The Carefully Crafted Message of the Book of Judges

Sept. 7 2016

Academic scholarship on the book of Judges has largely either focused on evaluating it as a historical account or seen it as a hodgepodge of ancient folklore and heroic tales more similar to Greek epic than to anything else in the Bible. To Robin Baker, however, it is the work of an author (or authors) with considerable literary skill, aiming to convey a message akin to that of the Bible’s prophetic books:

[F]or all its earthy idiosyncrasy and a structure which, on superficial acquaintance, seems haphazard, not to mention its presentation of two of the most shocking episodes in the entire biblical corpus—the [apparent human sacrifice] of Jephthah’s daughter and the gang-rape and dismemberment of the Levite’s concubine—the work was recognized by the Jewish divines who compiled the biblical canon as a venerable prophetic text. . . .

If [this] book represents a form of historiography, it is as a spiritual history of the tribes of Israel during a defining epoch of their existence. But it is more. Embedded in its account is a prophetic element that concerns the southern kingdom of Judah, which still endured, albeit as an Assyrian vassal state, when Judges was [thought to have been] composed. Just as Ezekiel excoriated Judah for out-sinning [the northern kingdom of] Israel (Ezekiel 23:4-12), so Judges indicates that a punishment similar to the reckoning visited on Samaria awaited Jerusalem because it, too, rebelled against and was unfaithful to God.

Judges is remarkable in its literary virtuosity. It occupies a unique place in the Hebrew Bible for the diversity of its literary devices: song, riddle, parable, aphorism, even a password and a tongue-twister. The writer distorts the semantic boundaries of words, makes extensive use of layering, multi-perspectives, and mirror-imaging,and introduces an array of other literary techniques to amplify his theological message. . . .

This is a composition that, for all its brilliance in the portrayal of the heroic characters who give the book its modern title, takes as its essential focus just two actors: God and “the sons of Israel.” It is the epic account of their relationship that forms the subject of the book; it is the progressive, inexorable breakdown in that relationship that it maps through its 21 chapters.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Book of Judges, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan