By the end of Judges, the Israelites are in a worse condition than they were at the beginning, with Yahweh's treasures used to make idolatrous images, the Levites (priests) corrupted, the tribe of Dan conquering a remote village instead of the Canaanite cities, and the tribes of Israel making war on the tribe of Benjamin, their own brothers.Despite their appearance at the end of the book, certain characters (like Jonathan, the grandson of Moses) and idioms present in the epilogue show that the events therein "must have taken place ...early in the period of the judges." This original "book of saviours" made up of the stories of Ehud, Jael and parts of Gideon, had already been enlarged and transformed into "wars of Yahweh" before being given the final Deuteronomistic revision.In the 20th century the first part of the prologue (chapters 1:1–2:5) and the two parts of the epilogue (17–21) were commonly seen as miscellaneous collections of fragments tacked onto the main text, and the second part of the prologue (2:6–3:6) as an introduction composed expressly for the book; this view has been challenged in the latter decades of the century, and there is an increasing willingness to see Judges as the work of a single individual, working by carefully selecting, reworking and positioning his source material to introduce and conclude his themes.The stories follow a consistent pattern: the people are unfaithful to Yahweh and he therefore delivers them into the hands of their enemies; the people repent and entreat Yahweh for mercy, which he sends in the form of a leader or champion (a "judge"); the judge delivers the Israelites from oppression and they prosper, but soon they fall again into unfaithfulness and the cycle is repeated.Scholars consider many of the stories in Judges to be the oldest in the Deuteronomistic history, with their major redaction dated to the 8th century BCE and with materials such as the Song of Deborah dating from much earlier, perhaps close to the period the book depicts.Noth maintained that the history was written in the early Exilic period (6th century BCE) in order to demonstrate how Israel's history was worked out in accordance with the theology expressed in the book of Deuteronomy (which thus provides the name "Deuteronomistic").Frank Moore Cross later proposed that an early version of the history was composed in Jerusalem in Josiah's time (late 7th century BCE); this first version, Dtr1, was then revised and expanded to create a second edition, that identified by Noth, and which Cross labelled Dtr2.
Judges follows on from the Book of Joshua and opens with reference to Joshua's death (Joshua ; cf. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges suggests that "the death of Joshua may be regarded as marking the division between the period of conquest and the period of occupation", the latter being the focus of the Book of Judges.Scholars agree that the Deuteronomists' hand can be seen in Judges through the book's cyclical nature: the Israelites fall into idolatry, God punishes them for their sins with oppression by foreign peoples, the Israelites cry out to God for help, and God sends a judge to deliver them from the foreign oppression. Scholars also suggest that the Deuteronomists also included the humorous and sometimes disparaging commentary found in the book such as the story of the tribe of Ephraim who could not pronounce the word "shibboleth" correctly (12:5–6).The Book of Judges (Hebrew: Sefer Shoftim ספר שופטים) is the seventh book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible.It contains the history of the Biblical judges, the divinely inspired leaders whose direct knowledge of Yahweh allows them to act as champions for the Israelites against oppression by foreign rulers, and models of the wise and faithful behaviour required of them by their God Yahweh following the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan.
Next comes the main text (–), six accounts each concerning a major judge and their struggles against the oppressive kings of surrounding nations, plus the story of Abimelech, an Israelite who oppresses his own people.
The cyclic pattern set out in the prologue is readily apparent at the beginning, but as the stories progress it begins to disintegrate, mirroring the disintegration of the world of the Israelites.