sam 7:15-16. ]
       


In summary the 'Joshua to Philistines/Ammon' period has a number of
short time periods missing. On the surface it presents too many years
to enable easy matching to the 480 years of 1Kings 6:1 or the 300 years
of Judg 11:26. It even has one judge, Ehud, leading Israel for an
unbelievable 80 years, much longer than any other leader in the history
of Israel.

If it was not for the awareness of a 40 year cycle of covenant renewal
it would be impossible to arrange this period. This cycle enables the
period after Moses, the first 300 years, to be arranged.

  0  -  Joshua enters Promised Land
     |
 40  -  Joshua at Shechem
     |
     |     Elders                  ? yrs
     |     Cushan-Mesopotamia      8 yrs 
     |
 80  -  Othniel

     | 
     |     Eglon - Moab           18 yrs
     |
120  -  Ehud (80th yr observance after Joshua)
     |
     |     Philistines             ? yrs
     |     Shamgar                 ? yrs
     |     Jabin - Canaan         20 yrs
     |
160  -  Deborah (and Barak)
     |
     |     Midianites              7 yrs
     |
200  -  Gideon
     |
     |     - (spiritual harlotry)  ? yrs
     |
240  -  Abimelech
     |
     |     - (before Tola)         ? yrs
     |     Tola                   23 yrs
     |     - (before Jair)         ? yrs
     |
280  -  Jair
     |
     |     Philistines/Ammon      18 yrs
     |
300  -  start of Jephthah's judgement
     [ NB: This chart shows who was judge when it was time to
           re-confirm the covenant. It does not necessarily
           mean that person became the judge in the year
           indicated. ] 
   

2ND - JEPHTHAH TO SAUL


    ** Judge / Enemy **       ** Years **

    Jephthah (6 yrs - 1 yr)        5
    Ibzan                          7
    Elon                          10
    Abdon                          8
    Philistines                   40
    Samson                        20
    Eli                           40
    Samuel / Israel laments       20
                                 ---
                                 150   (should be 60 yrs)


For this period it is obvious a high degree of overlap exists.

The judges Jephthah to Samson obviously overlapped with the 40 years
of Philistine oppression and the years of priestly service of Eli and
Samuel.

The 40 years during which the Israelites were delivered into the hands
of the Philistines (Judg 13:1) ended when God delivered them through
Samuel, "they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel",
1Sam 7:13. (Thereafter, God continued to keep the Philistines subdued
all the days of Samuel.)



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