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The books of Joshua and Judges tell the story of the early years of Israel as a nation. They describe how the Israelites conquer and occupy the land of Canaan, and then struggle to live up to their covenant with God. The Bible’s drama here moves to an important new stage—God’s people are in God’s land. Yet it becomes clear that the road to reconciliation between God and humanity will not be easy.


The story describes the preparations and battles of Israel’s invasion, as well as how the land was divided among the tribes. Since pockets of resistance remained, Joshua in his final speech urges each tribe to take full possession of its territory. Next he leads the people to renew their commitment to the covenant relationship with God.


Judges then relates the troubling cycle of Israel’s repeated covenant breaking, falling under the rule of other nations, and then crying out to God for help. God responds by raising up “judges” to fight for them and save them. But the relief is temporary as Israel falls back into wrongdoing once again. (“Judges” are both military leaders and legal authorities.)


Just as Israel was made up of twelve tribes, so the book tells of twelve judges. But as the people persist in going their own way, we see that they have rejected their true Judge and Ruler. As the anarchy and atrocities increase, Israel’s need for a king becomes more evident. By the end the questions are urgent: Can Israel fulfill its destiny and calling to be God’s light to the nations? Who can rule Israel to help it find its proper role in the drama?


Judges Chapter One ESV

17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. …….

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, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

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

30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but 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, 32 so 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, so they 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.



v17, the total destruction of Canaanite cities symbolizes total devotion and obedience to God and God’s purposes (Deut 20:17-18).  The other tribes did not follow Judah’s example.  They failed to drive out the Canaanites in their territory, they simply enslaved them.  This hesitation to obey God led to dire consequences for the people of Israel, as we will see in the rest of the book of Judges.    Disobeying God’s commands for us means that we are outside His will; and the result is that what we experience falls short of what is best for us.



Invite the Holy Spirit to examine my heart.  Is there any issue in my life that I am struggling with?  In what ways am I cooperating with what God is doing and how am I in opposition to Him?