OT History Part 1 – Judges 1-2

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”
The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”
The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.
When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.
After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).
And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.
One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”
She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.
The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.
Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.” So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.
But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.  Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.

  • Judges 1:1-36

The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”
When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

  • Judges 2:1-23

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Judges 1:1-4 ‘Judah Promised Victory over the Canaanites’: “As the conquest of Canaan began under Joshua and continued following his death, the Lord provided divine guidance and promised victory to the tribe of Judah, which was to be the first to advance against the enemy. The narrative relays immediate fulfillment: ‘Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”’ The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” … Judah went up, and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands’ (1:1-4).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Judges 1:19 ‘iron chariots vs. God’: “The power of the Canaanites in Joshua’s day had been broken. But now that he was dead, the old races began to build up again, even as we often find our sins, which we thought were all dead, suddenly finding fresh courage and attempting to set up their empire once more. The tribe of Judah was commissioned to lead the way (1:1-2), and we see three things in its conduct of the enterprise. First, the Lord’s power was trusted and magnified, for ‘the LORD was with Judah and enabled them to take possession of the hill country.’ Second, by this royal tribe the Lord’s power was not trusted and, therefore, was restrained. Yet, as if to rebuke them, they had a singular incident set before them for the vindication of God’s power. Caleb, that grand old man who still lived on-the sole survivor of all who came out of Egypt-had obtained Hebron as his portion. So he went up in his old age, when his bones were sore and set, and slew the three sons of Anak, even three mighty giants, and took possession of their city. In this way the Lord’s power was trusted and vindicated from the slur that Judah had brought on it. But Judah did not conquer the men of the iron chariots because God, in that business, was not with them. As far as their faith went, God kept touch with them, and they could do anything and everything. But when they despondingly thought they could not drive out the inhabitants of the wide valleys, then they failed utterly. They were afraid because of the chariots. They said, ‘It is of no use; we cannot meet these terrible machines.’ Therefore, they did not pray or make an attempt to meet the foe. If they had exhibited the same faith about the chariots of iron as about the men of the hills, the chariots of iron would have been no better than chariots of straw, for the Lord ‘shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces; he sets wagons ablaze’ (Ps 46:9). If they had believed in God and gone forth in his name, the horses would soon have fled, as they did when God gave his people faith.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Judges 1:20 ‘sons of Anak’: “Anak was an early inhabitant of central Canaan near Hebron from whom came an entire group of unusually tall people called the Anakim (Deut. 2:10). They frightened the ten spies (Num. 13:33; Deut. 9:2), but were finally driven out of the land by Caleb (Josh. 14:12-15; 15:13, 14; 21:11) with the exception of some who resettled with the Philistines (Josh. 11:22). ‘The sons of Anak’ was used as a term equivalent to ‘the Anakim.’ ”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 1:34 ‘Amorites forced … Dan’: “Like all other tribes, Dan had a territory given to them, but they failed to claim the power of God to conquer that territory. Later, they capitulated even more by accepting defeat and migrating to another territory in the north, becoming idolatrous (Judg. 18).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 2:1-3 ‘The Prediction of the Incomplete Conquest’: “Due to Israel’s disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant, the Lord carried through on the covenant’s provision for such disobedience and promised Israel an incomplete conquest of the Promised Land.
“The angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you, and … you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done? Therefore I also said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” ‘ (2:1-3).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Judges 2:4 ‘All of the land, for them only’: “Besides eliminating a wicked people from the land, the order to slay the Canaanites had a second objective, namely, that Israel might dwell alone in the land and might keep to themselves—the great nonconformists of the universe—separated from all the rest of mankind, both by residence and by manners, not following the customs of the nations around them or falling into their sins. That they might be sanctified, they were to be separated (‘There is a people living alone; it does not consider itself among the nations’; Nm 23:9).  It is an evil thing, under any pretext, to depart in any degree from the commandment of the Most High God. But Israel forgot this. In certain places they said to the Canaanites, ‘Let us be neighbors. Let us dwell together.’ Certain persons thought God’s requirement was too sever—that he was, after all, a mass of mercy and that the best thing they could do was to be kindly tolerant of these Canaanites and make the best terms they could with them. Perhaps it would be better to learn something of their civilization, their arts and sciences, their theory of religion—for we ought to have liberal views and believe that there is latent truth in all forms of worship. So Israel said, ‘Let us enter into treaties with them and live with them.’ They did live with them and fell into their ways. Tolerance led to imitation, and Israel became as vile as the heathen the Lord had condemned.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Judges 2:4 ‘the tiniest misstep’: “The rail diverges but a little where the switches are turned, but before long the branch line is miles away from the main track. If we backslide a little, we are on the way to utter apostasy. The mother of mischief is small as a gnat’s egg; hatch it and we will see an evil bird larger than an ostrich.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon illustrations

Judges 2:10 ‘another generation … did not know’: “The first people in the land had vivid recollections of all the miracles and judgments and were devoted to faith, duty, and purity. The new generation of Israelites were ignorant of the experiences of their parents and yielded more easily to corruption. To a marked degree, the people of this new generation were not true believers, and were not obedient to the God of miracles and victory. Still, many of the judges did genuinely know the Lord, and some who did not live by faith eventually threw themselves on God’s mercy during oppressions.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 2:11-13 ‘the spiritual peril’: “Why did the people repeatedly fail? What is the spiritual peril that confronts us in the book of Judges? We find it stated in Judges 2:11-13:
“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

Judges 2:11-23 ‘The Prediction of Israel’s Inconsistency’: “The following related passage describes a cycle that is repeated by Israel several times throughout the book of Judges—a cycle of transgression and disobedience followed by eventual repentance. Israel’s continued disobedience gave further impetus to the Lord’s resolution not to grant the nation complete victory over the inhabitants of Canaan.
“The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, ‘Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.’ So the LORD allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua (2:20-23).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Judges 2:12 ‘they followed other gods’: “Idol worship, such as the golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32), flared up again. Spurious gods of Canaan were plentiful. El was the supreme Canaanite deity, a god of uncontrolled lust and a bloody tyrant, as shown in writings found at Ras Shamra in north Syria. His name means ‘strong, powerful.’ Baal, son and successor of El, was ‘lord of heaven,’ a farm god of rain and storm; his name means ‘lord, possessor.’ His cult at Phoenicia included animal sacrifices, ritual meals, and licentious dances. Chambers catered to sacred prostitution by men and women (cf. 1 Kin. 14:23, 24; 2 Kin. 23:7). Anath, sister-wife of Baal, also called Ashtoreth (Astarte), patroness of sex and war, was called ‘virgin’ and ‘holy’ but was actually a ‘sacred prostitute.’ Many other gods besides these also attracted worship.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 2:14 ‘the anger of the Lord was hot’: “Calamities designed as chastisement brought discipline intended to lead the people to repentance.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Judges 2:16 ‘the Lord raised up judges’: “A judge or deliverer was distinct from a judge in the English world today. Such a leader guided military expeditions against foes (as here) and arbitrated judicial matters (cf. 4:5). There was no succession or national rule. They were local deliverers, lifted up to leadership by God when the deplorable condition of Israel in the region around them prompted God to rescue the people.
“Key Word: Judge:
2:16, 18; 10:2; 11:27; 12:9, 11; 15:20; 16:31-—this Hebrew word for judge means ‘to deliver’ or ‘to rule.’ The judges of Israel had a wide range of responsibilities. Like their modern counterparts, Old Testament judges could decide controversies and hand down verdicts (Ex. 18:16). These judges were also involved in the execution of their judgment in both vindicating the righteous (Ps. 26:1) and destroying the wicked (Ex. 7:3). Many judges were God’s appointed military leaders who, empowered by God’s Spirit (6:34; 15:14), fought Israel’s oppressors and thereby delivered the people. Later, Israel’s king functioned as the national judge (1 Sam. 8:5). Ultimately, Israel’s perfect Judge is God. He alone is capable of flawlessly judging the wicked and delivering the righteous (Is. 11:4).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)


My Thoughts

Adoni-Bezek must have been excessively bad if he realized that he deserved having his thumbs and big toes cut off.  Rev. MacArthur, not quoted, said that without thumbs, he would be ineffective as a warrior in holding a weapon, and without toes, he would stumble while walking, especially in battle, where you must stand your ground.

Judah was the first tribe to attack the pockets of resistance.  They had many successes, but they failed with regard to the iron chariots.  All the tribes failed at one point or another.  All accepted Canaanites as forced labor, but that left the Canaanite false gods in the Promised Land.

While the curse of Canaan is still in play, with the Canaanites as slaves, basically, it does not satisfy what God wanted from His chosen people.  They were to remove the blemish entirely.

Notice that Judah burned the city of Jerusalem, but the Jebusites settled among the Benjamites.  Jerusalem would not fall to the people of Israel until early in the reign of King David, thus David’s City.

Notice that Aksah, daughter of Caleb, is offered as the prize in marriage for a military conquest.  Othniel, her cousin, accepts the challenge, defeating the enemy.  In Judges 3, Othniel will become the first of the judges.

In Judges 2, an angel proclaims that the people of Israel have failed and that the Canaanites among them will become a snare that will trap the people.  Since they could not act upon faith to drive out the enemy, they would have to live with these cursed people among them, eventually being a curse to the chosen people.

In Judges 2:10, it states that in only one generation, they went from a people who saw the great wonders that God performed to a people who did not know God at all.  The monuments that Joshua erected were to remind the people and the parents were to tell their children.  Obviously, those that saw the great works of God failed in passing on that information or the stories seemed to be fantasy and were not believed.  The key is that one generation later, they had no faith in God, and this led to their initial defeat and their ultimate destruction.

We must ask ourselves how much faith we have.  We may not have a nation to conquer, but can we conquer temptation?  Can we conquer, with God’s help, a bad habit?  Can we step out in faith to do something for God’s glory that is far outside our comfort zone?

The second half of Judges 2 is a foretelling of the majority of the book of Judges, the raising up of a judge when the people are oppressed.  The cycle is that as soon as the judge dies, the people wander toward false gods.  Some neighbors enter the Promised Land and oppress the Israelites.  Then God raises another judge.

They tell Samuel in 1 Samuel that their problem is that they do not have a king, but it is all a matter of not having faith.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Judges 1: 1. Does this chapter turn on your competitive drive to win? Or does it turn your stomach in revulsion? Why?
“2. Like Adoni-Bezek, when have you experienced the ‘reap-what-you-sow’ principle? Were you reaping or sowing? Was it positive or negative fruit you reaped (or sowed)?
“3. Where in your life are you feeling under attack or driven out? Where are you holding your ground? Where are you compromising the Lord’s commands and growing lax?
“4. What resources are you drawing upon to ‘hold your ground’ or ‘seize what is rightfully the Lord’s’? How can the small group help you in this regard?
“5. Who recently has been a ‘Caleb,’ doing a special favor for you? To whom might God be calling you to be a ‘Caleb’?
Judges 2: 1. What has disobeying God meant for you?
“1. How would your life story fit into the Judges ‘report form’ (of opening word, cycle of apostasy, oppression, distress, deliverance, fitting conclusion)?
“2. In what one way are you unlike your parents? How are you like them? How do you feel about the difference and the similarity?
“3. Where have you been unable to learn from the past, and thus you find yourself (and perhaps your children) repeating the same mistake? Where have your mistakes accumulated, so that you now feel great distress, hopelessly stuck in some rut?
“4. Who (or what) in times past has come to rescue you from your distress? How might your group be a ‘lifesaver’ in the months to come?
“5. When has the Lord ever tested you like he did the Israelites? Who or what did he use? For what purpose? How are you stronger today, thanks to that testing experience?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for Judges 1 and two sets of questions for Judges 2.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

These are very thought-provoking questions.  The question about parents, the last question 2, depends greatly upon your relationship with your parents, whether they were Christians, and how they might answer the questions with regard to their relationship to their own parents.  In some ways you may want to emulate your parents and in other ways you want to be the opposite, but can you grow beyond that baggage and can you grow beyond that baggage before you pass the wrong behaviors on to your children?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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