The corresponding letter to this chapter is Aleph – head, as in Creator, King, the head of a bull appointed for sacrifice, etc.
This is also the Seventh scroll in order number. It is appropriate since seven corresponds with Zayin- a focal point of sustenance and struggle. We see constant struggles in the lives of the people.
This scroll seems to have been written by Samuel. It must have been written around 1025 B.C. It is a contrast from victory to defeat. We have slavery, bondage, oppression and decline. The flesh seemed to take over once victory had been given. Many times in our lives when things go well we tend to forget G-d. We should not only remember Him when things go bad but He should be a constant companion and friend even in the time of blessings. The human nature tends to get soft and there seems less reason to have faith. The L-rd however still comes through for His people. He also helps them in their oppression and even in their apostasy through judges. There are three kinds of judges. A warrior judge: Gideon and Samson. Samson is another type of Yeshua. We also have Priest judges like Eli. We also have prophet judges like Samuel. We see here a need for a righteous King. Only Yeshua HaMashiach will fulfill this. He is Prophet, Priest and King.
Shof’tim 1:1 Now it came about after the death of Y’hoshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the L-RD, saying, "Who shall go up first for us against the Kena’ani (Canaanites), to fight against them?"
Because the Canaanites had not been driven out they again become a nuisance. Disobedience brought oppression. The Canaanites were a wicked people and deserved G-d’s judgment. Maybe they also became worse and thought it was a good time to cause trouble because the leader Y’hoshua was gone. Corresponding to the meaning of the chapter the head or the Creator is asked through the Urim and Thummim.
Shof’tim 1:2 And the L-RD said, "Y’hudah shall go up; look, I have given the land into his hand."
Why Y’hudah? Probably because our Messiah is from the tribe of Y’hudah and would be the ultimate conquer of all the nations. This is a foreshadowing.
Shof’tim 1:3-7 Then Y’hudah said to Shim’on his brother, "Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Kena’ani (Canaanites); and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you." So Simeon went with him. And Y’hudah went up, and the L-RD gave the Kena’ani (Canaanites), and the P’rizi (Perizzites) into their hands; and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. And they found Adoni-Bezek in Bezek and fought against him and they defeated the Kena’ani and the P’rizi. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up scraps under my table; as I have done, so G-d has repaid me." So they brought him to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and he died there.
Cut off his thumbs and big toes – Without the thumb it would be difficult for the king to fight his enemies. Cutting off his big toes would make it difficult for him to walk. We really don’t think much about our big toes, but when you stub your toe you suddenly realize what an important part of the body it is.
G-d has repaid me – This king seems to be acknowledging his wrongdoing in the past and he belief that he is being punished for it.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, G-d is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
Shof’tim 1:8-16 Then the sons of Y’hudah fought against Yerushalayim and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. And afterward the sons of Y’hudah went down to fight against the Kena’ani living in the hill country and in the Negev and in the lowland. So Y’hudah went against the Kena’ani who lived in Hevron (now the name of Hevron formerly was Kiryat - Arba); and they struck Sheshai and Achiman and Talmai. Then from there he went against the inhabitants of D’vir (now the name of D’vir formerly was Kiryat - Sefer). And Kalev said, "The one who attacks Kiryat-Sefer and captures it, I will even give him my daughter Akhsah for a wife." And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Kalev's younger brother, captured it; so he gave him his daughter Akhsah for a wife. Then it came about when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. Then she alighted from her donkey, and Kalev said to her, "What do you want?" And she said to him, "Give me a blessing, since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Kalev gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. And the descendants of the Keini, Moshe' father-in-law, went up from the city of palms with the sons of Y’hudah, to the wilderness of Y’hudah which is in the south of Arad; and they went and lived with the people.
This was covered in Y’hoshua 15:15-19
The city of palms – would be the area around Yericho, since the city itself was destroyed.
Shof’tim 1:17-21 Then Y’hudah went with Shim’on his brother, and they struck the Kena’ani living in Tz’fat (Zephath), and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah. And Y’hudah took Azah (Gaza) with its territory and Ashkelon with its territory and Ekron with its territory. Now the L-RD was with Y’hudah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots. Then they gave Hevron to Kalev, as Moshe had promised; and he drove out from there the three sons of Anak. But the sons of Binyamin (Benjamin) did not drive out the Y’vusi (Jebusites) who lived in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem); so the Y’vusi (Jebusites) have lived with the sons of Binyamin in Yerushalayim to this day.
The city of Tz’fat had been devoted to pagan gods. After it was destroyed it was totally devoted to G-d. The new name was Hormah. The following discussion from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary is interesting: “In this passage there is interesting interplay between two different meanings of the one Hebrew root. The same root that produces the noun (herem), meaning that which is devoted to or sacred to the gods of the non-Israelites and hence offensive to the G-d of Israel, also produces the verbal (haram), which means ‘destroyed.’”
Finally Kalev (Caleb) took on the giants that intimidated 10 of the 12 spies years earlier. He was one of the 2 spies that was not intimidated by them.
B’midbar (Numbers) 13:33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
Iron chariots – It appears that iron was not in great use during this time by the Israelites and the enemy had an advantage over them.
Shof’tim 1:22-26 Likewise the house of Yosef went up against Beit-El (Bethel), and the L-RD was with them. And the house of Yosef spied out Beit-El (now the name of the city was formerly Luz). And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, "Please show us the entrance to the city and we will treat you kindly." So he showed them the entrance to the city, and they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go free. And the man went into the land of the Hittim and built a city and named it Luz which is its name to this day.
Because he cooperated with the Israelites this man and his family was spared. This is not the first time that happened. Rahav and her household were spared when she helped the spies that entered Israel.
Shof’tim 1:27-28 But M’nasheh did not take possession of Beit-Sh’an and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Yivle’am and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Kena’ani persisted in living in that land. And it came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Kena’ani to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.
Any lack of total obedience can bring struggle.
Shof’tim 1:29-33 Neither did Efrayim drive out the Kena’ani (Canaanites) who were living in Gezer; so the Kena’ani (Canaanites) lived in Gezer among them. Z’vulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Kena’ani (Canaanites) lived among them and became subject to forced labor. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Akko, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Afik, or of Rechov. So the Asheri lived among the Kena’ani, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out. Naftali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beit-Shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beit-Anat, but lived among the Kena’ani (Canaanites), the inhabitants of the land; and the inhabitants of Beit-Shemesh and Beit-Anat became forced labor for them.
Because these pagan nations were not completely destroyed or run out of the country, they later became a stumbling block to the Israelites.
Shof’tim 1:34-36 Then the Emori forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley; yet the Emori persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Ayalon and in Sha’alvim; but when the power of the house of Yosef grew strong, they became forced labor. And the border of the Emori ran from the ascent of the Scorpion, from Rock (Sela) and upward.
Dan never was able to conquer the territory given to them. They failed to trust that G-d would lead them to victory. Later they migrated to the far north and became an idolatrous tribe.