For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

1:1.  “Now after the death of Joshua, it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?”

As noted already, the period following the death of Joshua represents this present age which has followed the victorious death of the true Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Prior to his death Joshua had potentially conquered the land, so that it remained only for the individual tribes to enter into the benefits of his victory by exterminating the defeated foe, and taking possession of the lots assigned them by God.  The victory won at Calvary left the Church in the same position spiritually: she had but to enter into the enjoyment of the blessings made available to her through the Lord’s sacrificial death.

The book begins with a brightness that all too quickly fades.  The obedience that impelled their question was of brief duration.  How different their history would have been had that same spirit of obedience continued!

Canaanite, meaning trafficker, is the general name of the enemy tribes occupying the land, tribes who represent various aspects of the world, and the flesh, as well as the hosts of spiritual foes seeking to keep believers out of their God-given inheritance.  The very name of the enemy alerts us to the fact that the warfare to which we are summoned has to do largely with trafficking in spiritual things; but inasmuch as trafficking almost invariably has about it the aura of illegality, the warning is that our greatest foe is not only those false professors amongst us, who trade in spiritual things for their own profit, but the tendency within each one of us to also be mere spiritual “Canaanites,” trafficking in spiritual realities.

The commendable resolve “to fight against them” very quickly vanished, a fact that should remind us of how often our own good resolves have faded.  We do well to remember the conduct of Christ as foretold by the prophet, “...therefore have I set my face like a flint....” (Isa 50:7), and as recorded in Lk 9:51, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Nothing could alter His resolve to do His Father’s will.  Paul manifested that same spirit, as recorded in Php 3:13-14, “...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Nor should we forget the Lord’s own warning, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62).

However simple the task undertaken in the service of Christ, it should not be abandoned until completed.  The crown of the overcomer is not for the fast starter who drops out of the race, but for him who “holds fast” till the race is run.

In the beginning, the sole resolve of the Israelites was “to fight against them (the enemy).”  Abandonment of that resolve was their undoing.  We must never forget that there is to be no compromise with the enemies represented by the Canaanites.  They are implacable foes against whom we are to fight with unrelenting vigor, and they are not to be spared.  God’s command to Israel was, “When the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (De 7:2).  Israel’s disobedience of that command foreshadows the spirit of compromise abroad today; and as it brought disaster to Israel, so is it bringing ruin to the professing Church.

1:2.  “And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”

The lesson of Judah’s being assigned this eminent position is easily read, for Judah, meaning he shall be praised, represents the spirit of praise and worship.  It takes precedence over service, as is demonstrated by the fact that the Christian week begins with the Lord’s day when we come in to worship, and then go out to serve.  We reverse that order at our peril.  He who absents himself from the Lord’s table, and yet attempts to serve, is undertaking the impossible.

It is significant that God, having designated Judah, added immediately, “Behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”  The spirit of worship is the spirit of victory.  The measure of a man’s spiritual state is not his ability to preach or teach, nor is it the amount of his knowledge, but his ability to worship.  And for a very good reason.  The character of his worship reveals the nature of his inward life.  It is in his worship that he reveals what time he spends with God when there is no one to see or hear.  The necessity of spending that time is declared by the prophet, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa 40:31).

He who spends much time in the inner sanctuary, listening while God speaks to him from the pages of the Bible - he in turn speaking to God in prayer - is the man who emerges to fight, having the assurance, “I have delivered the land into his hand.”

The paucity of worship in the assemblies of God’s people today declares the sad truth that there are few Judah’s left amongst us, as is witnessed by what passes for worship at the Lord’s supper.  In all too many instances hymns outnumber prayers, and frequently the Scriptures opened are prostituted to the display of knowledge rather than the presentation of the worth of Christ.  Those having the ability to lead the congregation in the prayerful presentation of their worship are a vanishing class.  There has never been greater need for the genuine plea, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

1:3.  “And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.  So Simeon went with him.”

The bright hope engendered by the first two verses seems to be continued here in the third, but unfortunately the seeming good indicated by a casual reading, is found on more careful examination to be absent.

Since Simeon, meaning hearkening, speaks of obedience - and surely praise and obedience belong together - it appears at first as though this suggestion by Judah must certainly have the Divine approval.  But it didn’t!  Judah was guilty of adding to the word of God.  Simeon had been given his lot within the portion of Judah, but in this present instance God had not said that Simeon was to go up with Judah, and Judah’s unauthorized suggestion is discovered to be, in fact, wrong, for it declares that he lacked full confidence in God’s promise, “Behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.”  It was the subtle revelation of the fact that he didn’t have implicit faith in God to do what He had promised, and lacking that faith, he would rely on a fleshly arm - his brother Simeon.

This was the germ of unbelief within the heart of Israel that would grow until it filled the heart, and became the total apostasy which provoked the wrath of God repeatedly throughout the days of the Judges.  God will not share His glory, and Judah’s suggestion would give to Simeon some of the glory which belonged entirely to God for the victory.

In Re 22:18-19 God warns against tampering with His Word, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city....”  In spite of this warning, however, men - many of them professing Christians - are guilty of the same sin.  Commandments of God are dismissed as being local, cultural, or for the Apostolic age only, when clearly they are for the whole Church age; and the silence of God is construed as permission for activity which is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, so that in this the end of the Church age, it is as it was at the end of the era of the Judges: spiritual anarchy reigns.  Every man does that which is right in his own eyes.  It is as though there were no king in Israel, as though the Lord Jesus Christ weren’t Lord.

And the same distrust of God is rampant in the professing Church today.  Believers for the most part have forgotten that He is omnipotent, having no more need of a thousand men than of one, and in their unbelief they attempt to accomplish through organizations the work that He intended to be done by obedient individuals.  It is significant that in the Bible, which is filled with the mighty accomplishments of individuals whom God has used, there is not one instance of His ever having used an organization! 

One clear lesson God would teach us from this verse is that no matter how plausible human expedient may seem to be, it must not be allowed to take the place of God’s Word.

It is to be noted further that the intention was good: it was to fight against the Canaanites; but good intentions don’t justify our going beyond Scriptural methods.  God had said “Judah shall go up,” not “Judah and Simeon shall go up.”

1:4.  “And Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.”

Some have assumed, wrongly, that since the Lord gave Judah and Simeon victory, there was nothing wrong with their alliance; but God’s giving this victory is but the parallel of His giving water when Moses, instead of speaking to the rock, “smote the rock twice” (Nu 20:11).  God didn’t announce His displeasure by withholding the water, but in declaring, “Because ye believed me not... therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (v.12). 

To assume that the victory given was indicative of God’s approval of Judah’s incomplete obedience is to misunderstand God’s nature.  He will never condone even the slightest disobedience, for all disobedience is sin.

Canaanite trafficker reminds us that believers are continually confronted with the spiritual equivalent of this foe.  The world, the flesh, and the devil incessantly entice us to “traffick” with them, the enticement often so subtle that we fail to recognize it.  How often, for example, have we traded away time that belonged to God, in exchange for a little money, ease, pleasure, etc.?   How many hours that ought to have been given to prayer and the study of Scripture, are given instead to the pursuit of money above and beyond what we have need of, to TV viewing, to hobbies, to our families, etc.?  Our spiritual poverty declares both the extent and the folly of all such trafficking, as it declares also that we have failed to exterminate the “Canaanite” as God has commanded.

Perizzite means rustic, with squatter as a second possible meaning.  The spiritual lesson isn’t difficult to read, for a rustic is basically one unlearned, capable of only the most unskilled labor particularly in connection with tilling the earth, while a squatter is one who settles upon land to which he has no legal right.  The two meanings combine to present the picture of a condition found all too frequently amongst God’s people: the mere professor who knows nothing of spiritual things, but who, through the negligence of those who should be guarding the flock from just such intruders, has slipped in and taken a place in the local fellowship.  The man who hasn’t been born again is a spiritual Perizzite, for he is “of the earth, earthy” (1 Co 15:47); and as such he is an enemy of God, and of His people.

The spiritual “Perizzite” is no more to be spared than was his literal counterpart.  The assembly is for believers only, and nothing but ill can attend the negligence that permits the “Perizzite” to intrude.

This is not to be construed as indifference to the man’s spiritual state.  The preservation of God’s order is, in fact, the truest care for the souls of those seeking fellowship, for the inquiry that discloses the man’s spiritual state affords the opportunity to either give him a warm welcome as a believer, or to make him aware of his need of a Savior.  The carelessness, which under the guise of love, omits inquiry, is the real indifference, for it cares neither for God’s honor, the welfare of the believers, nor the well-being of the one seeking fellowship.  It is to be remembered that it is God Himself Who excludes the unbeliever from the assembly, but it is also He Who commands us to “preach the gospel” to that same man, and when he repents and believes, then to receive him.

The Perizzite, however, represents not only the unbeliever, but also the spirit of carnality (earthiness, occupation with earthly things to the neglect of spiritual) in the genuine believer.  We are not to spare that spirit in ourselves any more than was Israel to spare the literal Perizzite.  The need to exercise that judgment is impressed upon us in 1 Co 11:27-32, particularly verses 30-31, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

Regarding what has been described as “the cruelty of God” in commanding Israel to exterminate the Canaanites, it is to be remembered that those same Canaanites had been given a long time in which to repent (at least four hundred years, see Ge 15:13-16).  Nor must we forget that they had had ample warning: they weren’t suddenly and unexpectedly overtaken.  Those who died did so in spite of warning, and in spite of opportunity to escape by leaving the country.

It is to be further remembered that they were a people whose moral corruption was an offense not only to God, but to man as well.  Their history reveals them to have been the most morally depraved people ever to cumber the earth.  Having exhausted God’s patience, and having sinned away their day of grace, they must suffer the consequences of their folly.

“And they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.”  The meaning of Bezek is alleged by some to be fetters, but the correct meaning appears to be lightning, and since lightning is almost invariably associated with the display of Divine anger, the lesson of these ten thousand slain Canaanites appears to be that their evil conduct had made the place where they were the place upon which the judgment (lightning) of God must fall.  Every unbeliever stands spiritually at “Bezek” - the judgment of God will eventually fall upon him.

Ten, however often multiplied by itself, remains the number of Divine government, so that in the number slain, God would remind us that though He may bear long with man’s sin, His patience will not last for ever, as it is written, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Ge 6:3), and again, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Pr 29:1).  A fearful day of reckoning awaits every man who refuses to trust in Christ as Savior.

1:5.  “And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.”

Like virtually every rebel leader mentioned in Scripture, Adoni-bezek, meaning lord of lightning, represents Satan, for it is he who is found behind all rebellion against God.  It is significant to note what is written in Lk 10:18 concerning the fall of this evil prince of darkness, “And he (Jesus) said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”

Adoni-bezek’s being lord of lightning declares, not that he was lord of the literal lightning, but that he was lord only over that upon which the judgment (lightning) of God must fall.  And Israel’s fighting against him reminds us that we too are to resist the devil, see Jas 4:7, and 1 Pe 5:9.

The fact that “they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites,” but not Adoni-bezek, reminds us that the one whom the Canaanite king represents will not be destroyed by man, but by Christ Himself.

1:6.  “But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.”

This was inflicting upon him the same mutilation he, by his own admission, had inflicted on others, in which sense it was justice.  But God hadn’t commanded Israel to mutilate the Canaanites: they were to exterminate them, so that their sparing Adoni-bezek was disobedience.  Having regard to the fact that this enemy represents not only the devil, but also the world and the flesh, Israel’s sparing him becomes the symbolic announcement of the truth that we all too often “mutilate” the flesh when we are to crucify it, Gal 5:24.  We curtail its activity in some areas, but indulge it in others.

This mutilation rendered him powerless to wield a sword, or to walk properly, but it didn’t diminish the power of his mind.  He was still capable of plotting mischief.  It is in the mind that our spiritual battles are lost or won, for we are commanded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind....” Ro 12:2.

1:7.  “And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.  And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.”

So will every foe yet be made to acknowledge the righteousness of God’s judgment.  Jerusalem is synonymous with the presence of God, so that Adoni-bezek’s dying there is the symbolic announcement that sin cannot live where God is.  We should note also that he does not appear to have been slain by the Israelites, but that he died of “natural” causes.  This continues to emphasize that it will be Christ, not man, Who will slay Satan.

Before continuing, we might pause to note a few things in connection with this section of Judges.  It is clear that there is the repetition of some events which occurred during Joshua’s lifetime, a repetition intended no doubt to emphasize the importance of the spiritual lessons being taught.  It is to be noted also that there is difficulty in determining just exactly the extent to which Israel controlled Jerusalem, for there is no question that their control was not complete until the days of David, see 2 Sa 5:6.  Since our purpose, however, is to determine what spiritual lessons are to be gleaned from this history, we need not concern ourselves with these other problems.

As there will be no peace in the world until Christ rules in Jerusalem, and as there is no peace in the life until Christ reigns in the heart, it isn’t difficult to see that Jerusalem is the Biblical symbol of the human heart.  The control of the city - alternating between Israel and the original inhabitants, the Jebusites, until the days of David - declares all too clearly the state of our divided hearts.   The enemy won’t be completely expelled until the true David rules.

1:8.  “Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.”

It is generally agreed that this occurred under Joshua, see Jos 11:23, but it is equally clear that Israel failed to take possession of what was theirs potentially as a result of Joshua’s conquest, see Jos 15:63, “... Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.”  In view of the fact that God had assured them that every place upon which they trod would be theirs, Judah’s “could not” is really “would not.”

Christ’s victory at Calvary fulfilled the type of Joshua’s victory, which potentially gave the whole land to Israel, but our failure to take full possession of all that Christ has made available to us through His death, fulfills the type of Judah’s failure to exterminate the Jebusites.

1:9.  “And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.”

Again, we needn’t concern ourselves with the question of exactly when this took place: it is sufficient for the purpose of our present study to try to determine what spiritual lesson God would teach from the record of Judah’s conflict with these Canaanites.

A mountain is not only the Biblical symbol of a king and/or a kingdom, but also of the place of separation from the world.  There will be victory in our Christian lives only as we secure “the mountain,” i.e., reserve time each day to be alone with God, allowing Him to speak to us from His Word, and we in turn speak to Him in prayer.  We are to fight against every activity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that would keep us off the mountain.  The opposition of the enemy takes many forms, some of them so subtle as to be virtually undetectable.  For example, legitimate things such as jobs, families, etc., may become the means by which we are robbed of time that should be given to prayer, study or service, so that we find ourselves spiritually impoverished.  There is need for discipline to ensure that the foe doesn’t emerge the victor in such situations.

Then there are “the weights” which we are to lay aside (Heb 12:1) - the things which in themselves may not be obviously evil, but which can only hinder us in the heavenly race, e.g., work, family, reading, music, hobbies, etc.  The “weights” come in many forms, and are a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the enemy.

“... and in the south.”  The south is the Biblical direction of faith, so that the lesson of Judah’s fighting against the Canaanites in the south is that we too are to oppose every effort of the enemy to keep us out of the enjoyment of all that is available to us through faith.  In this sphere, the ploy of the enemy is to have us look at circumstances rather than at the God Who orders or permits the circumstances.  For example, how many of us have the faith to see in a lost job, lost finances, lost health, the loss of a loved one, etc., not the hand of God against us, but rather His hand weaving all the circumstances of life together for our good?

We may measure the success of this “southern” enemy, and our own failure, by the number of times we have given way to doubt in the face of circumstances, when God bids us cling to His assurance that, “All things work together for good to them that love God....” (Ro 8:28), and the further assurance that His will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Ro 12:2). 

It must be realized, however, that the time on the mountain is to equip us to come down to “the valley,”

which represents the sphere of fruit-bearing and service, a fact which makes the lesson clear: the enemy will use every weapon in his arsenal to prevent our producing fruit for God’s glory, and from rendering any service to God, and his success may be measured by the meagerness of our spiritual fruit, and the dilatoriness of our service.

Let’s look briefly at the means by which he keeps us out of “the valley,” and achieves his victories.  First, the production of fruit and the rendering of service, require time, and the enemy has a thousand ways of stealing that most precious of all commodities.  It is a healthy exercise to list the number of our waking hours, and then to fill in opposite each how we have used it.  Such an analysis will reveal an amazing amount of time devoted to unnecessary activities - time that could be far more profitably invested for eternity.

Prayer and study are two more prerequisites of fruitfulness and service, the one being essential for power, the other for ability (2 Tim 2:15), and here also the enemy has countless ways of filling the time with unessential things.

Nor should we miss the significance of the fact that it was Judah who attacked the enemy.  The attitude of praise which Judah represents, is the most successful opponent of the evil forces that would keep us out of the enjoyment of the riches that are ours in Christ.

1:10.  “And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.”

This is the repetition of the account given in Joshua 14 and 15, where we read, “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb .... And the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims” (Jos 14:14-15).  “And unto Caleb ... he gave a part among the children of Judah ... even the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.  And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak” (Jos 15:13-14).

From Nu 13:2,3,6, we learn that Caleb was a ruler in Judah, one of the spies sent by Moses to search the land, and when the others discouraged the people, “Caleb stilled the people ... and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it,” Nu 13:30.  His faithfulness was rewarded with the promise of God, “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and   his seed shall possess it,” Nu 14:24.  And when the unbelieving spies, “died by the plague before the Lord ... Joshua ... and Caleb ... lived still,” (Nu 14:37-38).

Nu 34:17-19 informs us also, that having appointed Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the sun of Nun, to divide the land to the tribes of Israel, God also declared, “And ye shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance,”  - and first on that list of princes is, “Caleb, the son of Jephunneh.”

The portion given Caleb was the city and region generally known as Hebron, but under Canaanite control, known as Kirjath-Arba, “the city of Arba the father of Anak.”

Hebron means communion, and Arba, four, but since four is the number of earth in connection with testing, the lesson being taught in the change of name that accompanied change of ownership, is that the world has also its own form of communion enjoyed by its own; but we do well to note that the son of Arba was Anak, meaning neck-chain: long necked, which represents pride and its accompanying bondage.  As Anak was the son of Arba, so is pride the offspring of worldliness.  The “communion” available to the worldling binds him to the necessity of keeping up with those whose fellowship he covets.  Let his income, or his political power cease, however, and see how quickly the “fellowship” also ceases.

How different in the realm of faith!  The communion which the believer enjoys with God, and with every other believer, is not dependent on the fluctuating values of earth, but on the changeless eternal love of God.

From Joshua chapter 14 we learn that for forty-five years, since the day he first caught a glimpse of it, Caleb had never lost his desire to possess Hebron.  The same desire for what Hebron represents would preserve us from many a sorrow, for communion can’t be separated from obedience, nor obedience from blessing.

“And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak” (Jos 15:14).  Arba’s posterity didn’t end with Anak.  Anak had three sons, Sheshai, meaning my fine linen: whiteish; Ahiman, brother of a portion: brother of whom?; and Talmai, my furrows.

As the children of one who represents pride, these three are themselves representative of what characterizes pride.  The significance of Sheshai is easily deciphered.  He represents the proud satisfaction with their own righteousness that marks so many of the world’s unconverted.  Caleb’s expulsion of Sheshai, however, reminds us that the believer may also become proud of his righteousness, forgetting that it is the righteousness of Christ that gives him acceptance with a Holy God.  Religious pride is much more prevalent than many of us would care to admit.  There is as great need for us to expel the pride which Sheshai represents, as there was for Israel to expel the literal giant Sheshai.

The lesson of Ahiman is also easily read, for the “brotherhood” of the world depends on the “portion” possessed by the man who wants to have fellowship.  Let his “portion” of wealth, power, influence, etc., fall below that of those with whom he has fellowship, and he finds himself very quickly unwelcome within that circle. 

This is a form of pride regrettably rampant in Christendom today, in spite of the numerous Scriptural warnings against it, e.g., Jas 2:1-9, “... if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin....” and 1 Co 11:22 “... despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?”  Pride, which is the spiritual counterpart of the giant Ahiman, is likewise to be expelled from the midst of God’s people.

The spiritual significance of Talmai is likewise easily translated.  The furrow is produced by plowing, and in an agricultural society there was an obvious correlation between the number of furrows, and the amount of a man’s wealth.  It is regrettably true also in Christendom today that all too often a man is esteemed in proportion to his secular success, while he who labors in spiritual things is despised.  “Talmai” remains unexpelled in many a church today.  Countless believers are starving spiritually under the “ministry” of the spiritual “Talmai’s,” and countless others groan under the misrule of men whose only leadership qualifications are secular or academic rather than spiritual.

There is just as great need for individual believers, and churches today, to expel these spiritual sons of the giant Pride, as there was for Caleb to expel the literal sons of Anak.  Caleb’s enjoyment of Hebron depended on their expulsion.  Our enjoyment of the communion which Hebron represents, depends on our expulsion of the pride which they represent.

The only difference between the account in Joshua 15, and that given here is that in the former Caleb appears to have expelled the three giants, but here they are slain.

1:11.  “And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-Sepher:”

1:12. “And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-Sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.”

Having expelled the sons of the giant from Hebron, Caleb’s next concern was to take possession of the place, which under the control of the Canaanite, was called Kirjath-Sepher, meaning, city of the book, but under Israelite control, Debir, meaning, an oracle. 

The spiritual lesson isn’t difficult to learn.  This city represents the Word of God, which to the natural man, is simply another book - as literature, the finest in the world, but still just another piece of literature.  Faith, however, transforms that piece of literature into the written Word which is the God-breathed revelation of Him Who is the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole-hearted faith which Caleb represents is marked by an equally strong desire to take possession of what it viewed once as simply another book, but now recognizes as the inspired Word, the spiritual food without which spiritual life can’t exist.  Regrettably there are many today content to leave “Kirjath-Sepher” with the “Canaanite,” few willing to devote the time and effort needed to wrest it from the control of the enemy, and make it their own.  The indifference that is satisfied with its ignorance of Scripture is apparent everywhere today amongst those professing faith in Christ, raising the question of the reality of their profession, and explaining the rapid abandonment of Scriptural order amongst the assemblies of God’s people, and their inability to recognize error when it confronts them.

Caleb’s magnanimous spirit is disclosed in his willingness to accord others a share in his victories.  There is no question that he could have taken Kirjath-sepher himself, but he would encourage others also to expel the enemy and enjoy the privilege of having a part in the conquest of the God-given inheritance.  His encouragement, however, went beyond mere words.  He would substantially reward the overcomer, the prize being his daughter Achsah, meaning to tinkle: anklet.

The spiritual significance of this is easily discerned, for that ornament encircling the ankle and emitting a pleasant tinkle with each step, speaks of testimony.  The foot represents the walk or manner of life, so that what Achsah portrays is a life encircled by the obedience that produces an effective witness.  The conqueror of Kirjath-sepher would be joined to this woman: she would be a part of him.  So is it with the man who takes the Word from the enemy’s control and makes it his own.  Obedience will encircle his life, and, fulfilling the type of the tinkling bells on the hem of the high priest’s robe (Ex 28:33-35), the obedience of his life and the testimony of his lips will be a witness for God.

Satan has succeeded in deluding many into believing that a verbal testimony is unnecessary, his lie being, “It’s better to let your life speak for itself.”  Acceptance of this deadly doctrine has silenced many, with the result that the unconverted, observing the believer’s circumspect life, have been led to conclude that all that is needed to fit one for heaven is a moral life.  God’s word is, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Ro 10:9-10.  It is that same truth that is being taught in Caleb’s promise to give his daughter Achsah to the man who would take Kirjath-sepher, for that victor represents the believer whose obedience to God’s Word produces not only an obedient life, but also a courageous verbal testimony.

1:13.  “And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.”

Othniel means seasonable speaking of God; and Kenaz to hunt: a hunter.  The language of this verse is ambiguous relative to the relationship of Othniel to Caleb, but many competent scholars understand Othniel to have been Caleb’s younger brother; and Kenaz, not Othniel’s father, but rather the grandfather of both Othniel and Caleb.  Since the hunter and hunting always have an evil connotation in Scripture, the evil therefore associated with the meaning of Kenaz is simply the symbolic reminder that every believer has a similar evil ancestry.

Since, as has been noted already, Achsah represents testimony, it is not just coincidence that her husband’s name should also speak so clearly of testimony, nor is it mere chance that we should find these two mentioned in connection with the capture of Kirjath-sepher, which we have seen to represent the Word of God - to the natural man, merely a book, but to faith, the God-breathed Word.  He who takes possession of that Word, i.e., makes it his own by obeying its precepts, can’t fail to be an effective witness for God. 

The fact that Othniel was the brother of Caleb a dog: whole-hearted, scarcely needs comment.  An effective witness is inseparable from the humility that is satisfied to be counted but a dog, and the whole-heartedness which Caleb represents.

1:14.  “And it came to pass, as she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou?”

It has been noted in other studies that a wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life: the godly wife representing true spiritual life; the ungodly wife, what passes with the natural man for spiritual life.  (Adam, alone, represents man unconverted; and it is significant that God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” Ge 2:18, but Adam with Eve, now capable of reproducing his kind - being fruitful -  represents the converted man, capable of being fruitful for God, Eve representing the expression of the new spiritual life, apart from which spiritual fruit is impossible).

A field represents, not only the world, but also one of the spheres of Christian service, so that Achsah’s request for a field portrays the desire of the new spiritual life for a sphere of service.  There is something wrong with the faith that has no desire to serve, and the lesson to be learnt from the fact that it is Caleb who gives the field, is that whole-heartedness will always furnish a sphere of service.  Absence of any desire to serve indicates a divided heart, and we shouldn’t forget that it is written, “My son give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (Pr 23:26).

“... and she lighted off her ass.”  Recognizing that the wild ass is a type of the old nature unrestrained; and the domesticated ass, that same old nature, but under some degree of moral restraint, Achsah’s dismounting from the ass speaks of Faith’s refusal to be carried along by the impulses of the old nature.  He who would serve God must divorce himself from the dominion of the old nature.

1:15.  “And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water.  And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.”

Her plea, “Give me a blessing,” portrays the desire of Faith for the blessing of God, and it must not be forgotten that obedience is a prerequisite of blessing.

“... for thou hast given me a south land,” scarcely needs comment.  Since the south is always associated with faith, the lesson being taught is that the believer’s portion is in the realm of faith, not sight.  We are not to measure blessing in terms of earthly things.  Faith’s blessings are spiritual - incomprehensible to the natural man, and therefore in his sight, worthless.  Those blessings, however, are precious to the obedient believer, for he walks by faith and not by sight (2 Co 5:7).

“Give me also springs of water.”  Apart from the dew (type of the Holy Spirit); and the early and the latter rains (type of Divine blessing); and the springs of water (type of the Word), the south land would have been a parched desert.  So is it in the spiritual realm.  To the disobedient believer the realm of Faith is but a barren desert, for disobedience stays the dew (quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit); cuts off the essential “rain”; and dries up the “springs.”

The springs, bubbling up by a mysterious unseen force, represent the different parts of the written Word, whose spiritual meaning is unfolded to obedient Faith by the Holy Spirit.  Disobedience shuts off that ministry of the Holy Spirit, and reduces the living Word to nothing more than a piece of literature, as incomprehensible to the disobedient believer as to the unbeliever.

Various suggestions have been offered concerning the spiritual significance of “the upper springs, and the nether springs,” the most popular being that they represent the Old and the New Testaments, or truth appropriate to spiritual growth - the lower springs representing truth that may be grasped by the newest convert, while the upper springs represent what is appropriate to a mature spiritual state.

1:16.  “And the children of the Kenite a smith: a fabricator, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad wild ass; and they went and dwelt among the people.”

There is considerable disagreement amongst scholars regarding this verse, first, not only as to whether “the city of palm trees” was  Jericho; and second, as to whether “the people” among whom they dwelt, were Judaeans or Amalakites.  There seems little doubt that the city was Jericho; and apart from much manuscript evidence in favor of their having dwelt among the Amalakites (to whom they were related, and which would make them representative of the flesh), there is much else connected with them that savors of evil.  As children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, they were Midianites, which points to them as representing strife and contention, for Midian means strife and contention.  Arad wild ass has also a bad connotation, for as noted already, the ass represents the old nature, and in the case of the wild ass, as here, the old nature, without any moral restraint.

All things considered therefore, I am inclined to agree with those who see them as representative of evil, like the mixed multitude that went out of Egypt with Israel at the time of the Passover, a multitude that proved to be simply a thorn in the side of Israel.  That multitude which represents the flesh, went with Israel at the time of her deliverance, just as the flesh goes with the believer after his deliverance; and now that flesh, in the guise of the Kenite, is seen again as Israel attempts to take possession of her inheritance.  The flesh is with us as we seek to take possession of our inheritance, and it proves to be a very great hinderance.

Grant’s comments are worth quoting in this connection, “We find ... the Kenite settling among the children of Judah.... They are the Midianite tribe out of which Moses’ wife had come ... and who, upon Moses’ invitation, had accompanied them into the land.  But they never unite themselves with the people of God, though settling among them .... They are Midianites, men of the world, but not at strife with Israel, as others of their race.  Nay, they make a nest for themselves among them, and it is for the nest they are there.  They come now and dwell on the southern border of Judah in the wilderness, their natural home, south of Arad, the place of the wild ass.  They keep their wilderness manners in the land, - are not at home there, though they may like the security it affords.  All this describes but too well the condition of many who attach themselves, in every dispensation, to the people of God, yet are not of them.  The victories of the children of Judah invite them and make way for them; but their presence is no strength, and no sign for good.”

1:17.  “And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it.  And the name of the city was called Hormah.”

Zephath means watchful, but as a Canaanite city, and therefore a city of the enemy, it speaks of the ceaseless vigilance of Satan, exercised through the men and things of the world, to keep believers out of the enjoyment of the rich inheritance secured for them through Christ’s death.  The utter destruction of this place by the two tribes whose names speak of praise and obedience, reminds us of the power that accompanies these two Christian virtues.  (This in no way alters the fact that in refusing to go alone as God had commanded, Judah was disobedient, but here at the beginning, when humanly speaking, there was hope of recovery, God in grace gave victory, just as in spite of the disobedience of Moses in striking the rock twice, He still gave the water).

The change of name to Hormah destruction would serve both as a reminder and an encouragement to others.  All that would oppose our entrance into the possession of spiritual blessing is to be destroyed.  Where thankfulness and obedience are found together the victory will be given in spite of all the watchfulness of the enemy.

1:18.  And Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.”

These were Philistine cities, and since the Philistine represents apostate Christianity, the lesson here is that the spiritual enemy represented by these three cities wears the cloak of Christianity to hide his true nature.  Gaza means she was strong; Askelon, the fire of infamy: I shall be weighed; and Ekron, uprooting.

Are we tempted to compare the outward power and glory of the great harlot church, with the seeming weakness of the true Church as seen in the little struggling assemblies of true believers - and despair of ever overcoming?  Israel’s destruction of Gaza is to remind us that we are not to be deceived by outward appearances.  That great apostate system calling itself “the Church,” has only as much power over us as we are willing to give it.  We are not to ape its ways no matter how successful those ways may appear to be, and how unsuccessful God’s ways may seem.  There is no doubt about the final outcome.  We are the victors.

Askelon is more difficult to interpret, though the fire of infamy may speak of the unremitting zeal with which the great false church pursues her evil course, the second meaning  I shall be weighed reminding us that the day is not far off when she will be weighed in God’s balances and, like Belshazzar, be “found wanting.”  The realization that we too are going to be weighed in those same balances, should turn us to God for the grace that will prevent our also being “found wanting.”

Ekron uprooting certainly reminds us that the day is coming when the evil system represented by these Philistine cities will be uprooted; but we are to remember that we have the responsibility here and now to “uproot” from our lives and our assemblies everything that corresponds to Ekron.  There is that evil, which under the disguise of being more enlightened Christianity, would “uproot” Scriptural order from the assemblies of God’s people.  Under the plausible pretext of “keeping pace with the times,” there is much being introduced into our assemblies that would subvert God’s order.  It is no more to be tolerated than was the literal city of Ekron.  It is to be uprooted.    

1:19. “And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

We have already noted that the mountain represents not only a king and/or a kingdom, but also the place of separation from this evil world.  One aspect of the “mountain” is the time reserved each day for study and prayer, shut in with God above earth’s distractions; but it is to be remembered that that time is to equip us for service and fruitbearing, which are associated with “the valley.”

This verse has to be understood in the context of Jos 1:3, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you....”; and 17:18, “... for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong”; and Dt.20:1,4, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.... For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.”  Judah apparently went up on the mountain where the iron chariots of the enemy couldn’t go; but it seems that he was so intimidated by the sight of the chariots in the valley, that he wouldn’t venture to set foot there.

It wasn’t that they couldn’t drive them out, but rather that they wouldn’t.  It wasn’t the enemy’s iron chariots that made the difference: it was Judah’s lack of faith in God, and his trust in his own strength.  That distrust of God was disclosed first in his taking Simeon with him, without bidding from God, and now it reveals itself again.  He clearly doubted the ability of God to overcome the chariots of iron, because like many another, he professed with his lips to trust God for victory, but in his heart he was looking to self, not God.  And as always, when the might of the enemy is compared with mere human ability, the enemy must appear invincible.  It is the reverse when the eye is on God. 

It is significant that God had specifically promised them victory over the chariots of their enemies, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.... For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (De 20:1-4).  The reference to their deliverance from Egypt should have reminded them that the God Who had destroyed the mighty Egyptian army was no less able to smash the lesser might of these Canaanites.  Joshua had also assured them that they would overcome these iron chariots, see Jos 17:18.

Our defeats measure, not the inadequacy of God, but the paucity of our faith.

As already noted, the valleys represent the sphere of service and fruitfulness, so that Judah’s failure to secure the valleys, speaks of our failure to produce spiritual fruit, and to take possession of a sphere of service.  A large part of the enemy’s success lies in our failure to recognize him.  How many, for example, fail to see that they are giving to an occupation, time that belongs to God?  Countless believers, unwilling to lower their standard of living, bind themselves to a job that demands all of their time, and leaves no time for the things of God.

Fear is another enemy that has kept many a believer from rendering effective service in the Gospel.  Fear of being laughed at has silenced many a word that might have been given in testimony.

The love of ease is another foe to be credited with keeping many a believer out of “the valley.”

Judah’s taking the mountain, but not the valley, translates into the truth that it is possible to devote time to study and prayer, but then to fail to produce any spiritual fruit or yield any acceptable service.  Prayer may become a mere time consuming mechanical ritual; and Bible study, a mere time consuming academic activity.  Knowledge that isn’t used in practical service is of little worth.  We must take “the valley” as well as “the mountain.”  We are not only to refrain from doing wrong, we must also do good works.

1:20.  “And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.”

Since the spiritual significance of this has already been considered (Jos 15:13; Jg 1:10), there is no need of further comment here.

1:21.  “And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.”

Better things might have been expected of the warrior tribe Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand, but of him it is written simply that he “did not drive out the Jebusites....”  Is it possible that he didn’t even try?

Jebusite means he will be trodden down.  This foe remained in Jerusalem until the days of David (2 Sa 5:6-7).  The ambiguity of the meaning of the name makes it hard to discern the exact spiritual significance, for it is difficult to identify the “he” who will be trodden down.  Is it the Jebusite, or someone else?  If the Jebusite, then the message is that in the end he will be trodden down by God, but the equally certain fact is that if we submit to the evil represented by the Jebusite, we will be trodden down.

But what does this particular foe represent?  Since Jerusalem is a type of the human heart, the Jebusite’s ruling in Jerusalem makes him the representative of anything and everything which is allowed to usurp the place that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.  This foe, in fact, may well be a type, of the old nature in general, rather than of one particular aspect of it.  The presence of the Jebusite in Jerusalem during all the long period from Joshua to David, reminds us that the old nature will be with us until the earthly journey is ended, and we’re home in heaven.

1:22.  “And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the Lord was with them.”

“The house of Joseph” is generally accepted as being Ephraim and Manasseh, but the omission of those two names, and the mention of Joseph let him add, may be to remind us of the spiritual increase that comes from the spiritual equivalent of Israel’s taking possession of Bethel house of God, i.e., the sphere where God’s Word is obeyed.  Spiritual increase is always in proportion to the measure of our obedience.

“... and the Lord was with them.”  It is easy to see why this should have been added.  Obedience guarantees the Lord’s presence and blessing.

1:23.  “And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel house of God.  (Now the name of the city before was Luz perverse.)”

There are several other instances of Israel’s having sent spies ahead of them: e.g., their sending the twelve spies into Canaan (Nu 13 and De 1); and their sending spies into Jericho (Jos 2), and of their sending spies to Ai.  Without entering into a discussion of the merits of their action on those other occasions, the glimpses of faithlessness already given, indicate that in the present instance their sending spies continues to betray lack of faith.

The change of name from Luz to Bethel that accompanied the passing of the city from Canaanite to Israelite possession, reminds us that the perversity that marked our unsaved state is to be exchanged for the obedience of which Bethel speaks.

1:24.  “And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.”

In view of the lack of faith so clearly indicated in their readiness to rely on an arm of flesh rather than on God, the present appeal to this unknown man can scarcely be construed other than as another disclosure of faithlessness.  Was not God perfectly capable, not only of showing them “the entrance into the city,” but of delivering it into their hands?  How often, unfortunately, we too are guilty of the same lack of faith!  There is ever present that evil tendency to rely on man rather than on God; to adopt human expedients, instead of rendering simple obedience to the Word of God.

“... and we will shew thee mercy.”  This was in blatant defiance of God’s command, “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land .... And ... shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (De 7:1-2).

1:25.  “And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.”

The zeal that saw the city smitten was counteracted by the disobedience that spared the man and all his family.  The sparing of that one man is the equivalent of sparing some perversity (sin) in our lives; and “all his family” has an ominous significance, for it hints at the possibility of his increase, an increase all too plainly disclosed in the following verse.

1:26.  “And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.”

That man and his family spared, became the founders of another Luz, this time in the land of the Hittites terror.  The lesson is easily read.  There may be a great deal of zeal for God, but where sin is spared, zeal furnishes no protection against the evil that will accrue from what may be carelessly viewed as but “a small sin.”  There is no such thing as a small sin.  All sin is as heinous to God as it is dangerous to man.  That one man and his family spared, soon became a city.  One sin spared, allowed place in the life, will quickly become another “city” - it will spread like a cancer and destroy the life.

Nor should we miss the significance of his building the second Luz in the land of the Hittites terror.  They represent fear, and were one of Israel’s most formidable enemies.  As noted already, fear of man is one of Satan’s most effective weapons in preventing victorious Christian living.

1:27.  “Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.”

Manasseh means causing to forget, a meaning which recalls the exhortation of Paul, “... this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14).  The failure therefore of Manasseh to wrest these five cities from the enemy, points to the possibility of failure on our part to make spiritual progress because we allow “those things which are behind” to hinder us.  Since five is the number of responsibility, there being five of these cities signifies that our defeat stems from unfulfilled responsibility, i.e., disobedience.

But what are “the things which are behind”?  One of them may be the world to which we (like Lot’s wife) look back, with longing for its wealth, pleasure, ease, fame, applause, etc., or it may be a morbid occupation with the past, either our unconverted past, or the failures of our converted past.  The one is as great a hindrance as the other.  The remedy is to remember that all our sins (past, present, and future) were forgiven the moment we trusted Christ, and the communion interrupted by sins committed after conversion, is restored the moment we confess them to God, and forsake them (1 Jn 1:9).

But these five cities go beyond the general and point to specifics.  Beth-shean, house of quiet, left in the possession of the enemy, warns us that the spiritual equivalent will rob us of the enjoyment of what is ours in Christ.  The lesson isn’t difficult to read.  Failure to reserve time each day to be alone with God, to read and pray, and have our souls quieted in His presence, is the cause of a great deal of spiritual poverty amongst Christians today.  That neglect robs us of the peace God would have us enjoy.  Failure to secure that time is the spiritual counterpart of Manasseh”s leaving Beth-shean in the possession of the enemy.

Taanach, she will afflict thee, is the second city mentioned, and while the spiritual lesson may at first appear obscure, a more careful examination will disclose that it is just as clearly written as is any other. 

First, we note that this spiritual foe is described as she, but since the female in Scripture represents passivity rather than activity, the lesson appears to be that our being passive when we should be active, is another way to rob ourselves of the enjoyment of blessings made available to us through Christ’s death. 

This failure takes many forms, but a glance at one or two will suffice to indicate where our own delinquency lies.  Surely no one will fail to see that the vast majority of us are to be charged with disobedience of the Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk.16:15).  Of how much this neglect has robbed us will not be fully known until that day when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ.  It is largely because of this negligence that our assemblies are lying in ruins today, and we ourselves deprived of the joy of seeing souls led to the Savior.

The loss accruing from failure to read and pray has already been discussed, and need not be repeated here.

Failure to attend the scheduled meetings of the assembly is another fruitful source of spiritual penury.  But a little soul-searching will reveal to each of us the area of failure in his or her own life, for the forms of this delinquency are as varied as our faces.

Discovery of the sin, however, apart from abandonment of it, will simply compound our guilt.

The third city Dor, generation: dwelling, reminds us that Manasseh’s failure is not confined to one generation.  The habits of one generation are all too frequently molded by those of its predecessor.  No man lives unto himself.  Whether we wish it or not, we influence the lives of others, particularly the young who look to older believers as role models.  We do well to note the exhortation of Paul, “... but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Ro 14:13), and the further exhortation, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (1 Co 8:9).

The lesson of the second meaning dwelling is also easily read.  As each believer is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, so are we “builded together for an habitation (dwelling place) of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22).  The local assemblies are the habitations or dwelling places of God, and as literal houses tend to reflect the character of their occupants, so does each assembly tend to have impressed upon it the character of the individuals comprising that fellowship.

We might note further, that as believers, we are a new generation, a new creation.  We are to pass through this world as pilgrims and strangers, “for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb 13:14).  Heaven is our home, our eternal dwelling place.

The fourth city is Ibleam meaning he will swallow them: he will swallow the people, and the problem is to determine what is to be understood by “he.”  A clue to the spiritual lesson of Ibleam may be furnished by the fact that it is the fourth city on the list, and four is the number of earth and testing.  This, then, would make Ibleam a type of the world; and the “he,” Satan, the prince of this world.  Scripture abounds with warnings to believers relative to the dangers of entangling themselves with the things of this world, e.g., “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (Jas 4:4), “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15).

The sorry state of a Christendom that does love the world and the things of it, is eloquent testimony to the warning sounded symbolically in Manasseh’s failure to take Ibleam.  The world has all but swallowed the Church, but since Satan is the prince of this world, it is he, aided by our disobedience, who has wrought such havoc.

The fifth place, Megiddo, meaning invading: gathering for cutting (self): his cutting-place, is not as difficult to interpret as might at first appear when we remember that it is this very vale of Megiddo that is to be the gathering place for the rebel armies of earth just prior to the Lord’s return to destroy them, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

Five is the number of responsibility, and in not taking Megiddo, Manasseh failed to fulfill his responsibility, with the result that the foe, left there, frequently “invaded” Israel to her hurt, “cutting” her, as it were, but since that cutting would have been impossible had she obeyed God and exterminated the foe, it was in a very real sense, she who cut herself.  Since, however, it was God Who permitted the cutting as chastisement for disobedience, it was “His cutting place.”

God takes a serious view of responsibility unfulfilled.  It brings chastisement, when obedience would have brought blessing.  Israel is the prime example; and of course the ultimate demonstration of the principle will be that final great gathering of earth’s rebels in the plain of Megiddo at the end of the Tribulation, when the Lord, returning in power and glory, slays them.

“... but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.”  Other renderings of this are, “... were determined to live in that land”; “clung to this country”; “... held their ground.”  Since Canaanite means a trafficker, the lesson being taught here is that the spiritual counterpart of Manasseh’s disobedience results invariably in there coming in also the counterpart of the Canaanite - the spiritual life degenerates into a mere dull, cold “trafficking” in spiritual things. 

This degeneracy was found in Ephesus, for in Re 2:2 it is written, “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience....” but as others have noted, when Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for those very same things, he wrote of their “ of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope” (1 Th 1:3).  The Ephesians addressed by the Lord in Re 2:2, continued with the outward form, but the faith, love and hope were gone - they had become mere traffickers in spiritual things.  It is to be feared that many of us are guilty of similar trafficking.  Instead of being true to our Manassite character, and forgetting the things that are behind, we have allowed those things to hinder our progress, with the result that the enemy occupies what God intended us to possess and enjoy.

If we find that Manasseh’s failure is but the picture of our own, our study of his history will have been profitless unless it begets the determination that from this moment on it will not be such a prophetic picture.  That resolve will be made good as we follow the example of Paul, “... but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph 3:13-14).

1:28.  “And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.”

Putting the foe to tribute was not what God had commanded, and in this expedient we have the foreshadowing of that which is largely the character of the professing church today: God’s order has been rejected, and replaced with human expedient.

Israel’s taking tribute from the Canaanites speaks of the Church’s taking the things of the world for her own use, and the extent of our guilt may be measured by the degree to which the things of the world are found in the Church.  To look at but a few, one of the most obvious is our taking money from the unconverted.  The prevalence of this pernicious practice is too well known to need comment, and the harm it has done to the cause of Christ can be measured in the frequency with which we hear the comment, “All the church wants is money.”  It is an affront to God to accept the “offering” of the unconverted, and it is an even greater affront to beg the unconverted for money “for the Lord’s work.”   The principle that is to govern us in regard to this is declared in the words of Abraham to Bera, king of Sodom, “I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet ... I will not take anything that is thine....(Ge 14:23).  The Lord has no need of the money of the believer, much less that of the unbeliever, to carry on His work.

Another is the readiness with which the unconverted are welcomed into the fellowship which God says is for believers only.  The average congregation today has in it the same “mixed multitude” as accompanied Israel out of Egypt, and which proved to be to her a “thorn” in her side, and is no less so to many a congregation today.

Still another is the hierarchical form of church government which has either replaced the rule of the elders, or reduced it to a shadow of what God intended.  The schemes of men, patterned after the methods of the world, have largely replaced the leading of the Holy Spirit.  But the “democracy” that gives every man a vote has no place in the government of the Church.

Likewise, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, neglected, and often deliberately rejected, have been replaced with the world’s “common sense” methods, while the gifted men given to the Church for her upbuilding, have been replaced with the unscriptural cleric, whose only qualification is academic, and therefore no qualification at all.

We might continue the list, but sufficient has been said to indicate the extent to which the Church has put the Canaanite to tribute instead of exterminating him as God had commanded.

The easy revenue may have convinced the Israelites that that was even better than exterminating the enemy, but such a myopic view failed to take account of the fact that the presence of the Canaanite was nothing less than the evidence of Israel’s disobedience.  And that had an ominous significance which far outweighed the small gain derived from the tribute.  That disobedience alone guaranteed chastisement and diminished blessing.  Foolish Israel eventually aped the ways of the Canaanites, and bowed down to their gods, thus provoking the wrath of Jehovah, so that, with His protecting hand withdrawn, the position was soon reversed, and the former serfs became the masters.

1:29.  “Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.”

Ephraim, meaning double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, represents the fruitfulness that should be the accompaniment of an obedient Christian life, that fertility being twofold: (1) production of the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Ga 5:22, and (2) fruitfulness in the Gospel: spiritual sons and daughters begotten, men and women led to the Savior.  (Double ash-heap is no contradiction, but rather a confirmation of the thought of fruitfulness, for the ash-heap indicated the size and prosperity of the city - a double ash-heap spoke of unusual size and prosperity.  But the spiritual application is even more apt.  Fruitfulness will be in proportion as we cast on the “ash-heap” the worthless things of this world, after the example of Paul who declared, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” [Php 3:8]).

Ephraim’s failure to drive out the Canaanite, however, was nothing less than disobedience, itself the guarantee of diminished fruitfulness.  Since the Canaanite means trafficker, and represents “trafficking” in spiritual things, i.e., engaging in spiritual activity for earthly, rather than eternal gain, Ephraim’s failure is but the symbol of our own.  This spiritual “trafficking” takes many forms, e.g., studying Scripture in order to display knowledge rather than seeking to equip myself to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed;” engaging in good works in order to be thought “godly”; feigning humility in order to be thought humble so that I may be secretly proud of my humility; engaging in Christian service for monetary gain ... the list could be extended.

But it is to be noted that Ephraim’s failure was connected specifically with Gezer, meaning a piece: a portion (as cut off).  Gezer appears to represent this world as Satan’s kingdom today.   It is inferior to what it was when he ruled it as Lucifer: it is but “a piece, or a cut off portion” - it is a poor thing indeed compared to the perfect realm he once ruled for God.

An obvious question presents itself, however, If Gezer does represent this world as what remains of Satan’s once perfect domain, in what way may we expel the Canaanite from the world?  Since it is clearly beyond our power, as individuals, to influence the whole world, the obvious explanation appears to be that the reference is to that little part of it in which each of us is involved, in which we do have influence.  That makes the lesson practical.  The little part of the world from which we may “expel the Canaanite” is that part where we may exert an influence for good.

But what is the spiritual equivalent of “expelling the Canaanite” in this context?  One way to allow the Canaanite to remain is to trade with our families - buy their goodwill by refusing to present them with the Gospel.  The same applies to the neighborhood, and the work place.

And there is another way to leave the Canaanite undisturbed in the context of the work place.  When we as employees are willing to do what is shady or wrong, we are duplicating Ephraim’s failure.  When as employers, we are willing to adopt the world’s shady or outright wrong methods, we are leaving the Canaanite in possession of what God intended us to enjoy.

“... but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.”  And so is it in Christendom today.  Converted and unconverted alike are mingled together, not only in our families, and neighborhoods, and work places, but in our assemblies - and this in spite of the command to keep ourselves separate from them.  Indifference to God’s commands regarding separation, and our quest for numbers, have resulted in our welcoming the “Canaanite” into our midst, so that the average congregation is simply a “mixed multitude,” where unbelievers often outnumber believers. 

As spiritual Ephraimites, our delinquency is just as great as was that of our literal counterparts long ago.

And another thought in connection with Gezer’s meaning a piece: a portion (as cut off), is that when we fail to maintain the separation enjoined by God, the rich full portion He has given us will become but a piece, or cut off portion, diminished by our disobedience.  If we live for the things of the world, the most we can hope to gain is a small piece, a cut off portion, which must be left behind when we leave this world and enter the next, and in grasping for that small worthless temporary part we rob ourselves of the precious and eternal.  What folly, then, to pursue earthly things rather than heavenly!

1:30.  “Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.”

Zebulun means dwelling; Kitron, incense-burner; Nahalol, being tended: tended as in a pasture.

Zebulun, of course, should remind us that as believers we have here on earth no dwelling place, but are as pilgrims and strangers passing through on the way to our eternal dwelling place, that same place sought by Abraham, “a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10), where even now Christ is preparing us a place (Jn 14:2-3).

The fact is, however, that practice and profession are all too often at odds.  Our lifestyles demonstrate that we have set our affections on earthly things rather than heavenly, so that we have settled down in the world, and have become “earth dwellers,” governed by earthly standards, seeking earthly treasure, delighting in earthly things.

The first place mentioned in connection with Zebulun’s failure is Kitron, meaning incense-burner, a meaning whose spiritual import is easily read, for incense is a symbol of worship, as is made clear by that part of the Levitical ritual pertaining to the golden altar, also referred to as the altar of incense (Ex 30:27).  Compare also, for example, Ps 141:2, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice,” and Ex 30:8, “ even he (Aaron) shall burn incense upon it (the golden altar).”

As the Canaanite dwelt with Zebulun in the place that speaks so clearly of worship, so does the spiritual “Canaanite” still dwell at “Kitron.”  In many congregations today the unbeliever mingles freely with those who are of the household of faith, some of them occupying the place of “pastors,” and presiding over the presentation of “worship.”  Nor is this evil confined to the so-called “denominations” - the “open table” policy of all too many assemblies encourages the same travesty.

Toleration of the Canaanite in Kitron and Nahalol resulted in loss of blessing, for Israel all too quickly adopted the evil practices of the “traffickers” in their midst, and incurred thereby the wrath of God.

The lesson of Nahalol is equally easy to read, for its meaning being tended: tended as in a pasture is the very clear symbolic description of our position as believers: we are those who are being tended by the good Shepherd, the “pasture” being the written Word as our spiritual food and drink.  The presence of the Canaanite in Nahalol has its spiritual counterpart in the professing church today.  Since teaching is the fundamental activity connected with “pasturing,” the lesson of the Canaanite in Nahalol is related to the work of pastors (elders) and teachers, and it is to be noted that an elder’s principal work is teaching, one of the qualifications of an elder being “apt to teach” (1 Tim 3:2).  It is to be noted also that Peter, who describes himself as an elder rather than an apostle (1 Pe 5:1-4), and who exhorts the elders to, “Feed the flock of God....” is the one who was himself specifically commanded by the Lord, “Feed my lambs ... feed my sheep ... feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).  And small wonder.  The well-fed (well-taught) flock has little to fear from the spiritual “wolf.”  Their knowledge enables them to discern the “wolf’s” false teaching.

The “Canaanites” in our midst, however, would try to tell us that elders are to be administrators, in spite of the fact that the Word of God is silent as to any such gift, office, or work.  (1 Co 12:5 is no exception.  The word that has been translated administrations in the KJ version, is recognized by competent scholars as being correctly ministries, i.e., forms of service).  These same false teachers, from this wrong premise, proceed to tell us also that part of the elder’s work as an administrator is to delegate, in spite of the fact that here again no such teaching is to be found in Scripture.  The Holy Spirit is the only Administrator of the Church.  Not even elders have authority to delegate either authority or work.  It is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit alone to appoint each man his position and his work.

“... but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.”  Having examined the spiritual significance of this in our study of verse 28, it is unnecessary to dwell on it here again.

1:31.  “Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:”

In Asher, meaning happy, we are reminded that we are to be a happy people, our happiness continuing even in the midst of tribulation, since its source is heavenly, not earthly.  The world has neither the power to give it, nor to recall it.

Asher’s failure, however, continues to declare that in the sphere of happiness also, our failure to drive out the enemy has permitted him to rob us of what God has given us.  The degree of our failure (and therefore of the enemy’s success) may be measured in the lack of true happiness in the midst of God’s people today.

Accho means his straitness, and while that meaning may appear at first ambiguous, the context indicates that the reference may be to the straitness which is the accompaniment of obedience to the Word of God, for it must not be forgotten that conversion carries us from the broad way that leads to destruction, on to the narrow (strait) way that leads to heaven (Mt 7:13-14).  There is no place in the Christian life for indulgence of the flesh, but here again the spiritual “Canaanites” in our midst would tell us otherwise.  They would read into Scripture license which is not to be found there.  Under the guise of “Christian liberty” many things which God condemns are tolerated in the midst of His people today.

In much of Christendom the “Canaanite” has been left undisturbed in “Accho.”    

Zidon has two meanings, a hunting, and a fishery.  It represents the world as the place in which Satan hunts for the souls of men to destroy them, but where believers, as the Lord’s fishermen (Mk 1:17), are to go out with the Gospel and fish for men’s souls so that they might be saved.  Significantly, it is situated on the seacoast, the sea being the symbol of earth’s unconverted masses (Isa 57:20).  The believer who would enjoy the happiness which Asher represents, is he who yields obedience to the Lord’s commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  It is in that great “sea” of humanity that we are to fish for souls.

That the “Canaanite” has been left undisturbed in “Zidon” is painfully obvious from our failure to go out to an unconverted world with the Scriptural Gospel that fearlessly declares man’s ruined state, his need of a new birth through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the need of a life that confirms the testimony of the lips.

Nor is our failure diminished by the preaching of the spurious watered-down thing that passes for the Gospel in much of Christendom today.

The second meaning of Zidon, a hunting, has ominous significance, for the hunter is never found in a good connotation in Scripture.  He is the opposite of the shepherd.  The hunter destroys life, the shepherd preserves it.  Nimrod, the evil founder of Babylon was a hunter.  Christ, the good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep.

This second meaning is meant to teach us that it is all too possible for a local church to become a spiritual Zidon, not as a place associated with “fishing” for souls, but with “hunting.”  The substitution of a spurious “gospel” for the Scriptural reality, makes many a “church” simply a place where Satan enjoys very successful “hunting,” for that spurious “gospel” lures many into the belief that they are saved when they aren’t.

Reception of the unconverted into the fellowship which God says is for believers only, is another way to make a church a place of hunting rather than fishing.   Those welcomed without any question as to their spiritual state, may be lulled into believing that they are saved just because they are doing the same things as those around them who claim to be Christians.  In such a church Satan enjoys very successful hunting.

Ahlab, meaning I shall be made fat, may also at first appear ambiguous, for obviously what is true of the city must also be true of its inhabitants; and God had given Ahlab to Asher.  Asher is the one whom God would have made “fat,” but in failing to expel the Canaanite, Asher became “lean,” and the enemy “fat.”  There is no ambiguity about the lesson.  We have left the “Canaanite” in “Ahlab,” thus making him “fat,” and ourselves “lean.”

Concerning Israel, it is written, “They soon forgat his (God’s) works; they waited not for his counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.  And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps 106:13-15).  Only the spiritually blind will fail to see that the Church has fulfilled the type both of Israel in the desert, and of Asher in the land.  We have lusted for the things of the world, and become thereby lean of soul.  And the undisturbed “Canaanite” in our midst has contributed to that leanness, while he has become correspondingly “fat.”

Achzib, meaning I shall make a lie, conveys a very necessary warning.  The word is related to the idea of a winter torrent that fails in summer.  It is possible for an outward morality to disguise a wrong condition of heart.  We may deceive men, but we cannot deceive God, for He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Service may also be a sphere in which we “make a lie.”  The motive must be pure if the service is to have value for eternity.  Spiritual gift may corrupt by begetting pride.  Following the list of Lucifer’s endowments comes the pronouncement of God, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness....” (Eze 28:17).   Fear of man may induce the preacher to adapt his message to suit the taste of his hearers.  The evangelist may be lured into being more concerned with the number of converts than with the reality of their profession.  Teachers may become proud of their knowledge, so that their ministry is prompted less by a desire to build up God’s people than that they themselves should appear knowledgeable.

Achzib’s being within the lot of Asher would remind us of the constant necessity to guard against “making a lie.”  Purity of motive in all we do is essential to the happiness which Asher represents.

Remembering that Canaanite means trafficker, the lesson of Asher’s leaving the Canaanite in possession of Achzib is easily read.  All of the evils referred to above are unfortunately all too common in our midst today.  The “Canaanite” has been left in possession of “Achzib.”

Helbah means fatness.  The spiritual application of course is to the condition of the soul, so that Helbah’s being left in the possession of the Canaanite simply emphasizes that as we allow the principle of trafficking (i.e., having an impure motive) to govern our lives, there will be corresponding leanness of soul.  The condition of Christendom verifies that Asher’s failure is but the type of our own. 

Aphik means channel: restraint, the first meaning reminding us that we are to be the channels through which the water of life flows out to others, but Asher’s allowing the Canaanites to dwell there in their midst points to the fact that wherever we allow the slightest impurity of motive in what we do, we are diminishing the effectiveness of that channel. 

And the lesson of the second meaning restraint is also easily read.  It would remind us that “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Co 6:12), and the context emphasizes that since we have been bought with a price, we are not our own: our bodies are to be used for God’s glory.  1 Co 10:23 repeats that, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: All things are lawful for me but all things edify not,” but now the application is to our relationship with others.  Where the exercise of my Christian liberty might stumble a weak brother, I am to impose restraint upon myself so that the weak brother, instead of being stumbled, may be edified or built up.

An impure motive is offensive to God, and may result in my stumbling another believer.

Rehob meaning broad place (as modern “square, plaza”), is the last place mentioned in connection with Asher’s failure to take full possession of his portion.  It represents the “broad place” into which faith has brought us as believers.  As to the new life we possess, it is “broad” in every sense: it is abundant, it is eternal, and of such a nature that even here on earth it is unaffected by the normal vicissitudes of life.  It is paradoxical in that this “broad place” of blessing is available only to the man who steps by faith from the world’s “broad way, that leadeth to destruction” (Mt 7:13), and enters in by the strait (narrow) gate on to the narrow way that leads to heaven. 

Nor should we miss the significance of its coming immediately after Aphek.  If there are restraints upon us, they are for our good, and the exercise of them is found, in fact, to be no restraint at all, but rather the means by which we are brought into the “broad place” of the enjoyment of even greater liberty.  He Who said, I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), said also, “the truth shall make you free.... If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:32-36), and again, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

1:32.  “But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.”

Asher’s failure is greater than a casual reading would indicate.  It is emphasized that “Asher dwelt among the Canaanites, but since it is not said that they put the enemy to tribute, as did some of the other tribes, the implication appears to be that Asher may have dwelt there by permission of the enemy.   

Asher means happy, and since each tribe of Israel points to what should characterize us as God’s people, Asher is meant to remind us that of all the people on earth, we are those who have most reason to be happy.  It is difficult, however, to see how Asher could have enjoyed much happiness living as she did in the midst of an enemy she should have exterminated, and living moreover, if not as the subordinate, at best as no better than the equal of that enemy.  But as noted already, the Canaanite trafficker represents occupation with spiritual things for temporal rather than spiritual gain.  In other words, it is engagement in spiritual activity out of an impure motive.  Asher’s dwelling amongst the Canaanites therefore, is meant to warn us against the folly of trafficking in spiritual things: of doing anything that isn’t impelled by a pure motive.

1:33.  “Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, nor the inhabitants of Beth-anath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became tributaries unto them.”    

Naphtali, meaning my wrestling: my tortuosity, was the second son of Jacob by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid.  At the time of his birth Rachel declared, “With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali” (Ge 30:8).

Naphtali reminds us that we are also a people engaged in a warfare, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:12-13).

The Lord Himself gave the warning and the encouragement, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

Rachel spoke not only of having wrestled, but of having prevailed, and the Lord, while warning that we shall have tribulation, assures us also that we shall prevail, for He has overcome the world, and in Ro 8:35 it is written, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, etc.?” and Ro 8:37 declares, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

However long and arduous the battle, however much it may seem that the enemy is winning, the final outcome is never in doubt, “We are more than conquerors....”

It is to be noted also that Naphtali’s was the sixth lot, and six is the number of man, weakness, failure, sin....  In this God would remind us that because we are men still in their earthly bodies, and therefore subject to weakness and sin, we shall know much of failure in ourselves, but we are to look, not at self, but at Christ.  Peter, with his eyes off Christ, and on the waves, began to sink (Mt 14:30).  So will it be with us when we take our eyes off Him and look either at self or circumstances.

In the Epistles of John we find repeated assurances that we are overcomers, e.g., 1 Jn 2:13-14 “... ye have overcome the wicked one”; 1 Jn 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”; and again 1 Jn 5:4-5 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.... Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The lesson of Naphtali is that we are engaged in a warfare, but since the outcome is never in doubt, we are to fight with the confidence and courage of those already assured of victory.

There is, however, much in Christendom today to point to the fact that in the sphere of conflict with the forces of darkness, we too have simply put the “Canaanite” to tribute, when we should have exterminated him.  (For the significance of their putting the enemy to tribute, see comments on verse 28).

Beth-shemesh means house of the sun, and inasmuch as the sun has been from time immemorial a universal object of heathen worship (an idolatry of which Israel has also been guilty at times), the spiritual significance of this city may be related also to our own idolatry.

Since the sun rises in the east, the connection with that compass direction is also easily made, and, as noted in other studies, is a direction invariably associated in Scripture with departure from God.  The east’s being the source of natural light, (itself the symbol of natural intelligence as opposed to faith), immediately reminds us that Scripture has nothing good to say of the east, neither does it speak well of worldly wisdom (1 Co 1:17-31; 2:1-16).  Yet, as noted already, that same earthly wisdom is one of the gods worshipped today, even by believers.

That natural wisdom, of which Beth-shemesh appears to speak, lies within our inheritance also, and there is the very great danger that we, like Israel of old, may be guilty of bowing down to the goddess of earthly knowledge more often than we would care to admit, or even be aware of.  Are we, for example, as much concerned that our children “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as we are that they excel in the wisdom of the world?  Do we accord more respect to believers with high academic qualification than those without?  Do we attempt to apply the wisdom of the world to the solution of spiritual problems in our own lives, or in our assemblies?  Do we attempt to use the world’s methods in connection with spiritual work?  Do we attempt to employ its methods in connection with our worship?  One has but to look at what passes in Christendom today for worship to realize how very much we have allowed the world’s wisdom to replace God’s order.  Nothing but disaster will attend such attempts.

The present state of the Church declares all too clearly that we have put the “Beth-shemesh Canaanite” to tribute when we should have expelled him.  We have attempted to solve spiritual problems by use of the world’s wisdom, and we have attempted to do spiritual work by means of that same wisdom.

Beth-anath, meaning house of response and also house of affliction, would remind us that as this city lay within the lot of Naphtali, so does its spiritual counterpart form part of our inheritance here on earth. 

The very idea of response conjures up the thought of our responsibility to yield obedience to God’s commands, but it reminds us that Satan also seeks to secure our obedience to his evil inducements, so that invariably we find ourselves in the position of having to choose whether to obey the command of God or the inducement of Satan.

But Beth-anath speaks also of affliction, reminding us that not infrequently obedience to God brings affliction from the world.  The inducement to yield that obedience, however, comes from the knowledge that obedience to Satan’s enticements brings the affliction of chastisement, for God loves us too much to leave us to the tender mercies of one who would, if he could, destroy us.

A further inducement to respond obediently to God is that whatever affliction may come from the world as a result, it can last only for a little while, but for the unbeliever, the affliction that attends obedience to Satan is eternal.

It is significant, however that though Beth-anath was assigned to Naphtali, it remained under the control of the Canaanites, Naphtali being content to merely exact tribute.  That partial control, which should have been total, is an accurate foreshadowing of the spiritual condition prevailing in the professing church today.  In the matter of response to God’s commands, it is painfully apparent that we too have left “Beth-anath” in the hand of the “Canaanite,” we being satisfied to maintain merely the appearance of control.  The price of blessing, however, is total, not partial obedience, for God will not share His glory.  His command is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Lk 10:27); and again, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways” (Pr 23:26).  Note also the many references in Scripture to a whole heart.  God will be satisfied with nothing less.

1:34.  “And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley.”

Dan means judging: a judge, reminding us that we are a people who are not only to pass judgment, but who will also be judged at the judgment seat of Christ.  Judgment begins at the house of God (1 Pe 4:17), but we are informed that “... if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Co 11:31); in other words, if we judged our lives according God’s Word, i.e., lived in obedience, there would be nothing to bring the judgment of God upon us.

Amorite, however, means a sayer, which makes the lesson easy to read.  This enemy represents talk or profession, and surely no one will dare to deny that invariably our conduct contradicts, rather than complements, our profession.

We have noted already that a mountain represents, not only a king or kingdom, but also the place of separation, it being necessary, not only that we keep ourselves separate from the world, but also that we have a time reserved each day to be “on the mountain” alone with God, above the distractions of the world.  Those seasons, however, cannot constitute the whole of our lives.  They are to be used to equip us to live for God in the world, without being of it.  They are to enable us to bear fruit for God.  That is what the valley speaks of.  It is the place where we are to labor, and bear fruit.  The Amorite’s occupation of the valley, and his compelling Dan to dwell only on the mountain, points to a condition all too obvious in Christendom today.  We talk much about separation from the world, but that is all many a Christian life consists of: we refrain from evil, but we fail to do good, to produce fruit for God.

The Danites might walk through the valley, but the Amorites would not permit them to work there.  It is the same in Christendom today.  We walk through the world, but without producing any fruit for God.  We “don’t drink, we don’t smoke, we don’t dance....” but neither do we preach the Gospel, or produce in our lives the fruits of the Spirit (Ga 5:22).  As it was then, so is it now: the “Amorite” has forced us into the “mountain,” and refuses to allow us to dwell in the “valley.”  

1:35.  “But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.”

Heres means the sun, and is believed to be the same as Beth-shemesh.  (The location of the Beth-shemesh of verse 33 mentioned in connection with Naphtali, is unknown).  Heres therefore would appear to have much the same spiritual significance as Beth-shemesh, i.e., mere human intelligence or worldly knowledge.

Aijalon means deer-field: a large stag, and since Christ and the believer are both spoken of under the figure of a deer or hart, this may be to remind us that Aijalon represents the place that God wants His own to occupy.  The deer-field would speak of pasture for deer, so that the lesson becomes a warning against allowing the enemy to have anything whatsoever to do with the Word as our spiritual food.  Many a believer has made shipwreck of his Christian life by allowing his faith in the Scriptures to be undermined by the false teaching of the world’s intellectuals.

The field represents the world as the sphere of our service, as the Lord Himself said, “The field is the world” (Mt 13:38).  We are to be busy sowing the good seed of the Gospel in the world.

Shaalbim means he regarded the hearts: he regarded the lions, and while the lesson is obscure, one thought suggests itself: God is the One, Who by His Word, is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  Christ and Satan are both spoken of under the figure of a lion (Satan, the “roaring lion ... seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pe 5:8); and Christ, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Re 5:5).  Perhaps the lesson is that the God Who reads the thoughts of believer and unbeliever alike, is the same One Who also watches the “lions” who would ravage His “deer,” and who will not permit the “lion” to go beyond what He permits.

Since Dan was not descended from Joseph, the question arises, Why is it said here that “the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed”?  Since Joseph, meaning let him add, is very clearly a type of Christ, it may be to remind us that in spite of much failure on our part, the ultimate victory will be secured by the Lord Jesus Christ.  The “Canaanite” may temporarily usurp the place that belongs to us, but eventually he will be expelled.  In that the Amorites became tributaries, God reveals, not only the delinquency of Dan, but also the fact that in the final analysis all things are made to serve the purposes of God.

1:36.  “And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.”

Akrabbim means scorpions; and “the rock” is believed by many to be literally Sela or Petra, the old rocky stronghold of the Edomites, a city carved out of the face of the mountain, and which disappeared from history for almost two thousand years, being discovered just a little over a hundred years ago, standing today virtually unchanged by the passage of those two millennia.  That same city is also believed by many to be the place where the persecuted Jewish remnant will find refuge from the beast in the Tribulation.  There may perhaps be significance to the fact that the border which has as one terminal the place associated with scorpions, symbol of Satan, has as its other terminal “the rock,” symbol of Christ.  He is the believers Rock of refuge from all the malignant hatred of Satan.  The border of the enemy Amorite didn’t extend beyond the rock.  Satan can’t go beyond what the Lord permits.

[Judges 2]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough