Judges 1:16, 17: The Southern Campaign

[circa 1425 BC] Verse 16:[1] (Judg. 4:11, 17; 1 Sam. 15:6; 1 Chron. 2:55; Jer. 35:2) And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city (Deut. 34:3) of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of (Num. 21:1) Arad; (Num. 10:32) and they went and dwelt among the people.

[Now, the children of the Kenite] That is, the descendants of the Kain, that is, Jethro the Kenite (Vatablus). It appears to be a cognomen of Jethro (Drusius). Thus he was named after his people, Numbers 24:21 (Junius)

Children of the Kenite, that is, of Jethro, so called from the people from whom he descended, Numbers 24:21, 22. And whatsoever he did, it is evident that his posterity came into Canaan with the Israelites, and were there seated with them. See Judges 4:11, 17; 5:24; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Chronicles 2:55.

[Kinsman of Moses] That is, by affinity[2] (Bonfrerius). Mention is made of these in this place among the affairs of Othniel, because they ever lived in the closest relationship with his family (Martyr). He treats of those Kenites that had attended Jethro, Judges 4:11. For otherwise this nation was among those condemned (Grotius).

[They went up] That is, they had joined themselves in that expedition of Judah (Junius).

[From the city of palms] Question 1: What then is this? Responses: 1. En-gedi, which was famous for its palm-groves, and thence had the name Hazezon-tamar, Genesis 14:7[3] (certain interpreters in Malvenda). 2. Jericho (Munster, Drusius, Grotius, Junius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Montanus’ Commentary, Martyr). See Deuteronomy 34:3. That entire place was planted with palm-groves, as is witnessed by Pliny in his Natural History[4] 5:15, Josephus in his Jewish Wars 5:4, and Strabo[5] in his Geography 16:763 (Drusius). Moses had promised to the Kenites journeying with him whatever was best, Numbers 10:29. Thence this place either was given to them by the Judahites; or was chosen by them, as the most pleasant and fertile, as Josphus testifies in his Antiquities 5:3, and as most secure from molestation by the Canaanites (since in it had been the camp of the Israelites at Gilgal for many years) (Bonfrerius). Question 2: How did they dwell in Jericho, which was now destroyed? Response: Perhaps it had been repaired, and was called the city of palms (Drusius). The city of palms was situated in the land of Jericho (Vatablus). Jericho is here set down in the place of the territory of that city (Menochius, similarly Bonfrerius, Grotius). Question 3: What is the reason why they might migrate from there into the desert, etc.? Responses: They assign a variety of causes here. 1. Because they were averse to this luxury and softer way of life, and were seeking seclusion, and quiet for contemplation (Bonfrerius). That is, From that time they were beginning the solitary and monastic life (Serarius, Tirinus). 2. So that they migh learn the Law from the tribe of Judah and Othniel (Rabbis in Lapide). But this was rather to be learned from the High Priest and Levites[6] (Lapide). 3. So that they might flee from fellowship with the Canaanites (certain interpreters in Munster), among whom they appear to have dwelt there (Drusius). 4. Because they were moved by the glory and happiness of the Tribe of Judah (Vatablus). 5. It was more pleasing to them to cohabit with the Tribe of Judah (Tostatus). The Tribe of the Judahites, liberal in character and habit, and more forward to foster friendships, where it settled for itself enough and more, provided for the Kenites the spaces without cites and suitable for flocks; thus consulting the interests of their friends and their own security (Montanus’ Commentary). 6. Because in the distribution of the land concerning the tribe of Judah they obtain by lot an inheritance, to which, with Hebron and Debir conquered, they went (Martyr out of Jonathan). Now, as to why they might lived hitherto around Jericho, since the Scripture does not relate the reason, I am content to remain ignorant (Martyr).

Out of the city of palm trees, that is, from Jericho, so called Deuteronomy 34:3; not the city, which was utterly destroyed; but the territory belonging to it, where it seems they were seated as in a most pleasant, and fruitful, and safe place, according to the promise made by Moses to their father, Numbers 10:31, 32, and whence they might remove, either to avoid the society or molestation of the neighbouring Canaanites; or out of love to the children of Judah, whom they went to; or to avoid temptations to luxury, and exercise themselves in self-denial and contempt of the present evil world, and the lusts thereof; as may be thought from Jeremiah 35:6, etc.; or for some other cause unknown to us at this distance.

[To the south of Arad] The sense is that the southern part of this desert was sloping toward Arad, and not that it was the southern desert with respect to Arad; for then it would follow that the land of Arad was within the land of Canaan: which is false, because Israelites that had not yet entered, but also those that were never going to enter, the land of Canaan, according to Numbers 14, nevertheless entered the domain of the King of Arad, Numbers 21. But that land of Arad was in the land of the Amalekites. And this harmonizes sufficiently: for the Kenites dwelt near the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15 (Tostatus). Arad was a city, or a small region, near the Idumæans and Amalekites; in such a way that this desert was plainly on the extremities of Canaan (Bonfrerius). Arad was a city situated in the extreme limits of the South (Drusius). Nevertheless, they did not remain there perpetually, or at least not all, as it is evident from Judges 4, where they dwell near Kadesh, which was in the tribe of Naphtali, the most Northern of all (Bonfrerius).

In the south of Arad; in the southern part of the land of Canaan, where Arad was, Numbers 21:1.

[And they dwelt with him, וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אֶת־הָעָֽם׃] And he went, and dwelt with the people (Montanus) [similarly the Septuagint and Jonathan, but in the plural, they dwelt, etc.]. In Hebrew the plural is changed into the singular (Bonfrerius). Departing, they dwelt with the people (Munster, Tigurinus). He proceeded, etc. (Pagnine). That is, the Prince of the Kenites (Vatablus). For he (that is, the Kenite [Drusius, Piscator]) had departed so that he might dwell with the people (Junius and Tremellius); see Numbers 10:29 (Junius). Question: With what people? Responses: 1. With the children of Judah (Vatablus, Tostatus, Bonfrerius). 2. With the people, that is, the Israelites (Grotius, Dutch). Thus we see that at that time a lot was given to proselytes, no less than to citizens (Grotius). Some thus translate it, For he (that is, the Kenite) was with them, and he had remained, or had dwelt, with the people, namely, Israel. See Numbers 10:29; 24:21, 22; 1 Samuel 15:6 (Dutch).

They went, that is, some of them, for others of them dwelt in the contrary quarter, in the most northern part of the land. Among the people; Hebrew, that people,[7] to wit, those children of Judah that lived there.


Verse 17:[8] (Judg. 1:3) 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 (Num. 21:3; Josh. 19:4) Hormah.

Judah went with Simeon his brother, according to his promise, Judges 1:3, and the laws of justice and gratitude.

[And they smote the Canaanite in Zephath…and the name of the city was called Hormah] I think that the vow, made in Numbers 21 concerning the destruction of the cities of the King of Arad, is here fulfilled. This is shown, 1. by the ancient name of Arad being used here; 2. by the name Hormah: 3. it does not appear why they might compose this new anathema. Objection: But this place is called Zephath, not Arad. Responses: 1. It could have had two names. 2. There is able to be one name, namely, Zephath, of the city, and the other, that is, Arad, of the region, in which there are many cities, whence in Numbers 21 it is said, I will utterly destroy its cities, etc. 3. The name of Hormah was imposed upon the entire place; but he makes mention of Zephath, because it was the principal city, or the first conquered (Bonfrerius). Perhaps they anathematized this city, because they fought against Zephath, and were not able to prevail, but were defeated, etc. (Tostatus).

Hormah; either, 1. The same place so destroyed and called, Numbers 21:3, and so what was there vowed is here executed; or, 2. Some other place called by the same name upon the like occasion, which was frequent among the Hebrews. This seems more probable, 1. Because this was but one city, that divers cities, Numbers 21:2, 3. 2. Because that seems to have been done in Moses’s time, though interpreters generally think otherwise; of which see my notes there.

[1] Hebrew: וּבְנֵ֣י קֵינִי֩ חֹתֵ֙ן מֹשֶׁ֜ה עָל֙וּ מֵעִ֤יר הַתְּמָרִים֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה מִדְבַּ֣ר יְהוּדָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּנֶ֣גֶב עֲרָ֑ד וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אֶת־הָעָֽם׃

[2] That is, by marriage.

[3] Hazezon-tamar is here identified with En-gedi, which was on the western shore of the Dead Sea. חַצֲצֺן/Hazezon may be related to חָצַץ, to divide into swarms; תָּמָר/tamar, signifies palm-tree.

[4] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a celebrated Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier.  In his Natural History, Pliny in encyclopedic fashion attempts to cover the entire field of human knowledge as it stood in his day.  It remains an invaluable resource in the fields of history, geography, literature, and Biblical studies.

[5] Strabo (c. 63 BC-c. 24 AD) was a Greek geographer and historian.

[6] See, for example, Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:10; Malachi 2:7.

[7] Hebrew: הָעָם.

[8] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ יְהוּדָה֙ אֶת־שִׁמְע֣וֹן אָחִ֔יו וַיַּכּ֕וּ אֶת־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י יוֹשֵׁ֣ב צְפַ֑ת וַיַּחֲרִ֣ימוּ אוֹתָ֔הּ וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שֵׁם־הָעִ֖יר חָרְמָֽה׃

1 thought on “Judges 1:16, 17: The Southern Campaign

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘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, Judges 1:16. These were the posterity of Jethro, who either went with Israel when Moses invited them (Numbers 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, Numbers 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, Judges 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.’

Leave a Comment