Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
The Stage is Set
A messenger of G-d spoke to the people. (While the Hebrew word "malach" often refers to a Heavenly angel, it literally means a messenger. The Targum translates this as a "prophet" and Vayikra Rabbah and Seder Olam both state that it was Pinchas, the High Priest.)
The messenger (Pinchas) chastised the people for not chasing out the Canaanite nations, as G-d had commanded. Since they did not chase the other nations out, they would remain in Israel as a source of trouble and their idols would serve as a source of temptation. The people cried because of this message and they named the place Bochim, from the Hebrew word meaning to cry.
Time passed. A new generation arose that did not experience G-d's miracles firsthand. The Jews would worship idols, then G-d would punish them by allowing their enemies to invade and take over. Ultimately, G-d would send a Shofeit (Judge), who would encourage the people to repent. G-d would then redeem the Jews from their enemies. However, when the Judge died, the people would backslide and the cycle would start over again. This is the sad state of affairs we will see repeated throughout the Book of Judges.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 2As we have begun to study about the Shoftim, it behooves us to understand the difference between the shoftim, the judges of B'nei Yisroel and the m'lachim, the kings of B'nei Yisroel.
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, z”tl, (“Oraisa” 18) explains, based on Rashi at the beginning of Sefer Sh'mu'el, that the shoftim were the “elders” mentioned in Pirkei Avos. In addition to being the repository for the Torah in their generation, they were responsible for the transmission of the Torah to the next generation. “Moshe transmitted the Torah to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the Elders and the Shofeit passed [the Torah] to the next Shofeit until it reached the time of Eli and then Shmu'el. As it says, 'And the Elders to the Prophets.'”
Seemingly, Rashi is trying to grapple with the question - why Shmue'l wrote Sefer Shoftim and Sefer Shmu'el as separate books and not one long book?
Rabbi Kamenetzky explains that Sh'mu'el is telling us that these two books encompass two different eras. The Book of Shoftim represents an era when the responsibility for the transmission of the Torah was in the hands of the judges. Sefer Sh'mu'el represents the era when the transmission of the Torah was in the hands of the Prophets – the first one being Sh'mu'el.
What is the difference?
The Shoftim had two responsibilties: 1) To lead the Jewish people 2) To transmit our tradition from generation to generation. As Sh'mu'el passed the torch of leadership to Sha'ul as the first king of B'nei Yisroel, these responsibilities were divided. The kings were responsible for leading B'nei Yisroel. The teaching of the tradition and spiritual guidance, however, were in the hands of the Prophet.
Before this time, the prophet was called a “Ro'eh” - as he primarily helped guide individuals. Now, the prophet was was called a “navi”– a conveyer of spiritual messages to the nation as a whole.