Although it is difficult to date this era of the judges, it is estimated that it began between 1250 and 1000B.C. One reason it is difficult to make a chronology of the book of Judges is that after the tribes broke away to possess their lands, tribal loyalty replaced national unity.
'Judges' refers to leaders in the tribes of Israel who were chosen by God or the people to deliver the Israelites from their enemies. These judges were not actual judges, but were more like military leaders who dealt with issues of the law. The people looked to these judges as heroes whether they were evil or righteous. Each judge written about in the book usually represented only one tribe or region of the Promised Land; as a result, some of the judges could have ruled concurrently. While the book of Judges contains stories from Israelite history, the stories do not necessarily appear in historical order and are not complete in relating Israelite history.
After the Lord led the Israelites into their Promised Land with miraculous power, they did not continue to progress in their faith and commitment. They did not drive out all of the Canaanites and even adopted some of their evil practices. Consequently, the children of Israel lost their unity and broke up into tribes and families, which continually caused a cycle of apostasy. The people were blessed by God and then forgot him and became involved in practices that He prohibited. One vital consequence of their sin and wickedness was loosing the Lord's protection against their enemies, which led them to bondage. Again, after their sincere humility and repentance, the Lord delivered them and they prospered again. Twelve times in the book of Judges this cycle took place over and over again.
The book of Judges is a teaching in faith – we learn that exercising faith has always appeared to many as being more difficult than relying on things more immediate such as material objects. Many times over men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost their faith. Instead of trusting in the Lord, they have put their hope in the 'arm of flesh' and in 'gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know.' (Daniel 5:23) – in other words idols.