Notes on Judges 1:21-36

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 1:21, KJV And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.

“Unto this day” meant the day the Book of Judges was written. Not driving out the Jebusites was incomplete obedience on the part of the Benjamites. God had told them to “”utterly destroy. . . the Jebusites (Deut. 20:17) but even after the years of Joshua’s leadership, an unspecified number of Jebusites remained in Jerusalem. Many years later, they were still in Jerusalem, attempting to block David’s attempt to conquer the city (2 Samuel 5:6-9).

22 And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD (was) with them.

By “the house of Joseph” the writer means the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Bethel was located in Ephraim’s territory but both tribes joined together in this battle. Best of all, the LORD was with them.

23 And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before (was) Luz.)

These two tribes sent spies to Bethel. Israel had sent spies many years before to get an overview of the promised land (Numbers 13-14) but the report of the ten spies led to the nation wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Joshua sent two spies to Jericho (Joshua 2) and reported what they found. Now the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh use the same strategy against Bethel.

24 And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.

We are not told how many spies there were, nor how long they had remained in place. They did offer the man of Bethel/Luz his life in exchange for the city’s entrance.

25 And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.

The “house of Joseph” honored their promise to the citizen then conquered the city.

26 And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which (is) the name thereof unto this day.

Hittites had lived in the land of Canaan—the promised land—since at least the time of Abraham (Genesis 23:10, 25:9). Esau married two Hittite women (Gen. 26:34), later a third (Gen. 36:2) but Isaac and Rebekah were not pleased with his choices (Gen. 26:35, 27:46). Some Hittites settled in Israel, such as Ahimelech (1 Sam 26:6) and Uriah (2 Sam 11:3), perhaps others whose names are not recorded.

We also do not know for certain where the rest of the Hittites lived but from other Scripture it is possible to estimate their territory. The Hittites still were large enough to have more than one king and enough of an army to cast fear into the Syrians (2 Kings 7:5-7). This may also mean they lived north of Israel and Syria, as the Hittites were contrasted with the “kings of the Egyptians”.

27 Neither did Manasseh drive out (the inhabitants of) Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

These towns are most likely west of the Jordan River, in the part of Manasseh that bordered Ephraim. Megiddo is located near the Mediterranean coast and will be the scene of one of the last battles in the Bible according to Revelation 16 (called Armageddon, Rev. 16:16).

28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.

Israel had done this to the Gibeonites, making them “hewers of wood and drawers of water (Joshua 9:27) but this was because Joshua, and all Israel, did not seek God’s counsel in the matter (Josh. 9:14). Manasseh had over 50,000 soldiers (Numbers 26:34) just before entering Canaan. Even allowing for a good number of this tribe to settle on the east side of the Jordan River, they should have had enough military strength to drive out the Canaanites. There is no record they ever did so. Ironically, one of Israel’s greatest judges, Gideon, came from Manasseh some years later. His son, Ahimelech, wanted to be Israel’s first king!

29 Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.

Ephraim had driven out the Canaanites in Bethel (see verses 23-26) but they didn’t do the same thing to Gezer. According to Joshua 10, the king of Gezer was one of the Group of Five who attacked Gibeon but the whole coalition lost to Israel. Sadly, even though the LORD would have helped Ephraim, there is no record they ever asked for His help. The city was still in Canaanite hands (Joshua 16:10) and probably remained free of Israelite control until Pharaoh destroyed the city and gave it (what could possibly be left?) as a wedding gift to Solomon and his Egyptian wife (1 Kings 9:16).

30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.

Notice that these tribes are listed in a generally northern direction. Zebulun’s inheritance was in what was later called Galilee (see Isaiah 9:1).

Judah and Simeon, the two southernmost tribes, had success but few of the central and northern tribes seemed to have much success in driving out the Canaanites. Putting the Canaanites was not what God had commanded the Israelites to do, and yet they did it anyway.

31 Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:

This was in the northwest part of Israel. God had promised to drive out Israel’s enemies but, again, there is no record they ever called on the LORD for help in driving out the Canaanites.

32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.

No mention that they even tried to drive them out. The writer simply says they didn’t do so.

33 Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.

Naphtali’s land is also in northern Israel, part of Galilee (Isa. 9:1), between Asher and East Manasseh. This is another case where the tribe did not drive out the Canaanites as God had commanded.

34 And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:

The tribe of Dan had originally received land between Judah and West Manasseh to the north and south, Ephraim and Benjamin to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The westernmost area, near the sea, was apparently fairly level but the land began to become more mountainous going eastward. Some of the Danites (children of Dan) migrated to the far north of Israel’s land but some remained here. Samson, another great judge, was a Danite and his parents lived in the original inheritance territory. The story of Samson is found in Judges 13-16.
Again, there is no record the Danites ever asked for God’s assistance in defeating their enemies.

35 But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.

This verse mentions the “house of Joseph” and their incomplete obedience: making the Amorites “tributaries” instead of driving them out as God had commanded.

36 And the coast of the Amorites (was) from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.

We are not sure of the locations of these places. If this land was near the territory of Ephraim or Manasseh, the Amorites would be more or less in the middle of Israel’s land.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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