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The concept of judgment is at odds with today’s culture, which considers it a sin to suggest there is such a thing as sin. Perhaps that is partly because we have seen all too clearly the fallibility of those who judge. What many of us long for is not judgment but righteousness and deliverance from oppression. That is why the books of Judges and Ruth are so relevant today: Judges, because it reveals a God who employs very human deliverers but refuses to gloss over their sins and the consequences of those sins; and...
The concept of judgment is at odds with today’s culture, which considers it a sin to suggest there is such a thing as sin. Perhaps that is partly because we have seen all too clearly the fallibility of those who judge. What many of us long for is not judgment but righteousness and deliverance from oppression. That is why the books of Judges and Ruth are so relevant today: Judges, because it reveals a God who employs very human deliverers but refuses to gloss over their sins and the consequences of those sins; and Ruth, because it demonstrates the far-reaching impact of a righteous character. Exploring the links between the Bible and our own times, Dr. K. Lawson Younger Jr. shares literary perspectives on the books of Judges and Ruth that reveal ageless truths for our twenty-first-century lives. Most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip from our world to the world of the Bible. But they leave us there, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. They focus on the original meaning of the passage but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The information they offer is valuable--but the job is only half done! The NIV Application Commentary Series helps bring both halves of the interpretive task together. This unique, award-winning series shows readers how to bring an ancient message into our postmodern context. It explains not only what the Bible meant but also how it speaks powerfully today.
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After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?"
2 The Lord answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands."
3 Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, "Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours." So the Simeonites went with them.
4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them." They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.
9 After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.
11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.
14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"
15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron-each city with its territory.
19 The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.
22 Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, "Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well." 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.
27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.
2:1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you."
4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
Sections 1 (1:1-2:5) and 2 (2:6-3:6) of Judges are parallel and form a double introduction to the main section of the cycles (3:7-16:31). The first section narrates matters from the point of view of the Israelites, while the second does so from the point of view of Yahweh. The first section narrates the foreign wars of subjugation with the herem being applied (see the introduction, pp. 30-31).
Judges 1 recapitulates, recasts, and extends the story of the process of Israel's taking possession of the land of Canaan. While it is a complex narrative, this chapter utilizes material from the book of Joshua (esp. Josh. 13-19) to make explicit what is only implicit in Joshua. Along with some expansions, it reflects the general success of Judah and the increasing failure of the other Israelite tribes, especially Dan, in the process of dispossessing the Canaanites from the individual tribal allotments.
There are two major structural techniques used in the portrayal (augmented by some short narratives): (1) the use of a concentric layout that parallels the roles of the tribes of Judah and Joseph, and (2) a geographically arranged narration that presents the moral degeneration of Israel. The latter technique employs a four-stage pattern that builds to a literary climax and moral nadir in the Dan episode.
The concentric design of this section can be seen in Figure 1. The Israelite assembly in A (1:1-2a) anticipates the activities described in the larger units of B (1:2b-21) and B' (1:22-36). By contrast, the Israelite assembly of A' (2:1-5) reviews and evaluates the activities of B and B'. In both instances, as Webb has observed, the key word is alâ ("to go up"). It unifies this segment of text and demarcates the units of which it is composed.
The structure of Section B also follows a concentric design. In the first instance there is a prologue (a) in which Yahweh promises victory (1:2b). The codicil (a'), in contrast to the prologue, confirms Yahweh's presence with Judah, but with qualifications both positive and negative (1:18-21). In the second instance, there is the alliance of Judah and Simeon (b), in which the Judahites obtain their allotment (1:3), and the alliance of Judah and Simeon (b'), in which the Simeonites obtain their allotment (1:17). In the third instance and the center of the entire section (x), Judah's successful wars are narrated (1:4-16). This unit is subdivided into an "up" movement (1:4-8) and a "down" movement (1:9-16).
Like Section B, the structure of Section B' follows a concentric design. In the first instance, there is a prologue (a) (implied by ellipsis) and a codicil (a'), in which a modification to the promise is noted (1:36). In the second instance, the beginning activities of the house of Joseph (b) are narrated positively (1:22), and the final activities of the house of Joseph (b') are narrated negatively (1:35). In the third instance and the center of the entire section (x), the wars of the house of Joseph are narrated (1:23-34). This unit is subdivided into the assessments of the other Cisjordanian (west bank) tribes.
Both sections B and B' narrate initial successes that are followed by failures. Moreover, B and B' serve to exegete the indictment of Israel by the messenger of Yahweh in 2:1-5. The compositional parallel between the Judah and Joseph sections (B and B') within chapter 1 throws the treatment of the Canaanite informer in the Bethel campaign (first item in the Joseph section) into sharp relief against the treatment of the Canaanite "lord of Bezeq" (Adoni-Bezek) in the Bezeq campaign (first item in the Judah section). This comparison helps us to perceive more clearly the basic shift that has already begun to take place at this point in the relationship between Israelites and Canaanites in spite of the fact that the second section, like the first, begins with a notable victory. With this overview of the chapter, it is now possible to expound the individual sections.
"Who Will ... Go Up?" (1:1-2a)
Section A (1:1-2A) opens with an important phrase "after the death of Joshua." Most commentators claim that this phrase is a later addition. The phrase, however, can be compared with the beginning of the book of Joshua: "after the death of Moses." Thus it may be "a stylistic way of recapitulating briefly the previous book before interpreting it further." In this case, Judges recapitulates the position of Joshua (how much of the land Israel would occupy) before going on to the central question of Judges: Why could they not completely occupy the land?
The phrase "the Israelites asked the Lord" (sl byhwh) expresses the idea of obtaining a declaration of the divine will and is substantially the same as (lit.) "inquire of the judgment of the Urim" (sl bmspt hwrym) in Numbers 27:21, in which the divine will is obtained through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest. Thus at the beginning of the narrative, the Israelites seek divine guidance in the proper manner as to "Who will be the first to go up [alâ] and fight for us against the Canaanites?" The idea contained in the term "first" is that of time, not rank. Hence, the question is who will be the first chronologically? While a series of campaigns by individual tribes is envisioned, the concept of a united Israel remains ("who will go up first for us!").
Judah Goes Up (1:2b-21)
Section B (see Fig. 1) opens with a prologue (1:2b) that contains Yahweh's promise through an oracle of victory: "I have given the land into their hands." This is the same phrase that Yahweh used when he promised Joshua victory in the land (e.g., Josh. 6:2; 6:2; 10:8; 11:6). So far, so good.
The Judahites, however, immediately make a deal with the Simeonites (1:3). The alliance (b in Fig. 1) is a "natural" one since Judah and Simeon are
Excerpted from Judges, Ruth by K. Lawson Younger Jr. Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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