Judges 1


The Book of Judges is a book made up of poetry, and riddles, but mainly it’s a narrative history. The book’s purpose was to teach Israel that God is faithful and He will punish people for their sins if they don’t remain loyal and devoted to Him.

And as we go through this really sad book, we’re going to see the consequences of a people who refuse to be obedient to God. This truly is the most evil and darkest time in the history of Israel as a nation.

Moses has died and God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and although Joshua succeeded in entering the land, he failed to bring them rest. And as we will see when Joshua dies, everything quickly went downhill fast.

The judges of the Old Testament arose during a period of internal anarchy and external conflict, covering the time between the death of Joshua and the anointing of King Saul. This was a time of disaster on a colossal scale for Israel, Judges 2:16-17.

God’s people were led to Canaan to conquer the land, but instead, they became infected with the idolatry of Canaan. They were to make no treaties with the inhabitants, and they weren’t to marry any foreigners.

But they were happy to settle among the Canaanites, to the point where you didn’t know who the Israelites were and who the Canaanites were. And instead of them driving out the Canaanites, they just became like them and practised what they practised.


Straight away, from the very first few verses in Judges, we can see Israel only partially obeying God, Judges 1:6. What were Israel supposed to do? They were supposed to kill all the Canaanites. But what did they do?

They mutilated a captured king, which was the very practice of the Canaanites, Judges 1:28. What were they supposed to do? They were supposed to drive the Canaanites out of the land, Deuteronomy 7:1-5. But what did they do? They kept them and forced them to work for them.

The world is trying to conform us to its standards and its ways but Paul says we need to be on our guard against that, Romans 12:1-2. God doesn’t want us to think as the world does, He doesn’t want to us compromise with the world and its ways.

Israel was happy to compromise with the world around them during this time. And that compromise with the Canaanites led them into idolatry, intermarriage, and eventually to having no rules, Judges 17:6. What a sad picture this is of God’s chosen people.

The outcome of Israel’s compromise was the shocking reality that their real enemy became God Himself. And He ensured that when they went out to battle, the outcome was defeat. But God who is rich in mercy, in His grace, raised up leaders to bring Israel back in line.

For Israel during the period of the Judges it was a time of war, but why would God send them to a land that was already occupied? Why didn’t He send them to a place where no one lived, so they could settle there and not have any influence around them?

Well, possibly for the same reason Jesus didn’t ask the Father to take His disciples out of the world, John 17:15. Why would God send them to a land that was already occupied? After all, they spent forty years of hardship in the wilderness and now they were going to have to deal with internal and external conflict.

God led them to Canaan to test them, He wanted to know if they would be obedient to Him, Judges 3:1-4. He wanted His people to trust Him, to trust in His mighty power, to trust that He would help them take hold of the Promised Land. He wanted them to remember that they were holy, chosen and His treasured possession, Deuteronomy 7:6.

He wanted them to remember who they were as a people, and they needed to know just how holy they were to be. They needed to remember why they were chosen and just how treasured they were to God.

Remember we’re now dealing with a new generation of Israelites from those who wandered in the desert, Judges 2:10. But this second generation was held responsible for their own spiritual failings.

The text says that they didn’t ‘know’ God, Judges 2:10, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t aware of God. It means, they didn’t regard or acknowledge God as their Lord.

When the judges appeared, God appeared and everyone went back to their best behaviour but as soon as a judge dies, the children of Israel get involved in all kinds of sinful practices, Judges 1:1-2 / Judges 2:1-4 / Judges 2:16.

God had delivered them from their terrible slavery in Egypt and He had led them through the wilderness giving them blessing after blessing. They were His favoured people, they were the chosen ones of the Lord God Almighty. And so He led them, He fed them and He protected them and eventually, He led them into the land of Canaan, which was their Promised Land.

It was a land flowing with milk and honey, and it was given to them not because they were so great but because God had promised this land to their ancestors. And all they had to do was enter the land, destroy the people who were living there and take up residence, Deuteronomy 34:4.

He was their God, their redeemer, He gave them law but Israel failed to stay faithful to God and His laws. And so it got to the point where God had to judge the very people He loved so much. Think about it, when Israel entered Canaan, the sky was the limit. God had promised them the land and all they had to do was claim it by faith.

Notice how they started, they were blessed with ‘God’s foresight’. Judges 1:2 says, ‘I have given the land into their hands.’ This is said in the future tense, God says He has already given them the land even though the Israelites haven’t done a thing yet.

In other words, God was going before them, preparing the way for certain victory. There was no way they could lose, as long as God was behind them, ahead of them, above them and all around them.

What other way were they blessed? They were blessed with ‘God’s protection’. Judges 1:19 tells us that ‘The LORD was with the men of Judah.’ This shows us that God was actively involved in helping Israel conquer the land of Canaan. And so, He not only prepared the way, but He also protected them along the way.

They also had the blessing of ‘God’s power’. Judges 1:4 “When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands.” This tells us Who the real power on the battlefield was, it was God, He is the God of all power, Ephesians 3:20.

What other blessing did they have? Well, they had the blessing of ‘God’s promises’. For hundreds of years, beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12:1, God had been promising to give the nation of Israel a homeland. And so they were blessed beyond their wildest dreams.

But as we shall see all those blessings were quickly going to be removed from them by God Himself. This new generation of Israelites forgot their heritage and denied the very God who made them what they were. And so slowly but surely they went down the compromising route.

God warned them before they entered the land back in Numbers 33:51-54, that they must destroy the people of Canaan but they also had another warning, God would allow their enemies to be thorns in their sides if they don’t drive them out, Numbers 33:55-56. Sadly, as we will see, this was to become a harsh reality for Israel, Judges 1:19.

After some success, Judah ended up facing some Canaanites which they feared but because of that fear they didn’t drive them out of the land, Judges 1:27-30.

The text tells us that there were some Canaanites they didn’t fear and so they forced them to work for them but again they didn’t drive them out of the land. They didn’t fear the Canaanites, but they were quite happy to live alongside them, but again they didn’t drive them out of the land, Judges 1:32-33.

Because of their sin, Israel faced the Lord’s judgment and as we will see they were going to have to endure a divine sentence from God Himself. However, in spite of their failures, God still sent them men and a woman to lead them and to speak to them, Judges 2:16.

Despite all their sin and their heard heartedness, God still loves them and God is patient with them, giving them every chance to set things right.


It’s uncertain who wrote the book but the author is usually assumed to be Samuel. Jewish tradition attributes the authorship of the book to Samuel who was a prophet and judge of Israel.


Dating the book is extremely difficult, but it must have been written sometime after the events recorded in the book to the time of the reign of King Saul. Some commentators suggest that the prophet wrote it around about 1086-1004 B.C.


In Judges 1:1-Judges 3:6, we find that the Israelites have failed to keep their part of the covenant, and they didn’t entirely conquer and take control of all the land that they were promised. This problem unfortunately grows wildly out of control as time goes on.

In Judges 3:7-Judges 16, we see God raising up judges to rescue Israel several times. We see this vicious cycle appearing, where the Israelites sin, then God rescues them, they worship God for a while and sin starts all over again and so forth.

We also see that these rescues were temporary because we find that the nation’s obedience only lasted as long as the life of that particular judge.

In Judges 17-21, we see Israel sinking into a horrid state of moral demise and ruin. It’s mainly in the tribes of Dan and Benjamin that we see just how far man has really turned from the God of Abraham.

The tribe of Dan had almost completely given in to the worship of idols made by a man named Micah, even to the point that they practically defend it. The entire tribe of Benjamin is almost wiped out, down to 600 men in a violent and vicious civil war.

And it’s during this time we find those sad words ‘in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit,’ Judges 21:25.

The Judges

There are a few judges mentioned in the book, their names are as follows, Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Abimelek, Jair, Tola, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elan, Abdon and Samson.

Of these, there are six major deliverers in the book, they are Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. These last four are best known and are mentioned in the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 11:32, the rest we know very little about.


General introduction to the period of the judges. Judges 1:1-2:5

The period of the judges. Judges 2:6-16:31

General religious characterisation of the period. Judges 2:6-3:6

List of the Judges. Judges 3:7-16:31

Othniel of Judah. Judges 3:8-11

Ehud of Benjamin. Judges 3:12-30

Shamgar. Judges 3:31

Deborah of Ephraim and Barak of Naphtali. Judges 4:1-5:31

Gideon of Manasseh and Abimelek. Judges 6:1-9:57

Tola of Issachar. Judges 10:1-2

Jair of Gilead. Judges 10:3-5

Jephthah of Gilead. Judges 10:6-12:7

Ibzan of Zebulun. Judges 12:8-10

Elon of Zebulun. Judges 12:11-12

Abdon of Ephraim. Judges 12:13-15

Samson of Dan. Judges 13:1-16:31

Double appendix. Judges 17:1-21:25

The idolatry of Dan. Judges 17:1-18:31

The crime at Gibeah and its punishment. Judges 19:1-21:25

The Text

‘After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” The LORD answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “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. Judges 1:1-3

Israel Fights The Remaining Canaanites

God’s leading Israel to have Judah begin the conquest is recorded in these verses. Judah began the task of completing the conquest of the land.

Such work would include the driving out of the Canaanites who had filtered back into the fortified sites which had been overthrown in the quick campaign led by Joshua. The men of Judah were closely assisted in this work by the men of Simeon who settled among them.

The events that happen from Judges 1-2:9, all happen during the lifetime of Joshua and so the introductory words to the book of Judges are to be understood more as a title and general introduction to the whole book. Judges 1-1-2:5 are providing a background to the rest of the book.

Notice the Israelites ‘asked the Lord’, the same phrase is found in the Book of Joshua, Joshua 18:5 / Joshua 20:18 / Joshua 20:27-28, and a similar phrase is found in Numbers 27:21.

Special direction is given to Joshua because he asks of the Lord but how does he ask? It’s possible he consulted the Urim and Thummim, 1 Samuel 23:2-4 / 1 Samuel 22:13-15 / 1 Samuel 28:6, it’s also possible he simply prayed.

The reply comes back that Judah shall go up and Judah is prepared to obey the answer God has given. And having gained confidence in God’s reply, Judah asks Simeon to come with him and then he will help Simeon in their conquest.

The tribes of Judah and Simeon were blood brothers, Genesis 29:33-35, and are seen working together in harmony. The Inheritance of Simeon is seen to be within the borders of Judah, Joshua 19:1, later Simeon loses their tribal identity being absorbed into Judah.

‘When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 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. The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.’ Judges 1:4-8

The Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand. Adoni-Bezek, Lord of Bezek was one of the tyrants and despots of his day whose past exploits had cast fear into the hearts of his enemies.

He had boasted of 70 kings who had received the punishment from his own hands that he was now receiving at the hands of Judah and Simeon.

He had watched them try to pick up food from his table and used their humiliation as part of his entertainment. This perhaps gives us an insight into the attitude and state of the country that is now about to be conquered.

The thumbs were cut off so that it would be difficult to hold any weapon and the big toe was cut off to offset a person’s balance, making it again difficult for them to fight.

It may seem to us today that this was a gruesome thing to do, but Adoni-Bezek accepts it as divine retribution. In other words, no worse than he deserved.

When we think about how much time has passed and how much has happened in between, God’s promises concerning the Ammonites, Genesis 15:16, and now here in this book the prophecy is about to be fulfilled.

Jerusalem is where Adoni-Bezek was brought by his followers where he later died, but this city of refuge was not to be a refuge very long because the same army that had defeated him, now came upon Jerusalem.

The army of Benjamin came sweeping up and captured the city but it seems that they did not continue in occupation of the city but continued in their fighting elsewhere for it seems that after they passed through others came back and occupied at least part of the destroyed city and later we find Benjamites and Jebusites living together in the city.

Possibly there was confusion between Judah and Benjamin because we see Judah set up its centre much further south in Hebron. Remember Hebron was where Abraham and Sarah were buried, Genesis 23:2 / Genesis 25:9, and Isaac Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. David reigned in Hebron 7 years and 6 months before he transferred the seat of power to Jerusalem.

They had captured the mountain areas but left much of the valley.

‘After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).’ Judges 1:9-11

This section includes a review of Caleb’s asking for and receiving Hebron as his special inheritance. Since this area was within the midst of the land assigned to the tribe of Judah, it is natural for the conquest to be recounted at this point.

Notice the failure of the tribes to drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. The site of Jerusalem lay within the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin, but it was on the border of the land assigned to the tribe of Judah. The Benjamites themselves are especially held responsible for driving out this branch of Canaanites.

To the south and west of Jerusalem describes the three major divisions of the southern part of the land. The hill country is the mountainous country between Jerusalem and Hebron.

Hebron was 19 miles south, southwest of Jerusalem associated earlier with Abraham, Genesis 13:18ff. Later with David’s reign as the capital of Judah, 2 Samuel 5:5.

The South, the Negeb is in the semi-arid area between Hebron and Kadesh-Barnea. The Lowlands is the area of foothills running north and south between the coastal plain and the central mountain area.

Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai three sons of Anak were supposed to be huge men and feared because of their size. Debir, the former name means city of books, it probably had one of the great libraries of its time and was a strongly defended city.

‘And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.”  Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage. 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?” She replied, “Do me a special favour. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.’ Judges 1:12-15

Caleb throws out a challenge, and the reward is the hand of his daughter and so, Othniel takes up the challenge and wins the prize. She is a woman with a good head on her shoulders and so, she asks for land and receives a piece but she thinks it is too dry so pushes for water and receives the upper and lowers springs. The whole valley was a beautiful spot fed by the fresh bubbling springs.

Notice also that ‘she got off her donkey’. It appears like she wanted Othniel the mighty warrior to ask Caleb for the land, but Othniel was hesitant in coming forward, so she makes sure the question is asked. Here is the mighty warrior unable to face his father in law.

‘The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad. Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.’ Judges 1:16-18

The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law are the children of Moses’ Father in Law Jethro, they dwelt as a free Arab tribe among the people of the desert, but in close alliance with Israel, Judges 4:11 / 1 Samuel 15:6 / 1 Samuel 27:10 / 1 Samuel 30:29.

Judah kept his promise to Simeon to capture cities in his area. Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron were all cities of the Philistines, and although they took the cities they did not permanently expel the inhabitants.

‘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 chariots fitted with iron. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.’ Judges 1:19-21

The chariots of the Canaanites were formidable to the Israelites. Later we are told that Jabin king of Canaan who reigned in Hazor, had 900 chariots, and hassled the Israelites continually, later we see these chariot forces play an important part in Solomon’s army, 1 King 10:26.

They gave Hebron to Caleb and it’s here we see history reversed and the triumph of faith. Remember in the second year of the Exodus from Egypt the 12 spies were sent out into this same land, and the report came back that the land was good and there was great beauty and richness in the land.

But there were giants in the land and the fortifications were strong and if they tried to capture this place it would be the death of the Israelites, and the people went against their leader Moses, and therefore God and suffered the consequences of dying in the wilderness.

Caleb was one of the spies that said, ‘we can take this land’, and here many years later we see him do just that. He killed the sons of Anak despite their size, captured their cities despite their fortifications, and he was able to do this because he trusted in the promises of God and allowed himself to be used by God.

The words, ‘to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites’ are almost identical to Joshua 15:63, except there we read of the children of Judah.

Jebus or Jerusalem did not fully come under the control of Israelites until the time of David. They failed to keep their focus on the high aim that God had set before them. They were content with partial possession.

‘Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 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.” So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 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.’ Judges 1:22-26

The house of Joseph is seen as Ephraim and Manasseh. The men of Ephraim took the city of Bethel by the treachery of one of the inhabitants whom they caught outside the city.

Remember Rahab showed Israel mercy by not alerting the authorities to the spy’s whereabouts and as a result, she and her family were spared by Joshua.

‘But 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. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labour. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. 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 Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labour. The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.’ Judges 1:27-36

At this point, the Israelites are now in overall control because the Canaanites are made to work for them, this would mean that they would do all the menial tasks. The Asherites were a minority group dwelling among the Canaanites and the Ammorites still held the high pass.

We must note that Joseph’s tribe were big enough to destroy the Ammorites because they failed in their duty before God the Ammorites were strong enough to force Dan to flee to the mountains. Joseph’s selfishness in not carrying out his duty caused his brother to stumble.

Dan also used Joseph’s selfishness as his own excuse for not overcoming the Ammorites. He should have looked to God for help, not his brother, his brother may let him down but God would not have.

The ‘Scorpion Pass’, was beside the cliffs of Petra and it was easy to defend against greater numbers and had to be left till later.

Go To Judges 2


"So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."