Heidegger's Bible Handbook: Judges: The Office of Judge

2. Distinction of ordinary and extraordinary Judges. Their office; its agreement with Kings, and distinction from the same.

Besides the ordinary Judges, namely, those chosen by Moses, whether their judging was flourishing or failing, God, with affairs among the people bewailed, chose and raise up extraordinary judges by some miracle, as it were, so that they might restore the people to their former liberty, and be the Dictators of the Hebrews, as it were, perpetual in such a way that especially concerning the preservation of the liberty of the people they might inquire and decide, and prescribe what things were to be done, as indeed Josephus appears to interpret the language of judging, Jewish Antiquitiesbook XIII, sections 2, 3. Nevertheless, it is not satisfying to others, that they were in charge of prescribing law and of composing the quarrels of the people, both because some Judges, like Tola,[1] Ibzan,[2] Elon,[3] and Abdon,[4] are not found to have waged any wars; and because Eli, also a Judge, did not lead an army, and Samuel judged by spiritual arms, rather than carnal: and because in Judges 4:4, 5, Deborah is said to have judged the people in such a way that after the manner of judges she sat under the palm between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim, with the children of Israel going up to her לַמִּשְׁפָּט, for the judgment. They were like King to the extent that they were exerting Royal power, ἀνυπεύθυνοι, without accountability, and liable to no human judgment: especially in a time of war. Whence, with the Judges passing away, it is said in Judges 17:6; 18:1, in those days there was no מֶלֶךְ/King in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Just as if the judges had been Kings in a certain manner. Nevertheless, they were differing from Kings, both because they were raised up extraordinarily, and, with Heroic gifts Divinely displayed, were chosen with the support of the people: and because their principal function was in asserting the liberty of the people: and because their government was tame and civil, free from all pomp, so that they were not so much Monarchs, as Pastors, Guardians, Consuls of a free people, so that with respect to external things they were differing little from their countrymen, and, with the liberty of the people asserted, were generally returning to their former life, as the examples of Gideon[5] and Jephthah[6] prove: and because they do not appear to have arrogated to themselves the right of composing new laws: and that they expressly decline the right to rule, and relinquish that to the Lord alone, Judges 8:23: and, finally, because it was customary to them to save the people when oppressed; but on the other hand, it was customary for a great many Kings to waste the people.

[1] Judges 10:1, 2. [2] Judges 12:8-10. [3] Judges 12:11, 12. [4] Judges 12:13-15. [5] See Judges 8:22-32. [6] See Judges 12:7.

Dr. Dilday's Lecture: "The Book of Judges, Part 3"


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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