Joshua, Judges and Ruth

How to Advance God’s Kingdom

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 19th May 2018. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Bible Overview – Joshua, Judges and Ruth

In this session, we look at the the Doctrine of Sin.

Speaker: Andy McCullough

Andy is a church planter, writer and regular speaker on theology topics. In this session he takes us through the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth.



Joshua, Judges and Ruth

How to Advance God’s Kingdom


The Book of Joshua

  1. Story of Joshua


Dating the conquest

The whole conquest took seven years, which is a highly symbolic number, and then the land had rest (Josh 11:23).

Key vocab: land x102, inheritance x50; shows the focus of the book.

The language is very similar to Deuteronomy. These 2 books can be read together – Deuteronomy telling them what to do when they enter the land, and in Joshua they are doing these things.

For us, Jesus’ name is the same as Joshua’s (Yeshua).

As Joshua leads his people into a land flowing with milk and honey, complete with cities they did not build and vineyards they did not plant, we are reminded that one day freedom will come, and a true and better Joshua will bring God’s people through the waters, rescue prostitutes and sinners and Gentiles, and provide them all with an inheritance of peace, abundance, and rest. Just not yet. Roberts and Wilson.

  • Chapters 1-12 Book of Conquests
  • Chapters 13-24 Book of Appointments

Chapters 1-12: Book of Conquests

“The whole sequence – circumcision, Passover and theophany – emphatically declared that the Israel of conquest was the Israel of Exodus. The God who had saved his people out of Egypt would now save them in Canaan.” Eugene Merill

The taking of Jericho:

“The bizarre strategy confirmed that Israel could not attribute victory to its own military prowess. Their victory was a gift of grace – an astounding work of the Lord.” Schreiner

Sevens and Trumpets.

Rahab vs Achan (two most developed characters in the book) are contrasted;

Rahab is a prostitute, a Canaanite.

“Conversely, Achan is a Judahite of impeccable pedigree (7: 1). Yet he is disobedient, and he (with his family) dies (7: 1– 26). The “banned” outsider becomes an insider. A privileged insider forfeits everything.” Moberly

Rahab                                                Achan

Canaanite woman                            Jewish man

Prostitute                                          Impeccable pedigree (Judah, no less!)

Shows hesed (2:12)                          Shows covetousness

Saved from the ban                         Comes under the ban

With whole family                            With whole family

Shame to honour                             Honour to shame

Outside to inside                              Inside to outside

Added to Judah (Messiah)              Removed from Judah (Messiah)

Joshua’s conquest mirrors the movements of the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob.

“Abram’s and Jacob’s worship is a pre-conquest of the land. Once the land is consecrated to the Lord by worship, eventually the land will be conquered. It may take centuries, but the Lord will establish his house in the land.” Peter Leithart

Chapters 13-24 Book of Appointments

Parcelling out the land:

First Caleb, then Judah, then Joseph. We can see that the order of the honour of tribes has been established now..

Simeon and Levi both disqualified, and neither get a proper inheritance. Simeon’s inheritance is within Judah’s, and Levi don’t get a piece of land, but rather cities spread throughout the land.

Cities of Refuge (ch 20-21). 6 cities of refuge, three on each side of the Jordan. These are included among the 48 cities assigned to the Levites.

Shechem was a holy site (patriarchs). Joshua leads dedications there in ch 8 (end of phase 1) and ch 24 (end of conquest).

Theology of Joshua: the problem of haram (the ban).

Nowhere in the Bible is there a more palpable discrepancy between the values and expectations of the ancient Near Eastern era in which the book was written and those of twenty-first-century readers. Robert Alter

  • Used to justify dispossession of indigenous peoples
  • In modern times, Israeli dispossession of Palestinians.
  • Can God really favour one race/ tribe over another?
  • Witness to Muslims.

Christian Solutions:

  1. Haram is metaphorical (not military).
  2. Haram was normal for all nations at the time.
  3. Haram was a utopian, retrospective idea. It never actually happened.

The fact that this narrative does not correspond to what we can reconstruct of the actual history of Canaan offers one great consolation: the blood-curdling report of the massacre of the entire population of Canaanite towns—men, women, children, and in some cases livestock as well—never happened. Robert Alter

  1. Haram was only justified at one time against the seven nations, but is now obsolete (the Rabbis).
  2. Surprise in Joshua:

More directly, there have been close readings of the text of Joshua that show how the narrative of Joshua is more surprising than one might have imagined, at least if one was expecting a depiction of YHWH’s being on Israel’s side and enabling them to defeat and destroy the wicked Canaanites. For YHWH is not “on Israel’s side,” and the Canaanites are not depicted as wicked. Moberly

Joshua 5:13-15

Discussion: Discuss the problem of haram. How does this make you feel about the book of Joshua? Which solution is the most compelling for you?

The Book of Judges

  1. Overview of Judges
  • Judges 2:16-19. Draw the repeated spiral.

Judges (sopetim) could equally mean “Saviours” or “deliverers.”

40 years: symbolic number for a generation (good, eg 3:10-11, bad, eg 13:1).

Not a history like Kings which has exact numbers for the reign of kings. That is not to say that these were not historical characters, just that the style of the book is less literal in its use of numbers.



  • Ehud – left handed
  • Deborah – woman
  • Gideon – fearful
  • Jephthah – son of a prostitute and rejected by his family (11:1-3)
  • Samson – playboy

Seven major judges:

  • Othniel (3:7-11)
  • Ehud (3:12-30)
  • Deborah and Barak (4:1-5:31)
  • Gideon (6:1-8:32)
  • Abimelech (8:33-9:57)
  • Jephthah (10:6-12:7)
  • Samson (13:1-16:31)

Including minor or parenthetical Judges, there are 12.

Othniel is a good guy from Judah. Samson is a naughty boy from Dan. Degenerative cycle.

Where are the priests?

“Notably, there appears to be a geographical component to their decline: the tribal area of each successive leader is increasingly farther removed from the tribal area of Judah. The leader following the Judean Othniel is Ehud from Benjamin (north of Judah), then Deborah in Ephraim (north of Benjamin), Gideon from western Manasseh (north of Ephraim), Yiftah from Gilead (on the eastern side of the Jordan), and Samson from Dan. This suggests that there is a correlation between the growing physical distance of the leader from the tribe that is meant to lead (Judah) and the progressive deterioration of the leaders.” Yael Ziegler.

Bookends: Judah’s leadership. In Judges 1:1-2 God says “Judah shall arise.” And in Judges 20:18 God says “Judah shall arise.”

“God’s answer contains an implied rebuke: Had you only listened to Me in the beginning of the book, you would not have arrived at a situation in which you are fighting your own brethren, the Benjamites! God’s answer and solution for the nation’s future remains the same as before – the tribe of Judah must be appointed leader.” Yael Ziegler.

Brutality – some very graphic pictures of killing. Every Israelite who is killed in Judges is killed by another Israelite.

“Judges starts with a vengeance theme: “as I have done, so God has paid me back” – chapter 1. Sets the grizzly and gruesome tone for Judges – exemplified by escalation of lex talionis in Samson.” Robert Alter

Increasing fragmentation/ individualisation.

Women in Judges are used to shame the men. Deborah and Barak, Jael who kills Sisera, Delilah who brings down Samson, Woman of Thebez who killed Abimelech (9:53,43), Jephthah’s daughter who shows exemplary faith. At the birth of Samson, angel wants to talk to the mother, spurns the father.

  1. Samson: An example of how to read

Only Samson is a figure announced by pre-natal prophecy, with the full panoply of an annunciation type-scene. Only in the case of Samson is the first advent of the spirit of the LORD indicated not by a verb of descent (tsalaḥ) or investment (labash) but of violent pounding (pa‘am). Unlike the other judges, Samson acts entirely alone, and his motive for devastating the Philistines is personal vengeance, not an effort of national liberation. Most strikingly, only Samson among all the judges exercises supernatural power. Robert Alter

The number 3:

Samson represents Israel

“Samson represents his own people, who had supernatural origin, were set apart from among the nations with a distinctive vocation, broke their vows and were enamoured of foreign idols, until finally they lost their identity and spiritual power and became the blind slaves of their oppressors in exile.” Dempster

Samson represents Christ

  • Fulness of the Spirit
  • Carcass and honey
  • One man against all the powers of darkness
  • Love that leads to his destruction, betrayed by the woman he loves.
  • Self-sacrice, acheived more in his death than in his life.

The kind of divine love that simply cannot let go. Samson loves even when the loved one repeatedly betrays that love and loyalty… if we shake our heads in puzzlement over Samson’s relentless love for those who betrayed him, then we must do the same for God’s amazingly patient and relentless love for Israel throughout the book of Judges. Ironically, the most disobedient and ineffective of all Israel’s judges becomes the best window into the heart and character of Israel’s God. Olson.

  1. Preparing the way for David

Then final chapters: 19-21

Discussion: How does Judges fit in to the big story of the Bible? Tell the story from Gen-Rev but include Judges.

The Book of Ruth

Mat 1:4  and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Mat 1:5  and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,

Mat 1:6  and Jesse the father of David the king

Family Tree:

Nahshon, was chief/ prince of Judah (Numb 1:4-7)(1 Chron 2.10-11). Salmon, Rahab’s husband, was known as the “father of Bethlehem” (1 Chron 2.51), probably meaning that he founded the settlement there.

Some Jewish scholars (eg Josephus) saw Judges and Ruth as one book. But actually we have parallels or polarities.

  • In Judges no-one shows Hesed, in Ruth, both Ruth and Boaz show Hesed.
  • In Judges, there is a withholding of the duty of hospitality (bread). In Ruth there is a giving of hospitality (bread).
  • In Judges, Judah does not take responsibility. In Ruth, Judah begins to take responsibility.

Six Themes from Ruth:

  • House of bread. Beth-lechem.
  • House of Reconciliation of estranged cousins.
  • House of Redemption. Words having to do with redemption (goel) occur 23 times in Ruth.

The goel was a relative who came to the rescue… He was the official guardian of the family’s honour.” MacArthur

  • Buy back lands sold in times of hardship (Lev 25.23-28)
  • Pay the price for family members sold into slavery (Lev 25.47-49)
  • Avenger: avenges the blood of a murdered relative (Josh 20.2-9)

All of these have an aspect of payment, what we would call costly atonement. What did it cost Boaz to redeem Ruth? Honour and Shame in the Bible.

“Spread your wings over me.” Patron, benefactor, avenger, from where we will get the words “charis” and “pistis” in the NT.

  • House of Shame-Absorption.

Ruth’s shame / Naomi’s shame

Boaz’ honour.

  • House of the Seed.

“Surprisingly, Ruth forms a link in the chain that would bring David into the world, solving the problem of Judges, where Israel lacked a king. And a future son of David would bring many more Ruths, many more Gentiles into the fold of God’s people, and fulfil the promise of universal blessing made to Abraham.” Schreiner

DISCUSSION: Which one of these 6 themes do you find most moving, and why?


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