1. Exposition

Did Judah actually capture Jerusalem?

Judges 1:8 (ESV)

8 And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire.

Judah takes Jerusalem here. Yet Judges 1:21 sounds as if it is saying that Benjamin must retake Jerusalem, but failed. The matter becomes even more intriguing when we compare both these verses with Joshua 15:63–16:1, which says that Judah is the tribe that failed to take Jerusalem. What is happening with this? And why is it that Judges 1:19excuses the people of Judah and mitigates their failure into a virtual nonfailure by citing extenuating circumstances”?1 It seems as though the author is trying to put the best face on Judah, but be critical of Benjamin. Why is that?

There is no conflict between these two verses. Judah and Simeon captured Jerusalem, wiping out the city and setting fire to it. Benjamin, however, failed to dislodge the city’s inhabitants and so possess and control the city. As Ralph Davis explains: What has been taken may later need to be retaken in order to possess it completely. Unless a site was settled when it was taken, the remnant of the conquered town could filter back and control it again.2