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On his first missionary journey, Paul went to Antioch in Pisidia and preached in the synagogue. He told of God's care for his people in bringing them out of Egypt, then said, "And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet" ( Act_13:19-20 ). The book of Judges covers some of the events of that period, though Eli and Samuel would also be included according to Paul's account. The events of Ruth occurred during the days of the judges as well ( Rth_1:1 ). Keil and Delitzsch describe judges as those "who procured justice or right for the people of Israel, not only by delivering them out of the power of their foes, but also by administering the laws and rights of the Lord ( Jdg_2:16-19 )." They did more than judge matters of the law. In fact, they served more as a head of government under the direction of God. When the people asked for a king, God said they had not rejected the old judge and prophet Samuel but God as their ruler ( 1Sa_8:1-9 ).
The Bible does not tell us of an unbroken line of judges serving in Israel. Instead, God ruled through the law he had given Moses and the work of the heads of tribes and elders of the people. It seems God only raised up judges when the people cried out from their suffering under the hands of their enemies. Such suffering was the result of their rebellion against God as can be seen by three clear warnings issued by him in 2:1-4; 6:7-10; and 10:10-14. It appears the judges did not usually rule over all of Israel at one time but the tribe, or group of tribes, that was particularly being oppressed at the time.
Joshua had promised the children of Israel that faithfulness to God would yield great blessings. They would be able to drive out the rest of the enemy, with only one Israelite chasing a thousand of the enemy. He also warned of the danger of forming close relationships with other nations and failure to drive them out ( Jos_23:6-13 ). When Joshua died, Israel asked God who should go up before them to fight against the Canaanites ( Jdg_1:1 ; Num_27:21 ).
God selected Judah to lead the rest of the tribes into battle. Judah asked Simeon to go with him and promised to help him conquer his lot if he would help conquer that of Judah. They killed 10,000 Canaanites and Perizzites in Bezek and captured their king, Adoni-bezek. His thumbs and great toes were cut off so that he could not flee nor take up arms. Though his punishment may seem harsh to us, he saw it as just retribution, saying, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me." His imagery was like a dog eating under the master's table and describes the worst possible humiliation. Israel led him to Jerusalem, where he died ( Jdg_1:2-8 ).
God blessed the efforts of Judah and Simeon as they conquered the mountains of their two lots. They failed to conquer the inhabitants of the valleys because the people who lived there had iron tipped chariots ( Jdg_1:9-19 ). Other failures to drive out the nations are recorded in Judges 1:21, 27, 29, 30, 31-32, 33 and 34 . Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh did destroy the people of Bethel.
Spies captured a man of that city and got him to show them another way into the city, with the promise they would spare his family. They conquered Bethel and slew all in it but that man. He went into the land of the Hittites and built a city named Luz, after his former place of abode ( Jdg_1:22-26 ). Manasseh, Naphtali and Dan did also force some of the nations to pay tribute to them, but they remained there as a thorn in Israel's side because they were not driven out (1:28, 33, 35-36).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Judges 1". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent