Study Notes

Judges 1:1-2:23


The book of Judges was written long after Joshua wrote his book. It seems that it must have been written sometime during the reign of King Saul, because we know Israel had a king at that point because of the repeating phrase,

Judg. 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

But it was not written after David became king, because verse 21 of chapter one says,

Judg. 1:21 ...the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

We know that David conquered the Jebusites that had been holed up in the stronghold of Zion (2Samuel 5:7). So it would seem that Judges was written during Saul's reign

As for who wrote it, we cannot be absolutely sure. There are some evidences of the authorship of Judges as actually being the prophet Samuel, for example, the Jewish Talmud says that he wrote it. But we cannot know this for sure.

Judges covers about 400 years of Israel's history, a time spanning from Joshua to Samuel. There is an unfortunate cycle which repeats seven times in the book:

- The people are devoted to God

- The people delve into sin

- The people are defeated by their enemies

- The people deplore their situation and repent

- The people are delivered by judges

This pattern repeats itself over and over again. It is a very real representation of the proverb which says,

Prov. 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

As we read this history of Israel, may we keep our own country in the forefront of our minds and prayers.

1:1-4 Judah And Simeon Fight The Canaanites

The Israelites seek the Lord and He tells them that the tribe of Judah is to go into battle. But Judah decides to band together with Simeon to conquer the territories of their inheritance.

Is this a wonderful illustration of cooperation? Or is this a sign that Judah wasn't walking in "to the letter" obedience to the Lord? This reminds me of something that happened in the book of Acts.

Acts 13:1-3 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was {there} , prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Saul and Barnabas were set apart by the Spirit and sent out by the church. But John Mark also went with them. He was brought along in the ministry without being set apart by the Holy Spirit, or by prayer, fasting, and laying on of hands.

I personally believe that allowing John Mark along on that trip was one of the biggest mistakes the early church made. You see, not too many verses later, we read,

Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.

John Mark bailed out on Paul & Barnabas in Perga, going back to Jerusalem. Whether he was afraid, burned out, or what, we're not told. But this turns out to be the cause of a permanent split in the powerful ministry team of Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 15:35-40 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching, with many others also, the word of the Lord. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, {and see} how they are." And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.

Adding to who God calls is a terrible decision. Here in the book of Judges, Judah's decision to bring along Simeon results in an incomplete victory, as we'll see in verse 19.

1:5-7 Thumbs And Big Toes

The king of BEH-zak, Ad-O-nee BEH-zek, was captured by the warriors of Judah and Simeon. Then they did something that sounds repulsive: they cut off his thumbs and big toes. This was common in war, because losing those four digits results in the loss of a warrior's skills. He can no longer hold a sword, shoot a bow, or even run.

Ad-O-nee BEH-zek immediately sees the irony of what has happened. You see, he himself had conquered 70 other kings and done the same to them. Rather than killing them, he had incapacitated and humiliated them. They were treated as dogs in the palace. The Bible says,

Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Ad-O-nee BEH-zek has reaped what he's sown.

(1:8-18) Judah's Victories

Verses 8-18 detail more of Judah's victories in this campaign, along with the story of Othniel's victory and reward that we covered in Joshua 15.

1:19 Judah Could Not

Here we see that the fruit of incomplete obedience is incomplete victory. The tribe of Judah had not obeyed the Lord one hundred percent, and they failed to drive the Canaanites one hundred percent.

1:20-21 Benjamin's Failure

In the same way, the tribe of Benjamin did not drive out all of the Jebusites from their territory of inheritance.

1:22-26 Joseph's Capture Of Bethel

Joseph, which are the tribes of Ephraim and the half of Manasseh that came across the Jordan, go to capture the city of Bayth-ALE. This was the city where Jacob had dreamed and saw what we call "Jacob's Ladder."

Gen. 28:12-13 And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.

Gen. 28:17-19 And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top. And he called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.

Bayth-ALE means, "House of God." But the ungodly inhabitants of this city continued to call it "Looz," meaning "almond tree," denying the Lord's presence.

The city was well-fortressed, with no obvious way in or out for the tribe of Joseph. They saw a man leaving the city, and offered him his and his family's lives for the entrance.

(1:27-36) Failure To Drive Out Completely

Although there were many victories, Israel was not in complete obedience. Judah hadn't fully driven out the Canaanites, Benjamin hadn't driven out the Jebusites, and now these verses tell us that this was a trend. Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali didn't drive out the Canaanites fully from their territories.

The Amorites actually forced the tribe of Dan out of their valley, and drove them into the hill country.

This incomplete obedience planted the seeds for Israel to later fall into idolatrous sin.

2:1-5 The Angel Of The Lord

The angel of the Lord came up from Ghil-GAWL to Bo-KEEM. Who is the angel of the Lord? This is a phrase to watch for in the Old Testament, because it points to a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.

You see, the word "angel" means "messenger", and doesn't only apply to angelic beings, but message-bearing men and even Christ Himself.

The angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar in Genesis 16, saying

Gen. 16:10 ..."I will greatly multiply your descendants..."

Gen. 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

The angel of the Lord was the Lord Himself! He was His own messenger! He appears this way to Abraham on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22), Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exo 3), Balaam while riding his donkey (Num 22), and many others.

In Judges 13, we will see Him give His name to Samson's father.

Judg. 13:17-18 And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that when your words come {to pass,} we may honor you?" But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?

Isa. 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Wonderful, Jesus Christ Himself, was appearing to Israel.

The Rebuke

The Lord rebukes them for their disobedience, telling them that all of His promises would come true. Remember that He had said,

Num. 33:55 'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them {will become} as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land in which you live.

Now, this will come true.

2:6-10 A Generation Who Did Not Know The Lord

Joshua's death and subsequent burial in Tim-nath KHEH-res is recapped, and then followed by a terrible statement:

Judg. 2:10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. A generation grew up that did not know the Lord. Israel had been taught to instruct their children in the ways and the knowledge of God. (Exo 12:24-26; 31:13; Josh.4:6,12,22)

Deut. 4:10 ...the LORD said to me, "Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."

When any child grows up not being told about the Lord by his parents, it is a blot of shame on the mother and father.

It really burns me when someone who claims to be a Christian says, "I don't want to push my belief system on my kids. They'll grow up and find their own way." What they're really saying is that, "My beliefs aren't real enough to me to pass them along. Hell isn't real enough to me to keep my kids out of it. Jesus isn't real enough to me to tell my kids about him. I'm not sure what the way of salvation is, but I'm sure that whatever path my kids walk on will be fine."

How should we raise our children? The Word of God commands fathers to

Eph. 6:4 ...bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Parents are commanded,

Prov. 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go...

Timothy had a genuine faith because, as Paul wrote to him,

2Tim. 3:15 ...from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

His mother and grandmother had continually taught Him the Scriptures. But now a generation arises in Israel that doesn't know the Lord or what He's done.

2:11-13 Forsaking The Lord

Here's the first cycle of sin. The people fall into the idolatry of the ungodly nations around them, worshiping Baal and the Ashtaroth.

Baal was the God seen in the thunderstorms. He was the high god of the Canaanites, having control over the weather. What probably began as farmers' superstition - asking Baal to rain on their crops, turned into God-forsaking idolatry.

Ashtoreth was the goddess of fertility and sex. Worship of her usually consisted of having sexual relations with a temple prostitute.

A little superstition, a little pleasure - what harm can they do? Plenty. If you read your horoscope, you're participating in divination, and you're on a path away from the Lord.

Deut. 18:10-12 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD..."

And if you're dabbling in ungodly sexual pleasure - be it flirtation with a co-worker, committing adultery, or using pornography, you're on your way towards forsaking the Lord. Paul told the Ephesians,

Eph. 5:5 ...This you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Many people in the church are guilty of the same sins the Israelites fell into.

2:14-15 The Lord Against Them

When Israel served Baal and Ashtoreth, God was angry at them and allowed them to be plundered and sold into slavery. The Lord's promises of cursings were fulfilled.

2:16-23 Back Around Again

When the people would cry out to the Lord, God would raise up judges to deliver them. But right after their repentance came regression, and the cycle would start again. This repetition of sin is as Peter said,

2Pet. 2:22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, {returns} to wallowing in the mire."

Disgusting as that is, it is an accurate picture of someone who sins, repents, and then turns to the sin again.

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