J. J. (John James) Lias.

The Book of Judges; with map, notes and introduction online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryJ. J. (John James) LiasThe Book of Judges; with map, notes and introduction → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Ill Hill I'll


"1 >l


■^■ipm;ii;)«Ba3B» arii j in«ii'» 'i » i*¥'«*«» >>*w.v.i:iveJ.\



The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for
Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold
himself responsible either for the interpretation of
particular passages which the Editors of the several
Rooks have adopted, or for any opinion on points of
doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New
Testament more especially questions arise of the
deepest theological import, on which the ablest and
most conscientious interpreters have differed and
always will differ. His aim has been in all such
cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered
exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that
mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided.
He has contented himself chiefly with a careful
revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with


suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some
question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages,
and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere,
feeling it better that each Commentary should have
its own individual character, and being convinced
that freshness and variety of treatment are more
than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in
the Series.



I. Introduction.

Chapter I. Contents, Authorship and Date,

Genuineness, Canonicity, of the Book of Judges 9

Chapter II. The Political, Moral, and Religious

condition of Israel under the Judges 14

Chapter III. The Personal character of tlie

Judges 23

Chapter IV. The Song of Deborah ig

Chapter V. The Chronology of the Period 34

Chapter VI. Analysis 38

II. Text AND Notes 43

III. Appendix 209

IV. Index ■217

Map of the Holy Land .facing Title Page

* The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener's
Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordi-
nary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the
use of italics, will he noticed. For the principles adopted by
Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Intro-
duction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge
University Press.




I. Contents. The book of Judges consists of three parts.
Theyfrj/ part (ch. i. i, iii. 7) forms an Introduction, obviously
designed to connect the book with the previous narrative in
Joshua^. We have first a description of the condition of the
Israelites immediately after Joshua's death, and their relations
with the Phoenician peoples whom Joshua had left only half
subdued (ch. i. i — ii. 10}. Then (ch. ii. il — iii. 7) the writer
proceeds to give a brief summary of his history chiefly from a
moral and religious point of view, pointing out the cause of
national misfortunes, namely the disobedience of the people to
the national law, and their apostasy from the national religion.
The second part (ch. iii. 8 — xvi. 31) contains the history of the
Judges. In the third part (ch. xvii. to end) the historian adds
two episodes of a more private and personal character, obviously
intended to illustrate the disordered condition of the morals of
the people, and to point to the value in the author's mind of the
more regular system of government under which he lived.
These episodes" belong to a period of the history almost im-
mediately subsequent to the death of Joshua, and are quite
sufficient to account for the after history of the people.

^ See note on ch. i. i.

2 See notes, especially on ch. xx. 18. Also below, p. 11.


2. Authorship and Date. The book has been attributed to
various periods and to various authors. By some^ the whole of
the historical Scriptures are supposed (i) to have been reduced
to their present form shortly before the captivity. Others have
thought (2) that the book is of early origin, but that the part of it
containing the history of Micah and the Danites, and the Levite
and his concubine, was added by another hand. Keil supposes
(3) from the statement in ch. i, 21, that it was written in the first
seven years of David's reign, before the capture of Jerusalem^,
and that therefore the statement in the Talmud* that the book
was written by Samuel is so far true that it may have been
written at his request by one of his disciples ^ With regard to
(i) it may be remembered that the book of Judges shews
many signs of independent authorship. For in Joshua, written
when the Israelites had not been long in Palestine, and when
the Book of the Law was the only book of importance in the
literature of the nation^, we meet with very few words and
phrases not found in the books of Moses. But in Judges, written
some centuries after the conquest, we find a large number of
words hitherto unknown. Some of these, it is true, are poetical
archaisms, which occur in the Song of Deborah, and these, of
course, must be excepted from the list. But when these have
been deducted there remain a number of words and turns of
expression which shew that from a nation of slaves the Israelites
had grown to be a nation of freemen and conquerors*. And
on the other hand we may remark on the absence of Aramaic
expressions and words of the later Hebrew which occur in the
subsequent books.

We conclude therefore, that the book of Judges, as it stands,

^ E.g. Ewald, Knobel, Eleek, De Wette, Davidson.

' 1 Sam. V. 6 — 9, i Chron. xi. 4 — 9. * Baba-bathra, i4(5and 15^.

* Keil and Delitzsch, Com>nen(ary, Introduction.

^ Unless, wilh some, we are to regard the Book of the warsof Jahveh
(Numb. xxi. 14), and the book of Jashar (Josh. x. 13) as separate books.
See Ewald, History of Israel.

® See notes on ch. i. 8, 14, ii. 13, 18, iii. 15, 16, 10, 21, 22, 23, 25,
31, iv. 6, 10, 13, 18, 21, vi. 2, 26, 38, vii. 3, 5, 13, viii. 7, 21, 31, ix.
4, 6, 14, 46, xi. 6, xii. 5, xiii. 25, xiv. 12, xv. 8, 9, 16, 19, xvi. 13, 16,
xix. I, XX. 12, 32. This list might be largely increased.


was written later than the previous books of the Old Testa-
ment. We proceed to inquire whether the author were one
and the same throughout. At first sight this would not appear
to have been the case. The third part of the book contains a
good deal of that peculiar kind of repetition for the sake of
emphasis, which, found in the earlier historical books, is absent
from the later ones^ But a closer examination of the style does
not bear out the first impression. Several peculiarities of ex-
pression are to be found both in the main portion of the book
and in the appendix beginning with ch. xvii-. The preface
(especially ch. ii.) was evidently written by the author of the
book upon a general view of its contents. The appendix falls in
most strikingly with the drift of that general view. Thus it
becomes more probable that the appendix was compiled by the
author himself from private and local narratives which had
fallen into his hands, and which he inserted with but little
alteration. From whence those narratives were derived may
perhaps be conjectured. The author was evidently a firm
partisan of kingly government^. To its absence he apparently
attributes all the disorders of the country, with which the
system of judges, he felt, was incompetent to deal. He could
hardly have been in all respects a disciple of Samuel'', for that
great prophet, with a noble enthusiasm, desired rather to main-
tain the theocracy, and raise the people to its levels The writer
of the present book, on the contrary, was clearly of opinion that

^ Specimens of this kind of repetition, where the same story is related
twice over, the second time with additional particulars, may be found in
Gen. i., ii., vii. 7 — 16 ; Josh, iii., iv., vi. 6 — 9, 12 — 16, In the book of
Judges it is only found to any considerable extent in the last five
chapters. See ch. xvii. i — 5, xviii. 14 — 20, xx. 31 — 42.

^ Cf. 1. 8 with XX. 48, i. 27, with xvii. 11. Also i. r with xx. 18, 23,
27, ix. 2 with XX. 5. Also the use of the perfect with the copula, in-
stead of the more usual historical narrative tense with Vau conversive is
remarkable, in spite of Jteil's attempt to attenuate the force of this
argument. Compare especially xix. 30, xx. 43 and ch. xv. 14. The
narrative in ch. xix. appears to have been re-writlen, for it flows on
consecutively throughout.

•' Seech, xvii. 6, xviii. r, xix. i, xxi. 25.

■* As Keil and Delitzsch suppose.

^ 1 Sam. viii. 6 — 22, xii. 16 — i(j.


kingly government alone had been found capable of putting an end
to the confusions of the times. This conviction points to an early
period in the kingly history for the composition of this book.
Had the writer lived under the later kings, he would have seen
that, whatever the advantages of kingly government when the
sceptre was in proper hands, they were by no means so great in
every case as he supposed. Such intimations of date as we find
in the book of Judges tend to confirm this view. These are by
no means so many as are to be found elsewhere, but though we
can perhaps build no argument on ch. i. 21, yet ch. vi. 24 would
seem more reconcileable with the early than with the late date
of this book^. Thus we are led to fix some period in the reigns
of either David or Solomon as the time when the history was
written. But the contents of the book itself furnish us with
strong grounds for believing that it was written in the former
reign. It will be observed that both the episodes related in the
last five chapters are connected with Bethlehem-judah^. The
scene of the Book of Ruth is laid in the same place. It is
therefore by no means improbable that these narratives were
communicated to the writers by David himself. Now we find that
the prophets Nathan and Gad, who were closely connected with
David^, composed histories. We venture therefore to set down
the book of Judges as written by one of the above-mentioned
prophets, or under their supervision, after David had become
undisputed king over Israel, and after he had overthrown his
enemies round about, but most probably before the disorders of
his later years, commencing with Absalom's rebellion. This
would fix the date between 1042 and 1023 B.C.

3. Genuineness. The genuineness of the book is vouched
for (i) by the consideration of its style, mentioned above (p. 10),
(2) by the general life-like freshness of the narrative, to which
even so unprejudiced a critic as Ewald frequently testifies, (3)
by the minute accuracy of its local and other details, which are

' See notes on these passages.
" ch. xvii. 8, 9, xix, i, 1, 18.
^ 1 Sam. xii., xxiv. ; i Chron. xxix. 29; 1 Chron. ix. 29.


frequently mentioned in the notes^, and (4) by the consideration
referred to in note on ch. i. i, that it forms an integral part of the
authorized historical writings of the Jews, a body of literature
which is clearly, from internal evidence, written by persons in
authority, who had access to documents which gave them full
information on the events treated of, but at such a distance
of time as rendered a general view of the history possible.

4. Canoiiicity. Of this there can be no question. The book
of Judges forms part, not only of the Scptuagint translation of
the Old Testament Scriptures, but also of the Hebrew text,
which appears (2 Mace. ii. 13) to have been handed down among
the Jews from the time of Nehemiah. Though Josephus does
not mention their names, there is no reason to doubt that the
twenty-two books whose authenticity he describes as recognized
in his time, were the same as are contained in our present
Hebrew Bible. And the universal testimony of all Jewish
writers establishes the fact that this book was one of the
Canonical Scriptures of the Jews, that is, it was regarded by the
Jews as written by inspiration of God. The Christian Church
has ratified this decision, if not formally, at least effectually.
Though no representative assembly of the whole Church has
ever pronounced itself on the Christian Canon, yet practically
all sections of the Christian Church have agreed to receive these
twenty-two books, and the book of Judges among them, as those
Canonical Looks, "of whose authority was never any doubt in
the Church I"

^ i. 3, 9, 15 — 17, 27—36, ill. 3, 19, 20, 23, -27, 28, iv. 5, V. 14—17,
vl. 2, 4, 15, 33, viii. ?4, 26, ix. 51, xiii. 25, xiv. i, 5, 8, xviii. 7, 21,
xix. 10, 12, XX. I, 15, xxi. 19.
2 Art. VI. of the Church of England.




I. Conquest of Palestine. In order to understand the
mission of the Israelites, it will be necessary to glance at the
circumstances under which they entered the land of Canaan.
It was no ordinary people that they were commissioned to
displace. The Phoenicians stood "at the head of the civiliza-
tion of their time^" They were the greatest maritime and
commercial people then known. Their colonies had spread
over all the coasts of the Mediterranean. Their land was
the home of the arts and sciences^. At a far earlier period
than that of Joshua they had risen to eminence. But this
was the period of their decay. The vices which for a long
time had raged unchecked', had at length produced their
usual effect in sapping the manly vigour of the people. Thus
the Israelites were destined to play the same part on the
shores of the Mediterranean in the fifteenth century before
Christ, that the Germans did in the hour of the decrepitude of
the Roman empire. There are many common features in the
two histories. The austerer morals of the invading peoples,
the slaughter of the vanquished, the adoption too often by the
conqueror of the habits he began by despising — these were
equally characteristics of the conquest of Palestine and the fall
of the Roman Empire. But whereas the Germans infused their

^ Bachmann, Buck der Richter. Introduction, p. 21.

" See Kenrick's Phoenicia, ch. viii., ix. The Greeks owed their
literary culture in the first instance to the Phoenicians. The Egyptians
were great architects, but they do not appear to have attained much
eminence in the other arts. See an article by Stanley Lane Poole, in
the Contemporary Review, Sept. 1881.

' Gen. xiii. 13, of. xix.


national spirit into the institutions of the more civilized people
they had subdued, the Jews introduced a polity of their own
into the land in which they settled — a polity of Divine origin,
destined to produce incalculable results upon the future of the

II. Institutions of ihe yews. The idea which underlay the
Mosaic institutions was that of a Divine Society, with God as
its acknowledged head, the books of Moses as its code of law
and morals, and the priesthood, with its prophetic gift of Urim
and Thummim^, as the medium of communication between the
Ruler and His people. This idea was never destined to be
realized. Indeed it was fore-ordained to failure, so far as its
adoption as a system by the Jewish community as a whole was
concerned 2, though its ultimate effect was so beneficial to man-
kind, and its direct influence so vast upon individuals. During
the life-time of Joshua and Phinehas, amid much individual
depravity^, an attempt was made to carry on the government in
accordance with the provisions of the Law. The elders, at first
appointed by Moses*, and afterwards by Joshua, or by the
common consent of the tribe, we know not which, exercised
the necessary civil authority among the peopled Matters of
moment, whether of war or peace, but especially the former,
including, no doubt, the choice of a leader, were decided upon
by a general assembly®, in which counsel was formally asked of
God. The occurrences in Mount Ephraim and at Gibeah, which
clearly^ occurred during the life-time of the "elders that out-
lived Joshua," give us a momentary glimpse of the working of
the Mosaic institutions. The last five chapters of the book of
Judges depict to us Israel under circumstances such as we
never meet again. The memories and traditions of Joshua's

^ See note on ch. i. r.

- Josh. xxiv. 19; cf. Rom. iii. ■20; ii. 16; Hcb. vii. 11, 19.

^ As the narratives in ch. xvii — xxi. shew.

* Exod. xviii. 25 ; Numb. xi. 16.

" Levit. iv. 15 ; Dcut. xxv. 7, 8, xxix. 10, xxxi. 9, 28; cf. Ruth iv. 2, 4,
Josh. xxii. 44; Judg. viii. 16.

* Josh. xxii. 12; Judg. xx, i.
' ch. XX. 'zS.


government are yet fresh in men's minds. God is still re-
cognized as the unseen governor of His people. The high
priest formally asks counsel of Him in times of perplexity^.
The people weep and fast and offer burnt offerings before His
altar*. There is not a hint of idolatry throughout. Marriage
with heathen women is a thing not even thought 6P. And the
ease with which all Israel is gathered together for war"*, dis-
playing as it does so marked a contrast with later times, shews
that the military organization established by Moses, and per-
fected by Joshua, was still in existence, in all its completeness
But this state of things did not last long. The moral strength
of the people had not been sufficiently developed to maintain it^
Consequently when the personal influence of the followers of
Joshua was withdrawn, it fell into abeyance, and the successful
invasion of Chushan-Rishathaim put an end to it, until the
time of the great reformation under Samuel®. The worship of
Jehovah still continued, but save in individual cases, its in-
fluence scarcely extended beyond the immediate neighbourhood
of the sanctuary 7.

III. Collapse of the Israelitish polity. The theocratic
polity of Israel disappears, then, most probably, with the
death of Phinehas. Henceforth, individual tribes may possess
a governmental organization, individual cities may appoint

^ XX. i8, 23, 28. * XX. 26, xxi. 4.

* xxi. 7, 16 — 23. ^ XX. I, 10, 17.

^ " Israel had as yet scarcely found time to imbue itself deeply with
the great truths which had been awakened into life in it, and to appro-
priate them as an inalienable possession. " Ewald, Hist. Israel, 11. p. 27 1.

® On the importance of Samuel's reformation see Jost, Geschichte des
Israelitischen Volkes, i. 199, "As Moses took them out of Egypt," he
says, " another was wanted to rescue them from Canaanitish influences.
This was Samuel."

^ Hengstenberg adduces the songs of Deborah and Hannah, the
character of Gideon, and the Nazarite vow of Samson, as evidence that
the old belief had not entirely died out {Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,
II. 76). He might have instanced the whole of Sam. i. — iv., including
the conduct of Hannah and the character of Eli, as proofs that among
the people a devout minority was to be found quite sufficient to make
God's Law a living influence, at least to a certain extent, even in the
worst of times. See also p. 20.


their elders, two or three tribes may combine for common
action, but no instance appears of all Israel acting in concert.
Everything is confusion and disorganization, except when some
leader arises who is capable of arousing the courage of a dispirited
people. Then the successful hero becomes the centre of their
hopes and affections. The whole government is vested in his
person. He "judges Israel," we are told^ That is, the war-
like leader becomes, by common consent, a civil magistrate.
He exercises full, and if he pleases, almost despotic authority.
But the recollection of the Theocracy is yet too vivid to permit
of his assuming the title of king of Israel, or of his bequeathing
his power to his descendants 2. As the history progresses, the
disorganization becomes more complete. The song of Deborah
represents the tribes as incapable of a common effort. Judah
is not even mentioned^, and historians have wondered at the
isolation of this tribe, which, after Othniel, did not produce a
single judge, and which is not further referred to in the history
except as being partially included in the general distress caused
by the incursions of the Philistines and Ammonites. It would
seem as if the tribe of Judah (in which the small tribe of Simeon
was included)'*, secure in its numbers and mountain fastnesses,
had held aloof from, its brethren, and had maintained its inde-
pendence until subjugated by the Philistines^ But not only
was Judah content to stand apart. Though Ephraim and Ma-
nasseh and Benjamin and Issachar gave some slight assistance

^ Some have compared the judges to the Carthaginian and Tyrian
suffctes. The names are no doubt of common origin, since the
Carthaginians were the descendants of the ancient Phoenicians who
spoke a kindred language to the Hebrew. 15ut the stiffetes (Ewald,
Hist. Israel, II. 36; Keniick, Phoenicia, p. ■268) were regular magis-
trates appointed by public election, and forming an integral portion
of the political organization of the people, whereas the Jmlgcs were
heroes (cf. Just I. 175) who owed their influence to a victory over their
country's oppressors, and whose very office testified to the utter disor-
ganization of their nation.

* Judg. vii. 23.

^ And was probably therefore not included in Jabin's oppression
(Jostl. 178).

* See cli. i. 3, 17 ; cf. Josh. xix. i, 9 ; Numb. xxvi. 14.

* .See notes on ch. v. 17, viii. i ; cf. also ch. xv. 11, i Sam. iv.



in the struggle against Jabin^ Reuben, Gilead (i.e. Gad and half
Manasseh), Dan and Asher held aloof. Upon Zebulun and
Naphtali fell the brunt of the battle^. These two last tribes,
with the half tribe of Manasseh and part of Asher, took part
in Gideon's attack on the Midianites, and Ephraim came to
their assistance afterwards^. No mention is made of any other
tribes, save as scoffing at Gideon and his little band*. After the
deliverance by Gideon matters became still worse. Shechem,
the capital, so far as Israel had a capital, chooses a king for
itself without communication with the rest even of its own
tribe, and the result is civil war. Jephthah ruled only over the
region beyond Jordan ^ The judges who succeeded him were
judges only of the northern tribes^. Samson's authority was
still more circumscribed, and was due only to the fear inspired
by his personal prowess. He does not seem ever to have rallied
round him even the scantiest band of his fellow countrymen.
And when he is said to have "judged Israel," the words can
only refer to an extremely limited area, and a jurisdiction of a
most precarious kind, as the words "in the days of the Philis-
tines^" clearly imply. A kind of hegemony seems to have
been claimed by Ephraim, as possessing the principal city
(Hebron, perhaps, excepted^), as well as from its central position,
and from the tabernacle worship having been set up at Shiloh,
within its borders. But even this undefined superiority was not
very cheerfully recognized. Gideon admitted it^, but Judah does
not seem ever to have acknowledged it, and Jephthah the
Gileadite rejected it with scorn ^'*.

IV. Religious Apostasy, This political disorganization
was the direct result of the religious declension". The only
possible means of supremacy and even of safety for Israel was
a resolute maintenance of the worship of the sanctuary i^, for

^ ch. V. 14. 2 ^^ y_ j5 — jg 3 (,}^_ yj 25, vii. 24.

* viii. 6, 8. 5 xii. 7. 6 xii. 8 — 14. ^ xv. 20.

8 See i. lo, ix. i (notes). ^ viii. 2.

^^ xii. I — 4. See also Jost I. 195; Hengstenberg li. 72 sqq. ; Hitzig,
Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 107; Ewald, Hist. Israel, II. 321.

Online LibraryJ. J. (John James) LiasThe Book of Judges; with map, notes and introduction → online text (page 1 of 24)