Judges tells of the leaders of Israel between Joshua and the beginning of the monarchy, a period of three to four hundred years. There is a recurring cycle at this time in the life of Israel: sin, domination by a foreign power, repentance on the part of Israel, and finally, God raises up a judge who delivers Israel from foreign domination. A time of peace and prosperity followed before the cycle was repeated all over again - apostasy, oppression, repentance, deliverance. It happened at least seven times.

There were at least 14 judges, with six major judges: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson.

This period in the life of Israel is characterized by unfaithfulness to God and general spiritual decline. It is described in the last verse of the book: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." (Judges 21:25)