The judges were temporary and special deliverers, sent by God to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors; not supreme magistrates, succeeding to the authority of Moses and Joshua. Their power only extended over portions of the country, and some of them were contemporaneous. Their first work was that of deliverers and leaders in war; they then administered justice to the people, and their authority supplied the want of a regular government. Even while the administration of Samuel gave something like a settled government to the south, there was scope for the irregular exploits of Samson on the borders of the Philistines; and Samuel at last established his authority as judge and prophet, but still as the servant of Jehovah, only to see it so abused by his sons as to exhaust the patience of the people, who at length demanded a king, after the pattern of the surrounding nations. The following is a list of judges, whose history is given under their respective names:-- First servitude, to Mesopotamia-- 8 years. First judge: Othniel. 40 years. Second servitude, to Moab-- 18 years. Second judge: Ehud; 80 years. Third judge: Shamgar.--- Third servitude, to Jabin and Sisera-- 20 years. Fourth judge: Deborah and Barak. 40 years. Fourth servitude, to Midian-- 7 years. Fifth judge: Gideon; 40 years. Sixth judge: Abimelech; 3 years. Seventh judge: Tola; 23 years. Eighth judge: Jair. 22 years. Fifth servitude, to Ammon-- 18 years. Ninth judge: Jephthah; 6 years. Tenth judge: Ibzan; 7 years. Eleventh judge: Elon; 10 years. Twelfth judge: Abdon. 8 years. Sixth servitude, to the Philistines-- 40 years. Thirteenth judge: Samson 20 years. Fourteenth judge: Eli; 40 years. Fifteenth judge: Samuel. More than likely some of these ruled simultaneously. On the chronology of the judges, see the following article.
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