Judges is based on historical records compiled at the end of a circa-350-year period. There are several internal clues to the book’s compilation date.
- Several references in the book address things that had been a certain way in times past, but no longer were at the time of writing (Judges 1:11, 23; 3:1–2; 19:10; 20:27–28). Six additional references to situations that were extant “to this day” likewise show that the compilation took place considerably later than the matters at hand.
- The last few chapters contain the phrase “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). This tells us that, by contrast, the book was compiled when Israel did have a king—thus sometime after the first king, Saul, took the throne (ca. 1050 BCE).
- Further establishing this as the earliest possible date of writing is the fact that Samson, the last judge named in the book, died ca. 1051 BCE.
- Gezer was still in Canaanite hands (Judges 1:29). Since Solomon was the Israelite who acquired Gezer (1 Kings 9:16), the book was written before ca. 970 BCE, when Solomon ascended the throne.
- Narrowing it down further, Jerusalem was in Jebusite hands at the time of writing (Judges 1:21). This was true until David conquered the city (2 Samuel 5:6–10; 1 Chronicles 11:4–9) ca. 1000 BCE.
With all of this in mind, the most logical date for the compilation of the book is shortly before 1000 BCE, in the early days of King David.