Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


12. Judges and Ruth: Israel's Moral Crisis

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain the meaning of the word “judges” in the book of Judges
  • Outline the basic content of the book of Judges
  • Explain the reasons why Israel failed to complete the conquest
  • Document the cycle used to introduce the judges
  • Name the major judges and the minor judges
  • Identify the central characters of the book of Ruth
  • Outline the basic content of the book of Ruth
  • Illustrate the role of a kinsman-redeemer
  • Explain the law of levirate marriage
  • Illustrate the sovereignty of God in the book of Ruth

Chapter Summary

  1. The history presented in the book of Judges is part of a larger work called Deuteronomistic History.
  2. The major characters in the book of Judges are judges who served as leaders.
  3. The period of the judges is one of disobedience to God.
  4. God permitted enemy nations to attack Israel because Israel was worshiping other gods.
  5. The cycle of events in the book of Judges is sin, judgment, repentance, and deliverance.
  6. There were twelve judges—six major judges and six minor judges.
  7. The Israelites were guilty of moral relativism by doing whatever was right in their own eyes.
  8. The tabernacle as a central shrine, the periodic covenant ceremony, and the unified military effort support the idea of Israel as an amphictyony.
  9. The book of Ruth is in the literary form of an idyll.
  10. The contents of the book of Ruth are basically about the sad circumstances of Naomi’s life.
  11. Boaz served as the family’s kinsman-redeemer.
  12. Boaz substituted Ruth for Naomi in a levirate marriage, which was a responsibility of a kinsman-redeemer.
  13. The book of Ruth shows that God’s grace is not limited by any boundaries—national, racial, or gender.

Study Questions


  1. How much time is covered by the books of Judges and Ruth?
  2. What political perspective is presented by the author of Judges/Ruth?
  3. Who are the central figures of the book of Judges? What did their duties entail?
  4. To what is Israel’s failure to complete the conquest attributed?
  5. What is the basic literary pattern for the central unit of Judges?
  6. Who were the six major judges? Who were the six minor judges?
  7. What is the theme of the last five chapters of Judges?
  8. According to the author of Judges, why was lawlessness so prevalent in Israel?
  9. Discuss the chronological issues and problems found in Judges.
  10. How is the political situation of Israel best described during this period?


  1. What is the basic theme of the book of Ruth?
  2. Who is the real central character in this story?
  3. How is God’s plan worked out in the events recorded?
  4. What contributions does the book of Ruth make to ethnic and racial issues?