Wednesday, Jul 08th

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Judges 1

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We now begin what in Hebrew is called the Shepher Shophtim – the Book of Judges. The Syriac and Arabic versions have a longer title: The Book of the Judges of the Children of Israel; the Septaguint merely titles it ‘Judges’, Kritai. As Matthew Henry says, both the nation and its judges were extra-special and “differed vastly” from judges of other nations. The period covered by the Judges is said to be 299 years, and the actual judges were taken from eight different tribes. However, the names of Eli and Samuel do not appear in its pages.

As Henry sadly comments, the judges, though following on from the illustrious Joshua, were not as sound as they should have been. Even so, “there was a face of religion” upon Israel, even when the judges were not all that godly. The same can be said of Britain, which is why it became the ruler of much of the world… losing it again when God was left out altogether, until we see the grave results today.

Though the book records mainly the black days, ordinary everyday life still took place, and this should not be forgotten. And the people had God in mind, taking His special days and festivals very seriously. God ruled through the judges, who were in almost every sense the mouthpieces of God in Israel.

It has been suggested that Samuel, one of the greatest of judges, wrote this book, though we have no direct proof. Not that it matters.

Joshua was about 83 years of age when he took over from Moses and led the people into Canaan. Like Moses, he was strong and fit, with God as his Lord. He ruled for 28 years. So, this book of Judges continues from his death. Moses had warned that Israel would sink to sinful depths, and his prophecy was right. It did not take Israel long to forget the stern warnings of Moses, and the amazingly successful days of Joshua! Just like us today, they easily turned back to sin.

When judges rule under the hand of God, all is well. But, when they start to fail, and remove themselves from His hands, they falter, and those in their charge fall with them. This is why, at all times, a nation MUST have God as its head and all leaders under His command. This is when countries are victorious and successful. We see the exact opposite today in cultic and occultic lands… Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Marxist – the list is long. All live by their own manmade rules and all are failures. This failure will become known to Israel as a nation for the next 299 years.

Verses 1-3

  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?

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

  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.

So, 28 years after Moses delivered his momentous laws to the people of Israel, the mighty Joshua died and the people again sought a new governor. The high priest and elders prayed to Jehovah, asking who would lead them into battle again against the Canaanites. Though Israel had fought the Canaanites for almost 30 years the enemies regrouped time and again to attack the invaders, and this would be a recurring feature for the rest of their history.

God was unequivocal – He would send Judah. He would deliver the people from attacks. Judah asked his brother, Simeon, to join him in the fight, promising to return the favour when Simeon needed help. This is how it is today – we do not just fight or resist one sin or one enemy… sins are always in the wings waiting to drag us down, and enemies are there, even when we do not see them. Mainly, we do not see them because we wish to stay ignorant of anything discomforting. But, this is a mistake. As God’s soldiers we must always be on guard, for Satan has many fellows ready to do us harm, including those who smile at us! And fellow Christians should always be by our side (though in my experience this is rare).

Verses 4-7

  1. 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.

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

  3. But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.

  4. 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.

Judah, Simeon and their tribe, fought the Canaanites and Perizzites. Ten thousands of the enemy were killed at Bezek (unknown site, but probably a city in south Canaan). The Perizzites apparently lived in the mountains of south Canaan (though some suggest they lived in the plains). They were led by king Adoni-bezek, who fled when he saw the slaughter. As shown in the book of Joshua, the soldiers of Israel were very fierce and feared by their enemies, so the king had every reason to escape. But, this was an isolated victory…

The men of Israel chased after the king and caught him. They promptly amputated his big toes and thumbs. To us today this was a very odd thing to do, but it made great sense in those ancient days.

A similar thing was done to English bowmen in early English history, when certain fingers were cut off* to prevent them using their bows again. (*Note: In Roman times men who did not want to be forced to join the legions cut off their thumbs so as to be useless to the army!). By cutting off the big toes, men would not be able to run properly or with balance, and removing their thumbs meant they were unable to wield an axe, sword or bow. The king admitted that he had done exactly the same with 70 kings he had beaten. They were reduced to crawling on the floor under his banqueting table, picking up scraps thrown there. Interestingly, he said his capture was a penalty or repayment put on him by God for doing it to others. After his defeat and mutilation, he was taken to Jerusalem as a prisoner, where he died. Some scholars say this king was also known as Adonizedek, documented in Joshua 10, but this cannot be, for that king was captured and put to death when Joshua was still alive, with four other sub-kings. (The word used for ‘seventy’ kings who were mutilated can read as ‘many’, so the actual number could easily be more).

The action taken to neutralise fighting men is interesting. Should violent men today be similarly neutralized by whatever means, so they cannot ever again cause harm to others? It is an interesting concept. Should, say, serial rapists have their genitals removed? Or is this too close to what Islam does to offenders? On the other hand, is the West too soft on crime and evil? These are questions worth considering.

Verses 8-13

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:

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

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

The battles continued, and Judah’s army went on to war against the inhabitants of Jerusalem, taking it for themselves after killing the people and burning the city. Thus, the city belonged to Israel for a very long time, well before Islam claimed it for themselves. Then, Judah went to fight more Canaanites in valleys, plains and mountains. After that he carried the fight to Canaanites south of Jerusalem, in Hebron. They successfully defeated three sons of Anak: Sheshai (‘noble’), his brother, Ahiman, and another Anakim and third brother, Yalmai (‘furrowed’). Though they were giants, possibly leading other giants, it presented no problem to the men of Judah, whose God was Jehovah! Today, so what if our enemies or circumstances are big? With God on our side, it does not matter, for He can rid us of our enemies.

The army then carried on tirelessly in an arc, to defeat the people of Debir, a mountain town west of Hebron, given to God’s priests and made a city of refuge. Before this battle, Caleb (‘dog’: probably one of the original godly spies) offered his daughter, Achsah, to whoever managed to take Debir. Caleb’s nephew, Othniel (‘lion of God’), did the deed, won the bride, and became the first Judge of Israel.

These battles by ancient Israel seem to offend so many modern Christians! They forget that at that time tribes were their own masters under God, and winning battles was part of everyday life, necessary to beat back enemies and heathen. Today, limp-wristed Christians do not even wish to fulfill God’s command to put murderers to death, let alone fight evil people in God’s Name. The fight, they erroneously claim, must be spiritual-only! This is called ‘cowardice’.

Verses 14-18

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.

A short while after the battle, Achsah rode to her father’ Caleb on an ass, to ask a favour of him. She asked for Caleb to give her a blessing. She thanked him for giving her land in the south of Judah. Would he also give her some natural springs for water? Caleb gladly gave her what she asked for, and a few extra springs.

The tribe Moses’ father-in-law came from (Kenites: ‘smiths’) left the “city of palm trees’ south of Canaan; this appears to have been Jericho (Ir-Hatmarim), accompanying the tribe of Judah to the desert, south of Arad (a Canaanite royal city north of Judah). The group lived amongst the people there. Meanwhile Judah’s tribe linked up again with Simeon’s people to kill the Canaanites of Zephath (‘watch-tower’) which was now in the land given to Simeon. After the battle the city was renamed Hormah (‘devotion’). This was for several reasons – God commanded that the Canaanites were to be put to death for their heathenism, and, the land, in the south, had already been given to the tribe of Judah by Joshua. So, Judah retook what belonged to him. He also battled for Gaza, a Philistine city near the Mediterranean, Askelon (south-west of Jerusalem), which was a maritime city, and Ekron, the most northerly city of the Philistines. These cities were taken with their ‘coasts’ – all surrounding land.

Note what happened – God promised and gave Israel something, and the people made sure they procured it. Today, how many Christians are faithful enough to get hold (or keep hold) of what God has promised or commanded? Almost none! They would never demand what has been given to them, nor would they cause friction to get it. That is why we are weak in modern times. I am not necessarily speaking of actual war, but at the very least of standing firm as believers and not allowing the unsaved to rob us of what God gives to us. We are servants of the most High, the ONLY God!! Do not buckle under pressure to stay silent about it. Do not allow Islam to replace our Lord with the moon-god Allah! Follow 2 Kings and throw out everything pagan. Sadly, this is my pipe-dream, because almost no Christian today would have the courage to take possession of what God has given to us.

Verses 19-21

  1. 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.

  2. And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.

  3. And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.

The Lord was with Judah. Know why? Because he obeyed the Lord and did His commands! If we do not act the same way we can expect no victories from God! Stop bumbling about like weak vessels. Be strong and demand what God has already given to us. This is how the heathen of Allah act and they get what they demand. We belong to the true Lord, so where is our zeal?

Because of his trust in Jehovah, Judah won the battle against the Canaanites in the mountains, though they could not win against the people in the plain because they had iron chariots. Caleb won against the three giant kings, but the tribe of Benjamin could not completely rid Jerusalem of the Jebusites. So Benjamites and Jebusites ended up sharing the city, much as Jews and Muslims share it today. Christians must always remember that we are not promised a bed of roses, but a continuous fight with the devil’s men. I am always suspicious of Christians who claim never to have known a cross word or opposition. It flies in the face of everything Christ told us and proves how inactive and possibly disloyal those Christians are. No sane man wants a fight, but when it comes we must stand firm and wield the sword of truth.

Verses 22-26

  1. And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.

  2. And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)

  3. And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.

  4. And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.

  5. And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.

Joseph’s tribe went to battle against Bethel (‘house of God’) on Benjamin’s border, and won. They sent spies out to ‘descry’ or spy-out the city. The spies captured a resident and asked him to tell them where the entrance was, promising to keep him and his family safe when they attacked if he told them. Once they knew where to get into Bethel, the tribe descended on it and killed the inhabitants, except for the informer and his family. After the battle the informer took his family to the land of the Hittites (north Lebanon), where he built a new city which he named Luz (‘almond tree’), which was the original name of Bethel. I have no doubt that many modern Christians hate this kind of talk – battles, death, killing of people… but, this is how God acted. Today, when we act out God’s word it can have unintended or intended consequences, which few believers can stomach. The problem is theirs.

Verses 27-32

  1. Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

  2. And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.

  3. Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.

  4. Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.

  5. Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:

  6. But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.

Manasseh could not beat the city of Bethshean nor its towns. Same failure came for Taanach and Dor, Ibleam, Meggido… in all of them the Canaanites remained. Other failures accrued… Why was this so, when the land was promised to the people of Israel by God? The same problem is amongst us today, as Christians live lives of spiritual failure, not having resolve to win against sins and enemies. When we allow sins and sinful people to live amongst us, we will reap the rewards of sin, not blessings from God. Every time we give in to a sin or sinful person, we make ourselves weaker. Am I speaking truth? Yes, I am – see verse 28: “When Israel was strong”… it beat the Canaanites by making them pay tribute. (But, even this is less than God requires; He wants total dominion, not partial).

This lack of resolve also affected the fighters of Ephraim, whose inability to beat the enemy allowed the Canaanites to stay where they were within Ephraim’s borders… a little cancer spreads to the whole body; a small sin grows into total blackness. The men of Zebulun also failed to subdue and get rid of the Canaanites on their land, but got them to pay tribute. Make no mistake, it was an error, not a win! And the failure spread to other tribes like Asher, who did not get rid of the Canaanites and even joined with them, thus making the Canaanites the victors. Today, Christians must learn these lessons, for where there is no godly resolve there will be no victories. When we open a tap just a little for entry by the wicked, we may as well open it fully to let them flood in! The one initial error makes us weak and unable to win.

Verses 33-36

  1. Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.

  2. And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:

  3. But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.

  4. And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.

And Naphtali also failed. There was a national failure just a few short decades away from the mighty laws of Moses and just months from the victories under Joshua! It is nothing but shameful. And the same shame is upon us all in today’s weak and unresponsive Christianised atmosphere. Though we are called to be at Christ’s side, how many today would become actual warriors in very real spiritual campaigns? I know the sad answer – do you? When we do not drive out the wicked from amongst us, we dishonour the Lord Who gave us our freedoms. When we read of the long list of Canaanite successes, we can see a nation of God groaning under its own weight of sin and laxity. The same is found today in our churches. And the answer is always the same – fight or die! Having enemies to pay dues as tributaries is not the aim of God. He wants total victory over them.

As if to rub the noses of Israel further into the dirt, the Amorites drove the tribe of Dan to hide in the mountains, and did not allow them to come back down to the valleys where there was ready water and crops. The twist came by the stronger tribe of Joseph making the Amorites pay them tribute… but Dan stayed holed-up in the mountains, to their shame. Are you strong in the Lord? Will you stand firm and never back down from being His servant and warrior? Or, do you prefer to live amongst sinners and enemies, subject to their demands… as is happening today?

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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The Bible Lives is published on www.christiandoctrine.com

Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH United Kingdom