Judges had spiritual power

After Joshua's death in about 1429 B.C. and until Saul was appointed king in 1095 B.C., Israel's tribes were loosely bound together by a common religious covenant, with each tribe functioning independently of the others.

Military champions and heroes led the various tribes, aiding Israel during crises. These leaders were called judges.The office of judge was non-hereditary and rested upon a special endowment of God's Spirit. The judges have been called "charismatic leaders," those whose authority was acknowledged because they were possessed by the divine charisma, or spiritual power.

However, as a rule, the judges were more fighters than preachers. Their right to lead rested on the fact that in the eyes of the nation they were the strongest and best persons for that purpose. They did not preside over tribes in a judiciary sense. Instead, they governed or dispensed advice, or often led military campaigns.

The period of the reign of the judges was marked by disorder, idolatry and foreign oppression.

Israel had many judges, but only 13 are easily identified in the Old Testament: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, Shagmar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, and Abdon. Little is known about most of the judges.

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