4.31 Judges -- Israelite Paganism
Samson's chaotic life was concrete evidence of the living presence of God with His people, though not in an orthodox way: "Samson's coming to town? Quick, take cover!" The rest of the book of Judges shows the absence of God from Israel, because they forsook Him and adopted the ways of the Canaanites. This was what Moses prophesied in Deut 31:19-21, Deut 31:29. The dating of these last chapters is uncertain. No judges are mentioned, so these events may have occurred prior to the rule of most judges. The fact that the tribe of Dan had not yet settled on their land (Judg 18:1), the identification of the Levite as the grandson of Moses (Judg 18:30), and of the priest as Phineas, grandson of Aaron (Judg 20:28), support an early date for these events.
The final 5 chapters of Judges describe the political and moral chaos following the death of Joshua. They show that, worse than simply abandoning their heritage, the Israelites attempted to harmonize and synthesize parts of their traditions with the pagan worldview surrounding them. The lines of distinction between Israelite and foreigner, holy and common, were broken down, and an amalgamation of religious practices ensued. The oral tales of Exodus and of Joshua, and the existence of a written Law and a prescribed worship ritual, were remote from daily life, and were not sufficient to bind the people together. Israel as a nation was moving toward dissolution. Without a future intervention of God, intermarriage and cultural interchange would complete the process in a few generations.