What exactly was the roles of Judges in the Old Testament?

What exactly was the role of the Judges in the Old Testament? Why did God specifically raise up these people, they seem the same as prophets to me…What is difference between a judge and a prophet?

The period of the judges follows the invasion of Canaan by the Hebrews. They were surrounded by enemies, but each tribe was very jealous of its autonomy and there was really no government that ruled over them.

Every once in a while when they were threatened, they would call on a strong leader to lead them into battle. These were called judges. They were not judges in the sense that they presided a court. They were leaders, presumably sent by God to save the people.


Probably the best modern parallel to the role of the Judges in the Bible would be the role of the character John Connor in the Terminator Franchise. It’s probably the most action packed book in the bible. Let me give you an example:

There was this one guy, I can’t remember his name (I think “Enon” or something), but he was going to kill a king. In a stealthlike manner, he snuck up to the priests room and uttered one of the most BA lines in the bible “I have a message from you from God.” And then he stuck a knife in the kings fat and killed him. Of course, there’s some irony then where the king’s guards think he’s sleeping or eating or something, and the Judge guy escapes.

Judges is kind of a wierd word to describe them, but supposedly it’s the best translation from the original Hebrew word or something. Basically they were like leaders who kicked *** and chewed bubblegum.:thumbsup:


That’s a good question and I hope that somebody comes along to answer it.

I seemed to have picked up the notion that there were judges, to be spiritual leaders about what was right and wrong.

God was the legislator, so to speak. Didn’t need human legislators, only needed “judges” to keep people in line with God’s law.

We see the first example of judges over the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 18.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, witnessed Moses serving as the sole judge of the Israelites in the Wilderness:

“Moses sat and multitudes of people stood before him. Jethro reproached him, for this was an unseemly affront to the dignity of the nation (i.e, Israel). Moses responded that they were coming to him, as the commentators explain, for any of three reasons: They sought his prayers and blessings, he would adjudicate disputes, or they required him to teach or clarify the laws of the Torah…Despite this explanation, Jethro argued that the practice was destructive; Moses, the elders who would assist him, and the people would become destructive. Therefore, Jethro suggested a delegation of authority, according to which litigants and questioners would be required to submit their requests to “lower courts,” as it were, so that Moses would be free to deal only with matters that required his personal participation, and the people could have a relatively quick and efficient system of teaching and justice.” (Art Scroll Stone Edition of the Chumash, p. 397, commentary to Exodus, 18: 13-26).

To learn more about the judges in the Old Testament, go here:


Gerard is correct about the origin of the Judges. The role seemed to have morphed into what we see in the Book “Judges”, for none of these were appointed by anyone, such as those selected in Judges. These were appointed by God. And they were only selected after a tribe:

  • turned away from God,
  • was overcome by an enemy (such as the Philistines) as punishment from the Lord.
  • repented of their “falling away from God” and
  • cried out to the Lord for rescue.

I believe Samuel is considered the last Judge.

From the link posted above:

“The Sanhedrin is seen as the last institution that commanded universal Jewish authority among the Jewish people in the long chain of tradition from Moses until the present day. Since its dissolution in 358 by imperial decree, there have been several attempts to re-establish this body either as a self-governing body, or as a puppet of a sovereign government.”

The Orthodox Jews of today conducted a ceremony in Tiberias in 2004 to reinstate the Sanhedrin:


and here:


From the Jerusalem Post:

"Rabbi Yosef Dayan from Psagot, known for his recent threats to place a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is said to be a leading candidate to become the “king of Israel.”

“Dayan has the best lineage to King David,” several members of the Sanhedrin told The Jerusalem Post. They say he has two documented ancient sources which draw a direct line between him and the males in his family to King David some 3,000 years ago.

“Many people can show they are descendants of King David, but they cannot show that the line is only male,” one Sanhedrin member explained. “That makes Dayan the leading candidate to become king.”

The Monarchists have consulted with non-Jewish experts on lineage. They concurred that, without a doubt, Dayan is a direct descendant of the House of David."

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