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Israel’s Failure to Complete the Conquest of Canaan


After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2The Lord said, “Judah shall go up. I hereby give the land into his hand.” 3Judah said to his brother Simeon, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; then I too will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. 4Then Judah went up and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they defeated ten thousand of them at Bezek. 5They came upon Adoni-bezek at Bezek, and fought against him, and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6Adoni-bezek fled; but they pursued him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has paid me back.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 Then the people of Judah fought against Jerusalem and took it. They put it to the sword and set the city on fire. 9Afterward the people of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba); and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir (the name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher). 12Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, I will give him my daughter Achsah as wife.” 13And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 14When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 15She said to him, “Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also Gulloth-mayim.” So Caleb gave her Upper Gulloth and Lower Gulloth.

16 The descendants of Hobab the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad. Then they went and settled with the Amalekites. 17Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and devoted it to destruction. So the city was called Hormah. 18Judah took Gaza with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19The Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron. 20Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said; and he drove out from it the three sons of Anak. 21But the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived in Jerusalem among the Benjaminites to this day.

22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel; and the Lord was with them. 23The house of Joseph sent out spies to Bethel (the name of the city was formerly Luz). 24When the spies saw a man coming out of the city, they said to him, “Show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” 25So he showed them the way into the city; and they put the city to the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26So the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city, and named it Luz; that is its name to this day.

27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants 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; but the Canaanites continued to live in that land. 28When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not in fact drive them out.

29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer; but the Canaanites lived among them in Gezer.

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

31 Asher 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; 32but the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali 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; nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.

34 The Amorites pressed the Danites back into the hill country; they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35The Amorites continued to live in Har-heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36The border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.

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Jud 1:1-3. The Acts of Judah and Simeon.

1. Now after the death of Joshua—probably not a long period, for the Canaanites seem to have taken advantage of that event to attempt recovering their lost position, and the Israelites were obliged to renew the war.

the children of Israel asked the Lord—The divine counsel on this, as on other occasions, was sought by Urim and Thummim, by applying to the high priest, who, according to Josephus, was Phinehas.

saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first—The elders, who exercised the government in their respective tribes, judged rightly, that in entering upon an important expedition, they should have a leader nominated by divine appointment; and in consulting the oracle, they adopted a prudent course, whether the object of their inquiry related to the choice of an individual commander, or to the honor of precedency among the tribes.

2. the Lord said, Judah shall go up—The predicted pre-eminence (Ge 49:8) was thus conferred upon Judah by divine direction, and its appointment to take the lead in the ensuing hostilities was of great importance, as the measure of success by which its arms were crowned, would animate the other tribes to make similar attempts against the Canaanites within their respective territories.

I have delivered the land into his hand—not the whole country, but the district assigned for his inheritance.

3. Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me …, that we may fight against the Canaanites—Being conterminous tribes (Jos 19:1, 2), they had a common interest, and were naturally associated in this enterprise.

Jud 1:4-21. Adoni-bezek Justly Requited.

5, 6. Bezek—This place lay within the domain of Judah, about twelve miles south of Jerusalem.

found Adoni-bezek—that is, "lord of Bezek"—he was "found," that is, surprised and routed in a pitched battle, whence he fled; but being taken prisoner, he was treated with a severity unusual among the Israelites, for they "cut off his thumbs and great toes." Barbarities of various kinds were commonly practised on prisoners of war in ancient times, and the object of this particular mutilation of the hands and feet was to disable them for military service ever after. The infliction of such a horrid cruelty on this Canaanite chief would have been a foul stain on the character of the Israelites if there were not reason for believing it was done by them as an act of retributive justice, and as such it was regarded by Adoni-bezek himself, whose conscience read his atrocious crimes in their punishment.

7. Threescore and ten kings—So great a number will not appear strange, when it is considered that anciently every ruler of a city or large town was called a king. It is not improbable that in that southern region of Canaan, there might, in earlier times, have been even more till a turbulent chief like Adoni-bezek devoured them in his insatiable ambition.

8. Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it—The capture of this important city, which ranks among the early incidents in the war of invasion (Jos 15:63), is here noticed to account for its being in the possession of the Judahites; and they brought Adoni-bezek thither [Jud 1:7], in order, probably, that his fate being rendered so public, might inspire terror far and wide. Similar inroads were made into the other unconquered parts of Judah's inheritance [Jud 1:9-11]. The story of Caleb's acquisition of Hebron is here repeated (Jos 15:16-19). [See on Jos 15:16.]

16. the children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah—called "the Kenite," as probably descended from the people of that name (Nu 24:21, 22). If he might not himself, his posterity did accept the invitation of Moses (Nu 10:32) to accompany the Israelites to Canaan. Their first encampment was in the "city of palm trees"—not Jericho, of course, which was utterly destroyed, but the surrounding district, perhaps En-gedi, in early times called Hazezon-tamar (Ge 14:7), from the palm-grove which sheltered it. Thence they removed for some unknown cause, and associating themselves with Judah, joined in an expedition against Arad, in the southern part of Canaan (Nu 21:1). On the conquest of that district, some of this pastoral people pitched their tents there, while others migrated to the north (Jud 4:17).

17-29. And Judah went with Simeon his brother—The course of the narrative is here resumed from Jud 1:9, and an account given of Judah returning the services of Simeon (Jud 1:3), by aiding in the prosecution of the war within the neighboring tribes.

slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath—or Zephathah (2Ch 14:10), a valley lying in the southern portion of Canaan.

Hormah—destroyed in fulfilment of an early vow of the Israelites (see on Nu 21:2). The confederate tribes, pursuing their incursions in that quarter, came successively to Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, which they took. But the Philistines seem soon to have regained possession of these cities.

19. the Lord was with Judah; … but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley—The war was of the Lord, whose omnipotent aid would have ensured their success in every encounter, whether on the mountains or the plains, with foot soldiers or cavalry. It was distrust, the want of a simple and firm reliance on the promise of God, that made them afraid of the iron chariots (see on Jos 11:4-9).

21. the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem—Judah had expelled the people from their part of Jerusalem (Jud 1:8). The border of the two tribes ran through the city—Israelites and natives must have been closely intermingled.

Jud 1:22-26. Some Canaanites Left.

22, 23. the house of Joseph—the tribe of Ephraim, as distinguished from Manasseh (Jud 1:27).

24. the spies … said, … Show us, … the entrance into the city—that is, the avenues to the city, and the weakest part of the walls.

we will show thee mercy—The Israelites might employ these means of getting possession of a place which was divinely appropriated to them: they might promise life and rewards to this man, though he and all the Canaanites were doomed to destruction (Jos 2:12-14); but we may assume the promise was suspended on his embracing the true religion, or quitting the country, as he did. If they had seen him to be firmly opposed to either of these alternatives, they would not have constrained him by promises any more than by threats to betray his countrymen. But if they found him disposed to be serviceable, and to aid the invaders in executing the will of God, they might promise to spare him.

26. Luz—(See on Ge 12:7; Ge 28:18).

27-36. The same course of subjugation was carried on in the other tribes to a partial extent, and with varying success. Many of the natives, no doubt, during the progress of this exterminating war, saved themselves by flight and became, it is thought, the first colonists in Greece, Italy, and other countries. But a large portion made a stout resistance and retained possession of their old abodes in Canaan. In other cases, when the natives were vanquished, avarice led the Israelites to spare the idolaters, contrary to the express command of God; and their disobedience to His orders in this matter involved them in many troubles which this book describes.