In the Bible, compare and contrast the period of the judges and of the kings.

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The period of judges, as described in the book of Judges, shows the corruption and dissolution of Jewish life under the judges ruling Israel. Starting, however, with 1 Samuel, God (Yahweh) grants the Jewish people the right to appoint kings to rule over them, while warning them that this form...

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The period of judges, as described in the book of Judges, shows the corruption and dissolution of Jewish life under the judges ruling Israel. Starting, however, with 1 Samuel, God (Yahweh) grants the Jewish people the right to appoint kings to rule over them, while warning them that this form of government comes with consequences they will dislike.

The two periods in Israel contrast in that life does get more cohesive and better for the Jews under kings (and Israel rises to "greatness" under David). The periods are alike or comparable, however, in that neither system works very well as long as the Jewish people and their leaders refuse to obey and stay in covenant with Yahweh.

The book of Judges, as my seminary professor Dr. Nancy Bowen often said, is not a book whose stories are often preached from the pulpit. The book depicts a dark time in the lives of the Jewish people. For instance, in the story of the Levite's concubine, the concubine is cast out in the night to be gang raped and killed by her hosts (this is done to save her husband the indignity of homosexual rape). In another story, Jephthah, a judge, makes a rash vow to God that in exchange for victory over the Ammonites, he will kill whatever comes first through his door, which happens to be his daughter. Unlike with Abraham and Isaac, there is no happy ending here.

The many troubles brought on by the age of judges cause the Jews to clamor for a king. Samuel makes the request to God, who accedes but warns the people that they will be oppressed, find their sons drafted into wars, and find themselves paying high taxes to support the monarchy. Nevertheless, he appoints Saul as king, but this leads to trouble when Saul disobeys God. David eventually ends up king, but he, too, is a flawed (if great) leader who disobeys God, for which his family and Israel pay a heavy price.

The main point of the cycle is that while life gets better under kings than it was under the judges, no political system is the "magic bullet" that will bring joy to the people: the key is to stay in covenant with God and obey his will.

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