This book contains a very remarkable history of the state of Israel, as well ecclesiastical as civil, after the death of Joshua, unto the priesthood and leadership of Eli. This is especially under the government of the judges, that is, of such persons (not, who administered justice or the common office of judges among the people, as this word is otherwise taken, but) whom God, now and then as the state of Israel required, sometimes out of one, and sometimes out of another tribe, has, according to His good pleasure, raised extraordinarily, called, endowed and moved with his Spirit of Wisdom and Courage to execute victoriously His and His peoples’ right against Israel’s oppressors and enemies; to restore the declined worship of God and to maintain it; to preserve Israel in the freedom and the holy laws which they had received from God, and to assist them with word and deed in any occurring difficulty.
First then, there are related in this book the wars which the tribes waged, after the death of Joshua, according to God’s command, against the pagan inhabitants of Canaan, to expel and root them out; in which, for the most part, they were so remiss that it displeased God, insomuch that He suffered several pagan nations to remain in the land for Israel’s trial and punishment. Notwithstanding, for a while Israel continued in the pure worship of God, as long as those pious elders lived, who had seen the wonderful works of the Lord. But after that, it is related throughout, how that Israel, in prosperity misusing their liberty, from time to time fell into all kinds of gross abominable idolatry of the pagans, and a shameful licentious way of life. This is not only mentioned often in general, but also in particular some fearful examples are related, as unto a clear glass, as well of this peoples’ corruption and wickedness, as of the righteousness of God’s wrath and heavy judgments, of which see the chapters 17; 18; 19 and 20. Next, there is pointed out that God was extremely provoked for this backsliding of His people, and did punish it sharply, not only in words, but also in the actual delivery into the hand of several enemies, as of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia, Eglon king of the Moabites, the Philistines, Jabin king of the Canaanites, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern people, the Ammonites, and again of the Philistines, who all grievously oppressed and afflicted Israel a long time. Yet notwithstanding, when they truly repented in their troubles unto the Lord, and have, in forsaking their idolatry and wickedness, cried and begged anxiously unto Him for mercy and help, the Lord then (Who is faithful and true, as well in His gracious promises, as in his threats) had compassion on them, and delivered them every time through valiant heroes, such as were Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Although they very quickly did forget these mercies and favors of God, one after another, and having returned to their previous wickedness, and being punished every time anew, were again most graciously delivered by God upon true and hearty repentance. In the meanwhile, there is added unto Gideon’s history the three years reign of Abimelech, who was unlawfully king, and a tyrant, and is therefore remarkably punished by God. Also five judges are mentioned, whose wars are not recorded; as Tola, Jair, Ebzan, Elon and Abdon. This book comprehends, according to the account of some, the history of 299 or 300 years, from the year of the Creation, 2511 to the year 2810.