March 18 Reading: Judges 1-2 Commentary
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)
Introduction to Judges
The account of Israel’s victories and conquest of the Promised Land in Joshua is followed by the book of Judges. In this book, we see Israel’s growing apostasy. Even though God was faithful to them, they would turn away from him by engaging in sinful practices and serving other gods time and time again.
Overall, the period of judges shows a steep decline in righteous behavior. Every time the people disobeyed, it took them further and further away from God. It shows the consequences for their sin.
But it also shows redemption. Every time they turned to God, he was there for them and called a man – or woman – to lead them.
Judges 1 – Joshua Review
The first two chapters of Judges serve as a lead in to the rest of the book. Judges 1 recounts some of the final events in the book of Joshua. And Judges two highlights the death of Joshua and Israel’s subsequent unfaithfulness.
After Joshua died, there was still work to be done. Not all of the people had been driven from the land. Our first look at that revolves around the tribe of Judah fighting against the Canaanites (v. 1).
Judah enlists the tribe of Simeon to aid in their fight. You may recall that Simeon and Judah were close tribal relatives. Simeon’s land was surrounded by that of Judah (see Josh. 19-21 Commentary).
With Simeon’s help, Judah was able to defeat the Canaanites and Perizzites. They captured Adoni-Bezek who was king of Bezek and cut off his fingers and toes. Additionally, they fought against and captured Jerusalem and set it on fire. And they also fought against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the lowland area of the Negev (v. 9).
Other Cities Conquered
The review of Joshua continues with the following notations:
1. Othniel accepting Caleb’s challenge to capture Kiriath-sepher. In reward, Othniel received Caleb’s daughter Achsah as his wife (v. 12-13).
2. Judah’s military exploits continue. They fight in Philistine territory, taking Gaza and Ashkelon (v. 18). The took possession of “the hill country” (with the Lord’s help) but could not drive out the “inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots” (v. 19).
3. Caleb drives out the sons of Anak and receives Hebron as his inheritance (v. 20).
4. The tribe of Benjamin could not drive out the Jebusites living in Jerusalem (v. 21).
5. Some spies from the tribe of Joseph convinced a man to show them the entrance to the city of Bethel, which they promptly destroyed with fire (vv. 22-26).
An Incomplete Conquest
Some tribes did not conquer all of their respective land in Canaan:
1. Manasseh did not drive out the Canaanites living in several villages in their land allotment (v. 27).
2. Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer (v. 29).
3. Zebulun did not drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol (v. 30).
4. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants living in seven cities in their region (v. 31).
5. Naphtali did not drive out the Canaanites living in Beth-shemesh or Beth-anath (v. 33).
6. Dan did not drive out the Amorites living in their region (v. 34).
This was not God’s intention. These tribes did not follow through in completely riding their land of these pagan people groups.
It is interesting that, years later, all of these tribes were part of the group that would band together and split from Judah to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel. After the kingdom split in two, the northern kingdom never serve the Lord. And their ultimate demise – being conquered by the Assyrians – happened before that of Judah (who did have kings that served the Lord from time to time).
Judges 2 – Israel’s Unfaithfulness and Cycle of Sin
Chapter two begins with a recap of the Lord’s rebuke to the people for disobedience. Because they did not fully obey, God did not drive out all the inhabitants of the land. Instead, God said “they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (v. 3).
Verses 6-10 are a review of Joshua 24:29-31 that details the death of Joshua at 110 years of age. It is encouraging that the generation who knew Joshua and the elders who served with him served the Lord. However, verse 10 strikes an ominous tone for the rest of the book by saying,
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”
The Cycle of Judges
Verse 11 of Chap. 1 tells us that Israel served Baal, a false god of the Canaanites. What follows in the next 12 verses serves as a summary for the rest of the book. it outlines the typical pattern of behavior for the people.
The narrative of Judges follows a similar pattern. The cycle of behavior goes in this order
1) the people sin (mostly through idol worship)
2) God judges them for sin (conquered or enslaved by a people group)
3) they cry out in repentance to God and ask for deliverance
4) God raises up a judge to rescue and lead them
5) the people serve God throughout the lifetime of the judge
6) the people lapse back into sin as the cycle repeats itself over and over.
This cycle of behavior lasted for approximately the next 300 years of Israel’s history until the time of the kings.
Questions to Consider:
Where there is a leadership vacuum, people stumble. So it’s not enough that men and women just lead. They must work to train up leaders who will take the mantle when they are gone.
Moses trained Joshua. Joshua trained no one that we know of. For all his achievements he failed to raise up a successor and that created a gap in godly leadership to guide Israel. The consequence was repeated sin in the book of Judges. Who will carry on your legacy once you are gone?
Are you caught in a cycle of sin, repentance and victory for a time, only to lapse back into that sin? How can we gain victory that lasts?
What other points would you want to know about in our Judges 1-2 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.