How Long Did King Ehud Judge Israel?
This article deals with two issues:
- How long did Ehud judge Ancient Israel
- How long did the Period of the Judges Last
The simple answer to the question of how long Ehud judged Israel is to be found in the Book of Judges Chapter 3 verse 30. The answer is '80 years'.
Unfortunately this figure is conspicuously incorrect, if only because the total figures provided in the book of Judges for the Period of the Judges, is excessive of the time frame provided in 1 Kings 6:1, for both the Period of the Judges and the Monarchy of Israel to the 4th year of King Solomon.
1 Kings 6:1 can be made to read that 440 or 480 years transpired between the time that the Israelites under Joshua entered Canaan, and the 4th year of Solomon when the Temple was commenced.
According to the Bible - Principally the Book of Judges, 450 years transpired during the Period of the Judges. However, it must be borne in mind that there is no record in the Bible of the amount of time that Joshua or Samuel judged Israel, and nor is there a proper reference to the length of King Saul's reign.
The Biblical Data for the Period of the Judges is:
Judges - No Reference to Time frame for Joshua
Judges 3:8 - 8 years Serving Cushanrishathaim
Judges 3:11 - 40 Rest provided by Othniel
Judges 3:14 - 18 Serving Moab
Judges 3:30 - 80 Rest during Ehud's Lifetime
Judges 4:4 - 20 Oppression
Judges 5:31 - 40 Deborah
Judges 6:1 - 7 Midianite Oppression
Judges 8:28 - 40 Gideon
Judges 9:22 - 3 Abimelech
Judges 10:2 - 23 Tola
Judges 10:3 - 22 Jair
Judges 10:8 - 18 Oppression
Judges 12:7 - 6 Jephthah
Judges - 12:8 - 7 Ibzan
Judges 12:11 - 10 Elon
Judges 12:13 - 8 Abdon
Judges 13:1 - 40 Philistine Oppression
Judges 16:31 - 20 Samson
1 Sam 4:18 - 40 Eli
Judges/Samuel - No Time listed for Samuel
Total of time listed = 450 years
To calculate how much time elapsed between Entry into Canaan and Solomon's 4th year, we would have to add to these 450 years listed above, the following.
- The Judgeship of Joshua
- The Judgeship of Samuel
- The Kingship of Saul
- The Kingship of David
- Plus the 4 years of King Solomon.
Whilst we have definite Biblical chronological references to David and Solomon, there are only extra-Biblical records upon which we can rely in determining the time periods for Joshua, Samuel and Saul. These indicate that Joshua was judge for up to 28 years; that Samuel was judge for 30 years; and that Saul reigned up to 22 years. A total of between 60 and 80 years.
This increases the 450 years listed above to between 510 and 530 years.
To this must be added the 40 years for David and the first 4 years of Solomon, to give us a total of between 554 and 574 years to elapse between the Israelite entrance into Canaan and (incl.) the 4th year of Solomon.
If the period of the Judges was 554 - 574 years then clearly, something is wrong with the reference in 1 Kings 6:1 to a period of 440 or 480 years.
The first thing to note is that the Accepted version of 1 Kings 6:1 and the Septuagint, contain different language and a different figure.
Kings 6:1 Hebrew Bible
- And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.
- And it came to pass in the four hundred and fortieth year after the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, in the fourth year and second month of the reign of King Solomon over Israel, that the king commanded that they should take great and costly stones for the foundation of the house and hewn stones. And the men of Solomon, and the men of Hiram hewed the stones, and laid them for a foundation. In the fourth year he laid the foundation of the house of the Lord, in the month of Ziv, in the second month.
It is generally accepted today, that the Received Text's 480 years, is comprised of the 40 year wandering in the desert - plus - 440 years between Entry into Canaan and Solomon's 4th year.
This is not the perspective of the King's Calendar which measures Biblical years as years of 12 months of 4 weeks of 7 days; being 336 days in duration. The King's Calendar in measuring out the 480 years of the Received Text at 1 Kings 6:1 sees 480 artificial years transpiring between Solomon's 4th year in 970 BCE and 1412 BCE when the Israelites entered Canaan - a total of 443 solar years.
The primary text reading of 1 Kings 6:1 in both versions, is that parameters of the time period mentioned, are the actual Entry of the People of Israel into Canaan, and the commencement of the building of Solomon's Temple. It is only that the two figures differ by 40 years, that it has been assumed that the Septuagint is correct in it's reference to Entrance into Canaan and that the Masoretic version has been altered to include the 40 years of wandering.
However, the King's Calendar artificial calendar demonstrates the opposite. The King's Calendar dates for the Exodus, Entrance into Canaan and Solomon's 4th year are in keeping with every other traditional scholastic source, and yet it fits 480 artificial years into the 440 solar year time frame suggested by the Septuagint version.
It goes one step further however to suggest that the Septuagint was altered and that in it's original form, it read that 440 years transpired between Entrance into Canaan and Solomon's 1st year (when he announced his intention to build the temple). Note the redundant reference in the Septuagint to the 'fourth year'. Notice that Solomon's commandment to build a temple is given in the same listed year as the foundations were laid. Is that not odd?
The King's Calendar suggests that the original (Masoretic) version read 440 solar years to Solomon's first year at which time he commanded the assembly of all that was required to build the Temple. Later when the redactors inserted the artificial chronological details, (after the original Septuagint details were recorded) the round figure of 480 years neatly fitted in with the 4th year of Solomon when the temple foundation was laid.
At some point thereafter, having noticed the discrepancy between the two versions, someone corrected the Septuagint version, (changing 1st year to 4th year), having made the same assumption that many make today (that the Masorete includes the 40 years of Wandering).
Despite all of this however, is the fact that the combined total number of years allocated to the Period of the Judges by the Book of Judges, requires that well in excess of either the Septuagint's 440 years or the Masoretic 480 years transpire between Israelite Entrance into Canaan, and Solomon's 4th year. How can this be so?
The short answer.
Judges 3:15 records that G-d raised Ehud up to be deliverer and Judge of Israel, and that an 80 year peace ensued (Judges 3:30). Judges 4:1-2 gives the impression that this peace only lasted during Ehud's judgeship and so he must therefore have lived to at least 110 years of age.
Given that we are looking for an excessively listed period of time, it was assumed that it is unlikely that a 100+ year old leader was able to ensure peace while a younger leader was not and that therefore the excessive data relates to the 80 years ascribed to Ehud's judgeship; being but a transcription error for 18 years. (Many 'experts' say it was just 8 years.)
Having re-calculated the data provided in the Book of Judges, (Ehud 18 not 80 years) and adding to the overall total the 25 years (Antiquities 5:1:29) that Josephus ascribes to Joshua, it was calculated that 282 years transpire from the entrance into Canaan to the beginning of Jephthah's judgeship.
From that point the King's Calendar determined that from the beginning of Jephthah's judgeship to and including Solomon's 4th year, 198 artificial years elapse. (282 + 198 = 480)
Of these 198 years however, the Bible directly ascribes 175 years to specific people and events, leaving only 23 years over to cover the judgeship of Samuel and the Kingship of Saul. Even Josephus permits 32 years for their combined reign. (The only Biblical reference to Saul's reign is 1 Samuel 13:1 which is corrupt, stating that he was only one year old when he became king and reigned only 2 years).
The necessity to reduce further the period of the Judges required that there must be a further error in the figures.
When one comes to Judges Chapter 13 (Hebrew Bible), one notices that Samson came upon the scene at a time of Philistine Oppression, and that the whole period of his judgeship was taken up with fighting that oppression. [We also note the continuing oppression during the judgeships of Eli and Samuel].
Since the period of the Judges contains an excess of data, it was presumed that the 40 years of Philistine Oppression mentioned in Judges 13:1 is not meant to be read as an independent time frame separate to that listed for the judges of Israel at that time, but as concurrent with their judgeships.
So the specifically mentioned 175 years from the time of Jephthah onwards was reduced by the 40 years mentioned in Judges 13:1 to arrive at a total of 135 specifically listed years, leaving a balance of 63 years to be filled by Samuel and Saul.
For a discussion on how the 63 years was divided see:
Whilst any hint of 'error' in the Bible is anathema to some Christians, the fact remains that the composite totals provided for the Judges and kings of Israel is excessive of that allowed in 1 Kings 6:1.
There are only two ways to view the matter. The first is to try and remove all the periods of oppression listed in Judges, assuming them to be concurrent periods, and the second is to see in Ehud's judgeship, the likelihood that his 80 listed years is a transcription error.
If you check the data provided from the book of judges at the beginning of this article, you will find that there are 6 periods of oppression listed. Have fun trying to work it all out without changing Ehud's judgeship. Additionally remember that the only reference to Saul is corrupt, and that there is no chronological reference in Scripture to Joshua or Samuel.
The King's Calendar ultimately removes 62 years from Ehud's judgeship, and the forty years listed in Judges 13:1.
It furthermore does not calculate Biblical years as standard solar years, but insists that 600 years before the Bible came into existence as the Bible, the chronological references were converted into an artificial calendar.
In Order for 1 King's 6:1 to be correct, the times frames provided in the Book of Judges must be excessive, and of all the judgeships, Ehud's 80 years is the most probable reference to have suffered from a transcription error.
The Bethlehem Seal Discovery - Judah 2700 years ago by R.P. BenDedek
According to recent news reports, archaeologists in Jerusalem have unearthed a 2700 years old, 1.5cm diameter Seal inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the name of the town Bethlehem. The Israel Antiquities director of excavations, Eli Shukron, has said that this is the first time that the city's name has turned up in artifacts from this period of Israelite History. 2700 years ago - 700 BCE, King Hezekiah was ruling in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, and had just survived an invasion (701BCE) by Sennacherib of Assyria. Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had 22 years previous fallen to the Assyrians, and the population was sent into exile. - May 27, 2012
Assyrian, Babylonian and Israelite History 8th Century by R.P. BenDedek
The 'King's Calendar' reconstruction of Biblical chronology for this time period, has as it's firm foundation, the established 'academic' fact that King Hezekiah of Judah had his 14th regnal year in 701 BCE. Working back through history, the 'King's Calendar' finds little fault with the Biblical chronological references, however, it becomes obvious that some of the king's have been misidentified. Part of academic confusion over this particular period of Israelite history, results directly from reliance upon the biblical narratives which clearly state that it was King Ahaz of Judah who appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria for assistance, during the Syro-Ephraimitic War against Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.