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Ai, on the west side of the city. Here the historical narrative is confused and intricate. Apparently two parties were ordered to lie in ambush ; the first consisting of 30,000, and the second of 5,000, the former perhaps at a greater distance from the city than the latter. But this is not at all likely. For,
In the first place, 30,000 men could not be concealed in the neighbourhood of Ai an entire day without being observed by the inhabitants.
2. The place where the 5,000 are stationed is said to be the same as that where the 30,000 were posted, viz., between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.
3. In the execution of Joshua's command there is mention of but one ambush, verses 12, 13, 14, 19.
4. According to this hypothesis, Joshua spent the night in which he posted the 30,000 in ambuscade, with the rest of his army in the camp (ver. 9); and on the following morning went up to the heights north of Ai and pitched his camp there, so that there was but an inconsiderable valley between his camp and the city. If he sent forth the 5,000 from this place, as the narrative would suggest, he must have done so on the night succeeding that on which he had dispatched the 30,000 ; but the thirteenth verse states that on the same night in which the army and the liers in wait had taken up their positions—the night, which according to ver. 9, he had passed in the camp among the army,—i.e.,
the night preceding the morning when he went up on the heights before Ai, he went into the midst of the valley where he was noticed in the morning by the king of Ai and attacked. The night referred to in vers. 9 and 13 seems to be the same, for it is described in the same words—a circumstance causing the two verses to be contradictory.
Since then two parties in ambush cannot be assumed without creating insuperable difficulties, what solution can be proposed ?
Keil after Calvin, Masius, Poole and others, thinks there was but one ambush party consisting of 5,000 men ; the 30,000 being the army, the same who are called the people in ver. 3, and the people of war that were with Joshua (ver. 5–11), who pitched on the north side of Ai, as the ambush of 5,000 did on the west. Let us then see how the narrative proceeds. The third verse runs thus : “So Joshua arose and all the people of war to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out 30,000 mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.” As the twelth verse, "and he took about 5,000 men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city,” is considered supplementary to the third ; the sense of the third is, that out of the 30,000 men of valour 5,000 were sent away by night to lie in ambush. From the third till the eighth verse Joshua tells the 5,000 what he and the army with him intended to do, as well as what they were to do. In the ninth verse the execution of his orders is related ; which leads the historian to intimate what Joshua did with the rest of the army (last half of ver. 9), and describes their being led up on the north before the city. After thus explaining the position of the ambuscade and the camp of the remainder of the army, he gives by way of supplement the strength of the ambuscade, viz., 5,000 men; and in conclusion, in order to give a complete picture of the arrangements made for the conquest of Ai, he states once more the position of both divisions of the army, in the thirteenth verse. Keil admits that there is a little inexactness in the narrative as thus interpreted, which he attributes to the peculiarities of oriental description. And well he may, for the interpretation is most lame. What reader would suppose that the words of the third and fourth verses, “So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night, and he commanded them saying, behold ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city,” etc., denote that not 30,000 but a small part of them, viz., 5,000 were selected and sent to lie in ambush? Surely them in the third verse refers to the 30,000 ; else the pronoun is put without or before its antecedent, which limps after it in the twelfth verse. The antecedent, we are told, is to be gathered out of the following words, a thing not unusual in Hebrew, as appears from Ex. xiv. 19; Num. xviii. 9, and xxiv. 17; Ps. lxxxvii. 1; cv. 19, and cxiv, 2; Prov. vii. 8, and xiv. 26. None of these examples is analogous. The Old Testament indeed presents no parallel.
The only probable solution of the difficulty seems to be that which takes the twelfth and thirteenth verses to have belonged to another document than viii. 1-11, and 14-29. This is preferable to the conjecture that the verses were an old marginal gloss which afterwards got into the text. They embody another tradition older and more reliable. The number 30,000 is an exaggerated one ; for so many men could not lie concealed in ambush a day and night without being noticed by the citizens of Ai?
i Commentar ueber das Buch Josua, p. 136. 2 Knobel, Exeget. Handbuch, xiii. p. 389.
THE BOOK OF JUDGES.
I. JUDGES, THEIR OFFICE AND NUMBER.— The book of Judges receives its name from certain persons termed DDV, Kpital (LXX. and Acts xii. 20) who occupied the chief place among the Israelites, or certain tribes of them, from the death of Joshua till Samuel, inclusive. Located as the children of Israel were under Joshua among the Canaanite races, they were not so securely settled as to be free from invasion. Indeed their scattered residences made them liable to the constant attacks of peoples who looked upon them as foreign oppressors, or robbers of their territory. They were not so far united as to make common cause together against the Canaanites. All that they had done was to drive back the latter, and take possession of their cities and fields as far as they could. They had thus obtained a partial footing in the land. But they had by no means conquered it, or rooted out its inhabitants. On the contrary, these inhabitants were only subdued in part. and driven out of some towns, to collect their remaining strength in others. In such circumstances, the Israelites could not avoid all intercourse with the races around them. Too often they contracted marriages with the heathen; and shewed their strong inclination towards a sensual religion by embracing prevalent forms of idolatry. That the native tribes should repeatedly endeavour to subdue the invaders of their territory was nothing less than natural. It was only to be expected that they should take advantage of their partial disunion to recover what they had lost. And they did so accordingly, punishing the remiss and faint-hearted Israelites who had not vigorously executed the divine command by exterminating the idolatrous races. Often did they succeed in overthrowing the Israelites and imposing a heavy yoke upon them. But the latter were not without heroic men, who, fired with patriotic feeling, gathered together armies and routed the natives. Vindicating as they did the rights of the chosen people, they obtained the appellation of Judges. They did not administer justice.
They were not civil rulers, as the term judge would seem to imply. They were military leaders, who put themselves at the head of the people, or several tribes of them, from time to time. Sometimes they were called from without to do so: at others they acted from the impulse of their own minds. And when they had taken vengeance on the enemy by force of arms, or by personal strength, prowess, and cunning, they either retired again into private life, or continued to occupy the position of leaders till their death, leaving their sons to inherit a like headship. Eli and Samuel were somewhat different from the preceding judges. Both were at the head of civil affairs, and did not personally go forth to battle. They filled the judicial office properly so called. Thus the entire succession of judges from Othniel to Samuel formed a natural transition to the kingly state in which the military and civil authority was united in one person. These judges have often been compared with the Carthaginian Suffetes, or rather Sufetes. The name appears to be the same; and it is well known that the Carthaginians being a Phenician colony employed the same language for substance as the Hebrew. It is true that there was some difference in the office of the judges and Sufetes ; but the similarity is sufficient to justify a comparison. In like manner they have been brought into juxtaposition with the archons of the Greeks and the dictators of the Romans.
The history of the book must not be considered as a comprehensive or complete history of Israel generally, from the death of Joshua till that of Samson or later, It is fragmentary, Particular occurrences are narrated. Isolated deeds only are given. The dominion over Canaanitish and Philistine races was partial and temporary. The fortunes of the tribes were various ; for while some were in a peaceful state, others were enslaved. Accordingly, the book contains no more than parts of the history of single tribes at different times. The usual condition of slavery in which the Israelites are depicted is, that they were tributary to some of the heathen races. Sometimes, however, they are represented as suffering in their possessions and threatened in their persons, as in vi, 1, etc. etc. They had also considerable intervals of rest and peace. The general picture is that of a rude, unsettled nation, living in a state of lawlessness and mutual jealousy, divided by petty interests and ambition so as to prevent such cordial union as might lead to something great and noble affecting the common weal. The fear of Jehovah had not penetrated the people, else they would have presented a very different picture. Cruelty, murder, brute force, treachery, robbery, stand out from the canvas. Whenever a few tribes did unite under one judge, it was for a temporary end.
It must not be concluded, therefore, from the phrase “he judged Israel,” that the whole people are meant. One or more tribes are intended.
These remarks shew, that the period of the judges cannot with much propriety be termed the heroic age of the Israelites. Heroes did appear during it, who were animated with patriotic zeal, and performed brave deeds. The warlike talent was in the foreground. Wonderful strength and courage were exhibited. But the heroes appeared at distant intervals, and only led a few tribes together. They did not unite the whole people under one banner, nor consolidate all their interests after victory. And their weapons were not always the noblest. Cunning and treachery were occasionally employed. Yet they were immensely superior to the heroes of heathenism ; and care should be taken not to put their exploits in the same class with pagan myths.
The exact number of the judges cannot be ascertained. The following list is the best we are able to give :1. Othniel; 2. Ehud ; 3. Shamgar; 4. Deborah ; 5. Barak; 6. Gideon ; 7. Abimelech; 8. Tola; 9. Jair ; 10. Jephthah ; 11. Ibzan ; 12. Elon ; 13. Abdon ; 14. Samson; 15. Eli; 16. Samuel. The last two names belong to the first book of Samuel, leaving fourteen in the book of Judges. But these fourteen should be reduced to twelve; for Barak cannot well be reckoned, since he was merely associated with and subordinate to Deborah. In like manner Abimelech, son of Gideon, was king of Shechem in Ephraim, and can scarcely be considered one of the usual judges ; for his history is given in connexion with that of his father to complete the family picture. In 1 Sam. xii. 11, Bedan occurs as the name of a judge, probably as another appellation of Barak, which latter is the reading of the Syriac, LXX., and Arabic. It is less likely to mean Samson, as the Targum, Kimchi, and others suppose, taking it to be either a contraction of Ben-Dan, son of Dan or Danite, or meaning into Dan with reference to Judg. xiii. 25. It is unlikely that Bedan is a corrupt reading for Abdon, as Ewald conjectures; or that he is identical with the Jair mentioned in Judg. x. 3. Of six the accounts are copious -viz., Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson ; but of the other six, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon, little more is given than their names, and the number of years they were judges.
II. CONTENTS.-i'he book may be divided into three parts, viz., i. 1-ii. 5 ; ii. 6-xvi. 31 ; and xvii. xxi.
The first of these is introductory, and practically announces the chief theme of the book. The struggle between the Israelites and the earlier inhabitants of the promised land after the death of Joshua is briefly detailed, shewing that the former did