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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 1

Verses 1-21

Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5 . The Conquests and Settlements of the Israelites in Western Palestine.— From this introduction, which is one of the most valuable parts of early Hebrew history, we learn that the various tribes invaded the land either singly or in small groups; that they had failures as well as successes; that in many instances they did not destroy the older population, but settled peacefully among them; and that, in particular, the larger cities of Canaan, as well as the fertile valleys and the Maritime Plain, remained in the possession of the Canaanites. The conquests of Judah were separated from those of Joseph by a belt of walled cities with Jerusalem in its centre. Another line of strongholds, extending from Bethshan near the Jordan to Dor on the sea coast, shut up Ephraim and Manasseh in the central highlands, and separated them from the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, which settled in Galilee. The fortunes of Israel in the time of the Judges were largely determined by these facts.

Judges 1:1-Ecclesiastes : . The Settlements of Judah.— At Jericho ( Judges 1:16) the tribes inquire of the oracle— probably by the casting of lots— which tribe shall open the attack upon Canaan, and, in accordance with the response, Judah and Simeon begin the invasion. They capture the mountain towns of Hebron, Debir, and Hormah, but fail to conquer the coast plain.

Judges 1:1 . The words “ after the death of Joshua,” added probably by R, are meant to connect this book with the end of the previous one (see Joshua 24:29); but events are presently narrated which expressly occurred in the lifetime of Joshua ( Judges 2:6). The Canaanites were the inhabitants of Western Palestine generally. The Phœ nicians also called their land Canaan and themselves Canaanites.

Judges 1:2 f. The tribes of Israel are figuratively regarded as individuals. Judah has the precedence, as in the story of Joseph (Genesis 43 f.). He is accompanied by Simeon. Both were Leah tribes ( Genesis 29:33; Genesis 29:35). An attempt made by Simeon and Levi to securea settlement at Shechem (pp. 65, 248)— probably about this very time, though no allusion is made to it here— ended in disaster ( Genesis 49:5-Judges :). Simeon was thereafter merged in the tribe of Judah.

Judges 1:3 . The idea suggested by “ my lot” and “ thy lot” is that the oracle assigned to each tribe the region which it was to conquer— its allotment.

Judges 1:4 . The Perizzites ( Genesis 13:7 *) were the peasantry of Palestine, who lived in unwalled villages ( Perazoth) . The text is in some confusion, the victory being mentioned before the battle. The round number 10,000 was probably added by R.

Judges 1:5 . Adonibezek may be another form of the name Adonizedek ( Joshua 10:1; Joshua 10:3). Moore suggests that the oldest narrator (J) wrote “ Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem.” Bezek was near Jerusalem, but the site is unknown. The Bezek of 1 Samuel 11:8 is far to the north of Judah.

Judges 1:6 . The cutting off of thumbs and great toes was a mild barbarity in comparison with many of the atrocities of modern warfare.

Judges 1:7 . The seventy kings may be regarded as another round number. In those days every petty chief was the “ king” of his town or village. The eating under the table is, of course, hyperbolical. Adonibezek felt and expressed the grim irony of a fate which he accepted as a Divine retribution. In the end of the verse, “ they” is ambiguous, meaning either the men of Judah or the king’ s own servants. The latter interpretation gives a good sense, and avoids an historical contradiction, for the capture of Jerusalem did not take place till long after Israel invaded Canaan, being one of David’ s great achievements ( 2 Samuel 5:6-1 Samuel :).

Judges 1:8 . This must be regarded as a late insertion, intended to explain how the men of Judah could take the king to Jerusalem. Its variance with Judges 1:21 is unmistakable.

Judges 1:9 . The mountain (or Highlands), the South (or Negeb (p. 32)), and the lowland (or Shephelah (p. 31)) are the familiar names of the three constituent parts of the land of Canaan— the central backbone, the steppe which merges in the Sinaitic desert, and the coast plain.

Judges 1:10 . The capture of Hebron (p. 31), which is elsewhere ascribed to Caleb ( Joshua 15:13 f.), is here attributed to Judah. Kiriatharba, the original name of Hebron, probably means Tetrapolis, or city of four quarters ( cf. Tripoli). It lay in an upland valley, 20 m. S of Jerusalem, and 3040 ft. above the sea. Its modern Arabic name is el-Halil, “ the Friend,” from its association with Abraham, the friend of God ( 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). After the names of the three giants the LXX adds “ the sons of Anak” (but see Judges 1:20).

Judges 1:11 . The pronoun “ the” means Caleb (see vv. Judges 1:20). Debir is probably ed-Daharî yeh, to th e SW. of Hebron. It once bore the name of Kiriath-sepher, “ Book City,” which has suggested to scholars many curious fancies. In Joshua 15:49 the name is given as Kiriath-sannah.

Judges 1:12-Ezra : . Caleb’ s offer of his daughter’ s hand brings on the scene his nephew Othniel, who bravely captures a city and wins a bride. Caleb and Othniel were really clan names, and the latter’ s marriage doubtless points to an ancient union of the two clans.

Judges 1:14 . Instead of “ she moved him,” the LXX and Vulg. have the more obvious reading “ he moved her,” but the text, which means “ she persuaded him that they should ask,” may be correct. Achsah lighted down from her ass in token of respect ( cf. Genesis 24:64).

Judges 1:15 . The “ blessing” she asks is not verbal but substantial— a present. Her plea is that she has received a home in the waterless South (the Negeb), and she begs that most coveted of eastern possessions— an estate in which there are springs of water. She has her desire, becoming the happy owner of Upper and Lower Springs (these are really proper names). In the clan of Othniel the story would ever afterwards be as good as a title-deed. The wells must have lain between Debir and Hebron, and were probably the fourteen springs of the modern Seil ed-Dilbeh.

Judges 1:16 . Probably “ Hobab” or “ Jethro” has fallen out of the text before “ the Kenite.” The Kenites, a branch of the nomadic Midianites, lived in the Negeb on friendly terms with Judah ( 1 Samuel 30:29), in which they were ultimately absorbed. This verse, if the text is correct, seems to indicate that the fusion took place even at the time of the Conquest. But for “ the people” (‘ am) we should probably read, with some MSS. of the LXX, “ the Amalekites.” In that case the meaning is, that as yet the Kenites were true to their nomadic instincts; they still heard the call of the desert. “ Arad” survives in the modern Tell ‘ arad, 18 m. SE. of Hebron.

Judges 1:17 . Zepheth is named only here; site unknown. The city was “ utterly destroyed,” lit. “ devoted,” “ put under a ban” ( herem pp. 99, 114), which means that it was razed to the ground and its inhabitants exterminated, to the glory of God! Such being its fate, the city was called Hormah, “ Devoted City.” The derivation, however, is fanciful, and the more likely meaning is “ Sacred City” ( cf. Hermon).

Judges 1:18 . The statement that three of the cities of the Philistines were captured is at variance with the very next verse, and with Joshua 13:2 f. The sentence must be regarded as an interpolation. The LXX reads “ Judah did not take.”

Judges 1:19 . The “ chariots of iron,” which rendered the dwellers in the plains invincible, were wooden chariots plated or studded with iron. On the use of iron (pp. 57, 252) in Palestine, see Macalister, History of Civilisation in Palestine, pp. 43, 59.

Judges 1:20 . This verse would be in its proper context before Judges 1:10. Instead of “ sons of Anak” read “ giants,” lit. “ sons of (long) neck” (‘ anak) . It is a mistake to suppose that there was a giant called Anak ( Numbers 13:28 *, Deuteronomy 1:28 *).

Judges 1:21 . In Joshua 15:63 *, which is almost identical with this verse, Judah stands in the place of Benjamin, and the former word is doubtless original. Benjamin was introduced by R, who regarded Jerusalem as being in the territory of that tribe.

Verses 1-36

Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5 . The Conquests and Settlements of the Israelites in Western Palestine.— From this introduction, which is one of the most valuable parts of early Hebrew history, we learn that the various tribes invaded the land either singly or in small groups; that they had failures as well as successes; that in many instances they did not destroy the older population, but settled peacefully among them; and that, in particular, the larger cities of Canaan, as well as the fertile valleys and the Maritime Plain, remained in the possession of the Canaanites. The conquests of Judah were separated from those of Joseph by a belt of walled cities with Jerusalem in its centre. Another line of strongholds, extending from Bethshan near the Jordan to Dor on the sea coast, shut up Ephraim and Manasseh in the central highlands, and separated them from the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, which settled in Galilee. The fortunes of Israel in the time of the Judges were largely determined by these facts.

Verses 22-26

Judges 1:22-Ezekiel : . The Josephites Capture Bethel.— This is the only exploit of Ephraim and Manasseh recorded here, the purpose of the writer being rather to emphasize the incompleteness of the conquest than to enumerate victories. Bethel is the modern Beitin, 10 m. N. of Jerusalem.

Judges 1:24 . What “ the watchers,” or scouts, wished to discover was not the gate, which they could see with their own eyes, but the point where the defences were weakest and an entrance could be most easily effected.

Judges 1:25 . The citizen whom they questioned was put on the horns of a dilemma, having either to defy his enemies or to betray his friends. He chose the safe course, which meant death to all the inhabitants of the town except himself and his own family.

Judges 1:26 . With no apparent qualms of conscience, or sense of dishonour, he went and founded a new Luz in the “ land of the Hittites,” i.e. Northern Syria, as the Amarna tablets indicate. The exact site of the new Luz is unknown.

Verses 27-34

Judges 1:27-Nahum : . Partial Successes.— Several of the tribes failed to win the prizes they coveted. Much of the allotted territory remained in the hands of the Canaanites.

Judges 1:27 . Beth-shan is now Beisâ n. Situated in a fertile part of the Jordan Valley, 3 m. W. of the river, it commanded the Vale of Jezreel (Wady Jâ lû d), which led up to the plain of Esdraelon. Its “ daughters” are its daughter towns, or dependencies. Taanach and Megiddo (p. 30), towns 5 m. apart, were on the south side of the Great Plain; the one is now Ta’ annek, the other probably Tell el-Mutesellim, the ancient name being lost. Both have been recently explored, and have yielded a wealth of pre-Israelite and Israelite remains (Driver, Schweich Lectures, 1909, pp. 80– 86), Ibleam may be Khirbet Bal’ ame, 8 m. SE. of Taanach. The Canaanites “ would dwell” in that territory, i.e. they emphatically and resolutely maintained themselves in it.

Judges 1:28 . It was not till the days of David that the Israelites “ waxed strong” and captured those cities, after which Solomon put the Canaanites to task work ( 1 Kings 9:15-Esther :).

Judges 1:29 . Gezer ( Joshua 10:33 *, 1 Kings 9:16 *), now Tell-Jezer, was in the SW. of Ephraim, at the edge of the Shephelah. It has been lately explored by Professor Macalister (Driver, Schweich Lectures, pp. 46– 59).

Judges 1:30-Jonah : . The sites of Kitron and Nahalol are unknown. The tribe of Zebulun, whose allotment was in S. Galilee, was more successful than that of Asher (pp. 248f.), which settled in the Hinterland of Phoenicia, or that of Naphtali, which penetrated the eastern half of Upper Galilee. While “ the Canaanites dwelt among” the first of these Galilean tribes, and were put to task work, the other two “ dwelt among the Canaanites,” i.e. they achieved at first no real conquest, but settled as best they could. Acco (p. 28), Zidon, and Achzib are now Akka, Saida, and ez-Zib. The sites of the other towns are unknown.

Judges 1:34 f. The Danites took possession of a fertile valley in the SW. of Ephraim, and tried to get a footing in the rich land towards the coast, but were driven back into the district about Zorah and Eshtaol (see Judges 13-16). Cramped in this territory, the main body of the tribe migrated to the source of the Jordan (Judges 18). Mount Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim. along with Jerusalem and other towns, formed a belt of Canaanite strongholds separating Judah from Ephraim. Har-heres (“ mount of the sun” ) is named only here. It is probably the same as Beth-shemesh (“ temple of the sun” ), the modern Ain-shems. Aijalon is now Yâ lô , 14 m. W. of Jerusalem. Shaalbim has not been identified.

Judges 1:36 . The text is uncertain, and there was no proper “ border” between the Israelites and the Amorites. Some recensions of the LXX read “ the Edomites,” which is accepted by most scholars. The ascent of Akrabbim (“ the scorpions” ) is perhaps Na kb es-Safâ , on the way from Hebron to Petra. The position of Sela is not known ( 2 Kings 14:7 *); it is natural to think of Petra, but that is too far south.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Judges 1". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/judges-1.html. 1919.