Lectionary Year A
November 17, 2002
Judges 4:1-10

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre - The 3rd chapter ends with an account of Ehud’s delivering Israel from the hands of the Moabites and then one verse ascribing to Shamgar, son of Anath, the same credit. Israel had had peace more than 80 years when chapter 4 opens.

Post - Following the text under consideration, a cryptic intrusion of a Kenite tribe separating from the rest of the Kenites and camping near Kedesh. Thereafter, we read of the conclusion of Barak’s victory over Sisera, accrediting the Lord with the victory.


The Book of the Judges tells of troubles northern Israel’s tribes experienced c. 1200 to 1020 BCE, between the conquest of Palestine, the death of Joshua and the rise of the prophet Samuel and the last judge, “when the people were settling down in Palestine”, according to Eric C. Rust (LBC). The episodes contain a series of judges’ conveying God’s plans to solve local problems, social, national and religious. Early versions of these accounts were likely spread as poems, songs and/or ballads, according to Robert Houston Smith (The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary On The Bible) popular modes of conveying historical events in those days there. The format is repeated regularly: Israel sins of idolatry and forsake God, God sends judgement via enemies’ attacks, Israel cries out to God, who raises up a Judge to effect deliverance. Most incidents recount how local heroes/judges executed salvation of local tribes from their troubles.


The compilation of these stories probably happened in the 9th into the 8th century and was edited in the 7th and 6th centuries by Deuteronomistic Historians. They cover the religious history of Israel from the Exodus to the Exile. Most stories seem to have originated in local traditions and have been collected as if to record Israel’s history of sin and salvation in the early 11th century.

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