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?
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.”