Judges 1:1
Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?
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(1) Now.—The “now” should rather be rendered And, as in Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 1:1, Joshua 1:1, 1Samuel 1:1, 2Samuel 1:1, 2Kings 1:1. The word connects this book with the last, “as a link in the chain of books which relate in unbroken connection the sacred history of the world from the Creation to the Exile” (Bertheau).

Alter the death of Joshua.—In these first words we are met by a difficulty, for there can be little reasonable doubt that most, at any rate, of the events narrated from this verse to Judges 2:5 took place before the death of Joshua, whose death and burial are accordingly mentioned in Judges 2:8-9. For (1) the whole passage (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5) evidently describes the first movements of the Israelites after their establishment on the western side of the Jordan. (See Joshua 18:1-3; Joshua 21:43; Joshua 22:32; Joshua 24:28.) (2) It is inconceivable that the Israelites should have remained inactive during the long life of Joshua, who attained the age of 110 years. (3) The events in Judges 1:10-36 are evidently identical with those in Joshua 12:9-24; Joshua 12:14; Joshua 12:19 (4) The angel’s message (Judges 2:1-5) and the subsequent notices (6-18) are closely parallel with, and sometimes verbally the same as, those in Joshua 24:24-33. That these should be records of different and yet most closely analogous series of circumstances is all but impossible. Various ways of accounting for the difficulty have been suggested. (1) Some suppose that many events narrated or touched upon in the Book of Joshua (especially Judges 15:14-19; Judges 15:16-17, &c.) are narrated by anticipation. (2) Clericus arbitrarily supplies the words, “After the death of Joshua the Canaanites recovered strength, but in his lifetime the children of Israel.” (3) Schmidt renders the verbs as pluperfects: “It came to pass after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel had consulted Jehovah,” &c. (4) A more recent conjecture is that the name “Joshua” has here crept in by an error of the scribes. If we read, “After the death of Moses,” all becomes clear and coherent; and if the book, in its original form, possibly began at Judges 3:7, with the words, “And it came to pass, after the death of Joshua, that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,” &c., the clerical error may have been caused by the addition of prefatory matter to the book at the same time that the appendix (Judges 17-21) was added. It is in favour of the possibility of this suggestion that there are close resemblances between the style and the allusions of the preface, or perhaps we may say of the two prefaces (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:10; Judges 2:11-23), and the style and allusions of the last five chapters: e.g., in the references to Judah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem (Judges 1:1-21; Judges 1:19; Judges 20:18), Dan (Judges 1:34; Judges 18:1-31) and the Twelve Tribes (passim); the consultations of the Lord by Urim (Judges 1:1-2; Judges 20:26-28); the silence as to the existence of Judges; and the recurrence of various phrases, such as “set on fire,” and “with the edge of the sword” (Judges 1:8; Judges 20:48), “unto this day” (Judges 1:21; Judges 19:30), “give his daughter to wife” (Judges 1:12; Judges 21:1; Judges 21:14; Judges 21:18), &c. (5) On the other hand, the conjecture can only be regarded as possible, since it is not supported by a single MS. or suggested by any ancient commentator. It is perhaps simpler to suppose that the book originally began with the words, “Now after the death of Joshua,” and that this beginning was left unaltered as a general description of the book when the prefatory matter and appendix were attached to it.

The children of Israel.—Mainly, it would seem, the western tribes.

Asked the Lord.—The phrase is peculiar, meaning, literally, enquired in Jehovah (as we find it in the LXX.). The usual construction is “Shaal eth-Jehovah” (“asked the Lord”). This phrase (shaal be) is only found again in. Judges 20:23-27. Rabbi Tanchum (whose commentary on this book has been edited by Schnurrer and Haarbürcker) says that the phrase implies the consultation of Jehovah through the high priest by means of the Urim and Thummim. “To ask of Elohim” occurs in Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18. Similarly in Greek, “to ask God” (Xen. Mem. viii. 3) means to consult an oracle. If the narrative of this chapter be retrospective, the high priest must have been Eleazar, the son of Aaron (Joshua 14:1); if not, it must have been his son Phinehas (Joshua 24:33), as Josephus seems to imply (Jos. Antt. v. 2, § 1). On this method of inquiring of God, in the absence of any authoritative declaration on the part of a prophet, see Numbers 27:21, Joshua 9:14. On the Urim and Thummim, which was not the jewelled “breastplate of judgment,” but something which was put “in it,” see Exodus 28:30. It is probably useless to inquire as to the method by which the will of God was revealed by the Urim and Thummim. The words mean “lights and perfections,” or something closely resembling those conceptions. The Rabbis were themselves ignorant as to the exact nature of the Urim and Thummim, and the mode in which they were used. One favourite theory is that adopted by Milton, when he speaks of Aaron’s breastplate as having been “ardent with gems oracular.” It identifies the Urim with the twelve gems, and supposes that the answers of God were spelt out by a mystic light which gleamed over these gems. But not to dwell on the fact that the names of the tribes did not contain all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, this explanation is not consistent with the distinction made between the breastplate which was on the ephod, and the Urim and Thummim that were placed inside it (Exodus 28:30). Another theory supposes that the mind of the high priest was abstracted from earthly things by gazing on the gems until the will of God was revealed to him. A third regards the Urim and Thummim as cut and uncut gems, kept in the folds of the breastplate, and used almost like lots. These are but theories, and in all probability the exact truth, which has now been forgotten for thousands of years, will never be discovered.

Who shall go up for us . . .?—At the solemn investiture of Joshua, as the successor of Moses, Moses is directed to “set him before Eleazar the priest,” who was “to ask consent for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in” (Numbers 27:18-21).

Jdg 1:1. After the death of Joshua — Not long after it; for Othniel, the first judge, lived in Joshua’s time. Asked the Lord — Being assembled together at Shiloh, they inquired of the high-priest by the Urim and the Thummim. Against the Canaanites first — Finding their people multiply exceedingly, and consequently the necessity of enlarging their quarters, they renew the war. They do not inquire who shall be captain-general to all the tribes; but what tribe shall first undertake the expedition, that, by their success, the other tribes might be encouraged to make the like attempts upon the Canaanites in their several lots.

1:1-8 The Israelites were convinced that the war against the Canaanites was to be continued; but they were in doubt as to the manner in which it was to be carried on after the death of Joshua. In these respects they inquired of the Lord. God appoints service according to the strength he has given. From those who are most able, most work is expected. Judah was first in dignity, and must be first in duty. Judah's service will not avail unless God give success; but God will not give the success, unless Judah applies to the service. Judah was the most considerable of all the tribes, and Simeon the least; yet Judah begs Simeon's friendship, and prays for aid from him. It becomes Israelites to help one another against Canaanites; and all Christians, even those of different tribes, should strengthen one another. Those who thus help one another in love, have reason to hope that God will graciously help both. Adoni-bezek was taken prisoner. This prince had been a severe tyrant. The Israelites, doubtless under the Divine direction, made him suffer what he had done to others; and his own conscience confessed that he was justly treated as he had treated others. Thus the righteous God sometimes, in his providence, makes the punishment answer the sin.After the death of Joshua - But from Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:9 is a consecutive narrative, ending with the death of Joshua. Hence, the events in this chapter and in Judges 2:1-6 are to be taken as belonging to the lifetime of Joshua. See Judges 2:11 note.

Asked the Lord - The phrase is only found in Judges and Samuel. It was the privilege of the civil ruler, to apply to the high priest to consult for him the Urim and Thummim (marginal reference). (Compare Joshua 14:1; Joshua 18:1, Joshua 18:10; Joshua 19:51). Here it was not Phinehas, as Josephus concludes from placing these events after the death of Joshua, but Eleazar, through whom the children of Israel inquired "who" (or, rather), "which tribe of us shall go up!"

THE BOOK OF JUDGES. Commentary by Robert Jamieson


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.The tribe of Judah, by God's command, begin to make war against the Canaanites, Judges 1:1-4. Adoni-bezek justly requited, Judges 1:5-7. They take Jerusalem, Judges 1:8; and Hebron. Anak's sons slain, Judges 1:9,10. Othniel subdueth Debir, and so obtaineth Caleb's daughter to wife, Judges 1:11-15. The Kenites dwell in Judah, Judges 1:16. Simeon subdueth Zephath, Judges 1:17; and Judah divers cities of the Philistines, Judges 1:18-20. The Jebusites dwell with Benjamin, Judges 1:21. They of the house of Joseph subdue Beth-el, Judges 1:22-26. 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, Judges 1:27-36.

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

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

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.

Now after the death of Joshua,.... With the account of which the preceding book is concluded, and therefore this very properly follows after that; though Epiphanius (b) places the book of Job between them:

it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord; that is, the heads of them who gathered together at Shiloh, where the tabernacle was; and standing before the high priest, either Eleazar, or rather Phinehas his son, Eleazar being in all probability dead, inquired by Urim and Thummim:

saying, who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? for they had no commander in chief, Joshua leaving no successor, though the Samaritan Chronicle (c) pretends he did; one Abel, a son of Caleb's brother, of the tribe of Judah, on whom the lot fell, out of twelve of the nine tribes and a half, to whom Joshua delivered the government of the nation, and crowned him: but this inquiry was not for any man to go before them all as their generalissimo, but to know what tribe should first go up, and they were desirous of having the mind of God in it, when they might expect to succeed; which to do, at their first setting out, would not only be a great encouragement to them to go on, but strike dread and terror into their enemies; and this is to be understood of the Canaanites who remained unsubdued, that dwelt among them, and in cities, which though divided to them by lot, they were not in the possession of; and these being troublesome neighbours to them, and besides the Israelites daily increasing, needed more room and more cities to occupy, and more land to cultivate.

(b) De Mensur. & Ponder. c. 13. (c) Apud Hottinger. Smegma, p. 522.

Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel {a} asked the LORD, saying, {b} Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?

(a) By the judgment of Urim; Read Ex 28:30, Nu 27:21, 1Sa 28:6

(b) Who shall be our captain?

1. And it came to pass after the death of Joshua] The events which follow belong, however, to the life-time of Joshua and to the period covered by Joshua 9-12; moreover, the death of Joshua is recorded in chap. Jdg 2:6-10, in due sequel to Joshua 24:28. As referring to what immediately follows the words are therefore incorrect; but taking them in connexion with the entire Book they have a certain fitness, for the death of Joshua may be regarded as marking the division between the period of conquest and the period of occupation. In the same way the Book of Joshua opens with the death of Moses, Joshua 1:1 a. The sentence is an editorial addition.

asked of the Lord] most likely at the sanctuary, through the medium of the priest; cf. Jdg 18:5, 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Samuel 22:15 etc. The ephod and the Urim and Thummim came into use on such occasions; the divine response was conveyed as a priestly oracle. See Jdg 17:3, Jdg 18:5, 1 Samuel 14:18 (RVm.), 41 (LXX), 1 Samuel 23:9 ff., Deuteronomy 33:8; and Driver, Exodus, p. 312 f.

go up] From Gilgal, 800 ft. below sea-level, the march into the Southern Highlands (2500 to 3600 ft. above the sea) was a continuous ascent. The verb may be used, however, in a general sense, of a military expedition, 2 Samuel 5:19, Isaiah 7:6.

first] of time, cf. Jdg 10:18; not first in order or rank.

the Canaanites] The Jehovist’s name for the various tribes of Palestine; the Elohist calls them ‘Amorites,’ cf. Jdg 1:34. If the Canaanites had been extirpated in the manner described in the Book of Joshua there would have been no need to attack them again.

Verse 1. - After the death of Joshua. The events narrated in chs. 1. and Deuteronomy 2:1-9 all occurred before the death of Joshua, as appears by Judges 2:8, 9, and by a comparison of Joshua 14:6-15 and Joshua 15:13-20. The words, and it came to pass after the death of Joshua, must therefore be understood (if the text is incorrupt) as the heading of the whole book, just as the Book of Joshua has for its heading, "Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass." Asked the Lord. The same phrase as Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18, where it is rendered asked counsel of. So also Numbers 27:21, where a special direction is given to Joshua to make such inquiries as that mentioned in this verse before Eleazar the priest, through the judgment of Urim and Thummim (cf. 1 Samuel 23:10, 12). A still more common rendering of the Hebrew phrase in the A.V. is "to inquire of God" (see, e.g. Judges 20:27, 28; 1 Samuel 22:13, 15; 1 Samuel 23:2, 4; 1 Samuel 28:6, and many other places). Such inquiries were made

(1) by Urim and Thummin,

(2) by the word of the Lord through a prophet (1 Samuel 9:9), or

(3) simply by prayer, (Genesis 25:22), and improperly of false gods (2 Kings 1:2, 16), of teraphim, and semi-idolatrous priests (Judges 18:5, 14). Judges 1:1With the words "Now, after the death of Joshua, it came to pass," the book of Judges takes up the thread of the history where the book of Joshua had dropped it, to relate the further development of the covenant nation. A short time before his death, Joshua had gathered the elders and heads of the people around him, and set before them the entire destruction of the Canaanites through the omnipotent help of the Lord, if they would only adhere with fidelity to the Lord; whilst, at the same time, he also pointed out to them the dangers of apostasy from the Lord (Joshua 23). Remembering this admonition and warning, the Israelites inquired, after Joshua's death, who should begin the war against the Canaanites who still remained to be destroyed; and the Lord answered, "Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand" (Judges 1:1, Judges 1:2). בּיהוה שׁאל, to ask with Jehovah for the purpose of obtaining a declaration of the divine will, is substantially the same as האוּרים בּמשׁפּט שׁאל (Numbers 27:21), to inquire the will of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest. From this time forward inquiring of the Lord occurs with greater frequency (vid., Judges 20:23, Judges 20:27; 1 Samuel 10:22; 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 23:2, etc.), as well as the synonymous expression "ask of Elohim" in Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18; 1 Samuel 14:37; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Chronicles 14:10; whereas Moses and Joshua received direct revelations from God. The phrase אל־הכּנעני יעלה, "go up to the Canaanites," is defined more precisely by the following words, "to fight against them;" so that עלה is used here also to denote the campaign against a nation (see at Joshua 8:1), without there being any necessity, however, for us to take אל in the sense of על. בתּחלּה עלה signifies "to go up in the beginning," i.e., to open or commence the war; not to hold the commandership in the war, as the Sept., Vulgate, and others render it (see Judges 10:18, where להלּחם יחל is expressly distinguished from being the chief or leader). Moreover, מי does not mean who? i.e., what person, but, as the answer clearly shows, what tribe? Now a tribe could open the war, and take the lead at the head of the other tribes, but could not be the commander-in-chief. In the present instance, however, Judah did not even enter upon the war at the head of all the tribes, but simply joined with the tribe of Simeon to make a common attack upon the Canaanites in their inheritance. The promise in Judges 1:2 is the same as that in Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:1, etc. "The land" is not merely the land allotted to the tribe of Judah, or Judah's inheritance, as Bertheau supposes, for Judah conquered Jerusalem (Judges 1:8), which had been allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28), but the land of Canaan generally, so far as it was still in the possession of the Canaanites and was to be conquered by Judah. The reason why Judah was to commence the hostilities is not to be sought for in the fact that Judah was the most numerous of all the tribes (Rosenmller), but rather in the fact that Judah had already been appointed by the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:8.) to be the champion of his brethren.
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