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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Judges 1

Verse 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?

Now after the death Joshua - probably not a long period; because the Canaanites seem to have taken advantage of the demise of the Hebrew leader to attempt recovering their lost position, and the Israelites were obliged to renew the war.

The children of Israel asked the Lord. The divine counsel on this, as on other occasions, was sought by Urim and Thummim, by applying to the high priest, who, according to Josephus, was Phinehas.

Saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first? The elders, who exercised the government in their respective tribes, judged rightly, that in entering upon an important expedition, they should have a leader nominated by divine appointment; and in consulting the oracle, they adopted a prudent course, whether the object of their inquiry related to the choice of an individual commander or to the honour of precedency among the tribes.

Verse 2

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

The Lord said, Judah shall go up. The predicted pre-eminence (Genesis 49:8) was thus conferred upon Judah by divine direction; and its appointment to take the lead in the ensuing hostilities was of great importance, as the measure of success by which its arms were crowned would animate the other tribes to make similar attempts against the Canaanites within their respective territories.

I have delivered the land into his hand - not the whole country, but the district assigned for his inheritance.

Verse 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.

Judah said unto Simeon ... Come up with me. Being conterminous tribes (Joshua 19:1-2), they had a common interest, and were naturally associated in this enterprise.

Verse 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.

Bezek. This place lay within the allotted domain of Judah. According to Eusebius and Jerome ('Onomast.'), it was near Beth-shan, as was another town of the same name (1 Samuel 11:8).

Verse 5

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

They found, [ wayimtsª'uw (H4672), they found, came upon].

Adoni-bezek - i:e., lord of Bezek; i:e., they surprised and routed him [Septuagint, [katelaboon] in a pitched battle, whence he fled; but being taken prisoner, be was treated with a severity unusual among the Israelites, because they "cut off his thumbs and his great toes." Barbarities of various kinds were commonly practiced on prisoners of war in ancient times; and the object of this particular mutilation of the hands and feet was to disable them for military service ever after. The infliction of such a horrid cruelty on this Canaanite chief would have been a foul stain on the character of the Israelites, if there were not reason for believing it was done by them as an act of retributive justice; and as such it was regarded by Adonibezek himself, whose conscience read his atrocious crimes in their punishment.

Verse 6

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

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

Threescore and ten kings. So great a number will not appear strange, when it is considered that, anciently, every ruler of a city or large town was called a king. It is not improbable that, in the large region of Canaan called the Negeb, or "south country," there might in earlier times have been many rulers, until a turbulent chief like Adoni-bezek devoured them in his insatiable ambition.

They brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died. They brought Adoni-bezek there in order, probably, that his fate being rendered so public might inspire terror far and wide.

Verse 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.

Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it. The capture of the important city Jerusalem, which ranks among the early incidents of the war of invasion (Joshua 15:63), is here noticed to account for its being in the possession of the Judahites. It appears, however, that it was only the southern part of the city that the men of Judah succeeded in taking. The fortress, as well as the northern part, remained in the possession of the Jebusites (Judges 1:21: cf. 2 Samuel 5:6). The sequel of this chapter, together with the whole of the next, is occupied with a general review of the proceedings subsequent to the invasion, so as to be a suitable introduction to the ensuing history.

Verse 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.

The children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt ... - (see the note at Joshua 15:21.)

Verse 10

And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron. [The Septuagint adds the following clause:-kai exeelthe Chebroon ex enantias, 'and Hebron came out to oppose them;' intimating that a pitched battle was fought, which ended in the total defeat of the inhabitants.]

Kirjath-arba - i:e., city of Arba (see the note at Joshua 15:13-14). [Septuagint, [Kariatharboksefer.]

Verse 11

And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher:

Debir. Its Canaanite name was Kirjath-sannah - i:e., 'city of palm' (Joshua 15:49); and Kirjath-sepher - i:e., 'city of book.' [Septuagint, polis grammatoon.] Its site is not certainly known. The story of the acquisition of this place is here repeated (see Joshua 15:16-19), with a few important variations.

Verse 12

And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. [The Septuagint has: Gothonieel huios Kenez adelfou Chaleb ho neooteros, the younger son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother.]

Verse 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?

When she came to him, [Septuagint, en tee eisodoo] - at her entrance, namely, into his tent; or, as she was about to start for his tent.

She moved him to ask of her father a field, [Septuagint, epeseisen auteen Gothonieel, Othniel urged her to ask]:

And she lighted from off her ass. [The Septuagint has: egonguze kai ekrazen apo tou hupozugiou, she complained and cried from the donkey.]

Verse 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.

Give me also springs of water, [ gulot (H1543), bubbling fountains; Septuagint, lutroosin hudatos, a free flow of water].

And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs. [The Septuagint reads: Kai edooken autee Chaleb kata teen kardian autees lutroosin meteooroon kai lutroosin tapeinoon, and Caleb gave her, according to the wish of her heart, the copious current of the higher and lower springs.]

Verse 16

And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people. The children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, [ uwbneey (H1121) Qeeyniy (H7017)] - and the children of a Kenite; namely, Moses' father-in-law: called the or a Kenite, as probably descended from the people of that name (Numbers 24:21-22). If he might not himself. his posterity did, accept the invitation of Moses (Numbers 16:32) to accompany the Israelites to Canaan. Their first encampment was in "the city of palm trees" - not Jericho, of course, which was utterly destroyed, but a place in the surrounding district, perhaps En-gedi, in early times called Hazezon-tamar (Genesis 14:7), from the palm grove which sheltered it (Lightfoot, 2:, 7). Thence they removed, from some unknown cause, and, associating themselves with Judah, joined in an expedition against Arad, in the southern part of Canaan (Numbers 21:1). On the conquest of that district some of the pastoral Kenites pitched their tents there, while others migrated to the north (Judges 4:17). It may be added, that some curious information respecting the Kenites was communicated to the meeting of the British Association at Cambridge (1862), by George Williams, in an account of a tribe of Arabs inhabiting a portion of the Arabian desert east of the Ghor - i:e., a part of the ancient land of Midian. These people are described as being much superior to the ordinary Bedonins, and in several respects very different from them. They profess the Israelite religion, and declare themselves to be Ishamaelites, descended from the Rechabites, "the children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law," affirming that they reside in the original country of their forefathers. A peculiarity of the account was that these Bedouins are said to claim to be both Ishmaelites and Midianites

(Judges 8:2-24; Genesis 25:18) (Dr. Beke, 'A Few Words with Bishop Colenso,' pp. 11, 12).

Verse 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.

Judah went with Simeon his brother. The course of the narrative is here resumed from Judges 1:9, and an account given of Judah returning the service of Simeon (Judges 1:3), by aiding in the prosecution of the war within the neighbouring tribes.

And they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath - or Zephatah (2 Chronicles 14:10), lying in the southern portion of Canaan.

And the name of the city was called Hormah. This name was not now given for the first time. On their early journey toward Canaan the Israelites had attempted to penetrate the mountainous region where Zephath was situated, and they were repulsed (Numbers 14:1-45); but on arriving at Kadesh they overthrew it, and called the place Hormah. On their departure from that neighborhood the native tribes resumed possession of it; and although Joshua made an effective attack upon the king (Joshua 10:40-42; Joshua 12:14), its final subjugation was not accomplished until after his death, by the confederate arms of Judah and Simeon, who, in pursuance of the Israelite vow to doom it to destruction, sank the old name Zephath in the thenceforth permanent appellation Hormah.

Verse 18

Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.

Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof. The confederate tribes, pursuing their incursions in that quarter, came successively to Gaze, Askelon, and Ekron, which they took. But the Philistines seem soon to have regained possession of these cities.

Verse 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.

The Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain. The war was of the Lord, whose omnipotent power would have ensured their success in every encounter, whether on the mountains or the plains, with foot soldiers or cavalry. It was distrust-the want of a simple and firm reliance on the promise of God-that made them afraid of the iron chariots (see the note at Joshua 11:4-9). It has been alleged from this passage, by many sceptical writers, that the Israelites regarded the God of Israel as a local deity, who was superior to the gods of their enemies in some, but not in all, instances. The allegation is groundless; for the proper antecedent to "he drave" is not "the Lord" (Yahweh) but Judah. And thus there is no absurdity in the statement; for, although "the Lord" did greatly aid the arms of Judah, He might be pleased, in perfect consistency, to withhold that aid in cases where they showed a want or weakness of faith.

Chariots of iron. The Canaanite war chariots were probably, like the Assyrian, made of wood, largely tipped with iron ('Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 349, note).

Verse 20

And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem. Judah had expelled the people from their part of Jerusalem (Judges 1:8). The border of the two tribes ran through the city. Israelites and natives must have been closely intermingled.

Verse 22

And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.

The house of Joseph - the tribe of Ephraim, as distinguished from Manasseh (Judges 1:27).

Verse 23

And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 24-26

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.

The spies ... said ... Show us ... the entrance into the city - i:e., the avenues to the city, and the weakest part of the walls.

We will show thee mercy. The Israelites might employ these means of getting possession of a place which was divinely appropriated to them: they might promise life and rewards to this man, though he and all the Canaanites were doomed to destruction (Joshua 2:12-14); but we may assume that the promise was suspended on his embracing the true religion, or quitting the country, as he did. If they had seen him to be firmly opposed to either of these alternatives, they would not have constrained him, by promises any more than by threats, to betray his countrymen. But if they found him disposed to be serviceable, and to aid the invaders in executing the will of God, they might promise to spare him. Luz - (see the note at Genesis 12:8; Genesis 29:19.)

Verse 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.

Neither did Manasseh drive out ... The same course of subjugation was carried on in the other tribes to a partial extent, and with varying success. Many of the natives, no doubt, during the progress of this exterminating war saved themselves by flight, and became, it is thought, the first colonists in Greece, Italy, and other countries. But a large portion made a stout resistance, and retained possession of their old abodes in Canaan. In other cases, when the natives were vanquished, avarice led the Israelites to spare the idolaters, contrary to the express command of God; and their disobedience to His orders in this matter involved them in many troubles which this book describes.

The inhabitants of Beth-shean and her towns - literally, 'her daughters.' Beth-shean or Beth-shah (1 Samuel 31:10; 1 Samuel 31:12; 2 Samuel 21:12) belonged to the allotment of Manasseh (cf. 1 Chronicles 7:29), though within the boundaries of Issachar (Joshua 17:11), among whose towns, however, it is not ranked.

Taanach - also belonged to Manasseh, though it was within the limits of Issachar (Joshua 17:11).

Dor - a maritime town on the western border of Manasseh, and north of Dan, near Carmel, now Tantoura.

Ibleam - belonged to Manasseh, though it also was situated within the limits of Isaachar. It was near Jenin.

Megiddo - on the southern border of the great plain of Esdraelon, and commanding an important pass from the north into the highlands of Judea.

Verse 28

And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.

When Israel was strong ... they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.

Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch. 7:) gives a full commentary on this passage. 'Contenting themselves with the tributes which were paid to them, the Israelites grew effeminate, as to fighting any more against their enemies; but applied themselves to the cultivation of their lands, which producing them great plenty and riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlement, and indulged themselves in luxuries and pleasures.'

Verse 29

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

Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer - a town and petty kingdom (Joshua 12:12) situated in the southern border of Ephraim, westward (1 Chronicles 7:28) between the lower Beth-heron and the Mediterranean (Joshua 16:3).

Verse 30

Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.

Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron = Katta [Septuagint, Kedroon], as may be inferred from its association with Nahalol here and Joshua 19:15. It is supposed to be identified with Sepphoris, now Seffurieh.

Nor the inhabitants of Nahalol, [Septuagint, Doomana] - unknown.

Verse 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:

Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho. The name Accho was for a time superseded by the Greek form of Ptolemais, which is now forgotten, and the place goes by the name of Akka.

Ahlab, [Septuagint, Dalaf] - supposed (Reland, 'Palaestina,' pp, 813-817) to be Gushe Halab, the Greek Giscala which has been identified by Robinson with el-Jish, near Safed, in the mountainous region northwest of the sea of Galilee ('Biblical Researches,' 3:, p. 368).

Achzib, [Septuagint, Aschazees] - afterward Ecdippa (Josephus, 'Jewish Wars,' b. 1:, ch. 13:, sec. 4), now Es-zib, a small hamlet situated on a rising ground close to the seaside (Porter, 'Handbook,' p. 389).

Helbah, [Septuagint, Chebda] - probably situated on the plain of Phoenicia; but not yet ascertained.

Aphik = Aphek [Septuagint, Nai, or Nafek]. It must not be confounded with Aphik, now Tik, east of Jordan.

Rehob. From its connection with Aphik, it is probably that referred to in Joshua 19:30. Since it is here imputed to the Asherites as a fault that they did not expel the Canaanite population of the maritime towns specified, there cannot be a clearer refutation than this passage furnishes of Michaelis' theory, formerly adverted to, that the border of Israel was not to extend to the coast, but that Phoenicia was to remain untouched in the possession of its commercial occupiers. He himself acknowledges this statement to be fatal to his views, and yet he labours to support then by alleging the words "inhabitants of Zidon" to be an interpolation. But for this conjecture there is no warrant whatever.

Verse 32

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 33

Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-she'mesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-she'mesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.

Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh (see the note at Joshua 19:38 ), nor the inhabitants of Beth-anath - called by Eusebius and Jerome, Batanoea, fifteen miles east of Caesarea, and famous for medicinal springs.

Verse 34

And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley: No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

The hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries. 'Midway between the open rich vales of Manasseh and Ephraim, and the garden recesses and pasture-grounds in the neighbourhood of Hebron, about Beth-el and Jebus, the highland territory was comparatively poor and bare; and the occupation of it was not grudged by the Hebrews to the tribes whom they displaced from their richer settlements. There, accordingly, we find the Canaanites whom they weakly permitted to continue in the land, or in that part of the land actually possessed by them. It must be borne in mind that the provinces of Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan, mentioned Judges 1:30-34, were then only theoretically assigned to these tribes, who did not enter into actual possession of their estates until long after, and then only partially. The remaining Canaanites were driven by Joshua to the bare mountain heights in the country actually conquered and possessed (Judges 1:21-22)' (Draws 'Scripture Lands,' p. 104; also Appendix D).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/judges-1.html. 1871-8.