If you’ve ever been in a courtroom in the Western justice system, you’ll know what a judge is: an old man (few are young men and even fewer are women) sitting behind a wooden bench on a raised platform at the front. People bow when they enter and leave the courtroom to show their respect for both the person and the office he holds. Everyone stands when the judge enters and leaves the room.

These judges, the ones in Israel, were not like that.

The judges in the book of Judges were deliverers who were chosen by God to lead Israel out of sin and deliver her from her enemies. They usually fought battles and killed more than a few of the enemy. The Bible says nothing about how these judges led Israel afterwards, other than noting that the land had rest from Israel’s enemies and peace.

The judges were those named in the book of Judges as well as Moses (who is even called a judge), and Samuel, who judged until he died (his time as judge overlapped Saul’s reign).

The justice they delivered was freedom from oppression by an enemy. Unlike today’s justice, it had nothing to do with finding guilt for a crime and handing down a punishment.