Judges 1 (New International Version)
Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites
“There is, however, one light in which the whole book may be viewed, which renders it invaluable; it is a most remarkable history of the longsuffering of God towards the Israelites, in which we find the most signal instances of his justice and mercy alternately displayed; the people sinned, and were punished; they repented, and found mercy. Something of this kind we meet with in every page. And these things are writted for our warning. None should presume, for God is just; none need despair, for God is merciful.” (Clarke)
At the close of the book of Joshua, the people of Israel declare that, “as for me and my house,” they will stand firm for God and serve him. All those people, all those families, are ready to start a new chapter in their lives, as they have come into possession of the Promised Land. A future and a hope! I dedicate this song to all of you who are on the verge of a new thing — may the Lord bless you! And to the rest of you, who may be feeling pretty comfortable in your groove (your rut?), or who are longing for a change — may the Lord bless you, too!
HERE Gary Valenciano sings “Lead Me, Lord.”
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”
2 The LORD answered, “Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.”
Under the leadership of Joshua Israel had broken the back of Canaan’s military strength. Yet it remained for each individual tribe to actually go in and possess what God had given them.
3 Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.
4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.”
Thumbs and big toes!
My mother used to say . . .
“What you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own.”
And the Bible says . . .
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Adoni-Bezek said . . .
“Thumb-thing is wrong here, no thanks to toes Israelites!”
They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.
9 After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills.
Note that Judges 1:9 describes the three major geographic divisions of Israel:
- The mountains, or more literally the hill country, “which describes the mountainous regions between Jerusalem and Hebron.”
- The South, also known as the Negev, which is “the semi-arid area between Hebron and Kadesh-barnea.”
- The lowland, sometimes called the Shelphelah from the Hebrew word used here. This “is the region of foot-hills running north and south between the costal plain and the central mountain range.”
10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.
11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.
14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”
15 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
from Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert:
“And Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou? She answered, give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs” (Joshua 15:18, 19).
There are both upper and nether springs. They are springs, not stagnant pools. There are joys and blessings that flow from above through the hottest summer and the most desert land of sorrow and trial. The lands of Achsah were “south lands,” lying under a burning sun and often parched with burning heat. But from the hills came the unfailing springs, that cooled, refreshed and fertilized all the land.
There are springs that flow in the low places of life, in the hard places, in the desert places, in the lone places, in the common places, and no matter what may be our situation, we can always find these upper springs.
Abraham found them amid the hills of Canaan. Moses found them among the rocks of Midian. David found them among the ashes of Ziklag when his property was gone, his family captives and his people talked of stoning him, but “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”
Habakkuk found them when the fig tree was withered and the fields were brown, but as he drank from them he could sing: “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and joy in the God of my salvation.”
Isaiah found them in the awful days of Sennacherib’s invasion, when the mountains seemed hurled into the midst of the sea, but faith could sing: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved.”
The martyrs found them amid the flames, and reformers amid their foes and conflicts, and we can find them all the year if we have the Comforter in our hearts and have learned to say with David: “All my springs are in thee.” How many and how precious these springs, and how much more there is to be possessed of God’s own fullness!
16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms (that is, Jericho) with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.
19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.
The men of the tribe of Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had iron chariots. Pulled by two horses, the chariot was in effect a moving platform for two or three soldiers. It was most valuable in making rapid flanking movements where the land was fairly flat and open. The coastal area of Palestine was relatively level, while the hill-country inland featured steep slopes and deep valleys. In ancient times the hills were heavily forested and Israelite guerrilla tactics proved successful in this territory. However, in the coastal plain the Canaanite and Philistine chariots proved to be the tanks of their period, racing across the flat country. But chariots were ineffective on wooded hills.
Since the Iron Age had just begun in Canaan, iron chariots would have been the latest and best military weapon. Some scholars believe the iron would have been used to make part of the wheels and fittings of the chariot, while others think there was an iron plate to reinforce the wooden body of the chariot. In either case, the iron would have been superior to bronze, and would have made the chariot more durable.
Israel did not obtain chariots until the time of the monarchy.
20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.
22 Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.” 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.
27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the tribe of Dan to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
God gave the Israelites specific instructions: Drive the Canaanites out of every corner of the land, and obliterate any vestige of their abominable idol worship. The assignment was challenging! Their enemies had formidable chariots. The Canaanites had seemingly impregnable fortresses that were dangerous and difficult to overcome. The Israelites failed to drive all the Canaanites from the land. Much about the Canaanite lifestyle and religion appealed to the Israelites’ sinful nature. Rather than destroying them and their idolatry, Israel compromised. The Canaanites would prove to be a troublesome distraction to the Israelites. Their idol worship would present a constant temptation.
The book of Judges is one long lesson: Do not underestimate the destructive power of sin.
A final thought: At this period of time, the tribes of Israel at their best experienced incomplete victory; at their worst they simply surrendered to and accommodated the enemy. This makes us value the complete and glorious victory of Jesus Christ on our behalf all the more. There was nothing left incomplete in the victory He won for us on the cross and through the resurrection.