The book of Judges recounts the battles between the Israelites and enemies such as the Canaanites, Amorites, Ammonites, Arameans, Midianites, and Philistines. It also recounts a number of battles and events that take place amongst the Israelites themselves.
Summary Judges 1: Judges begins with the conquest of Canaan. Judah conquers most of its territory but the other tribes are not as successful. While the other tribes are able to subjugate the Canaanites and Amorites to forced labor, they are unable to dispossess them from the land.
Summary Judges 2: An angel reprimands the people for forsaking God. Joshua’s death is recounted, and the people’s sinfulness is described.
Summary Judges 3: Yahweh sends Othniel to save the Israelites from the king of Aram. Yahweh then sends Ehud to kill the king of Moab. Finally, Shamgar kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad.
Summary Judges 4: Yahweh sends Deborah the prophetess and Barak the warrior to destroy the Canaanite army. The glory, however, goes to Jael the Kenite for killing the Canaanite general with a tent peg.
Summary Judges 5: Deborah and Barak sing about their victory over the Canaanites. They praise Yahweh, the Israelite warriors, and Jael, but scold the tribes that failed to join the fight.
Summary Judges 6: The Midianites oppress the Israelites. An angel appears to Gideon and tells him to destroy his father’s idols. Gideon destroys the idols and is given a sign that he will succeed at war.
Summary Judges 7: In order to emphasize His own role in the victory, Yahweh tells Gideon to diminish the troop number from 32,000 to 300. Gideon is given a sign of success, and he routs the Midianites.
Summary Judges 8: Gideon requests bread from two towns but the townspeople send him away. He kills the kings of Midian and takes revenge on the people who spurned his request by destroying their two towns. Gideon rejects an offer to be king and the Israelites worship other gods after he dies.
Summary Judges 9: Abimelech takes control of Shechem and kills his seventy brothers. When a rebellion led by Gaal precipitates, Abimelech kills the entire city. He also attacks Thebaz, but a woman kills him by dropping a millstone on his head.
Summary Judges 10: Two chiefs, Tola and Jair, rule over Israel one after the other. After their deaths the Israelites worship other gods. Yahweh is incensed and gives them over to the Amorites and Ammonites.
Summary Judges 11: Jephthah becomes the leader of the Gileadites. When the Ammonites cause trouble, he vows to sacrifice the first person he sees when he returns from war. After lecturing and defeating the Ammonites, his daughter is the first person to greet him. Jephthah offers his daughter as a sacrifice.
Summary Judges 12: Jephthah leads the Gileadites to victory over the Ephraimites. Three other chiefs named Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon rule Israel after Jephthah dies.
Summary Judges 13: An angel appears to Manoah and his wife and tells them they will have a Nazirite child. The child is born and he is named Samson.
Summary Judges 14: Samson is engaged to marry a Philistine girl. At his celebratory feast, he poses a riddle to thirty Philistine men. They cajole Samson’s wife into giving them the answer and Samson responds by killing the thirty men.
Summary Judges 15: Samson burns the Philistine fields when is denied access to his wife. After being handed over to the Philistines, Samson kills 1,000 of them with a jawbone.
Summary Judges 16: Samson falls in love with a Philistine named Delilah. She persuades him to reveal the source of his strength and then double-crosses him. He is tortured in a Philistine arena but manages to destroy the edifice. In doing so, he kills himself and the enemy in attendance.
Summary Judges 17: Micah builds a house of worship and hires a young Levite to serve as his priest.
Summary Judges 18: The Danites, who cannot find a place to live, migrate northward. They abduct Micah’s priest and seize his religious objects. They massacre the people of Laish, rename the town Dan, and set up a new religious center for themselves.
Summary Judges 19: A Levite settles in Gibeah for the night after picking up his concubine from his father-in-law’s house. The men of Gibeah attempt to sodomize him but end up raping the concubine until her death. As a response, the Levite dismembers his wife’s corpse and sends her body parts throughout the land of Israel.
Summary Judges 20: The Israelites wage war against Benjamin for the actions of Gibeah. After three days of intense battle, the Israelites nearly wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. All of the women and children are put to the sword and only six-hundred men survive.
Summary Judges 21: The Israelites are disturbed by the possible annihilation of Benjamin. However, they previously swore to keep their daughters from the Benjaminites. In order to save Benjamin, they kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead and give the girls to the Benjaminites. The Benjaminites also kidnap girls from the annual festival and take them as their wives.