Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 3

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-31



After the death of Joshua the question of which tribe should lead in the subsequent campaign was answered by the Lord in the choice of Judah (Judges 1:1-2 ) which was in accordance with the divine prophecy through Jacob (Genesis 49:8 ). Doubtless the inquiry was made by Urim and Thummim on the breastplate of the high priest, to which reference was made in Exodus.

Judah invites the cooperation of Simeon because the territory of the latter was contiguous and intermixed with Judah (Judges 1:3 ).

These tribes are guilty of barbarity in the case of Adonibezek (Judges 1:5-7 ), but it is not to be supposed that God commended this action. It was, however, in accordance with the warfare in that day, and even the heathen king admitted the justification of the act in his case.

The defeat in verse 19 is explained not by the lack of power in the case of Judah, but by unbelief.


Judah’s example of unbelief is followed by all the tribes named in the conclusion of this chapter, Benjamin, Ephraim (the house of Joseph), Manasseh, Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali. Note particularly verse 21 in comparison with verse 8. The border of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, seems to have run through Jerusalem, and while the first named expelled the heathen from their part of the city, the latter were unable to do so and, this city did not fully come into possession of Israel until David’s time.

DIVINE WARNING (Judges 2:1-5 )

The Revised Version indicates by the definite article before “angel,” in Judges 2:1 , that He who came from Gilgal to Bochim to warn Israel was the Angel of the Covenant, who appeared in human form as the Captain of the Lord’s host to Joshua. In other words, the Second Person of the Trinity. It was a serious indictment He laid against them and an awful penalty He announced (Judges 2:1-3 ). No wonder the people wept, but would to God their sorrow had been to better purpose. The result shows how temporary it was and how little confidence may be put in tears for sin, which do not mean amendment of life.

THE SUMMARY OF THE BOOK (Judges 2:6-23 )

We called attention to these verses in the preceding lesson as giving an outline of the whole story of Judges. Judges 2:6-10 are copied from Joshua 24:0 , and inserted here to explain the warning preceding. The following verses should be read with care, because they give the key, not only to Judges, but to 1 Samuel and the whole of this period of Israel until the monarchy.

In explanation of Judges 2:16 the Bible Commentary speaks of the judges as God’s viceregents in the government of Israel, He Himself being the supreme ruler. There was no regular unbroken succession of judges, but individuals prompted by the Spirit of God were from time to time aroused and empowered to achieve deliverance. They were without pomp or emolument, and had no power to make laws. In a special sense, however, they were executors of the law and avengers of crimes, especially that of idolatry.


After enumerating the nations left in the land unconquered, and the reason for permitting them to remain, the story takes up the first general apostasy of Israel and the rule of the first judge. Notice in Judges 3:1-4 the interacting of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We have seen the reason why these nations were not exterminated from the human point of view to

be a lack of faith, but from the divine point of view there was another reason. God permits these nations to remain, as a school for Israel in the art of war (Judges 3:2 ), and, as an instrument for their discipline in divine things (Judges 3:4 ).

From intermarrying with these nations the Israelites soon came to serve their gods (Judges 3:6-7 ). When therefore they turned their back upon Jehovah, He, in a sense, turned His back upon them, so that they were compelled to serve the Mesopotamians eight years (Judges 3:8 ). Distress followed sin and repentance resulted from distress. Whereupon God raised up a deliverer in Othniel, whose history has been spoken of before (Judges 3:9-10 ). No details are given of this war, though it must have been a serious struggle. Othniel is victorious and rules Israel in peace for forty years (Judges 3:11 ).

EHUD, THE SECOND JUDGE (Judges 3:12-30 )

When Israel again fell into sin, God’s scourge against them was the Moabites, who joined their earlier enemies, the Amorites and Amalekites, in a successful conquest for eighteen years (Judges 3:14 ), when distress and repentance are again followed by deliverance.

It makes the blood run cold to read what Ehud did, but we must remember that he was not a murderer but a warrior, and the world has always made a distinction between these two. His act was not one of personal revenge, but patriotic and religious fervor. Moreover, while he was doing God’s service in the general sense of that term, his deed is nowhere approved in Scripture. This last remark suggests an important qualification, to which attention has been called before, and which should be applied in instances of a similar character in the Bible record. Further, a shadow seems to hang over the official career of this man, for his name is not praised in Israel, neither is it said anywhere that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, nor that he judged Israel. These omissions may be without significance, but are they not noticeable?


The notice of this judgeship is brief and limited to a conflict with the Philistines. The ox goad with which he slew six hundred men is as an implement eight feet long and about six inches in circumference. At one end it has a sharp prong for driving cattle, and at another a small iron paddle for removing the clay which encumbers the plow in working. Such an instrument wielded by a strong man would do great execution.


1. What tribe takes the lead after Joshua’s death?

2. What heathen people inhabited Jerusalem?

3. Name a theophany in this lesson.

4. What illustration of divine sovereignty and human responsibility does it contain?

5. Do you know the location of Mesopotamia?

6. Is God necessarily responsible for the atrocities named in this lesson?

7. What can you say about the story of Shamgar?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Judges 3". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/judges-3.html. 1897-1910.
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