Reading in Judges 1. The Israelites are in the process of taking over the Promised Land. We see in the early part of the chapter the men of Judah and the men of Simeon join together after they seek council from God, who says that Judah should be the first to go into their allotted territory to conquer it. So Judah and Simeon go in and conquer that territory. The scriptures say the Lord was with Judah, and they take the hill country. But it then says they were unable to take the plains, apparently because they had iron chariots.
Why did they fail? Was it because the people of the plains had iron chariots, or was it because they had joined with Simeon without God’s saying they should? Was this something they did without seeking the Lord?
Judges 1:21 (all scripture from the NLT) reads:
21 The tribe of Benjamin, however, failed to drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem. So to this day the Jebusites live in Jerusalem among the people of Benjamin.
Why? Did they not seek the Lord? Or was God not powerful enough to drive out the Jebusites? Did God think the men of Benjamin were stronger than they were?
Judges 1:22-26 make it clear that the men of Joseph were successful in cleaning out Bethel of all they were supposed to take care of. Why? Was it because they did seek the Lord? Or were they just stronger than the men of Benjamin?
The rest of the chapter is one story of failure after another:
27 The tribe of Manasseh failed to drive out the people living in Beth-shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and all their surrounding settlements, because the Canaanites were determined to stay in that region. 28 When the Israelites grew stronger, they forced the Canaanites to work as slaves, but they never did drive them completely out of the land.
29 The tribe of Ephraim failed to drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, so the Canaanites continued to live there among them.
30 The tribe of Zebulun failed to drive out the residents of Kitron and Nahalol, so the Canaanites continued to live among them. But the Canaanites were forced to work as slaves for the people of Zebulun.
31 The tribe of Asher failed to drive out the residents of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Aczib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob. 32 Instead, the people of Asher moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land, for they failed to drive them out.
33 Likewise, the tribe of Naphtali failed to drive out the residents of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath. Instead, they moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land. Nevertheless, the people of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath were forced to work as slaves for the people of Naphtali.
34 As for the tribe of Dan, the Amorites forced them back into the hill country and would not let them come down into the plains. 35 The Amorites were determined to stay in Mount Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim, but when the descendants of Joseph became stronger, they forced the Amorites to work as slaves.
It appears that after Judah conquered their territory, things started falling apart. Now to make things clear, I don’t for a minute think that God was not strong enough to conquer these peoples without any help whatsoever from the Israelites. Somebody failed. And I don’t believe it was God.
Was their failure that they tried to go in and do the job themselves without relying on the One who had driven out all the people in front of them from the time they left Egypt until now?
Judges 2 begins:
1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you. 2 For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? 3 So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.”
Uh-huh. Failure. They disobeyed the Lord, with the expected results.
We see as the chapter goes on that the very next generation grew up not knowing the Lord or what He had done for the Israelites, and so they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… just one generation after Israel entered the land which the Lord had promised.