The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Judges 1

Jdg 1:1

See Lesson, Josh--Samuel, typical history.

Notice, as you read through the book of Judges, how in so many ways it forms a contrast (and an unpleasant one at that!) with the previous book of Joshua.

Joshua and Judges contrasted:

Spiritual vision
Earthly emphasis
Fidelity to the LORD
Apostasy from the LORD
Sense of unity
Sin judged
Sin lightly regarded

But, in Judges, whereas the nation as a whole fails, many times and miserably, God still brings deliverance and salvation. And, in the Book, He is often seen to act by the most insignificant and ordinary means. The "little" instruments which He uses include:

1. A left hand and a dagger (Jdg 3:15,16).
2. An ox-goad (Jdg 3:31).
3. A tent-peg (Jdg 4:21,22).
4. A woman (Jdg 5:7).
5. 300 men with pitchers and lamps (Jdg 7:6-16).
6. A woman and a stone (Jdg 9:53).
7. A social outcast (Jdg 11:2,3).
8. The jawbone of an ass (Jdg 15:16).
9. 300 foxes with firebrands (Jdg 15:4).

And thus the Almighty demonstrates that His strength is made perfect in the weakness of His servants, so that no flesh should glory in the presence of God (1Co 1:27; 2Co 12:9).

See Lesson, Jdg/mnemonic.

Yahweh is called "the judge of Israel" (Jdg 11:27). Others, men and women, "judge" Israel, but only God is THE Judge!

The four "Ss": Sin, Suffering, Supplication, and Salvation.

God decrees that Israel should exterminate the nations of Canaan (Deu 7:2). Their iniquity had come to the full (Gen 15:16). But many Gentile tribes still remain in the Land (Jos 23:4,6).

Failure through compromise: "No king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1: 21:5). Violence and bloodshed. National disaster of Israel: moral decadence, idolatry, no faith in God to help them. "For our admonition" (1Co 10:1). Joshua had done work well in possessing Land (Deu 1:8). Caleb is example of faith in God (Jos 14:12). But many others failed (Psa 106:34,35).

V 1: AFTER THE DEATH OF JOSHUA: "The opening words of the Book of Judges present their reader with an awkward problem... the death and burial of that great leader [Joshua] are described in Jdg 2:8,9; and the opening section of the book up to that point includes hardly anything which is not to be found recorded already in the second half of the Book of Joshua. Every city whose capture is catalogued in Jdg 1 is already recorded (in Joshua) as taken whilst that leader was alive. And indeed it would be hard to believe that the many incursions, by which the various tribes appropriated their inheritances, took place only after the life and rule of Joshua had come to an end -- and he lived many years (40?) after the crossing of Jordan, dying at the age of 110.

"One suggestion for coping with the difficulty is that through some scribal error the name of Joshua has replaced that of Moses in this opening phrase. Read: 'And it came to pass after the death of Moses...' -- and no problem remains, except that of evidence; for there is not a vestige of manuscript support for such a reading. However, that does not rule it out as completely impossible. The Massoretes were not as infallible as they are often made out to be" (WJR).

THE ISRAELITES ASKED THE LORD: "Urim and Thummim"? Cp Jdg 20:18. From Josh 7:16-18 and into 1Sa and 2Sa, allusions to this means of divine guidance are fairly frequent.

TO GO UP: From Gilgal (in the early days of Joshua)? or just an idiom for assault? The order of the tribes in this ch is roughly the same as in Josh 15-19, but with Issachar omitted.

Jdg 1:2

JUDAH IS TO GO: To go first, because of Gen 49:8?

I HAVE GIVEN THE LAND INTO THEIR HANDS: Either (a) Judah's success to be a token of the rest; or (b) "I have begun to deliver..."

Jdg 1:3

Early on, Judah is quite eager, but ct v 19.

Judah and Simeon going together: God often sends His men in twos: Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; Acts 8:14.

Jdg 1:5

ADONI-BEZEK: "Lord of lightning" (cp Luk 10:18). Cp 70 rulers (v 7) with 70 disciples (Luk 10:17). Sym sin as a king (ie Rom 6), holding 70 nations (cp 70 in Gen 10) in slavery (WGos 459).

"Adoni-bezek, the Lord of Lightning, with 70 princes in thrall, was an apt figure of human sin and ignorance holding dominion over all the nations of the world (70 of them are listed in Gen 10; 12 wells and 70 palm trees at Rephidim; 70 bullocks offered in sacrifice at the Feast of Tabernacles). As Jesus sent out his 70 in twos, so also a typical two, Judah and Simeon, had laboured together to break the power of the tyrant. They routed him in the place of his strength, hunted him down, and he came to his end at Jerusalem! Then is it absurd to think of Jesus seeing his 70 engaged in a corresponding campaign over a more tyrannous Lord of Lightning?" (WJR).

ADONI-BEZEK: Adoni-bezek should prob be Adoni-barak, Lord of lightning. In Hebrew BZK is readily confused with BRK, as in Eze 1:13,14, and here esp because of the town Bezek in the same verse.

Jdg 1:7

THUMBS...TOES CUT OFF: So that they could neither fight nor flee.

NOW GOD HAS PAID ME BACK: Philistines also acknowledged the power of the God of Israel: 1Sa 4:7,8; 6:5.

JERUSALEM... HE DIED THERE: The "Lord of lightning" (v 5) comes to his end at Jerusalem!

Jdg 1:8

"Jerusalem also was captured, burnt, and left desolate by the men of Judah. The appointed boundary between Judah and Benjamin passed through Jerusalem. The former did not seem greatly anxious to make the most of their capture (a strange irony, this, in view of the city's later history!), so the Benjamites took it over, but in such inadequate strength that they could not hold it against the original Jebusites who gradually came back to their old homes. Eventually at some time during the period of the judges, they were able to expel the Israelites and reassert complete control there until the days of David (Jdg 1:8,21; 19:10-12; 2Sa 5:6)" (WJR).

SET IT ON FIRE: Sw Jdg 20:48.

Jdg 1:9

The 3 major divisions of southern Palestine. This is a summary of vv 10-20.

WESTERN FOOTHILLS: Heb "shephelah".

Jdg 1:10

THEY ADVANCED AGAINST...: Led by Caleb (v 20; Jos 14:6)?

CANAANITES: Here, Anakim: Josh 15:13-19; 11:21, a conquest certainly in Joshua's lifetime. Anak means "chain", a symbol of authority? Jdg 8:26.

KIRIATH ARBA: "City of four". Cp Hebron (sig confederacy).

AHIMAN: Ahiman means "brother of the god of good luck"; cp Isa 65:11 RV. Ct the tone of Num 13:22,33.

"Next, Caleb turned towards the locality which had been designated by Moses as his inheritance (Deu 1:36). Kirjath-Arba, which became Hebron, was inhabited by the sons of Anak, survivors of a race of giant stature. But Caleb, vigorous as ever (Josh 14:11), and with the same strong faith and undaunted spirit which had held firmly on to God's promises in the day of discouragement (Num 13,14), was confident that God would prosper his enterprise. And He did" (WJR).

Jdg 1:11

KIRIATH SEPHER: "City of books/scrolls". Site of a library? "This Kirjath-sepher (Book Town!), Othniel's inheritance, was also known as Kiriath-sannah (Josh 15:49), which might possibly mean Instruction Town. Its name became Debir, which is basically the Hebrew for Word. Thus all three names suggest literary pursuits. So it is not unreasonable to see here the existence of a primitive university. There is a hint of a possibility that in time it was taken over by the men of Simeon. This would perhaps account for the rabbinic tradition that it was from Simeon that the scribes of Israel originated" (WJR).

Jdg 1:12

ACSAH: Prob means "the girl with bangles".

Jdg 1:13

OTHNIEL: Is he also called Jabez (see 1Ch 4:9,10)? Forefather of one of David's captains: 1Ch 27:15.

Jdg 1:14

WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU: Caleb didn't wait for her to ask.

Jdg 1:15

"Half-way between Hebron and Beersheba was a place called Kiriath-sepher. Evidently too preoccupied in other directions to make this a personal target, Caleb called for volunteers against it, offering his own daughter in marriage as an added incentive. Othniel, his own nephew, responded to the challenge. At a blow he won a home and a wife. Achsah, with something of the go-getting spirit of her father, goaded Othniel to ask him to add a suitable area of cultivable land nearby. When her new husband was loath to press this further request, she did so herself, and was granted the upper and nether springs (fourteen of them, in two main groups) in the fertile hollow towards Hebron which would normally have been included in the territory of that place" (WJR).

Jdg 1:16

THE PEOPLE: Amalek? 1Sa 15:6.

ARAD: Same as Eder of Josh 15:21 (an easy error there).

Jdg 1:17


HORMAH: Hormah means "given to divine destruction". Cp Josh 19:4; 15:4 -- hence Simeon here.

"Yet further south, beyond Beersheba, Hormah was devastated, and the Kenites (the Midianite tribe of smiths to which Moses' father-in-law had belonged) moved in and appropriated the area for the Bedouin life they normally followed. Many years later they had to be warned off by Saul at the time of his campaign against the Amalekites (1Sa 15:6)" (WJR).

Jdg 1:18

TOOK: Or, perhaps, "did NOT take": "Success dried up when Judah turned towards the sea. Here they encountered the cities of the Philistines who, only recently, had come across the sea from Crete and settled on the coastal plain. They had chariots of iron, possibly supplied or bought from Egypt (LXX: for Rechab -- Egypt -- prevented them). This gave them a telling advantage in pitched battles, and the faith of the Israelites in the prospering providence of God wilted under the strain. The Judges record (Jdg 1:18) reads as though the Philistine cities were captured, but the next verse and the Septuagint version encourage the belief that a 'not' has somehow dropped out of the text here. In the LXX it is there six times over. In fact, not until the time of David and Solomon was Israelite supremacy asserted over that region. Thus Dan also had to go without part of his inheritance. It was this deprivation which led to the Danite migration to the north not long afterwards (see Jdg 18)" (WJR).

Jdg 1:19

IRON CHARIOTS: The Iron Age was just coming in. In this Egypt would be ahead of the Canaanite nations. Later: 1Sa 13:19,20.

Jdg 1:21

JEBUSITES: "Jebus" sig "dry", as does "Zion".

TO THIS DAY: Thus the Book was written before David's reign (2Sa 5). See note, Jdg 1:8.

Jdg 1:22

Vv 22-26: "Another collaboration in conquest was between Ephraim and Manasseh -- the house of Joseph. Their portions fell in the central area, side by side. First, they blockaded Bethel-Luz, a border city of Ephraim and Benjamin (Josh 18:13,22). It may be inferred that Luz was so-called by its Hittite inhabitants, whereas Bethel was the name given by Jacob and his descendants to the sanctuary of Jehovah just on the outskirts of the city (Gen 13:3; 28:11,19,22; 35:7,8).

"From a native of the place who was captured they learned, by trading the man's life for the secret, how best to force the defences. At Beth-haccerem archaeologists found a one-man escape hole neatly hidden away (cp 2Ki 25:4). Presumably something of this kind was made known to the men of Israel, so that they were able to take Luz from within. In accordance with Deu 20:16,17 the populace were destroyed; but since the man had been promised his life, the condition was insisted on that he cleared out, back to the Hittite land in the far north.

"This proved to be Ephraim's only big success. Was it lack of faith, resolution or armaments which led to such modest progress? Traditional fortresses still held by the Egyptians, like Beth-sh'an, Taanach, and Megiddo, stood out comfortably against the lightly-armed Israelites" (WJR).

Jdg 1:25

Vv 25-35: "This rather spineless disposition to tolerate the continuation of evil pagan religions in their midst, brought on Israel a sweeping censure: 'the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim' (Jdg 2:1), and there he reminded the assembly of all the people of their duty to the Lord who had so faithfully fulfilled His covenant to give them the Land. Then let them fulfil their side of the covenant, or they would soon find themselves paying with bitter experience for their indifference and flagging loyalty" (WJR).

Jdg 1:27

These cities controlled the trade route through Jezreel.

BETH SHAN: In this area lies the 80 meter (263 ft) high tell of Beth-shean, one of the oldest cities in Bible lands. The remains of 20 layers of settlement have been found going back more than three thousand years BC. The Israelites failed to conquer the city in Joshua's time (Jos 17:16; Jdg 1:27), and the fortified town was still under Philistine control in the time of Saul, the first king of Israel. When Saul and his sons were slain in battle their bodies were hung on the walls of this city by the victors (1Sa 31:6-13). Beth-shean is included in the cities of Solomon's kingdom (1Ki 4:12). When the Greek empire dominated the area the city was known as Scythopolis. Pliny, the Roman author (1st cent AD) mentions the city in his writings. It was one of the cities in the Roman province of Decapolis which was visited by Jesus (Mar 7:31). The city was further developed by the Romans and all around the ancient tell the archaeologists are busy uncovering this large city that was devastated by an earthquake. A recent find is a mosaic featuring the portrait of a zebra, an animal not found in Israel.

Jdg 1:28

STRONG: In this case, confident in themselves (but not necessarily strong in faith toward God).

BUT NEVER DROVE THEM OUT COMPLETELY: A policy put in force once again in the time of Solomon: 1Ki 4:12; 9:20-22. These surviving Canaanite settlements became running sores of moral infection: Jdg 2:12.

Jdg 1:29

GEZER: Gezer kept its independence until taken by an Egyptian army and given to Solomon as a wedding present! 1Ki 9:16.

Jdg 1:30

ZEBULUN... CANAANITES... FORCED LABOR: With Issachar it may have been the other way round: Gen 49:14,15. Would this explain the omission of Issachar from this chapter?

Jdg 1:31

ACCO: Prob the Crusader city of Acre.

Jdg 1:34

This explains Dan's migration to the far north (Jdg 18).

Jdg 1:35

AIJALON: The scene of Israel's mightiest victory now back in enemy hands! Josh 10:12.

THE POWER OF THE HOUSE OF JOSEPH INCREASED: Apparently after a while the border places which Dan was too weak to capture were taken by Ephraim.

Jdg 1:36

AMORITES: Sb "Edomites" (per LXX).

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