When was the book of Judges written?

The book of judges records the downfall of Israel. It repeatedly reminds the reader that there was no king in those days, which clearly suggests that it was written during the period of kings. Here, we will discuss when the book of Judges was compiled and written down as the single book we have today.

After Israel had kings (after 1107 BC)

Judg 17:6; 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judg 19:1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel

It is interesting to note that the author of the book of Judges mentions the lack of king in Israel but contains several events from Judah. This suggests that it was certainly written during the period of kings but before the split of Israel and Judah. Israel and Judah. Israel rejected God as their king and Saul as their king in 1107 BC. The kingdom of united Israel was eventually split in 992 BC after the death of king Solomon. Hence, the book of Judges must have been written between this period of 115 years from 1107 to 992 BC.

After the term ‘prophet ‘ instead of ‘seer’ (After 1095 BC)

Judg 4:4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. …. Judg 6:8 that the LORD sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage;

1Sam 9:9 (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: “Come, let us go to the seer”; for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer.)

1Chr 29:29 Now the acts of King David, first and last, indeed they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer

The book of Judges never contains the word ‘seer’. Instead it contains ‘prophet’.  Samuel and Gad were referred as seer but Nathan was referred as prophet.

2Sam 24:11 Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying

The book of 2nd Samuel goes to and fro between seer and prophet for Gad as in 2 Sam 24:11 where both are in the same verse. Nathan was never mentioned as a seer but always as a prophet. Hence, the term prophet came into usage sometime before the reign of king David (1065 BC). Since Nathan who was referred as a prophet confronts David for his sin of adultery and murder, he must be at least 30 years. Hence, the term prophet might have been in usage for a few decades before 1065 BC, which could be around 1095 BC.

After the Ark was moved from Shiloh (after 1085 BC)

Judg 18:31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. …. Judg 20:26-27 Then all the children of Israel, that is, all the people, went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. So the children of Israel inquired of the LORD (the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days).

The house of the LORD and the ark of the covenant was in Shiloh in those days. This means, the author of the book of Judges was writing from a time period when the ark of the covenant was no longer in Shiloh. So, when was it moved from Shiloh?

1Sam 4:4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

The ark of the covenant was in Shiloh just before it was captured by the Philistines.

1Sam 5:10 Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!”

1Sam 7:2 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

When the ark was sent back to Israel by the Philistines to Ekron and then to Kirjath Jearim, it stayed there temporarily for 20 years. This was 20 years prior to David becoming king of Israel, which is 1085 BC.

Before Jerusalem was captured (before 1065 BC)

Judg 1:21 But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

Judg 19:11-12 They were near Jebus, and the day was far spent; and the servant said to his master, “Come, please, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and lodge in it.” But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside here into a city of foreigners, who are not of the children of Israel; we will go on to Gibeah.

The author is giving us an important clue that, at the time of writing the book of Judges, the Jebusites still dwell in Jerusalem with the children of Benjamin in their allocated inheritance. The author also blames the tribe of Benjamin for not driving them out, which gives us an important clue that he is unaware of the fact that David later conquered Jerusalem and made His capital which is well documented in 2 Sam 5:6-9.

Judg 1:8 Now the children of Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it; they struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire.

It is also worth noting, that the above verse is referring to an earlier event, not king David capturing Jerusalem. This means, the book of Judges was written before Jerusalem was captured by king David in 1065 BC.

Who wrote the book of Judges?

1 Sam 7:2-3 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. …. (15) And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.

If the book of Judges were written after the Ark of the covenant was moved from Shiloh and before Jerusalem was captured by king David, the only best candidate to have written is Samuel who begins to judge Israel during the same time.

Conclusion

The internal evidence from the Scripture itself shows that the book of Judges must have been written after the Ark of the covenant was moved from Shiloh and before Jerusalem was captured by king David. This gives us a more precise time period between 1085-1065 BC when Samuel was judging Israel. Hence, it was Samuel who wrote and compiled the book of Judges around 1075 BC as we have today either from earlier recorded documents or from the stories that was passed on verbally.