The Period of the Tribal Confederacy in Israel, 1200-1050 B.C.E.

I. Neighboring Powers: Egypt and the Hittites

A. Peace Treaty between the two powers: 1250 BCE

1. Hittite boundaries remain North; Egypt controls Canaan

2. Merneptah's stele describes victories against Israelite hill country people, 1220

3. Egypt ceases to be a major player in Canaan after 1211

4. Hittites also withdraw by about 1200

5. A new group in Mesopotamia, but not yet strong enough to expand: Assyria

B. Incursions of the Sea Peoples (Philistines)

1. Egypt exhausts strength defending against them (1180-1152)

2. Other neighboring groups form main challenge to Israelites: Moab, Ammon, Edom

II. Some events described in the Book of Judges

A. The Battle of Megiddo: Deborah (Judges 4-5)

1. Megiddo guards the pass to the Jezreel Valley (main commercial route)

2. Control of Megiddo pass can cut off economic life in the valley or protect it

3. Devorah's victory song: one of oldest poems in the Bible

4. Victory attributed to the Lord bringing a great storm

B. Victory against the Midianites: Gideon (Judges 6-8)

1. Camel raids from the south

2. Gideon is the son of Joash (YH in his name)

3. But Joash has an altar to Baal

4. Gideon's name is also Jerubaal (Let Baal Contend) --alternate reason for name given in 6:32

5. Gideon has to build an altar to G-d at night for fear of his kinsmen and townspeople -- 6:27

6. G-d has to prove he is strong enough to win -- Judges 6:36-39

7. Not everyone supports him -- Judges 8:4-5

8. Although he declines to become king, names his son Abimelech (my father is king)

C. Brief kingship experiment at Shechem: Abimelech (Judges 9)

1. Abimelech starts revolution with money financed from Baal shrine

2. Proclaimed king at sacred tree (pillar of Shechem)

3. Jotham answers from Mount Gerizim (mountain deity vs. Canaanite deity?)

4. Shechem citizens hire mercenary Gaal (son of a slave)

5. Shechem destroyed in revolt (ca. 1100 B.C.E.)

6. Confederacy at Shechem ends; Ark moved to Shiloh

D. Victory against the Ammonites (Moabites): Jephthah (Judges 11-12)

1. Rather unsavory character (son of a prostitute; gathers "men of low character")

2. Recognizes Chemosh as god of the Moabites (Judges 11:24)

3. Jephthah's vow: Judges 11:29-39

E. Struggles against the Philistines: Samson (Judges 13-16)

III. Characteristics of the Period of the Judges

A. Leaders come from many different tribes

B. Syncretism is common: both peoples and chieftains worship or at least acknowledge other deities

C. Loose tribal confederacy with shifting allegiances

D. Struggles primarily against neighboring groups

E. At the end of the confederacy, Philistines become chief threat

F. Leaders are often rather shady characters

G. Definitely not role models