It appears to me that the book begins with Israel being a Theocracy. It says, “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’ The Lord said, ‘Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.’” The book of Judges begins with Israel seeking God’s will. They are still a theocracy. God was their Commander-in-Chief. He was their King. At the end of the book, after many cycles of failure, repentance and deliverance, the Israelites are not satisfied with God as their King but demand that Samuel the Prophet of God give the nation a human King.  Fleenor says, “With Joshua gone from the scene, the Israelites lack leadership. Although it will not last, their first instinct is to seek God’s input. Rather than divide the tribes and fight the different people groups in the land concurrently, the Israelites realized that a progressive push against the remaining Canaanite people groups would be the most successful. God’s response is to send Judah against the Canaanites. Sending Judah makes good sense since Judah is the largest tribe at this point. The devastation created by Israel’s largest tribe would no doubt reinforce the psychological impact on the Canaanites already produced by the news of the Exodus.”

The designation “Canaanite” refers to the other nations that occupied the land of Canaan. One of those nations was explicitly identified as Canaanites, but there were six other residents in the land that were also referred to as Canaanites. These are the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and the Perizzites. They all occupied the land of Canaan and were descendants of Canaan, Noah’s grandson that was cursed when his father, Ham, uncovered Noah’s nakedness. The curse was not actually on Canaan himself but on his descendants. The curse made these seven tribes servants of the descendants of Shem. Many believe that the reason Noah cursed Canaan rather than Ham, who “uncovered his father’s nakedness,” was because the sin was that Ham had incestuous relations with his mother and Canaan was the offspring. The sexual sin was an attempt of Ham to usurp the role of family leader by sleeping with his father’s wife. Reuben acted similarly in Genesis, as did David’s son in the first book of Kings. So the curse fell on the one Ham wanted to become heir of the family blessing. Instead of the blessing, he got the curse.

The Canaanites’ subjugation to Shem’s descendants was fulfilling Noah’s curse on Canaan. The choice of Judah to lead the way was the fulfillment of Jacob’s blessing on Judah, where he said Judah would be the champion of his brothers and would lead the way in victory. Jacob’s blessing on his son Judah mentioned “the lion of the tribe of Judah.” This lion was symbolic of not only kingship but also victory and leadership. The leadership of the tribes will always be Judah and his descendants. Thus David slew the giant Goliath and conquered the lands for Israel. The rulership of the people was given to Judah and his descendants. The “scepter” would not depart from Judah’s tribe until Shiloh comes. Shiloh was referring to Jesus himself. The victory was promised to Israel under Judah’s leadership. God says, “I have given the land into his hands.” The victory over our spiritual enemies has been handed to the Lord Jesus. We can experience that victory by believing in the actual “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He has gone before us into the land where he prepares a place for us and has promised to return to take us to be with Him.