Bible Narratives Wiki

The period of Judges extended about 300 years. These judges were men raised up out of various Israelite tribes by Jehovah, to deliver his people prior to Israel's installment of kings (Judges 2:16; Acts 13:20). Moses, mediator of the Law covenant, judged Israel for 40 years. However, the period of Judges is viewed as beginning with Othniel, sometime after the death of Joshua, and extending to the days of Samuel the prophet. Samuel is not usually counted among the Judges. The judges were selected and appointed by Jehovah from various tribes of Israel. Between Joshua and Samuel, twelve male judges are named as follows:[1]

  1. Othniel of Judah
  2. Jair of Manasseh
  3. Ehud of Benjamin
  4. Jephthah of Manasseh
  5. Shamgar
  6. Ibzan poss. of Zebulun
  7. Barak poss. of Naphtali
  8. Elon of Zebulun
  9. Gideon of Manasseh
  10. Abdon of Ephraim
  11. Tola of Issachar
  12. Samson of Dan

The exact area over which each of the judges exercised jurisdiction and the dates of their judgeships cannot in every case be determined. Some may have judged contemporaneously in different sections of Israel, and there were periods of oppression intervening.[1]


[16] So Paul stood up, and motioning
with his hand, he said: “Men, Israelites
and you others who fear God, listen.
[17] The God of this people Israel
chose our forefathers, and he exalted
the people while they lived as foreigners
in the land of Egypt and brought them
out of it with an uplifted arm.
[18] And for a period of about 40 years,
he put up with them in the wilderness.
[19] After destroying seven nations
in the land of Caʹnaan, he assigned
their land as an inheritance.
[20] All of that was during about
450 years. “After this he gave them
judges until Samuel the prophet.
[21] But afterward they demanded a king,
and God gave them Saul the son of Kish,
a man of the tribe of Benjamin...

Paul the apostle — Acts 13:16-21b

The length of the period from the entry into Canaan till the end of the period of the Judges is not directly stated, being arrived at only by deduction. That is, by subtracting the 123 years of the known periods (of the wilderness wandering, of Saul and David, and the first three years of Solomon’s reign) from the 479 years intervening between the Exodus and Solomon’s fourth year, 356 years remain.[2]

The manner in which these 356 years (from Israel’s entry into Canaan in 1473 B.C.E. until the start of Saul’s reign in 1117 B.C.E.) are to be apportioned is not stated in the Scriptures. Evidently, however, there is considerable overlapping of time periods. Counted in succession, the various periods of oppression, of judgeships, and of peace as listed in the book of Judges would total 410 years. For these periods to fit into the 356-year time period mentioned earlier, some periods must have been concurrent rather than successive, a view shared by many commentators. The circumstances described in the Bible accounts lend themselves to this explanation. The oppressions involved different areas of the land and affected different tribes.[3] Thus the expression “the land had no further disturbance,” used after recounting the Israelites’ victories over their oppressors, may not in every case embrace the entire area occupied by all 12 tribes but may apply to the portion that the particular oppression primarily affected (Judges 3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28; cf Jos 14:13-15).[2]

At Acts chapter 13 the apostle Paul reviewed God’s dealings with Israel from the ‘choosing of the forefathers’ on through the period in Egypt, the Exodus, the wilderness wandering, the conquest of Canaan, and the distribution of the land, and then stated: “All that during about four hundred and fifty years. And after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.” (Acts 13:20)[4] Since the period of “about four hundred and fifty years” had its start with God’s ‘choosing the forefathers’ of Israel, it would seem to have begun in the year 1918 BCE with the birth of Isaac, the original “seed” promised to Abraham. It would therefore end about 1467 BCE, when the initial conquest of Canaan reached its conclusion, allowing for the distribution to proceed. Inasmuch as the figure is stated to be approximate, a difference of a year or so would not be of consequence.[2]


Jephthah (May [God] Open; [God] Has Opened) was a judge of Israel, from the tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 26:29; Judges 11:1). He administered justice over the territory of Gilead for six years perhaps during the priesthood of Eli and the early life of Samuel (Judges 12:7). Jephthah’s reference to “three hundred years” of Israelite control E of the Jordan would seem to place the start of his six-year judgeship around 1173 BCE (See also: Bible's timeline)(Judges 11:26).[5]

In the days of Jephthah, when the Israelites turned to serving false gods, Jehovah allowed them to be oppressed by the Ammonites for 18 years. When the Israelites repented, "they began to remove the foreign gods from their midst and to serve Jehovah, so that his soul became impatient because of the trouble of Israel" (Judges 10:6-16). The expression “his soul became impatient” literally means “his soul was shortened; his patience was exhausted.” The New English Bible reads: “He could endure no longer to see the plight of Israel.” Tanakh—A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures renders it: “He could not bear the miseries of Israel.” Once his people manifested genuine repentance, Jehovah could no longer bear to see them suffer. So the God of tender compassion (2 Chronicles 36:15) empowered Jephthah to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of their enemies (Judges 11:30-33).[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Insight (1988), Vol II, JUDGE, p.134
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Insight (1988), Vol I, CHRONOLOGY, p.461-462
  3. MAP, Vol. 1, p. 743
  4. Considerable misunderstanding has resulted from the King James rendering of this text, which reads: “And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” However, the most ancient manuscripts (including the Sinaitic, Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, and the Alexandrine), as well as most modern translations (such as JB, Kx, and others; vss 19, 20, AS, RS, AT), all favor a translation showing the period of the Judges as coming after the 450 years. — Insight (1988), Vol II, CHRONOLOGY, pg.462
  5. Insight (1988), Vol II, JEPHTHAH, p.26
  6. Draw Close (2013), The Tender Compassion of Our God, p.254