Problem: God couldn't defeat chariots
Verses: Judges 1:19; Status: Weak

This is Judges 1:19:

And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. (ESV)

"Judah" refers to the tribe of Judah. Since the man Judah was dead by this point, the word "he" might seem to be about God. However, it also refers to the tribe. To prove this, here's a very similar example, Judges 1:17:

And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. (ESV)

Again, since Judah and Simeon were already dead, this can only mean the tribe of Judah and "his brother" the tribe of Simeon. So, in the same way that "his" in 1:17 does not have its normal meaning, neither does "he" in 1:19. So "he" does not refer to God.

With that out of the way, we can come to the real issue. Although you might expect the men of Judah to achieve total victory with God on their side, in general it doesn't seem to work like that. The verse has its humourous interpretation, but it's not a real issue unless you think God's help is always total and absolute.

By the way, I often criticise the NIV, so it's only fair that I note that, in this case, its interpretation makes things much clearer than the more literal Bibles.

Updated: Summer 2008

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