1. Exposition

Is the emphasis on Judah’s positive achievements a sign of the narrator’s attempt to glorify Judah?

Judges 1:2–19 (ESV)

2 The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.”

Interpreters tend to see the narrator’s emphasis on the positive achievements of Judah in this way, as a contrast to the failures of most of the other tribes. But such an interpretation ignores the implicit criticism of Judah for two reasons:

  1. for sparing Adoni-bezek (Judges 1:5–7) and for allowing the Kenites first to accompany them and then to settle down among the Canaanites (Judges 1:16);

  2. for failing to take the lowlands because of the Canaanites’ superior technology (Judges 1:19).

Regarding the latter, the problem was that the same presence of Yahweh that had provided victory in the highlands (Judges 1:15a) should have gone before Judah into the lowlands. After the conquest of a major city like Jericho, accompanied by Yahweh (Judges 1:15a) Israel should have found no enemy too great (Deuteronomy 7:1–5). Accordingly, the attention and space devoted to Judah probably suggests no more than the author’s Judahite citizenship and may…point to a date of composition after the division of the kingdom. To see here a deliberate polemicizing on behalf of Judah is to overstate the case.1