Judges 1

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1 Now after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel made request to the Lord, saying, Who is to go up first to make war for us against the Canaanites?

2 And the Lord said, Judah is to go up: see, I have given the land into his hands.

3 Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my heritage, so that we may make war against the Canaanites; and I will then go with you into your heritage. So Simeon went with him.

4 And Judah went up; and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands; and they overcame ten thousand of them in Bezek.

5 And they came across Adoni-zedek, and made war on him; and they overcame the Canaanites and the Perizzites.

6 But Adoni-zedek went in flight; and they went after him and overtook him, and had his thumbs and his great toes cut off.

7 And Adoni-zedek said, Seventy kings, whose thumbs and great toes had been cut off, got broken meat under my table: as I have done, so has God done to me in full. And they took him to Jerusalem, and he came to his end there.

8 Then the children of Judah made an attack on Jerusalem, and took it, burning down the town after they had put its people to the sword without mercy.

9 After that the children of Judah went down to make war on the Canaanites living in the hill-country and in the south and in the lowlands.

10 And Caleb went against the Canaanites of Hebron: (now in earlier times Hebron was named Kiriath-arba:) and he put Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai to the sword.

11 And from there he went up against the people of Debir. (Now the name of Debir in earlier times was Kiriath-sepher.)

12 And Caleb said, I will give Achsah, my daughter, as wife to the man who overcomes Kiriath-sepher and takes it.

13 And Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah for his wife.

14 Now when she came to him, he put into her mind the idea of requesting a field from her father: and she got down from her ass; and Caleb said to her, What is it?

15 And she said to him, Give me a blessing; because you have put me in a dry south-land, now Give me springs of water. So Caleb gave her the higher spring and the lower spring.

16 Now Hobab the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, had come up out of the town of palm-trees, with the children of Judah, into the waste land of Arad; and he went and was living among the Amalekites;

17 And Judah went with Simeon, his brother, and overcame the Canaanites living in Zephath, and put it under the curse; and he gave the town the name of Hormah.

18 Then Judah took Gaza and its limit, and Ashkelon and its limit, and Ekron and its limit.

19 And the Lord was with Judah; and he took the hill-country for his heritage; but he was unable to make the people of the valley go out, for they had war-carriages of iron.

20 And they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had said; and he took the land of the three sons of Anak, driving them out from there.

21 And the children of Judah did not make the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem go out; the Jebusites are still living with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem.

22 And the family of Joseph went up against Beth-el, and the Lord was with them.

23 So they sent men to make a search round Beth-el. (Now the name of the town in earlier times was Luz.)

24 And the watchers saw a man coming out of the town, and said to him, If you will make clear to us the way into the town, we will be kind to you.

25 So he made clear to them the way into the town, and they put it to the sword; but they let the man and all his family get away safe.

26 And he went into the land of the Hittites, building a town there and naming it Luz: which is its name to this day.

27 And Manasseh did not take away the land of the people of Beth-shean and its daughter-towns, or of Taanach and its daughter-towns, or of the people of Dor and its daughter-towns, or of the people of Ibleam and its daughter-towns, or of the people of Megiddo and its daughter-towns, driving them out; but the Canaanites would go on living in that land.

28 And whenever Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced work, without driving them out completely.

29 And Ephraim did not make the Canaanites who were living in Gezer go out; but the Canaanites went on living in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun did not make the people of Kitron or the people of Nahalol go out; but the Canaanites went on living among them and were put to forced work.

31 And Asher did not take the land of the people of Acco, or Zidon, or Ahlab, or Achzib, or Helbah, or Aphik, or Rehob, driving them out;

32 But the Asherites went on living among the Canaanites, the people of the land, without driving them out.

33 Naphtali did not take the land of the people of Beth-shemesh or of Beth-anath, driving them out; but he was living among the Canaanites in the land; however, the people of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath were put to forced work.

34 And the children of Dan were forced into the hill-country by the Amorites, who would not let them come down into the valley;

35 For the Amorites would go on living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim; but the children of Joseph became stronger than they, and put them to forced work.

36 And the limit of the Edomites went from the slope of Akrabbim from Sela and up.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 1      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 1: The continuing conquest of Canaan.

The book of Judges follows on almost seamlessly from Joshua. It is called ‘Judges’ because a number of regional leaders arose and made judgments for the people, often actively defending Israel from outside oppression. A pattern emerges in Judges: Israel disobeys the Lord – an enemy oppresses Israel – the Lord raises a leader – the leader is victorious against the enemy – there is peace for a time – Israel disobeys the Lord again.

There were twelve judges in all, about whom we either hear very much or next to nothing. The number twelve (as with the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve disciples, and other examples in the Word), stands for all the various aspects of spirituality that we need to understand, develop, and put to use. A clue is often found in the meaning of their names, because biblical names are nearly always linked to spiritual qualities, such as ‘courage’, or ‘one who walks with God’ (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 10216).

The theme of this first chapter is the further conquest of the land. The Israelites asked the Lord, “Who shall go up and fight for us?” And the Lord said that the tribe of Judah would go, because the Lord had delivered the land into their hand. Judah then called on the tribe of Simeon to join them, and they won many battles against the Canaanites still in the land.

One Canaanite king, Adoni-bezek, fled and was captured by the Israelites, who then cut off his thumbs and big toes. Adoni-bezek said that God had dealt justice by punishing him, as he had previously cut off seventy kings’ thumbs and big toes, and they had to gather scraps of food under his table.

Then Caleb, a leader of Israel during the journey through the wilderness, said that the man who took Kirjath-sepher (Caleb’s inheritance city) from the Canaanites would marry his daughter, Achsah. Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, took the city and Achsah was given to him. Achsah asked her father for the blessing of springs of water, and Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

Next, spies were sent to Bethel. They met a man there, and said that if he directed them the entrance to the city, they would show him mercy. He helped them, and they took the city but showed mercy on the man and all his family. After all of this, the man built a new city called Luz in the land of the Hittites.

The chapter ends by listing the twelve tribes, as well as the Canaanite peoples who remained unsubdued in each of their territories.

*****

The overarching spiritual theme of Judges is the process of our regeneration. As the opening of Judges reminds us, there were still parts of the land and various tribes that Israel needed to conquer. In fact, the Israelites never finished driving enemies out of their land. In the same way, we need to control our inherited human nature, but it is never completely wiped out (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Love and Wisdom 238).

During regeneration, we will discover deeper and subtler self-centered states in ourselves, which need to be mitigated. Each judge raised by the Lord stands for our determination to deal with these states, using the Word as a guide. This brings us a period of peace, followed by the start of another personal discovery.

When the Israelites chose which tribes would fight for them, it was no coincidence that they selected Judah and Simeon. Judah (who was a prominent tribe of Israel) and Simeon (who usually acts with another tribe) stand for the highest things in our spiritual life: our love for the Lord, and our obedience to the Lord’s Word. Choosing Judah and Simeon as our strength will always bring victory in our regeneration (see Arcana Caelestia 3654 and Apocalypse Explained 443).

The spiritual meaning in the story of Adoni-bezek is about taking away the power of our self-love, as cutting off thumbs and big toes makes hands and feet virtually useless. When we work on our lower nature, we are to minimize its control over us. It is the same with any influences from hell; their power must end. Adoni-bezek’s comment about doing the same to seventy kings vividly describes how self-love can only lead to our downfall (Arcana Caelestia 10062[4]).

The delightful story of Caleb, Achsah and Othniel illustrates that after battle, there is rest and reward. In the same way, we strengthen the ‘marriage’ of good and truth in us after overcoming spiritual struggles (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Love and Wisdom 409). The springs of water given to Achsah stand for the truths which flow into our mind, both about the ‘upper’ things of the Lord and heaven, and those ‘lower’ ones about spiritual life and responsibility.

The episode about the man from Bethel means that when we open up our life to the Lord to allow Him to guide us, we become blessed (Arcana Caelestia 3928). Then our life can be re-built in very practical and good ways, represented by the Hittites.

The final mention of the Canaanites still in the land points to the continuing presence of our unregenerate qualities. Although we may progress through the work of regeneration, we are still human, and we will always have flaws left to improve on.

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