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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 2

 

 

Verse 1

THE NATION REBUKED, Judges 2:1-5.

1. Angel of the Lord — This was not an inspired human messenger, because, (1) The name of such was usually prophet, or man of God; (2) The expression, angel of Jehovah, is never, in ordinary historical narrative, descriptive of a mere human being; (3) He speaks with a superhuman authority, and lays claim to the acts of Jehovah himself. He assumes to be the same Angel who led the Israelites from Egypt and went before them in the desert journey. Compare Exodus 23:20-25. We have here, therefore, an undoubted theophany. The occasion, the critical condition of the chosen nation, was worthy of such a manifestation of God. Godlike are his words.

Gilgal — The first place of encampment in the Jordan valley, where this same angel appeared to Joshua and announced himself as captain of Jehovah’s host. Joshua 5:14, note. There the angel announced the capture of Jericho, and prepared Joshua for the work of conquest. Now he comes again — comes to rebuke the nation for their disobedience, and warn them of the certain punishment that shall follow their lack of faith. The words, came up from Gilgal, indicate that, in the mind of the sacred writer, this Angel was conceived of as having long lingered at the sacred spot of the old camp where he last revealed himself, and now comes from that spot to speak again to Israel. So in Judges 5:4, Jehovah is conceived of as marching out of Mount Seir and the fields of Edom, in the fearful thunder-storm that ruined the army of Sisera. See notes there. So in Judges 6:11, the Angel of the Lord “came and sat under an oak.” So, too, in Genesis 18:16; Genesis 18:22; Genesis 18:33, the three angels, one of whom was called Jehovah, passed from Mamre to Sodom.

Bochim — The weepers; so called from the great weeping that occurred here when the people had heard the reproving words of the angel. Compare Judges 2:4-5. It is impossible to identify this place, though it seems to have been in the vicinity of Shiloh, where the tabernacle then was, since all Israel were wont to assemble there. Fuerst suggests that it is identical with Allon-bacuth, the oak of weeping, beneath which Deborah was buried. Genesis 35:8.

I made you to go up out of Egypt — No human being, not even Moses, could have used this language; nor could any angel, save the Angel of the Covenant, Jehovah of the Old Testament, (Isaiah 63:9,) and Jesus of the New. Malachi 3:1.

Which I sware — Promised in connexion with the solemn covenant with Abraham, (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:7-8,) and in substance repeated to Jacob and Moses.

I will never break — Jehovah will assuredly meet his part of the covenant, so that if there is any failure in its perfect fulfilment it must be the fault of Israel, not of God.


Verse 2

2. Make no league — This command was given through Moses. See Deuteronomy 7:2.

Throw down their altars — Compare Deuteronomy 12:2-3.

Why have ye done this? — This is an unanswerable question. To give a good reason for sin is to justify it. Sin is always unreasonable. Hence in the day of judgment every sinner will stand speechless.


Verse 3

3. Wherefore I also said — By the lips of Moses (Numbers 33:55) and of Joshua (Joshua 23:12-13) the declaration was made that if they clave unto the remnant of the nations, and had social and commercial intercourse with them. God would not drive out these nations. They had received a fair warning.

As thorns — These words are not found in the Hebrew of this passage, but are here supplied by our translators from Numbers 33:55, and Joshua 23:13. Literally this text reads, They shall be to you to sides; but it is to be regarded as an abbreviation of the proverb, They shall be for thorns to your sides. “The figure is taken from rural life. Israel has acted like a slothful gardener. He has not thoroughly destroyed the thorns and thistles of his fields. The consequence will be that sowing and planting and other field labours will soon be rendered painful by the presence of spiteful thorns. The influence of habitual intercourse will make the Canaanites stinging weeds and snares for Israel.” — Cassel.


Verse 4

4. Spake these words unto all the children of Israel — This is the only instance on record where the angel of the Lord addressed an assembly; and even if these words were spoken only to the heads and representatives of the people, such representatives would still have constituted an assembly. But this fact is insufficient to set aside the above mentioned reasons for believing that this was the Angel of Jehovah, and not merely a prophet. We see no reason why the covenant Angel might not have revealed himself, at times, to an assembly as well as to individuals.

Lifted up their voice, and wept — Man is so constituted in his moral nature that conviction of sin arises when the sinner has a clear view of what he is in contrast with what he ought to be. These two views the Lord held up before all the people, till they could endure the sight no longer. Six hundred thousand sinners in tears of penitence! No wonder that Bochim, a monumental name, was given to the place of such national penitence.


Verse 5

5. They sacrificed there — Seeking by propitiatory offerings to turn away the wrath of God, and obtain mercy and forgiveness of their sins. Where the Lord appeared there was a place sufficiently holy for the offering of sacrifices.


Verses 6-23

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE TIMES OF THE JUDGES, Judges 2:6-23.

This section, containing a general account of the period of the Judges, is naturally introduced by a connexion with the account of Joshua’s last labours and death, as recorded in Joshua 24:28-31. This introductory passage serves to show that while Joshua lived, and for some time after, the nation deserved no such rebuke as the Angel gave at Bochim, and hence this passage cannot be a direct continuation, chronologically, of the narrative which precedes, for here it is expressly declared that the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua and of the elders that survived him. The reader must bear in mind that this book is not so much a history in the chronological order of events, as a series of historical paintings for the illustration of a few great principles of the Divine administration. The fidelity of Israel during the days of Joshua and the elders is here presented as a notable contrast to their apostasy from God in the days immediately ensuing. The record of this apostasy is necessary to prove the fulfilment of Jehovah’s words in the third verse. The enormity of their disobedience is enhanced by the consideration that it took place in the Promised Land, into which they had been introduced by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah.


Verse 7

7. The elders that outlived Joshua are here referred to as original witnesses of the miracles attendant upon the conquest of Canaan. Their presence and testimony kept the Hebrew nation from degeneracy and backsliding, as the presence of the apostles, eye-witnesses of Christ’s majesty, preserved the Christian Church from corruption and heresy. For notes on Joshua’s death and burial, see Joshua 24:30.


Verse 10

10. Another generation… which knew not the Lord — That is, had no experience of his miracles, no proper respect for his law, nor love for his person and service. The new generation, by their indifference and indisposition to the effort requisite to sift testimony and apply its full force to their minds, wherein was their peculiar probation, fell into a culpable unbelief. The transition from that low faith grounded on the senses, to that higher faith grounded on testimony, is always a critical period.

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Verse 11

11. Did evil — Practical infidelity follows swiftly upon the heels of speculative infidelity. Decay of morals inevitably follows decay of faith. A curious proof of this fact is imbedded in almost every language in those words whose primary signification implies unbelief, and whose secondary meaning is expressive of practical wickedness. For example, miscreant first signified a misbeliever, then a vile wretch; the word unprincipled first had reference to speculative religious opinions, then passed over into its more common signification of profligate and vicious.

Served Baalim — Baal is a Hebrew common noun signifying master, or owner. With the article it becomes a proper name of the supreme male divinity of the Phenician and Canaanitish nations, having the peculiarity of being used in the plural, Baalim, signifying different modifications of the same god. This was not the first time that Israel was seduced to this worship — see Numbers 25:3-5 — nor was it the last, for this form of pagan cultus continued in Israel up to the time of Samuel, at whose rebuke it was renounced. 1 Samuel 7:4. It broke out again like a deadly contagion, and became the religion of the court and people under Ahab. It had the advantage of being a gorgeous ceremonial, dazzling the senses of the ignorant masses. It captivated many of the Hebrews during the reign of the Kings.


Verse 13

13. Ashtaroth — This is the plural form of Ashtoreth, the Venus of Syria, whose rites were more filthy and abominable than even those of the Grecian Venus, whose temple, with its thousand female votaries, polluted Corinth, and on a smaller scale defiled every Grecian city. Ashtoreth was the female, as Baal was the male, divinity of the Zidonians. Her worship was very ancient and widespread. Another name was Asherah, rendered groves in our English version; though this name seems rather to have designated the idol images of the goddess than the goddess herself. See Judges 3:7, note.

As God originally created man male and female, so Canaanitish mythology seems to have embodied these conceptions in its system of worship. The masculine life-giving force of nature was worshipped under the names of Baal, Lord; Chemosh, governor; Hadad, the only one; Moloch, king; or simply El, god; the feminine receptive faculty was adored as Ashtoreth, Baalith, or Atar-gath. Thus the chief deities consisted of an apotheosis of the generative forces and laws of nature; an adoration of the objects in which those forces were seen, and where they appeared most active. Such an origin was, it may easily be seen, the source of the grossest sensuality. Debauchery was consecrated by religion. Thus, too, Baal was lord of the sun and god of fire; and as the sun calls into being and growth things evil as well as good, he was also called god of flies, (Baal-zebub.) And many a State gave a local name of its own to the deity. Hence Baal-gad, Baal-peor, Baal-hermon.

Side by side with these varying conceptions of Baal were corresponding ones of his consort Ashtoreth. Where he is sun-god, she is goddess of the moon; where he is Priapus, she is Venus; where he is Zeus, she is his royal partner Hera. And from these multiform representations of the two chief deities they came to be spoken of often in the plural, and instead of Baal and Ashtoreth we have Baalim and Ashtaroth.


Verse 14

14. The anger of the Lord was hot — Anger and love are feelings of the Divine as well as of the human mind, but not irregular and misdirected, as they so often appear in men. They are not evil in themselves, and can only become so by becoming uncontrolled or directed towards wrong objects. Infinite Wisdom never errs in either of these ways, and God’s essential antagonism against sin and sinners is one of the perfections of his holy nature. And such righteous indignation the Scriptures properly call anger. Our God is a consuming fire to all the workers of iniquity, and his holy wrath burns with greater or less intensity according to the sinfulness of the sinner. See note on Romans 1:18.

Spoilers — Predatory hordes, ruthless robbers, and hostile armies, who plundered their possessions and made merchandise of their persons.

And he sold them — This term sell is used in a broad sense for renouncing ownership, and delivering over into the hands of an enemy. The punishment involved in being sold was a payment to the divine justice. They failed to render due service to their only true Lord, and he, their rightful owner, sold them into a miserable slavery. Thus he vindicated the righteousness of his government, and for lack of service enforced a penalty.


Verse 15

15. Whithersoever they went out — Whether in the avocations of peace or to the field of war. Sad indeed is the condition of that nation with which the Almighty wages a constant war.

The hand of the Lord was against them for evil — Providence worked against them, so that all manner of misfortunes befell them. Now they were scourged by famine, now by war and oppression.


Verse 16

16. The Lord raised up judges — The advent of national deliverers at various periods is like a burst of sunshine now and then during a day of clouds and storms. The great military leaders who, by their courage and abilities came into the ascendency, arose not by chance; they were the especial gift of God. The term judges, which occurs here for the first time, does not signify a mere judicial officer, whose functions are limited to the exposition and application of the law. It is used in a broad sense for a succession of executive officers who, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, combined with great natural qualities, assumed the supreme control, unified the energies of a loose confederation of States, and aroused them to throw off the yoke of foreign oppression. See Introduction.


Verse 17

17. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges — It is natural that they who have redeemed a nation should be its first rulers. Against the commands of these, the ungrateful people ran headlong into those idolatries for which they had just been suffering punishment.

Went a whoring after other gods — The covenant of God is regarded as sacred as the marriage tie. To break that covenant, and worship another god, corresponds to an act of infidelity on the part of a wife. Hence idolatry is spiritual adultery.

They turned quickly out of the way — The leaven of idolatry, with its moral abominations, was brought into contact with the people at so many points that the whole commonwealth was quickly pervaded with the dreadful abomination. Worship is a powerful assimilator. Men become like their gods.


Verse 18

18. It repented the Lord — Render, Jehovah was grieved by their wailings on account of their oppressors and persecutors. Grief, anger, and love are emotions frequently, in the Scriptures, attributed to the divine nature. Judges 10:16; Psalms 7:2; Hosea 11:8; John 3:16; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 3:10. Being absolutely perfect and pure in God, these emotions cannot, of course, be associated in the divine nature with any of the errors or evils with which they are often associated in the operations of the human soul. And when this Hebrew word ( נחם ) bears the sense of repented, (as our translators have rendered it here, but which it more clearly bears in Genesis 6:6, and Jonah 3:10,) it must never be understood as involving changeableness or inconsistency in God. “God is not a man, that he should lie: neither the son of man, that he should repent.” Numbers 23:19. Yet when men change, God may change his method of dealing with them. God is angry with the wicked every day. But when a man passes over from the class of the wicked to that of the righteous, he comes into the range of the Divine complacency. The man has changed, not God. Yet the change may, humanly speaking, be ascribed to God.


Verse 19

19. When the judge was dead — A God-fearing ruler can, by his example and authority, arrest the moral degeneracy of a nation. The removal of such a ruler, whether by death or otherwise, is often the disastrous turning-point in a nation’s history.

More than their fathers — A disobedient and corrupt nation, when the fear of God has been completely thrown off, gravitates towards ruin with an ever-accelerating velocity.


Verse 20

20. Anger… hot — Compare Judges 2:14, note.

He said — Repeatedly, by Joshua (Joshua 23:13) and the angel at Bochim. Judges 2:3.


Verse 22

22. That through them I may prove Israel — The presence of wicked men in society constitutes a part of the trial of the good. The Hebrews, by sparing their idolatrous enemies, multiplied and intensified their own temptations to sin. Jehovah used the heathen tribes that were left in the land to chastise the Israelites when the latter went out of the way. Of these chastisements and the deliverances wrought upon Israel’s repentance, the Book of Judges is largely the history.


Verse 23

23. Therefore — In Deuteronomy 7:22, another reason is assigned for leaving the Canaanites in the land, namely, “lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.” But that passage contemplates the destruction of the idolaters, “little by little,” through an uncompromising aggression upon them, while in this the Israelites are rebuked and punished for giving up the contest as hopeless, and for making covenants with those whom God had doomed to a gradual extermination.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Judges 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/judges-2.html. 1874-1909.

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