Judges 1: Tying Up The Loose Ends

Judges begins much in the same way Transformers 2 began, though I haven’t actually seen the beginning of the movie so I could be way off.

The Autobots (Israelites) wage their battles to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons (Canaanites). All the remaining ones anyway.

Wow, who knew Transformers had such a deep subtext?

If only it were that simple.

See, the beginning of Judges could have been a simple account like the one I just mentioned. But the astute reader (played by me) will notice a few things that will make you either scratch your head or go cross-eyed, depending on the mobility of your arms and how close you are sitting to the screen.

Not All Tribes Are Created Equal

Let’s keep a tally of how the tribes do in their respective battles, shall we?

Judah & Simeon: victories in Bezek, Jerusalem, Hill country, Negeb, lowland, Hebron, Debir, Zephath, Gaza, Ashkelon, & Ekron. Not bad. (Side note: they could not win a battle on the plains due to the presence of iron chariots. What were no problem at the Red Sea have become insurmountable obstacles in Canaan.)

Joseph: Victory in Bethel (By using a tactic first deployed in Jericho)

Benjamin: Loss to the Jebusites in Jerusalem (though we were just told that Judah burned the city to the ground.)

Manasseh: Losses in Beth-shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo.

Ephraim: Loss in Gezer

Zebulun: Losses in Kitron, Nahalol.

Asher: Losses in Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob

Naphtali: Losses in Beth-Shemesh, Beth anath

(Note: The Canaanites continued to live among Ephraim and Zebulun. But Asher and Naphtali “lived among the Canaanites,” giving the impression that Israel was in the minority despite their dominant status)

Dan: Loss to the Amorites. Prohibited from entering the plain.

Issachar, Reuben, Gad, and Levi aren’t mentioned.

You know, for all that talk of “driving the Canaanites out of the land,” Israel did a pretty bad job of it. Canaanites continue to live with them up until the time of the writing of Judges.

Does that say anything about the nature of God’s promises?

We’ve Been Here Before!

Take a moment and read Judges 1:12-15. Then take another moment and read Joshua 15:16-19

Go ahead. I’ll give you a moment.

They are the exact same story! Word for word!


How did the Caleb story get in Judges? Can anyone help me out on that? Does it belong in Judges or Joshua?

In Joshua, the story actually fits. It is part of a larger narrative about Caleb and what happened to his family.

Here, it is just weird. It doesn’t fit at all. And come to think of it, neither does the little bit about Hobab that follows it. If you took both of those stories out, you wouldn’t miss anything. You would never think that something should be there.

So why is it there? That is a story I would like to learn.


2 responses

  1. The writer of Judges borrowed it. Maybe it’s just part of the cycle, because Judges is just one big cycle over and over. The people do what is right in their own eyes, they go away from God, and a Judge does his (or her) thang. Over and over.

  2. It does give you context for who Othniel is? Given that he seems to be the first judge. I’m more befuddled as to how the Israelites broke the covenant in chapter 2 – was it the deal with the man from Luz, the deal they were tricked into, or failing to drive out all the people in the land (or was that just the result of their disobedience)?

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