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Chronological difficulties and the Book of Judges
When we begin to examine the historical narratives of the individual Judges we need to be aware of two technical aspects about the book. First of all, when we add up all of the numbers in the book of Judges as they relate to years of rest and years of oppression, we arrive at a total of 410 years and, according to our chronology based on I Kings 6:1, this is about seventy-five years too long. We learned from I Kings 6:1 that from the fourth year of Solomon's reign back to the Exodus was 480 years and, if the period of the judges was 410 years, this leaves only seventy years for the wilderness wanderings, Joshua's leadership, Samson's death to the inauguration of Saul, Saul's reign, David's reign, and Solomon's first four years. We know that the wilderness wanderings lasted forty years, and that Joshua's leadership lasted about twenty-one years. Between the death of Samson and the inauguration of Saul was about five years, Saul and David each reigned forty years, and I Kings 6:1 records the first four years of Solomon's reign. These activities total 145 years. If we place the book of Judges using chronological parameters, we see that we can have 335 years as the period of time covered by the book because the Judges did not judge sequentially, but some judged simultaneously in different geographical areas in the land of Israel as we learnt from the earlier brief résumé of their history.
Other commentators, such as Packer, et al,6 conclude that the Book of Judges covers a period of about 337 years, from 1380 to 1043 B.C. but agree that the judges' terms of service and the periods of oppression total about 410 consecutive years. They take the words of Paul to indicate that the judges ruled "about the space of 450 years" (Acts 13:20), but agree that it was long and widely accepted that many of the judges' careers overlapped. The same commentators take Jephthah's statement in Judges 11:26, that the Israelites conquered Canaan about 300 years before his time, as a reference point and argue that, if he is speaking in 1106 B.C. (1406 B.C. minus 300 years), it is very close to a date of 1089 B.C. that they estimate for the raids by the Ammonites. They then use the 1106 B.C. date for Jephthah to reconstruct the dates of the later judges and construct a chart to arrive at the days of Samuel, the battles of Israel and the Philistines in the West and Southwest, and Saul's appointment as king which they calculate as 1043 B.C.5
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