The Judges of Israel were inspired men and women who served from the time God's people had conquered much (but not all!) of the Promised Land until the first human king is anointed. Ninteen people (eighteen men and one woman) served as a Judge from 1398 B.C. until the crowning of Saul in 1050.
God allowed enemies of his people to exist within and near its territory in order to test their obedience. When they sinned and refused to repent he allowed them to be oppressed (Judges 3:1 - 5). When they then cried out to the Lord, after a period of oppression, he raised up people to free them from their enemies.
Years served: 1398 to 1380 B.C.
Joshua, appointed by Moses to be leader of God's people after his death, took God's people into the Promised Land in 1405 B.C. He became the first Judge at the age of 92 after battling seven years to conquer as much of the land of milk and honey as possible. Joshua lived to the age of 110 (Judg. 2:8).
1350 to 1310 B.C.
God allowed Israel, after they began to indulge in evil, to be oppressed by Moab's king and his allies for eight years (Judges 3). Othniel is then raised up to defeat the enemy after the people cry out for help (3:7 - 11).
1292 to 1212
After the people begin to indulge in evil they are allowed to be oppressed by Moab's king and his allies for eighteen years (Judges 3). God then raises up Ehud, a rare left-handed warrior, to free his people after they cry out to him.
??? to 1212?
A man named Shamgar championed the cause of God's people by killing 600 Philistines with nothing more than an ox goad (verse 31). Scripture seems to indicate he was the fourth person to serve as a Judge of Israel.
The Bible, unfortunately, is silent regarding who Shamgar was, who his parents were or which tribe he came from. It also does not state how long Shamgar was a Judge. His service, west of the Jordan River, may have overlapped that of Ehud (see Judg. 4:1) who served in Israel's territory east of the Jordan. He may also have served for a short period of time, possibly only a year (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible). The song of Deborah and Barak mentions him by name (5:6).
Deborah and Barak
1192 to 1152 B.C.
Israel, as soon as Ehud was dead, yet again, begin to indulge in sins that stir up God's wrath. He allows his people to come under the harsh treatment of Jabin, the king of Canaan, for twenty years. He then inspires Deborah, a prophetess who would become the only female Judge, to encourage Barak to attack the enemy. His successful attack leads to forty years of peace (Judges 4 - 5).
1153 to 1113
Eli, a large man, was both a High Priest and Judge in Israel. He died, at the age of 98, after falling backwards on his chair and breaking his neck (1Samuel 1 - 4, 14:3).
1145 to 1105
The people's indulgence in sin, once again, leads to oppression by an enemy. The Midianites, for seven long years, are allowed to rule over and impoverish the people. God then raises up Gideon who, along with his 300-man army, surprises the enemy and wins a great victory (Judges 6 - 8)!
1105 to 1102
Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, arranges for the city of Shechem to make him their king. He then has all his sixty-nine brothers, save one, murdered. He assumes the power of a king over northern Israel, a claim which most of the people seem to accept. He is finally killed when a woman drops a millstone on his head (Judges 9)!
1102 to 1079
Tola was from the tribe of Issachar and lived in a city within Ephraim's territory. He is called to take on the responsibility of Judge, for the northern part of the Promised Land, after the death of Abimelech. Nothing more is known about him other than he was buried in his hometown of Shamir (Judg. 10:1 - 2).
1087 to 1081
Israel's indulgence in sin earns them more oppression, this time from the Ammonites for eighteen years (Judges 11 - 12). God then raises up Jephthah, the son of a harlot, to free his people. He ultimately serves in the eastern portion of the land (east of the Jordan River) for six years.
1085 to 1065
Due to their many sins, the southern and western sections of the land are allowed to be dominated by the Philistines for forty years. The Lord then raises up Samson, a Nazarite from birth, to deliver his people. His unique superhuman strength destroys many Philistine leaders and weakens their nation for several years.
1085 to 1053 B.C.
Samuel, called by God at an early age, becomes a prophet and well-respected Judge. He anoints both Saul and David as kings over Israel (1Samuel, 2 Samuel).
1081 to 1074
Ibzan served the eastern section of Israel's territory. Not much is recorded about him other than he grew up in Bethlehem (Judges 12:8 - 10).
1079 to 1057
Jair, who was wealthy, had thirty sons (Judges 10:3 - 5). He was an inhabitant of Gilead who governed the northern part of the land for 22 years.
1074 to 1064
Elon was of the tribe of Zebulon (Joshua 12:11 - 12). Nothing more is known about him except that he served the eastern part of the Promised Land for ten years.
1064 to 1056
Abdon had forty sons and thirty nephews (Judges 12:14). He served, in the eastern section of the country, for eight years.
Joel and Abijah
1053 to 1050
Joel and Abijah were Samuel's two sons who served as the last Judges of Israel. Samuel's advanced age, as well as the corruption of his two sons, leads the people to request a human king be placed over them. God reluctantly approves of this request and has Samuel anoint Saul as king in 1050 B.C.