CLAIM: It seems cruel that the men of Judah would “cut off his thumbs and big toes” (Judg. 1:6). Is this a case of cruel and unusual punishment?
RESPONSE: There are two ways to respond.
OPTION #1: This is recorded—not condoned. While God gave the land into the hands of Israel (Judg. 1:2), this doesn’t condone all of their actions (c.f. Josh. 7). Therefore, this is an example of description—not prescription. While Adoni-bezek thought God was repaying him (Judg. 1:7), this might not be true. It could merely be the ranting of a sadistic despot, who was rotting in capture.
OPTION #2: This is condoned, because this man was so guilty. Adoni-bezek had cut off the thumbs and toes of seventy other kings by his own admission (Judg. 1:7). Therefore, this man was far from innocent. Since priests needed both a thumb and big toe for ordination (Lev. 8:23-24), this disqualified the man from being a priest or a king, because many ancient Near Eastern kings usually held “a dual function” as priest-kings. Therefore, this act maimed the man, but also implicitly took away his ability to regain power—either religiously or politically.
 Wolf, H. (1992). Judges. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Vol. 3, p. 386). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.