Israel’s Judges in the Old Testament

by Narelle Atkins

The book of Judges tells us about the twelve judges God raised up to lead Israel. There were six major judges and six minor judges. The major judges were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson.

Gideon is remembered for being an ideal judge and Israel thrived under his leadership. In contrast Gideon’s son, Abimelech, was evil. The son of one of Gideon’s concubines, Abimelech murdered seventy of his brothers so he could rule over Israel after his father’s death. He is not considered a judge despite governing Israel for several years. Abimelech fought with everyone and was eventually killed. A woman dropped a millstone on his head and he died at the sword of his servant to avoid the shame of dying at the hands of a woman.

Samson is one of the more well known judges. He was a Nazirite, set apart by God to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines. He possessed extraordinary strength from the Lord because the hair on his head had never been shaved. Samson fell in love with Delilah, who tricked him into revealing the source of his strength. Delilah betrayed Samson by arranging for the seven braids on his head to be shaved while he slept. Samson’s strength left him and he was captured by the Philistines.

Deborah was the only female judge to lead Israel. A prophetess, she was obedient to the Lord and brought a time of peace and prosperity to Israel.