Judges 1

Judges 1,
Monday, April 30, 2018

This book was always the sequel of Joshua, but you’ll be pardoned for finding it occasionally redundant or contradictory.  Why do Yehuda and Shimon have to reclaim their southern territory?  Wasn’t that how the occupation continued after Jericho in Joshua?  

The first book was organized into the shape of all the tribes crossing the Jordan and occupying Canaan together under Joshua.  This version of claiming the Negev has just the 2 tribes whose patrimony lies in the south joining forces against the Perizzites.  

The detail about the thumbs of Adoni-Bezek’s hands and feet is gory.  There will be more of this in Judges, an earthy tradition of effective story-telling, like the ‘J’ voice in Torah.  He had humiliated and maimed 70 others, and now he was kept around similarly hobbled.  Are we readers to empathize with him, or identify with retribution?

The replay of Othniel’s valour in the Negev battles, and Caleb’s reward of a marriage alliance with his daughter Achsah, appears to us to treat the woman as property.  She immediately shows her worth as tribal manager by bidding up her dowry to upper and lower pools in that dessert region on the frontiers of Edom and Egypt. 

The claim to conquer Gaza, or Philistia, is always suspect, according to archeologists.  The admission that ‘we’ never conquered the plains, where agrarian wealth and commercial trade routes funded fancy chariots, highlights the affirmation that ‘we’ held the highlands in Yehuda’s south. ‘We’ negotiated southern borderlands.

The recitals of each tribe from Benjamin and Jerusalem on north through Ephraim and Bethel are prioritizing centres of identity and religion for Solomon’s writers, Josiah’s editors, and the Second Temple Deuteronomic revisionists.  We admit we never held it all, and a fortiori, the northern or eastern tribes never held their regions.

The transition, from Joshua’s leadership of 12 united tribes, to the ‘tribal amphictyony’ or anarchic association among neighbouring tribes occasionally rallying under judges in response to threats, is just begun – it needs another day – or two – to set the hook. 

After the death of Joshua, 
the Israelites inquired of the Lord,
 ‘Who shall go up first for us
against the Canaanites,
 to fight against them?
’2The Lord said, 
‘Judah shall go up. 
I hereby give the land
into his hand.
’3Judah said to his brother Simeon,
 ‘Come up with me
 into the territory allotted to me,
 that we may fight against the Canaanites; 
then I too will go with you
into the territory allotted to you.’ 
So Simeon went with him.
4Then Judah went up
and the Lord gave the Canaanites
and the Perizzites
 into their hand; 
and they defeated ten thousand of them
at Bezek.
 5They came upon Adoni-bezek at Bezek, 
and fought against him, 
and defeated the Canaanites
and the Perizzites.
 6Adoni-bezek fled; 
but they pursued him,
 and caught him, 
and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
 7Adoni-bezek said,
 ‘Seventy kings
 with their thumbs and big toes cut off
used to pick up scraps under my table;
 as I have done,
 so God has paid me back.’
 They brought him to Jerusalem, 
and he died there.
8 Then the people of Judah
fought against Jerusalem
and took it. 
They put it to the sword
and set the city on fire.
the people of Judah
went down to fight against the Canaanites
who lived in the hill country,
 in the Negeb, 
and in the lowlands.
 10Judah went against
the Canaanites who lived in Hebron
 (the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba);
 and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.
11 From there they went against
the inhabitants of Debir
(the name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher).
 12Then Caleb said,
 ‘Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher
and takes it, 
I will give him my daughter Achsah
as wife.’
13And Othniel son of Kenaz,
 Caleb’s younger brother,
 took it; 
and he gave him his daughter Achsah
 as wife.
 14When she came to him, 
she urged him
to ask her father
for a field. 
As she dismounted from her donkey,
 Caleb said to her,
 ‘What do you want?’
 15She said to him,
 ‘Give me a present;
 since you have set me
 in the land of the Negeb, 
give me also Gulloth-mayim.’
 So Caleb gave her
 Upper Gulloth and Lower Gulloth.
16 The descendants of Hobab the Kenite,
 Moses’ father-in-law, 
went up with the people of Judah
from the city of palms
into the wilderness of Judah, 
which lies in the Negeb near Arad. 
Then they went
and settled with the Amalekites.
 17Judah went
 with his brother Simeon, 
and they defeated the Canaanites
who inhabited Zephath, 
and devoted it to destruction. 
So the city was called Hormah. 
18Judah took Gaza with its territory,
 Ashkelon with its territory, 
and Ekron with its territory. 
19The Lord was with Judah, 
and he took possession of the hill country,
 but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain,
 because they had chariots of iron.
 20Hebron was given to Caleb,
 as Moses had said;
 and he drove out from it
the three sons of Anak. 
21But the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites
who lived in Jerusalem;
 so the Jebusites have lived in Jerusalem
among the Benjaminites
to this day.
22 The house of Joseph
also went up
against Bethel; 
and the Lord was with them.
 23The house of Joseph
 sent out spies to Bethel
 (the name of the city was formerly Luz).
 24When the spies saw a man coming out of the city,
 they said to him,
 ‘Show us the way into the city, 
and we will deal kindly with you.’ 
25So he showed them
the way into the city; 
and they put the city to the sword,
 but they let the man
and all his family
 26So the man went
to the land of the Hittites
and built a city,
 and named it Luz; 
that is its name
 to this day.
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; 
but the Canaanites
continued to live in that land. 
28When Israel grew strong, 
they put the Canaanites
to forced labour, 
but did not in fact
drive them out.
29 And Ephraim did not drive out
the Canaanites who lived in Gezer; 
but the Canaanites lived among them in Gezer.
30 Zebulun did not drive out
the inhabitants of Kitron, 
or the inhabitants of Nahalol;
 but the Canaanites lived among them, 
and became subject to forced labour.
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;
32but 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, 
but lived among the Canaanites,
 the inhabitants of the land; 
nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh
 and of Beth-anath
 became subject to forced labour
for them.
34 The Amorites pressed the Danites
back into the hill country;
 they did not allow them
to come down to the plain. 
35The Amorites
continued to live in Har-heres,
 in Aijalon, 
and in Shaalbim,
 but the hand of the house of Joseph
rested heavily on them, 
and they became subject to forced labour.
 36The border of the Amorites
ran from the ascent of Akrabbim,
 from Sela and upwards.