Judges 1:1 - 3:6

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016




Both the Hebrew and Greek names for the Book of Judges mean judges or executive leaders. This title is derived from the kind of leadership found in Israel from the death of Joshua until Saul became king. During that interval twelve men and one woman were raised up by God to deliver Israel. The actual history of God’s people recorded in Judges extends from the death of Joshua (c. 1375 B.C.) to the time of Samuel (c. 1075 B.C.).


These judges were from different tribes and some delivered only local areas rather than the entire territory occupied by Israel. In a number of cases their periods of administration may have overlapped.


It became necessary for God to raise up deliverers because the Israelites failed to drive out the Canaanites and even sometimes adopted friendly terms with them as well as becoming involved in worshiping their gods. As a punishment God gave the Israelites over to their enemies. When they repented, God raised up a deliverer and delivered them. No sooner had the judge died than the Israelites fell back into apostasy. Consequently, we see a cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restitution repeated over and over again.


    I.     Background of the Period of the Judges, 1:1 - 3:6


            A.  The Political Background, 1:1-36


Judges 1:1 Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?


Judges 1:2 And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.


Judges 1:3 And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.


Judges 1:4 And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.


The only Bezek we know of is found in western Manasseh located on the map just above the E in Manasseh.


Judges 1:5 And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.


Adonibezek means lord (or prince) of Bezek


Judges 1:6 But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.


Judges 1:7 And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat [i.e. scraps] under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited [i.e. repaid] me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.


Adonibezek recognized God’s justice in allowing his mutilation by the Israelites.


Cutting off thumbs and great (big) toes served two purposes: degradation, and inability to use weapons.


However, mutilating Adonibezek was not the same as killing him. He should have been put to death as God had commanded. It would prove to be the same thing with the inhabitants of the land. Rather than completely destroying them, the Israelites crippled them. Their partial obedience was actually disobedience and would eventually cost the Jews dearly in the days ahead of them (Believer’s Bible Commentary).


Judges 1:8 Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.


1:8 – (RSB) Jerusalem was only temporarily and partially captured.


The conquest of Jerusalem would not be complete until David was king, about 350 years later.


Judges 1:9 And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.


1:9 – (RSB) the mountain. The Judean mountain range, including Jerusalem (2,500 ft) and Hebron (3,040 ft high).


The south is also known as the Negev. It is the semidesert area that begins just south of Hebron.


The valley is also known as the Shephelah. It is the foothills between the Mediterranean coast and the Judean mountains, the scene of many battles between the Israelites and the Philistines.


Verses 10-15 are a repeat of what we studied a few weeks ago in Joshua 15:9-13 . We’ll skip this section and go to verse 16 –


Judges 1:10 And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

Judges 1:11 And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:

Judges 1:12 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

Judges 1:13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.

Judges 1:14 And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou?

Judges 1:15 And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.


Judges 1:16 And the children of the Kenite [i.e. of Jethro], Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees [i.e. out of Jericho] with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad [Arad is located on the map just west of the southern third of the Dead Sea]; and they went and dwelt among the people. [The Kenites moved from Jericho to Arad.]


Judges 1:17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah [located on the map southwest of Arad].


Judges 1:18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof [i.e. Gaza with its territory], and Askelon with the coast thereof [i.e. Askelon with its territory], and Ekron with the coast thereof [i.e. Ekron with its territory]. [These are the principal Philistine cities located near the Mediterranean Sea.]


Judges 1:19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.


1:19 – (RSB) chariots of iron (wooden chariots with iron fittings, perhaps axles) were the military reason for Israel’s defeat, but disobedience to God’s commands was the spiritual reason (We’ll see this in Judges 2:1-3 ).


Judges 1:20 And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence [i.e. from there] the three sons of Anak.


We saw this previously in Joshua 15:14 .


As we continue, we note that all the tribes failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land. Instead, they allowed them to live although they forced them into slavery. This disobedience would eventually prove very costly to the Jews.


Judges 1:21 And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.


Judges 1:22 And the house of Joseph [i.e., these are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh], they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them. [This action is centered in central Palestine.]


Judges 1:23 And the house of Joseph sent to descry [i.e. to spy out] Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)


Judges 1:24 And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.


Judges 1:25 And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.


Judges 1:26 And the man went into the land of the Hittites [i.e. northern Syria], and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.


Judges 1:27 Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.


1:27 – (RSB) These cities formed an East to West line of Canaanite fortifications along the plain of Esdraelon. [The Plain of Esdraelon is also known as the Plain of Megiddo. It runs along the Kishon River which flows into the Mediterranean Sea between the A and S in Asher and extends southeast toward Mt. Gilboa and the hills of lower Galilee. It crosses the entire country from the Mediterranean Sea to the hills of lower Galilee.]


Judges 1:28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute [i.e. to forced labor], and did not utterly drive them out.


Judges 1:29 Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.


Judges 1:30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries [i.e. were put under tribute, were subjected to forced labor].


Judges 1:31 Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:


Judges 1:32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.


Judges 1:33 Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them [i.e. became tribute unto them, became forced labor for them].


Judges 1:34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer [i.e. they would not allow (or permit)] them to come down to the valley:


l:34 – (RSB) According to Judges 18 , Dan was eventually forced to search for new territory to the north.


Judges 1:35 But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries [i.e. were put under tribute, were subjected to forced labor].


Judges 1:36 And the coast [i.e. border, boundary] of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim [from the ascent of Akrabbim – located in southeastern Judah, southwest of the south end of the Dead Sea], from the rock [i.e. from Sela], and upward [i.e. and beyond].


            B.  The Spiritual Background, 2:1 - 3:6


Judges 2:1 And an angel of the LORD [i.e. this is a preincarnate appearance of Christ] came up from Gilgal to Bochim [Bochim was near Gilgal, which was about 1.25 mi . . . from Jericho], and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.


Judges 2:2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?


Let’s remind ourselves of what the LORD had commanded them –

Deuteronomy 7:1-61 When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3 Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4 For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 5 But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. 6 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.


The Israelites had failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land as the LORD had commanded them.


Back to Judges 2

Judges 2:3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.


Judges 2:4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.


Judges 2:5 And they called the name of that place Bochim [literally, the weepers]: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.


Judges 2:6 And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.


Judges 2:7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.


Judges 2:8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.


Judges 2:9 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.


Judges 2:10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.


Judges 2:11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:


Judges 2:12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.


Judges 2:13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.


2:13 – (RSB) Baal. The rain and fertility god of the Canaanites. The plural, Baalim (v. 11), may include all the false deities of the land, for there were many local Baals.


Ashtaroth (plural of Ashtareth). The female consorts of Baal.


The worship of these false gods and goddesses included animal sacrifices, male and female prostitution, and sometimes human sacrifices.


Judges 2:14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers [i.e. plunderers] that spoiled them [i.e. who despoiled (or plundered) them], and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.


Judges 2:15 Whithersoever they went out [i.e. Wherever they went], the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.


Judges 2:16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled [i.e. plundered, despoiled] them.


2:16 – (RSB) The judges God graciously gave Israel are also called deliverers or saviors (3:9, 15). They served as spiritual, military, and governmental leaders for the people, but were often ignored or rejected (2:17).


Judges 3:9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.


Judges 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.


Back to Judges 2

Judges 2:17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.


Judges 2:18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them [i.e. because of those] that oppressed them and vexed them [i.e. harassed them, afflicted them].


Judges 2:19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.


2:18-19 – (RSB) A description of the recurring cycle of Israel’s history during this period.


I have already said that in Judges we see a cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restitution repeated over and over again.


2:20 - 3:2 – (RSB) God allowed the Canaanites to remain in the land (1) to punish Israel’s apostasy (v. 20), (2) to test Israel’s loyalty (v. 22), and (3) to teach Israel how to fight (3:2).


Judges 2:20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;


Judges 2:21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:


Judges 2:22 That through them I may prove [i.e. test] Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein [i.e. in it], as their fathers did keep it, or not.


Judges 2:23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily [i.e. without driving them out quickly, without driving them out immediately]; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.


3:1-5 – (RSB) In His providence, God used the failure of the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites by using these pagans to teach the art of warfare to the Israelites who had not been involved in the initial wars under Joshua.


Judges 3:1 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove [i.e. to test] Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;


Judges 3:2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof [i.e. of it];


Judges 3:3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines [i.e. the lords of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza], and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.


Baal-hermon is Mount Hermon


Hamath is located at the foot of Mount Hermon toward Damascus.


Judges 3:4 And they were to prove [i.e. test] Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto [i.e. would obey] the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.


Judges 3:5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:


Judges 3:6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods [i.e. they intermarried with these pagans and worshiped the gods of the pagans].