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.

After Assyrian Captivity (after 722 BC)

Judg 18:30 Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.

The Assyrian captivity (or the Assyrian exile in 722 BC) is the period in the history of Ancient Israel and Judah during which several thousand Israelites of ancient Samaria were resettled as captives by Assyria. This is one of the many instances of forcible relocations implemented by the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian monarchs, Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul) and Shalmaneser V. The later Assyrian rulers Sargon II and his son and successor, Sennacherib, were responsible for finishing the twenty-year demise of Israel’s northern ten-tribe kingdom, although they did not overtake the Southern Kingdom. Jerusalem was besieged, but not taken. The tribes forcibly resettled by Assyria later became known as the Ten Lost Tribes.

Who wrote the book of Judges?

It is not clear who wrote the book of Judges but it seems that it is a collection of several judges by a later scribe after the exile of northern tribes by Assyria in 722 BC.

Conclusion

The internal evidence from the Scripture itself shows that the book of Judges must have been written after the Assyria exile in 722 BC while using sources that could be much earlier.