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Bible Commentaries
Judges 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-36

Through Moses, the children of Israel were let out of Egypt and God began to form a national kind of identity and began to forge the beginnings of a nation. At the death of Moses, Joshua, who was the servant of Moses, took over and continued to lead the people now into the land that God had promised to their father Abraham that should be theirs, that they should inhabit. And thus, God keeping his covenant and his word to Abraham.

Now the book of Judges takes up the next period in their history. There were some thirteen Judges over Israel. They became sort of quasi leaders of Israel. They would judge in the matters of the people. They were leaders but never fully empowered by the people as rulers. They were in an interim period between Joshua and the establishing of a monarchy at which time Saul became the first king over Israel.

So this book of Judges covers this period of time between the death of Joshua and the coming in of Samuel, who was the final judge over Israel and who anointed Saul to be the first king over Israel, where their form of government was changed from a theocracy, God ruling over to people, to a monarchy. Now the theocracy was not successful simply because the people would not submit to the rule of God.

In the book of Judges we find a pattern that emerges, a very tragic pattern, and that is during the time when they were blessed, at ease, without war. They would turn to other gods and begin to worship Baal and Ashtoreth and the various gods of the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Hittites and the Jebusites, the people in the land in which they were dwelling. And because of their apostasy God would give them over into the hand of their enemies and they would be oppressed by their enemies. And being oppressed by their enemies they would cry out unto the Lord and the Lord would raise up a judge to be a deliverer and they would be delivered from the oppression from their enemies. Then they would have a period of prosperity, the judge would die and back into the same old pattern of turning their backs on God and beginning again to worship Baal and the other gods and the groves and all. And it's just a sad, tragic story of failure, the failure of consistency in the worship of God and in the honoring of God.

So, as we enter into the book of Judges we enter the scene at the death of Joshua there in verse one.

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 1:1 )

You remember the book of Joshua closed where the people were in the land but there was yet much of the land that was not yet conquered. They had not completely driven out the enemies. They had not yet taken all of the territories that God had promised unto them. So when Joshua died they inquired and they said, "Who shall go up first to take the land that God has given?"

[And so] the LORD spoke and said, Judah shall go first ( Judges 1:2 ):

Now you remember that Judah was given that land south of Jerusalem. And so Judah said to Simeon, whose lot was the extreme south, even south of Judah down towards Beersheba and all, said to Simeon, "You go out and help us take our portion and then we'll help you to take your portion." And so Judah began to attack the cities and take the cities and possess the cities that God had apportioned unto Judah.

And they came to Bezek: and there they killed ten thousand men of Bezek and took the city and Adonibezek ( Judges 1:4-5 ):

Now Adoni means "lord" so he was the lord of Bezek or the king of Bezek. They captured him and they cut off his thumbs and his great toes.

And Adonibezek said, There have been sixty or seventy kings, that have gathered their meat under my table without their thumbs and toes: as I have done, so hath God requited me ( Judges 1:7 ).

So it was a practice, I guess, of this particular king, the lord of Bezek when he would conquer a king to cut off his great toes and his thumbs and he would actually be there at the kings' table. Seventy kings he had conquered this way. And he said, "As I have done, now God has requited unto me."

There's a very interesting scripture, it declares "as a man soweth, so shall he also reap." And so many times a person can say, "As I have done, so has God requited unto me."

"For in the same manner in which ye judge, ye shall be judged and whatever measure you meat, it shall be meated out to you. As I have done, so has God requited me."

And they fought against Jerusalem and they had taken it; they'd smitten it with the edge of the sword. Then they went down to fight against the Canaanites that swelled in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley. And they went against the Canaanites in Hebron.

And there Caleb said, the one who takes Kirjathsepher, I will give him Achsah my daughter as a wife ( Judges 1:12 ).

And so Otheniel who was the nephew of Caleb or the cousin of Achsah, went up and took the city and so Caleb gave her to him for a wife. So she then came to her dad and asked for springs. And the story is told there in chapter one of how he gave her the upper and the lower springs for that area. Then we have the tragic story in verse twenty-one.

The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem ( Judges 1:21 );

But the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

The house of Joseph, went up against Bethel: the LORD was with them ( Judges 1:22 ).

They found a man and they said, "Tell us where the secret entrance to Bethel is and we will spare you. So the entrance to the city of Bethel, they went in and destroyed it, but they saved the man and his house alive who went out and established another city, named it after the original name of Bethel which is Luz.

But then Manasseh [in verse twenty-seven] did not drive out the inhabitants of Bethsean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, not the other cities ( Judges 1:27 ),

Including-here is Megiddo. Any of you that have been in Israel have seen the ruins of Megiddo.

And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out. Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites,... Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron [and several cities]. Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, or Zidon ( Judges 1:28-31 ),

And so the story is that of an incomplete victory. Now, God had told them "When you come into the land, you're to utterly drive out the inhabitants thereof. You're not to make any covenant of peace with them. You're not to dwell together and try to coexist with them in peaceful terms." Utterly drive them out was the command of God. But here is a failure on their part to obey the voice of God.

Now there was no doubt, a rational in their minds. They no doubt thought, "Well, if we allow these people to stay here-actually they want to be on friendly terms. They'll be strengthened by us. We can be strengthened by them being here, and we ought to be able to live peaceably with them, coexist together and they can be our servants. They can cut our wood for us and gather, you know, our crops. And they can build our buildings. And we'll just use them." Whatever the rational is, it is wrong if it's opposed to what God has ordered.

Now, many times in our own minds, what God has required or what God has commanded of us doesn't seem to be for our best interest. It so often seems that we can figure out a better plan that what God did and we are often guilty, as were the children of Israel of not completely obeying the commandment of the Lord because we don't understand why God commanded it. It doesn't make sense to us, but God has a reason for everything that he commands. And whether it makes sense to me or not, it is important that I obey the commandment of God because you'll always find out that God always knew what he was talking about and there was a reason behind the command.

Now, the command to utterly exterminate the people seems to be harsh, it seems to be cruel. To utterly drive them out from their land, that seems to be a very cruel command. And it may be that the people just felt, "Well, that's too harsh, that's too cruel. We don't want to do that." And thus in disobeying God it brought ultimate problems to their children, to their descendents. It became a perennial problem afterwards because they failed to completely obey the voice of the Lord.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Judges 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/judges-1.html. 2014.
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