Who was the author? Tradition holds that the Holy Spirit inspired the book of Judges through the prophet Samuel. Final editing may have been done by Nathan and Gad, who were prophets in King David's court.
What is the book? The book of Judges is not a complete history of the period from Joshua to Samuel, but the book gives examples both of Israel's unfaithfulness and of God's mercy that kept Israel from being completely taken in by the pagans around them.
Where was it written? Samuel's work on the book may have been done in Ramah, which was his hometown (1 Samuel 1:1; 2:11; 7:17; 15:34), although he clearly operated out of other places, including Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21), Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:6; 10:17), and a circuit that may have included Gilgal (1 Samuel 7:16; 13:15). Nathan and Gad's work would likely have been done in Jerusalem, which served as David's capital after Hebron, although in places Judges refers to Jerusalem still being under Jebusite control (for example, Judges 1:21).
When was it written? References in Judges to Israel at that time not yet having a king (for example, Judges 17:6) suggest the book was written or at least finalized after the monarchy had begun, and 1050 B.C. is a date sometimes given for the start of the reign of the first king, Saul. If completed late in David's reign, Judges may have been finished by 970 B.C., a date given for the end of his rule.
Why? Surely at least one purpose for the book is to cover the historical period of the judges, or leaders, which period some estimate lasted 325 years. But, the book is not simple history but salvation history, so its emphasis on the judges as "saviors" from the enemies raiding the land is clearly also important.
How? The book of Judges consists of three closely-connected parts: prologue, main body, and epilogue. The main body tells of a recurring cycle of disobedience, chastening, repentance, and deliverance. The cycles are primarily told through accounts of six major judges, although six minor judges are also mentioned. Although the book is an incomplete "history", the cycle was true of all Israel then and is true of believers today.
For further reading on the book of Judges:
- Cundall, Arthur E. and Leon Morris. Judges & Ruth: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, general editor D. J. Wiseman. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968. (I had this little volume in my library before I acquired the Keil-Delitzsch volume below, but I still consult it from time to time and generally find it more accessible and useful.)
- Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume II: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, translated by James Martin and published as two volumes in one. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted August 1985. (The section dealing with Judges runs 227 pages. After my study Bible, this is the first commentary I turn to, but it is somewhat dated and a harder to use, more-scholarly commentary.)