Judges 1-2:6 The First Intro: The Conquest Was Incomplete.
Joshua had passed away, but the taking of the remainder of the promised land was not complete, so the people asked the LORD who should lead them in battle, and the LORD chose Judah (vv. 1-2). Judah joined forces with Simeon, whose inheritance was within Judah, and the two of them committed to help each other take their respective territories (v. 3 Cf. Josh. 19:1). They proceeded to conquer the Canaanites and Perizzites, and they cut off the thumbs and big toes of Adoni-Bezek who 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.’” (v.7). He died in Jerusalem. Thus the LORD God showed himself sovereign over all kings and kingdoms, and that the conquest of his land for his people was also recompense for men like Adoni-Bezek. They then proceeded to take Jerusalem and Hebron (vv. 8-10).
There is a popular evangelical perspective, based largely on an undue fixation on a supposed literary structure, that the authors (whom they do not know) favoured Judah over Benjamin, supposedly because Judah executed a complete victory. They ignore the statement at 1:19 that Judah “could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland,” but they do emphasize the comment at verse 21 that “Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites.” Men like Bruce Waltke claim a total bias against Benjamin, ignoring again that it was Ehud who gave the nation 80 years of peace, more than any other. They claim Caleb for Judah, when in fact the book emphasizes the fact that he was a Kenazite, as was Othniel. Unbelievably, Younger in his commentary actually sees sin in Judah seeking help from Simeon, instead of seeing it as a sign of covenant fidelity and loyalty, which indeed deteriorates as their history proceeds.
Joshua’s partner Caleb put out a challenge that whoever took Kirjath Sepher would be given his daughter Achsah as wife. Othneil, the son of his younger brother Kenaz, took it, and so married Achsah who asked her father for a blessing of a field and springs of water (vv. 11-15). Judah and Simeon also continued in their conquests of the Canaanites at Zephath, “and utterly destroyed it” (v. 17). Judah, on the other hand could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots covered with iron (v. 19). Near the end of the period of the judges, under Samuel, a similar condition existed. The children of Israel were at a disadvantage because they had no blacksmiths to make for them the weapons of war that they might employ against the Philistines (I Sam. 13:19-22). The point that should be made however, is that even though God commanded them to completely defeat the inhabitants, he also said that it would in some cases take time (Ex. 23:29-30; Dt. 7:22-23).
It is shocking to me that men like Waltke (in his course on Judges and Ruth), would miss this qualification, given his bias for Judah. At least then he would not have had to ignore verses like 1:19. The fact of the matter is, the main motif of the book is that God chooses the lowly and insignificant to accomplish his purposes, seen most graphically in the reduction of men with Gideon down to 300, all to show that the victories were all of God’s mercy, grace, and power. It was the LORD who sent the rain that bogged down the chariots wheels of the enemy which would ultimately give Barak his victory. In fact, the only tribe of whom it is said they achieved a complete destruction or Hormah was Simeon, arguably the most insignificant of the tribes (1:17), the one who came to Judah’s aid! One should exercise caution in being fixated on a supposed structure which ignores the actual content of a passage or book.
So Hebron was given to Caleb, a reward for his valiant faith. “Then he expelled from there the three sons of Anak. But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem” (vv. 20-21). There is no doubt a long history to the tribe of Benjamin, with judges ending with the plan to answer the possible extinction of this tribe (Ch. 21). Saul, of this tribe, considered his own tribe as insignificant because it was relatively small compared to the others (I Sa. 9:21). Furthermore, as this tribe spared the Jebusites, even so later Saul would be judged for sparing Agag, king of the Amalekites, and have the kingdom taken from him (I Sa. 15). On the other hand, the LORD was with the house of Joseph, and they took the city of Bethel, the place called the ‘house of God’, dedicated as such when Jacob was met by the LORD there (Cf. Gen. 28:10ff.; 31:10ff.).
As Rahab was spared for showing favour to the Israelite spies at Jericho (Josh. 2; 6), even so a man of Luz (the former name of Bethel) was spared when he helped guide the Israelites to victory over its inhabitants (vv. 22-26). However, this may not have been under the same conditions, since he expressed no covenant faith in the LORD, and journeyed on to build another city among the Hittites also named Luz. He may have just betrayed his own people, for nothing more than to save his own skin. Mannaseh, the firstborn of Joseph, also spared the inhabitants of the territory allotted to him, including En Dor, from which Saul would consult a medium (v. 27 Cf. Josh. 17:11-13; I Sam. 28:3ff.). What ought to exercise caution however, given the words which introduce this episode – that “the LORD was with them.” (v. 22)
These enemies of the LORD were spared by the people that they might be exempted from hard labour (v. 28). Such is the continual challenge to the church. Rather than doing the hard work of the kingdom, like raising and educating one’s own children in a way honouring to the LORD, this task is given over to pagans to indoctrinate them into their paganism. What follows is a record of the other tribes following suit (vv. 29-33), with the children of Dan even being forced into the mountains by the Amorites (v. 34-36). There is in fact a shift to where it says that their enemies dwelt in their midst, to where it states that they dwelt in their enemies midst. So there enemies gradually regain the upper hand.
This was done because of the covenant He had made with them, a covenant he promised to never break (2:1). They, on the other hand, did break covenant with them when they made a covenant with the inhabitants of the land that they were called upon to dispossess. In this process, and largely the reason for this, was that they were to also tear down their altars, but they did not. This was spiritual adultery on their part. They did not obey his voice, his word (v. 2). They evidently had no answer to the question ‘Why?’. What follows is therefore a judgment upon them, that the foreigners with their gods, that they allowed to live, would become thorns in their sides, and their gods a snare (v. 3). The people wept because of the word spoken, and they offered sacrifices, but we are left wondering if there would be any change in their behaviour (vv. 4-5).