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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 1

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Victory and Defeat in the Promised Land

A. Continuing victory in Israel.

1. (1a) After the death of Joshua.

Now after the death of Joshua

a. After the death of Joshua: In this period Israel lost a critical link in its godly leadership. Moses had been the great leader used by God to bring them out of Egypt; Joshua had been Moses' assistant, and the great leader used by God to bring them into the land of promise. But Joshua had no assistant that he could appoint to lead the whole nation. They were in a critical place where they had to trust God more intimately than they ever had before.

i. God gives wonderful human leaders to His work on this earth, and it is always difficult for God's people when those human leaders pass from the scene. In such a situation, we may live in the past, wishing that leader were still with us.

b. After the death of Joshua: During this period of the judges (which lasted some 340 years), there was no standing "office" of national leadership. Israel had no king, no president, no prime minister on earth - only God in heaven. And at the necessary and appropriate time, God would bring forth a leader for nation who would pretty much rise up, do his (or her) job, and then move on back to their obscurity. This required that Israel have a real, abiding trust in God.

i. These national deliverers were not elected, and they didn't come to leadership through succession - they were specially gifted by God for leadership in their times, and the people of God recognized and respected that gifting.

ii. When this book uses the term judge, it doesn't mean someone who sits in a court and decides legal issues; the Hebrew word shaphat has more the idea of a heroic leader.

iii. They had formidable obstacles - they were surrounded by people who lived in the most terrible immorality and idolatry; there were constant dangers to their walking with God. The lives of the Canaanites who lived around Israel were focused mainly on three things: money, sex, and having a relationship with God on my terms instead of God's terms.

c. After the death of Joshua: The book of Judges shows us a time that is sometimes confusing, difficult, and dark. For this reason, many have neglected the book of Judges, and regarded this period of time as a "dark ages" of Israel's history. But if we neglect this book, we neglect a wonderful account of the love and graciousness of God, and how He lovingly corrects His people.

i. What we find out about man in Judges is depressing; but what we find out about God in Judges is spectacular.

2. (1b-2) After Joshua's death, Israel seeks the LORD.

It came to pass that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, "Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?" And the LORD said, "Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand."

a. The children of Israel asked the LORD: Here, they do the right thing - the thing Joshua would have wanted them to do. With Joshua gone, they are not left without a leader; they are simply called to a new trust in God.

b. And the LORD said: When Israel sought the LORD, He guided them. Jesus said the same in Luke 11:9 - So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Often when we think the LORD isn't answering us, it is really more of a matter of Him speaking in a way we wouldn't expect Him to.

c. Judah shall go up: God directs that the tribe of Judah - the tribe the Messiah would come from - would lead the way.

i. Under Joshua, Israel had broken the back of the Canaanite's military strength; yet it remained for each individual tribe to actually go in and possess what God had given them.

3. (Jdg 1:3-7) Judah (with the tribe of Simeon) defeats Bezek and their king.

So Judah said to Simeon his brother, "Come up with me to my allotted territory, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I will likewise go with you to your allotted territory." And Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up, and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they killed ten thousand men at Bezek. And they found Adoni-Bezek in Bezek, and fought against him; and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Then Adoni-Bezek fled, and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. And Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me." Then they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

a. Judah said to Simeon his brother, "Come up with me": Judah is walking wisely; by partnering with another tribe, the work is much easier. Here, the tribes are functioning like God wants the church to function - as a body, with each part of the body helping out other parts of the body.

b. The LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: Seeking the LORD, obeying His guidance, and working together as a body always produces great results: the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hands.

c. They killed tne thousand men at Bezek: This place where the conquered was called Bezek; and the leader of this city was Adoni-Bezek, which means "Lord of Lightning" - a fearful name, but Judah and Simeon defeated him none the less.

i. Their punishment of him may seem cruel, but realize that it is justice in its truest sense - he had done this same thing to seventy kings, now he has his own toes and fingers cut off.

ii. The punishment made Adoni-Bezek worthless as a warrior; he could trouble Israel no more as a military man. "It was a custom among those Romans who did not like a military life, to cut off their own thumbs, that they might not be called into the army. Sometimes the parents cut off the thumbs of their children, that they might not be called into the army." (Clarke).

iii. We also see Judah and Simeon being unselfish; they are fighting a battle in a territory that did not directly belong to them. The city of Bezek was far to the north of Judah's tribal lands.

4. (Jdg 1:8-20) Judah's victories in the southern part of the land given to Israel.

Now the children of Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it; they struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who dwelt in the mountains, in the South, and in the lowland. Then Judah went against the Canaanites who dwelt in Hebron. (Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kirjath Arba.) And they killed Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formerly Kirjath Sepher.) Then Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife." And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 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?" 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. Now the children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went up from the City of Palms with the children of Judah into the Wilderness of Judah, which lies in the South near Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people. And Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they attacked the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah. Also Judah took Gaza with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. So the LORD was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron. And they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had said. Then he expelled from there the three sons of Anak.

a. Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it: Jerusalem falls to Judah; it was occupied for a time (Adoni-Bezek was taken there and died there), but it later fell back to the Jebusites (see Judges 1:21). David re-conquered the city some 400 years later (2 Samuel 5:6-10).

b. Then Judah went against the Canaanites who dwelt in Hebron: Judah also conquers Hebron, and it is given to faithful Caleb and his family (see Joshua 15:13-19).

i. Hebron was the ancient city of Abraham, and the city which discouraged the ten unfaithful spies from taking the promised land in Moses' day, because of the Anakim which lived there (Numbers 13:22-23).

c. Give me a blessing: Spurgeon has a wonderful sermon on verses 12-15 ("Aschsah's Asking, A Pattern of Prayer"); he shows how the request from a daughter (Aschsah) to a father (Caleb) gives us a "parable of prayer."

i. She thought about what she wanted before she went to her father. Before you pray, know what you need before God. She came to God with a very definite request, that had been considered before hand. "Think what you are going to ask before you begin to pray, and then pray like business men. This woman does not say to her father, 'Father, listen to me,' and then utter some pretty little oration about nothing; but she knows what she is going to ask for, and why she is going to ask it." (Spurgeon)

ii. She asked for help with her request, asking her husband - she urged him to ask her father for a field. "A friend, some time ago, said to me, 'My dear pastor, whenever I cannot pray for myself, and there are times when I feel shut up about myself, I always take to praying for you: 'God bless him, at any rate!' and I have not long been praying for you before I begin to feel able to pray for myself.' I should like to come in for many of those odd bits of prayer. Whenever any of you get stuck in the mud, do pray for me. It will do you good, and I shall get a blessing." (Spurgeon)

iii. She knew it was her father she asked.

iv. She went humbly, yet eagerly.

v. Her father asked her what she wanted - God will ask us the same thing, and we should know what we want.

vi. You should actually ask for it; it is a pleasure for God to hear you ask.

vii. Her prayer: give me a blessing.

viii. She mingled gratitude with her petition (you have given me land in the South).

ix. She used past blessing as a reason to ask for more.

x. She realized that what she had been given before was of no use without continual springs of water. "What is the use of the hearers if there be not the power of the Holy Spirit going with the Word to bless them? Give me springs of water." (Spurgeon)

xi. Her father gave her what she asked.

xii. Her father gave to her in large measure.

xiii. Her father was not critical of the request in the slightest way.

d. The city of Palms: This is Jericho; the Kenites went from there to Arad, a city out in the Judean wilderness, west of Masada and the Dead Sea; Zephath isn't too far from there; Gaza and Ashkelon were out towards the coast and later became Philistine strongholds.

e. They had chariots of iron: As impressive as Judah's victory was, it was incomplete; they could not win over nations that had the latest military technology: chariots of iron.

i. Of course, this spoke more to Judah's lack of full trust in God than it did to Canaanite military superiority. Chariots were not problem for God's people when they were trusting God (Exodus 14:7-29; Joshua 11:1-8; 1 Kings 20:21); their attitude should have been like in Psalm 20:7 - Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

ii. They believed one promise of God, and not another. They believed that God was with them in the hills, but not in the lowlands. Many believers find it easy to believe one area of God's promises, but not another.

B. Incomplete victory and defeat.

1. (Jdg 1:21) The tribe of Benjamin does not take possession of Jerusalem.

But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

a. The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites: This is a case where the battle had already been won (Judges 1:8). They just had to enter into what was theirs. It would take effort, to be certain, but the battle was over. Jerusalem belonged to them.

2. (Jdg 1:22-26) The house of Joseph (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) take the city of Bethel.

And the house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the LORD was with them. So the house of Joseph sent men to spy out Bethel. (The name of the city was formerly Luz.) And when the spies saw a man coming out of the city, they said to him, "Please show us the entrance to the city, and we will show you mercy." So he showed them the entrance to the city, and they struck the city with the edge of the sword; but they let the man and all his family go. And the man went to the land of the Hittites, built a city, and called its name Luz, which is its name to this day.

a. And the LORD was with them: We might credit the victory to their effective use of military espionage; but the real reason was because the LORD was with them.

3. (Jdg 1:27-29) Ephraim and Manasseh fail to drive out all the Canaanites.

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. And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; so the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.

a. The Canaanites were determined to dwell in the land: At first, there were pockets of Canaanites that these tribes were unable to push out of the land. But when the tribes eventually grew strong enough, they compromised with those Canaanites and thought they could use them to their advantage (they put the Canaanites under tribute).

b. Did not completely drive them out: In the same way, when someone first begins their Christian life, they may not be strong enough in the LORD to deal with all the things they see that need changing; yet as they grow in the LORD, they must not slack in dealing with those areas. We are to never make a peace treaty with sin.

4. (Jdg 1:30) The tribe of Zebulun compromises and accommodates the Canaanites, putting them under tribute.

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.

5. (Jdg 1:31-32) The tribe of Asher fails in taking full possession of their land.

Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob. So the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.

6. (Jdg 1:33) The tribe of Naphtali compromises and accommodates the Canaanites, putting them under tribute.

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.

7. (Jdg 1:34-36) The tribe of Dan fails in taking full possession of their land.

And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley; 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. Now the boundary of the Amorites was from the Ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela, and upward.

a. The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains: Here, we see the people of God being pushed around by their enemies; this should never be the case when God's people are walking in the strength God has for them.

b. When the strength of the house of Joseph became greater, they were put under tribute: Again, instead of doing what God said should be done with these enemies (completely drive them out), they decide they will use them as they think best - putting these enemies under tribute.

c. The boundary of the Amorites: Finally, the Amorites have an appointed boundary within the inheritance of God's people; we should never accommodate our spiritual enemies in this way.

d. Lessons from Israel's incomplete occupation of what God intended for them.

i. Essentially, the question is: what will we be satisfied with in our Christian life? For Israel, in Judges 1, they were satisfied with far less than what God wanted them to have, and far less than what God had provided for them.

ii. These Israelites didn't say "let's forsake God"; they simply decided that they would be satisfied with less. Once we satisfy ourselves with less than God's best for us, we will never be what God wants us to be.

© 2003 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


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