Judges 1

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1 It happened after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel asked of Yahweh, saying, "Who should go up for us first against the Canaanites, to fight against them?"

2 Yahweh said, "Judah shall go up. Behold, I have delivered the land into his hand."

3 Judah said to Simeon his brother, "Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with you into your lot." So Simeon went with him.

4 Judah went up; and Yahweh delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they struck of them in Bezek ten thousand men.

5 They found Adoni-Bezek in Bezek; and they fought against him, and they struck the Canaanites and the Perizzites.

6 But Adoni-Bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.

7 Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered [their food] under my table: as I have done, so God has requited me." They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The children of Judah fought against Jerusalem, and took it, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.

9 Afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, and in the South, and in the lowland.

10 Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron before was Kiriath Arba); and they struck Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

11 From there he went against the inhabitants of Debir. (Now the name of Debir before was Kiriath Sepher.)

12 Caleb said, "He who strikes Kiriath Sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife."

13 Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.

14 It happened, when she came [to him], that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she alighted from off her donkey; and Caleb said to her, "What would you like?"

15 She said to him, "Give me a blessing; for that you have set me in the land of the South, Give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

16 The children of the Kenite, Moses' brother-in-law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which is in the south of Arad; and they went and lived with the people.

17 Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they struck the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. The name of the city was called Hormah.

18 Also Judah took Gaza with its border, and Ashkelon with its border, and Ekron with its border.

19 Yahweh was with Judah; and drove out [the inhabitants of] the hill country; for he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

20 They gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had spoken: and he drove out there the three sons of Anak.

21 The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

22 The house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel; and Yahweh was with them.

23 The house of Joseph sent to spy out Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)

24 The watchers saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said to him, "Please show us the entrance into the city, and we will deal kindly with you."

25 He showed them the entrance into the city; and they struck the city with the edge of the sword; but they let the man go and all his family.

26 The man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called its name Luz, which is its name to this day.

27 Manasseh did not drive out [the inhabitants of] Beth Shean and its towns, nor [of] Taanach and its towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and its towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

28 It happened, when Israel had grown strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, and did not utterly drive them out.

29 Ephraim didn't drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer; but the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun didn't drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites lived among them, and became subject to forced labor.

31 Asher didn't drive out the inhabitants of Acco, nor the inhabitants of Sidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob;

32 but the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali didn't drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, nor the inhabitants of Beth Anath; but he lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh and of Beth Anath became subject to forced labor.

34 The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the hill country; for they would not allow them to come down to the valley;

35 but the Amorites would dwell in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became subject to forced labor.

36 The border of the Amorites was from the ascent of Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.

  

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.

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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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