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Israel Conquers Canaan
Scripture: Numbers 33:50-56; Judges 1:1-15; Exodus ...
Track 1 of in the series
As we get into the first chapter of Judges, we will see the continuation of Israel taking the Promised Land. The question now comes before God, without Joshua, who is to lead us in battle before our enemies God says Judah is to take the lead.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Israel Conquers Canaan
Judges 1:1-36

Judges marks a very important period in Israel’s history. Throughout the history of the Old Testament, there are periods when a great leader dies and a new leader comes in. When that happened, the people were unsure what the future had for them. We see them asking the question, who will go before us to defeat our enemies…?” When Moses died, there was concern who was going to lead them into the Promised Land. God gave them Joshua. Joshua and Caleb both were strong leaders and led the people into the Promised Land. We studied Joshua last year and we read how the Israelites generally conquered parts of Canaan through the power of God.

Judges opens after the death of Joshua. Another great leader has died and again the question is, “who will lead us and fight for us against our enemies?” God will give them several leaders to continue the work of Joshua after his death.

Let’s look at where we are in history and get a sense of what is going on when the period of Judges begins. Let’s count back from the time of the Exodus:

• God through Moses brings Israel out of Egypt, rescues them from bondage. Moses and Aaron are the main leaders of the people.
• Israel crosses the Red Sea and entered into the wilderness. God gives the law to the people to follow and God gives them the tabernacle
• Israel arrived at the Promised Land and send in the 12 spies. 10 say no, 2 say yes.
• God is mad at Israel for not entering the Promised Land so they wonder for 40 years. 2-1/2 million die over those 40 years.
• Law is again given to the new generation that will enter the Promised Land.
• Joshua leads Israel into the Promised Land and begins to take the land with God’s help. Moses dies.
• Israel, under the leadership of Joshua generally conquered most of the Promised Land. They experience a time of peace.

The Book of Joshua ends with a warning from Joshua. He warns the people of Israel not to forsake God for other pagan gods. He establishes a covenant for the people with decrees and laws for them to follow. Shortly after that, he dies at the age of 110.

Joshua 24:24-27 (NIV) And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the LORD our God and obey him." On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. "See!" he said to all the people. "This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God."

The period of the Judges lies between the conquest of Canaan (after the death of Joshua) and the rise of the first king of Israel, Saul. It is a period of approx. 300-400 years. The time period is not exact since many of the dates are rounded and approximate. I did put on my web site a chart showing the order and dates of the 13 judges during this period.

During this period, Israel was a loose confederation of tribes spread throughout the Promised Land. This area was heavily influenced by Canaanite culture and religion. Because of this, Israel is repeatedly drawn away from worshiping the Lord in their desire to have a king like their neighbors. This desire was strong and this desire caused all kinds of problems.

Why do you think God did not want Israel to have a king? What problems do you think were caused by this desire?

Numbers 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. This excuse that they did not have a king is found throughout judges. Because they did not have one strong leader was their excuse why they couldn’t remain faithful to God.

The problems we will study and see in Judges comes from a warning that God gave to Moses and eventually to Joshua. It was a warning that came true because Israel did not eliminate all the inhabitants of Canaan. All that the Israelites faced was due to their inability to get rid of the evil from their land.

Numbers 33:50-56 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the LORD said to Moses, 51“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 55“‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

Why was this warning important? Does this warning still exist today?

Once in Canaan, all the Israelites needed to do was obey God; instead they followed the sinful example of the Canaanites. Their disobedience resulted in a cycle observed throughout the book.

• Rebellion by God’s people
• God raises up foreign oppressors to punish his people
• A cry of distress goes up from the Israelites
• God raises up a deliverer or judge who takes up arms to defend the homeland and rescue the repentant Israelites

The judges were military and civil leaders ruling during this time. Some of the judges ruled concurrently since each one did not necessarily rule over the entire land.

Judges 1:1-7 (NIV) After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?" The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands." Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, "Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours." So the Simeonites went with them. When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Then Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them." They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

As we get into the first chapter of Judges, we will see the continuation of Israel taking the Promised Land. The question now comes before God, without Joshua, who is to lead us in battle before our enemies? God says Judah is to take the lead.

Why Judah and how do you think God chose them as his choice?

Exodus 28:29-30 (NIV) "Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD. Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

URIM AND THUMMIM: Objects Israel, and especially the high priest, used to determine God’s will. They apparently were two objects that served as sacred lots. Caleb is the leader of Judah.

We see in verses 4-7, the writer gives us the account of Adoni-Bezek. What is important about this event? Why did they cut off his thumbs and big toes? What dos this say about God and his people? What does God want us to learn from this?

There will be many times in Judges references to the Canaanites. Canaan was a land where many different groups of people lived. They were called by many names. The writer will group them all together at times and call them Canaanites. Canaan was a land where each city was fortified and each city was a kingdom unto it own. There was no single leader of the Canaanites. However, we do see several kings forming alliances together to defeat or war against the Israelites.

Life in Canaan was tough for the Israelites. Israelite cites were makeshift compared to the fortified cities of the Canaanites. They were now having to change from being nomads to settling down and becoming settlers, something they had not experienced for several hundred years. The culture of the Canaanites was established and their religions were very appealing. Everything of the Israelites was movable, not permanent and their temple of worship was a tent. They didn’t have central government like the other nations around them. They only had God to lead and protect them. They were totally surrounded by hostile and powerful enemies.

Judges 1:9-15 (NIV) After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron. From there they advanced against the people living in Debir. And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage. One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?" She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

In this passage, the first Judge is introduced, Othniel. This event is recorded twice; here in Judges 1 and Joshua 15 when it explains Judah’s territory that it inherited. Caleb is identified with the tribe of Judah. But there is a good chance that he is not truly from Judah. I fact, he might not be a true Israelite. He is more closely related to the descendants of Moses’ father-in-law. Before the Israelites went into Egypt, a member from the tribe of the Kenizzites married a woman descended from Judah through Perez. In places in the scriptures, Caleb is referred to as a Kenite. In verse 16 we see where the descendants of Moses’ father-in-law move to the land that Caleb inherited and lived with the people of Judah. It all makes sense that they would merge into one tribe, Judah.

The plan to conquer the Promised Land was for all the tribes to fight together to initially set each tribe up in their territory. Once each tribe was established, it was up to the individual tribes to finish off the work and to inhabit all the land that was given to them. From what we see in the first chapter of Judges, they were not successful in removing all the nations that were living there.

Why were they not successful? What do you anticipate will be the problems Israel will face later by not getting rid of all the Canaanites? Is there a warning here from the Israelites to the church today about dealing with the enemy?

God called for the Israelites to utterly destroy their enemies, men, women, children and their animals. Why would God allow innocent people such as women and children to be destroyed and killed? War is an interesting thing when dealing with God.

• God uses war as a judgment on the people.
• Anyone who is against the Lord and becomes his enemy will be destroyed.
• God is the one who initiates the war of judgment. He used it on people who were the enemies of Israel and he used it against Israel when they sinned against God.
• It is God making the judgment that life needs to be exterminated.
• God hates war between man when it is man that decides to war for enjoyment or for ambitious motives.
• Righteousness is important to fight for and preserver.