Here are my teaching notes on Chapter 1 of the Book of Judges. Please feel free to comment and/or ask questions. It is also posted on the page Judges-2017. If you haven’t joined, please do.
JUDGES – Chapter 1 (Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens)
The book of Judges covers the historic period of the nation of Israel from the time of the death of Joshua, to the beginning of the rule of the kings of Israel. We don’t know just how long a period of time that God actually used judges, but most scholars agree that the period of time was between 300 and 400 years.
During this period of history in Israel, there were thirteen different judges, who God raised up in those times of spiritual weakness. When God raised up each judge, Israel would see spiritual revival. During the time of spiritual revival, God would give Israel victory over their enemies. Eventually, each time, the revival would fade, the folks would turn to false gods, and the nation of Israel would fall into captivity. You can see that the nation of Israel was in a bit of a roller coaster ride, because there were 13 judges. This means there were 13 revivals, 13 falls into sin, 13 periods of captivity, and 13 periods of deliverance from the oppression of the enemy. There are vast and valuable lessons to be learned from the book of Judges. I plan to cover each chapter in Judges, one lesson at a time, so that we can all see some of the valuable lessons to be learned from this period of history in Israel.
For those of you who are students, or regular readers of the Bible, you will recall that the book of Joshua began with the words “Now after the death of Moses.” The book of Judges begins much in the same way, with the words “Now after the death of Joshua”.
It is interesting that the book of Judges does not follow a precise chronological order. It begins with the words “After the death of Joshua”, but the death of Joshua is actually recorded in Chapter 2. It also goes back to pick up a little of the book of Joshua, including Caleb’s capture of the city of Hebron.
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? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.
Joshua had led them in the conquest of the land. He had apportioned out the various territories, but they had not totally driven out the enemy, nor did they possess all the territory that God had given to them. So, now, after the death of Joshua, they were ready to go in and take the land. They asked “Who shall go up first?” The Lord answered them by telling them to send Judah first. The natural question is “How did the Lord say this?”
The LORD spoke to them through the Urim and the Thummim that was worn by the priest. It was done through a series of questions, all of which could be answered yes or no. If they got a yes, they would continue the questioning, until they fine-tuned. They would go through a long list, until they got the “yes”, and then went on from there. Who shall go up first, the tribe of Benjamin?’ “No.” ‘The tribe of Ephraim?’
“No.” ‘The tribe of Manasseh?’ “No.” ‘The tribe of Judah?’ “Yes.” ‘Will you deliver the enemies into their hands?’ “Yes.”
We don’t know exactly how the answers were ascertained. It was definitely through the Urim and Thummin. The Hebrew is “lights and perfection’s.” However, exactly what it is, is only a matter of speculation. Somehow, by the priest, they would inquire of the LORD and get directions concerning their battles. Of this, we are certain. David did this quite often: seeking the counsel of the LORD as to the battles and what the outcomes of the battles would be.
Here, we know that it was indicated by the LORD that Judah should go up first, and that God has delivered the land into his hand. Almost immediately, the tribe of Judah shows a lack of faith.
They said to Simeon his brother, come up with me into my lot, that we might fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with you into your lot. So Simeon went with him.
It is truly amazing that we can be given a promise of victory from God, a promise of deliverance, yet we immediately turn and rely on the flesh, instead of relying on the promises of God. Here, we see Judah promised that the land will be delivered into his hand. What does he do?
He turns to Simeon, and asks him for help. How often, have each of us received a promise from God and immediately turned to the flesh to help us? Sad, really, that we can’t just rely on the Word of God.
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.
Bezek must have been a good sized city to have ten thousand fighting men living there. It is interesting that Bezek is a city of which we do not, today, know the location. There are still a lot of towns that have not been excavated in Israel. It would be tempting to take a pick and shovel to Israel and to just start picking away at some of those tells. We have no way of knowing what treasures might lie just under that mound of dirt and what you might discover.
And they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found the lord of Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and Perizzites. But Adonibezek fled; and so they pursued after him, and they cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
Adoni, in Hebrew, means “Lord”, so this must have been the leader of the troops at Bezek. The purpose of cutting off their thumbs was to make sure it was impossible for them to use their bows. With their thumbs cut off, they really couldn’t fight in war anymore. They couldn’t grasp their sword, and they couldn’t pull back on their bow. Cutting off the big toes would insure the slowing down of a person should he try to run. Balance is lost, without the big toes, and running would be near impossible, without a lot of practice. The bottom line was that the purpose for taking off their big toes and thumbs was to incapacitate them for battle.
Adonibezek said, There have been seventy kings, who had their thumbs and great toes cut off, who ate their meat at my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.
So, this guy Adonibezek was not an innocent man. What had been done to him, he had done to seventy kings, in his past. Paul told us “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
There is an interesting law of God that we reap in kind. This is a basic law of God, which He established to keep order in the universe. Our whole world would be a chaotic mess if this law had not been established by God. “Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” In the physical realm, we know that sowing corn, yields corn. Sowing wheat, yields wheat. The farming industry would be in chaos, were this law not in effect. This law also hold true in the spiritual world. Scripture tells us “He that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows of the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
It is extremely difficult not to sow to the flesh, especially in the world in which we live today. Television makes sowing to the flesh such a simple, easy thing. It is easy to flip on the TV and get involved in some program, usually in the realm of someone else’s reality, all of which has no spiritual value at all. It ministers to your flesh. It’s exciting. Sometimes we see shooting, driving fast, excitement in other folk’s lives, none of which is of the spirit. It doesn’t feed your spirit at all. It only feeds the flesh. “Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.”
Many times, folks think they are getting away with evil deeds. Many of us believe this, because of the patience of God. We can’t escape this law. Ultimately, every one of us will say or think the same words as Adonibezek. “As I have done, so it has been done to me.” You can’t escape it. It’s the law of God.
Now, this law of God doesn’t need to be frightening to you. It is a blessing, if you are sowing to the spirit. If you are sowing love, kindness, and mercy, you will reap love, kindness, and mercy. If you are sowing rotten seed, you need to worry. It WILL come back to you. If you are sowing kindness, peace, and gentleness, you have no need to worry. Reaping is in kind with the law of God. You cannot escape this law of God. So, it should be a strong impetus to us to sow unto the spirit, and not unrighteousness.
Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and taken it, and they had smitten it with the edge of the sword, and they set the city on fire.
They conquered the city, but, interestingly enough, they didn’t drive out the inhabitants of the city, the Jebusites. They didn’t destroy them, instead allowing them to stay in the city. As a result, ultimately, the Jebusites took control of the city and were able to control it until the time of David. They lived among the tribe of Judah. God told them to utterly destroy the enemy, but they disobeyed.
Afterwards the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley. And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew [the three giants] Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai. And from there he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher: And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave Achsah his daughter to wife. And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off from her donkey; and Caleb said to her, What do you want? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for you have given me a south land; now give me also springs of water. And so Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of the palm trees [which is Jericho] with the children of Judah to the wilderness.
In Judges, in order to get a wife, you usually had to pay a dowry. It was customary to go to the girl’s father, and barter with him, and agree on the number of donkeys, camels, and sheep would be a proper dowry for a wife. The father was then responsible to keep that dowry intact and to increase it, if possible, through investments. Because women, in those days, had no rights, a husband could pretty well just write her a bill of divorcement, hand it to her, and kick her out. She could do nothing about it. The dowry was advance alimony, in case a jerk husband kicked her out. The father would then have enough dowry, so she didn’t have to go on welfare. It was a pretty good custom to protect the rights of the women.
Men, who didn’t have any money to buy a bride, was left single, unless a father would offer a challenge. If the father wanted a city, he would offer the hand of his daughter to any man who took the city. Here, we see how Othniel, inspired by the challenge, took the city, and it became his dowry.
So, Caleb gave his daughter a field, and she asked Othniel to ask her dad to give them some springs, so they could water the fields. Evidently, he didn’t want to ask Caleb for anything, so she went to ask. When she did, he gave her both the upper and lower springs. Daughters can usually get stuff from dad, easier than the man they marry.
Now the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, —
Back, when the children of Israel were entering the desert, Moses asked his brother in law to go with him because they were wise about the desert, finding water, tracking, and general survival skills. Hobab told Moses “No”, because of the rough time ahead, but evidently, they changed their mind and came, because they are still with the children of Israel at this point. They were in the city of palm trees, which is Jericho. However, being Nomadic folks from the desert, went down to inhabit this area, because it is more like the area from where they came, down in the Sinai Peninsula.
And so the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, came out of Jericho and went with Judah to the wilderness, that lies to the south of Arad; —
Arad is in a pretty desolate wilderness area. It is approximately 12 miles in a direct line Arad to the Dead Sea. It’s another 20 miles south from Arad to Beersheba. It’s a rocky, desolate place, but a perfect area where these folks could graze their sheep.
Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah. Also Judah took Gaza [on the south coast, the Mediterranean] with the coast thereof, and Askelon [north of Gaza towards Tel Aviv] with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof. [They are three of the Philistine cities.] And the LORD was with Judah; he drove out the inhabitants of the mountains; but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
Now, the statement that “He could not drive them out because they had chariots of iron” is not a truly factual statement. You see, God had promised to deliver the enemy into their hands. Had they had enough faith, had they really gone out to fight them, God would have delivered them. God said, “I have delivered the enemies.” There was a promise of God, but they were not acting upon that promise. They were stopped by fear, because they saw the chariots. Chariots were the tanks of those days. They were decisive weapons of battle. Infantry can’t do much against tanks. These folks were afraid. That fear is what kept them from conquering, not the chariots. The statement probably should have said “He did not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because he saw that they had chariots of iron, and became afraid.”
How many times do we stop short of what God wants to do for us, simply because we get hesitant and fearful? I know in my heart that God has so much more for all of us. But, we begin to back away when we see the power and the entrenchment of the enemies. I am certain that the Israelites could have taken it, had they just trusted in God and gone forward.
And so they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled from there the three sons of Anak. Then the children of Benjamin [here we see the tribes moving in to take the various areas that have been apportioned to them] did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin unto this day. And the house of Joseph, [Ephraim and Manasseh] they went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them. And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.) And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew you mercy. And when he shewed him the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all of his family. And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and he built a city, and called the name of it Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.
It is interesting that a lot of those ancient cities had secret entrances to them. The secret entrance was usually the route along the path from which they got their water. In Megeddo, a person can hike down into the area of the springs, from which Megeddo once got its water supply. Knowing that there was an invading enemy coming, they dug this tunnel through the rock from within the city to the springs. The water from the spring came through this rock tunnel to a sort of well area. They sealed the outside entrance to the spring, with rocks, so that it was hidden. This was so that, when their city was under siege, they had a tunnel through the rocks, so that the folks inside the city still had access to a water supply.
We see the same thing in Jerusalem. The spring of Gihon was outside the city walls of Jerusalem. When Hezekiah knew that the Assyrian army was coming, they began to dig a tunnel through the rock from Gihon under the city walls to the pool of Siloam. Other diggers started at the pool of Siloam, and digging through solid rock, some 1,700 feet, they finally met up with the tunnels. It is possible to go through that tunnel, wading through the water out of the spring of Gihon, and to pass through that dark tunnel from the spring of Gihon to the pool of Siloam. This, too, was dug in order to create inner city access to the water supply, to provide during a time of siege.
In this case, they got hold of this guy, and they threatened to kill him and his family, if he would not show them the entrance to the city. So, he showed them the secret entrance to Bethel. Through this knowledge, they conquered the city. But, they left the guy alive. He moved out and built another city. He named it after the city of Luz, which was the name of Bethel, before it became Bethel.
Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean —
Bethshean is north of mount Gilboa. There are some fabulous ruins at Bethshean today. In fact, they’ve done a lot of excavation at Bethshean. They uncovered a huge amphitheater, which is actually much like the amphitheater in Caesarea. Right next to the amphitheater, they uncovered a beautiful theater that goes back to the Roman period. Bethshean is the place where the Philistines hung Saul on the wall, after they killed him. Today it is a modern Israel village, but the ruins are quite spectacular in Bethshean. So, this city dates way on back to the time of Joshua.
Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean [you see, they did not obey the command of God: they left the inhabitants there] nor of Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor, nor of Ibleam, nor of Megeddo: but the Canaanites would dwell in the land. It came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they taxed them, [they put them under tribute] but they did not drive them out. Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, or of Zidon, the Asherites dwell among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: they did not drive them out. Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, or Bethanath; but they just taxed them.
The tribes did not totally possess the land, because they did not totally wipe out the enemy. I keep emphasizing this because this became their thorn in their sides. This is exactly what Joshua said. His prophecy was fulfilled. “If you do not drive them utterly out, then they will become thorns in your sides; they will be a snare unto you.”
In a spiritual sense, the promises that God has given to you is for a full, rich life in the Spirit. In order to come into that full, rich life in the Spirit, we have to gain victory over the flesh, because these two are antagonistic and opposed to each other. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these two are contrary.” It is a never ending battle that goes on between our flesh and our spirit. They are rivaling for the mastery of your life that you be either ruled by the flesh, or ruled by the Spirit.
Now, it is possible to begin to conquer over those areas of the flesh, but we can’t do it in ourselves. God has promised victory. The Lord has promised to go before us, and fight the battles for us. Through the help of God, I can gain the victory over the life of the flesh. I don’t have to be ruled by my flesh. If I will go in by the power of God’s Spirit, I can see God’s hand of deliverance.
If I allow, or tolerate, an area of the flesh to remain, it is possible for me to be caught up again in the area of the flesh and to be defeated. This is true, even though I have known victories in the Spirit, and have had glorious experiences of God’s victory in my life. It is important that we continue to move on into the realm of the Spirit, not stopping, not making an alliance with the flesh, and not allowing the flesh to remain. We must continue on in our victory and in our conquest over the areas of the flesh. It’s a never ending battle and, as long as I am living in this body, I am going to be problemed with my flesh.
To give up to an area of the flesh, to tolerate the flesh, is only to court disaster and defeat. This is the main lesson of the book of Judges, their incomplete victories. Over and over, they decided to allow the inhabitants of Canaan to remain, and just taxed them. This was an alliance with the flesh.
Have you ever heard anyone say “Well, that’s just a part of my flesh life? I just have a bad temper. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. There’s not much I can do about it.”? We just give in to is, instead of pressing on into the victory of the Lord. Instead of asking God to deliver us from that nasty attitude, from that cutting spirit, we just give in. I don’t want to be ruled by my flesh. I don’t want my flesh to destroy me.
Paul said “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Don’t make a provision to live at peace with your flesh, you’ll never be able to do it.
[Now the tribe of Dan, unfortunately, just didn’t even take their land.] The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not allow them to come down to the valley: and the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: and the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries. And the coast of the Amorites was from the going of Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.
Now the tribe of Dan, unfortunately, didn’t even take their land. They did not obey the command of God. They did not utterly drive out their enemy.
Thank God, I don’t have to be ruled by my flesh. God doesn’t want me to be ruled by my flesh. He wants me to be ruled by the Spirit.