Following the conquest of Canaan by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel (ca. 1150-1025 BC), the Israelite Tribes formed a loose confederation. No central government existed in this confederation and in times of crisis, the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as judges.
Judges mentioned in the Bible 
|Judges in the Bible|
|In the Book of Joshua|
|In the Book of Judges|
|In First Samuel|
|†Not explicitly described as a judge|
The Book of Judges mentions judges such as Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson; and the First Book of Samuel mentions Eli and Samuel, as well as Joel and Abiah (two sons of Samuel).
Role of the Judges 
In the Book of Judges, a cyclical pattern is given to show the need for the various judges: apostasy of the Israelite people, hardship brought on as punishment from God, crying out to the Lord for rescue. The judges were the ones chosen by God to rescue the people. But Biblical judges were not limited to the Book of Judges; Moses exercised the powers of superior judicial body before the Israelites long before and could be considered the first Biblical judge. "Moses also laid foundation for another separation, which has since become indispensable for any democracy. He created an independent judiciary". Moses is founder of basis of the philosophy of law as well as such modern legal doctrines as independent judiciary and separation of powers.
While judge is the closest literal translation of the Hebrew term used in the masoretic text, the position is more one of unelected non-hereditary leadership than that of legal pronouncement. The judges did many times play the role as an official with the authority to administer justice, but not always. Most judges acted primarily as military leaders in times of war. These leaders were thought of as being sent by God to deliver the people from a threat. After the threat had passed, the judge was generally expected to give up their position as military leaders. They were most likely tribal or local leaders, contrary to the Deuteronomistic historians portrayal of them as leaders of all of Israel, however their authority was recognized by local groups or tribes beyond their own. In accordance with the needs of the time, their functions were primarily martial and judicial, but not comparable to a king. All Biblical Judges performed judicial duities and the institute of Judges was separated from the institute of King (First Book of Samuel 10:25).
See also 
- Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Glossary, pg. 426
- Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)(ISBN 0-8028-4960-1)
- Boling, Robert G., revised by Richard D. Nelson, Harper Collins Study Bible: The Book of Judges
- Lewittess Mendell, Jewish law: An Introduction, New Jersey, 1994 pp. 58-59,
- Diamont Max,Jews, God and History, New York, 1994, p. 45
- Barenboim Peter, Biblical Roots of Separation of Powers, Moscow, Letny Sad, 2005. ISBN 5-94381-123-0, Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2006400578
- Judges 12:7-15
- Wolf, C. U., The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, pg 1012
- Coogan, pg 178
- Malamat, 129
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Judges
- Boling, Robert G., revised by Richar D. Nelson, The Harper Collins Study Bible: Book of Judges", Harper Collins Publishers, 2006
- Malamat, A. Judges. Ed. Benjamin Mazor. Givatayim, Israel: Rutgers University Press, 1971. 129-63. Print.
- Coogan, Michael D., A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 2009
- Wolf, C. U., The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: Judge, Abingdon Press, 1962