Judges 1

The tribe of Judah, by God’s command, begin to make war against the Canaanites, 1-4. Adoni-bezek justly requited. They take Jerusalem, 8; and Hebron. Anak’s sons slain, 9, 10. Othniel subdueth Debir, and so obtaineth Caleb’s daughter to wife, 11-15. The Kenites dwell in Judah, 16. Simeon subdueth Zephath, 17; and Judah divers cities of the Philistines, 18-20. The Jebusites dwell with Benjamin, 21. They of the house of Joseph subdue Beth-el, 22-26. Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, Dan drive not out the Canaanites; for which they are vexed by them, and are left to dwell one among another, 27-36.


[circa 1425 BC] Verse 1:[1] Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel (Num. 27:21; Judg. 20:18) asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?


[After the death of Joshua] Since they had no other General (Vatablus); and all the Tribes had now grown, so that they might be sufficient to inhabit the rest of Canaan, which was not previously allowed to them on account of their fewness, Exodus 23:29 (Lapide).


After the death of Joshua; not long after it, because Othniel, the first judge, lived in Joshua’s time.


[They asked…the Lord, בַּיהוָה] In the word of the Lord (Jonathan[2]); through the Lord (Septuagint); the Lord (Syriac, Arabic, Munster,[3] Pagnine,[4] Tigurinus,[5] Junius[6] and Tremellius[7]); they asked in the Lord (Bonfrerius, Montanus[8]). This is a peculiar expression of Scripture, as often as there is speech concerning the desire for an oracle, whether from the true God, or from a Demon. Thus in Judges 18:5; 20:18, 23, 27; 1 Samuel 10:22; 14:37; 22:10, 13, 15. Thus in Ezekiel 21:21, he asked in Teraphim;[9] and in Hosea 4:12[10] (Bonfrerius). They asked by Urim and Thummim (Drusius,[11] Montanus’ Commentary, Lapide, Bonfrerius), with the assembly convened at Shiloh (Menochius[12]). They remembered that, with God left unconsulted, it went poorly for them in the war at Ai[13] (Martyr, Drusius, Rabbi Salomon[14] in Tostatus); and that they had received the Gibeonites into covenant without an oracle[15] (Martyr). Therefore, having been instructed by their chastisement, they now understand, and ask of God; for, if in the beginning the matter had gone poorly, the rest of the Nations had been able to say, their shadow has departed[16] (Drusius). Great weight was lying upon the first war (Clario[17]) that they were undertaking after the death of Joshua; upon the success of which was greatly depending their fortune and reputation (Martyr).


The children of Israel asked the Lord; being assembled together at Shiloh, they inquired of the high priest by the Urim and Thummim. See Numbers 27:21; Judges 20:18; 1 Samuel 23:9.


[Who shall go up before us, etc.? מִי יַעֲלֶה־לָּ֧נוּ אֶל־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֛י בַּתְּחִלָּ֖ה לְהִלָּ֥חֶם בּֽוֹ׃] Who shall go up for us (that is, before us [Martyr]; of us [Junius and Tremellius]; on our behalf [Munster]) to (or against [Septuagint, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius]) the Canaanite (the remaining Canaanite [Junius and Tremellius], that is, that had not yet been conquered [Montanus’ Commentary]) in the beginning to fight in him?[18] (Montanus) (against him? [Munster, Junius and Tremellius]; with him? [Pagnine]). The for us is superfluous, an idiomatic use (Drusius). Who shall go up for us? under what leader shall we wage war? (Tigurinus). Who shall be the first of us, or, which shall be the first of the tribes, to prepare an expedition against the Canaanites? (Vatablus). They do not doubt whether the war is to be waged, but under what Leader (Martyr). But they do not seek a Leader that might take the charge of all, but by which tribe the beginning of the battle might be made (Martyr, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Montanus’ Commentary). This is evident, 1. because there is no joint war hereafter; but Judah with Simeon only renewed the war: 2. because God does not name any one Leader, but a tribe (Bonfrerius). They aks which Tribe might begin a regional war, victory in which might confound the Canaanites, so that the other individual Tribes might rise against and overcome the Canaanites in regional war (Lapide).


Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first? Being sensible that the Canaanites are troublesome to them, and expected great advantage against them by their heedless condition, and finding their people to increase and multiply exceedingly, and consequently the necessity of enlarging their quarters, they renew the war. They do not inquire who shall be the captain-general to all the tribes; but (as appears by the answer) what tribe shall first undertake the expedition, that by their success the other tribes may be encouraged to make the like attempt upon the Canaanites in their several lots.


Verse 2:[19] And the LORD said, (Gen. 49:8) Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.


[Judah] He designates, not a person (as some in Augustine maintain, and others in common, says Lyra[20]), but a tribe (Bonfrerius, Lapide, Vatablus, Druius, Junius, Lyra). For, 1. Simeon here is the Tribe of Simeon; therefore Judah also is the Tribe of Judah (Junius, Bonfrerius). 2. Judah says to Simeon, Come up with me into my lot, etc.; but this was the lot of entire tribes (Bonfrerius), not of individual men (Estius[21]). 3. In the place of Judah, in verse 8 the children of Judah is used. 4. He speaks of Judah in the plural, they fought, they smote, etc. (Bonfrerius). Question: Why was this Tribe designated? Response: It was the mightiest, noblest, and most populous (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Martyr).


Judah: Not a person so called, but the tribe of Judah, as is manifest from Judges 1:3, 4, 8, 9, which is chosen for the first enterprise, because they were both most populous, and so most needing enlargement; and withal most valiant, and therefore most likely to succeed; for God chooseth fit means for the work which he designs; and because the Canaanites were numerous and strong in those parts, and therefore were in time to be suppressed, before they grew too strong for them.


[He shall go up] Thus He speaks, either, 1. because the journey was to be made Northward (which part of the world is higher) (Drusius): or, 2. because they were invading the mountains, as the strongholds in which enemies would otherwise be able to fortify themselves (Montanus’ Commenatry).


[Behold, I have delivered] He was unwilling to deliver it to Judah, while Judah was at leisure or remiss, but rather briskly active (Montanus’ Commentary).

Verse 3:[22] And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and (Judg. 1:17) I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.


[Unto Simeon his brother] He summons this tribe rather than another, because the lot of Simeon was joined with the lot of Judah (Bonfrerius, similarly Vatablus, Lyra, Martyr): and so these are called brethren, because they were the closest (Menochius), as it is evident from Joshua 15 (Lyra) and Joshua 19 (Lapide).


Unto Simeon his brother; as nearest to him both by relation, being his brother by both parents, which few of them were; and by habitation, as appears from Joshua 19:1, 2. Against the Canaanites; specially so called because they are distinguished from the Perizzites, Judges 1:4.


Verse 4:[23] And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in (1 Sam. 11:8) Bezek ten thousand men.


[The Canaanite] Which here is a particular tribe; otherwise the Perizzite would not have been added: But they were dwelling together and intermixing with the Perizzites in the same city of Bezek (Bonfrerius, Martyr).


[Into their hand] That is, into their power: so also the Latins say, Hoc in manu mea est, this is in my hand, that is, this has been placed in my power (Martyr). There is an ἐπάνοδος/recapitulation here of those things that are narrated in Joshua 15; and so they could be translated by the pluperfect (Grotius).


[In Bezek[24]] That is, in a field near the city of Bezek (Vatablus). It is to be translated, near Bezek, that is, a territory of it. So also near Hor, Numbers 33:37;[25] near Jericho, Joshua 5:13.[26] See 1 Samuel 11:8[27] (Piscator[28]).


In Bezek: Not in the city, for that was not yet taken, verse 5, but in the territory of it, or near to it; as in Hor is taken, Numbers 33:37; and in Jericho, Joshua 5:13.


Verse 5:[29] And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.


[And they found Adoni-bezek, אֲדֹנִ֥י בֶ֙זֶק֙] It signifies the lord (king [Arabic]) of Bezek (Bonfrerius, Syriac). אֲדֹנִי/Adoni, in the place of אֲדוֹן/Adon: the י/yod is paragogic[30] (Drusius); it does not have the force of a time; as in the case of מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק/Melchizedek,[31] אֲדֹנִי־צֶדֶק/Adoni-zedek,[32] אֲבִימֶלֶךְ/Abimelech[33] (Bonfrerius). Moreover, in Hebrew phraseology one is said to have found enemies that happens upon or falls upon them unexpectedly, which happened here (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals[34] 1:2:21:243). Note that בֶּזֶק/Bezek here, contrary to the custom of nouns marked with six points,[35] has an accent on the final syllable (Drusius).


Adoni-bezek; the lord or king of Bezek, as his name signifies, in Bezek; whither he fled, when he had lost the field. Against him, that is, against the city wherein he had encamped himself, and the rest of his army.


[They struck] It appears that he speaks of another slaughter, namely, after the assault on the city of Bezek[36] (Bonfrerius).


Verse 6:[37] But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.


[With the extremities of his hands and feet cut off] They translate the בְּהֹנוֹת, extremities (Septuagint); knuckles (Jonathan); thumbs (Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Vatablus, Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus, Malvenda,[38] and others in Lapide and Bonfrerius). Question: Why did they do this? Responses: 1. By the just judgment and instinct of God, as a punishment in kind (Lapide, Martyr). 2. So that he would not hereafter be able to take up arms, or to flee on foot (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Serarius). Pierius[39] notes that the hand formed with the thumb cut off was a symbol of a man inept for war (Serarius). Therefore, it was punished severely upon some that, for the sake of avoiding war, had cut off their own thumbs, as it is related by Valerius Maximus[40] in his Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings[41] “Concerning Severity”, and by Suetonius[42] in his “Augustus”[43] 24. The Athenians cut off the thumbs of the Æginenses[44] that were strong enough for naval service, lest they should vie with them (Bonfrerius). 3. Such things were done as a reproach to idleness, for with an idle hand, but fleeing on their feet, they appeared (Serarius). Whence worthless and idle men are called Poltroni by the Italians and Gauls, which is to say, pollice trunci, mutilated with respect to the thumb (Lapide).


Cut off his thumbs and his great toes: That he might be disenabled to fight with his hands, or to run away upon his feet. And this they did, either by the secret instinct and direction of God, or upon notice of his former tyranny and cruelty expressed upon others, in this manner, as it follows: either way it was a just requital.


Verse 7:[45] And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes (Heb. the thumbs of their hands and of their feet[46]) cut off, gathered (or, gleaned[47]) their meat under my table: (Lev. 24:19; 1 Sam. 15:33; Jam. 2:13) as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.


[Seventy kings] This is not strange (Grotius). For, either they were merely the Petty Kings of the diverse cities (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius, Martyr). Before Ninus, as Justinus[48] testifies, each King was content with the borders of his own city[49] (Martyr). Or they were Kings of the some places, some of which succeeded others (Menochius out of Tostatus.


Threescore and ten kings; which is not strange in those times and places; for these might be either, first, kings successively, and so there might be divers of those kings in one place, and so in others; or, secondly, contemporary kings. For it is well known that anciently each ruler of a city, or great town, was called a king, and had kingly power in that place; and many such kings we meet with in Canaan; and it is probable that some years before kings were more numerous there, till the greater devoured many of the less.


[Amputated, etc.] Hebrew: their thumbs were amputated; that is, by my decree, so that in this manner they might be made inept for war, and so that I might deter others from war itself (Vatablus). Perhaps also in punishment for broken treaties: For the thumb was a sign of a treaty and of peace. See Pierius’ Hieroglyphics 25 “Pacification”; and Tacitus’[50] Annals 12 concerning the Armenians and Iberians[51] (Bonfrerius).


Having their thumbs cut off, that so their hands might be unable to manage weapons of war.


[They were gathering under my table, etc.] Note, 1. the cruelty, in that he thus would make mockery of his captives; 2. the luxury of his meals, inasmuch as seventy men were fed from the fallen remains (Menochius).


Gathered their meat under my table; an act of barbarous inhumanity thus to insult over the miserable, joined with abominable luxury.


[As I have done, so God hath requited me, אֱלֹהִים] He aptly makes use of this word, which signifies God insofar as He is a Prince and Judge. He here acknowledges the providence and avenging justice of God, and appears to have been converted to the knowledge of the true God, because he speaks of God in the singular number (Bonfrerius). But, because he did not call upon God, etc., it appears that sorrow, rather than a pious sense of the soul, extorted this speech from him (Martyr).


God hath requited me: he acknowledgeth the providence and vindictive justice of God, which also Pharaoh did, and others too, without any true sense of piety.


[They brought him to Jerusalem] That is, to the suburban territory of it (Cajetan[52] in Bonfrerius, Josephus in Lapide): or, into the city itself, which in the following verse is found to have been taken (Menochius). Now, he lived all the time that the city was being captured (Bonfrerius). Now, they led him about thus mutilated, to promulgate an example both of the most just judgment of God, and of the victory acquired by the Jews by the help of God. But already this first beginning of victories was augmented by the favorable outcomes of affairs (Montanus’ Commentary). Moreover, יְרוּשָׁלִַם/Jerusalem is singular, not dual, in number:[53] 1. because the singular pronoun is subjoined to it in verse 8[54] and elsewhere: 2. because the final ם/mem is not servile, but radical, since the word is composite (as it seems to Mercerus[55]) from יְרוּ (in the place of יִרְאוּ, fear ye) and שָׁלֵם/Salem, the ancient name of the city, Genesis 14:18. Nevertheless it has the appearance of the dual; perhaps because it was δίπολις, a twofold city, that is, an upper, and lower (Piscator).


They brought him; they carried him in triumph, as a monument of God’s righteous vengeance. To Jerusalem; it being the metropolis of the nation.


[And there he died] Not helped by the attention and remedies of physicians, because God had commanded that the Canaanites were to be killed; and he was worthy of a thousand deaths in addition (Martyr). The sorrow of conscience so aggravated the pain of the wounds (which were not otherwise lethal), that it brought death (Montanus’ Commentary).


Verse 8:[56] Now (see Josh. 15:63) the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.


[Therefore, the children of Judah fighting against Jerusalem] Question 1: When was this done? Response 1: In the time of Joshua (Munster, Junius, Piscator, Vatablus, Martyr); whence the words are to be rendered in the pluperfect, they had stormed, etc. (Vatablus, Piscator, Malvenda out of Junius, Glassius,[57] Martyr). See Joshua 10; 15:63 (Munster). It is said that its king fell, and it is not likely that it, being without a King, was not attacked. Moreover, the children of Judah dwelt in Jerusalem, Joshua 15:63 (Bonfrerius). Now, these things are here commemorated, 1. αἰτιολογικῶς/ætiologically, so that it might appear on what occasion God preferred Judah to the other tribes; namely, because it was was more prudent than the rest, and more diligent in executing the Divine commandment: For in the Scriptures the sequence, not so much of times as of causes, is often observed (Junius). 2. So that he might show that they were easily able to lead Adoni-bezek captive there (Martyr). Response 2: Others think that Jerusalem was captured now, not previously (Malvenda, thus Lightfoot[58]). For, 1. these matters are narrated as having been conducted after the death of Joshua, verse 1. 2. The children of Judah are designated as the authors of this expedition, not Joshua, and not all Israel. 3. Because in the Book of Joshua nothing is indicated concerning the capture of Jerusalem (Bonfrerius). Moreover, mention was made of this assault, Joshua 15:63, proleptically, because the name of Jerusalem had fallen among the cities of the lot of Judah (Malvenda). Response 3: Others maintain that it was captured twice, previously by Joshua, now by the children of Judah (Serarius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius). It is likely that, while the Israelites held camp in Gilgal, and were occupied with the Northern campaign, but they were not yet holding any cities, Canaanites not a few, that had escaped, occupied certain cities, which afterwards had to be stormed again. It appears that this is to be said concerning Hebron and Debir, Joshua 10 (Bonfrerius). Question 2: Why was not Jerusalem stormed rather by the Benjamites, or those as allies in the war, since almost the entire lower city, which was Northward, Psalm 48, belonged to Benjamin? Responses: 1. This was done with the assent of the Benjamites (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius), even if the Scripture (which studies brevity) does not make mention of it (Bonfrerius). For these, distrusting their own strength, delivered the city to the Judahites to be stormed, as I said on Joshua 10 (Lapide), the terror of whom had already seized the Canaanites (Bonfrerius). 2. The city was twofold besides the citadel (whence also its name is dual in form), one of which was in the lot of Judah, the other in the lot of Benjamin in common with Judah, but the citadel belonged to Benjamin alone (Junius). The Southern Part belonged to Judah, but the Northern to Benjamin (Menochius). Therefore, the Judahites, even with the Benjamites being reluctant, were able to contend for their own portion, and to seize the entire lower city, since one part was not able to be assaulted without the other; especially since the enjoyment of the possession of that would