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The Tribes of Judah and Simeon Fight the Canaanites

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which of our tribes should attack the Canaanites first?”

“Judah!” the Lord answered. “I'll help them take the land.”

The people of Judah went to their relatives, the Simeon tribe, and said, “Canaanites live in the land God gave us. Help us fight them, and we will help you.”

Troops from Simeon came to help Judah. 4-5 Together they attacked an army of 10,000 Canaanites and Perizzites at Bezek, and the Lord helped Judah defeat them. During the battle, Judah's army found out where the king of Bezek[a] was, and they attacked there. The king tried to escape, but soldiers from Judah caught him. They cut off his thumbs and big toes, and he said, “I've cut off the thumbs and big toes of 70 kings and made those kings crawl around under my table for scraps of food. Now God is paying me back.”

The army of Judah took the king of Bezek along with them to Jerusalem, where he died. They attacked Jerusalem,[b] captured it, killed everyone who lived there, and then burned it to the ground.

Judah's army fought the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, the Southern Desert, and the foothills to the west. 10 After that, they attacked the Canaanites who lived at Hebron, defeating the three clans called[c] Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. At that time, Hebron was called Kiriath-Arba.

11 From Hebron, Judah's army went to attack Debir, which at that time was called Kiriath-Sepher. 12 Caleb[d] told his troops, “The man who captures Kiriath-Sepher can marry my daughter Achsah.”

13 Caleb's nephew Othniel captured Kiriath-Sepher, so Caleb let him marry Achsah. Othniel was the son of Caleb's younger brother Kenaz.[e] 14 Right after the wedding, Achsah started telling Othniel that he[f] ought to ask her father for a field. She went to see her father, and while she was getting down from[g] her donkey, Caleb asked, “What's bothering you?”

15 She answered, “I need your help. The land you gave me is in the Southern Desert, so please give me some spring-fed ponds for a water supply.”

Caleb gave her a couple of small ponds named Higher Pond and Lower Pond.[h]

16 The people who belonged to the Kenite clan were the descendants of the father-in-law of Moses. They left Jericho[i] with the people of Judah and settled near Arad in the Southern Desert of Judah not far from the Amalekites.[j]

17 Judah's army helped Simeon's army attack the Canaanites who lived at Zephath. They completely destroyed[k] the town and renamed it Hormah.[l]

18-19 The Lord helped the army of Judah capture Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and the land near those towns. They also took the hill country. But the people who lived in the valleys had iron chariots, so Judah was not able to make them leave or to take their land.

20 (A) The tribe of Judah gave the town of Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had told them to do. Caleb defeated the three Anakim[m] clans[n] and took over the town.

The Benjamin Tribe Does Not Capture Jerusalem

21 (B) The Jebusites were living in Jerusalem, and the Benjamin tribe did not defeat them or capture the town. That's why Jebusites still live in Jerusalem along with the people of Benjamin.

The Ephraim and Manasseh Tribes Capture Bethel

22-23 The Ephraim and Manasseh tribes[o] were getting ready to attack Bethel, which at that time was called Luz. And the Lord helped them when they sent spies to find out as much as they could about Bethel. 24 While the spies were watching the town, a man came out, and they told him, “If you show us how our army can get into the town,[p] we will make sure that you aren't harmed.” 25 The man showed them, and the two Israelite tribes attacked Bethel, killing everyone except the man and his family. The two tribes made the man and his family leave, 26 so they went to the land of the Hittites,[q] where he built a town. He named the town Luz, and that is still its name.

Israel Does Not Get Rid of All the Canaanites

27-28 (C) Canaanites lived in the towns of Beth-Shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and all the villages nearby. The Canaanites were determined to stay, and the Manasseh tribe never did get rid of them. But later on, when the Israelites grew more powerful, they made slaves of the Canaanites.

29 (D) The Ephraim tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived there with Israelites all around them.

30 The Zebulun tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Kitron and Nahalol, and the Canaanites stayed there with Israelites around them. But the people of Zebulun did force the Canaanites into slave labor.

31-32 The Asher tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob, and the Asher tribe lived with Canaanites all around them.

33 The Naphtali tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Beth-Shemesh and Beth-Anath, but they did force the Canaanites into slave labor. The Naphtali tribe lived with Canaanites around them.

34 The Amorites[r] were strong enough to keep the tribe of Dan from settling in the valleys, so Dan had to stay in the hill country.

35 The Amorites on Mount Heres and in Aijalon and Shaalbim were also determined to stay. Later on, as Ephraim and Manasseh grew more powerful, they forced those Amorites into slave labor.

The Amorite-Edomite Border

36 The old Amorite-Edomite border used to go from Sela through Scorpion Pass[s] into the hill country.[t]

The Lord's Angel Speaks to Israel

The Lord's angel went from Gilgal to Bochim[u] and gave the Israelites this message from the Lord:

I promised your ancestors that I would give this land to their families, and I brought your people here from Egypt. We made an agreement that I promised never to break, (E) and you promised not to make any peace treaties with the other nations that live in the land. Besides that, you agreed to tear down the altars where they sacrifice to their idols. Why haven't you kept your promise?

And so, I'll stop helping you defeat your enemies. Instead, they will be there to trap[v] you into worshiping their idols.

The Israelites started crying loudly, and they offered sacrifices to the Lord. From then on, they called that place “Crying.”[w]

Israel Stops Worshiping the Lord

6-9 (F) Joshua had been faithful to the Lord. And after Joshua sent the Israelites to take the land they had been promised, they remained faithful to the Lord until Joshua died at the age of 110. He was buried on his land in Timnath-Heres, in the hill country of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash. Even though Joshua was gone, the Israelites were faithful to the Lord during the lifetime of those men who had been leaders with Joshua and who had seen the wonderful things the Lord had done for Israel.

10 After a while the people of Joshua's generation died, and the next generation did not know the Lord or any of the things he had done for Israel. 11-13 The Lord had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping the Lord and worshiped the idols of Baal and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations.

The Lord was so angry 14-15 with the Israelites that he let other nations raid Israel and steal their crops and other possessions. Enemies were everywhere, and the Lord always let them defeat Israel in battle. The Lord had warned Israel he would do this, and now the Israelites were miserable.

The Lord Chooses Leaders for Israel

16 From time to time, the Lord would choose special leaders known as judges.[x] These judges would lead the Israelites into battle and defeat the enemies that made raids on them. 17 In years gone by, the Israelites had been faithful to the Lord, but now they were quick to be unfaithful and to refuse even to listen to these judges. The Israelites disobeyed the Lord, and instead of worshiping him, they worshiped other gods.

18 When enemies made life miserable for the Israelites, the Lord felt sorry for them. He would choose a judge and help that judge rescue Israel from its enemies. The Lord was kind to Israel as long as that judge lived. 19 But afterwards, the Israelites would become even more sinful than their ancestors had been. The Israelites were stubborn—they simply would not stop worshiping other gods or following their teachings.

The Lord Lets Enemies Test Israel

20 The Lord was angry with Israel and said:

The Israelites have broken the agreement I made with their ancestors. They won't obey me, 21 so I'll stop helping them defeat their enemies. Israel still had a lot of enemies when Joshua died, 22 and I'm going to let those enemies stay. I'll use them to test Israel, because then I can find out if Israel will worship and obey me as their ancestors did.

23 That's why the Lord had not let Joshua get rid of those enemy nations all at once.


  1. 1.4,5 king of Bezek: Or “Adoni-Bezek.”
  2. 1.8 Jerusalem: This probably refers to towns and villages belonging to Jerusalem but lying in Judah's territory south of the city wall. Jerusalem itself was just inside Benjamin's territory, but was not captured by Israel at this time (see verse 21; Joshua 15.5-9; 18.15-18).
  3. 1.10 clans called: Or “warriors.”
  4. 1.12 Caleb: One of the leaders of Judah; see Joshua 14.6-14 and Numbers 13.6,30; 14.6,10, 20-24. For verses 12-15, see Joshua 15.13-19.
  5. 1.13 Othniel was the son of … Kenaz: Or “Othniel and Caleb both belonged to the Kenaz clan, but Othniel was younger than Caleb.”
  6. 1.14 Achsah … Othniel … he: Hebrew; two ancient translations “Othniel … Achsah … she.”
  7. 1.14 getting down from: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  8. 1.15 spring-fed ponds … small ponds … Higher Pond and Lower Pond: Or “wells … wells … Higher Well and Lower Well.”
  9. 1.16 Jericho: The Hebrew text has “Town of Palm Trees,” another name for Jericho.
  10. 1.16 not far … Amalekites: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  11. 1.17 completely destroyed: The Hebrew word means that the town was given completely to the Lord, and since it could not be used for normal purposes anymore, it had to be destroyed.
  12. 1.17 Hormah: In Hebrew “Hormah” sounds like “completely destroyed.”
  13. 1.20 Anakim: Perhaps a group of very tall people that lived in Palestine before the Israelites (see Numbers 13.33 and Deuteronomy 2.10,11, 20,21).
  14. 1.20 clans: See the note at 1.10.
  15. 1.22,23 The Ephraim and Manasseh tribes: The Hebrew text has “The Joseph family,” which was divided into these two tribes named after Joseph's sons.
  16. 1.24 If you … town: Sometimes there were small doors in the town wall that could be opened from the inside even when the main town gates were shut and locked.
  17. 1.26 land of the Hittites: The Hittites had an empire centered in what is now Turkey. At one time their empire reached south into Syria, north of Israel.
  18. 1.34 Amorites: Used in the general sense of nations that lived in Canaan before the Israelites.
  19. 1.36 Scorpion Pass: Or “Akrabbim Pass.”
  20. 1.36 country: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 36.
  21. 2.1 Bochim: In Hebrew “Bochim” means “crying” (see verse 5).
  22. 2.3 trap: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  23. 2.5 Crying: Or “Bochim.”
  24. 2.16 special leaders known as judges: The Hebrew text has “judges.” In addition to leading Israelites in battle, these special leaders also decided legal cases and sometimes performed religious duties.

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