By casting lots in the presence of all Israel, Joshua had designated the boundaries to the land each tribe was to inherit. Only a few tribes, however, had succeeded in taking full possession of their territory, so after Joshua's death, they selected the tribe of Judah to lead the rest in a determined effort to press the conquest of the land of Canaan. The tribe of Simeon joined with Judah, since their territories were adjoining. The combined forces of the two tribes proved too much for the inhabitants of the mountainous terrain. Bezek, the capital city, was stormed, and its king who had seventy vassal chieftains under him, was taken prisoner. Jerusalem was also captured, but the Jebusites who dwelt there were permitted to stay. Hebron was taken and given over to Caleb as had been promised him by G‑d.

Soon the Jews grew tired of continuous warfare. They began to till the land and mix with the Canaanites. The warning, "Their altars shall ye throw down," was entirely forgotten. As long as the elders lived, they exercised some restraint upon the Jews in regard to mixing with the natives, and encouraged them to remain loyal to the commandments of G‑d. After that generation passed, however, the influence of the pagan cults of the land grew stronger and stronger.

One after another the surviving Canaanite tribes got the upper hand, and cruelly oppressed the Jews, But in times of great peril and distress, men of valor and intelligence usually arose to lead the Hebrew soldiers to battle and victory; these men were the "Judges." They were not regularly appointed, nor did they follow each other in unbroken succession, but they came forward in periods of exceptional difficulty; and then, when the danger had been overcome by their help, they naturally commanded the respect of the people, and were thus able to exercise jurisdiction.

The influence of the Judge would be strong enough to keep the Jews on the right path of the Torah. But after his death, the Jews would again allow themselves to be ensnared by the abhorrent practices of the natives.