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My Commentary On The Book Of Judges




This commentary is based on the 1978 version of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in my commentary correspond to chapter titles in the NIV which make for easy comparison between this commentary and the NIV.


Paul, in Romans 15:4, tells us that all of which was written in the Old Testament was written for our example.  So, as modern day, New Testament Christians, the book of Judges might be all about Jews, but it's about us as well.  We must learn from the contents of this book because we as Christians, and as the church, are no different than Israel of old.


The period of time written about in the book of Judges is from the last days of Joshua to Samuel and Samson.  There is a discrepancy to the exact dating because scholars are divided to just when Israelis left Egypt.  Depending on your dating of that event will determine the dating on most things that follow, including the dating of the book of Judges.  The dating of the exodus from Egypt is from about 1400 B.C. to 1300 B.C..  Some even suggest earlier.  A rough but pretty well accepted time period would be around 1390 B. C. to around 1050 or so B. C..   


For a number of internal reasons, this book was written during the period when Israel had kings.  Most people say it was written when David was king of Judah, not when he was king over all Israel.  This would mean that it was written somewhere around 1010 B. C. to 1003 B. C..  Yet even with this date there is some debate because some debate the dates concerning when both King Saul and King David ruled.  Some suggest that King Saul ruled from 1043 or  1040 B. C. to 1010 C. C.  Other's suggest his rule started around 1025 B. C..  Some suggest that David's rule didn't start to around 1000 B. C. instead of 1010 B. C..


We don't really know who wrote the book of Judges.  Many suggest it was Samuel, but there is no internal proof of that.


The period of time spoken of here concerns a time after Joshua led Israel into the promised land of Canaan up to the point of Israel anointing their first king, King Saul.  During this time judges ruled or cared for Israel.  Most say there were 13 judges, although this too is somewhat debatable, depending on who you view as a judge.  Five out of these 13 judges are listed in the "hall of faith" chapter of Hebrews 11, even though many of these judges weren't holy men as we in New Testament times might call holy. 


In many respects these judges were regional leaders, and weren't necessarily political leaders, or, judges in the sense that we might think of.  Yes, they did make judgment calls, but they also simply cared for the people. Some see these judges more of a messianic figure, meaning, one who saves or rescues the people, thus saying something about their job description.


We do see Moses speaking about judges in the Law of Moses.  Those judges were more like judges that we have today.  Those judges judged between disputes, and were often associated with being military leaders as well.  


The thing that New Testament Christians learn from the book of Judges besides history of Israel is the failure of God's people to follow God.  Compromise was common place in Israel during these days, as it is in our days.  Union with pagans was central to Jewish history back then as it is within Christian circles as I type these words in 2012 with the formation of what is called Chrislam, that is, the union of Islam and Christianity.  Israeli union with their pagan neighbours led to the fall of Israel.  It will do the same today in the church.  That part of the church that seeks common ground with other religions will fall, both from God's judgment and the fact that union with other religions just naturally means who no longer have Christianity, even though you may still call it Christianity. 


The ever-present tendency with God's people, whether Old or New Testament people is to be influence by the world around them and to incorporate worldliness into their way of living.  And, when I speak of worldliness, I'm not simply talking about the clothes one wears.  


God gives the command to stay clear of these pagan peoples in Exodus 23:31 and 32, but Israel ignores His command. They intermarry. They form business partnerships.  They even combine worship of Yahweh with worship of Baal.  In the long run, Israel forsakes their religion with the attempt of combining paganism with Judaism. 


We will note as we go through the book of Judges that in times of revival God raises of men, plus one woman, as saviours, as people who help Israel return to their God.  These saviours, or judges, aren't always national, most are regional.  I say this to suggest that this book of saviours resembles the church age, the age in which we now live.  The church is no different than Israel .  We constantly stray from our Lord and every so often, there are regional revivals to help us return to our Lord.  Therefore, as we study the book of Judges we should keep in mind that what we are studying is a snap shot of church history as well as Jewish history.  


Israel Fights The Remaining Canaanites (ch. 1:1 - 36)        


As we read the first few verses of Judges, we should realize that if takes place around 15 years after Joshua died.  We also need to realize that Israel did wins some battles with Joshua as their leaders, but they had more battles to win.  They had not yet driven all of the pagan tribes out of Canaan, something God told them to do, and something they never really did.  That was the basis of Israel's downfall, and still is to this very day.


In verse 1 Israel, and we don't know what Israeli, asked the Lord who should fight the next battle.  The Lord answered in verse 2 by saying that Judah should fight the next battle.


God specifically said that He "had given the land into their ( Judah 's) hand.  This might be a prophetic hint.  Jesus came through the lineage of Judah, and in the long run, it is Jesus who wins all the battles, both spiritually and physically, both for the Jews and for the Gentile believers.


In verse 3 the Judahites asked the Simeonites to help fight the battle for the land Judah was to obtain for herself.  The Judahites call the Simeonites brothers, and right so, because Judah and Simeon were biological brothers, both having Leah as their mother.


In verses 4 to 6 we see that the Lord helped Judah and Simeon win the battle.  When God's people trust their lives with Him, He works behind the scenes and wins the battles for them. 


Note the name Adoni-Bezek.  This is not a personal name.  It is a term meaning, "king of Bezek, or lord of Bezek.  This king was captured but not killed.  Judah had his thumbs and big toe cut off, which pretty much would disable him from being a man of the military.  Adoni-Bezek had done to him what he and many other Canaanite leaders did to their enemies. We see this in verse 7.


Note also in verse 7 that Adoni-Bezek acknowledges God. This doesn't necessarily mean that he was acknowledging the God of Israel.  The Hebrew word for "God" is El or Elohim.  This term is somewhat of a generic term for the Almighty God, used by pagans and Jews alike.


Adoni-Bezek thought that God was paying him back for cutting off the thumbs and big toes of 70 of his enemies.  Such thinking was common place among pagan civilizations.  If you do something bad, the gods will eventually get you for it.  The idea is "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth".  If you cut someone's thumbs and big toes off, you'll get your thumb and big toe cut off.  The idea that people get paid back for their evil is somewhat of a superstition that is prevalent today 


From here to the end of the chapter we learn of more battles that Judah and Simeon fought.  I will not comment on each and every battle.


In verse 12 we see that Caleb offered his daughter as a prize for the man who would lead a victory in battle.  The son of Caleb's younger brother won the prize of Caleb's daughter.  His name was Othniel. He married Acsah. The two were cousins.


Note in verse 20 that Judah captured Hebron.  Hebron was important to Israel.   It's located about 19 miles south of Jerusalem and 15 miles west of the Dead Sea .  It's 3000 feet above sea level, has lots of spring water, and is very suitable for agriculture.  It has been pretty much continually inhabited from at least 3000 B. C.. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were all buried in Hebron.  When David became King of Judah, he made Hebron the capital city of Judah.  That is what makes this place important.  Hebron today is occupied by Arab Palestinians.


Note in verse 21the words "to this day".  We really don't know what day is spoken of here, but most scholars tend to think that whoever wrote the book of Judges wrote it while David was king of Judah, somewhere around 1010 B. C. to 1003 B. C..    


In verse 22 we see the town of Bethel.  Like Hebron, but north of Jerusalem, Bethel had many springs that made the ground futile and good for agriculture.  Abraham built and altar to the Lord here and also revisited Bethel after returning from Egypt.  Jacob, on his way to find a wife had a dream here in which the Abrahamic Covenant was reconfirmed to him.  The arc of the covenant was stored in Bethel for the most part during the time of the judges.


In verse 28 we note that Israel did not get rid of the pagans in the land of Canaan.  Instead, they forced them into being slaves.  Again, this is not what God wanted Israel to do, and in the end, this would be the basis of their downfall. 



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