Judges 1

Good Intentions

It can be difficult to continue when one experiences a significant loss, but when Joshua died Israel renewed its commitment to finish the campaign in Canaan. The tribal leaders wisely sought the Lord for direction and asked which tribe should go first. The reason for this is not stated, and perhaps they were concerned whether the Lord would continue to drive out the Canaanites. The Lord instructs Judah to go first because he would give them the land. Judah asks Simeon to join the fight pledging to return the favor and assist Simeon in taking their territory. These tribes attacked Bezek, and the Lord gave them victory over an army of ten-thousand. The king fled; but he was pursued, captured, and punished which he viewed as justice from God. Adoni-bezek had maimed seventy kings and humiliated them by treating them like animals with his scraps. He believed that God repaid him and he died in Jerusalem. Judah also fought against Jerusalem and burned it. It is important to note that Jerusalem belonged to Benjamin and they did not completely drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem (v. 21). Joshua's friend and fellow spy Caleb is still alive and involved in the conquest of Canaan. Judah was successful in the hills, the southern lowlands, and the coastal regions because the Lord was with them. 

Incomplete Obedience

Partial obedience is disobedience. Verse nineteen offers the first signs of dereliction. Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because of their iron chariots. God does not change, and his power can never diminish so something has changed. Progressive failure ensues as one tribe after another launches an offensive only to wane in their efforts and fails to complete their objective. Seven times the phrase did not dive out appears to catalog the list of disobedience. God did not say to dispossess part of the inhabitants of Canaan. God's purpose was not military, political, or economic; it was spiritual. Toleration leads to agreement and then to compromise. The Lord would join a list of deities that required appeasement. Israel's partial obedience is the pretext for apostasy. Israel had victory militarily and economically putting the Canaanites to forced labor. Israel willfully disobeyed the commandment of God and settled with the Canaanites. Israel was successful by worldly standards but when judged spiritually they were a miserable failure. Partial obedience is disobedience and God measures success by obedience.

Things To Consider:

  • A good start is important, but it does not guarantee success. Why?
  • Why is worldly success dangerous?
  • Why does Adoni-bezek see Israel's actions as God's justice?
  • How can we apply this principle today?
  • Why do you think Caleb is mentioned specifically?
  • How is a life of faithfulness an encouragement to others?
  • Why do you think the people chose to disobey God?
  • How should we measure strength and success?