Judges 1:1-36

Daybreak for Students

Judges 1:1-36

Judges 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? — Judges 1:1

The human family needs leadership. God designed us that way, and a righteous leader is a treasure. I have been blessed in my time in the Gospel to have wonderful servants of God as teachers, ministers, and pastors. They have given godly counsel in times of need, and encouragement in periods of trial.

Occasionally, because of circumstances such as military service, job requirements, or illness, we may find ourselves without a direct leader, as Israel did at this time. Even in such situations, God will direct us if we determine to obey Him.

One of our veteran ministers tells of how he heard about salvation during World War II when he was on the USS Enterprise. There was a Bible class on board that ship. None of the young men in that class had been “trained up” to be leaders in the Gospel, but they knew they were saved and were telling others about it. These men invited this young sailor to one of their meetings in the ship’s library. Although they had no special singers or official preacher, God sent conviction, and that night alone on the flight deck after their service, the sailor connected with God. He said those young men told him, “We know what happened to you — you got saved!” God was leading those young men, despite the lack of human leadership, and He will lead us also if we are willing to follow Him.

The Children of Israel had been blessed with excellent leaders: Moses and Joshua. Joshua had been the obvious successor to Moses. However, when Joshua died, he did not appoint a successor. God was supposed to be the ruler of the nation.

God wants to lead us too. If we are blessed to have godly leaders over us, we can be thankful and quick to heed their instructions and counsel. If our circumstances cause us to be without direct leadership, we can trust God to guide us one step at a time.


Chapter 1 immediately sets the tone for the Book of Judges. It starts on the right note, with the Children of Israel looking to God for direction after the death of Joshua. However, it declines from there.

The Israelites had been given the land, but had not yet possessed it all. They proceeded from the victories of Judah, under God’s direction, to a series of limited victories where the Israelites partially possessed the land. In some instances, the previous inhabitants filtered back in, or remained living among the Israelites. The children of Israel had been clearly told to drive out the inhabitants of the land and to rid themselves of the idol worshipers (Numbers 33:51-55), but they did not do so. They then suffered the consequences of this pollution (Joshua 23:12-13).

All of the tribal groups that Israel was trying to conquer in the Promised Land were called Canaanites. Their city-states were self-governed and had to be independently overcome. For example, Adoni-bezek was the ruler of Bezek and had been a severe tyrant. When he was captured, his thumbs and big toes were cut off, making him ineffective militarily and humiliating him, just as he had previously done to others. Israel conquered the city of Jerusalem (verse 8), but did not actually occupy it (verse 21) or retain control of it until David’s time.

Iron-working skills gave some of the Canaanites superior weaponry suitable for flat ground. However, the Canaanites’ idolatrous religion was the most effective method of defeating Israel. Their religion was exceedingly wicked, yet it attracted the Israelites.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Conditions before the period of the judges
     A.   Political conditions: incomplete conquest (1:1-36)
           1.   Judah’s victories and failure (1:1-20)
           2.   Benjamin’s failure (1:21)
           3.   Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s victories and failures (1:22-29)
                 a.   The victories (1:22-26)
                 b.   Manasseh’s failure (1:27-28)
                 c.   Ephraim’s failure (1:29)
           4.   Zebulun’s failure (1:30)
           5.   Asher’s failure (1:31-32)
           6.   Naphtali’s failure (1:33)
           7.   Dan’s retreat (1:34-36)


  1. Who did God say should fight against the Canaanites first? 

  2. As we read the opening chapter of the Book of Judges, in what direction do you think Israel was headed? What would you expect to follow and why?

  3. Why do you think that God told the Israelites to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land? What happened because of their failure to do so?

  4. How do you think the successes and failures in Judges 1 could be applied to us today in our personal walk with God?


We must seek God for direction and follow His instructions. At times our circumstances may seem daunting, but we must still follow the leadership that God gives us.