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Judges Chapter 1:1-18 


Over the past several weeks, we have made an in depth study on the book of Joshua.  This week we begin a new study on the book of Judges.  The period of the judges began with the death of Joshua.  The period ended when Saul was chosen as king over the nation of Israel.  The book continues the history of the Israelites after the death of Joshua, very similar to the way that Joshua picked up the record after the death of Moses.  The book is filled with much defeat and disgrace.  The reason for this can be found in two key verses in Judges.  Judges 17:6 and 21:25.    

Judg 17:6  In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. 

Judg 21:25  In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. 

As I pondered on those two verses, I marvelled about how similar we are here in America today.   Society wants us to believe that there are no absolutes anymore.  That there is no one right or wrong way, but that if we just do what we think is right everything will be fine.   It sounds good, but the results are going to be just like they were in the days of the judges.  The book of Judges is called the “Dark Ages” for the Hebrew people.  It shows the repetitive cycle that Israel went through as they consistently deserted God and served heathen gods.   God allowed them to suffer at the hands of the Canaanites, which caused them for a period of time to turn back to God for help.  But after God heard their cry, sent a deliver to free them, and that deliverer died, they would fall back to the old pattern of apostasy.  

The period of the judges spanned 450 years. 

Acts 13:20  And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

Acts 13:21  And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. 

There are also two other judges mentioned outside of the book of Judges, Samuel and Eli.  Both of these men came from the tribe of Levi.   During the time of the judges, Israel had no man as king, but the Lord God was their King. 

1 Sam 12:12  And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king.

1 Sam 8:1  And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.

1 Sam 8:2  Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.

1 Sam 8:3  And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

1 Sam 8:4  Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

1 Sam 8:5  And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

1 Sam 8:6  But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.

1 Sam 8:7  And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.


I.                   The Incomplete Victory of Judah 

Judg 1:1  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?

Judg 1:2  And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. 

This is very similar to the way that the book of Joshua began.  Moses had just died and the Lord told Joshua to lead the people. 

Josh 1:1  Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,

Josh 1:2  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 

There was wisdom in the people coming to the Lord to ask who should lead them.  In our every action, we should consider what God would have us to do, and to bring our petitions to Him.   

James 4:1  From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

James 4:2  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

James 4:3  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 

We need to come to God with our petitions the right way for the right reasons.  God is glorified when we will come and humbly ask for his help and guidance.  The people come and ask who should lead them to go and to fight against the Canaanites.  It is possible that they inquired thru the Urim and Thummim concerning the matter. 

Exo 28:29  And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.

Exo 28:30  And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually. 

Num 27:21  And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. 

These special ephods were put in the breastplate and were used to gain judgment from the Lord.   

However they sought the Lord in the matter, he responds in verse 2 and says that Judah will go up first.  God says that he has delivered the Canaanites into his hand already. 

Judg 1:2  And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. 

Judah asks Simeon for help in verse 3.  If he will help Judah, when it comes time for him to go to battle, Judah will help Simeon. 

Judg 1:3  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. 

If you remember, Simeon received his lot in the allotment to the tribe of Judah.  Judah was the largest tribe and therefore they were to go up first.   Judah was the most numerous and powerful tribe, and therefore God chose Judah venture first.  God appoints service according to the strength he has given. Those that are most able, from them most work is expected.   Judah was the tribe out of which our Lord descended.  Simeon was the weaker tribe and we see from this that the strong should not despise the weaker in their work for the Lord.   Many of the missionaries that come to bring their burdens concerning their work do not have a great number of people in their missions, but if they are doing things scripturally.   God is glorified and will bless even 2 or 3 gathered together in His name.  As Judah agreed with Simeon to work together, we of like faith and beliefs should work together to take the Gospel forth into the world. 

Judg 1:4  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. 

They went up to battle, but the verse says that the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand.  It is so crucial in the walk of the Christian to reach that point of humility where we realize that it is not us that accomplishes things in God’s Work, but it is God.  We are vessels that the master uses to accomplish that purpose.  What a blessing to be used of the Creator of the Universe to do His Work.    

2 Tim 2:19  Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

2 Tim 2:20  But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

2 Tim 2:21  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 

Oh to have a heart of humility and willingness to be used.  But many do not want to humble themselves, and God will only use those that are humble.  Judah went up like God commanded, and they took Bezek and slew 10,000 men of the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 

Judg 1:5  And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.

Judg 1:6  But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. 

The Israelites captured Adonibezek and cut off his thumbs and great toes.  Why would they do that?  Try to run effectively without your big toe, and wield a sword in your hand without your thumb.  Our whole body is put together in a perfect matter, and even small parts removed disable its ability to function properly.  That is true in the church also.  Not all members sing in the choir or work in the office, but every single person is important and the church does not function without everyone being involved.

1 Cor 12:13  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Cor 12:14  For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Cor 12:15  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor 12:16  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

1 Cor 12:17  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

1 Cor 12:18  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

1 Cor 12:19  And if they were all one member, where were the body?

1 Cor 12:20  But now are they many members, yet but one body.

1 Cor 12:21  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

1 Cor 12:22  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

1 Cor 12:23  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

1 Cor 12:24  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

1 Cor 12:25  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

1 Cor 12:26  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 

Judg 1:7  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. 

Adonibezek was a great man in the military.  The armies fled before him in the fields, and the kings who he conquered were set with the dogs of his flocks.  He had subdued seventy kings and had many if not all of them as his prisoners.   He declares that the thing he had done to the others had come back upon him.   It is so true in life.   What we reap we sow.   And we not only reap what we sow, but we reap more than we sow.   Let’s be sure to be sowing good seeds of goodness and righteousness so that the crops will be crops of blessings. 

Gal 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Gal 6:8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Gal 6:9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 

Judg 1:8  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. 

A careful review of verse 8 shows that the verbs are past tense.   Judah HAD fought against Jerusalem, and HAD taken it.  If you look over in Joshua Chapter 10, you will find the record where Joshua fought the king of Jerusalem, Adonizedek, and Joshua slew the king.  

Josh 10:22  Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave.

Josh 10:23  And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon.

Josh 10:24  And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them.

Josh 10:25  And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

Josh 10:26  And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. 

Verses 8 – 16 are speaking of the past tense time in the time of Joshua, and the conquests done during his time. 

Judg 1:8  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.

Judg 1:9  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.

Judg 1:10  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. 

In verses 9 and 10, we have the record of Judah fighting during the time of Joshua.  This is when he went out against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron.   In his commentary on Judges, J. Vernon McGee said that he believed that Judah had no right to ask Simeon to go and help in this battle, and perhaps the reason the Canaanites were never totally destroyed out of the land was because Judah wanted to do things his way versus doing them the exact way God commanded.  If we want great victory in the church and in our Christian lives, we must do things according to “thus saith the Lord.”  What we think or want means little, but what God says is what counts.  And the full record is written in the Bible if we will but open the pages and seek God’s Will. 

Judg 1:11  And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher: 

Judah went down against the inhabitants of the city of Debir whose earlier name was Kirjathsepher.  In the 15th book of Joshua, we have record that Othniel took this city. 

Josh 15:16  And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

Josh 15:17  And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. 

Judg 1:12  And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

Judg 1:13  And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.

Judg 1:14  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? 

Caleb makes an offer of his daughter to the man that could smite Kirjathsepher.   It was traditional that the father make the arrangements for marriage, and to give a daughter to a man was a sign of honor and respect. 

Judg 1:15  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. 

Achsah asked her father for springs of water and her request was granted.  Sometimes we need to just ask, and our Heavenly Father will say yes. 

Luke 11:9  And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Luke 11:10  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:11  If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

Luke 11:12  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Luke 11:13  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? 

Judg 1:16  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. 

The children of Moses’ father in law go up to dwell in the city of palm trees with the children of Judah. 

Matthew Henry spoke of the possession given to the Kenites in his study.

The Kenites gained a settlement in the tribe of Judah, choosing it there rather than in any other tribe, because it was the strongest, and there they hoped to be safe and quiet, v. 16. These were the posterity of Jethro, who either went with Israel when Moses invited them (Num. 10:29) or met them about the same place when they came up from their wanderings in the wilderness thirty-eight years after, and went with them then to Canaan, Moses having promised them that they should fare as Israel fared, Num. 10:32. They had at first seated themselves in the city of palm-trees, that is, Jericho, a city which never was to be rebuilt, and therefore the fitter for those who dwelt in tents, and did not mind building. But afterwards they removed into the wilderness of Judah, either out of their affection to that place, because solitary and retired, or out of their affection to that tribe, which perhaps had been in a particular manner kind to them. Yet we find the tent of Jael, who was of that family, far north, in the lot of Naphtali, when Sisera took shelter there, ch. 4:17. This respect Israel showed them, to let them fix where they pleased, being a quiet people, who, wherever they were, were content with a little. Those that molested none were molested by none. Blessed are the meek, for thus they shall inherit the earth.   [1] 

Judg 1:17  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.

Judg 1:18  Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.

Judg 1:19  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.


In verses 17 – 19, we have a record of the places that Judah took in battle after the death of Joshua.  It is to be noted that in Chapter 1 of Judges, 9 of the 12 tribes are mentioned and not a single one totally drove out the enemy.  Three tribes were not mentioned, Reuben, Issachar, and Gad.  Most likely they failed also, but we have no record of their battles.  It was strange in that in no battle was the whole nation involved, but it was tribe by tribe.



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[1]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.