The book of Judges opens by relating successes by the tribes of Judah and Simeon in driving out the Canaanites, but ends with verse after verse of failures to complete the task. Notice in verses 27 and following that the scripture says that they “did not drive out” the Canaanites from their tribe’s allotted territories, but left them dwelling among them – in some cases using them for forced labor.
This refusal to obey the Lord’s command is the key to all the trouble that will follow; and God through Moses and Joshua warned them over and over that any Canaanites they leave to dwell with them would be a snare and a thorn to them, leading them into apostasy; and that the Lord would do to them as He was doing to the Canaanites as a result (see Exo 34:10-17, Num 33:51-56, Deut 7:1-5). Notorious worshipers of Baal and other false gods, the remnant Canaanites would influence the weak of faith to do the same.
Caleb’s younger brother Othniel, mentioned in verse 13 will become one of the judges. But for now, the people have no leader. But what was a judge? generally, these were people called by the Lord to administer justice, and to drive out the adversaries of the people – often given miraculous power for doing so. Many of them served purposes almost entirely military in nature.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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