THE JUDGES CHRONOLOGY CONTROVERSY

Several modern day scholars point to a problem for the chronology of the Judges in the King James Version of the Bible, but these assertions mostly come from denominational websites.  The best I can tell from these sources is that they believe there is an issue with the dates because of the genealogy.

One source I consulted by email says, “In ‘recent times’ (going back to at least 1867) some have claimed the final chapters were written by someone else and at a different time period.  Any source I can cite for this would claim these final chapters were written AFTER (later) than the first part of the book.  The 1867 dates come from McClintock and Strong.”

The argument found HERE seems to be based on the young Levite being a grandson of Moses, thus reasonable seeming evidence that the event happened early in the period of the Judges. There are times when chronology is not obvious, but we remember names mentioned when “things” happened.

WHEN DID THESE EVENTS HAPPEN?

. . . .Our Western minds are predisposed to look at things from a chronological perspective. It would be easy to view the events described in the author’s dual conclusion as having occurred in the final days of the judges. It is highly unlikely, however, that this is the case. Indeed, all indications are that these events took place quite early in the days of the judges. At the end of the author’s first conclusion, we are told that the young Levite’s name was Jonathan and that he was the “son of Gershom, son of Moses” (Judges 18:30). In our text we read:

The Israelites asked the Lord (for the ark of God’s covenant was there in those days; 28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving the Lord in those days), “Should we once more march out to fight the Benjaminites our brothers, or should we quit?” The Lord said, “Attack, for tomorrow I will hand them over to you” (Judges 20:27-28).

The author’s two chronological indicators strongly imply that the events described in his dual conclusion occurred early in the days of the judges, rather than late. Our author has therefore chosen not to arrange his material chronologically, but thematically. He goes from “bad” in his dual introduction (chapters 1-2) to “worse” in his dual conclusion (chapters 17-21).

THE STRUCTURE OF OUR TEXT

The structure of our author’s final conclusion (chapters 19-21) follows the chapter divisions in our Bibles:
Hospitality (19:1-10) to horror (19:11-30)
Civil War: Israel vs. the Benjamites (20:1-48)
Brides for the Benjamites (21:1-25)

Another on-line reference to Judges chapters 19-21 being positioned earlier in the book is the website referenced below.  The website is associated with the Church of Christ in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  The author claims that chapters 17-21 should be placed between chapters 3 and 4.  It is an interesting assertion.

http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-maps-conquest-timeline-chronology-judges-othniel-ehud-ruth-1350-1204bc.htm

A preacher friend in Texas suggests two things about the unusual approach to studying the book of Judges.

The Jews have possessed the Old Testament for over 2,000 years, and their version of the book of Judges has the same chapter sequence as our Bible today.  Additionally, when 70 Jewish scholars met in Alexandria and translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek about 200 BC, they kept the same chapter sequence.  Those writers seem to be closer in time to the recorded events than some 21st century “Bible scholar” with no proof to support his assertions.  Also, the “Chronological Bible” does not move Judges chapters 19-21 to a position before chapters 1-18.

By checking the Hebrew manuscripts to find the statement in question, it appears that only the Vulgate makes this Moses, while all others make this Manasseh. Both of the official Hebrew Bibles have Manasseh, not Moses.  The chronology of Judges as arranged in the King James Bible appears to be solid without having to adjust anything.

The Phinehas mentioned in Judges 20:27ff is not necessarily the same Phinehas mentioned in the wilderness in Exodus 6:25 and Numbers 25. Many were called the son of David, and David was referred to as the father of several who lived many years after David died.  This Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron in Judges 20:27 is likely a distant grandchild of the Phinehas who lived during Moses’ time.

As we study the book of Judges ourselves or teach Judges to our children, we must consider also that Moses was the single judge over Israel for many years, and he was the final judge in hard disputes even after his father-in-law made the change.

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee (Exo. 18:21-22).

Moses was a judge in Israel, and when we teach the children to sing the Judges song, we need to include Moses as the first judge.

One thought on “THE JUDGES CHRONOLOGY CONTROVERSY

  1. Thank you for these thoughts. Often the term “son of David” is used to refer to someone’s character or spiritual state. Offhand, I can think of the blind man in the NT calling, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!” How can we say with certainty that there was only ever one man named Moses? Or Phinehas? The scholars, without a more fully listed genealogy, cannot prove that the book of Judges is out of order.

    Liked by 1 person

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