Judges 1

Judah's Leadership against the Canaanites

1 After the death of Joshua,[a] the Israelites inquired of the Lord, "Who will be the first to fight for us against the Canaanites?"
2 The Lord answered, "Judah is to go.[b] I have handed the land over to him."
3 Judah said to his brother Simeon, "Come with me to my territory, and let us fight against the Canaanites. I will also go with you to your territory." So Simeon went with him.
4 When Judah attacked, the Lord handed the Canaanites and Perizzites over to them. They struck down 10,000 men in Bezek.[c]
5 They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek, fought against him, and struck down the Canaanites and Perizzites.
6 When Adoni-bezek fled, they pursued him, seized him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.[d]
7 Adoni-bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up [scraps][e] under my table. God has repaid me for what I have done." They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
8 The men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.
9 Afterwards, the men of Judah marched down to fight against the Canaanites who were living in the hill country, the Negev, and the Judean foothills.[f]
10 Judah also marched against the Canaanites who were living in Hebron (Hebron was formerly named Kiriath-arba).[g] They struck down Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai.[h]
11 From there they marched against the residents of Debir (Debir was formerly named Kiriath-sepher).
12 Caleb said, "Whoever strikes down and captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah[i] to him as a wife."
13 So Othniel[j] son of Kenaz, Caleb's youngest brother, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as his wife.
14 When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel[k] to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her,[l] "What do you want?"
15 She answered him, "Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me springs of water also." So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs.[m][n]
16 The descendants of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law,[o] had gone up with the men of Judah from the City of Palms[p] to the Wilderness of Judah, which was in the Negev of Arad.[q] They went to live among the people.
17 Judah went with his brother Simeon, struck the Canaanites who were living in Zephath, and completely destroyed the town. So they named the town Hormah.[r]
18 Judah captured Gaza and its territory, Ashkelon and its territory, and Ekron and its territory.[s]
19 The Lord was with[t] Judah and enabled them to take possession of the hill country, but they could not drive out[u] the people who were living in the valley because those people had iron chariots.[v][w]
20 Judah gave Hebron to Caleb, just as Moses had promised.[x] Then Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak[y] who lived there.[z]

Benjamin's Failure

21 At the same time the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem. The Jebusites have lived among the Benjaminites in Jerusalem to this day.[aa]

Success of the House of Joseph

22 The house of Joseph also attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with[ab] them.
23 They sent spies to Bethel (the town was formerly named Luz[ac]).
24 The spies saw a man coming out of the town and said to him, "Please show us how to get into town, and we will treat you well."[ad]
25 When he showed them the way into the town, they put the town to the sword but released the man and his entire family.
26 Then the man went to the land of the Hittites, built a town, and named it Luz. That is its name to this day.

Failure of the Other Tribes

27 At that time Manasseh failed to take possession of Beth-shean[ae][af] and its villages,[ag] or Taanach[ah] and its villages, or the residents of Dor[ai] and its villages, or the residents of Ibleam[aj][ak]and its villages, or the residents of Megiddo[al] and its villages. But the Canaanites refused to leave[am] this land.[an]
28 When Israel became stronger, they made the Canaanites serve as forced labor but never drove them out completely.[ao]
29 At that time Ephraim failed to drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived among them in Gezer.[ap][aq]
30 Zebulun failed to drive out the residents of Kitron or the residents of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them and served as forced labor.
31 Asher failed to drive out the residents of Acco[ar] or of Sidon, or Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob.
32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanites who were living in the land, because they failed to drive them out.
33 Naphtali did not drive out the residents of Beth-shemesh or the residents of Beth-anath. They lived among the Canaanites who were living in the land, but the residents of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath served as their forced labor.
34 The Amorites forced the Danites into the hill country and did not allow them to go down into the valley.
35 The Amorites refused to leave Har-heres, Aijalon,[as] and Shaalbim. When the house of Joseph got the upper hand, the Amorites[at] were made to serve as forced labor.
36 The territory of the Amorites extended from the ascent of Akrabbim,[au] that is from Sela[av] upward.

Judges 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

The book of Judges is the history of Israel during the government of the Judges, who were occasional deliverers, raised up by God to rescue Israel from their oppressors, to reform the state of religion, and to administer justice to the people. The state of God's people does not appear in this book so prosperous, nor their character so religious, as might have been expected; but there were many believers among them, and the tabernacle service was attended to. The history exemplifies the frequent warnings and predictions of Moses, and should have close attention. The whole is full of important instruction.

Proceedings of the tribes of Judah and Simeon. (1-8) Hebron and other cities taken. (9-20) The proceedings of other tribes. (21-36)

Verses 1-8 The Israelites were convinced that the war against the Canaanites was to be continued; but they were in doubt as to the manner in which it was to be carried on after the death of Joshua. In these respects they inquired of the Lord. God appoints service according to the strength he has given. From those who are most able, most work is expected. Judah was first in dignity, and must be first in duty. Judah's service will not avail unless God give success; but God will not give the success, unless Judah applies to the service. Judah was the most considerable of all the tribes, and Simeon the least; yet Judah begs Simeon's friendship, and prays for aid from him. It becomes Israelites to help one another against Canaanites; and all Christians, even those of different tribes, should strengthen one another. Those who thus help one another in love, have reason to hope that God will graciously help both. Adoni-bezek was taken prisoner. This prince had been a severe tyrant. The Israelites, doubtless under the Divine direction, made him suffer what he had done to others; and his own conscience confessed that he was justly treated as he had treated others. Thus the righteous God sometimes, in his providence, makes the punishment answer the sin.

Verses 9-20 The Canaanites had iron chariots; but Israel had God on their side, whose chariots are thousands of angels, ( Psalms 68:17 ) . Yet they suffered their fears to prevail against their faith. About Caleb we read in ( Joshua 15:16-19 ) . The Kenites had settled in the land. Israel let them fix where they pleased, being a quiet, contented people. They that molested none, were molested by none. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Verses 21-36 The people of Israel were very careless of their duty and interest. Owing to slothfulness and cowardice, they would not be at the pains to complete their conquests. It was also owing to their covetousness: they were willing to let the Canaanites live among them, that they might make advantage of them. They had not the dread and detestation of idolatry they ought to have had. The same unbelief that kept their fathers forty years out of Canaan, kept them now out of the full possession of it. Distrust of the power and promise of God deprived them of advantages, and brought them into troubles. Thus many a believer who begins well is hindered. His graces languish, his lusts revive, Satan plies him with suitable temptations, the world recovers its hold; he brings guilt into his conscience, anguish into his heart, discredit on his character, and reproach on the gospel. Though he may have sharp rebukes, and be so recovered that he does not perish, yet he will have deeply to lament his folly through his remaining days; and upon his dying bed to mourn over the opportunities of glorifying God and serving the church he has lost. We can have no fellowship with the enemies of God within us or around us, but to our hurt; therefore our only wisdom is to maintain unceasing war against them.

Footnotes 48

  • [a]. Jos 1:1; 24:29-31
  • [b]. Jdg 20:18
  • [c]. 1 Sm 11:8
  • [d]. 2 Sm 4:12
  • [e]. Lit toes are gathering
  • [f]. Or the Shephelah
  • [g]. Gn 23:2; 35:27; Jos 14:15
  • [h]. Nm 13:22; Jos 15:13-14
  • [i]. Jos 15:16-17; 1 Ch 2:49
  • [j]. Jdg 3:9,11; Jos 15:17; 1 Ch 4:13
  • [k]. LXX reads arrived, he pressured her
  • [l]. LXX reads She grumbled while on the donkey, and she cried out from the donkey, "Into the southland you sent me out," and Caleb said
  • [m]. LXX reads me redemption of water, and Caleb gave her according to her heart the redemption of the upper and the redemption of the lower
  • [n]. Jos 15:15-19
  • [o]. Ex 2:18; 3:1; 4:18; 18:1-12; Nm 10:29
  • [p]. Jericho; Jdg 3:13; Dt 34:3; 2 Ch 28:15
  • [q]. Nm 21:1; 33:40; Jos 12:14
  • [r]. Nm 21:3; Dt 1:44
  • [s]. LXX reads Judah did not inherit Gaza and its borders nor Ashkelon and its borders nor Ekron and its borders or Azotus and its surrounding lands
  • [t]. Gn 39:2,21; Jos 6:27; Jdg 2:18; 1 Sm 18:12
  • [u]. Jos 15:63
  • [v]. LXX reads hill country, for they were not able to drive out the residents of the valley because Rechab separated it
  • [w]. Jdg 4:3,13; Jos 17:16,18
  • [x]. Dt 1:36; Jos 14:9
  • [y]. Nm 13:22
  • [z]. LXX reads And he inherited from there the three cities of the sons of Anak.
  • [aa]. Jos 15:63
  • [ab]. Gn 39:2,21; Jos 6:27; Jdg 2:18; 1 Sm 18:12
  • [ac]. Jdg 1:26; Gn 28:19; 35:6; 48:3
  • [ad]. Jos 2:12,14; 2 Sm 9:1,3,7
  • [ae]. LXX reads Beth-shean, which is a Scythian city
  • [af]. Jos 17:11,16; 1 Sm 31:10,12; 2 Sm 21:12
  • [ag]. LXX reads its villages nor the fields around it
  • [ah]. Jdg 5:19; Jos 17:11; 21:25
  • [ai]. Jos 11:2; 12:23; 17:11; 1 Kg 4:11
  • [aj]. LXX reads Balaam
  • [ak]. Jos 17:11; 2 Kg 9:27
  • [al]. Jdg 5:19; 1 Kg 9:15; 2 Kg 23:29-30
  • [am]. LXX reads Canaanites began to live in
  • [an]. Jdg 1:35; Jos 17:12; Hs 5:11
  • [ao]. Jos 17:12-13
  • [ap]. LXX reads Gezer, and became forced labor
  • [aq]. Jos 16:10
  • [ar]. LXX reads Acco, and they became for him forced labor and the residents of Dor
  • [as]. Jos 10:12; 1 Sm 14:31; 1 Ch 8:13; 2 Ch 28:18
  • [at]. LXX reads Joseph became strong on the Amorites, they
  • [au]. Nm 34:4; Jos 15:3
  • [av]. 2 Kg 14:7; Isa 16:1

Chapter Summary


The title of this book in the Hebrew copies is Sepher Shophetim, the Book of Judges; but the Syriac and Arabic interpreters call it,

``the Book of the Judges of the Children of Israel;''

and the Septuagint only Judges; so called, not because it was written by them, though some think it was compiled out of annals and diaries kept by them; but it seems to be the work of one person only: the true reason of its name is, because it treats of the judges of Israel, gives an account of their lives and actions, and especially such as concerned their office; which office was different from that of kings, and seems only to have been occasional, and chiefly lay in delivering the people out of the hands of their enemies, when oppressed, distressed, or carried captive by them; in protecting them in the enjoyment of their country, rights, and liberties; in leading out their armies against their enemies when needful; and in settling differences, judging law suits, and administering justice. The government of the nation, during their time, was a theocracy. It is not certain who was the penman of this book; some ascribe it to King Hezekiah, others to Ezra; but the Jewish writers {a} are generally of opinion that it was written by Samuel, which is most likely, who was the last of the judges; and it seems plainly to be written before the times of David, us appears from a speech of Joab, 2Sa 11:21; and from some passages in Ps 68:8,9 Ps 97:5, which seem to refer or allude to Jud 5:4,5; and from Jerusalem being called Jebus, which shows it to be inhabited by the Jebusites in the time of the writer of this book, whereas it was taken out of their hands by David; besides, Samuel himself refers to the annals of this book; 1Sa 12:9-11; and from whose testimonies, as well as from others in the New Testament, there is no doubt to be made of its being genuine and authentic, and written by divine inspiration; as is evident from the use the Apostle Paul, and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, have made of it, Ac 13:20, Heb 11:32; it is useful as an history, and without which the history of the people of Israel would not be complete; it containing an account of all their judges, excepting the two last, Eli and Samuel, of whom an account is given in the following books, and of some facts incidental to those times, related in an appendix at the end of it, concerning the idol of Micah, and the war of Benjamin; and furnishes out many useful moral observations concerning God's displeasure at sin in his own people Israel, and his corrections for it; and about his providential care of them in raising up for them deliverers in their time of need, as well as points at various virtues and excellencies in great and good men, worthy of imitation. It contains, according to Piscator, Dr. Lightfoot, and others, an history of two hundred ninety and nine years.


The children of Israel, after Joshua's death, inquiring of the Lord which tribes should first go up against the remaining Canaanites, Judah is ordered to go up, who with Simeon did, Jud 1:1-3; and had success against the Canaanites under Adonibezek, whom they brought to Jerusalem Jud 1:4-8; and against the Canaanites in Hebron, Debir, Zephath, Hormah, Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron, Jud 1:9-20; the Benjamites had not such good success as Judah against the Jebusites in Jerusalem, Jud 1:21; nor as the house of Joseph had against Bethel, Jud 1:22-26; nor could the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali, drive out the Canaanites from several places which belonged unto them, though many of them became their tributaries, Jud 1:27-33; and as for the Amorites, they were too powerful for the tribe of Dan, though some of them became tributaries to the house of Joseph, Jud 1:34-36.

{a} T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 14. 2.

Judges 1 Commentaries

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