OVERALL PERIOD OF TIME
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 Exodus 16:35
Promised Land to Saul 360 yrs
Reign of King Saul 40 yrs Acts 13:21
Reign of King David 40 yrs 1Kings 2:11
[ 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.
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
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).
The tribes of Reuben, and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh
were allocated the land East of the Jordan before Israel
crossed over the Jordan.
However, all the men of war for these tribes crossed the
Jordan to fight alongside the other tribes of Israel.
It was only after the gathering at Shiloh, after another
10 years, that the men of these tribes returned and could
be contacted by the likes of Balak king of Moab.
So the 300 year period should be started 10 years after the
initial crossing of the Jordan!
This also means that seven Jubilee periods (of 50 years each)
would have elapsed since the departure of the children of
Israel from Egypt. ]
This 300 year division of the Judges period provides us with the
** Judge / Enemy ** ** Total ** ** Should Be **
Moses 40 40
Joshua to Jephthah 320+ 310
Jephthah to Saul 150 50
510+ yrs 400 yrs
Therefore, Judges 11:26 enables us to subdivide the 360 years of the
Joshua to Saul period into 2 periods. A period of 310 years and a
subsequent period of 50 years.
1ST PERIOD - JOSHUA TO JEPHTHAH
** Judge / Enemy ** ** Years **
Eglon - Moab 18
Jabin - Canaan 20
Deborah (and Barak) 40
- (spiritual harlotry) ?
- (before Tola saved Israel) ?
- (before Jair arose) ?
1st year of Jephthah 1
320+ (should be 310 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 at 110 years (Josh 24:29 & Judg 2:8). 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
This means that now we are trying to reduce a total of 320+40+? years
to a total of 310 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 Judg 2:18-19 strongly indicates that the periods
of oppression generally 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, one has to be
careful with assuming overlapping leaderships. Notice,
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 an '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. At that location they made a covenant to obey God and they
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 verses mention the city of Shechem because this was the
city adjacent to Mount Ebal and Mount 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
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.
If it was not for the awareness of a 40 year cycle of covenant renewal
it would be impossible to arrange this period.
0 - Joshua enters Promised Land
10 - Seven nations of Canaan conquered
| (start of the 300 years)
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
| Abimelech reigns 3 yrs
| Tola 23 yrs
| Jair reigning 22 yrs
| - Philistines/Ammon 18 yrs
280 - Jair
| Israel repents, Judg 10:15-16
310 - start of Jephthah's judgement
(end of the 300 years)
[ 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
2ND PERIOD - JEPHTHAH TO KING SAUL
** Judge / Enemy ** ** Years **
Jephthah (6 yrs - 1 yr) 5
Samson 20 (Jug 15:20, days of the Philistines)
Samuel / Israel laments 20
150 (should be 50 yrs)
For this second period it is obvious that a high degree of overlap
The military judges, from Jephthah to Samson, obviously overlapped with;
1) the 40 years of Philistine oppression,
2) the years of priestly service of Eli
0 - Jephthah
| Jephthah 6 yrs
| Ibzan 7 yrs
| Elon 10 yrs
| Abdon 8 yrs
| Samson 20 yrs
50 - King Saul crowned (at Gilgal)
(400 years after Exodus)
THE ARK AND SAMUEL
We know that the ark of the covenant was lost to the Philistines when it
was taken from Shiloh to the battle field. Judg 4:1-18.
At this time the sons of Eli had died in the battle and upon hearing the
news Eli had fallen backward and died.
1Sam 4:15 Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were
so dim that he could not see.
:17 "... Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are
dead; and the ark of God has been captured."
:18 Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark
of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the
side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he
died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had
judged Israel forty years.
[ NB: As Eli had judged Israel forty years,
he had been the priestly judge at the
prior covenant renewal ceremony.]
Due to the plagues sent upon the Philistines the ark was returned after
1Sam 6:1 Now the ark of the Lord was in the country of the
Philistines seven months.
The ark was placed in the house of Abinadab. Eleazar was consecrated
to look after it. It was in the city of Kirjath Jearim.
1Sam 7:1 Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the
ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of
Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his
son to keep the ark of the Lord.
:2 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim
a long time; it was there twenty years. And all
the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
The rendering of the second verse is very questionable. A period of
just twenty years would not qualify as a long time!
The following rendering is more likely.
1Sam 7:2 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim
a long time. Passed twenty years and groaned all
the house of Israel after the Lord.
After twenty years Samuel gathered all the people to Mizpah!
(This was the location where Samuel would later crown King Saul.)
There they 1) drew water and then poured it out,
2) fasted a day.
1Sam 7:5 And Samuel said, "Gather all Israel to Mizpah,
and I will pray to the Lord for you."
:6 So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water,
and poured it out before the Lord. And they
fasted that day, and said there, "We have sinned
against the Lord." And Samuel judged the children
of Israel at Mizpah.
The fasting for a day is clearly connected to the observance of the Day
of Atonement (the 10th day of the 7th month - a day of commanded fasting).
However, the drawing of water and then pouring ritual is less apparent.
It seems that water was drawn out of an infamous well and then poured out
on the land. (This was most likely an ancient well dug by Abraham, Isaac
or Jacob.) The ritual most likely represented the bringing to light of a
covenant agreement and the pouring out of the words of this covenant upon
320 - Covenant Renewal - Eli the priestly judge
340 - Eli dies - Ark taken
360 - Mizpah - Samuel / Philistines defeated (1Sam 7:5,13)
400 - Mizpah - Samuel / Saul officially chosen (1Sam 10:21)
Gilgal - Samuel / Saul officially crowned (1Sam 11:15)
There was a significant subduing of the Philistines during the time of
This occurred the first time Samuel gathered Israel at Mizpah.
When the Philistines heard the children of Israel were gathered at Mizpah
they gathered against them, but God 'thundered' against the Philistines.
1Sam 7:10 ... But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder
upon the Philistines that day, and so confused
them that they were overcome before Israel.
:13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they did
not come anymore into the territory of Israel.
And the hand of the Lord was against the
Philistines all the days of Samuel.
:14 Then the cities which the Philistines had taken
from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron
to Gath; and Israel recovered its territory
from the hands of the Philistines.
Also there was peace between Israel and the
This being the event which ended,
1) the 40 years of Philistine oppression.
2) The 20 years of Israel groaning.
There has been discussion over whether the Matthew 1:5 'Rahab'
was the same person as 'Rahab the Harlot'. This is discussed in
detail in the following webpage.