Proceedings of the tribes of Judah and Simeon. (Verse 1-8.)
Hebron and other cities taken. (Verse 9-20.)
The proceedings of other tribes. (Verse 21-36.)
The book of Judges is the history of Israel during the government of the Judges, who were occasional deliverers, raised up by God to rescue Israel from their oppressors, to reform the state of religion, and to administer justice to the people. The state of God’s people does not appear in this book so prosperous, nor their character so religious, as might have been expected; but there were many believers among them, and the tabernacle service was attended to. The history exemplifies the frequent warnings and predictions of Moses, and should have close attention. The whole is full of important instruction.
Historically, this book covers the period of time from the conquering of the promised land and death of Joshua to
the time at which Samuel becomes a judge of Israel – roughly 300 years.
As the name indicates, this book covers for us the period of Israel’s history when they were ruled by judges. It is
a story on the human side of disobedience and disaster while from God’s vantage point it is a story of direction and
deliverance. Chronologically the book ends at chapter sixteen and naturally connects in with the first chapter of I Samuel.
Chapters seventeen through twenty-one and the four chapters of Ruth fit into the time covered by the first sixteen chapters.
This book is transitional as the confederacy of the twelve tribes slowly developed into a nation. Though it often
shows the utter failure of Israel, Judges also shows the persistent grace of God. Israel’s main problem was idolatry.
Rather than destroying the nations and heathen peoples that lived among them as God had specifically commanded, the
Jews tolerated these folks. Toleration led to temptation and temptation to sin.
The main portion of Judges deals with the seven cycles of Israel’s apostasy. This cycle always began with Israel
in a position of blessing; they would disobey God, be overrun by a foreign power and put into bondage; when they had
suffered long enough, they would call out to God who would raise up a judge to deliver them from their foreign captors.
Once set free from their enemies, Israel would enjoy a period of God’s blessings until they once again got into sin and
went through the cycle again. “The only thing men learn from history is that men never learn from history!”
Judges is one of the saddest books in the Bible as it demonstrates human nature for what it really is. Though the
examples of God’s longsuffering and grace are encouraging, the depravity and sinfulness of mankind are all too often
brought to our attention. The expression, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” is the theme of this book
as well as its very last phrase (21:25). The tragedy is that what man considers to be “right” is often the very opposite of
what God declares to be “right” – this error is all too obvious in our own nation today.
The book of Judges bears no name of its human author. From verses such as 17:6, 18:1, etc. we are told “in those
days there was no king in Israel,” therefore, the book was probably written after the establishment of the king as recorded
in I Samuel. From 1:21 it is clear that it had to have been written before David captured Jerusalem. Thus, Judges was
probably written during the reign of King Saul or early in the reign of King David – the most likely author was Samuel.
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.
thumbs…toes” – the amputation of these body parts would render a warrior helpless as he could walk but no longer
be agile and could use his hands but not control a spear, sword, etc. This was the ancient way of humiliating your enemies
and being sure that they could never rise up against you.
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.
who were these three men? See Joshua 15:14
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.
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.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-8 – The Israelites were convinced that the war against the Canaanites was to be continued; but they were in doubt as to the manner in which it was to be carried on after the death of Joshua. In these respects they inquired of the Lord. God appoints service according to the strength he has given. From those who are most able, most work is expected. Judah was first in dignity, and must be first in duty. Judah’s service will not avail unless God give success; but God will not give the success, unless Judah applies to the service. Judah was the most considerable of all the tribes, and Simeon the least; yet Judah begs Simeon’s friendship, and prays for aid from him. It becomes Israelites to help one another against Canaanites; and all Christians, even those of different tribes, should strengthen one another. Those who thus help one another in love, have reason to hope that God will graciously help both. Adoni-bezek was taken prisoner. This prince had been a severe tyrant. The Israelites, doubtless under the Divine direction, made him suffer what he had done to others; and his own conscience confessed that he was justly treated as he had treated others. Thus the righteous God sometimes, in his providence, makes the punishment answer the sin.
Verse 9-20 – The Canaanites had iron chariots; but Israel had God on their side, whose chariots are thousands of angels, Psalms 68:17. Yet they suffered their fears to prevail against their faith. About Caleb we read in Joshua 15:16-19. The Kenites had settled in the land. Israel let them fix where they pleased, being a quiet, contented people. They that molested none, were molested by none. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Verse 21-36 – The people of Israel were very careless of their duty and interest. Owing to slothfulness and cowardice, they would not be at the pains to complete their conquests. It was also owing to their covetousness: they were willing to let the Canaanites live among them, that they might make advantage of them. They had not the dread and detestation of idolatry they ought to have had. The same unbelief that kept their fathers forty years out of Canaan, kept them now out of the full possession of it. Distrust of the power and promise of God deprived them of advantages, and brought them into troubles. Thus many a believer who begins well is hindered. His graces languish, his lusts revive, Satan plies him with suitable temptations, the world recovers its hold; he brings guilt into his conscience, anguish into his heart, discredit on his character, and reproach on the gospel. Though he may have sharp rebukes, and be so recovered that he does not perish, yet he will have deeply to lament his folly through his remaining days; and upon his dying bed to mourn over the opportunities of glorifying God and serving the church he has lost. We can have no fellowship with the enemies of God within us or around us, but to our hurt; therefore our only wisdom is to maintain unceasing war against them.