Judges 1 — Towards the end of Joshua and 4 times (vv. 28, 30, 33, 35) in this opening chapter of Judges we read of the Canaanites being subjected to “forced labor” (ESV). Back in Deuteronomy 20:11 the Israelites were told that if a city they were about to fight against responded peaceably then the people would become forced laborers. It’s kind of ironic that this would be the case seeing as how the children of Israel were forced laborers in Egypt (e.g., Exod. 1:11). Eventually, Solomon will use forced labor to build the Temple (see 1 Kgs. 5). More irony. Israel was freed from bondage in order to be able to worship the LORD and they eventually used slave labor the service of that very task.
Judges 2:10-23 — Failing to follow the Shema had devastating results. Remember, the Shema is more than Deuteronomy 6:4 (the LORD alone, or, the LORD is one); it also includes loving the LORD with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5), and teaching your children to do the same (Deut. 6:7). The Israelites obviously failed at this task. This is why Moses recounted the LORD’s various mighty acts again and again. This is why the LORD kept reminding Israel of what he’d done for them. By forgetting the LORD and falling into idolatry the children of Israel cut themselves off from the blessings and promises of God (cf. Deut. 8:11-20).
Judges 3:1-8 — God is resourceful. If Israel was going to disobey the LORD’s commands and leave the Canaanites in the land then the LORD was going to get some use out of them and test Israel through them.
Judges 3:9-31 — God is also merciful. His testing led Israel to repentance and he delivered them by means of the judges. And notice how the judges of Israel were warriors and leaders. They didn’t merely sit in judgment over legal matters. It’s a pity that Israel still kept finding a way to forsake God and serve idols.
Judges 4 — We see two strong women in this chapter: Deborah, the judge of Israel, and Jael, who slayed Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. This text is significant for the whole “gender debate” since it shows that God can effectively use women to lead and deliver if and when he wants to.