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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Judges 3



Verses 1-6

Nations which the Lord left in Canaan : with a repetition of the reason why this was done.

Judges 3:1-2

The reason, which has already been stated in Judges 2:22, viz., “to prove Israel by them,” is still further elucidated here. In the first place (Judges 3:1), את־ישׂראל is more precisely defined as signifying “ all those who had not known all the wars of Canaan ,” sc., from their own observation and experience, that is to say, the generation of the Israelites which rose up after the death of Joshua. For “ the wars of Canaan ” were the wars which were carried on by Joshua with the almighty help of the Lord for the conquest of Canaan. The whole thought is then still further expanded in Judges 3:2 as follows: “ only (for no other purpose than) that the succeeding generations (the generations which followed Joshua and his contemporaries) of the children of Israel, that He (Jehovah) might teach them war, only those who had not known them (the wars of Canaan).” The suffix attached to ידעוּם refers to “the wars of Canaan,” although this is a feminine noun, the suffix in the masculine plural being frequently used in connection with a feminine noun. At first sight it would appear as though the reason given here for the non-extermination of the Canaanites was not in harmony with the reason assigned in Judges 2:22, which is repeated in Judges 3:4 of the present chapter. But the differences are perfectly reconcilable, if we only give a correct explanation of the two expression, “learning war,” and the “wars of Canaan.” Learning war in the context before us is equivalent to learning to make war upon the nations of Canaan. Joshua and the Israelites of his time had not overcome these nations by their own human power or by earthly weapons, but by the miraculous help of their God, who had smitten and destroyed the Canaanites before the Israelites. The omnipotent help of the Lord, however, was only granted to Joshua and the whole nation, on condition that they adhered firmly to the law of God (Joshua 1:7), and faithfully observed the covenant of the Lord; whilst the transgression of that covenant, even by Achan, caused the defeat of Israel before the Canaanites (Josh 7). In the wars of Canaan under Joshua, therefore, Israel had experienced and learned, that the power to conquer its foes did not consist in the multitude and bravery of its own fighting men, but solely in the might of its God, which it could only possess so long as it continued faithful to the Lord. This lesson the generations that followed Joshua had forgotten, and consequently they did not understand how to make war. To impress this truth upon them-the great truth, upon which the very existence as well as the prosperity of Israel, and its attainment of the object of its divine calling, depended; in other words, to teach it by experience, that the people of Jehovah could only fight and conquer in the power of its God-the Lord had left the Canaanites in the land. Necessity teaches a man to pray. The distress into which the Israelites were brought by the remaining Canaanites was a chastisement from God, through which the Lord desired to lead back the rebellious to himself, to keep them obedient to His commandments, and to train them to the fulfilment of their covenant duties. In this respect, learning war, i.e., learning how the congregation of the Lord was to fight against the enemies of God and of His kingdom, was one of the means appointed by God to tempt Israel, or prove whether it would listen to the commandments of God (Judges 3:4), or would walk in the ways of the Lord. If Israel should so learn to war, it would learn at the same time to keep the commandments of God. But both of these were necessary for the people of God. For just as the realization of the blessings promised to the nation in the covenant depended upon its hearkening to the voice of the Lord, so the conflicts appointed for it were also necessary, just as much for the purification of the sinful nation, as for the perpetuation and growth of the kingdom of God upon the earth.

Judges 3:3-4

The enumeration of the different nations rests upon Joshua 13:2-6, and, with its conciseness and brevity, is only fully intelligible through the light thrown upon it by that passage. The five princes of the Philistines are mentioned singly there. According to Joshua 13:4., “ all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites ,” are the Canaanitish tribes dwelling in northern Canaan, by the Phoenician coast and upon Mount Lebanon. “ The Canaanites: ” viz., those who dwelt along the sea-coast to the south of Sidon. The Hivites: those who were settled more in the heart of the country, “from the mountains of Baal-hermon up to the territory of Hamath.” Baal-hermon is only another name for Baal-gad , the present Banjas , under the Hermon (cf. Joshua 13:5). When it is stated still further in Judges 3:4, that “they were left in existence (i.e., were not exterminated by Joshua) to prove Israel by them,” we are struck with the fact, that besides the Philistines, only these northern Canaanites are mentioned; whereas, according to Judg 1, many towns in the centre of the land were also left in the hands of the Canaanites, and therefore here also the Canaanites were not yet exterminated, and became likewise a snare to the Israelites, not only according to the word of the angel of the Lord (Judges 2:3), but also because the Israelites who dwelt among these Canaanitish tribes contracted marriages with them, and served their gods. This striking circumstance cannot be set aside, as Bertheau supposes, by the simple remark, that “the two lists (that of the countries which the tribes of Israel did not conquer after Joshua's death in Judg 1, and the one given here of the nations which Joshua had not subjugated) must correspond on the whole,” since the correspondence referred to really does not exist. It can only be explained on the ground that the Canaanites who were left in the different towns in the midst of the land, acquired all their power to maintain their stand against Israel from the simple fact that the Philistines on the south-west, and several whole tribes of Canaanites in the north, had been left by Joshua neither exterminated nor even conquered, inasmuch as they so crippled the power of the Israelites by wars and invasions of the Israelitish territory, that they were unable to exterminate those who remained in the different fortresses of their own possessions. Because, therefore, the power to resist the Israelites and oppress them for a time resided not so much in the Canaanites who were dwelling in the midst of Israel, as in the Philistines and the Canaanites upon the mountains of Lebanon who had been left unconquered by Joshua, these are the only tribes mentioned in this brief survey as the nations through which the Lord would prove His people.

Judges 3:5-6

But the Israelites did not stand the test. Dwelling in the midst of the Canaanites, of whom six tribes are enumerated, as in Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17, etc. (see at Deuteronomy 7:1), they contracted marriages with them, and served their gods, contrary to the express prohibition of the Lord in Exodus 34:16; Exodus 23:24, and Deuteronomy 7:3-4.

Verses 7-11

II. History of the People of Israel under the Judges - Judges 3:7-16:31

In order that we may be able to take a distinct survey of the development of the Israelites in the three different stages of the their history duringthe times of the judges, the first thing of importance to be done is to determine the chronology of the period of the judges , inasmuch as not only have greatly divergent opinions prevailed upon this point, but hypotheses have been set up, which endanger and to some extent directly overthrow the historical character of the accounts which the book of Judges contains.

(Note: Rud. Chr. v. Bennigsen , for example, reckons up fifty different calculations, and the list might be still further increased by the addition of both older and more recent attempts (see Winer , Bibl. Real-Wörterb. ii. pp. 327-8). Lepsius (Chronol. der. Aeg. i. 315-6, 365ff. and 377-8) and Bunsen (Aegypten, i. pp. 209ff. iv. 318ff., and Bibelwerk, i. pp. 237ff.), starting from the position maintained by Ewald and Bertheau , that the chronological data of the book of Judges are for the most part to be regarded as round numbers, have sought for light to explain the chronology of the Bible in the darkness of the history of ancient Egypt, and with their usual confidence pronounce it an indisputable truth that the whole of the period of the Judges did not last longer than from 169 to 187 years.)

If we take a superficial glance at the chronological data contained in the book, it appears a very simple matter to make the calculation required, inasmuch as the duration of the different hostile oppressions, and also the length of time that most of the judges held their office, or at all events the duration of the peace which they secured for the nation, are distinctly given. The following are the numbers that we find: -

1. Oppression by Chushan-rishathaim, (Judges 3:8), 8 years. Deliverance by Othniel, and rest, (Judges 3:11), 40 years. 2. Oppression by the Moabites, (Judges 3:14), 18 years. Deliverance by Ehud, and rest, (Judges 3:30), 80 years. 3. Oppression by the Canaanitish king Jabin, (Judges 4:3), 20 years. Deliverance by Deborah and Barak, and rest, (Judges 5:31), 40 years. 4. Oppression by the Midianites, (Judges 6:1), 7 years. Deliverance by Gideion, and rest, (Judges 8:28) 40 years. Abimelech's reign, (Judges 9:22), 3 years. Tola, judge, (Judges 10:2), 23 years. Jair, judge, (Judges 10:3), 22 years. Total, 301 years. 5. Oppression by the Ammonites, (Judges 10:8), 18 years. Deliveance by Jephthah, who judged Israel, (Judges 12:7), 6 years. Ibzan, judge, (Judges 12:9), 7 years. Elon, judge, (Judges 12:11), 10 years. Abdon, judge, (Judges 12:14), 8 years. 6. Oppression by the Philistines, (Judges 13:1), 40 years. At this time Samson judged Israel for 20 years (Judges 15:20; Judges 16:31 Total, 390 years. For if to this we add -

( a .) the time of Joshua, which is not distinctly mentioned, and 20 years. ( b .) the time during which Eli was judge (1 Samuel 4:18) 40 years.

We obtain 450 years.

(Note: The earlier chronologists discovered a confirmation of this as the length of time that the period of the judges actually lasted in Acts 13:20, where Paul in his speech at Antioch in Pisidia says, according to the textus receptus , “After that He gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years until Samuel the prophet.” The discrepancy between this verse and the statement in 1 Kings 6:1, that Solomon built the temple in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of Egypt, many have endeavoured to remove by a remark, which is correct in itself, viz., that the apostle merely adopted the traditional opinion of the Jewish schools, which had been arrive at by adding together the chronological data of the book of Judges, without entering into the question of its correctness, as it was not his intention to instruct his hearers in chronology. But this passage cannot prove anything at all; for the reading given in the lect . rec . is merely founded upon Cod Al., Vat., Ephr. S. rescr., but according to the Cod. Sinait., ed. Tischendorf and several minuscula , as well as the Copt. Sahid. Arm. Vers. and Vulg ., is, καὶ καθελὠν ἔθνη ἑπτὰ ἐν γῇ Χαναὰν κατεκλληρονόμησεν αὐτοῖς τὴν γῆν αὐτῶν ὡς ἔτεσιν τετπακοσίοις καὶ πεντήκοντα, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἔδωκεν κριτὰς ἕως Σαμουήλ τ. πρ. This text is rendered thus in the Vulgate: et destruens gentes septem in terra Chanaan sorte distribuit eis terram eorum quasi post quadringentos et quinquaginta annos: et post haec dedit judices usque ad Samuel prophetam , and can hardly be understood in any other sense than this, that Paul reckoned 450 as the time that elapsed between the call of Abraham (or the birth of Isaac) and the division of the land, namely 215 + 215 (according to the Alex. reading of Exodus 12:40 : see the comm. on this passage) + 40 = 470, or about 450.)

And if we add still further -

( c .) The times of Samuel and Saul combined, 40 years. ( d .) The reign of David (2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 2:11), 40 years. ( e .) The reign of Solomon to the building of the temple (1 Kings 6:1), 3 years. The whole time from the entrance of Israel into Canaan to the building of the temple amounted to,

533 years. Or if we add the forty years spent in the wilderness, the time that elapsed between the exodus from Egypt and the building of the temple 573 years. But the interval was not so long as this; for, according to 1 Kings 6:1, Solomon built the house of the Lord in the 480 th year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, and in the fourth year of his reign. And no well-founded objections can be raised as to the correctness and historical credibility of this statement. It is true that the lxx have “the 440th year” instead of the 480 th ; but this reading is proved to be erroneous by Aquila and Symmachus , who adopt the number 480 in common with all the rest of the ancient versions, and it is now almost unanimously rejected (see Ewald , Gesch. ii. p. 479). In all probability it owed its origin to an arbitrary mode of computing the period referred to by reckoning eleven generations of forty years each (see Ed Preuss ; die Zeitrechnung der lxx pp. 78ff.). On the other hand, the number 480 of the Hebrew text cannot rest upon a mere reckoning of generations, since the year and month of Solomon's reign are given in 1 Kings 6:1; and if we deduct this date from the 480, there remain 477 of 476 years, which do not form a cyclical number at all.

(Note: Bertheau has quite overlooked this when he endeavors to make the 480 years from the exodus to the building of the temple into a cyclical number, and appeals in support of this to 1 Chronicles 6:5., where twelve generations are reckoned from Aaron to Ahimaaz, the contemporary of David. But it is perfectly arbitrary on his part to include Ahimaaz who was a boy in the time of David (2 Samuel 15:27, 2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 18:19, 2 Samuel 18:22, 2 Samuel 18:27.), as the representative of a generation that was contemporaneous with David; whereas it was not Ahimaaz, but his father Zadok, i.e., the eleventh high priest from Aaron, who anointed Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 2:35), and therefore there had been only eleven high priests from the exodus to the building of the temple. If therefore this period was to be divided into generations of forty years each on the ground of the genealogies in the Chronicles, there could only be eleven generations counted, and this is just what the lxx have done.)

Again, the exodus of Israel from Egypt was an “epoch-making” event, which was fixed in the recollection of the people as no other ever was, so that allusions to it run through the whole of the Old Testament. Moreover, the very fact that it does not tally with the sum total of the numbers in the book of Judges is an argument in favor of its correctness; whereas all the chronological calculations that differ from this bring us back to these numbers, such, for example, as the different statements of Josephus, who reckons the period in question at 592 years in Ant. viii. 3, 1, and on the other hand, at 612 years in Ant. xx. 10 and c. Ap. ii. 2.

(Note: Josephus adds together the numbers which occur in the book of Jud Ges. Reckoning from the invasion of Chushan-rishathaim to the forty years' oppression of the Philistines (inclusive), these amount to 390 years, if we regard Samson's twenty years as forming part of the Philistine oppression, or to 410 years if they are reckoned separately. Let us add to this the forty years of the journey through the wilderness, the twenty-five years which Josephus assigns to Joshua (Ant. 5:1, 29), the forty years of Eli, the twelve years which he allots to Samuel before the election of Saul as king (6:13, 5), and the forty years which he reckons to Samuel and Saul together, and lastly, the forty and a half years of David's reign and the four years of Solomon's up to the time when the temple was built, and we obtain 40 + 25 + 40 + 12 + 40 + 401/2 + 4 = 2011/2 years; and these added to 390 make 5911/2, or added to 410 they amount to 611 years.)

Lastly, it may easily be shown that there are several things assumed in this chronological survey which have no foundation in the text. This applies both to the assumed succession of the Ammonitish and Philistine oppressions, and also to the introduction of the forty years of Eli's life as judge after or in addition to the forty years that the Philistines ruled over Israel.

The current view, that the forty years of the oppression on the part of the Philistines did not commence till after the death of Jephthah or Abdon, is apparently favored, no doubt, by the circumstance, that this oppression is not described till after the death of Abdon (Judges 12:15), and is introduced with the usual formula, “ And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” etc. (Judges 13:1). But this formula, taken by itself, does not furnish any certain proof that the oppression which it introduces did not take place till after what has been already described, especially in the absence of any more definite statement, such as the clause introduced into Judges 4:1, “when Ehud was dead,” or the still more definite remark, that the land had rest so many years (Judges 3:11, Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31; cf. Judges 8:32). Now in the case before us, instead of any such statement as to time, we find the general remark in Judges 10:6., that when the Israelites sank into idolatry again, Jehovah sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon; and after this there simply follows an account of the oppression on the part of the Ammonites, and the eventual deliverance effected by Jephthah (Judg 10:8-12:7), together with an enumeration of three judges who succeeded Jephthah (Judges 12:8-15); but we learn nothing further about the oppression on the part of the Philistines which is mentioned in Judges 10:7. When therefore, it is still further related, in Judges 13:1, that the Lord delivered the Israelites into the hand of the Philistines forty years, this cannot possibly refer to another oppression on the part of the Philistines subsequent to the one noticed in Judges 10:7; but the true explanation must be, that the historian proceeds here for the first time to describe the oppression noticed in Judges 10:7, and introduces his description with the formula he generally adopted: “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” etc. The oppression itself, therefore, commenced at the same time as that of the Ammonites, and continued side by side with it; but it lasted much longer, and did not come to an end till a short time before the death of Elon the judge. This is confirmed beyond all doubt by the fact, that although the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, it was chiefly the tribes of Israel who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan that were oppressed by them (Judges 10:8, Judges 10:9), and that it was only by these tribes that Jephthah was summoned to make war upon them, and was elected as their head and prince (Judges 11:5-11), and also that it was only the Ammonites in the country to the east of the Jordan whom he subdued then before the Israelites (Judges 11:32, Judges 11:33). From this it is very evident that Jephthah, and his successors Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, were not judges over all Israel, and neither fought against the Philistines nor delivered Israel from the oppression of the enemies who invaded the land from the south-west; so that the omission of the expression, “the land had rest,” etc., from Judg 11 and Judges 12:1-15, is very significant.

(Note: Even Hitzig , who denies that the oppression of the Philistines was contemporaneous with that of the Ammonites, is obliged to acknowledge that “it is true, the author first of all disposed very properly of the Ammonitish war before entering into the details of the war with the Philistines, with which it had no connection, and which was not brought to a close so soon.” When therefore, notwithstanding this, he adduces as evidence that they were not contemporaneous, the fact that “according to the context, and to all analogy (cf. Judges 4:1; Judges 3:11, Judges 3:12), the author intends to write, in Judges 13:1, that after the death of Abdon, when there was no judge in Israel, the nation fell back into its former lawlessness, and as a punishment was given up to the Philistines,” a more careful study of the passages cited (Judges 4:1; Judges 3:11, Judges 3:12) will soon show that the supposed analogy does not exist at all, since the expression, “the land had rest,” etc. really occurs in both instanced (se Judges 3:11 and Judges 3:31), whereas it is omitted before Judges 13:1. The still further assertion, however, that the account of the Philistine war ought to have followed immediately upon that of the war with the Ammonites, if the intention was to describe this with equal fulness, has no force whatever. If neither Jephthah nor the three judges who followed him had anything to do with the Philistines, if they merely judged the tribes that were oppressed and threatened by the Ammonites, it was natural that everything relating to them should be attached to the account of the defeat of the Ammonites, in order that there might be no unnecessary separation of what was so intimately connected together. And whilst these objections are thus proved to have no force, the objection raised to the contemporaneous occurrence of the two oppressions is wrecked completely upon the distinct statement in Judges 10:7, that Jehovah sold the Israelites into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites, which Hitzig can only get over by declaring, without the slightest foundation, that the words “into the hands of the Philistines” are spurious, simply because they stand in the way of his own assumption.)

But if the Ammonitish and Philistine oppressions occurred at the same time, of course only one of them must be taken into account in our chronological calculations as to the duration of the period of the judges; and the one selected must be the one to the close of which the chronological data of the next period are immediately appended. But this is not the case with the account of the Ammonitish oppression, of the deliverance effected by Jephthah, and of the judges who succeeded him (Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon), because the chronological thread of this series of events is broken off with the death of Abdon, and is never resumed again. It is so, however, with the Philistine oppression, which is said to have lasted forty years, though the termination of it is not given in the book of Jud Ges. Samson merely began to deliver Israel out of the power of the Philistines (Judges 13:5), but did not accomplish their complete deliverance. He judged Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines, i.e., during the oppression of the Philistines (Judges 15:20); consequently the twenty years of his labours must not be taken into account in the chronology of the period of the judges, inasmuch as they are all included in the forty years of the Philistines' rule. At the death of Samson, with which the book of Judges closes, the power of the Philistines was not yet broken; and in Judg 4 of the first book of Samuel we find the Philistines still fighting against the Israelites, and that with such success that the Israelites were defeated by them, an even lost the ark of the covenant. This war must certainly be a continuation of the Philistine oppression, to which the acts of Samson belonged, since the termination of that oppression is not mentioned in the book of Judges; and on the other hand, the commencement of the oppression referred to in 1 Samuel 4:9. is not given in the book of Samuel. Consequently even Hitzig supports the view which I have expressed, that the forty years' supremacy of the Philistines, noticed in Judges 13:1, is carried on into the book of Samuel, and extends to 1 Samuel 7:3, 1 Samuel 7:7, and that it was through Samuel that it was eventually brought to a termination (1 Samuel 7:10.). But if this is established, then the forty years during which Eli was judge cannot have followed the Philistine oppression and the deeds performed by Samson, and therefore must not be reckoned separately. For since Eli died in consequence of the account of the capture of the ark by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:18), and seven months (1 Samuel 6:1) and twenty years elapsed after this catastrophe before the Philistines were defeated and humiliated by Samuel (1 Samuel 7:2), only the last half of the forty years of Eli's judicial life falls within the forty years of the Philistine rule over Israel, whilst the first half coincides with the time of the judge Jair. Eli himself was not a judge in the strict sense of the word. He was neither commander of the army, nor secular governor of the nation, but simply the high priest; and in this capacity he administered the civil law in the supreme court, altogether independently of the question whether there was a secular governor at the time or not. After the death of Eli, Israel continued for more than twenty years utterly prostrate under the yoke of the Philistines. It was during this period that Samson made the Philistines feel the power of the God of Israel, though he could not deliver the Israelites entirely from their oppression. Samuel laboured at the same time, as the prophet of the Lord, to promote the inward and spiritual strength of Israel, and that with such success, that the people came to Mizpeh at his summons, and there put away the strange gods that they had hitherto worshipped, and worshipped the Lord alone; after which the Lord hearkened to Samuel's prayer, and gave them a complete victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:2-11). After this victory, which was gained not very long after the death of Samson, Samuel undertook the supreme government of Israel as judge, and eventually at their own desire, and with the consent of God, gave them a king in the person of Saul the Benjaminite. This was not till Samuel himself was old, and had appointed as his successors in the office of judge his own sons, who did not walk in their father's ways (1 Sam. 8-10). Even under Saul, however Samuel continued to the very end of his life to labour as the prophet of the Lord for the well-being of Israel, although he laid down his office of judge as soon as Saul had been elected king. He announced to Saul how he had been rejected by God on account of his disobedience; he anointed David as king; and his death did not occur till after Saul had began to be troubled by the evil spirit, and to plot for David's life (1 Samuel 25:1), as we may learn from the fact that David fled to Samuel at Ramah when Saul resolved to slay him (1 Samuel 19:18)

How long Samuel judged Israel between the victory gained at Ebenezer (1 Sam. 7) and the election of Saul as king of Israel, is not stated in the Old Testament, nor even the length of Saul's reign, as the text of 1 Samuel 13:1 is corrupt. But we shall not be very far from the truth, if we set down about forty years as the time covered by the official life of Samuel as judge after that event and the reign of Saul, and reckon from seventeen to nineteen years as the duration of Samuel's judgeship, and from twenty to twenty-two as the length of Saul's reign. For it is evident from the accounts that we possess of the lives and labours of Samuel and Saul, that Saul did not reign forty years (the time given by Paul in Acts 13:21 according to the traditional opinion current in the Jewish schools), but at the most from twenty to twenty-two; and this is now pretty generally admitted (see at 1 Samuel 13:1). When David was chosen king of Judah at Hebron after the death of Saul, he was thirty years old (2 Samuel 5:1-4), and can hardly have been anointed king by Samuel at Bethlehem before the age of twenty. For though his father Jesse was still living, and he himself was the youngest of Jesse's eight sons, and was feeding the flock (1 Samuel 16:6-12), and even after this is still described as נער (1 Samuel 17:42, 1 Samuel 17:55), Jesse was זקן (an old man) at the time (1 Samuel 17:12), at any rate sixty years old or more, to that his eldest son might be forty years old, and David, the youngest, as much as twenty. For נער was not only applied to a mere boy, but to a young man approaching twenty; and the keeping of sheep was not merely as task performed by shepherd boys, but also by the grown-up sons of a family, among whom we must certainly reckon David, since he had already contended with lions and bears in the steppe, and slain these beasts of prey (1 Samuel 17:34-36), and shortly afterwards was not only recommended to king Saul by his courtiers, as “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and wise in speech,” to cheer up the melancholy king by his playing upon the harp (1 Samuel 16:18), but also undertook to fight with the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17), and was placed in consequence over the men of war, and was afterwards made captain of a thousand, and betrothed to his daughter Michal (1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:13, 1 Samuel 18:17.). But if David was anointed by Samuel at the age of about twenty years, Saul could not have reigned more than ten years after that time, as David was made king at the age of thirty. And he cannot have reigned much longer before that time. For, apart from the fact that everything which is related of his former wars and deeds could easily have occurred within the space of ten years, the circumstance that Samuel lived till the last years of Saul's reign, and died but a few years before Saul's death (1 Samuel 25:1), precludes the assumption that he reigned any longer than that. For Samuel was already so old that he had appointed his sons as judges, whereupon the people desired a king, and assigned as the reason, that Samuel's sons did not walk in his ways (1 Samuel 8:1-4), from which it is very evident that they had already filled the office of judge for some considerable time. If we add to this the fact that Samuel was called to be a prophet before the death of Eli, and therefore was no doubt twenty-five or thirty years old when Eli died, and that twenty years and seven months elapsed between the death of Eli and the defeat of the Philistines, so that Samuel may have been about fifty years old at that time, and that he judged the people from this time forward till he had become an old man, and then gave the nation a king in the person of Saul, we cannot assign more than forty years as the interval between the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Saul, without attributing to Samuel an age of more than ninety years, and therefore we cannot reckon more than forty or thirty-nine years as the time that intervened between the installation of Samuel in his office as judge and the commencement of the reign of Saul.

According to this, the chronology of the times of the judges may be arranged as follows: -

a. From the oppression of Cushan-rishathaim to the death of Jair the judge (vid. p. 202), 301 years. b. Duration of the Philistine oppression, 40 years. c. Judgeship of Samuel and reign of Saul, 39 years. d. David's reign (7 ½ and 33 years) 40 years. e. Solomon's reign to the building of the temple, 3 years. 423 years. a. The wandering in the desert, 40 years. b. the time between the entrance into Canaan and the division of the land,

7 years. c. From the division of Canaan to the invasion of Chushan-rishathaim, 10 years. 480 years. These numbers are as thoroughly in harmony with 1 Kings 6:1, and also with the statement made by Jephthah in his negotiations with the king of the Ammonites, that Israel dwelt in Heshbon and the cities along the bank of the Arnon for three hundred years (Judges 11:26), as we could possibly expect so general a statement in round numbers to be. For instance, as the chronological data of the book of Judges give 301 years as the interval between the invasion of Chushan-rishathaim and the commencement of the Ammonitish oppression, and as only about ten years elapsed between the division of Canaan, after which the tribes on the east of the Jordan first established themselves firmly in Gilead, and the invasion of Chushan, the Israelites had dwelt 310 years in the land on the other side of the Jordan at the time of Jephthah's negotiations with the Ammonites, or at the most 328, admitting that these negotiations may possibly not have taken place till towards the end of the eighteen years' oppression on the part of the Ammonites, so that Jephthah could appeal with perfect justice to the fact that they had been in possession of the land for 300 years.

This statement of Jephthah, however, furnishes at the same time an important proof that the several chronological data contained in our book are to be regarded as historical, and also that the events are to be reckoned as occurring successively; so that we have no right to include the years of oppression in the years of rest, as is frequently done, or to shorten the whole period from Othniel to Jephthah by arbitrary assumptions of synchronisms, in direct opposition to the text. This testimony removes all foundation from the hypothesis that the number forty which so frequently occurs is a so-called round number, that is to say, is nothing more than a number derived from a general estimate of the different periods according to generations, or cyclical periods. For if the sum total of the different chronological notices tallies on the whole with the actual duration of the period in question as confirmed by this testimony, the several notices must be regarded as historically true, and that all the more because the greater part of these data consist of such numbers as 6, 8, 18, 20, 22, 23, which can neither be called round nor cyclical. Moreover, the purely cyclical significance of the number forty among the Israelites must first of all be proved. Even Ewald (Gesh. ii. pp. 480, 481) most justly observes, that “it is very easy to say that the number forty was a round number in the case of different nations; but this round number must first of all have had its origin in life, and therefore must have had its limited application.” If, however, we look more closely at the different occasions on which the space of forty years is mentioned, between the exodus from Egypt and the building of the temple, we shall find that at any rate the first and last passages contain very definite notices of time, and cannot possibly be regarded as containing merely round or cyclical numbers. In the case of the forty years' wandering in the wilderness, this is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the fact that even the months are given of both the second and fortieth years (Numbers 10:11; Numbers 20:1; Deuteronomy 1:3), and the intervening space is distinctly stated to have been thirty-eight years (Deuteronomy 2:14). And the forty years that David is said to have reigned also give the precise number, since he reigned seven and a half years at Hebron, and thirty-three at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:4, 2 Samuel 5:5; 1 Kings 2:11). Between these two extreme points we certainly meet with the number forty five times: viz., forty years of rest under Othniel (Judges 3:11), the same under Barak and Deborah (Judges 5:31), and the same again Gideon (Judges 8:28); also forty years of the oppression by the Philistines (Judges 13:1), and the forty years that Eli was judge (1 Samuel 4:18); and in addition to these, we find eighty years of rest after Ehud's victory (Judges 3:30). But there are also twelve or thirteen passages in which we find either odd numbers, or at all events numbers that cannot be called cyclical or round (viz., Judges 3:8, Judges 3:14; Judges 4:3; Judges 6:1; Judges 9:22; Judges 10:2, Judges 10:3; Judges 12:7, Judges 12:9, Judges 12:11, Judges 12:14; Judges 15:20; Judges 16:31). What is there then to justify our calling the number forty cyclical or round? It is the impossibility or improbability that in the course of 253 years Israel should have had rest from hostile oppression on three occasions for forty years, and on one for eighty? Is there anything impossible in this? Certainly not. Is there even an improbability? If there be, surely improbabilities have very often been perfectly true. And in the case before us, the appearance itself loses all significance, when we consider that although if we take entire years the number forty is repeated, yet it cannot be taken so literally as that we are to understand that entire years are intended every time. If David's reign is reckoned as forty years in 2 Samuel 5:4, although, according to 2 Samuel 5:5, he reigned seven years and six months in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem, it may also be the case that, although forty years is the number given in the book of Judges, the period referred to may actually have been only thirty-nine years and a half, or may have been forty and a half. To this must be added the fact that the time during which the war with the enemy lasted is also included in the years of rest; and this must always have occupied several months, and may sometimes have lasted even more than a year.

Now, if we give all these circumstances their due weight, every objection that can be raised as to the correctness and historical credibility of the chronological data of the book of Judges vanishes away, whilst all the attempts that have been made to turn these data into round or cyclical numbers are so arbitrary as to need no special refutation whatever.

(Note: The principal representatives of this hypothesis are Ewald and his pupil Bertheau . According to Ewald Gesch. ii. pp. 473ff.), the twelve judges from Othniel to Samson form the historical groundwork of the book, although there are distinct traces that there were many more such rulers, because it was only of these that any reminiscences had been preserved. When, therefore, after the expiration of the whole of this period, the desire arose to bring out into distinct prominence the most important points connected with it, the first thing that was done was to group together these twelve judges, with such brief remarks as we find in the case of five of them (Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon) in Judges 10:1-5 and Judges 12:8-15. In their case, too, the precise time was given, so far as it could be still remembered. But, independently of this, the attempt was also made to connect the order of the many alternations of war and peace during these 480 years which occurred, according to 1 Kings 6:1, between the exodus from Egypt and the building of Solomon's temple, to certain grand and easily remembered divisions; and for this the number forty at once presented itself. For since, according to the oldest traditions, Israel spent forty years in the wilderness, and since David also reigned forty years, it might easily be regarded as a suitable thing to divide the whole into twelve equal parts, and to assign to each forty years a great hero and some striking event: e.g., (1) Moses and the wilderness; (2) Joshua and the prosperous rule of the elders; (3) the war with Chushan-rishathaim, and Othniel; (4) the Moabites and Ehud; (5) the Aramaeans and Jair; (6) the Canaanites under Jabin, and Deborah; (7) the Midianites and Gideon; (8) Tola, with whose opponents we are not acquainted; (9) the Ammonites and Philistines, or Jephthah and Samson; (10) the Philistines and Eli; (11) Samuel and Saul; (12) David. “Finally, then these twelve judges from Othniel to Samson were necessarily connected with this different mode of reckoning, so that the several numbers, as well as the order in which the judges occur, which show so evidently (?) that the last editor but one compiled the section extending from Judg 3-16 out of a great variety of sources, must have been the resultant of many chan Ges. ” But Ewald looks in vain for any reason for this “must”. And the question starts up at once, how could the idea ever have entered any one's mind of dividing these 480 years, from the exodus to the building of the temple, among the twelve judges in this particular manner; that to all the judges, concerning whom it was not known how long their period of labour lasted, forty years each were assigned, when it was known that Israel had wandered forty years in the wilderness, that Joshua had governed forty years with the elders, and Samuel and Saul together had ruled for the same time, and David also, so that there only remained for the judges from Othniel to Samson 480 - 4 x 40, i.e., only 320 years, or, deducting the first three or four years of Solomon's reign, only 317 or 316 years? These years, if divided among twelve judges, would give only twenty-six or twenty-seven years for each. Or how did they come to allot eighty years to Ehud, and only twenty-two to Jair and twenty-three to Tola, if the two latter had also conquered the hostile oppressors of Israel? And lastly, why was Shamgar left without any, when he delivered Israel from the Philistines? To these and many other questions the author of this hypothesis is unable to give any answer at all; and the arbitrary nature of his mode of manufacturing history is so obvious, that it is unnecessary to waste words in proving it. It is not better with Bertheau's hypothesis (Judg. pp. xvi.ff.). According to this hypothesis, out of the twelve generations from Moses to David which he derives from 1 Chronicles 6:5., only six (or 240 years) belong to the judges from Othniel to Samson. These have been variously reckoned. One calculation takes them as six generations of forty years each; another reckons them more minutely, adopting smaller numbers which were assigned to the twelve judges and the son of Gideon. But six generations and twelve judges could not be combined in any other way than by assigning twenty years to each judge. Now there was not a single judge who judged Israel for twenty years, with the exception of Samson And the total number of the years that they judged is not 240, but 296 years (40 + 80 + 40 + 40 + 23 + 22 + 6 + 7 + 10 + 8 +20 + x ). Consequently we do not find any trace throughout the book, that the period of the judges was reckoned as consisting of six generations of forty years each. (Compare with this a more elaborate refutation by Bachmann , pp. 3ff.).)

Chonological Survey of the Principal Events from the Exodus to the Building of Solomon's Temple

The historical character of the chronological data of the book of Judges being thus established, we obtain a continuous chronology for the history of the Israelitish nation, as we may see from the following survey, to which we append a calculation of the years before Christ: -

The Principle Events Duration Years before the birth of Christ Exodus of Israel from Egypt - 1492 The law given at Sinai - 1492-1491 Death of Aaron and Moses in the fortieth year of the wandering in the desert 40 1453 Conquest of Canaan by Joshua 7 1452-1445 From the division of the land to the invasion of Chushan-rishathaim 10 1445-1435 Death of Joshua - c. 1442 Wars of the tribes of Israel with the Canaanites - 1442 onwards Oppression by Chushan-rishathaim 8 1435-1427 Deliverance by Othniel, and rest 40 1427-1387 Oppression by the Moabites 18 1387-1369 Deliverance by Ehud, and rest 80 1369-1289 Victory of Shamgar over the Philistines - x Oppression by Jabin 20 1289-1269 Deliverance by Deborah and Barak, and rest 40 1269-1229 Oppression by the Midianites 7 1229-1222 Deliverance by Gideon, and rest 40 1222-1182 Rule of Abimelech 3 1182-1179 Tola, judge 23 1179-1156 Jair, judge 22 1156-1134 Eli, high priest and judge forty years - 1154-1114 After repeated apostasy, oppression (a) In the East (b) In the West By the Ammonites, 18 years By the Philistines 40 1134-1094 from 1134 to 1116 b.c. Loss of the Ark - c. 1114 Jephthath, judge 6 years Samson's deeds - 1116-1096 from 1116 to 1110 b.c. Samuel's prophetic labours - 1114 onwards Ibzan, judge 7 years Defeat of the Philistines - 1094 from 1110 to 1103 b.c. Samuel, judge 19 1094-1075 Elon, judge 10 years Saul, king 20 1075-1055 from 1103 to 1093 b.c. David, king at Hebron 7 1055-1048 Abdon, judge 7 years David, king at Jerusalem 33 1048-1015 from 1093 to 1085 b.c. Solomon's reign to the building of the temple 3 1015-1012 Total 480 years. All that is required to establish our calculation as to the period of the judges, is to justify our estimate of ten years as the time that intervened between the division of the land and the invasion by Chushan-rishathaim, since the general opinion, founded upon the statement of Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 29), that Joshua was στρατηγός of the nation for twenty-five years after the death of Moses, and (6:5, 4) that his death was followed by a state of anarchy for eighteen years, is that it was at least thirty-five years. But Josephus at all events ought not to be appealed to, as he had no other sources of information with regard to the earlier portion of the Israelitish history than the Old Testament itself; and he so frequently contradicts himself in his chronological statements, that no reliance can be place upon them even in cases where their incorrectness cannot be clearly proved. And if we consider, on the other hand, that Joshua was an old man when the two great campaigns in the south and north of Canaan were over, and in fact was so advanced in years, that God commanded him to divide the land, although many districts were still unconquered (Joshua 13:1.), in order that he might finish this part of his calling before his death, there is very little probability that he lived for twenty-five years after that time. The same words are used to describe the last days of his life in Joshua 23:1, that had previously been employed to describe his great age (Joshua 13:1.). No doubt the statement in Joshua 23:1, to the effect that “many days after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their foes,” Joshua called together the representatives of the nation, to renew the covenant of the nation with the Lord before his death, when taken in connection with the statement in Joshua 19:50, that he built the city of Timnathserah, which the tribes had given him for an inheritance after the distribution of the land by lot was over, and dwelt therein, proving very clearly that there were certainly “many days” ( Eng. Ver. “a long time”) between the division of the land and the death of Joshua. But this is so comparative a term, that it hardly embraces more than two or three years. And Joshua might build, i.e., fortify Timnath-serah, and dwell therein, even if he only lived for two or three years after the division of the land. On the other hand, there appears to have been a longer interval than the seven or eight years allowed in our reckoning between the death of Joshua and the invasion of Chushan; since it not only includes the defeat of Adoni-bezek, the capture of Jerusalem, Hebron, and other towns, by the tribes of Judah and Simeon (Judges 1:1-14), and the conquest of Bethel by the tribe of Joseph (Judges 1:22.), but also the war of the congregation with the tribe of Benjamin (Judg 19-21). But it is only in appearance that the interval allowed is too short. All these events together would not require many years, but might very well have occurred within the space of about five years. And it is quite possible that the civil war of the Israelites might have been regarded by king Chushan-rishathaim as a favourable opportunity for carrying out his design of making Israel tributary to himself, and that he took advantage of it accordingly. The very fact that Othniel delivered Israel from this oppression, after it had continued for eight years, precludes us from postponing the invasion itself to a longer period after the death of Joshua. For Othniel was not Caleb's nephew, as many suppose, but his younger brother (see at Joshua 15:17). Now Caleb was eighty-five years old when the distribution of the land commenced (Joshua 14:10); so that even if his brother Othniel was thirty, or even forty years younger, he would still be fifty-five, or at any rate forty-five years old, when the division of the land commenced. If the statements of Josephus were correct, therefore, Othniel would have been ninety-one years old, or at any rate eighty-one, when he defeated the Aramaean king Chushan-rishathaim; whereas, according to our calculation, he would only have been fifty or sixty years old when Debir was taken, and sixty-three or seventy-three when Chushan was defeated. Now, even if we take the lower number as the correct one, this would be a sufficiently great age for such a warlike undertaking, especially when we consider that Othniel lived for some time afterwards, as is evident from the words of Judges 3:11, “And the land had rest forty years: and Othniel the son of Kenaz died,” though they may not distinctly affirm that he did not die till the termination of the forty years' rest.

The fact that Caleb's younger brother Othniel was the first judge of Israel, also upsets the hypothesis which Bertheau has founded upon a mistaken interpretation of Judg 2:11-3:6, that a whole generation of forty years is to be reckoned between the death of Joshua and the invasion of Chushan, and also the misinterpretation of Judges 2:7, Judges 2:10 (cf. Joshua 24:31), according to which the sinful generation did not grow up until after Joshua and all the elders who lived a long time after him were dead, - an interpretation which has no support in Judges 2:7, since האריך ימים אחרי does not mean “to live long after a person”, but simply “to survive him.” The “other generation which knew not the Lord,” etc., that arose after the death of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, was not a different generation from the succeeding generations, which were given up to the power of their foes on account of their apostasy from the Lord, but the younger generation generally, which took the place of the older men who had seen the works of the Lord under Joshua; in other words, this is only a comprehensive expression for all the succeeding generations who forgot Jehovah their God and served Baalim. So much may be said in vindication of our calculations as to the period of the judges.

1. Times Of The Judges: Othniel; Ehud And Shamgar, Deborah And Barak - Judges 3:7-5:31

In this first stage of the times of the judges, which embraces a period of 206 years, the Israelites were oppressed by hostile nations on three separate occasions: first of all by the Mesopotamian king Chushan-rishathaim, whom they were obliged to serve for eighteen years, until Othniel brought them deliverance, and secured them rest for forty years (Judges 3:7-11); secondly by the Moabitish king Eglon for eighteen years, until Ehud slew this king and smote the Moabites, and so humiliated them, that the land had rest for eighty years (Judg 3:12-30), whilst Shamgar also smote a host of Philistines during the same period (Judges 3:31); and lastly by the Canaanitish king Jabin of Hazor, who oppressed them heavily for twenty years, until Barak gathered an army together at the summons of Deborah the prophetess and with her assistance, and completely defeated the foe (Judg 4). After this victory, which Deborah celebrated in a triumphal song, the land had rest again for forty years (Judg 5).

Oppression of Israel by Chushan-rishathaim, and Deliverance by Othniel - Judges 3:7-11

Judges 3:7-8

The first chastisement which the Israelites suffered for their apostasy from the Lord, is introduced with the same formula which had been used before to describe the times of the judges generally (Judges 2:11-12), except that instead of את־יי ויּעזבוּ (“they forsook the Lord”) we have here את־יי ויּשׁכּחוּ (“ they forgot the Lord their God ”) from Deuteronomy 32:18 (cf. 1 Samuel 12:9), and Asheroth (rendered “groves”) instead of Ashtaroth (see at Judges 2:13). As a punishment for this apostasy, the Lord sold them (Judges 2:14) into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim , the king of Mesopotamia, whom they were obliged to serve for eight years. All that we know about this king of Mesopotamia is what is recorded here. His name, Chushan-rishathaim, is probably only a title which was given to him by the Israelites themselves. Rishathaim signifies “ double wickedness ,” and the word was rendered as an appellative with this signification in the Targums and the Syriac and Arabic versions. Chushan is also formed as an adjective from Cush , and may denote the Cushites. According to M . v . Niebuhr (Gesch. Assurs u. Babels, p. 272), the rulers of Babylon at that time (1518-1273) were Arabs. “Arabs, however, may have included not only Shemites of the tribe of Joktan or Ishmael, but Cushites also.” The invasion of Canaan by this Mesopotamian or Babylonian king has a historical analogy in the campaign of the five allied kings of Shinar in the time of Abraham (Gen 14).

Judges 3:9-11

In this oppression the Israelites cried to the Lord for help, and He raised them up מושׁיע , a deliverer, helper, namely the Kenizzite Othniel , the younger brother and son-in-law of Caleb (see at Joshua 15:17). “ The Spirit of Jehovah came upon him .” The Spirit of God is the spiritual principle of life in the world of nature and man; and in man it is the principle both of the natural life which we received through birth, and also of the spiritual life which we received through regeneration (vid., Auberlen , Geist des Menschen, in Herzog's Cycl. iv. p. 731). In this sense the expressions “Spirit of God” ( Elohim ) and “Spirit of the Lord” (Jehovah) are interchanged even in Genesis 1:2, compared with Genesis 6:3, and so throughout all the books of the Old Testament; the former denoting the Divine Spirit generally in its supernatural causality and power, the latter the same Spirit in its operations upon human life and history in the working out of the plan of salvation. In its peculiar operations the Spirit of Jehovah manifests itself as a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). The communication of this Spirit under the Old Testament was generally made in the form of extraordinary and supernatural influence upon the human spirit. The expression employed to denote this is usually יי רוּח עליו ותּהי (“the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him:” thus here, Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 19:20, 1 Samuel 19:23; 2 Chronicles 20:14; Numbers 24:2). This is varied, however, with the expressions יי רוּח עליו ( צלחה ) ותּצלח (Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13) and את־פ לבשׁה יי רוּח , “the Spirit of Jehovah clothed the man” (Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20). Of these the former denotes the operations of the Divine Spirit in overcoming the resistance of the natural will of man, whilst the latter represents the Spirit of God as a power which envelopes or covers a man. The recipients and bearers of this Spirit were thereby endowed with the power to perform miraculous deeds, in which the Spirit of God that came upon them manifested itself generally in the ability to prophesy (vid., 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:20, 1 Samuel 19:23; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 20:14; 2 Chronicles 24:20), but also in the power to work miracles or to accomplish deeds which surpassed the courage and strength of the natural man. The latter was more especially the case with the judges; hence the Chaldee paraphrases “the Spirit of Jehovah” in Judges 6:34 as the spirit of might from the Lord;” though in the passage before us it gives the erroneous interpretation נבוּאה רוּח , “the spirit of prophecy.” Kimchi also understands it as signifying “the spirit of bravery, under the instigation of which he was able fearlessly to enter upon the war with Chushan.” But we are hardly at liberty to split up the different powers of the Spirit of God in this manner, and to restrict its operations upon the judges to the spirit of strength and bravery alone. The judges not only attacked the enemy courageously and with success, but they also judged the nation, for which the spirit of wisdom and understanding was indispensably necessary, and put down idolatry (Judges 2:18-19), which they could not have done without the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. “ And he judged Israel and went out to war .” The position of ויּשׁפּט before למּלחמה ויּצא does not warrant us in explaining ויּשׁפּט as signifying “he began to discharge the functions of a judge,” as Rosenmüller has done: for שׁפט must not be limited to a settlement of the civil disputes of the people, but means to restore right in Israel, whether towards its heathen oppressors, or with regard to the attitude of the nation towards the Lord. “ And the Lord gave Chushan-rishathaim into his hand (cf. Judges 1:2; Judges 3:28, etc.), and his hand became strong over him; ” i.e., he overcame him (cf. Judges 6:2), or smote him, so that he was obliged to vacate the land. In consequence of this victory, and the land had rest from war (cf. Joshua 11:23) forty years. “ And then Othniel died: ” the expression ויּמת with ו consec . does not necessarily imply that Othniel did not die for forty years, but simply that he died after rest had been restored to the land.

Verses 12-14

In vv. 12-30 the subjugation of the Israelites by Eglon , the king of the Moabites, and their deliverance from this bondage, are circumstantially described. First of all, in Judges 3:12-14, the subjugation . When the Israelites forsook the Lord again (in the place of וגו את־הרע ... ויּעשׂוּ , Judges 3:7, we have here the appropriate expression ... הרע הרע לעשׂות , they added to do, i.e., did again, evil, etc., as in Judges 4:1; Judges 10:6; Judges 13:1), the Lord made Eglon the king of the Moabites strong over Israel. על חזּק , to give a person strength to overcome or oppress another. כּי על , as in Deuteronomy 31:17, instead of the more usual אשׁר על (cf. Jeremiah 4:28; Malachi 2:14; Psalms 139:14). Eglon allied himself with the Ammonites and Amalekites, those arch-foes of Israel, invaded the land, took the palm-city, i.e., Jericho (see at Judges 1:16), and made the Israelites tributary for eighteen years. Sixty years had passed since Jericho had been burnt by Joshua. During that time the Israelites had rebuilt the ruined city, but they had not fortified it, on account of the curse pronounced by Joshua upon any one who should restore it as a fortress; so that the Moabites could easily conquer it, and using it as a base, reduce the Israelites to servitude.

Verse 15

But when the Israelites cried to the Lord for help, He set them free through the Benjaminite Ehud , whom He raised up as their deliverer. Ehud was “the son of Gera.” This probably means that he was a descendant of Gera, since Gera himself, according to 1 Chronicles 8:3, was a son of Bela the son of Benjamin, and therefore was a grandson of Benjamin; and Shimei the contemporary of David, a man belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, is also called a son of Gera in 2 Samuel 16:5; 2 Samuel 19:17. At the same time, it is possible that the name Gera does not refer to the same person in these different passages, but that the name was repeated again and again in the same family. “ A man shut with regard to his right hand, ” i.e., hindered in the use of his right hand, not necessarily crippled, but in all probability disabled through want of use from his youth upwards. That the expression does not mean crippled, is confirmed by the fact that it is used again in connection with the 700 brave slingers in the army of the Benjaminites in Judges 20:16, and it certainly cannot be supposed that they were all actual cripples. So much is certain, however, that it does not mean ἀμφοτεροδέξιος , qui utraque manu pro dextera utebatur (lxx, Vulg .), since אטר signifies clausit (shut) in Psalms 69:16. It is merely with reference to what follows that this peculiarity is so distinctly mentioned. - The Israelites sent a present by him to king Eglon. בידו does not mean in , but through , his hand, i.e., through his intervention, for others were actually employed to carry the present (Judges 3:18), so that Ehud merely superintended the matter. Minchah , a gift or present, is no doubt a euphemism for tribute, as in 2 Samuel 8:2, 2 Samuel 8:6; 1 Kings 5:1.

Verse 16

Ehud availed himself of the opportunity to approach the king of the Moabites and put him to death, and thus to shake off the yoke of the Moabites from his nation. To this end he provided himself with a sword, which had two edges ( פּיות from פּה , like שׂיו , Deuteronomy 22:1, from שׂה ), a cubit long ( גּמר , ἁπ. λεγ. , signified primarily a staff, here a cubit, according to the Syriac and Arabic; not “a span,” σπιθαμή , lxx), and “ did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh .”

Verse 17

Provided with this weapon, he brought the present to king Eglon, who - as is also mentioned as a preparation for what follows - was a very fat man.

Verses 18-20

After presenting the gift, Ehud dismissed the people who had carried the present to their own homes; namely, as we learn from Judges 3:19, after they had gone some distance from Jericho. But he himself returned from the stone-quarries at Gilgal, sc., to Jericho to king Eglon. הפּסילים מן refers to some place by Gilgal. In Deuteronomy 7:25; Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 8:19, pesilim signifies idols. And if we would retain this meaning here, as the lxx, Vulg ., and others have done, we must assume that in the neighbourhood of Gilgal there were stone idols set up in the open air-a thing which is very improbable. The rendering “stone quarries,” from פּסל , to hew out stones (Exodus 34:1, etc.), which is the one adopted in the Chaldee , and by Rashi and others, is more likely to be the correct one. Gilgal cannot be the Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan, which was the first encampment of the Israelites in Canaan, as is commonly supposed, since Ehud passed the Pesilim on his flight from the king's dwelling-place to the mountains of Ephraim (Judges 3:26, Judges 3:27); and we can neither assume, as Bertheau does, that Eglon did not reside in the conquered palm-city (Jericho), but in some uncultivated place in the neighbourhood of the Jordan, nor suppose that after the murder of Eglon Ehud could possibly have gone from Jericho to the Gilgal which was half an hour's journey towards the east, for the purpose of escaping by a circuitous route of this kind to Seirah in the mountains of Ephraim, which was on the north-west of Jericho. Gilgal is more likely to be Geliloth , which was on the west of Jericho opposite to the ascent of Adummim ( Kaalat ed Dom ), on the border of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 18:17), and which was also called Gilgal (Joshua 15:7). Having returned to the king's palace, Ehud sent in a message to him: “ I have a secret word to thee, O king .” The context requires that we should understand “ he said ” in the sense of “he had him told” (or bade say to him), since Ehud himself did not go in to the king, who was sitting in his room, till afterwards (Judges 3:20). In consequence of this message the king said: הס , lit . be silent (the imperative of הסה fo ); here it is a proclamation, Let there be quiet. Thereupon all who were standing round (viz., his attendants) left the room, and Ehud went in (Judges 3:20). The king was sitting “in his upper room of cooling alone.” The “room of cooling” ( Luther, Sommerlaube , summer-arbour) was a room placed upon the flat roof of a house, which was open to the currents of air, and so afforded a cool retreat, such as are still met with in the East (vid., Shaw , pp. 188-9). Then Ehud said, “ A word of God I have to thee; ” whereupon the king rose from his seat, from reverence towards the word of God which Ehud pretended that he had to deliver to him, not to defend himself, as Bertheau supposes, of which there is not the slightest intimation in the text.

Verse 21-22

But when the king stood up, Ehud drew his sword from under his garment, and plunged it so deeply into his abdomen that even the hilt followed the blade, and the fat closed upon the blade (so that there was nothing to be seen of it in front, because he did not draw the sword again out of his body), and the blade came out between the legs. The last words have been rendered in various ways. Luther follows the Chaldee and Vulgate , and renders it “so that the dirt passed from him,” taking the ἁπ. λεγ. פּרשׁדנה as a composite noun from פּרשׁ , stercus , and שׁדה , jecit . But this is hardly correct, as the form of the word פּרשׁדנה , and its connection with יצא , rather points to a noun, פּרשׁדן , with ה local. The explanation given by Gesenius in his Thes . and Heb. lex . has much more in its favour, viz., interstitium pedum , the place between the legs, from an Arabic word signifying pedes dissitos habuit , used as a euphemism for anus, podex . The subject to the verb is the blade.

(Note: At any rate the rendering suggested by Ewald , “Ehud went into the open air, or into the enclosure, the space in front of the Alija ,” is untenable, for the simple reason that it is perfectly irreconcilable with the next clause, “Ehud went forth,” etc. (consequently Fr. Böttcher proposes to erase this clause from the text, without any critical authority whatever). For if Ehud were the subject to the verb, the subject would necessarily have been mentioned, as it really is in the next clause, Judges 3:23 .)

Verse 23

As soon as the deed was accomplished, Ehud went out into the porch or front hall, shut the door of the room behind him ( בּעדו , not behind himself, but literally round him, i.e., Eglon; cf. Genesis 7:16; 2 Kings 4:4) and bolted it (this is only added as a more precise explanation of the previous verb).

Verse 24-25

When the servants of Eglon came (to enter in to their lord) after Ehud's departure and saw the door of the upper room bolted, they thought “surely ( אך , lit . only, nothing but) he covers his feet” (a euphemism for performing the necessities of nature; cf. 1 Samuel 24:3), and waited to shaming (cf. 2 King Judges 2:17; Judges 8:11), i.e., till they were ashamed of their long waiting (see at Judges 5:28). At length they opened the door with the key, and found their lord lying dead upon the floor.

Ehud's conduct must be judged according to the spirit of those times, when it was thought allowable to adopt any means of destroying the enemy of one's nation. The treacherous assassination of a hostile king is not to be regarded as an act of the Spirit of God, and therefore is not set before us as an example to be imitated. Although Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer to His people when oppressed by Eglon, it is not stated (and this ought particularly to be observed) that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon Ehud, and still less that Ehud assassinated the hostile king under the impulse of that Spirit. Ehud proved himself to have been raised up by the Lord as the deliverer of Israel, simply by the fact that he actually delivered his people from the bondage of the Moabites, and it by no means follows that the means which he selected were either commanded or approved by Jehovah.

Verses 26-28

Ehud had escaped whilst the servants of Eglon were waiting, and had passed the stone quarries and reached Seirah. Seirah is a place that is never mentioned again; and, judging from the etymology (the hairy), it was a wooded region, respecting the situation of which all that can be decided is, that it is not to be sought for in the neighbourhood of Jericho, but “upon the mountains of Ephraim” (Judges 3:27). For when Ehud had come to Seirah, he blew the trumpet “ upon the mountains of Ephraim ,” to announce to the people the victory that was placed within their reach by the death of Eglon, and to summon them to war with the Moabites, and then went down from the mountain into the plain near Jericho; “ and he was before them ,” i.e., went in front as their leader, saying to the people, “ Follow me; for Jehovah has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand. ” Then they went down and took (i.e., took possession of) the fords near Jericho (see at Joshua 2:7), למואב , either “ from the Moabites ” or “ towards Moab ,” and let no one (of the Moabites) cross over, i.e., escape to their own land.

Verse 29

Thus they smote at that time about 10,000 Moabites, all fat and powerful men, i.e., the whole army of the enemy in Jericho and on this side of the Jordan, not letting a man escape. The expression “at that time” seems to imply that they did not destroy this number in one single engagement, but during the whole course of the war.

Verse 30

Thus Moab was subdued under the hand of Israel, and the land had rest for eighty years.

Verse 31

After him (Ehud) was, i.e., there rose up, Shamgar the son of Anath. He smote the Philistines, who had probably invaded the land of the Israelites, six hundred men, with an ox-goad, so that he also (like Othniel and Ehud, Judges 3:9 and Judges 3:15) delivered Israel. הבּקר מלמד , ἁπ. λεγ. , signifies, according to the Rabbins and the ancient versions, an instrument with which they trained and drove oxen; and with this the etymology agrees, as למד is used in Hosea 10:11 and Jeremiah 31:18 to denote the training of the young ox. According to Rashi , בּקר מלמד is the same as דּרבן , βούκεντρον , in 1 Samuel 13:21. According to Maundrell in Paulus' Samml. der merkw. Reisen nach d. Or . i. p. 139, the country people in Palestine and Syria use when ploughing goads about eight feet long and six inches in circumference at the thick end. At the thin end they have a sharp point to drive the oxen, and at the other end a small hoe, to scrape off any dirt that may stick to the plough. Shamgar may have smitten the Philistines with some such instrument as this, just as the Edonian prince Lycurgus is described by Homer (Il. vi. 135) as putting Dionysius and the Bacchantines to flight with a βουπλήξ . Nothing is recorded about the descent of Shamgar, either here or in the Song of Deborah, in Judges 5:6. The heroic deed recorded of him must be regarded, as O. v. Gerlach affirms, as “merely the result of a holy inspiration that suddenly burst forth within him, in which he seized upon the first weapon that came to his hand, and put to flight the enemy when scared by a terror for God, just as Samson did on a later occasion.” For he does not seem to have secured for the Israelites any permanent victory over the Philistines. Moreover, he is not called judge, nor is the period of his labours taken into account, but in Judges 4:1 the renewed apostasy of Israel from the Lord is dated from the death of Ehud.


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Judges 3:4". 1854-1889.

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