The closing line of the book of the Judges is: ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (Judges 21:25). Everyone wants to live ‘my way’. It is a culture of relativism – just like our own – in which everyone determines for themselves what is right and wrong.
The claim that Israel had no king is to be read at different levels – it is both true and false:
It is true: Israel has no king. Gideon is offered the throne, but refuses it (Judges 8:22-23). And yet he names his son ‘Abimelech’ which means ‘the king is my father’ (Judges 8:31). Gideon himself acts like a greedy king, leading the people astray (Judges 8:24-27) while Abimelech’s claim to be king lead to civil war and his own destruction (Judges 9).
It is false: Israel has a king. Israel has no human king because Israel has a divine king. God is the king of Israel. God rules his people.
It is true: Israel has no king. The problem is that Israel does not acknowledge her King: ‘everyone did as he saw fit’. The result is not pretty!
The final chapters of the book of Judges portray life in a world of moral relativity. There is disintegration at family, tribal and national level with theft, betrayal, idolatry, ery, hostility, , dismemberment, kidnap, genocide! It is a society in which might is right; in which there is no protection for the weak and vulnerable; no justice and compassion. We discover that life outside the rule of God is not a life of freedom and blessing. The contrast with the book of Ruth – written during the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1) – is striking.