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The Judges of Israel - an exploration

Summary of all pages

This page summarises the information studied on the companion pages. As such, it simply presents some conclusions, and interested readers should explore the other pages to find out why these conclusions have been reached.

Conventional chronology
  1. A "Maximal" model, with Judges drawing to a close at a late date for the Battle of Mizpah, allows an Exodus just prior to the Hyksos occupation. In addition, Othniel's adversary is within the Hyksos rule, Barak aligns with Thutmose III's Battle of Megiddo, and Abimelech coincides broadly with the Amarna period. In this case, both the 1 Kings 6:1 figure and Jephthah's appraisal are substantially too short and must be interpreted in some way other than at face value. This option seems to preserve most of the external indicators given in Judges.
  2. An "Average" model results in an Exodus at the end of the Hyksos period or the start of the New Kingdom. The various "Minimal" models give rise to an Exodus at different points within the 18th dynasty or even into the early years of the 19th dynasty. It is, for example, possible to align the Exodus within the Amarna period if desired.
  3. There is no difficulty accommodating the presence of the Philistines as adversaries of Shamgar, Jephthah and Samson with any of the models, even the most extended "Maximal" one.

New chronology
  1. A "Minimal no overlap" model with early Battle of Mizpah, or an "Average" model ending either at a late date for this battle or else with the battle at Rephaim, both result in an Exodus just prior to the Hyksos occupation. Othniel's adversary is within the Hyksos rule, but Barak cannot be aligned with Megiddo. In either case the 1 Kings 6:1 figure is accurate, but Jephthah's estimate is only correct with some degree of overlap or other compression introduced.
  2. Even the most compressed model results in the Exodus before the start of the New Kingdom, with most variations ending within the Hyksos occupation period.
  3. For Shamgar to have Philistines as adversaries requires some care, and really requires some degree of compression in the dates as well as a fairly late concluding point to Judges.

If a conventional chronology is preferred, then the option giving the best all round fit is an extended Judges period ending at a late date for the Battle of Mizpah. If the New Chronology is preferred, then the best fit is a slightly compressed Judges period ending at a moderate to late date.

General points
The following features are common to both chronologies.
  1. With the year markers taken simply as given in Judges (the "Average" model), Jephthah's assessment of 300 years of Israelite occupation is an underestimate, with 350-400 years more accurate. The 300 year estimate becomes more accurate if a degree of overlap between at least some of the periods of time is assumed. It becomes less accurate if more gaps are assumed in the record of spans of time (for example, the "Maximal" model results in 450 years for this span). The most highly-compressed variation "Minimal, with overlaps" suffers from the reverse problem - 300 years becomes a serious overestimate of the time involved.
  2. There are various indications that the events described are not intended to make an exhaustive list. This can be seen either as supporting the existence of overlaps between judgeships (which are not explicitly identified), or as supporting a "Maximal" model with additional gaps between the named judges.
  3. The 480 year interval of 1 Kings 6.1, assuming it is to be interpreted at face value, makes certain constraints on possible models. If the "Average" model is used, then the end-point of Judges must be at the Battle of Rephaim, in David's reign, and Saul's reign must correspondingly be quite short. If one of the "Minimal" models is preferred, then Judges can end at the Battle of Mizpah, and the constraints on Saul's reign are less severe.
  4. With the great variation in feasible interpretations of the Judges data, it is not really possible to make a decision on the best fit for the time-frame purely on these grounds. Consideration of other factors relating to the time of the Exodus and Conquest are needed to come to any firm conclusions.