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Judah Fights the Canaanites

After Joshua died, the Israelites prayed to the Lord, “Which of our tribes should be the first to go and fight for us against the Canaanites?”

The Lord said to the Israelites, “The tribe of Judah will go. I will let them take this land.”

The men of Judah went to their relatives from the tribe of Simeon and asked for help. They said, “Brothers, if you will come and help us fight for the land God gave us, we will go and help you fight for your land.” The men of Simeon agreed and went with them.

The Lord helped the men of Judah defeat the Canaanites and the Perizzites. They killed 10,000 men at the city of Bezek. In the city of Bezek, they found the ruler of Bezek[a] and fought him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites.

The ruler of Bezek tried to escape, but the men of Judah chased him and caught him. When they caught him, they cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then the ruler of Bezek said, “I cut off the thumbs and big toes of 70 kings. And they had to eat pieces of food that fell from my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” The men of Judah took the ruler of Bezek to Jerusalem, and he died there.

The men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it. They used their swords to kill the people of Jerusalem. Then they burned the city. Later, they went down to fight against some more Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negev, and in the western foothills.

10 Then the men of Judah went to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the city of Hebron. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba.) They defeated the men named Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai.[b]

Caleb and His Daughter

11 The men of Judah left that place. They went to the city of Debir to fight against the people there. (In the past, Debir was called Kiriath Sepher.) 12 Before they started to fight, Caleb made a promise to the men. He said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to whoever attacks and conquers Kiriath Sepher.”

13 Caleb had a younger brother named Kenaz. Kenaz had a son named Othniel. Othniel captured the city of Kiriath Sepher. So Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to Othniel to be his wife.

14 Acsah went to live with Othniel. Othniel told Acsah[c] to ask her father for some land. She went to her father. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What is wrong?”

15 Acsah answered him, “Give me a blessing.[d] You gave me dry desert land in the Negev. Please give me some land with water on it.” So Caleb gave her what she wanted. He gave her the upper and lower pools of water in that land.

16 The Kenites left the City of Palm Trees[e] and went with the men of Judah. They went to the desert of Judah to live with the people there. This was in the Negev near the city Arad. (The Kenites were from the family of Moses’ father-in-law.)

17 Some Canaanites lived in the city of Zephath. The men of Judah and men from the tribe of Simeon attacked them and completely destroyed the city. So they named the city Hormah.[f]

18 The men of Judah also captured the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron and all the small towns around them.

19 The Lord was on the side of the men of Judah when they fought. They took the land in the hill country, but they failed to take the land in the valleys, because the people living there had iron chariots.

20 Moses had promised to give the land near Hebron to Caleb, so that land was given to Caleb’s family. The men of Caleb forced the three sons of Anak[g] to leave that place.

21 The tribe of Benjamin could not force the Jebusites to leave Jerusalem. So even today,[h] the Jebusites live with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem.

Joseph’s Descendants Capture Bethel

22 The descendants of Joseph went to fight against the city of Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 They sent some spies to the city of Bethel (which was then called Luz). 24 While the spies were watching, they saw a man come out of the city. They said to the man, “Show us a secret way into the city. If you help us, we will not hurt you.”

25 The man showed the spies the secret way into the city. The men of Joseph used their swords to kill the people of Bethel. But they did not hurt the man who helped them or anyone in his family. The man and his family were allowed to go free. 26 He went to the land where the Hittites lived and built a city. He named it Luz, and that city is still called Luz today.

Other Tribes Fight the Canaanites

27 There were Canaanites living in the cities of Beth Shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and the small towns around the cities. The people from the tribe of Manasseh could not force those people to leave their towns. So the Canaanites stayed. They refused to leave their homes. 28 Later, the Israelites grew stronger and forced the Canaanites to work as slaves for them. But the Israelites could not force all the Canaanites to leave their land.

29 There were Canaanites living in Gezer. And the Ephraimites did not make all the Canaanites leave their land. So they continued to live in Gezer with the Ephraimites.

30 Some Canaanites lived in the cities of Kitron and Nahalol. The people of Zebulun did not force those people to leave their land. They stayed and lived with the people of Zebulun. But the people of Zebulun made them work as slaves.

31 The people of Asher did not force the other people to leave the cities of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Aczib, Helbah, Aphek, and Rehob. 32 The people of Asher did not force those Canaanites to leave their land, so the Canaanites continued to live with them.

33 The people of Naphtali did not force the people to leave the cities of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath, so the people of Naphtali continued to live with the people in those cities. Those Canaanites worked as slaves for the people of Naphtali.

34 The Amorites forced the tribe of Dan to live in the hill country. They had to stay in the hills because the Amorites would not let them come down to live in the valleys. 35 The Amorites decided to stay in Mount Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim. Later, when the descendants of Joseph grew stronger, they made the Amorites work as slaves for them. 36 The land of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and up into the hill country past Sela.

The Angel of the Lord at Bokim

The angel of the Lord went up to the city of Bokim from the city of Gilgal. The angel spoke this message from the Lord to the Israelites: “I brought you out of Egypt and led you to the land that I promised to give to your ancestors. I told you I would never break my agreement with you. But in return, you must never make any agreement with the people living in that land. You must destroy their altars. I told you that, but you didn’t obey me.

“Now I will tell you this, ‘I will not force the other people to leave this land any longer. These people will become a problem for you. They will be like a trap to you. Their false gods will become like a net to trap you.’”

After the angel gave the Israelites this message from the Lord, the people cried loudly. So they named the place Bokim.[i] There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.

Disobedience and Defeat

Then Joshua told the people to go home, so each tribe went to take their area of land. The Israelites served the Lord as long as Joshua was alive, and they continued serving the Lord during the lifetimes of the elders who lived after Joshua had died. These old men had seen all the great things the Lord had done for the Israelites. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. The Israelites buried Joshua on the land that he had been given. That was at Timnath Heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation died, the next generation grew up. This new generation did not know about the Lord or what he had done for the Israelites. 11 So the Israelites did something very evil before the Lord. They began serving the false god Baal. 12 It was the Lord, the God their ancestors worshiped, who had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. But they stopped following him and began to worship the false gods of the people living around them. This made the Lord angry. 13 The Israelites stopped following the Lord and began worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth.

14 The Lord was angry with the Israelites, so he let enemies attack them and take their possessions. He let their enemies who lived around them defeat them. The Israelites could not protect themselves from their enemies. 15 When the Israelites went out to fight, they always lost. They lost because the Lord was not on their side. He had already warned them that they would lose if they served the gods of the people living around them. The Israelites suffered very much.

16 Then the Lord chose leaders called judges. These leaders saved the Israelites from the enemies who took their possessions. 17 But the Israelites did not listen to their judges. The Israelites were not faithful to God—they followed other gods.[j] In the past, the ancestors of the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s commands. But now the Israelites changed and stopped obeying the Lord.

18 Many times the enemies of Israel did bad things to the people, so the Israelites would cry for help. And each time the Lord felt sorry for the people and sent a judge to save them from their enemies. The Lord was always with those judges. Each time the Israelites were saved from their enemies. 19 But when each judge died, the Israelites again sinned and started worshiping the false gods. They acted worse than their ancestors did. The Israelites were very stubborn and refused to change their evil ways.

20 So the Lord became angry with the Israelites, and he said, “This nation has broken the agreement that I made with their ancestors. They have not listened to me. 21 So I will no longer defeat the nations and clear the way for the Israelites. Those nations were still in this land when Joshua died, and I will let them stay in this land. 22 I will use them to test the Israelites. I will see if the Israelites can keep the Lord’s commands as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord allowed those nations to stay in the land. He did not quickly force them to leave the country. He did not help Joshua’s army defeat them.


  1. Judges 1:5 ruler of Bezek Or “Adoni Bezek.”
  2. Judges 1:10 Sheshai, Ahiman, Talmai Three sons of a man named Anak. They were giants. See Num. 13:22.
  3. Judges 1:14 Othniel told Acsah Or “Acsah told Othniel.”
  4. Judges 1:15 Give me a blessing Or “Please welcome me” or “Give me a stream of water.”
  5. Judges 1:16 City of Palm Trees Another name for Jericho.
  6. Judges 1:17 Hormah This name means “completely destroyed” or “a gift given totally to God.” See Lev. 27:28-29.
  7. Judges 1:20 three sons of Anak Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, mentioned above in verse 10.
  8. Judges 1:21 even today That is, at the time the book was written.
  9. Judges 2:5 Bokim This name means “people crying.”
  10. Judges 2:17 were not faithful … gods Literally, “acted like a prostitute with other gods.”

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