1. Structure and outline

The function of Judges 1 in the book of Judges

Judges 1:1–36 (ESV)

1 After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”

This chapter starts with Judah, the most positive of the tribes, and ends with Dan, the most negative. Nearly the same sequence of tribes is followed in the sections on the individual judges (Judges 3:7–16:31), with the corresponding downward spiral shown in detail.1

Judges 1 is filled with incomplete obedience, and compromising tolerance, a foreshadowing of what is to unfold in the book. Israel, "instead of reshaping the world after the image of Yahweh’s will,...live[s] in and with the world, and before long they have taken on the characteristics of the world. Instead of making this the land of the people of God, they become like the people of the land. This not only explains why the ages of the judges/governors turned out to be so dark but also serves as a permanent reminder of the deadly consequences of compromise and disobedience to all who claim to be the people of God. At the same time, the chapter announces that if anything positive is accomplished by God’s people, it is because of his gracious presence and his action on his people’s behalf.2