What Does the Title of the Book of Judges Mean?

John McMath
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The book of Judges continues the historical narrative of the people of Israel in the land after the death of Joshua to the beginning of the united kingdom under the ministry of Samuel.

The book is called shophetim in Hebrew, Kritai in the LXX, and Liber Iudicum in the Latin Vulgate. In all three languages these words mean “judges.” The English “Judges” follows this tradition.

Although the judges did sometimes decide civil disputes (e.g., Deborah), their major function was political and military leadership.

The Hebrew root sh-ph-t for “judge” probably derives from a Semitic term with a semantic range including ruling and controlling,” as well as “correcting,” “putting in order,” or “making just.” The book of Judges also emphasizes the empowerment of the Spirit of God. This “filling” of the Spirit has led many commentators to note that the judges reveal God’s work of specially gifting people for God’s work. While there are parallels to the political functions of the judges in Mesopotamia and in Carthage, and even in ancient Ebla, the divinely empowered status of the Israelite judges appears to be unique in history.

For Further Reading:

The Moody Bible Commentary

by Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham

Imagine having a team of 30 Moody Bible Institute professors helping you study the Bible. Now you can with this in-depth, user-friendly,...

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