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not refrain from carrying out the command of Jehovah to destroy the Canaanites, which is represented as one of the conditions of His covenant with them. Of the tribes west of Jordan, however, eight are specified which did not expel the inhabitants from their territory (chap. i.). Accordingly a prophetic messenger shews the consequences of allowing the Canaanites to remain and continue their idolatrous customs in the land. Unworthy as the Israelites shewed themselves to be of the divine protection, it is announced that they should be unable to drive out the nations because of their being forsaken of God. The punishment of disobedience to the divine command should be allowed to overtake them in repeated disasters inflicted by their enemies (ii. 1-5).
The second part, i.e., ii. 6-xvi. 31, constitutes the proper book of Judges, the rest being adventitious or auxiliary. It contains a history of the Israelites from the death of Joshua till that of Samson, shewing how they constantly fell into idolatry and were therefore punished by the hand of foreign tyrants ; while Jehovah, compassionating their distressed state, raised up a series of heroic deliverers to free them from the yoke of servi. tude. This alternation of subjugations by foreign powers in
. consequence of apostasy and of successive interpositions on their behalf, forms the body of the work. A series of historical pictures is presented to the reader, in which the prominent figure is a divinely raised personage who rescues the people from oppression, and brings them back to their allegiance to God. While these judges or leaders lived and ruled, the Israelites were free, rendering due obedience to their Great Head : after their death apostasy and its natural punishment followed.
It is first stated that Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, oppressed the children of Israel for a term of eight years, at the end of which the Lord raised them up a deliverer in Othniel, Caleb's younger brother. Forty years of peace succeeded. In consequence, however, of the evil conduct of Israel, Eglon, king of Moab, was the divine instrument in reducing them to servitude, in which state they lived eighteen years, till Ehud, a Benjamite, basely assassinated Eglon, and delivered the people; giving quiet to the land for eighty years. After him was Shamgar, who slew six hundred of the Philistines with an ox-goad, and delivered Israel. The next tyrant who oppressed Israel was Jabin, king of northern Palestine. At this time Deborah judged Israel, who sent a message to Barak, of the tribe of Naphtali, to meet her near mount Tabor with ten thousand men. Accordingly Sisera, Jabin's general, encountering this host was defeated, and obliged to fly on foot. After he had hid himself in the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, she killed him during sleep by means of a nail driven through his temples. The narrative respecting Deborah and Barak is followed by a triumphal ode.
The history of Gideon is next presented, but in a much more detailed form than that of any other judge. The Israelites having been oppressed by the Midianites seven years and at last crying to the Lord for help, a deliverer was sent in the person of Gideon, who, while threshing wheat in a wine press for the sake of concealment from the plundering Midianites, was accosted by the angel of the Lord calling upon him to save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. In answer to the request of Gideon, fire was made to rise up out of a rock, and consume the present he had laid upon it. After this he was exhorted to overthrow an altar erected by his father to Baal, and build another in its place for sacrifices to Jehovah. The Spirit of the Lord coming upon him, he blew a trumpet to gather his kindred, and sent messengers to call together the northern tribes. As new doubts came into his mind he ventured to ask a twofold sign, and received from it the required satisfaction that God would save Israel by his hand; a fleece of wool being saturated with moisture the first night while all around was dry; and being dry a second night, while there was dew on
a all the earth beside. Early in the morning the hero, at the head of 32,000 men furnished by four tribes, encamped at the well of Harod, near the battle field. But he did not engage in the fight with so great a host; for he was divinely directed to propose to the people that whoever was fearful ‘might return to his home. In pursuance of that permission no less than 22,000 returned. Still the army was too great to allow it to be seen and said that the Lord, not themselves, had conquered Midian. Hence Gideon was again divinely instructed to bring the people to a river's side to drink, and to select such only as raised the water to their mouth in the hollow of the hand. As these were no more than three hundred, the rest were dismissed. Going down by the Lord's command to the host of Midian in the valley, with his servant, he came so near as to hear a soldier relate to his companion a dream, which the latter interpreted as indicative of an overthrow by the sword of Gideon. Encouraged by the sign he returned to his men and divided them into three companies, giving every man a trumpet in his right hand, with a lamp enclosed in an empty pitcher in the left. At midnight they came to the outside of the camp, and standing round about it, blew the trumpets and brake the pitchers at once, crying, “ The sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” which so terrified the Midianites that they shouted and fled. Various northern tribes pursued them. The Ephraimites seized upon the fords of the
Jordan to intercept the way. Two princes of the enemy were taken and slain. Here the narrative is interrupted by an account of the Ephraimites expostulating with Gideon for not summoning them at first to the war, and so depriving them of their share in the honour of victory. But he pacifies them by a prudent answer. In pursuing a part of the Midianites under Zebah and Zalmunna who had crossed the Jordan, Gideon came to two cities, Succoth and Penuel, who refused to supply his army with needful refreshment. After slaying with his own hand the two kings of Midian who had been taken prisoners, he returned and punished the cities most severely. Refusing to be invested by the people with hereditary kingly authority, he merely requested to have the earrings which had been taken in war; and they were willingly given, amounting in weight to one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold. Of these he made an ephod and put it in his city Ophrah, by which means Israel fell into an unlawful worship of Jehovah. For thus an image-worship of the true God was established by Gideon, which became a snare to himself and his house. After judging Israel for forty years, he died in a good old age. As soon however as he was dead, the people lapsed into the idolatrous worship of Baal.
With the assistance of the Shechemites, Abimelech son of Gideon murdered all his seventy brothers except one, and caused himself to be made king. This furnished occasion for Jotham's parable and its application, who, having rebuked the men of Shechem and foretold their ruin, fled beyond his brother's reach. After three years, enmity arose between Abimelech and the Shechemites. Gaal, aspiring to the throne, united with the latter, and the city of Shechem was fortified against Abimelech, who, proceeding against his rebellious subjects destroyed their city, levelling it with the ground and slaying all the people. Afterwards when he laid siege to Thebez, he lost his life by a millstone hurled down on his head by a woman from a tower.
The accounts of the next judges, Tola and Jair, are very brief. The former judged Israel twenty-three years, and was buried in Shamir on mount Ephraim. Jair was a Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. The Israelites having again fallen into gross idolatry and forsaken the Lord; the Philistines and Moabites were allowed to subdue and oppress them for eighteen years. In this extremity they cried to the Lord for help, who referred them to the gods they had preferred. On their repentance, He compassionated them, and heard their cry. Accordingly they proceeded to embody a force and look out for a commander. Jephthah having been expelled from his father's house because he was the son of a harlot and had no claim to
the privileges belonging to his father's legitimate sons, collected about him a number of loose men prepared for war or plunder, and went to Tob in Syria, to the north-east of Palestine. To him therefore, as the captain of a band of freebooters, the Gileadites applied. He consented to take the command on condition that he should be the head of the people if the expedition proved successful. A covenant between them to that effect was solemnly ratified before the Lord in Mizpeh, by which can only be meant Mizpeh of Gilead, where we must suppose the existence of a sanctuary dedicated to Jehovah. After sending messengers in vain to the king of the Ammonites, and representing by them the right of Israel to the undisturbed possession of their country, Jephthah advanced towards the enemy, marching first east and then south-west to their borders. But before engaging in battle, he made a vow to Jehovah which was certainly contrary to the Mosaic law. It is true that in the immediately preceding context we read: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah,” etc. etc. (xi. 29); but that is no warrant for inferring that the Spirit always impelled him to do right or restrained him from wrong. “If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering." The Ammonites were defeated ; but as Jephthah returned from the field, his only child and daughter came forth to meet him with timbrels and with dances. The distressed father felt the obligation of his oath, and the maiden yielded herself a sacrifice. With her associates, she went up and down the mountains for a time bewailing her virginity; after which, returning to her father, she was put to death.
The Ephraimites complained to Jephthah that they had been neglected in the summons to war. But he charged them with remissness; and gathering all the Gileadites together, attacked and routed the malcontents; preoccupied the fords of Jordan, which the escaped Ephraimites would naturally attempt to pass; and slew forty-two thousand. It is said that Jephthah judged Israel six years. Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel seven years. After him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel ten years. After him Abdon, a Pirathonite, judged Israel eight years.
The history of Samson forms an episode in the book, rather than a constituent part of it. He was not a military leader placing himself at the head of the Israelites and emancipating them from a foreign yoke. Though it is said at the close of the narrative (xvi. 31) that he judged Israel twenty years, his life is not described in a way to lead the reader to infer that he
belonged to the proper series of judges. His character is unique ; his actions peculiar. His birth was ushered in with marvellous circumstances. The angel of the Lord appeared to his mother and told her that though she had been hitherto barren, she should bear a son who should be a Nazarite to God from his birth, and should begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. When her husband was informed, he entreated of the Lord the favour of a second appearance of the angel, which was granted accordingly. On this occasion the direction before given to the mother respecting her regimen was repeated. Manoah the father prepared an offering to the Lord upon a rock, and the angel disappeared in the ascending flame of the altar. When the child was born he was named Samson. After he had grown up he went down to Timnath, and became enamoured there of a Philistine maid. His parents however were averse to the marriage, and endeavoured in vain to turn away his mind from it. On the way to Timnath he slew a lion. Passing by the place on his return, he saw a swarm of bees and honey in the lion's carcass, and took away part of the combs of honey. At the nuptial feast he proposed a riddle to his thirty companions, founded on the swarm of bees making honey in the lion's carcass. When the allotted time for its solution was near its termination, and his companions were in perplexity, they enticed his wife, who by her importunity obtained the answer for them before the expiration of the allotted period. Immediately after hearing the solution he went down to Ashkelon and slew thirty men ; whence he procured the means of paying the forfeit, and returned to his father's house. After a time he revisited his wife's family, and, finding that she had been given in marriage to another, determined to take vengeance on the Philistines, which he did by catching 300 jackals, tying them together two and two by the tails with a firebrand between, and turning them loose into the standing corn. In revenge for such an outrage, the Philistines burned his wife and her father, for which Samson inflicted a terrible slaughter upon them. As the Philistines encamped in Judah and alarmed the men of this tribe, three thousand of the latter went to the top of the rock Etam to bind Samson and deliver him up to the enemy. Having obtained a promise that they would not kill him, he delivered himself into their hands and was given to the Philistines. But he snapped the cords asunder, and, finding the new jawbone of an ass, slew a thousand with it. Being thirsty, he prayed to God, who clave a hollow place in the jaw, whence water issued for his refreshment. At Gaza, whither he had gone, he was waited for at the gate by a party of the Philistines, who expected to catch him in the morning. But he