Judges 1:33-36: Naphthali and Dan’s Unfaithfulness in the Conquest

Verse 33:[1] (Josh. 19:38) Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, nor the inhabitants of Beth-anath; but he (Judg. 1:32) dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath (Judg. 1:30) became tributaries unto them.

Beth-shemesh; a place differing from that Beth-shemesh, Joshua 15:10.


Verse 34:[2] And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley…

[The Amorite confined the children of Dan, etc.] This Tribe was considered the worst of all; but it is not recorded with any fault belonging to them. They are kept completely away from the plain, I believe, by the multitude of chariots, as in verse 19. Hence they Danites were compelled to seek other habitations; which expedition is narrated in Joshua 19 and Judges 18 (Bonfrerius).

To the valley: that is, Into the plain country; which was the occasion of that expedition for the getting of new quarters; of which we read Joshua 19; Judges 18.


Verse 35:[3] But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres (Josh. 19:42) in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed (Heb. was heavy[4]), so that they became tributaries.

[And he dwelt in mount Heres] The Septuagint has, in Heres, where were she-bears, etc. For, although there are more and larger bears in cold regions, nevertheless they are found also in warm regions; like in Judea, 1 Samuel 17:34; 2 Kings 2:24 (Lapide, Bonfrerius). The Scripture here indicates that the Danites were driven into the mountains in such a way that, nevertheless, the Amorites held three of their cities in the mountains, namely, Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim (Bonfrerius). Moreover, the Septuagint renders וּבְשַׁעַלְבִים, and in Shaalbim, in which are foxes. In Hebrew foxes are called שׁוּעֲלִים (Bonfrerius). As in Arabic a fox is העלב, so in the dialect of the Philistines it was שַׁעֲלַב (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:13:855).

[And the hand of the house of Joseph was heavy (thus Pagnine, Montanus, Septuagint), וַתִּכְבַּד] And it increased in power, etc. (Jonathan, Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus, similarly the Arabic). But when the hand of the house of Jospeh grew heavy, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). [Some connect it with what precedes in this manner:] And he willed, that is, but while he was trying with all his strength, to dwell in, etc., then the hand of the house of Joseph was heavy, that is, prevailed over those Amorites; that is to say, the children of Joseph overcame and overthrew them (Vatablus). These words are able to be explained, either actively, which is to say, the house of Joseph oppressed their enemies; or passively, which is to say, it was oppressed by them. Neither does it appear from the text which of these is understood (Lyra). The sense is, the Ephraimites were a help to the Danites against the Amorites (Tirinus, similarly Bonfrerius). God willed the nearness of the places to be protection of the Danites (Montanus’ Commentary). The Hebrew text does not clearly express this, but the Septuagint version expresses it, καὶ ἐβαρύνθη χεὶρ οἴκου Ιωσηφ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἀμοῤῥαῖον, and the hand of the house of Joseph was heavy upon the Amorite (Bonfrerius).

Of the house of Joseph, that is, of the Ephraimites, who helped their brethren the Danites against the Amorites, and that with good success.


Verse 36:[5] And the coast of the Amorites was (Num. 34:4; Josh. 15:3) from the going up to Akrabbim (or, Maaleh-akrabbim[6]), from the rock, and upward.

[The border of the Amorite was from the Ascent of the scorpion, etc.[7]] That all these places were near to the Josephites, we learned from the division of lots (Montanus’ Commentary). Others otherwise: that is to say, It is not surprising that the Amorites were subdued with such difficulty; for they were dispersed far and wide throughout Canaan, especially toward the Southern parts, such that the borders of all Canaan and the borders of their habitation were the same (Bonfrerius). This he says, that the Borders of the Amorites began in the Southern part of the Holy Land; that is, their dominion was greatly extended, namely, even unto, etc., and it was stretch out Northward unto Dan (Vatablus). The Ascent of the scorpion was a place in the Southern part of Canaan (Vatablus, Bonfrerius), as it is evident from Numbers 34:4; Joshua 15:3 (Bonfrerius).

Akrabbim was in the southern part of Canaan, Joshua 15:2, 3, from whence it went up towards the north. This is added to show the great power and large extent of this people.

[Petra, and higher places; that is, they appeared as their border (Bonfrerius); מֵהַסֶּ֖לַע וָמָֽעְלָה׃] From that rock and upward (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus). Moreover, Petra was a city in the extreme borders of the land toward the South, as Josephus testifies in his Antiquities 3:2. And upward, that is, beyond the city of Petra toward the peaks of those Southern mountains they extended their habitation. And of this Amorite dwelling in the mountains understand Deuteronomy 1:44 (Bonfrerius).

[1] Hebrew: נַפְתָּלִ֗י לֹֽא־הוֹרִ֞ישׁ אֶת־יֹשְׁבֵ֤י בֵֽית־שֶׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ וְאֶת־יֹשְׁבֵ֣י בֵית־עֲנָ֔ת וַיֵּ֕שֶׁב בְּקֶ֥רֶב הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י יֹשְׁבֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֵ֤י בֵֽית־שֶׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ וּבֵ֣ית עֲנָ֔ת הָי֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם לָמַֽס׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּלְחֲצ֧וּ הָאֱמֹרִ֛י אֶת־בְּנֵי־דָ֖ן הָהָ֑רָה כִּי־לֹ֥א נְתָנ֖וֹ לָרֶ֥דֶת לָעֵֽמֶק׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיּ֤וֹאֶל הָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ לָשֶׁ֣בֶת בְּהַר־חֶ֔רֶס בְּאַיָּל֖וֹן וּבְשַֽׁעַלְבִ֑ים וַתִּכְבַּד֙ יַ֣ד בֵּית־יוֹסֵ֔ף וַיִּהְי֖וּ לָמַֽס׃

[4] Hebrew: וַתִּכְבַּד.

[5] Hebrew: וּגְבוּל֙ הָאֱמֹרִ֔י מִֽמַּעֲלֵ֖ה עַקְרַבִּ֑ים מֵהַסֶּ֖לַע וָמָֽעְלָה׃

[6] Hebrew: מִֽמַּעֲלֵ֖ה עַקְרַבִּ֑ים.

[7] עַקְרַבִּים/Akrabbim signifies scorpions.

1 thought on “Judges 1:33-36: Naphthali and Dan’s Unfaithfulness in the Conquest

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘Naphtali also permitted the Canaanites to live among them (Judges 1:33), only by degrees they got them so far under as to exact contributions from them.

    Dan was so far from extending his conquests where his lot lay that, wanting spirit to make head against the Amorites, he was forced by them to retire into the mountains and inhabit the cities there, but durst not venture into the valley, where, it is probable, the chariots of iron were, Judges 1:34. Nay, and some of the cities in the mountains were kept against them, Judges 1:35. Thus were they straitened in their possessions, and forced to seek for more room at Laish, a great way off, Judges 18:1, etc. In Jacob’s blessing Judah is compared to a lion, Dan to a serpent; now observe how Judah with his lion-like courage prospered and prevailed, but Dan with all his serpenting subtlety could get no ground; craft and artful management do not always effect the wonders they pretend to. What Dan came short of doing, it seems, his neighbours the Ephraimites in part did for him; they put the Amorites under tribute, Judges 1:35.

    Upon the whole matter it appears that the people of Israel were generally very careless both of their duty and interest in this thing; they did not what they might have done to expel the Canaanites and make room for themselves. And, 1. It was owing to their slothfulness and cowardice. They would not be at the pains to complete their conquests; like the sluggard, that dreamed of a lion in the way, a lion in the streets, they fancied insuperable difficulties, and frightened themselves with winds and clouds from sowing and reaping. 2. It was owing to their covetousness; the Canaanites’ labour and money would do them more good (they thought) than their blood, and therefore they were willing to let them live among them, that they might make a hand of them. 3. They had not that dread and detestation of idolatry which they ought to have had; they thought it a pity to put these Canaanites to the sword, though the measure of their iniquity was full, thought it would be no harm to let them live among them, and that they should be in no danger from them. 4. The same thing that kept their fathers forty years out of Canaan kept them now out of the full possession of it, and that was unbelief. Distrust of the power and promise of God lost them their advantages, and ran them into a thousand mischiefs.’

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