Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Judges: A Note on Literary Coherence

It is often noted that the book of Judges seems to have almost two different introductions. The material in chapter 2 seems to step backward into the lifetime of Joshua. Of course, this leads many scholars to argue that Judges 1:1–2:5 was tacked on by a later redactor.

Yet whatever the pre-canonical development of the text, what is often missed is the literary coherence of the Judges narrative. In fact, the structure of chapter one seems to anticipate the narrative which follows.

In chapter 1, the territorial conquests and battles of the tribes of Israel are described in the following order:
Judah (vv. 2–20)
Benjamin (v. 21)
The tribes of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim (vv. 22–29)
Zebulon (v. 30)
Asher (vv. 31–32)
Naphtali (v. 33)
Dan (v. 34)
Note the tribes appear in accord with their geographical distribution—specifically, the narrative moves from south to north.

Interestingly enough then, the order of the Judges described in the following chapters (3:7–16:31) seems to follow the same schema—the Judges come from various tribes. Their appearance follows the same South to North pattern.
Othniel: Judah (3:7–11)
Ehud: Benjamin (3:12–30)
Deborah: Ephraim (4:1–5:31)
Gideon: Manasseh (6:1–8:35)
Jephthah: Manasseh (10:6–12:7)
Samson: Dan (13:1–16:31)
I find this fascinating.

That Dan comes in the last place is not surprising by the way. There seems to be a kind of shadow over Dan. Dan is not even mentioned in the list of those delivered from the twelve tribes in Revelation 7!

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