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BibleTrack Summary: April 29
<< Josh 24

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Judges 1-2    Listen Podcast

 

An overview of Judges

Well...Israel has arrived and possesses Canaan (more or less), but there's still much to do. The Book of Judges contains the history of Israel, probably for a period of about 300 years, from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, or to the time of the prophet Samuel. We do know that 346 years passed from the beginning of the judges until Saul became king. How long the last judge, Samuel, ministered, we don't know exactly. By the way, these judges that God raised up served particular purposes at particular periods. They did not, for the most part, reign over all of Israel as Moses and Joshua did and later on as the kings did. Lastly, we don't know who wrote this book. Perhaps it was written by Samuel. That would make sense.

There's one more aspect of this period that should be understood: there is no centralized government in Israel during the period of the judges. Each tribe operates as a self-governing entity. That's not to say that each tribe felt no accountability or responsibility with regard to the others. Moreover, there were some collective efforts. However, it would appear that God put his stamp of approval on localized government for Israel as they occupied the land. In the last five chapters of Judges, one phrase appears four times, "...there was no king in Israel" (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). At the end of the period of the judges, Samuel had gained much influence over the Tribes of Israel. It is during his tenure that the people of Israel begin to clamor for a centralized government to unify them, primarily for the purpose of national defense. They want a king, despite the baggage that comes with the office, as outlined in I Samuel 8 (see notes). The call for a king in that chapter is really a voluntary surrender of local tribal authority in lieu of centralized authority over all the tribes - a complete restructuring of the government.

The Timetable for Judges

We actually have enough Biblical information to determine a relatively accurate overview regarding the time covered in the Book of Judges. We are told in I Kings 6:1 (see notes), "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD." To arrive at an accurate date here, we can backdate from the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. through the kings of Judah and arrive at 970 B.C. as the first year of Solomon's reign, making his fourth year 966 B.C.

According to calculations based upon I Kings 6:1, we add 480 to 966 to arrive at the date of the exodus from Egypt - 1446 B.C. We know that Israel began their conquest of Canaan exactly 40 years later - 1406 B.C. Based upon Paul's history lesson in Acts 13:20 (see notes), a period of 450 years passed between the beginning of the Egyptian captivity (1846 B.C.) and the beginning of the judges. That takes us to 1396 B.C. Based upon the calculations of the kings of Judah backing up through Solomon (40 years), David (40 years) and Saul (40 years), we arrive at the reign of Saul to have begun in 1050 B.C.

As we pull all of our calculations together, we can determine that the period of time when Israel was led by these various judges to be 346 years or so (1396-1050), and that includes the life of Samuel, the last judge before King Saul.

The king gives thumbs up...literally! (Judges 1:1-10)

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?
2 And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.
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.
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.
5 And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
6 But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
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.
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.
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.
10 And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

The tribe of Judah gets the call to drive out the Canaanites. Since Simeon's territory lies within Judah, they go too. They head north about 40 miles into the territory assigned to Manasseh where they capture King Adonibezek and cut off his thumbs and big toes, OUCH! Secular history tells us that this was a common practice during that era to prevent kings from being warriors ever again. Without thumbs for grasping or big toes for balance, warrior-like activity is difficult (yea, nearly impossible). Adonibezek himself admits to having done the same to 70 kings - making them mere beggars afterwards. Let's face it; he was a bad man and simply received the same treatment he had dished out on 70 previous occasions.

We see in verse 8 a campaign against the inhabitants of Jerusalem (just above Judah's territory in that of Benjamin). Jerusalem seems to be shared by Judah and Benjamin (see notes below at 1:21). We see another campaign in verse 10 against the Canaanite inhabitants at Hebron (within Judah's territory).

A recap of the story of Achsah (Judges 1:11-16)

11 And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:
12 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
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?
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.
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.

Remember back in Joshua 15:13-19 (see notes) the reward Caleb would give anyone who took Kirjathsepher? He offered his lovely (we assume) daughter in marriage. Othniel wins! This story is worth repeating, so here it is again. There's also a single verse regarding Moses' Kenite in-laws (verse 16). Some of them obviously had left Midian and lived among the Hebrews, descendants of Hobab, Moses' brother-in-law (Numbers 10:29, see notes). References to them occur several times in Judges, I and II Samuel and II Chronicles to indicate their continuing presence among the Israelites.

Partial military victories; this could be a big problem (Judges 1:17-36)

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.
18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.
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.
20 And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.
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.
22 And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.
23 And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before WAS Luz.)
24 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.
25 And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.
26 And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which IS the name thereof unto this day.
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.
28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
29 Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.
30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.
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:
32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.
33 Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.
34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:
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.
36 And the coast of the Amorites WAS from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.

Here's a list of Israel's victories and shortcomings; they failed to drive out the heathen idol-worshipping Canaanites from their land. The presence of these inhabitants plagued the Israelites for generations. God's plan had called for an all-Hebrew environment (Deuteronomy 20:16-17, see notes). We see in these verses that they subsequently ruled over these Canaanites, but they did not drive them out. This shows us that, while they did prevail in battle, they made a choice not to complete their God-given assignment. Israel's deviation from God's plan resulted in continued turmoil throughout the period of the judges. A rebuke for this deviation follows in chapter 2 (see below).

We see Jerusalem in verse 21; it was inhabited by the Jebusites. Benjamin could not drive them out, so they coexisted together. As a matter of fact, the Jebusites remained in control of Jerusalem until II Samuel 5:6-10 (see notes) when King David captures the city. The remainder of the chapters lists several occasions of partial victories by the tribes of Israel against the Canaanites. In some areas, specific tribes of Israel were not strong enough to purge the land of Canaanites, but were strong enough to rule them. In other instances such as that of Dan (verse 34), the Canaanites gained an upper hand for a period of time, driving the Danites into the mountains. As a matter of fact, in Judges 18 (see notes) the Danites later head north to establish the city of Dan in northern Israel because they could not take all of the land assigned to them by Joshua. These partial victories became very problematic for the Hebrews in their new land.

With regard to Jerusalem, it should be noted that Jerusalem seemed to be shared by the Tribes of Benjamin and Judah. Note the following scriptures:

Joshua 18:28 And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.

Joshua 15:63 As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.

Judges 1:8 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.

Judges 1:21 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.

Based upon these verses, obviously Jerusalem was a shared city between the two tribes. Although, technically, Jerusalem was within the borders of the Tribe of Benjamin.

God rebukes Israel for their disobedience (Judges 2:1-5)

1 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
5 And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

These are very important verses here. Israel did not drive the God-hating heathen people out of Canaan as they went in to possess it. "An angel of the LORD" expresses his great displeasure with their lack of obedience. Here's the origination of our expression, "thorns in your sides." By the way, "Bochim" means "weepers." Many Bible students believe that this "angel of the LORD" is a reference to a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus himself. We aren't told enough to make a definitive decision on the matter, but it could be - even seems likely.

God had been very clear back in Exodus 34:12-13 (see notes), "Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:" Instead, we see in Judges 1:17-36 (see above) that they put these Canaanites under tribute rather than drive them out of the land.

There's a lesson for Christians here. Sometimes our adversity comes as the result of partial (rather than full) obedience to the Lord. As a matter of fact, this failure to fully obey didn't just have an adverse effect on that generation alone; their descendants suffered from their lack of obedience as well.

As a result of Israel's disobedience, their land was crawling with pesky Canaanites after they moved in.

Sad words after the death of Joshua (Judges 2:6-15)

6 And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.
7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.
8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.
10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

We get a recap of the death of Joshua in verses 6-9, also seen in Joshua 24:29 (see notes), and then this eye opener in verse 10, "...and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel." After the death of Joshua and the elders that ruled with Joshua, it's back to heathen gods, back to idol worship (verses 11-13). How could they do such a thing? How quickly we forget! What was the result? Failure!

How about another clear application for Christians? Bad peer pressure influences bad actions! These heathen nations that Israel failed to drive out caused Israel to compromise their convictions and zeal for God in the beginning, followed by a full embracing of their God-forsaking ways in the next generation. This caused these Hebrews to remove themselves from under God's umbrella of protection. So, did the adoption of the corrupt religious practices of the heathen cause those people to buddy up to the Hebrews? NO! Verse 14 tells us that the very people with whom these Israelites had compromised to gain their friendship were, in fact, their enemies. Here's the lesson: when a Believer compromises with those who have no respect for his God, he doesn't gain a friend - just an enemy who now has leverage.

Here's another axiom which proves true over and over: What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces. Joshua's generation of leaders tolerated the presence of these God-hating, idol-worshipping Canaanites, but the children of that generation embraced their practices. Now we're going to need some relief! And...that's where the judges seen in the remainder of this book come in. Christian parents should be very careful concerning the things they tolerate.

How about some judges? (Judges 2:16-23)

16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.
18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;
21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

God gave Israel judges to deliver them from their enemies, but success was only temporary. Israel was always looking for new and improved gods. When they followed God, they were successful. When they rejected God, they failed. We see the purpose of these judges stated plainly in verse 16, "And Jehovah raiseth up judges, and they save them from the hand of their spoilers." Verse 19 tells us that each time a judge died, it was back to the false worship. Furthermore, each successive generation, it says, was more corrupt than its ancestors. That's the ol' Adamic nature at work - a propensity to sin. Here's a lesson for parents: Half-hearted service to God begets, for the most part, no service at all.

We see in verses 20-23 that God did not drive the Canaanites out because of the failings of the Hebrews in following fully after God. Those Canaanites remained in the land for God's purposes, as seen in verse 22, "That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not." To express it clearly, the Hebrews had lessons to learn which could only be learned through adversity i.e. the presence of the enemy Canaanites. We begin to get specifics regarding these trials in Judges 3 (see notes).


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Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner