A Question I Was Asked:

Did the Israelites Drive out the Men with Iron Chariots or Did They Not?

I have a problem between two Old Testament verses, Joshua 17:18 and Judges 1:19. Joshua 17 seems to contain a prophecy that these people would be driven out by the Israelites despite their "iron chariots," but in Judges, at a later time, it says us that these people could not be driven out because of these same "chariots of iron." Which is correct?

UK Apologetics Reply:

First let us compare these two verses, hopefully we will all then notice that an error - due to an assumption - is being made here:

Joshua 17:17-18:
17. But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph - to Ephraim and Manasseh - "You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18. but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out."

Judges 1:19: "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."

Okay, I will answer this by making just a few points:

1. In the first place, there is a problem in understanding here. In the Joshua text, Joshua is addressing the peoples of Ephraim and Manasseh, but in Judges 1:19 it is the Judahites who are under consideration, not Ephraim and Manasseh. So separate matters in separate areas are being discussed (although admittedly these territories are less than 100 miles apart).

2. Regarding the Joshua text, if one carefully reads onwards from Joshua 17:1, these were the words of Joshua and this was not a prophecy in any shape or form. Joshua believed that the very numerous combined peoples of Ephraim and Manasseh (the tribe of Joseph, in effect) could easily drive out the Canaanites who had the iron chariots. But it was left up to them, this was not a prophecy that they would successfully do so.

3. In the Judges account, the people of Judah (not Ephraim and Manasseh in this case) were generally more obedient when possessing the promised land but even here they were not able to drive out all the people. Let us look at that more fully:

17. Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18. Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron - each city with its territory. 19. The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. (Judges 1:17-19).

So, in these two Scriptures unrelated matters are being discussed (although both concerned possession of the Promised Land, but by two different tribes), neither is any specific prophecy given at any point.

Robin A. Brace. June 17th, 2016.