Judges 1-6 Common English Bible (CEB)
The tribes and their military conflicts
1 After Joshua’s death, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who should go up first to fight for us against the Canaanites?”
2 The Lord said, “The tribe of Judah will go up. I’ve handed over the land to them.”
3 So the tribe of Judah said to the tribe of Simeon, their brothers, “Come up with us into our territory, and let’s fight against the Canaanites. Then we’ll go with you into your territory too.” So Simeon went with them.
4 When Judah went up, the Lord handed them the Canaanites and Perizzites. They defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 There they found Adoni-bezek at Bezek, fought against him, and defeated the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-bezek fled, but they chased after him, captured him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 He said, “Seventy kings with severed thumbs and big toes used to pick up scraps under my table, so God has paid me back exactly for what I did.” They brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. 8 The people of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it. They killed its people with their swords and set the city on fire.
9 Afterward, the people of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the highlands, the southern plain,[a] and the western foothills.[b] 10 Judah moved against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron, known before as Kiriath-arba, and they defeated Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. 11 From there they moved against those who lived in Debir, known before as Kiriath-sepher. 12 Caleb said, “I’ll give my daughter Achsah as a wife to the one who defeats and captures Kiriath-sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it; so Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah as a wife. 14 When she arrived, she convinced Othniel to ask her father for a certain piece of land. As she got down from her donkey, Caleb said to her, “What do you want?”
15 Achsah said to Caleb, “Give me a gift. Since you’ve given me land in the southern plain, give me springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law the Kenite went up with the people of Judah from Palm City into the Judean desert, which was in the southern plain near Arad. They went and lived with the Amalekites.[c] 17 Then the Judahites went with the Simeonites, their brothers, and they defeated the Canaanites who lived in Zephath, and they completely destroyed it. So the city was called Hormah.[d] 18 Judah also captured Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and all their territories. 19 Thus the Lord was with the tribe of Judah, and they took possession of the highlands. However, they didn’t drive out those who lived in the plain because they had iron chariots. 20 They gave Hebron to Caleb, just as Moses had commanded, and they drove out from there the three sons of Anak. 21 But the people of Benjamin didn’t drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. So the Jebusites still live with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem today.
22 In the same way, Joseph’s household went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy on Bethel, previously named Luz, 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Show us the way into the city, and we’ll be loyal to you in return.” 25 So he showed them the way into the city. They killed the city’s people with their swords, but they let that man and all his relatives go. 26 The man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city. He named it Luz, which is still its name today.
27 The tribe of Manasseh didn’t drive out the people in Beth-shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, or any of their villages. The Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became stronger they forced the Canaanites to work for them, but they didn’t completely drive them out. 29 The tribe of Ephraim didn’t drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, so the Canaanites kept on living there with them.
30 The tribe of Zebulun didn’t drive out the people living in Kitron or Nahalol. These Canaanites lived with them but were forced to work for them. 31 The tribe of Asher didn’t drive out the people living in Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob. 32 The people of Asher settled among the Canaanites in the land because they couldn’t drive them out. 33 The tribe of Naphtali didn’t drive out the people living in Beth-shemesh or Beth-anath but settled among the Canaanites in the land. The people living in Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath were forced to work for them.
34 The Amorites pushed the people of Dan back into the highlands because they wouldn’t allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites were determined to live in Har-heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim, but Joseph’s household became strong, and the Amorites were forced to work for them. 36 The border of the Amorites ran from the Akrabbim pass, from Sela, and upward.
The Lord’s messenger condemns
2 The Lord’s messenger came up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, “I brought you up from Egypt and led you into the land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you are not to make a covenant with those who live in this land. You should break down their altars.’ But you didn’t obey me. What have you done? 3 So now I tell you, I won’t drive them out before you, but they’ll be a problem[e] for you, and their gods will be a trap for you.” 4 When the Lord’s messenger spoke these words to all the Israelites, they raised their voices and cried out loud. 5 So they named that place Bochim,[f] and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord there.
Death of Joshua and his generation
6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the Israelites each went to settle on their own family property in order to take possession of the land. 7 The people served the Lord throughout the rest of Joshua’s life and throughout the next generation of elders who outlived him, those who had seen all the great things that the Lord had done for Israel. 8 Joshua, Nun’s son and the Lord’s servant, died when he was 110 years old. 9 They buried him within the boundaries of his family property in Timnath-heres in the highlands of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash. 10 When that whole generation had passed away, another generation came after them who didn’t know the Lord or the things that he had done for Israel.
Israel’s pattern of sin and punishment
11 Then the Israelites did things that the Lord saw as evil: They served the Baals; 12 and they went away from the Lord, their ancestors’ God, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods from among the surrounding peoples, they worshipped them, and they angered the Lord. 13 They went away from the Lord and served Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the Lord became angry with Israel, and he handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He let them be defeated by their enemies around them, so that they were no longer able to stand up to them. 15 Whenever the Israelites marched out, the Lord’s power worked against them, just as the Lord had warned them. And they were very distressed.
16 Then the Lord raised up leaders[g] to rescue them from the power of these raiders. 17 But they wouldn’t even obey their own leaders because they were unfaithful, following other gods and worshipping them. They quickly deviated from the way of their ancestors, who had obeyed the Lord’s commands, and didn’t follow their example.
18 The Lord was moved by Israel’s groaning under those who oppressed and crushed them. So the Lord would raise up leaders for them, and the Lord would be with the leader, and he would rescue Israel from the power of their enemies as long as that leader lived.
19 But then when the leader died, they would once again act in ways that weren’t as good as their ancestors’, going after other gods, to serve them and to worship them. They wouldn’t drop their bad practices or hardheaded ways. 20 So the Lord became angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated my covenant that I required of their ancestors and hasn’t obeyed me, 21 I in turn will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” 22 As a test for Israel, to see whether they would carefully walk in the Lord’s ways just as their ancestors had done, 23 the Lord left these nations instead of driving them out immediately or handing them over to Joshua.
Nations remaining in the land
3 These are the nations that the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had no firsthand knowledge of the wars of Canaan. 2 They survived only to teach war to the generations of Israelites who had no firsthand knowledge of the earlier wars: 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, Sidonians, and Hivites who lived in the highlands of Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon to Lebo-hamath. 4 They were to be the test for Israel, to find out whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had made to their ancestors through Moses. 5 So the Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 6 But the Israelites intermarried with them and served their gods.
Othniel, the model judge
7 The Israelites did things that the Lord saw as evil, and they forgot the Lord their God. They served the Baals and the Asherahs.[h] 8 The Lord became angry with Israel and gave them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. The Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9 But then they cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up a deliverer for the Israelites, Othniel, Kenaz’s son, Caleb’s younger brother, who rescued them. 10 The Lord’s spirit was in Othniel, and he led Israel. When he marched out for war, the Lord handed over Aram’s King Cushan-rishathaim. Othniel overpowered Cushan-rishathaim, 11 and the land was peaceful for forty years, until Othniel, Kenaz’s son, died.
12 The Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil, and the Lord put Moab’s King Eglon in power over them, because they did these things that the Lord saw as evil. 13 He convinced the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, defeated Israel, and took possession of Palm City. 14 So the Israelites served Moab’s King Eglon eighteen years.
15 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud, Gera’s son, a Benjaminite, who was left-handed. The Israelites sent him to take their tribute payment to Moab’s King Eglon. 16 Now Ehud made for himself a double-edged sword that was about a foot and a half long, and he strapped it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 Then he presented the tribute payment to Moab’s King Eglon, who was a very fat man. 18 When he had finished delivering the tribute payment, Ehud sent on their way the people who had carried it. 19 But he himself turned back at the carved stones near Gilgal, and he said, “I have a secret message for you, King.”
So Eglon said, “Hush!” and all his attendants went out of his presence. 20 Ehud approached him while he was sitting alone in his cool second-story room, and he said, “I have a message from God for you.” At that, Eglon got up from his throne. 21 Ehud reached with his left hand and grabbed the sword from his right thigh. He stabbed it into Eglon’s stomach, 22 and even the handle went in after the blade. Since he did not pull the sword out of his stomach, the fat closed over the blade, and his guts spilled out.[i] 23 Ehud slipped out to the porch, and closed and locked the doors of the second-story room behind him.
24 After Ehud had slipped out, the king’s servants came and found that the room’s doors were locked. So they thought, He must be relieving himself in the cool chamber. 25 They waited so long that they were embarrassed, but he never opened the doors of the room. Then they used the key to open them, and there was their master lying dead on the ground!
26 Ehud had gotten away while they were waiting and had passed the carved stones and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived, he blew the ram’s horn in the Ephraim highlands. So the Israelites went down from the highlands with Ehud leading them. 28 He told them, “Follow me, for the Lord has handed over your enemies the Moabites.” So they followed him, and they took control of the crossing points of the Jordan in the direction of Moab, allowing no one to cross. 29 This time, they defeated the Moabites, about ten thousand big and strong men, and no one escaped. 30 Moab was brought down by the power of Israel on that day, and there was peace in the land for eighty years.
31 After Ehud, Shamgar, Anath’s son, struck down six hundred Philistines with an animal prod. He too rescued Israel.
Deborah, Barak, and Jael
4 After Ehud had died, the Israelites again did things that the Lord saw as evil. 2 So the Lord gave them over to King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, and he was stationed in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3 The Israelites cried out to the Lord because Sisera[j] had nine hundred iron chariots and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years.
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth,[k] was a leader of Israel at that time. 5 She would sit under Deborah’s palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the Ephraim highlands, and the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes. 6 She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. 7 I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’”
8 Barak replied to her, “If you’ll go with me, I’ll go; but if not, I won’t go.”
9 Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 He summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men marched out behind him. Deborah marched out with him too.
11 Now Heber the Kenite had moved away from the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, and had settled as far away as Elon-bezaanannim, which is near Kedesh.
12 When it was reported to Sisera that Barak, Abinoam’s son, had marched up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera summoned all of his nine hundred iron chariots and all of the soldiers who were with him from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Kishon River. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get up! This is the day that the Lord has handed Sisera over to you. Hasn’t the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men behind him. 15 The Lord threw Sisera and all the chariots and army into a panic[l] before Barak; Sisera himself got down from his chariot and fled on foot. 16 Barak pursued the chariots and the army all the way back to Harosheth-ha-goiim, killing Sisera’s entire army with the sword. No one survived.
17 Meanwhile, Sisera had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was peace between Hazor’s King Jabin and the family of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, sir, come in here. Don’t be afraid.” So he went with her into the tent, and she hid him under a blanket.
19 Sisera said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I’m thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and hid him again. 20 Then he said to her, “Stand at the entrance to the tent. That way, if someone comes and asks you, ‘Is there a man here?’ you can say, ‘No.’”
21 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent stake and a hammer. While Sisera was sound asleep from exhaustion, she tiptoed to him. She drove the stake through his head and down into the ground, and he died. 22 Just then, Barak arrived after chasing Sisera. Jael went out to meet him and said, “Come and I’ll show you the man you’re after.” So he went in with her, and there was Sisera, lying dead, with the stake through his head.
23 So on that day God brought down Canaan’s King Jabin before the Israelites. 24 And the power of the Israelites grew greater and greater over Canaan’s King Jabin until they defeated him completely.
5 At that time, Deborah and Barak, Abinoam’s son, sang:
2 When hair is long in Israel,
3 Hear, kings!
4 Lord, when you set out from Seir,
6 In the days of Shamgar, Anath’s son,
10 You who ride white donkeys,
19 Kings came and made war;
22 Then the horses’ hooves pounded
24 May Jael be blessed above all women;
28 Through the window she watched,
31 May all your enemies perish like this, Lord!
And the land was peaceful for forty years.
Oppression by the Midianites
6 The Israelites did things that the Lord saw as evil, and the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. 2 The power of the Midianites prevailed over Israel, and because of the Midianites, the Israelites used crevices and caves in the mountains as hidden strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted seeds, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other easterners would invade. 4 They would set up camp against the Israelites and destroy the land’s crops as far as Gaza, leaving nothing to keep Israel alive, not even sheep, oxen, or donkeys. 5 They would invade with their herds and tents, coming like a swarm of locusts, so that no one could count them or their camels. They came into the land to destroy it. 6 So Israel became very weak on account of Midian, and the Israelites cried out to the Lord.
7 This time when the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 the Lord sent them a prophet, who said to them, “The Lord, Israel’s God, proclaims: I myself brought you up from Egypt, and I led you out of the house of slavery. 9 I delivered you from the power of the Egyptians and from the power of all your oppressors. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I told you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.’ But you have not obeyed me.”
11 Then the Lord’s messenger came and sat under the oak at Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The Lord’s messenger appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”
13 But Gideon replied to him, “With all due respect, my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his amazing works that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Didn’t the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and allowed Midian to overpower us.”
14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “You have strength, so go and rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not personally sending you?”
15 But again Gideon said to him, “With all due respect, my Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I’m the youngest in my household.”
16 The Lord replied, “Because I’m with you, you’ll defeat the Midianites as if they were just one person.”[u]
17 Then Gideon said to him, “If I’ve gained your approval, please show me a sign that it’s really you speaking with me. 18 Don’t leave here until I return, bring out my offering, and set it in front of you.”
The Lord replied, “I’ll stay until you return.”
19 So Gideon went and prepared a young goat and used an ephah[v] of flour for unleavened bread. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. 20 Then God’s messenger said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and set them on this rock, then pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 The Lord’s messenger reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire came up from the rock and devoured the meat and the unleavened bread; and the Lord’s messenger vanished before his eyes. 22 Then Gideon realized that it had been the Lord’s messenger. Gideon exclaimed, “Oh no, Lord God! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face-to-face!”
23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Don’t be afraid! You won’t die.”
24 So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it “The Lord makes peace.” It still stands today in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old. Break down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah[w] that is beside it. 26 Build an altar to the Lord your God in the proper way on top of this high ground. Then take the second bull and offer it as an entirely burned offering with the wood of the Asherah that you cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did just as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his household and the townspeople to do it during the day, he did it at night.
28 When the townspeople got up early in the morning, there was the altar to Baal broken down, with the asherah image that had been beside it cut down, and the second bull offered on the newly built altar! 29 They asked each other, “Who did this?” They searched and investigated, and finally they concluded, “Gideon, Joash’s son, did this!” 30 The townspeople said to Joash, “Bring out your son for execution because he tore down the altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah that was beside it.”
31 But Joash replied to all who were lined up against him, “Will you make Baal’s complaint for him? Will you come to his rescue? Anyone who argues for him will be killed before morning. If he is a god, let him argue for himself, because it was his altar that was torn down.” 32 So on that day Gideon became known as Jerubbaal, meaning, “Let Baal argue with him,” because he tore down his altar.
Gideon seeks a sign
33 Some time later, all the Midianites, Amalekites, and other easterners joined together, came over, and set up camp in the Jezreel Valley. 34 Then the Lord’s spirit came over Gideon, and he sounded the horn and summoned the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers into all of Manasseh, and they were also summoned to follow him. Then he sent messengers into Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali too, and they marched up to meet them.
36 But then Gideon said to God, “To see if you really intend to rescue Israel through me as you have declared, 37 I’m now putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece but all the ground is dry, then I’ll know that you are going to rescue Israel through me, as you have declared.” 38 And that is what happened. When he got up early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung out enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me, but let me speak just one more time. Please let me make just one more test with the fleece: now let only the fleece be dry and let dew be on all the ground.” 40 And God did so that night. Only the fleece was dry, but there was dew on all the ground.