POSTED 23 OCTOBER, 2017
Approximate date: 1000 B.C.E. (Right, some conservative-moderate); before 586 B.C.E. (some conservative-moderate; some Left); mid-to-late 500s B.C.E. (some Left)
Time period: Israel living in the Promised Land without a king
Author: Samuel (Right); Israel’s court historians and further editors (conservative-moderate); Israel’s court historians or an unknown exile from the Southern Kingdom (Left)
Location of author: Land of Israel (Right, some conservative-moderate); Jerusalem, Babylon, and/or Land of Israel (some conservative-moderate, Left)
Target audience and their location: people of Israel having subdued the Land of Canaan (Right, conservative-moderate); Jewish religious leaders during the reign of King Josiah and/or Jewish exiles living in Babylon or returning from Babylon (Left)
Theological Summary: The Book of Judges records the period immediately following the death of Joshua up until the establishment of Israel’s monarchy, detailing the lives of some of the elders who would lead Israel. During this time of Israel’s history, the people fail to adhere to the agreement that they have made with God, they fall into sin and idolatry, and God must intervene via various “judges” or leaders who bring them back from the brink of disaster. It presents a cycle of rebellion, judgment, and repentance many times over.
The Hebrew title of Judges is Shoftim, a participle which means “those judging,” derived from Judges 2:16: “Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.” The term shoftim could also be rendered as “chieftains.” These men and women functioned as military leaders and deliverers of Israel in their times of great trial, and called them back to faith in the God they had largely abandoned. “In some respects the title of the book is a bit misleading to English readers. The ‘judges’ were not primarily judicial officials; rather, they were military leaders and clan chieftains who appeared periodically in different areas among the tribes to affect deliverance from enemies threatening parts of Israel” (Dillard and Longman). Most of the judges we see in this text were local leaders and tribal rulers who were brought in to mediate major disputes.
One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.
Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.
A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.