Summary: 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 birt . . .
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.”