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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Judges 1

Verses 1-36

Judges 1:1

'Clarkson, in so far as that question regarded time, was the inaugurator of the great conflict' against the slave-trade, as De Quincey observes. 'That was his just claim. He broke the ground, and formed the earliest camp, in that field; and to men that should succeed, he left no possibility of ranking higher than his followers or imitators.'

The exploit in which no one will consent to go first remains unachieved. You wait until there are persons enough agreeing with you to form an effective party. And how many members constitute the innovating band an effective force?... No man can ever know whether his neighbours are ready for change or not. He has all the following certainties at least: That he himself is ready for the change; that he believes it would be a good and beneficent one; that unless some one begins the work of preparation, assuredly there will be no consummation; and that if he declines to take part in the matter, there can be no reason why every one else in turn should not decline in like manner, and so the work remain for ever unperformed.

John Morley.

We are afraid of responsibility, afraid of what people will say of us, afraid of being alone in doing right; in short, the courage which is allied to no passion Christian courage, as it may be called is in all ages and among all people one of the rarest possessions.

Sir Arthur Helps.

The initiation of all wise or noble things comes, and must always come, from individuals generally at first from some one individual. The honour and glory of the average man is that he is capable of following that initiation; that he can respond internally to wise and noble things.

J. S. Mill, Liberty.

Simplicity in Prayer

Judges 1:1

I. 'The children of Israel asked the Lord,' whispered to Him, hailed Him, arrested His condescending attention by some sign of necessity. They whispered to the Lord, they told Him plainly the condition in which they were placed, and brought the whole need under His attention; they wanted leadership and captaincy and guidance, and they said, Who shall do this? If any man lack wisdom, let him ask. That is the old word, 'ask,' short but deep, easy to pronounce, impossible to measure. We have changed all that; we now are in danger of approaching the Lord as if He were an infinite Shah, and must needs be approached with long words and logical sequence.

II. 'The children of Israel asked the Lord.' That was the plain way, that was the simple way, that is the intensely rational way. We have got rid of some men by putting them into an atmosphere which is fatal to healthy thinking and to resonant and emphatic speaking. We have given them coronets that they may hold their tongues; we may have promoted them that we may get rid of them. It may be so in its spiritual significance with the Lord; we have polysyllabled Him and addressed Him in long formal speeches; we have lost the old way of asking Him, talking to Him, breathing upon Him, kissing His hand, and whispering to Him just what we want. Our hope, and the hope of the whole Church, is in simplicity. Such was the method of the text, such the method of Jesus Christ, and of Paul and of James and of all the great historic suppliants on whose girdle has hung the key of the upper sanctuary.

III. Asking God, talking to God, communing with God, elevates the mind.

Talking to God, asking God, laying the whole case before God, sometimes laying it before Him without words, sometimes simply looking into His face, sometimes letting our throbbing, aching misery look into the infinite peace of the Divine tranquillity, will lift a man to a new status and clothe him with a new influence and enrich him with an abiding benediction. Let your misery seek the face of the King.

IV. 'The children of Israel asked the Lord.' They did not dictate to Him. Prayer is not dictation; prayer is not always even suggestion, and when prayer is suggestion it is offered with halting breath and with a most reverent faith, lest a suggestion should be not only a sophism but an expression of selfishness. God does permit us to say what we would like; He is so condescendingly gentle that He sometimes asks us what we would like to have, and when we have told Him He has oftentimes said, No.

V. Observe, the people in question were 'the children of Israel'. Character is implied; character is not only implied, it is recognized and held up as a lesson. They belong to a praying host, to a covenanted ancestry, they were involved in the baptism of an oath. Do not imagine that a man can leap out of atheism and begin to pray for some selfish purpose, and have his answer on the spot. Character determines prayer; the simple heart suggests the right petition; the sincere spirit, praying at the Cross and in the name of Christ, can alone pray with lasting and ennobling effect.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 169.

Judges 1:3

The spring of virtuous action is the social instinct, which is set to work by the practice of comradeship. The union of men in a common effort for a common object bandwork, if I may venture to translate cooperation into English this is and always has been the true school of character.

Prof. W. K. Clifford. A man, be the Heavens ever praised, is sufficient for himself; yet were ten men, united in Love, capable of being and of doing what ten thousand singly would fail in.

Carlyle.

Judges 1:3

Boston, in his Memoirs, describes the friendship between himself and a Mr. Wilson as 'having arrived at an uncommon height and strictness. Whatever odds there was in some respects betwixt him and me, there was still a certain cast of temper by which I found him to be my other self. He was extremely modest, but once touched with the weight of a matter, very forward and keen, fearing the face of no man: on the other hand I was slow and timorous. In the which mixture, whereby he served as a spur to me, and I as a bridle to him, I have often admired the wise conduct of Providence that matched us together.'

Reference. I. 6, 7. G. A. Sowter, From Heart to Heart, p. 20.

Judges 1:7

Besides these evils, another springing out of the long-continued wars betwixt the French and English, added no small misery to this distracted kingdom. Numerous bodies of soldiers, collected into bands, under officers chosen by themselves, from among the bravest and most successful adventurers, had been formed in various parts of France out of the refuse of all other countries. These hireling combatants sold their swords for a time to the best bidder; and, when such service was not to be had, they made war upon their own account, seizing castles and towers, which they used as the places of their retreat making prisoners and ransoming them exacting tribute from the open villages, and the country around them, and acquiring, by every species of rapine, the appropriate epithets of Tondeurs and Écorcheurs, that is, Clippers and Flayers.

Scott, Quentin Durward (chap. 1.).

Judges 1:7

In The French Revolution Carlyle describes how Foulon as 'a man grown grey in treachery, in griping, projecting, intriguing and iniquity: who once when it was objected, to some finance-scheme of his, "What will the people do?" made answer, in the fire of discussion, "the people may eat grass": hasty words, which fly abroad irrevocable and will send back tidings.' When the Bastille fell, Foulon was one of the first victims of the popular vengeance. 'Merciless boors of Vitry unearth him; pounce on him, like hell-hounds: Westward, old Infamy; to Paris, to be judged at the Hôtel-de-Ville! His old head, which seventy-four years have bleached, is bare; they have tied an emblematic bundle of grass on his back.' Finally he is dragged to be hung, and his mouth, after death, 'is filled with grass: amid sounds as of Tophet, from a grass-eating people. Surely if Revenge is a "kind of Justice," it is a "wild" kind! They that would make grass be eaten, do now eat grass, in this manner? After long dumb-groaning generations, has the turn suddenly become thine?'

References. I. 12-15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2312. I. 13-15 J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 494. I. 19, 20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1690.

Judges 1:25

The last virtue human beings will attain, I am inclined to think, is scrupulosity in promising and faithfulness in fulfilment.

George Eliot.

Judges 1:28

If foolish pity be a more humane sin, yet it is no less dangerous than cruelty. Cruelty kills others, unjust pity kills ourselves.

Bishop Hall.

Judges 1:29

With the French it was a settled thing that battles must not be decisive. They fought in a half-hearted way, not because they wanted courage, for braver men than Chadeau de la Clocheterie or D'Albert de Rions, or a hundred others, never walked a quarter-deck; not because they wanted skill in tactics, for more ingenious manoeuvrers than Acté or Guichen or even Grasse, never hoisted a flag; but because they had always something other in view than the fighting of a battle. It was taken for granted with them that they must 'fulfil their mission'. The phrase is incessantly turning up in their histories. What it meant was, that when an admiral was sent to take this island or relieve that town, he must avoid getting his fleet crippled in a yard-arm to yard-arm fight.... The wish to charge home was strong with our men, and the effort incessant, but until Rodney showed the way on April 12, 1782, it was never effectually done.

Mr. David Hannay, Rodney, p. 117.

References. I. 11. M. Dods, Israel's Iron Age, p. 3. II. 1-5. R. Winterbotham, Sermons, p. 59. R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 155. II. 1-10. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Judges, p. 192.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Judges 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/judges-1.html. 1910.