Under historical critical scholarship, the book of Judges is generally
considered a composite work comprising three distinct and essentially unrelated
sections. The central section (2:6-16:31), redacted out of traditional source material,
is believed to be originally a part of the larger Deuteronomistic History that runs
from Deuteronomy to Kings. The prologue (1:1-2:5) and epilogue (17:1-21:25), on
the other hand, are seen as independent compositions that are only artificially
appended onto the central section at a later stage of the book's redactional history.
In the last two decades, there has been an increasing tendency for the book to
be read synchronically as an integrated whole. Although synchronic scholars have
drawn attention to the presence of thematic links that connect the different sections
of the book, they have yet to justify their integrative approach by exploring whether
such links are established by design, and if so, whether they imply compositional
unity for the book as a whole in its current canonical form. The present thesis thus
seeks to remedy this lack.
In Chapter 1, the present thesis is placed in its historical context as
scholarship on Judges in the past century is critically surveyed. In Chapters 2-4,
rhetorical links between the prologue and the epilogue, the epilogue and central
section, and the prologue and central sections are respectively examined in detail. As
the evidence seems to suggest that such links are established by conscious design, the
implication is that at the compositional level, a closer relationship than has been
recognised thus far may indeed exist between the three sections.
Recognising that any claim of compositional unity for Judges would
inevitably have to answer questions regarding apparent discrepancies in viewpoints
within the book, in Chapter 5, the issue of kingship, concerning which critical
scholars have discerned divergent voices within the book, is explored. Specifically,
it is argued that the "king" referred to in the allegedly pro-monarchic refrain cannot
be a reference to the Israelite monarchy to come, but is more likely a reference to
YHWH's kingship over His people. Such an understanding would therefore
eliminate the problem of divergent viewpoints within the book
In the final chapter, the various observations and conclusions drawn in
previous chapters are brought together, and a case is put forth that the person
responsible for the selection and arrangement of the material in the central section
must have been the very same person who composed the prologue and epilogue of
Judges. This means that the current canonical form of Judges may indeed be a
unified piece of composition that can justifiably be read as an integrative whole.
Moreover, based on the rhetorical concerns discernible through the various links, it is
also possible to identify the implied rhetorical agenda of the book as a call for the rerecognition
of the kingly authority of YHWH. This would constitute an implied
solution to the progressive deterioration witnessed throughout the book, both at the
national and leadership level.