Sefer Shophtim (or spelled Shoftim) is called the Book of Judges in English. Shoftim is from the verb Shaphat which means decision or to govern. Judges is another way of saying rulers, deliverers or saviors. The Book of Judges stands in contrast to the Book of Yahoshua. In Yahoshua, an obedient people conquered the land through trust in the power of Yah. In Judges however a disobedient and idolatrous people are defeated time and time again because of their rebellion against Yah.
The Book of Judges tells how the Israylites kept rejecting Yah and worshipping Idols. Each time they did this, Yah punished them by letting other nations attack and defeat them. As a result, the Israylites turned back to Yah and asked for His help and he sent a special leader called a “judge” who helped them defeat their enemies. A time of peace followed and the Israylites were faithful to Yah for as long as the judge lived. But then they again rejected Yah. All these things happened time after time.
Ysrayl did not yet have a king and so during this time everyone did what they thought was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). But the people had to learn that they were to worship only Yah and when they were unfaithful Yah punished them.
Chapter 1: The Tribes of Yahudah and Simeon Fight the Canaanites: Yah Repays Adoni-Bezek
1 Now after the death of Yahoshua it came to pass that the children of Ysrayl asked Yah saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” 2 And Yah said, “Yahudah shall go up. Indeed, I have delivered the land into his hand”. 3 So Yahudah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me to my alloted territory, that we may fight against the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand and they killed ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 And they found Adoni-Bezek in Bezek and fought against him and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 Then Adoni-Bezek fled and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 And Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table . As I have done, so Yah has repaid me”. Then they brought him to Yahrushalim and there he died.
Caleb Blesses His Daughter with Land and Springs of Water
8 Now the children of Yahudah fought against Yahrushalim and took it. They struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward, the children of Yahudah went down to fight against the Canaanites who dwelt in the mountains, in the south (Hebrew Negev) and in the lowland. 10 Then Yahudah went against the Canaanites who dwelt in Hebron. (Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiryath Arba). And they killed Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formely Kiryath Sepher). 12 Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kiryath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife. 13 And Othniyah the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother took it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife. 14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 15 So she said to him, “Give me a blessing since you have given me land in the south. Give me also springs of water”. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
16 Now the children of the Kenite, Moshe’s father-in-law went up from the City of Palms with the children of Yahudah into the Wilderness of Yahudah which lies in the south near Arad and they went and dwelt among the people. 17 And Yahudah went with his brother Simeon and they attacked the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was Hormah. 18 Also Yahudah took Gaza (Ayyah) with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory and Ekron with its territory. 19 So Yah was with Yahudah. And they drove out the mountaineers but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland because they had chariots of iron. 20 And they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moshe had said. Then he expelled from there the three sons of Anak (giants).
The Tribe of Benyamin Fight the Yebusites
21 But the children of Benyamin did not drive out the Yebusites who inhabited Yahrushalim. So the Yebusites dwell with the children of Benyamin in Yahrushalim to this day.
The Tribe of Yoseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) Capture BethYL
22 And the house of Yoseph also went up against Bethyl and Yah was with them. 23 So the house of Yoseph sent men to spy out Bethyl. (The name of the city was formerly Luz). 24 And when the spies saw a man coming out of the city, they said to him, “Please show us the entrance to the city and we will show you mercy”. 25 So he showed them the entrance to the city and they struck the city with the edge of the sword but they let the man and all his family go. 26 And the man went to the land of the Hittites, built a city and called the name Luz which is its name to this day.
Incomplete Conquest of the Land
27 However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages or Taanach and its villages or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. 28 And it came to pass, when Ysrayl was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute (taxed) but did not completely drive them out.
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer. So the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.
The Tribe of Zebulon
30 Nor did Zebulon drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Nahalol. So the Canaanites dwelt among them and were put under tribute (taxed).
The Tribe of Asher
31 Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik or Rehob. 32 So the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. For they did not drive them out.
The Tribe of Naphtali
33 Nor did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh or the inhabitants of Beth Anath buth they dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath were put under tribute to them.
The Tribe of Dan
34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley. 35 And the Amorites were determined to dwell in Mount Heres, in Aiyalon and in Shaalbim (Spelled Shaalabbin in Joshua 19:42) yet when the strength of the house of Yoseph became greater, they were put under tribute.
The Amorite-Edomite Border
36 Now the boundary of the Amorites was from the Ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward. *(The old Amorite-Edomite border used to go from Sela through Scorpion Pass or Akkrabbim Pass into the hill country).
Chapter 2: Yah’s Angel Speaks to Ysrayl About Disobedience
1 Then the angel of Yah came up from Gilgal to Bochim and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. 2 And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land. You shall tear down their altars’. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?” 3 Therefore, I also said, “I will not drive them out before you but hey shall be thorns in your side (enemies to you) and their gods shall be a snare to you”. 4 So it was, when the angel of Yah spoke these words to all the children of Ysrayl that the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5 Then they called the name of that place Bochim (Literally weeping) and they sacrificed there to Yah. 6 And when Yahoshua had dismissed the people, the children of Ysrayl went each to his own inheritance to possess the land.
Death of Yahoshua
7 So the people served Yah all the days of Yahoshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Yahoshua, who had seen all the great works of Yah which He had done for Ysrayl. 8 Now Yahoshua the son of Nun, the servant of Yah died when he was one hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnah Heres in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know Yah nor the work which He had done for Ysrayl.
Ysrayl’s Unfaithfulness: Ysrayl Stops Worshipping Yah
11 Then the children of Ysrayl did evil in the sight of Yah and served Baals. 12 And they forsook Yah Almighty of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt and they followed the gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them and they bowed down to them and they provoked Yah to anger. 13 They forsook Yah and served Baal and the Ashtoreths (Canaanite goddess). 14 And the anger of Yah was hot against Ysrayl. so He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of Yah was against them for calamity, as Yah had said and as Yah had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.
Yah Chooses Judges (Leaders) For Ysrayl
16 Nevertheless, Yah raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but they played the harlot with the gods and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of Yah. They did not do so. 18 And Yah raised up judges for them, Yah was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For Yah was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following the gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.
Yah Tests Ysrayl
20 Then the anger of Yah was hot against Ysrayl and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not heeded My voice–21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Yahoshua left when he died. 22 So that through them I may test Ysrayl, whether they will keep the ways of Yah, to walk in them as their fathers kept them or not”. 23 Therefore, Yah left those nations, without driving them out immediately nor did He deliver them into the hand of Yahoshua.