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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Judges 2

 

 

Verse 1

2:1. An angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal — This, no doubt, was the Angel of the covenant, the same divine being that appeared to Joshua near Jericho, Joshua 5:13-14; to whom the conduct of Israel out of Egypt into Canaan, and their conquests and success there, are frequently ascribed. He alone could speak the following words in his own name and person; whereas created angels and prophets universally usher in their message with, Thus saith the Lord, or some equivalent expression. And, having assumed the shape of a man, he imitates the motion of a man, and appears to come from Gilgal to the place where they now were, probably in order to remind the Israelites of his appearing to Joshua near that place, of the assurance he then gave them of his intended presence with them in the conquest of the country, and of the solemn covenant they made with him by the renewal of circumcision. This was a reproof to them for their base ingratitude to God, and their pusillanimous sloth in not endeavouring to expel the Canaanites. To Bochim — A word signifying weepers. This was not the name of the place before, but was given it on this occasion, on account of the lamentations of the children of Israel for what the angel said to them, 2:5. It seems to have been no other than Shiloh, where, it is probable, the people were met together upon some solemn festival occasion. And I said, I will never break my covenant with you — That is, upon condition of your keeping covenant with me.


Verses 2-5

2:2-5. Ye shall make no league, &c. — These express and frequently-repeated commands of God they had disobeyed. Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out, &c. — That is, I have now taken up this peremptory resolution. They shall be as thorns in your sides, &c. — This signifies what they were assuredly to expect in breaking the covenant on their part; and the sentence here pronounced, or prediction uttered, soon began to take effect and be accomplished. The people lift up their voice and wept — Some of them, it is probable, from a true sense of their sins; others from a just apprehension of their approaching misery. They sacrificed there — For the expiation of their sins, by which they had provoked the Lord to this resolution, and in order to regain his compassion and favour.


Verse 6

2:6. And when Joshua — It should rather be rendered, Now when Joshua, &c. For it does not relate to the preceding story, but is a repetition of what was declared Joshua 24:28-31, and is here recorded by way of introduction to the following account of the people’s defection and punishment, contained in the subsequent parts of the book. Let the people go — When he had distributed their inheritances, and dismissed them severally to take possession of them. “The sacred writer,” says Dr. Dodd, “having just related the reproaches delivered by the angel of the Lord against the Israelites, would now show his readers how and when the nation had incurred those reproaches. To this end he carries the matter as far back as possible; and, first, he ascends to that happy period when, Joshua having finished the division of the conquered country of the Canaanites, the Israelites went each to his inheritance, and possessed it, and dwelt in the portion of the land which had fallen to his lot. This division was in fact the immediate work of Providence. Lots were cast before the Lord: he had presided over them, and without doubt Joshua, who had used such fine exhortations to the two tribes and a half beyond Jordan, when they set out to take possession of their territories, failed not strongly to recommend religion and obedience to the other tribes, in settling them in the lands that had been assigned to them; which he repeated before his death in the most affecting manner. See on Joshua 24. All of them, therefore, equally instructed, and impressed with gratitude, had entered upon their estates with intentions promising a constant fidelity. But the love of this world seduced them. They soon thought only of their private interest, how to extend and aggrandize themselves; and speedily losing sight of the public good, shamefully neglected the sacred duties of religion.”


Verse 10

2:10. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers — Not only those who had beheld the wonderful works of God in Egypt, and in the wilderness, but those also who had seen Jordan dried up, the walls of Jericho fall down, the sun stand still at the word of Joshua, and their enemies overwhelmed with hail-stones, &c., which had created such impressions in their hearts, that they generally continued in the service of God while they lived, and kept others in obedience to him. Another generation, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel — Which had no serious and affectionate knowledge of God or of his works.


Verse 11

2:11. The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord — Which marks the heinousness and impudence of their sins, above other people’s; because God’s presence was with them, and his eye upon them in a peculiar manner, which also they were not ignorant of, and therefore were guilty of more contempt of God than other people. And served Baalim — False gods, which were called by this general name Baalim, which signifies lords. For among the pagans, as St. Paul observes, there were gods many and lords many, and the gods of the Canaanites and the neighbouring nations, which Israel worshipped, were most of them called by the name of Baal; as Baal of the Sidonians, and Baal of the Amorites, Moabites, Ammonites.


Verse 13

2:13. They served Baal and Ashtaroth — By Baal or lord here, it is probable, we are to understand the sun, and by Ashtaroth, the same, it seems, with Astarte, the moon, worshipped in different countries under the names Juno and Venus. So that they had he-gods and she-gods, and gods of all kinds, as many as a luxuriant fancy pleased to make and multiply them. It may not be improper to observe here, that “the reason why the Israelites so often lapsed into idolatry, may easily be deduced from the common notion of tutelary deities, which they had imbibed during their residence in Egypt, which was the fruitful parent of science and idolatry. One generally-received consequence of this opinion was, that the peculiar or tutelary deity of any country could not be neglected, even by the conquerors of that country, without impiety, and that their impiety would certainly meet with punishment from the deity whom they thus neglected. The Israelites, therefore, unwilling to expose themselves to the resentment which the tutelary deity was supposed to take on those who, inhabiting his land, yet slighted his worship; unwilling likewise to leave their paternal God, they incorporated the worship of both; and served not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but likewise the Baalim, or local tutelary deities of the countries wherein they were settled. In process of time this weakness increased to such a degree, that the rights of the tutelary deity of the country were acknowledged to be superior to those of the Gentilitial God of the conquerors. This might arise from the common opinion, that the favours of the local deity were particularly attached and confined to one certain spot; or from an apprehension of the strength of the inhabitants among whom they were settled, who would not have endured to have their god slighted, without vindicating his honour, and endeavouring to extirpate the offenders. This piece of complaisance and condescension the Israelites seem to have been guilty of, when they are said to have forsaken the Lord God of their fathers, and to have followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them. Their defection from the God of Israel did not, however, consist in rejecting him as a false god, or in renouncing the law of Moses as a false religion: but only in joining foreign worship and idolatrous ceremonies to the ritual of the true God.” Div. Leg., vol. 4. p. 44.


Verse 14-15

2:14-15. Sold them — That is, delivered them up, as the seller doth his commodities, unto the buyer. Whithersoever they went out — That is, whatsoever expedition or business they undertook, which is equally signified by going out and coming in; the hand of the Lord was against them for evil — Disappointing their expectations, opposing and thwarting their designs, and blasting all their prospects. They were greatly distressed Thus is sin uniformly followed by suffering.


Verse 16-17

2:16-17. Nevertheless the Lord raised up — By inward inspiration and excitement of their hearts, and by outward designation, testified by some extraordinary action. Judges — Supreme magistrates, whose office it was, under God, and by his particular direction, to govern the commonwealth of Israel by God’s laws, and to protect and save them from their enemies, to preserve and purge religion, and to maintain the liberties of the people against all oppressors. Yet they would not hearken to their judges — Who admonished them of their sin and folly, and of the danger and misery which would certainly befall them.


Verse 18-19

2:18-19. For it repented the Lord — That is, the Lord changed his course and dealings with them, as penitent men use to do; removed his judgments, and returned to them in mercy. When the judge was dead they returned — To their former and usual course. More than their fathers — In Egypt, or in the wilderness. Their own doings — That is, from their evil practices, which he calls their own, because they were agreeable to their own natures, which in all mankind are deeply and universally corrupted, and because they were familiar and customary to them.


Verse 22

2:22. That through them I may prove Israel — That I may try and see whether Israel will be true and faithful to me, or whether they will suffer themselves to be corrupted by the counsels and examples of their bad neighbours.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/judges-2.html. 1857.

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