Judges begins with the conquest of Canaan. Judah conquers most of its territory, but the other tribes are not as successful. While they are able to subjugate the Canaanites and Amorites to forced labor, they are unable to dispossess them from the land.
Judah tortures Adoni-bezek: “Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and captured him; and they cut off his thumbs and his big toes.” (v 6)
III. Important Verses
vv 1-2: After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the LORD, “Which of us shall be the first to go up against the Canaanites and attack them?” The LORD replied, “Let the [tribe of] Judah go up. I now deliver the land into their hands.”
vv 5-7: At Bezek, they encountered Adoni-bezek, engaged him in battle, and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and captured him; and they cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings, with thumbs and big toes cut off, used to pick up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has requited me.” They brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.
v 8: The Judites attacked Jerusalem and captured it; they put it to the sword and set the city on fire.
vv 12-13: And Caleb announced, “I will give my daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher.” His younger kinsman, Othniel the Kenizzite, captured it; and Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah in marriage.
v 16: The descendants of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses, went up with the Judites from the City of Palms to the wilderness of Judah; and they went and settled among the people in the Negeb of Arad.
v 21: The Benjaminites did not dispossess the Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have dwelt with the Benjaminites in Jerusalem to this day.
vv 31-32: Asher did not dispossess the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob. So the Asherites dwelt in the midst of the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not dispossess them.
1-20. Judah’s conquest 1-3. Simeon’s help 4-7. The battle of Bezek 8-9. Jerusalem and the surrounding areas 10. Hebron 11-15. Otniel conquers Debir and is given Caleb’s daughter 16. The Kenites relocate to Arad 17. Zephath 18. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron 19. The people of the plain are unconquerable 20. Caleb is given Hebron 21. Benjamin fails to conquer Jerusalem 22-26. Joseph conquers Bethel 27-28. Manasseh subjugates the Canaanites, but does not dispossess them 29. Ephraim subjugates the Canaanites, but does not dispossess them 30. Zebulun subjugates the Canaanites, but does not dispossess them 31-32. Asher lives amongst the Canaanites 33. Naphtali subjugates the Canaanites, but does not dispossess them 34-36. The Danites do not dispossess the Amorites, but Joseph subjugates them
The first chapter tells a different story than the book of Joshua. Whereas Joshua speaks of a sweeping Israelite conquest, Judges describes a difficult conquest in which the Canaanites and Amorites hold on to many strongholds. Butler notes a contrast even within Judges 1 itself: “Chap. 1 apparently introduces Judges as a chronological narrative following directly upon the book of Joshua… [the record is] split into two major parts, one covering Judah and Benjamin, the other encompassing the Northern tribes as the house of Joseph. Judah, with its compatriot Simeon, follows the divine oracle in taking leadership… Only a lack of technology prevents their completely fulfilling their mission… The story of the northern tribes, the house of Joseph, takes an entirely different path… Joseph did not execute or drive out enemy citizens… They could not take possession of major cities. Instead, the determined Canaanites and Amorites deterred them. Rather than instituting the ban, they institute corvee, which will become the point of contention between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” (33)
According to Boling, the book has three sections:
- The Settlement (1:1-3:6)
- History of the Judges (3:7-15:20)
- Supplementary stories (16:1-21:25)
Each of these units will be dealt with in the forthcoming commentary.
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Robert G. Boling. “Judges, Book of” in Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, vol. III (Doubleday, 1992).
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
John J. Collins. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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