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Verses 1-36


Israel’s incomplete conquest (1:1-36)

The writer of the book is concerned with events ‘after the death of Joshua’ (see 1:1), but before describing these events he gives a background to them by outlining Israel’s conquest of Canaan under Joshua. First, he summarizes the attack led by Judah and Simeon in the southern part of the central highlands (1:1-7; see notes on Joshua 10:1-43).

Jerusalem was among the highland towns that Joshua captured. Later, however, it was retaken by the enemy, so that by the time Benjamin received Jerusalem in its tribal allotment, the enemy was firmly in control of the city again (8; cf. v. 21). Israel then carried the conquest south to Hebron, where Caleb won a great victory (9-10; cf. v. 20; see notes on Joshua 14:6-15). Caleb’s boldness encouraged Othniel, who spread the conquest even further (11-15; see notes on Joshua 15:13-19).

Although the Israelite armies won control of the hill country, they were not able to maintain control of the plains, being driven back into the hills by the Canaanite chariot forces. Consequently, towns captured by Israel on the coastal plain of southern Palestine were later recovered by the Philistines (16-21). (The towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath and Ekron were known as ‘the five cities of the Philistines’; cf. 3:3; 16:23; Joshua 13:3.)

Having outlined Israel’s conquest in southern Canaan, the writer goes back in the story to mention part of Israel’s earlier conquest in central Canaan (22-26; see notes on Joshua 8:1-29). As the Israelites spread their conquest farther north they gained control of the hill country, but could not gain control in the plainland regions where the Canaanite chariot forces operated (27-30; see notes on Joshua 17:7-18). In the far northern tribal areas of Naphtali and Asher, the Canaanites maintained even greater control (31-33), and the central coastal tribe of Dan was eventually forced out of its territory completely (34-36; see notes on Chapters 17 and 18 below).

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