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Bible Commentaries
Judges 2

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



This chapter and through Judges 3:6 are a continuation of the preface of Judges, and as Keil observed, all of this material may be considered as an absolute unity with the rest of the Book of Judges. There is no Deuteronomic introduction interpolated here into the main text! “The arguments against the unity of authorship in all three parts, the preface, the body of the work, and the appendices, will NOT bear examination.”(F1)

Verses 1-5


“And the angel of Jehovah came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you to the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you: and ye shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall break down their altars. But ye have not hearkened unto my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of Jehovah spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto Jehovah.”

“The angel of Jehovah” “This is the expression used in the O.T. to denote God Himself in His manifestation to men.”(F2) “The phrase is used about sixty times in the O.T. to designate the Angel of God’s Presence, and in all cases where a message is delivered (as here), He does it as if God Himself were speaking.”(F3) Here, this supernatural Character uses the first person singular, declaring that, “I made you to go up out of Egypt.” Only God could say a thing like that!

“From Gilgal to Bochim” Gilgal, located about a mile and half northeast of Jericho, was the first location of the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle after Israel crossed the Jordan. That was also the first headquarters of Joshua. The statement here that the angel of Jehovah “went up” from Gilgal to Bochim seems also to indicate that the tabernacle and everything else associated with the official religion of Israel had, at the time of this episode, been transferred to Bochim.

“Bochim” This was the name which the children of Israel gave to this second location of the tabernacle, a name which was certainly given after the event here related, which means that this was not the name of the place prior to that event. Now Judges relates in Judges 20:26 that a subsequent location of the tabernacle was at Bethel, that passage also being one that stressed the “weeping” of the children of Israel. Also, there was very near Bethel “the weeping tree” where Deborah, the beloved nurse of Rebekah was buried (Genesis 35:8).(F4) These facts, coupled with the Septuagint (LXX) account of this episode, which reads, “And the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bethel,”(F5) appear to this writer as a strong indication that the place which Israel named “Bochim,” “which means `weepers,’“(F6) might very well have been Bethel, or at least, a place very near there. The mention in Judges 2:5 that, “They sacrificed there unto Jehovah,” positively identifies the place as one of the locations of the tabernacle, for Israel was NOT authorized to offer sacrifices anywhere else.

“Ye shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land… ye shall break down their altars” These are the two provisions of the sacred covenant between God and Israel that had been extensively violated by God’s people, and the Angel of Jehovah here reminded the people of this shameful lapse on their part, demanding to know, “Why have ye done this” (Judges 2:2)? No reply on the part of Israel was forthcoming; their thundering SILENCE was a tacit admission of their guilt.

“I will not drive them out before you” This was God’s announcement of the punishment of the Chosen People for their disobedience. The nations of the Canaanites would remain in the Promised Land along with the Chosen People. There would be many occasions when Israel would suffer for this, and the licentious orgies of the pagan worship associated with the Canaanite deities would, in time, through its sensual appeal seduce the people away from the worship of the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

There can be no wonder that the fountains of the tears of Israel, when they heard this tragic word, provided a new name for an ancient city.

Verses 6-10


“Now when Joshua had sent the people away, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of Jehovah that he had wrought for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Jehovah, died, being a hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill-country of Ephraim, on the north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, who knew not Jehovah, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel”

These verses are very similar to Joshua 24:28-31, and for commentary on the events mentioned here, reference is made to my Commentary on Joshua at that passage.

Verses 11-15


“And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim; and they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that despoiled them; and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of Jehovah was against them for evil, as Jehovah had spoken, and as Jehovah had sworn unto them: and they were sore distressed”

In this paragraph we have the theological explanation of the turbulent period of the Judges. The generations of Israel subsequent to the death of Joshua and the elders who survived him forsook the Lord, wallowed in the licentiousness of the so-called worship of the Baalim and the Ashtaroth, and exhibited a pattern of behavior that kindled the anger of God Himself against their reprobacy. Here, as stated in this text, was the reason why God raised up enemies against Israel that would punish, defeat, impoverish and spoil the rebellious Israelites.

“The Baalim … the Ashtaroth” These names are the plural for Baal and Ashtareth, respectively, both of which `gods’ were deities of the fertility cult, and both of which were worshipped as `gods of the land.’ Ashtareth was much like the Babylonian goddess Ishtar and the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Wooden pillars were prominent in the groves and shrines where her worship was practiced, and these were called “Asherim.”

The worship of the Baalim had many variations, and his name was hyphenated with many different places, such as Baal-peor, etc. (For those who might be interested in the nature of his worship, reference is here made to a full description of it in connection with our commentary on Leviticus-Numbers (Vol. 3 of the Pentateuchal series), pp. 489-496).)

Verses 16-23


“And Jehovah raised up judges who saved them out of the hand of those that despoiled them. And yet they hearkened not unto their judges; for they played the harlot after other gods, and bowed themselves down unto them: they turned-aside quickly out of the way wherein their fathers walked, obeying the commandments of Jehovah, but they did not so. And when Jehovah raised them up judges, then Jehovah was with the judge, and saved them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented Jehovah because of their groaning by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. But it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they turned back; and dealt more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel; and he said, Because this nation have transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations that Joshua left when he died; that by them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of Jehovah to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. So Jehovah left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua”

“And Jehovah raised up judges” “This is the first occurrence of the term `judges’ in this book, and it is from this that the Book receives its name.”(F7)

The author of Judges outlines for us in these words the connection that binds together the various deliverances wrought under the blessing of God upon the judges. The total picture emerges right here:

A judge would rise up whom God would bless in His deliverance of Israel from oppression, but as soon as that judge died, Israel soon relapsed into their customary wickedness. Why did God keep on delivering them? The answer is in Judges 2:18. The Lord simply had pity upon His oppressed people. It should be noted that the various deliverances provided by God’s blessing through the Judges were not related in any manner whatever to any merit on Israel’s part. Such things as God’s character, His previous promises to the patriarchs, and His purpose of providing redemption for “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) - these alone were the grounds upon which God rescued His sinful people again and again and again. Christians call this the grace of God.

“By them, I may prove Israel” There appears in this verse a very important factor that entered into God’s decision to allow the proscribed nations of Canaan that still remained after the death of Joshua to continue contemporaneously with His people Israel in the Land of Promise. God would use those nations to prove the intentions of Israel, whether or not they would truly serve the Lord.

“Without driving them out hastily” Note the last word here, which clarifies God’s statement in Judges 2:21 that he would not drive out the nations. It appears here, that God’s intention of utterly replacing the pagan nations of Canaan with the Chosen People would still be accomplished, though not “hastily,” as would have been the case if Israel’s gross wickedness had not resulted in the change. Still the driving out of the seven nations mentioned in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 eventually occurred.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Judges 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/judges-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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