The Book of Joshua  covers what is, for the most part, a bright period in the history of Israel, the period in which Joshua and his people occupy much of the promised land (roughly 1300-1250 BC).  There are lots of struggles, but, in general, Joshua is a book of victory.  The book of Judges, on the other hand,  deals with some of the bleakest days in Hebrew history, a time when "there was no king, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes."  It covers roughly the period between 1250 B.C. and 1050 B.C., the period of disunity between the death of Joshua and the rise to leadership of Samuel.

Joshua is an intersting book on many levels.  It implies a philosophy of history well worth examining.  It is also fascinating as a study in leadership.  And the attempts to connect Joshua with archaeological record  involve some of the most facinating discusssions in Biblical history.

Judges is likewise on many levels.  It is well worth studying simply as a first class literary work.  It is interesting also as one of the earliest examples of real biography, an attempt to go beyond the mere recital of great deeds and to delve into the motives and methods of some of the great heroes and leaders of Israel.  Judges is also valuable for its historical and political insights, the kind of analysis one expects to find only in the greatest historians. 

But ultimately, Joshua and Judges are neither epic, nor biography, nor history.  Like all of the Biblical books, their ultimate purpose is religious and theological rather than merely historical.

 As you read, please think about the following questions and be prepared to discuss them in class:

1.  What is the "philosophy of history" implied in Joshua?  How does it imply a different apporach to history than one commonly sees today?

2.  What qualities make Joshua an effective leader?  Do you see any weaknesses in this man?

3.  What is the basic structure of the Judges?  How has the author orgznized his material?  Why this particular structure?  Is this similar to anything else with which you are familiar?

4.  What is the basic theme of the Judges?  Does the structure of the book help emphasize this theme?

5.  Why do the Israelites fail to drive out the Canaanites.  What were the results of this failure?

6.  What exactly is a judge?  What do Othniel, Ehud, Shamger, Deborah, Gideon, and Jephthah have in common?  What are the lessons to be learned from the experience of each?

7.  Note particularly Abimelech.  What's good about this man?  What's not so good?  Why does he slay his brothers?  Where does he draw his support?  How do the men of Shechem respond to him?  Why?  What is the lesson to be learned here?

8.  Read carefully the section on Jephthah.  What's admirable about this man?  Are there any weaknesses in his character?  What lesson is to be learned from his story?

9.  Read carefully also the section on Samson.  What are the strengths of this character?  Weaknesses?

10.  Is the book of Judges more a work of biography or a work of history?  How does it differ from contemporary histories and biographies?