The Judges of Israel - geography
This page investigates the various individuals named in the book of Judges with a view to identifying where they were based and where the different oppressors originated.
The overall pattern
The picture to the right shows the geographical distribution of the judges. It will be seen that the great majority arose from the central hill country, with the rest in Gilead or from the northern tribes in Galilee. The numbers represent the following individuals:
- Othniel (from the Hebron area)
- Ehud (from the tribe of Benjamin)
- Shamgar (from Anath, probably the same as Beth-Anoth mentioned in Joshua 15:59 in the hill country of Judah)
- Barak (from Kedesh in Naphtali)
- Gideon (from the Shechem area, with the * indicating Abimelech also ruled briefly from here)
- Tola son of Puah (from the tribe of Issachar but living in the hill country of Ephraim)
- Jair (from Gilead, in the area later called Havvoth Jair)
- Jephthah (from Mizpah in Gilead, although he had lived in Tob, a city and region east and north of Ramoth Gilead)
- Ibzan (of Bethlehem - two possibilities, in Judah or Zebulun)
- Elon (of the tribe of Zebulun)
- Abdon son of Hillel (from Pirathon, south-west of Shechem)
- Samson (of the tribe of Dan)
The names in bold
indicate major judges.
Chapters 3 - 5
As explained on the companion pages, this oppressor can be seen as arising either from the north-east (Aram Naharaim) or from Egypt (as one of the Hyksos). The two possibilities are shown on the map. Othniel was based in the vicinity of Shechem. The details of his campaign against the invaders are not recorded.
Eglon of Moab
Eglon of Moab coordinated a coalition of Ammonites, Amalekites and Moabites who attacked Israel up the Jordan valley either side of the Dead Sea. As discussed in the
Cities of Refuge
page, this would have seriously affected the Israelite control over southern transJordan and the south-eastern city of refuge Bezer (near Heshbon). However, the oppressors do not appear to have made any attempt to displace the Israelites, but simply subjected them to their rule. Ehud's assassination of Eglon initiated an uprising of the tribe of Ephraim, who secured the fords of the Jordan near Jericho and began systematically ridding the land of Moabites. The lack of mention of the other parties of the alliance suggests that their part was restricted to the initial onslaught, with the Moabites carrying out the longer-term occupation.
Shamgar (one of the minor judges) is mentioned at the end of the account of Eglon and Ehud.
Jabin and Sisera
A separate page discussing these issues is available, entitled
Barak and Deborah
|Cushan-Rishathaim||Eglon of Moab||Jabin and Sisera|
Chapters 6 - 9
Midianite groups are mentioned many times in the early books of the OT, both favourably and otherwise to Israel. They were well-travelled, both in a nomadic and trading sense, but their principal homeland, and the area assumed in these pages as the origin of the incursion, was south of Edom in present-day Arabia.
See the separate analysis of Abimelech entitled Abimelech, Saul, and Amarna
Chapter 10 -15
Ammonites and Philistines
Jephthah led Israel against an Ammonite-Philistine coalition. It is perhaps noteworthy that the Philistines appear to be very much the junior party here, and are not mentioned after the initial attack. Although the northern and central transJordan area was evidently the main field of conflict, it appears to have been completely restored to Israelite control after the Ammonite defeat.
|Ammonites and Philistines||Philistines|