A view towards Bishopsteignton in mist. As the mist clears, everything becomes clearer

Judges chapters 1-2

Conquest of Promised Land - incomplete.
God's instructions forgotten - result.
Judges given.

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(Towns mentioned should be on the map below but some are unknown).

Judges 1:1-2.

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?.

2 The Lord answered, ‘Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands..

Judges 1:4.

4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek.

(Between the sea of Galilee and the Dead sea.)

Judges 1:8-11.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country (Between Jerusalem and Hebron), the Negev and the western foothills.10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) (left of centre of Dead Sea) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.

11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher) (Near Jericho).

Judges 1:17-18

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath (Hormah – see next line!), and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah (near Beersheba).18 The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron (towards the coast from Jerusalem) – each city with its territory.

Well that sounds good – but things were not quite what it seemed.

Read Judges 1:19, 21, 27-36.

19 The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains (of Judah), because they had chariots fitted with iron.

21 The Benjaminites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjaminites.

TAKE CARE! Many names and places are disputed – what is shown on maps (including the one below) are often best guesses, but I’ve included it as it helps build a picture of what was happening.

27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor (on the coast) or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land.

28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely.

29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol (E of Carmel), so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labour. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon (Northern coast) or Ahlab (north of Tyre) or Aczib or Helbah (Two names for same place on coast) or Aphek or Rehob.

32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh (s of Galilee) or Beth Anath (w of Galilee); but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced labourers for them.

34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain (possibly the area around the lake north of Galilee). 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres (Possibly Beth Shemesh), Aijalon (NW of Jerusalem) and Shaalbim (NW of that), but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labour. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond. (20miles S of Dead sea.

Now it’s appropriate to see just what the Lord actually said to the Israelites in the desert before he confirmed his covenant with Moses (keep your finger in Judges).

Ex 23v31-33.

31 ‘I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.'

And also a message, directly from the Lord through an Angel.

Judges 2:1-5.

1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim (Could be Shiloh or near) and said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.” Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, “I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.”.

4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.

Judges 2:6-9 (Note the NIV title above v6 is ‘Disobedience and Defeat’.

6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.

8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres (same as Timnath Serah) in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

There now follows a summary of the book of Judges!.

Judges 2:10-15, 16-19.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

The Lord had spelled it out to them by explicit repeated prophetic warnings through Moses and Joshua – but hey had been carelessly ignored.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Why? How could it be possible after all they’d been through.

The problem stems from their lack of spiritual purity.

They had been brought up in a religion based on the worship of many gods. Look at Joshua 24v14 Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the river (Euphrates) and in Egypt.

Could someone expand on what these many gods may have been?

Look at Joshua 24v2 Joshua said to all the people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River Euphrates and worshipped other gods.

Terah lived around 2100bc, 700 years previously. Then in Egypt pre-Exodus, the gods of the Pharoahs were worshipped.

Now Joshua 24:15-16, 23-24.

15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

16 Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods.

23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”

24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”

It sounds good, but the words won’t change an inbred tradition. To ignore the gods that everyone else worships in order to worship only one – who you can’t see – was too great a step. Surely the more gods you can include must be a good thing.

Also we have to ask the question: who is it actually making this declaration? Who was at this rally – all two million people?

Look at Joshua 24:1.

24 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

Elders, Leaders, Judges and officials. And how many people readily obey Elders Leaders, Judges or Officials?

The problem is you can’t legislate for faith, only religion.

Besides, did they have a history of keeping the law?

Now look at Judges 2:7 and 10.

7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.

We will leave this study here but before condemning the Israelites we do need to look at our own country and ask if there are any similarities – look at the last few words of the book of Judges: ‘everyone did as they saw fit'.

Is that good or bad?

Jushua 22 Judges 2 NIV Copyright