For many people, the book of Judges is something of an embarrassment. After all, stories of sex and violence, rape and massacre, brutality and deceit do not seem to be appropriate material in God’s unfolding story of salvation. Given the Bible’s aim to teach us the ways of God, we quite naturally expect to read about people who are good, noble, honourable men and women (i.e. model believers). So, reading the stories in Judges can come as quite a shock and leave us puzzled about their purpose. But the very structure of the book is designed to help us get the heart of the message.
Whereas Joshua tells the story of Israel’s faithful conquest of the promised land, Judges describes the long & painful story of Israel’s failure to finish their mission. Indeed, in Judges we find their progressive deterioration politically, spiritually, and morally. The ultimate outcome of their persistent negligence is “the Canaanization of Israel”. The opening chapters give us the background to it (1:1–3:6), the middle section describes God’s response to it (3:7–16:31), and by the end we witness the depths of it (chs. 17–21). The “true hero” of the book is God. He is the faithful one who never gives up, so neither should we.