Why couldn’t God defeat the Iron Chariots? (Jud. 1:19)


Verses in question:

Jeremiah 32:27: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

Judges 1:19: “Now the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.”

Does this suggest God cannot drive out iron chariots?

A response:

Response 1: In Jeremiah God is speaking about his power, might and authority – in other words, God can do anything he wants to do. Furthermore, in Judges 1:19 God was with the Jews in the battle, however the fact that they could drive out the inhabitants of the land does not mean that God could not do it. Even people that God uses still fail at things, and that cannot be blamed on God. The Jews in this case could have lacked some military combat plan in this one battle that they lost badly. God being with them does not militate against bad planning or deficient military tactics that would inevitably result in a bad loss.

Such failure is also confirmed in Exodus 17:11 where it reads: “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.” God was with Moses and the Jews, but even so they were prone to fail – this is the image we get in this battle, the fight likely swung both ways multiple times. Does that mean God was not with his people? No, God was with his people.

Answer 2: However, there is a further answer given that I’ve found promising. According to Tyler Vela in his review of a book that uses this as an argument he wries that:

“… the answer is actually found in the context of the passage itself. Already, so soon into the conquest of the Promised Land, Israel had already defaulted on their end of the covenant with God. They had failed to worship God alone, and had failed to drive out the inhabitants of previous regions – but rather let them stay and establish their own settlements just outside of town. So when we reach 1:19 about the conquest of the land given to the tribe of Judah, we find that they have already abandoned God and thus were on their own for the conquest. In fact some scholars point out that the passage need not be translated that they “could not drive out the inhabitants” but rather that they “would not drive out the inhabitants.” That is, that it was not the strength of the iron chariots that subdued the Israelites, but it was the glitter of the appeal of the iron chariots – they were seduced by the wealth and engineering of the chariots and therefore abandoned God for material gain.”

Vela continues: “Later in Judges 2:1-3 we read God saying the following to Israel in reference to why they failed to win the land:

“I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (ESV)

God himself said in effect, not that he could not help them, but that he would not help them because of their sin. Quite the interesting statement since this is precisely what we say about the Israelites ability to remove the Canaanites – not that they could not but that they would not. God basically said in response, “I will give you what you want.” It is God, rather than man, who ultimately says, “Not mine, but thy will be done.”


9 responses to “Why couldn’t God defeat the Iron Chariots? (Jud. 1:19)

    • Seriously, Arkenaten, I am not getting into one of the debates again like the last three times.
      On a relevant article we can talk, but for now Iron chariots has nothing to do with science, and we are not going in roundabout circles again. Farewell.

  1. Hello! Somehow I came across this scripture this morning and was quite puzzled because it appeared that God couldn’t do something when everywhere else in the Bible it says “Nothing is impossible with God.” So I read and re-read it over again asking for understanding and it came to me when it read, “But “they” couldn’t drive out the inhabitants of the land….,” After reading the verse and the ones after it over and over again, I began to wonder who’s “They?”They” could be God and the Israelites or “They” could just mean Judah. The next part of the verse goes on to tell what “They” Judah did. [19 So the Lord was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron. 20 And they gave Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had said. Then he expelled from there the three sons of Anak.]
    So, The Lord was with Judah. They (Judah) drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out……
    Just like the Lord was with Moses and the Israelites when they were in battle and the people had to hold up Moses’ arms. When his arms were lifted they were winning, when his arms were not lifted they began losing. But it doesn’t mean that the Lord God was not with them.
    So, in this scripture, again, I wonder if the “They” it is referring to is Judah since there is a period (.) after Judah and it picks up saying “But they”. As if it was saying God was with Judah. But Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland because they had iron chariots. Could it be that Judah took their eyes off WHO was with them God for a moment because the inhabitants had something (iron chariots) that seemed more powerful than what they had? Perhaps that’s something to think about as well.
    The Lord God is always with us. As was said earlier, He is Omnipresent. These are just thoughts and not up for debate or arguing. It’s just another way of looking at it. Thanks.

  2. Another great point. I believe that God has had a guiding hand over America since it was founded, but that does not mean we will not suffer defeats (e.g. Vietnam War).

  3. James has overlooked that Judges 1:19 gives the reason Judah couldn’t win some of the battles….it was because the inhabitants of the lowlands had iron chariots.

    James, you cannot excise the “iron chariots” from whatever explanation you give here. But..how can you include those iron chariots in your explanation, without being driven to the conclusion that the author clearly didn’t think God had enough power to overcome iron chariots?

    And I would challenge the whole business of using bible inerrancy as an hermeneutic. Just because interpreting Judges 1:19 in a way that conflicts with other bible teaching on god’s power, does not mean that interpretation is wrong. “grammar” and “immediate context” are obviously valid canons of interpretation. We find in our own experience that what somebody meant in a disputed word or phrase can usually be determined by looking to the grammar and immediate context.

    On the other hand, “bible inerrancy” is extremely controversial even within Christianity itself. Therefore, inerrancy doesn’t deserve to be exalted in your mind to the status of governing hermeneutic, whereby you automatically trash any interpretation of a bible verse that would conflict with other bible teachings. But if you cannot justify inerrancy-as-hermeneutic, then accusing the author of Judges of having a lower view of divine omnipotence than as held by a modern day Conservative Evangelical Inerrantist, could be accurate.

  4. Excuses…excuses…who was recording gods words? Because there are over 5,000 contradictions in this supposed divine word. Furthermore…love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13 as ALL (NON EXCLUSIVE) Forgiving, NOT jealous, not envious. .etc…the Hebrew god is jealous, envious of idol worship, the concept of Hell & threatening it suggest he’s not all forgiving…so he can’t be love. Apparently chaos of iron it’s his kryptonite. But then he works in mysterious ways because he propogated the earth worth aman & woman who only had sons! Remember incest was forbidden. Try again

  5. In those days, iron was the “latest and greatest.” It is not unreasonable that neither God nor anyone else could defeat chariots of iron. It would be like trying to defeat a tank made of a high-tech polymer today.

  6. If you’re a Christian, then you know God went back on his covenant with the Jews. He breaks a lot of promises, especially if your an evangelical. But the long and veiny of it all is this: scripture said he was with Judah. If you can’t win a fight while you have the backing of a being who killed hundreds of millions by this point with magic, then you don’t have the backing of that being.

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