The interest and importance of the Book of Judges lie chiefly in the knowledge which it gives us of the state of society and religion in Israel in the early centuries of its settlement in Palestine, for which Judges and Samuel are our only sources. In addition to this, parts of the book are of preëminent historical value: in particular, ch. 1, which contains by far the oldest and most trustworthy account of the invasion of Canaan; and ch. 5, the Song of Deborah, the only contemporary monument of Israelitish history before the Kingdom. In the following commentary matters of history, antiquities, and especially the social and religious life of the people in this period, are properly given the largest place; not only for their intrinsic interest, but because the knowledge of these things is indispensable to any right understanding of the history of Israel and of its religion. The work of the prophets can only be comprehended in its relation to the national religion of Israel. But before there was a national religion, there was a common religion of the Israelite tribes which was one of the most potent forces in the making of the nation. What this religion was, which they brought with them into Canaan, and what changes it underwent in contact with Canaanite civilization and the religions of the land, we learn in no small part from the Book of Judges; while here and there, as in the Song of Deborah, we have glimpses of a remoter past, the adoption of the religion of Yahweh by the tribes at Horeb, the work of Moses.
To make such a use of the book, it is necessary to distinguish carefully between the work of the principal author, who wrote in