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(MT versing)
Jerusalem Is Captured The Continuing Conquest of Canaan The Period of the Judges
The Tribe of Judah and Simeon Capture Adonibezek The Settlement of Judah, Simeon, Caleb and the Kenites
1:1-7 1:1-7 1:1-7 1:1 1:1-8
The Tribe of Judah Conquers Jerusalem and Hebron
1:8-10 1:8-15 1:8-15 1:8-10
Capture of Other Cities Othniel Conquers the City of Debir
1:11-15 1:11-15
The Victories of the Tribe of Judah and Benjamin
1:16-21 1:16-21 1:16-21 1:16-21 1:16
The Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh Conquer Bethel The Capture of Bethel
1:22-26 1:22-26 1:22-26 1:22-26 1:22-26
Places Not Conquered Incomplete Conquest of the Land People Who Were Not Driven Out by the Israelites The Northern Tribes
1:27-28 1:27-28 1:27-28 1:27-28 1:27-35
1:29 1:29 1:29 1:29
1:30 1:30 1:30 1:30
1:31-32 1:31-32 1:31-32 1:31-32
1:33 1:33 1:33 1:33
1:34-36 1:34-36 1:34-36 1:34-35
1:36 1:36

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.

In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired - readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.

Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Hebrew Grammatical Tems, Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. The author gives the old and new names of the cities taken by the Israelites. This shows he lived after the events but close enough to know the Canaanite names.
    Old Name New Name
    1. Kiriath-arba, Jdgs. 1:10  Hebron
    2. Kiriath-sepher, Jdgs. 1:11  Debir
    3. Zephath, Jdgs. 1:17  Hormah
    4. Luz, Jdgs. 1:23,26  Bethel

  2. Judges 1:1-2:5 is a brief overview of the conquest of Canaan after Joshua. It highlights the disobedience in killing or driving out the Canaanites (ie., Jdgs. 1:28). Their pagan, idolatrous influence would eventually result in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles (i.e., see Jdgs. 2:6-3:6).

  3. Judges 1:8-21 describes the southern conquest, while 1:21-36 describes the northern conquest. Only Judah is seen as successful and obedient to the covenant.


1Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying, "Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?" 2The Lord said, "Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand." 3Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, "Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you." So Simeon went with him. 4Judah went up, and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands, and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. 5They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek and fought against him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7Adoni-bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me." So they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.

1:1 "after the death of Joshua" This is recorded in Joshua 24. The book of Judges picks up immediately (i.e., soon, cf. Jdgs. 2:6-9) after Joshua's death. It documents the societal struggle from one powerful leader to future generations (i.e., Jos. 24:19-28).

This chapter documents

  1. a southern campaign, Jdgs. 1:1-9, 16-19
  2. a central campaign, Jdgs. 1:22-29
  3. a northern campaign, Jdgs. 1:30-36

▣ "inquired of the Lord" This VERB (BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is often used of Israel's leaders asking the High Priest about YHWH's desire concerning questions (usually about war, cf. Num. 27:21; Jos. 9:14; Jdgs. 18:5; 20:18, 27; 1 Sam. 14:41-42; 22:13, 15; 23:2). They used the Urim and Thummim.



1:2 "Judah shall go up" This shows the preeminent place of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12; esp. 49:10).

The tribe of Judah also included

  1. the tribe of Simeon
  2. Kenizzites (cf. Num. 32:12; Jos. 14:6, 14; i.e., Othniel [and Caleb])
  3. Kenizzites (cf. Num. 24:21, 22; Jdgs. 1:16; 4:11, 17; 5:24; Moses' father-in-law)

▣ "I have given the land into his hand" This is a recurrent phrase that shows

  1. YHWH's ownership of Canaan
  2. YHWH's empowering of its conquest but, unlike the conquest of Joshua, each tribe must defeat the Canaanties living in their tribal inheritance
  3. "hand"

1:3 "Simeon" The tribe of Simeon will lose its tribal and territorial identity and later merge with Judah (cf. Jos. 19:1, 9).

▣ "allotted" This refers to Joshua 13-19. The priests cast the lots (i.e., Urim and Thummim) to designate which tribes had which parts of Palestine.

This tribal allocation was a God-given gift but even in times of difficulty the land had to be returned to its original owners at the year of Jubilee (cf. Leviticus 25; i.e., every 50th year, after seven sabbath years).


▣ "ten thousand" This is probably hyperbolic.



▣ "at Bezek" Judges 1:4-7 records one of the encounters with a city-state in Palestine, north of the Dead Sea. See The MacMillan Bible Atlas, map #57, p. 52.

1:6 "cut off his thumbs and big toes" This was an ANE method of humbling a military opponent. They would not be able to carry a sword or bow.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 242, documents the mutilation of prisoners in Assyrian wall reliefs from Shalmaneser III (ninth century B.C.).

1:7 This comment expresses the theology of

  1. Lex Talionis (eye-for-an-eye) justice, cf. Exod. 21:23-24; Lev. 24:19-23; Deut. 19:21
  2. "we reap what we sow" (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12)

▣ "seventy kings" This would refer to leaders of the larger city-states in the area. It may be a hyperbole.


8Then the sons of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9Afterward the sons of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the lowland. 10So Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba); and they struck Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

1:8 When one compares Jdgs. 1:8 with 1:21, and also Jos. 15:63 with 2 Sam. 5:6-10, it is obvious that Jdgs. 1:8 refers to the city itself but not the inner fortress, which was later captured by David (cf. 2 Sam. 5:6-10).

1:9 "Negev" This geographical area (BDB 616) refers to the dry, southern part of Palestine.

▣ "the lowlands" This geographical area (BDB 1050) is from the Mediterranean Sea to the hill country of Palestine. It is also called the Shephelah (see The MacMillan Bible Atlas, #7, p. 14, which shows the topological divisions of Palestine).

1:10-15 This retells what happened in Jos. 14:13-15; 15:13-19.

1:10 "Hebron" Caleb (i.e., one of the twelve spies, cf. Numbers 13-14) had already conquered Hebron (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 698-700) in Jos. 15:13-19 (cf. Jos. 14:6-15; Jdgs. 1:20). Judges 1:1-2:5 is a brief retelling of Joshua's conquest.

The three people mentioned were part of the Anakim, cf. Jos. 11:26.


1:10 "Kiriath-arba" Kiriath (BDB 900) means "city. Arba was

  1. the father of Anak (i.e., "long-necked," BDB 778 I; cf. Jos. 14:15; 15:13; 21:11)
  2. the number "four" (BDB 918), referring to a confederation of city-states
  3. the name of a Babylonian deity

11Then from there he went against the inhabitants of Debir (now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher). 12And Caleb said, "The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will even give him my daughter Achsah for a wife." 13Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, captured it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah for a wife. 14Then it came about when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. Then she alighted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, "What do you want?" 15She said to him, "Give me a blessing, since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

1:11 "Kiriath-sepher" This combination means "city of scribes" or "city of records" (cf. Jos. 15:15-16).

1:12 "Caleb" His name (BDB 477) meant "dog." He was the brother of the judge Othniel (cf. Jdgs. 3:7-11; 5:17). He was not an Israelite but a Kenizzite (cf. Num. 32:12; 1 Chr. 1:53) but was incorporated into the clan of Judah.

▣ "Bold" At this time in the ANE the price of a bride (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 526-530) may not be valuables but

  1. service (Gen. 29:15-30; Exod. 2:21)
  2. military victory (Jos. 15:16-17; and here)
  3. an assigned task (1 Sam. 17:25; 18:25)

1:15 "springs of water" This is possibly a set of place names (cf. Jos. 15:19).

  1. "Gulioth-mayim" (BDB 165 CONSTRUCT BDB 565)
  2. the upper springs, "Gulioth-illith" (BDB 165 CONSTRUCT BDB 751)
  3. the lower springs, "gulioth-Tahteth" (BDB 165 CONSTRUCT BDB 165 CONSTRUCT BDB 1066)

16The descendants of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went up from the city of palms with the sons of Judah, to the wilderness of Judah which is in the south of Arad; and they went and lived with the people. 17Then Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they struck the Canaanites living in Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah. 18And Judah took Gaza with its territory and Ashkelon with its territory and Ekron with its territory. 19Now the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots. 20Then they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had promised; and he drove out from there the three sons of Anak. 21But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

1:16 "Moses' father-in-law" He goes by several names/titles.

  1. Hobab ‒ Num. 10:29; Jdgs. 4:11
  2. Jethro ‒ Exod. 3:1; 4:18; 18:1
  3. Reuel ‒ Exod. 2:18
  4. priest of Midian ‒ Exod. 2:16; 3:1

However, in Num. 10:29, he is called "Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite." Names are often repeated within families. This makes it hard to document individuals with only a list of their parents or locality.

▣ "the city of palms" This was the earlier name for Jericho (cf. Deut. 34:3; Jdgs. 3:13; 2 Chr. 28:15), but in this context, it possibly refers to a city south of Arad (i.e., Tamar [lit. palm tree, BDB 1071 II] cf. 1 Kgs. 9:18; Ezek. 47:19; 48:28; see James Martin, The Book of Judges, p. 22).

1:17 "utterly destroyed" This VERB (BDB 365, KB 353, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) denotes a special kind of warfare (i.e., "holy war") where the city is given to God (i.e., Jericho in Jos. 6:18).

Being under the "ban" (lit. herem, BDB 356) meant

  1. everything living in the city must die (animals and humans)
  2. no spoils of war must be taken (cf. Joshua 7)

The city was dedicated to God and became too holy for humans to use.

The new name, "Hormah," is from the same root (BDB 356, cf. Num. 21:3).


1:18 "Gaza. . .Ashkelon. . .Ekron" Here, these coastal city-states are captured by Judah but later they will become three of the five city-states of the Philistines.

They were not fully conquered until David's day. The LXX states that Judah did not conquer these cities, probably because its translators saw the improbability of this so early in Israel's history, cf. Jdgs. 1:19.

1:19 "the valley" This refers to the Valley of Jezreel, which was south and west of the Sea of Galilee.

▣ "iron chariots" These weapons of war could only function on level ground. They were of no effect in the hill country. However, on the coast and in the valleys, they were ultimate weapons (cf. Jos. 17:16; Jdgs. 4:13. The Canaanite people had vastly superior weapons (i.e., iron age technology, cf. 1 Sam. 13:19-21; NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 741-743).


1:20 "they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had promised" See Num. 14:24; Deut. 1:36; Jos. 14:6-15.

▣ "the three sons of Anak" See Num. 13:22, where they are first mentioned.


1:21 "Jebus" See SPECIAL TOPIC: JEBUS.

▣ "Benjamin" Jerusalem was in the tribal allocation of Benjamin (cf. Jos. 18:28), but right on the border of Judah (cf. Jos. 15:63).

▣ "to this day" This phrase occurs in Jdgs. 1:21 and 26. It shows that Judges has gone through an editorial process, as have all the OT books. The exact nature and time of this process is unknown. It must be assumed that the OT editors were as inspired as the original authors.


22Likewise the house of Joseph went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23The house of Joseph spied out Bethel (now the name of the city was formerly Luz). 24The spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, "Please show us the entrance to the city and we will treat you kindly." 25So 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 free. 26The man went into the land of the Hittites and built a city and named it Luz which is its name to this day.

1:22 "the house of Joseph" At this time in OT history, this refers to the tribe of Ephraim and the western half-tribe of Manasseh.

▣ "and the Lord was with them" One of the LXX MSS, A and L, and the Old Latin have "and Judah was with them" (cf. AB, p. 59). The alternative reading is possible because the second half of chapter 1 documents the failures of the northern campaign. Judah was successful and faithful to YHWH's commands about the Canaanite population (cf. Deut. 20:17; Jos. 16:10; 17:13), but not the northern tribes.

What is a mystery is why Judah helped Ephraim. Judah and Ephraim were the two largest tribes. Joshua was of Ephraim. There was jealousy and competition between these clans.

1:23 "Bethel" This means "House of God," named by Jacob in Gen. 28:19. It is twelve miles north of Jerusalem (see NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp, 440-41).

1:24-26 This is similar to the account of Rahab at Jericho. A person helped the Israelite invaders and was spared death, even given a reward (i.e., place to live).

It is unstated why the defeated cities of Joshua are re-occupied by Canaanites and had to be taken again.


27But Manasseh did not take possession 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; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 28It came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.

1:27 The half-tribe of Manasseh did not successfully conquer their tribal allocation. This reinforces the truth that the conquest of Joshua was only partial (i.e., the main walled cities), but that each tribe had to, by faith, possess their own God-given land. Many did not! The presence of the Canaanite people corrupted the worship of YHWH and later brought judgment and exile (i.e., Exod. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5; 20:17-18).

▣ "its villages" This is literally "daughter" (BDB 123 I) but it is often used of small, unwalled surrounding villages (cf. Num. 21:25; Jos. 15:45; Jer. 49:2).

1:28 Instead of killing the Canaanite population, as God directed them, they used them for forced labor (cf. Jdgs. 1:30, 33, 35).

This is the first hint of the problems these idolatrous pagans would cause the Israelites. YHWH told them to totally remove them (cf. Exod. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5; 20:17-18) but they did not, even when they were stronger and able to do so.

▣ "they did not drive them out completely" This is a grammatical form that shows intensity (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a PERFECT VERB from the same root (BDB 439, KB 441).

29Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer; so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them and became subject to forced labor.

31Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob. 32So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.

1:31 "Ahlab" This location also goes by "Mahalah" (cf. Jos. 19:29, NJB). The UBS Text Project, p. 72, gives "Mahalah" a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

33Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, but lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; and the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced labor for them.

1:33 "Beth-shemesh" This name (BDB 112) implies the worship of the sun, as does "Mount Heres" (BDB 249). This pagan worship was widespread in Canaan as another "Beth-shemesh" (i.e., Ir-shemesh, cf. Jos. 19:41) in Judah shows.

Beth-anath (lit., "house of Anat") is another pagan name (i.e., the goddess of war). This was one of Ramasses II's favorite goddesses.

34Then the Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley; 35yet the Amorites persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim; but when the power of the house of Joseph grew strong, they became forced labor. 36The border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.

1:34 "Amorites" See SPECIAL TOPIC: AMORITE.

▣ "Dan" The tribe of Dan had trouble conquering its allocation because of the Canaanite/Philistine presence along the southern coast of Palestine. They later relocated (i.e., Judges 18) to the far north of Palestine.

1:36 For geographical places see The MacMillan Bible Atlas.

▣ "Sela" This is the Hebrew term for "rock" or "stone" (BDB 701, cf. Jdgs. 20:45,47; 1 Sam. 23:28) or "cliff" (BDB 701 I). In the OT it can refer to several different cities.

  1. an Amorite border fortress, Jdgs. 6:35
  2. Petra, a Nabatean capital, 2 Kgs. 14:7
  3. a city in Moab, Isa. 16:1


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why does the conquest of Joshua in the book of Joshua seem so complete but the review of Judges 1-2 seem so fragmented?
  2. What does "inquired" mean? Why was it important?
  3. Why is Judah highlighted?
  4. How does Judges relate to Gen. 15:12-21?
  5. Is the king mentioned in Jdgs. 1:5 the same as the one mentioned in Joshua 10?
  6. How do we reconcile Jdgs. 1:8 with 1:21?
  7. What does the phrase "to this day" imply?
  8. Why are all the tribes, except Judah and Benjamin, condemned?

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