Academic Barry Webb presents a holistic view of the book of Judges. He discusses the book and its significance as a book of the Old Testament from an exegetical standpoint. Webb believes that the book of Judges can be read as a distinct classic piece of literature. He begins by giving a rationale for his line of thinking, then divides his argument in four parts:
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“The third line of evidence relates to evidence of literary design in the book as we now have it.” (Page 28)
“While the diachronic approach, particularly in the form of redaction criticism, has been the dominant mode in critical study of the Judges material, there have in recent years been an increasing number of synchronic studies. The most thorough of these have been of selected narrative units considered without reference to their function in the book as a whole, as, for example in J. Cheryl Exum’s work on the Samson narrative78 or in D.F. Murray’s analysis of the Deborah-Barak story.79 In addition, however, several contributions have appeared suggesting that the book as a whole in its final form is a literary unit susceptible to such analysis.” (Pages 28–29)
“The method takes account, secondly, of the fact that the narrative contained in the book of Judges is more properly to be described as history-as-plot rather than as history-as-chronicle. That is, if the subject matter is ‘what happened in the life of Israel between the death of Joshua and the birth of Samuel’, this is presented not as a mere succession of events,98 but rather as plot in which events are causally related to one another.” (Page 36)
“In summary, then, the redactional unity of the central section of Judges has long been recognized, and insofar as historical-critical scholars have addressed themselves to the final stages of the book’s redaction, early skepticism about Judges being a literary unit in its own right has been seriously challenged.” (Page 28)
“Josephus does, by implication, offer an interpretation, however forced, of the book as a whole, but as I have indicated, attention is never drawn in the Antiquities to the separate books or to the breaks between them. The effect is to emphasize their continuity rather than their separateness, their meaningfulness as a corpus of sacred books (ἱεραὶ βίβλοι) rather than as distinct literary units.” (Page 19)
Barry G. Webb (PhD, Sheffield) is emeritus senior research fellow in Old Testament at Moore Theological College in New South Wales, Australia. He has written The Book of Judges (JSOT Press).