The Biblical ‘Judges’ were military leaders as well as legal authorities; their precise job description is unclear. Each of those mentioned in the Book of Judges appeared to have led various confederations of Israelite tribes against external threat or oppression. Othniel delivers the tribe of Judah from the Aramites, Barak leads a tribal confederation against the Canaanite king of Hazor, and Ehud assassinates the Moabite king of Eglon. In between military exploits, the judges lead their followers back to righteousness, from which they have strayed. Samson, a judge of the tribe of Dan, famously brought the roof down on the Philistines, while the Danites migrated north to find a homeland. Finding Laish to their liking, they exterminate its inhabitants, and settle there. Abimelech, the king of Shechem, is himself the oppressor: when the city rises against him, he is killed by a millstone thrown by a woman from the ramparts.
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