Judges 1 Chapter Study
The Book of Judges is intensely interesting because of its
wild stories, & at the same, depressing in its record of the
absolute insanity of the people of
The best evidence points to Samuel, the last Judge, as the author of the book.
The Talmud, a collection Jewish commentaries on the scripture, attributes the book to him. (Tractate Baba Bathra 14b) 
The theme verse of
In those days there was no king in
This is repeated 3 times (17:6, 18:1, 19:1).
It implies that at the time it was written, there was a king.
1:21 says that at the time of the
writing of the book., the Jebusites still controlled
So it’s best to locate the book in
the reign of
The period of the Judges began with the death of Joshua & ended with the coronation of Saul – so a span of about 300 years; 1350-1050 B.C.
If you were to take the chronology given for each of the Judges and string them end to end, it adds up to 410 years.
That leaves a difference of over a hundred years; how do we account for it?
Keep the historical setting of Judges in mind.
Joshua broke the back of Canaanite
dominance in the land by staging a brilliant military campaign in which the
entire army of
Once the main cities were taken & kings defeated, each individual tribe was responsible for taking possession of its territory.
That’s where things began to come apart.
For the most part, the tribes failed to finish the task of eradicating the native Canaanites.
And instead of keeping themselves isolated from their influence, the Israelites ended up being seduced & compromised by their incredibly sensuous culture & lifestyle.
The period of the Judges saw a cyclical pattern that repeated itself time & again.
The cycle went like this:
· Devotion - Joshua’s generation loved God and served Him.
Blessing – In fulfillment of the promise of
Deut. to bless obedience, God showered His favor on
· Prosperity – The blessing brought peace & prosperity to the people.
· Apathy – Having an easy life, and the passing of the pervious devoted generation, the people felt no need to pursue God and became spiritually lazy.
· Decadence – Spiritual laziness opened the door to idolatry & interest in the sensuous practices of the Canaanites.
Judgment – God hates idols, so He sent judgment
Oppression – Weakened by sin,
Repentance – Oppressed
During the period of the Judges,
One tribe moved into the Decadence phase faster than its neighbors.
So it experienced judgment while the neighboring tribes were still experiencing blessing & prosperity.
The cycles we see in Judges tend to be repeated in the history of other nations as well.
A nation ascends to power & prosperity because of the virtues that hold its society together; things like loyalty, courage, sacrifice.
People grow up in a culture that puts greater value in what they can accomplish together than in selfish, individual pursuits.
This mindset gives birth to a great social structure that allows incredible prosperity in which almost everyone gets to participate.
But prosperity means the need for less work and more leisure.
Leisure, coupled to wealth, not tempered by moral caution, leads to vice.
Vice leads to crime.
And left unchecked, crime leads to social upheaval, chaos, & almost always – the rise of a dictator the people welcome because he restores order.
Where are we as a nation on this wheel of history?
What makes it all the interesting is that for the first time in History, because of modern technology, it isn’t just our nation that finds itself in this place.
It’s the entire modern world.
One last thing before we get into the text –
When we use the word “judge” we tend to think of some man or woman sitting behind a high desk with a gavel in his hand, adjudicating the law.
That’s not the idea here.
The Hebrew word is shaphat /shaw·fat – & refers to anyone who rules by not only passing sentence, but carrying it out, personally.
Our judges don’t pass sentence on criminals, then rise from their seat and come down to actually physically punish them.
The Jewish shaphat does just that.
So the Judges were people who brought deliverance to
1 Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass
that the children of
In the Book of Joshua we read that once the main campaign to
He then sent them to take possession of that which God had given them.
The people asked God who was to be first in striking out against the last holdouts of resistance in their territories.
The idea was that as one tribe went to battle to complete the conquest in their region, the other tribes would settle in & supply that tribe as it busied itself with battle.
Once it had secured its borders, then it would settle in & supply the next territory that would strike out against its remaining enemies.
This pattern of battle & supply would go on until all the tribes had completed their conquest.
The order of battle they left to the Lord. The first territory to fight was
Simeon & Judah were brothers, sons of the same mother, Leah – so the tribes were close.
In fact, while Joshua had set
specific borders for the region of
Where Bezek was isn’t clear, but it was the home of a notable tyrant.
“Adoni” means “lord” and refers to a ruler.
This guy was the king of Bezek who’d spread his influence over a region of 70 cities.
In the ancient world, the city was the primary focus of power.
A city exerted it’s dominance over the surrounding area by controlling the roads & passes.
Once a city grew strong enough, it would send out troops to conquer other cities in it’s vicinity.
Each of these city-states was governed by a king.
Adoni-Bezek had managed to extend control over 70 cities around Bezek.
The way he showed his dominance was by cutting off the thumbs & big toes of the kings he conquered.
Since a ruler was responsible for leading his people militarily, without being able to hold a sword or keep your footing in battle, you couldn’t lead your people.
Adoni-Bezek had then brought these disabled kings to his palace where he’d kept them as trophies of his victory by throwing them scraps from his table.
This guy was an ancient version of Saddam Hussein.
It seemed fitting to the Israelites to afflict the same punishment on him he’d inflicted on so many others.
Then they took him along with them
as a trophy of their victory when they assaulted the city of
8 Now the children of
After they defeated the city, they set it to the torch & moved on.
It’s too bad they didn’t leave some troops there to occupy the city.
The Jebusites moved back in, reinforced it & made it a problem for them later.
9 And afterward the children of
These were 3 huge guys, descendants of the well-known giant Anak.
11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formerly Kirjath Sepher.) 12 Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife.
Caleb & Joshua were the 2 spies who years before had
returned from scouting out
As a reward for his faithfulness,
Moses had promised to give Caleb his choice of where ever he wanted to settle
Caleb had chosen the most
challenging piece of real estate in all the land –
It was the headquarters of the giants.
Even as an old man, Caleb believed God would give him victory.
He led the attack on the city & prevailed.
Now he leads in carrying on the conquest over the surrounding towns.
As an incentive, he promised to
give his daughter as a wife to the man who could conquer the city of
14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 15 So she said to him, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
Othniel’s conquest at Debir was the bridal price for Achsah.
She convinced her new husband to request that Caleb give a certain field as a wedding present.
Then she asked her father for a further blessing of some nearby springs that would irrigate the field.
The reason the writer put all of this in the record was to root the story in history.
You see, the cities of
And this passage reminds us that our faith isn’t just a philosophy that came from some smart guy’s brain.
Our Faith is in a God Who works IN History, a God Who’s done specific things that make a difference for us between heaven & hell.
What saves us isn’t spiritual enlightenment gleaned from deep meditation & apprehension of the mysteries.
What saves us is something a man
named Jesus did 2,000 years ago on a wooden cross in front of a hill called
16 Now the children of the Kenite, Moses’
father-in-law, went up from the City of
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law was a Kenite, one of a nomadic
people who lived in Midian, to the southeast of
Jethro’s little clan settled in the
First the Simeonites helped
Instead of taking possession of Hormah, they completely leveled it.
Simeon was a small tribe & couldn’t possess all the cities they’d been allotted; they’d be stretched too thin, so they had to shrink their holdings.
Hormah was leveled because they couldn’t leave it as a refuge their enemies could flee to & reinforce.
This was the coastal region that would in just a short time become the home of the Philistines.
19 So the Lord
This is a bit confusing – after telling us in v. 18 that
The word “lowland” here usually refers to a plain, but can mean “valley.”
The writer is probably referring to the Shephelah – the region that stretches between the coastal plain & the Central highlands.
The Shephelah is a gently sloping plateau cut by deep valleys that carry the streams off the eastern hills toward the western sea.
It was also the region of some of
the more formidable cities in
This is the first
mention of failure on the part of
And what was the reason? The enemy had a superior technology.
Question: Was superior weapons or forces ever a problem for
No. And it would not have been a problem now.
The writer is making a turn now, letting us know that the great victories of the past are just that – the past.
And because of that, so is her unbroken string of victories.
20 And they gave
Since the writer has already referred to Caleb & the
21 But the children of Benjamin did not drive out
the Jebusites who inhabited
The tribe of Benjamin, who were skilled warriors, weren’t able to dislodge the Jebusites from the city.
The writer tells us that was the sitch at the time of his
writing, so he had to have written prior to David’s reign because of course,
David took the city & made it the capital of the
22 And the house of Joseph also went up against
The house or family of Joseph included the tribes of both Ephraim & Manasseh.
23 So the house of Joseph sent men to spy out
It lay at an important crossroads of N/S & E/W trade routes.
The city was too well fortified for a frontal attack & too well prepared for a siege.
So scouts snagged a resident & promised him protection if he would divulge where the secret entrance to the city lay.
When they took the city, they made good on their promise &
the guy left, moving to a distant land where he started a
After these few successful campaigns, the record goes sour & is marked by one failure after another.
27 However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land.
What? They were somehow more determined than the Canaanites
of Bezek, or
When you’re fighting for your life, you’re pretty determined.
These Canaanites who resisted
Manasseh were no more capable or determined than those defeated by
The difference was in the determination of Manasseh!
The just didn’t want to fight anymore.
And they didn’t want to fight because they were content with what they had rather than what God wanted them to have.
Let me say that again –
Hang on to that thought – we’ll come back to it.
28 And it came to pass, when
As God had told them to!
His commands had been clear – they were NOT to make deals with the Canaanites.
They were not to put them under tribute.
They were to wipe out the Canaanites, erasing every last vestige of their occupation.
The reason why is because the Canaanite culture was hideously sick; immoral & perverse to its core.
It was like a rabid dog, snarling
& vicious & destined to destruction, but on its way out it could
inflict a lot of damage on
There’s only one thing to be done with a rabid dog; put it down!
That’s the mission God gave
Having entered into a land won for her by Joshua, she settled down into what was handed her.
Here’s what the ancient Jewish historian Josephus says,
“After this the Israelites grew weak as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to the cultivation of the land, which producing them great plenty & riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlements, & indulged themselves in luxury & pleasures.” 
In other words – growing tired of battle, they forsook pressing forward to take ground God had given them, and decided to camp on what they already had.
But the fact is, it was tribute
made off of territory
And once you start down that road,
Fudging on faith here,
Backing off from a whole-hearted pursuit of God there –
It starts a progressive slide into a moral & spiritual abyss.
Watch how things go from bad to worse now . . .
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who
30 Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites dwelt among them, and were put under tribute.
31 Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of
Acco or the inhabitants of
7 places – & now, no tribute is given – because instead of the Canaanites living among the Asherites, the Asherites are living among the Canaanites!
33 Nor did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh or the inhabitants of Beth Anath; but they dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath were put under tribute to them.
And then the worst case of all . . .
34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley; 35 and the Amorites were determined to dwell in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim; yet when the strength of the house of Joseph became greater, they were put under tribute. 36 Now the boundary of the Amorites was from the Ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela, and upward.
While the other tribes managed to settle in their allotted territories, Dan was ousted from theirs altogether.
The chronicle of the tribes goes from the victories of
What marked the decline was their weakening dependence on & devotion to God.
They looked to Him for daily direction as He led them by the pillar of cloud & fire.
He covered them with a cloud from the blistering heat of the desert sun.
He gave them manna and water ever day.
Living in the empty spaces of the desert had taught them what it means to be totally dependent on God.
But as soon as they crossed the
Now they enjoyed the benefits of
God’s blessing by being in the
Joshua conquest gave them a few cities, and once he was gone, with no successor named to replace him, the people settled in & got busy with the task of making a living.
The narrative here in ch. 1 parallels the experience of many Christians.
They’ve entered into new life in
Christ & like
Just as Ephraim & Manasseh took
But for the most part, they’ve settle into what we might call a “normal” Christian life.
They look around at where other Christians are at, average the total, and resign themselves to that.
They know there’s a lot more spiritual growth they could pursue, but hey - why bother?
After all, they no longer do the obvious things Christians don’t do; smoke, chew, go with those who do.
They go to church & know most of the songs.
Their Bible is one of those medium-sized study versions with just the right amount of wear on cover & gold leaf page edges.
They know the right spiritual lingo & who the main players on the Christian scene are.
They vote conservative, & have the Christian radio stations set on buttons in their car.
God had so much more for
They were content with what they had rather than what God wanted them to have.
And because they stopped moving forward in faith, they ended up losing it all.
You see, the Canaanites were an evil presence in the land, a
corrupting influence that
There was territory under the Canaanite’s feet God wanted
Possessing it would mean some work, some battle.
For no reason other than laziness,
And working from that place, the
corrupting influence of Canaanite culture polluted
It wasn’t long until the people of
Here’s the lesson – Don’t settle down to an average, normal Christian life.
Don’t look around at what believers around you are doing, are allowing.
Don’t park your spiritual life on the side of the street in some cultural Christian ghetto and call it quits on going any further with the Lord.
Don’t call a truce with the spiritual Canaanites of your life, those sins that have retreated behind some heavy walls or dark holes.
If you aren’t moving forward in faith, renewing yourself to a daily dependence on God, then for sure you are moving backward.
And just like
Those who start like Manasseh always end up like Dan.
Don’t be content to let sin have some little corner.
Look at the last v. of ch. 1
36 Now the boundary of the Amorites was from the Ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela, and upward.
The writer carves out a spot smack dab in the middle of
Picture a woman wearing a beautiful formal gown.
It’s stunning! She’s got the elbow length white gloves; gorgeous heels.
Her hair & make-up is perfect.
She’s wearing exquisite matching earrings & necklace.
And on her nose is a massive, angry red boil an inch across, huge head on it, looks like it’s about to explode.
No matter how gorgeous she looks everywhere else – the one thing everyone remembers sees & remembers about her is that boil.
A Christian can be doing pretty well in most of life, but if he or she accommodates some sin, some attitude, some thing God’s Spirit has pointed out needs to be overcome, it can quickly become a blemish that ruins life.
Recent history has given us plenty of examples of men, Christian leaders, who compromised with sin, and it led to their very public fall.
Today, they are bywords, jokes.
There’s one man who used to head a ministry we here at Calvary Chapel endorsed, who wasn’t guilty of some tragic moral scandal – he was just so incredibly arrogant he went down in flames.
A person’s problem doesn’t have to be a serious moral problem, it might be a more socially acceptable sin like anger, or gossip, or greed, or laziness.
It doesn’t matter what the sin, what form the evil take.
To accommodate it, to let it abide in a life that is supposed to belong to God, is to present to the enemy a shunt from which he will spread spiritual poison.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R.
 Barber, Judges pg. 34