Campaigning in Canaan

“And so Judah went up and Yahweh gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into his hand — they smote at Bezek 10,000 men. And they encountered the Lord of Bezek in Bezek and they fought with him. They defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But the Lord of Bezek escaped and they pursued after him. They caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And the Lord of Bezek said, ‘Seventy Kings with thumbs and big toes cut off, I had gleaning under my table; as I have done, so God has taken restitution from me. And they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.”

(Judges 1:4-7)

One thing that must be remembered as we read these narratives is that campaigns such as these take time. We tend to think that as only a few short verses have transpired, not a lot of time has gone by. That is just not the case…it can’t be as campaigns do take time to organize and wage. That means that some of these things overlap with the events that will take place in subsequent verses. For example, the text describes Adoniy-Bezek (the Lord of Bezek) being taken to Jerusalem, but in verse 8, we find the record of the capture of Jerusalem by Judah’s men. This is not a contradiction in the text; it is simply a place where the one narrative overlaps with the following one, and thus, by the time that Judah captured the Lord of Bezek, his troops had also captured Jerusalem.

Also, it is important to put these campaigns into perspective. This is not Judah marching around with an army of 500 or a thousand men. When the Israelites left Egypt, scripture records that there were 600,000 men (implying that there were 600,000 men able to fight!) in the group (Exodus 12:37). Further, the Israelites have been in the wilderness for a generation with a growing population. Even if there were still only 600,000 fighting-age men when they established themselves in Canaan, that means that each tribe would have an army of about 50,000 soldiers. As it is reasonable to presume growth of the peoples, these numbers should be considered much higher. Thus, these campaigns being described in the first chapter are massive campaigns and the armies would have been capable of fighting on several front simultaneously (especially if multiple tribes are working together).

Adoniy, is simply the term, Lord, and so Adoniy-Bezek is the Lord or the Master of the city of Bezek…hence the importance of finding him and chasing him down. Interestingly enough, the chasing of him down not only pronounced that Bezek had fallen to the Israelites, but it also saw that justice was done to a wicked man. Seventy kings — lords of various cities that had been conquered — had been brought to Lord of Bezek’s table with thumbs and big toes (“the thumb of the foot”) cut off and then made to forage for scraps under the Lord of Bezek’s table, eating only table droppings as would a dog. Now he gets a taste of his own judgment. Justice is done on behalf of the pagan kings which Adoniy-Bezek had conquered.

Thus, Adoniy-Bezek was taken to Jerusalem to live out the rest of his days, dying in captivity under Judah’s lordship. And so, the Promised Land continues to be consolidated under the power of Israel. Again, much of this is overview that helps us transition from Joshua’s leadership into the leadership of the Judges.

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