How to Read Judges

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During the month of March, our church will be reading through the book of Judges. Use this study guide to help you as you read through the book.

What’s Judges All About?

The book of Judges is a sobering book about the consequences of Israel’s sin and their unfaithfulness to God. It tells the epic stories of some of the most iconic figures in the Bible, but it does so with brutal honesty.

The majority of the book works through cycles which are explained in the book’s opening (2:11–23). A season of peace leads to Israel’s sin and God’s judgment of their sin. As Israel faces the consequences of their unfaithfulness, God raises up a judge to deliver them and to bring them back to a time of peace. Then it all happens again.

The book has some great stories and many gruesome stories too. It puts the ugliness of sin on display as Israel spirals further into unfaithfulness. But the book also displays God’s faithfulness to his people even when they are at their worst.

Outline of the Book

1–2      |  Israel’s Unfaithfulness and the Pattern of the Book
3–5      |  1st Cycle Section—Othniel, Edud, Shamgar, Deborah
6–9      |  2nd Cycle Section—Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair
10–12  |  3rd Cycle Section—Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon
13–16  |  4th Cycle Section—Samson
17–18  |  Israel’s Religious Corruption and Failure
19        |  Israel’s Moral Corruption and Failure
20–21  |  Israel’s Social Corruption and Failure

Things to Look For

Look for repeated phrases. Judges is a great book to help us in thoughtful Bible reading. Notice how repeated phrases can add structure to the book (3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6 & 13:1) or how they can identify a major theme (17:6, 18:1, 19:1 & 21:25).

Look for a focus on the judges’ character. Think of these stories as mini character studies. The stories are intended to instruct us in the good and bad of these judges.

Look for women throughout the book. Women are often highlighted for their faithfulness and heroism. Yet, women are also tragically abused, showing the depths of Israel’s rebellion.

Look for the Spirit of God at work. The Spirit is often working through these judges. This doesn’t mean God endorses all of their choices but that he uses them for his purposes and plans.

Look for God’s faithfulness to his people. While the stories are often tragic and disturbing, behind them all is a God who still loves and redeems his people—a God who is working to bring them the King they need to lead them into faithfulness to God.

Tips for Reading

Read one chapter each weekday to read the book once this month. Or read two chapters every day and read through the book three times this month.

Get a good study Bible. There are lots of names and places in the book. A study Bible can help you keep it all straight.

Find time to read the book of Ruth this month too. The book of Ruth is set during the time of the Judges. It shines the light of hope and sovereign kindness into an age of darkness and sin.

Use the book to help you grow in confession and repentance. Judges is an exploration of the dangers of sin. Let the book expose your sin, leading you into confession and repentance.

Be thankful for Jesus as you read. Be thankful that we have a Savior better than all these flawed judges and who has truly delivered us from the cycles of sin and unfaithfulness to God.