Thumbs and Big Toes

  • Pete Johnson
Person walking on tree barefooted

Thumbs and Big Toes– Judges 1:4–7 

            The opening chapter of the book of Judges provides an intriguing historical narrative, the story of a battle and a captured king, Adoni-bezek.  Adoni- bezek, “Lord of Bezek”, was a cruel and wicked pagan king.  This particular king had a reputation for torturing and humiliating the foreign kings he had conquered. In fact, he had cut off the big toes and thumbs of seventy conquered kings.  “And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.” (Judges 1:7, ESV).

            This beginning narrative in the book of Judges gives insight into the beginning of Israel’s disobedience toward God after the death of Joshua. God had commanded, that as Israel began to conquer the Promised Land, that they were to completely destroy the ungodly inhabitants in the land. The reason? So that Israel would not assimilate into the wicked culture and idol worship that God hated.

“And he will give their kings into your hands, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven…” Deut. 7:24 

            Israel failed to obey God’s command and decided that they would perform an act of retaliatory justice. Instead of killing this ungodly king, they cut off his thumbs and big toes as he had done to other kings, thus rendering him unable to fight, and not a threat. Somewhat of a trophy, he at one time was powerful, but now he was under control. 

            Unfortunately, we do this with sin in our lives. Instead of killing sin, we try to manage it. We think if we cut off the thumbs and big toes (metaphorically speaking) of our sins, we can manage them, and keep them close while rendering them harmless. Without thumbs it cannot hang on to us, without big toes it cannot stand against us. 

            The more we attempt to manage our sin instead of killing it, the more influence it has over us, and before we know it, the sin or sins we thought we could manage have turned our hearts away from God. 

The Puritan Preacher John Owen said it this way, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”