The book of Judges takes up where the book of Joshua left off. The Israelites are in the Promised Land, and they’ve started to take over the land, but they haven’t completed the job. Not every tribe has their land, yet.
In my summary of the book of Joshua, I mentioned that the period written about in that book was probably one of the high points in Israelite history (from a spiritual point of view). I think Judges represents a low point; once they lost Joshua, they seemed to lose their spiritual guidance. They forgot about the LORD and His precepts, and the entire book of Judges seems like a long, downward trend, in terms of spirituality—ending, in chapters 19–21, with some of the most terrible events I’ve read in the Old Testament. This book contains some very memorable stories, such as the story of Gideon testing God, and the story of Samson and Delilah, but when I read the book, those aren’t the stories that stay with me. I come away from the book of Judges with a profound sadness, at the fallen state of mankind, and our inability to follow God, without His explicit help. (I should have a profound sense of gratitude, too, that He does give us that help, but when I read Judges, it’s the sadness that really grips me.)
The book ends with verse 21:25—a verse which sums up the book: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”