Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Judges Series - Judges 1

I felt led to do a series on the Judges period. Today we will look at Judges 1. Before we go into this series, let me say that this study is very much a self-study, not a historian-like kind of study. The purposes of this study are: firstly, to learn more about God from historical dealings God had with men, and secondly to learn from the Bible characters, from their successes and failures or strengths and failings. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I believe from the Old Testament, we can learn much concerning God. I believe it not only pleases God, it should help to shape how we deal with God. To me it is also an expression of love. If you love someone, you will like to know more about the person, what that person will be pleased with or displeased with. We want to please the one we love. It will be in a somewhat commentary style with interjections of my understanding, views, opinions or conclusions. Details will be in moderation but as usual, perhaps, it will be somewhat long-winded because that’s me. This is not to be regarded as a scholarly Bible commentary. Also, verse expositions probably would not be exhaustive – all significant aspects should be covered, though. {To get full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".

Judges 1

Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?" [Joshua was the one who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. At the second time the Israelites reached the edge of the Promised Land, God insisted that Moses passed over the leadership to Joshua so that Joshua would bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. Moses did not enter the Promised Land because God did not allow him so. He died just outside the Promised Land. {If you want to know why God disallowed Moses to enter the Promised land, go to my article – Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised Land? } After entering the Promised Land, subsequently, Joshua died at the age of 110 after securing some of the Canaan land. The Canaan Land was divided into many territories. The rest of the territories were left unsecured for 2 reasons, according to Judges 3:1 which we will cover, later in the series.] 2 The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands." [The Israelites was of 12 Tribes, through the sons of Israel (aka Jacob). Judah is one of the tribes. The other 11 tribes are: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin. While in Egypt, Ephraim and Manasseh were born to Joseph. The house of Joseph was divided into 2 half-tribes – Ephraim and Manasseh by virtue of Israel’s blessing (Gen 48:1-20).] 3 Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, "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. [Judah solicited the help of another tribe, the Simeonites.] 4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. [Judah won with the capture of Adoni-Bezek. The latter had his thumbs and big toes cut off]
7 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. [Adoni-Bezek got his retribution.] 8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire. [The men of Judah then took Jerusalem.] 9 After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. [Some more territories taken by men of Judah.] 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage. . [Some more territories taken by men of Judah. Who is Othniel? He was later to one of the judges raised by God. Here, his background is given; he was the younger brother of Caleb, the only other adult of Moses’ generation, apart from Joshua who lived to enter the Promised Land. This Caleb was the same Caleb who spied the land with Joshua when they first came to edge of the Promised Land.] 14 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?" 15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.
[Some more territories taken by men of Judah] 19 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 iron chariots. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. [Some more territories taken by men of Judah. At the end of day, when it came to allotment, the Simeonites received their inheritance within the Judah territory (Joshua 19:8a-9). I believe it was because they fought together with the men of Judah (verse 3). However there were remnants of Canaanites left behind, including the Jebusites living with the Benjamites (another Israelite tribe) in Jerusalem.]
22 Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 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." 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 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. [The house of Joseph, another tribe of Israelite, also fought and won some territories. The story here has a little semblance to the story of the Fall of Jericho in the sense that a person helped the Israelite spies, and when the city was taken, that person and his whole family were spared.]
27But 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. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. [The Manasseh tribe (one of the 2 half-tribes within the house of Joseph) settled in but did not drive out various Canaanites tribes.]
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. [The Ephraim tribe (the other tribe of the 2 half-tribes, in the house of Joseph) also spared the Canaanites.]
30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. [The Zebulun too did not drive out the enemies, they just subjected them to forced labor.] 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. [The Asher tribe too did the same, just lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the Land.]
33 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 Naphtali tribe also did not drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of the Land.]
34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond. [The Dan tribe fought against the Amorites, but the Amorites proved to be too strong. Eventually the Amorites were defeated by the house of Joseph but they were not destroyed. The Joseph tribe just pressed them into forced labor.]

The points to note:

The Judges period is a period in the history of the Israelites, starting from the death of Joshua, and ended with appointment of King Saul. Prior to this, the Israelites were led by Moses out of Egypt. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the leadership baton was passed from Moses to Joshua to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Israelites, under Joshua, fought in the Promised Land, taking more territories with time, until finally it was time for Joshua to pass on.

The Judges period is a period of time where there were no great leaders, like Moses or Joshua leading the Israelites. It was a period in the Promised Land where many more territories were yet taken over, and all around there were locals, uncircumcised heathens. It was a perilous period for the Israelites without strong leaders. Nevertheless, it was supposed to be a period that the Israelites needn’t be too fearful because the Lord had promised to be with them, through the covenant with the Israelites’ forefathers, Moses’ generation (and earlier). When Joshua died, the Lord was still there with them. The Lord had travelled with the Israelites in the portable Tabernacle, all through the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Lord fought and gave victories to the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, and would have continued to do the same if not for the disobedience of the Israelites after the death of Joshua.

You should note that over time, increasingly the Israelites became tolerant of the locals, and did not completely destroy them. This, you will read in the next chapter, led to their falling into abominable sins.

Anthony Chia – Israel is of 12 tribes - Judah, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) and Benjamin.

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