Chapter 4

Failure of Zebulun           [Judges 1:30]





30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.




Zebulun (See Article 1.7; Zebulun, Tribe of) faced the same, problem that Judah, Benjamin, and the sons of Joseph faced; their failure to exterminate the pagan inhabitants of the land that God had given them. The debased Canaanites were a festering limb of the human race. After bearing with them for hundreds of years, God decided that the only solution was amputation, and committed the surgery to Israel. But they failed to obey Him.

The cities mentioned in Zebulon have never been positively identified, yet some Bible scholars have made an educated guess. 

 Kitron (“making sweet”), is one of the towns of Zebulun perhaps the same as Kattath. It is identified with modern Tell el-Far, about 9.7 km. (6 mi.) southeast of Haifa.

Nahalal [Nahallal; Nahalol] (“pasture”), is the other city of Zebulun mentioned. It was assigned to the Levites, and it is probably modern Khirbet el-Teim, south of Accho. It was given, along with its “suburbs” to the Merarite Levites. Here, in this verse it is called Nahalol. It is identified with the modern Malul, a village in the Plane of Esdraelon.

The incomplete obedience of Zebulun resembled that of Manasseh and Ephraim for they merely subjected the Canaanites of Kitron and Nahalol to forced labor.


Included in Zebulon’s inheritance was Beth-lehem, the “house of bread,” not to be confused with the birthplace of Christ. This Beth-lehem is located just west of Nazareth. Thus, it was of the utmost importance that Micah, in his prophecy of the birthplace of the Messiah, made specific reference to Bethlehem Ephratah (Mic 5:2[i]) as being “among the thousands of Judah.” How remarkably accurate indeed are the prophecies of God’s Word!


Zebulun, like the other tribes ends up with the incomplete settlement of the land that is their lot. It is not legitimate to call this an incomplete conquest, since the book of Joshua makes it clear that the land was totally under Israelite control in Joshua’s time, in accord with the promise of God. What it refers to is the fact that, having received their tribal allotments, the various tribes were unable or unwilling to bring their territory under total settlement so that the enemy could not filter back into their territory.


Zebulun, may have been inclined toward the sea-trade, because it was predicted that it would be a haven for ships, but he neglected to wipe-out Kitron and Nahalol, and only made the inhabitants of those places pay tribute to them.


The same course of subjugation was carried on by the other tribes to a partial extent, and with varying success. Many of the natives, no doubt, during the progress of this exterminating war, saved themselves by flight and became, it is thought, the first colonists in Greece, Italy, and other countries. But a large portion made a stout resistance and retained possession of their old abodes in Canaan. In other cases, when the natives were vanquished, greed led the Israelites to spare the idolaters, contrary to the express command of God; and their disobedience to His orders in this matter involved them in many troubles which this book describes.


The question has been asked, “But wasn’t it cruel and unjust for God to command Israel to exterminate the nations in Canaan? Not in the least! To begin with, He had been patient with these nations for centuries and had mercifully withheld His judgment (Ge 15.16[ii]; 2 Pet. 3.9[iii]). Their society, and especially their religion, was unspeakably wicked (Rom. 1.18[iv]) and should have been wiped out years before Israel appeared on the scene.


Something else is true: These nations had been warned by the judgments God had inflicted on others, especially on Egypt and the nations east of Jordan (Jos. 2.8-13[v]). Rahab and her family had sufficient information to be able to repent and believe, and God saved them (Jos 2; 6.22-25[vi]). Therefore we have every right to conclude that God would have saved anybody who had turned to Him. These nations were sinning against a flood of light in rejecting God’s truth and going their own way.


God didn’t want the filth of the Canaanite society and religion to contaminate His people Israel. Israel was God’s special people, chosen to fulfill divine purposes in this world. Israel would give the world the knowledge of the true God, the Holy Scriptures, and the Savior. In order to accomplish God’s purposes, the nation had to be separated from all other nations; for if Israel was polluted, how could the holy Son of God come into the world

[i]  (Mik 5.2; NKJV)But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”


[ii] (Ge 15.16) “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.


[iii] (2 Pet. 3.9) “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The reason God has delayed Christ’s return is His patience and concern for men that they might be saved.


[iv] (Rom. 1.18) “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” God’s attitude toward the sin of mankind is not one of tolerance. He does not simply hold man accountable for what may be reasonably expected of him in view of man’s nature as a sinner. If God did, His holiness and purity would be soiled by complicity with our guilt. God hates man’s sin. His wrath is a holy aversion to all that is evil. Wrath is as essential to divine righteousness as love and mercy are. God could not be free from wrath unless He were also free from all concern about His moral universe.


[v] (Jos. 2.8-13) “And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. 12Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”


[vi](Jos. 6.22-25) “But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”


FORTIFIED CITIES - cities strengthened by walls, towers, gates and bars (Deut. 3:5).


When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they found many fortified cities belonging to the Canaanites and Amorites (Josh. 14:12). The strength of these fortifications is proven by the fact that the Canaanites resisted the Israelite invaders for a long time. Judges 1:27-36 describes the incomplete conquest. Jerusalem, for instance, was still held by the Jebusites until the time of David (1 Chr. 11:5).


After the Israelites occupied the land of Canaan, they rebuilt and improved the destroyed defenses. King Solomon built "the Millo”, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer" (1 Kin. 9:15). Rehoboam fortified 15 cities in Judah (2 Chr. 11:5-12). Asa fortified Geba and Mizpah (1 Kin. 15:22).


No city could hold out long against a siege without an adequate water supply. A city, therefore, was generally built near a river or a spring. Long tunnels were dug to supply water, as in the case of Hezekiah’s tunnel, also called the Siloam tunnel (2 Kin. 20:20; 2 Chr. 32:30), cut through solid rock from the spring of Gihon to the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem-a distance of about 533 meters (1,749 feet).


Israelite power was restricted primarily to the hill country and smaller towns. The larger walled cities of the Philistines and Canaanites were too strong to be taken by the Hebrews. Thus the Septuagint indicates that Judah did not take Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron, cities of the costal Plane of Palestine. Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.


Article 1.7: ZEBULUN, TRIBE OF

ZEBULUN, TRIBE OF — the tribe that sprang from Zebulun, son of Jacob (Num. 1:9; Deut. 27:13; Josh. 19:10, 16; Judg. 1:30). The tribe was divided into three great families headed by Zebulun’s three sons (Num. 26:26–27). At the first census taken in the wilderness, the tribe numbered 57,400 fighting men (Num. 1:30–31). The second census included 60,500 members of the tribe of Zebulun (Num. 26:27).


Zebulun played an important role in Israel’s history during the period of the Judges. Its fighting men were an important part of Barak’s force against Sisera (Judg. 4:6–10; 5:14, 18) and of Gideon’s army against the Midianites (Judg. 6:35). Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel for ten years (Judg. 12:12). At Hebron, 50,000 Zebulunites joined the other tribes in proclaiming David king (1 Chr. 12:33, 40).


Although Zebulun suffered during the Assyrian wars, when Tiglath-Pileser carried away captives to Assyria (2 Kin. 15:29), Isaiah prophesied that in the future Zebulun would be greatly blessed: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali . . . in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Is. 9:1–2). According to the Gospel of Matthew, this prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus began His Galilean ministry (Matt. 4:12–17). Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, and Cana, where He performed His first miracle, both lay in the territory of Zebulun.