Verses 9-20 (Judges 1:9-20)

We have here a further account of that glorious and successful campaign which Judah and Simeon made. 1. The lot of Judah was pretty well cleared of the Canaanites, yet not thoroughly. Those that dwelt in the mountain (the mountains that were round about Jerusalem) were driven out (Jdg. 1:9, 19), but those in the valley kept their ground against them, having chariots of iron, such as we read of, Josh. 17:16. Here the men of Judah failed, and thereby spoiled the influence which otherwise their example hitherto might have had on the rest of the tribes, who followed them in this instance of their cowardice, rather than in all the other instances of their courage. They had iron chariots, and therefore it was thought not safe to attack them: but had not Israel God on their side, whose chariots are thousands of angels (Ps. 68:17), before whom these iron chariots would be but as stubble to the fire? Had not God expressly promised by the oracle (Jdg. 1:2) to give them success against the Canaanites in this very expedition, without excepting those that had iron chariots? Yet they suffered their fears to prevail against their faith, they could not trust God under any disadvantages, and therefore durst not face the iron chariots, but meanly withdrew their forces, when with one bold stroke they might have completed their victories; and it proved of pernicious consequence. They did run well, what hindered them? Gal. 5:7. 2. Caleb was put in possession of Hebron, which, though given him by Joshua ten or twelve years before (as Dr. Lightfoot computes), yet being employed in public service, for the settling of the tribes, which he preferred before his own private interests, it seems he did not till now make himself master of; so well content was that good man to serve others, while he left himself to be served last; few are like-minded, for all seek their own, Phil. 2:20, 21. Yet now the men of Judah all came in to his assistance for the reducing of Hebron (Jdg. 1:10), slew the sons of Anak, and put him in possession of it, Jdg. 1:20. They gave Hebron unto Caleb. And now Caleb, that he might return the kindness of his countrymen, is impatient to see Debir reduced and put into the hands of the men of Judah, to expedite which he proffers his daughter to the person that will undertake to command in the siege of that important place, Jdg. 1:11, 12. Othniel bravely undertakes it, and wins the town and the lady (Jdg. 1:13), and by his wife?s interest and management with her father gains a very good inheritance for himself and his family, Jdg. 1:14, 15. We had this passage before, Josh. 15:16-19, where it was largely explained and improved. 3. Simeon got ground of the Canaanites in his border, Jdg. 1:17, 18. In the eastern part of Simeon?s lot, they destroyed the Canaanites in Zephath, and called it Hormah?destruction, adding this to some other devoted cities not far off, which they had some time ago, with good reason, called by that name, Num. 21:2, 3. And this perhaps was the complete performance of the vow they them made that they would utterly destroy these cities of the Canaanites in the south. In the western part they took Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, cities of the Philistines; they gained present possession of the cities, but, not destroying the inhabitants, the Philistines in process of time recovered the cities, and proved inveterate enemies to the Israel of God, and no better could come of doing their work by the halves. 4. The Kenites gained a settlement in the tribe of Judah, choosing it there rather than in any other tribe, because it was the strongest, and there they hoped to be safe and quiet, Jdg. 1:16. These were the posterity of Jethro, who either went with Israel when Moses invited them (Num. 10:29) or met them about the same place when they came up from their wanderings in the wilderness thirty-eight years after, and went with them then to Canaan, Moses having promised them that they should fare as Israel fared, Num. 10:32. They had at first seated themselves in the city of palm-trees, that is, Jericho, a city which never was to be rebuilt, and therefore the fitter for those who dwelt in tents, and did not mind building. But afterwards they removed into the wilderness of Judah, either out of their affection to that place, because solitary and retired, or out of their affection to that tribe, which perhaps had been in a particular manner kind to them. Yet we find the tent of Jael, who was of that family, far north, in the lot of Naphtali, when Sisera took shelter there, Jdg. 4:17. This respect Israel showed them, to let them fix where they pleased, being a quiet people, who, wherever they were, were content with a little. Those that molested none were molested by none. Blessed are the meek, for thus they shall inherit the earth.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary