The Canaanites are the people already living in the land that God has given Israel. They are people who worship other gods and do so in ways that are particularly offensive. God does not want his people to become distracted by these false gods, so he wants the Canaanites to be completely wiped out. Although the people attack and mostly defeat the Canaanites, they fail to do all that God has asked of them. This sets the stage for conflict that will continue through the rest of Judges as well as the entire Old Testament. Names like Judah and Simeon are the names of the tribes of Israel who have been assigned specific territories to conquer and occupy. It doesn’t take long for the people to fail to meet the promises they made to Joshua and God. Caleb is brought into our story. He and Joshua were the only ones who wanted to enter the land back in Numbers 13 and 14. As a result, Caleb is given a large portion of land.
The idea of incomplete obedience is one we are going to see again. People seem to figure that if they mostly do what God wants, at least that makes them better than others, and that should be good enough for God. It’s not. God considers incomplete obedience disobedience. In fact, God seems to actually view it more harshly than he does people who worship the wrong gods!