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Enumeration of the heathen nations left to prove Israel
1Now these are the nations which the Lord [Jehovah] left [at rest], to prove Israel by them, (even as many of Israel as had not known [by experience] all the wars of Canaan; 2Only that the generations of the children [sons] of Israel might know to teach them 3war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;)1 Namely, five lords [principalities] of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt [dwell] in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of 4[lit. unto the coming i.e. the road to] Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord [Jehovah], which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[1 Judges 3:2—Dr. Cassel renders this verse freely: “Only that to give experience to the generations of the sons of Israel, they might teach them war which they did not formerly learn to know.” He supplies a second לִמַעַן before ללַמְּדָם (see the exposition below), and in a note (which we transfer from the foot of the page), remarks: “Judges 3:2 contains two subordinate clauses dependent on the subject of the principal sentence in Judges 3:1, which is ‘Jehovah.’ In the first of these clauses (each of which is introduced by לְמַעַן), the subject is ‘Israel’ (fully, דֹּרוֹת בִּנֵי־ישׂ׳); in the second, ‘the nations.’ The first expresses the result of the second; that which Israel experiences is, that the nations teach it war.” Keil (who follows Bertheau) explains as follows: “only (רַק, with no other view than) to know the subsequent generations (דֹּרוֹת, the generations after Joshua and his contemporaries) of the sons of Israel, that He (Jehovah) might teach them war, only those who had not learned to know them (the wars of Canaan).” But, 1, if דֹּרוֹת were in the accus., the author could hardly have failed to remove all ambiguity by prefixing אֶת־ to it. 2. An infin. of design with לְ, following one with לְמַעַן, without ו to indicate coördination, can only be subordinate to the preceding. Thus in the English sentence: “We eat in order to live to work,” “to work,” would be at once interpreted as subordinate to “to live.” A second לְמַעַן might indicate coördination even without the assistance of ו, cf. in English: “We eat in order to live, in order to work;” where we feel at once that “to live” and “to work” are coördinate so far as their relation to the principal verb is concerned. Hence, Dr. Cassel inserts a second לְמַעַן; but this is an expedient too much like cutting the Gordian knot to be satisfactory. Bachmann, who in the main agrees with our author, avoids this by treating לְלַמְּדָם as a gerundive adverbial phrase. As for דַּעַת it is not indeed impossible that, remembering what he said in Judges 2:10 (לֹא יָדְעוּ, etc.), and just now substantially repeated in Judges 3:1 b, the writer of Judges uses it here absolutely, to indicate briefly the opposite of the condition there described, in which case Dr. Cassel’s rendering would be sufficiently justified. But since בְּנֵי ישׂ׳ דֹּרוֹת (Judges 3:2 a) clearly represents the אֵת כָּל־אְשֶׁר לֹא of Judges 3:1 b, it seems obvious that the דַּעַת of Judges 3:2 in like manner resumes the יָדְעוּ אֵת כָּל־מִלְחֲמוֹת כְּנָעַן of Judges 3:1. We may suppose, therefore, that the pronoun “them” is here, as frequently, omitted after דַּעַת, and translate, freely, thus: “And these are the nations which Jehovah left to prove Israel by them—all that Israel which did not know all the wars of Canaan, in order that the after generations of Israel (they also) might know (understand and appreciate) them (i.e. those wars), in that he (i.e. Jehovah, or they, the nations) taught them war, (not war in general, however, but) only the wars which (or, such wars as) they did not formerly know.” The first רַק, as Bachmann remarks, limits the design of Jehovah, the second the thing to be taught. As to the last clause of Judges 3:2, if the accents be disregarded, the only difficulty in the way of the rendering here given is the plural suffix ם; but this probably arises from the fact that the writer’s mind at once recurs to the “wars of Canaan.” The לְפָנִים, of old, is used from the point of time occupied by the “after generations,” as was natural to a writer who lived so late as the period of kings, and not from that in which the הִנִיחַ of Judges 3:1, and its design, took place. The masculine ם to represent a fem. plur. is not very unfrequent, cf. 2 Samuel 20:3; 2 Kings 18:13. Dr. Bachmann connects the last clause with דּעַת, respects the accents (which join לְפָנִים with אֲשֶׁר, not with לאֹ יְדָעוּם), and renders: “that Israel might learn to know …. war, namely, only those (wars) which were formerly, they did not know them = only the former wars which they did not know.” The sense is not materially affected by this change.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 3:1. All who had not experienced the wars of Canaan. These are they of whom it was said, Judges 2:10, that they “knew not the works of the Lord.” This younger generation, after the death of Joshua and the elders, enjoyed the fruits of conquest, but did not estimate aright the greatness of the dangers endured by the fathers, and therefore did not sufficiently value the help of God. The horrors of war, to be known, must be experienced. As if the conquest of Canaan had been of easy achievement! It was no light thing to triumph over the warlike nations. Was not the tribe of Judah, although victorious, obliged nevertheless to abandon the valley to the iron chariots? But of that the rising generation no longer wished to know anything. They did not know what “a war with Canaan signified.”
Judges 3:2. Only that to give experience to the generations of the sons of Israel they might teach them war, with which they did not before become acquainted. The construction of the sentence is difficult, and consequently has been frequently misunderstood (among others, by Bertheau). The book which the narrator is about to write, is a Book of Wars; and it is therefore incumbent upon him to state the moral causes in which these originated. God proves Israel for its own good. With this in view, “He left the nations in peace, to prove Israel by them.” How prove Israel? By depriving it of rest through them. They compel Israel to engage in conflict. In defeat the people learn to know the violence of Canaanitish oppression, and, when God sends them heroes, the preciousness of the boon of restored freedom. Only for this; the emphasis of the verse falls on only (רַק), which is introduced twice. Between יִשְׂרָאֵל and לְלַמְּדָם לְמַעַן2 is to be supplied. The Hebrew usus loquendi places both clauses (לְמַעַן דַּעַת and לְמַעַן לְלַמְּדָם), each beginning with לְמַעַן alongside of each other without any connective, whereby one sets forth the ground of the other. God leaves the nations in peace, “in order that they might teach the Israelites what war with Canaan signified,—in order that those generations might know it who had not yet experienced it.” It is not for technical instruction in military science that He leaves the heathen nations in the land, but that Israel may know what it is to wage war, that without God it can do nothing against Canaan, and that, having in the deeds of contemporary heroes a present counterpart of the experience of their fathers, who beheld the mighty works which God wrought for Israel through Moses and Joshua, it may learn humility and submission to the law. This reason why God did not cause the Canaanites to be driven out, does not, however, contradict that given in Judges 2:22. Israel can apostatize from God, only when it has forgotten Him. The consequence is servitude. In this distress, God sends them Judges. These triumph, in glorious wars, over victorious Canaan. Grateful Israel, being now able to conceive, in their living reality, the wonders by which God formerly raised it to the dignity of nationality, has learned to know the hand of its God. Cf. Judges 3:4.
Judges 3:3. Five principalities of the Philistines. Joshua 13:2, seq., enumerates the nations which were to remain, with still more distinctness. There, however, the reason, given in our passage, why God let them remain, is not stated. The principalities of the Philistines must be treated of elsewhere. The Canaanites and the Zidonians are the inhabitants of the Phœnician coast. The importance of Zidon has already been pointed out in Judges 1:31. The districts not under Zidonian supremacy, are referred to by the general term “Canaanite.” The Hivite, here mentioned as an inhabitant of Mount Lebanon, does not occur under that name in Joshua 13:5. He is there spoken of under the terms, “land of the Giblites (Byblus, etc.) and all Lebanon;” here, a more general designation is employed. The name חִוִּי indicates and explains this in a manner highly interesting. The LXX. render חִוִּי by Εὐαῖος, as for חַוָּה, the mother of all the living, they give Εὔα. The word &חָוָה חָיָה, to live, whence הַוָּה, includes the idea of “roundness, circularity of form,” So the ὠόν, ovum, egg, is round, and at the same time the source of life. Consequently, חַיָּה and חַיָּה came to signify battle-array or encampment (cf. 2 Samuel 23:11) and village (Numbers 32:41), from the circular form in which camps and villages were disposed. The people called Hivite is the people that resides in round villages. Down to the present day—marvelous tenacity of national custom!—the villages in Syria are so built that the conically-shaped houses form a circular street, inclosing an open space in the centre for the herds and flocks. Modern travellers have found this style of building still in use from the Orontes to the Euphrates (Ritter, xvii. 1698). It distinguished the Hivite from the other nations. And it is, in fact, found only beyond the boundary here indicated; on northern Lebanon, above Mount Hermon. This therefore also confirms the remarks made above (at Judges 1:33), on the parallel passage, Joshua 13:5, where we find the definition “from Baal-gad under Mount Hermon,” whereas here we read of a “mount Baal Hermon.” Baal Hermon, according to its signification, corresponds exactly with the present name Jebel esh-Sheikh, since on the one hand Sheikh may stand for Baal, while, on the other, Hermon derived its name from its peculiar form. חֶרְמוֹן is a dialectic equivalent of the Hebrew &אַרְמוֹן אֲרָם is the height, the highlands: אַרְמוֹן the prominent point, the commanding fortress. Hermon, as the southern foot of Anti-Libanus, is its loftiest peak. It towers grandly, like a giant (cf. Ritter, xvii. 151, 211), above all its surroundings,—like a silver-roofed fortress of God. This is not the only instance in which Hermon is apparently the name of a mountain. It is probable indeed that to the Greeks the Hermæan Promontory (̔Ερμαία ἄκρα, Polyb. I. xxxvi. 11; cf. Mannert, Geogr., x. ii. 512) suggested only some reference to Hermes. But the greater the difficulty of seeing why Hermes should give names to mountain peaks, the more readily do we recognize a חֶרְמוֹן, not only in this but also in the promontory of Lemnos, the Hermæan Rock (̔Ερμαῖον λέπας) mentioned by Greek poets (Æschyl. Agam., 283). It accords with this that Ptolemy specifies a Hermæan Promontory in Crete also. It is evident how appropriately Hermon, in its signification of Armon, “a fortress-like, towering eminence,” is used to denote a promontory. The Greek ἄκρα also has the twofold signification of fortress and promontory; and Mount Hermon itself may to a certain extent be considered to be both one and the other.
It is evident that when in Joshua 13:5 the boundary of the hostile nations is defined as running from “Baal-gad under Mount Hermon,” and here as extending “from Baal Hermon” onward, the same sacred locality is meant in both passages, and that Baal Hermon is identified with Baal-gad. This is further confirmed by the following: The Talmud (Chulin, 40 a) speaks of the sinful worship which is rendered לְנָדָא דְחַר, the Goda of the mountain, i.e. as Raschi explains, the angel like unto Michael, who is placed over the mountains of the world. Moses ha-Cohen advances an equally ancient conception, current also among the Arabians, when he states (ap. Ibn Ezra, on Isaiah 65:11), that Baal-gad is the star Zedek, i.e. Zeus. For Zeus is in fact the Hellenic deity of all mountain-peaks,3 the Great Baal Hermon. Hence it was customary among the Hellenes also to prepare sacrificial tables in the service of Zeus; and with Isaiah 65:11 we may profitably compare Paus. ix. 40, where we learn that in Chæronea, where the sceptre of Zeus was venerated as a palladium, “a table with meat and pastry was daily” prepared. At the birth of a son to her maid, Leah says (Genesis 30:11): בָּא נָּד; which the Chaldee translators already render by נָּדָא טָבָא (Jerus. Targ.) and מַזָּלָא טָבָא (Jonath.). מַזָּלָה (Cf. 2 Kings 23:5), means, star; מַזּל טוֹב is the good star that appears,—fortune, as the Septuaginta render τύχη. Two planets, Jupiter and Venus, were ἀγαθουργοί (Plutarch, De Is. et Os., cap. xlviii.), bearers of what is good,—fortune-bringers. Hence, Gad, as “Fortune,” could be connected both with Astarte (cf. Movers, Phœn., i. 636), and with Baal (Jupiter). נָּד is manifestly the same as the Persian חדא (cf. נָּדַד and &חָדַד נָּבַל and חָבַל, etc.), Ghoda, which signifies god and lord, quite in the sense of בַּעַל (cf. Vullers, Lex. Pers. Lat., i. 660). If there be any connection between this term and the Zendic Khadhâta, it is only that the latter was used to designate the constellations. In heathen views of life, fortune and good coincide. To enjoy the good things of life is to be fortunate. Αγαθὴ τύχη is the Hellenic for happiness. The Syriac and Chaldee versions almost uniformly render the terms אֵשְׁרֵי and μακάριος, blessed, which occur in the Old and New Testaments, by טוֹב, good (cf. my work Irene, Erf. 1855, p. 9). In נָּד the ideas God and Fortune coëxist as yet unresolved; subsequently, especially in the Christian age, they were separated in the Germanic dialects as God and Good. For there is no doubt that in Gad (God), the good (fortunate) god and constellation, we find the oldest form, and for that reason a serviceable explanation, of the name God, which, like Elohim, disengaging itself from heathen conceptions, became the sacred name of the Absolute Spirit. At the same time it affords us the philological advantage of perceiving, what has often been contested (cf. Dieffenbach, Goth. Lex. ii. 416; Grimm. Myth. pp. 12, 1199, etc.), that God and Good actually belong together. Baal-gad was the God of Fortune, which was held to be the highest good.4—The meaning of לְבוֹא חֲמָת has been indicated above (p. 46).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
[Compare the Homiletical Hints of the preceding section.—Keil: In the wars of Canaan under Joshua, Israel had learned and experienced that the power which subdued its enemies consisted not in the multitude and valor of its warriors but in the might of its God, the putting forth of which however depended upon Israel’s continued faithfulness towards its Possessor. …. Now, in order to impress them with this truth, on which the existence and prosperity of Israel, and the realization of the purpose for which they had been divinely called, depended; in other words, in order to show them by the practical lessons of experience that the People of Jehovah can fight and conquer only in the strength of their God, the Lord had suffered the Canaanites to be left in the land. Necessity teaches prayer. The distress into which Israel fell by means of the remaining Canaanites, was a divine discipline, by which the Lord would bring the faithless back to Himself, admonish them to follow his commands, and prepare them for the fulfillment of his covenant-engagements. Hence, the learning of war, i.e. the learning how the People of the Lord should fight against the enemies of God and his kingdom, was a means ordained by God of tempting or trying Israel, whether they would hearken to the commands of their God and walk in the ways of the Lord. When Israel learned so to war, it learned also to keep the divine commands. Both were necessary to the People of God. For as the realization by the people of the blessings promised in the covenant depended on their giving heed to the voice of the Lord, so also the conflict appointed for them was necessary, as well for their personal purification, as for the continued existence and growth of the kingdom of God on earth.—Bertheau: The historian cannot sufficiently insist on the fact that the remaining of some of the former inhabitants of the land, after the wars of Joshua, is not a punishment but only a trial; a trial designed to afford occasion of showing to the Israelites who lived after Joshua benefits similar to those bestowed on his contemporaries. And it is his firm conviction that these benefits, consisting chiefly of efficient aid and wonderful deliverances in wars against the remaining inhabitants, would assuredly have accrued to the people, if they had followed the commands of Jehovah, especially that on which such stress is laid in the Pentateuch, to make no league with the heathen, but to make war on them as long as a man of them remains.
Henry: It was the will of God that Israel should be inured to war,—1. Because their country was exceeding rich and fruitful, and abounded with dainties of all sorts, which if they were not sometimes made to know hardship, would be in danger of sinking them into the utmost degree of luxury and effeminacy,—a state as destructive to ‛everything good as it is to everything great, and therefore to be carefully watched against by all God’s Israel. 2. Because their country lay very much in the midst of enemies, by whom they must expect to be insulted; for God’s heritage was as a speckled bird; the birds round about were against her. …. Israel was a figure of the church militant, that must fight its way to a triumphant state. The soldiers of Christ must endure hardness. Corruption is therefore left remaining in the hearts even of good Christians, that they may learn war, keep on the whole armor of God, and stand continually on their guard.
Wordsworth: “To teach them war.” So unbelief awakens faith, and teaches it war; it excites it to contend earnestly for the truth. The dissemination of false doctrines has led to clearer assertions of the truth. Heresies have produced the creeds. “There must be heresies,” says the Apostle, “that they who are approved among you may be made manifest” (1 Corinthians 11:19).—Tr.]
[Judges 3:2—Dr. Cassel renders this verse freely: “Only that to give experience to the generations of the sons of Israel, they might teach them war which they did not formerly learn to know.” He supplies a second לִמַעַן before ללַמְּדָם (see the exposition below), and in a note (which we transfer from the foot of the page), remarks: “Judges 3:2 contains two subordinate clauses dependent on the subject of the principal sentence in Judges 3:1, which is ‘Jehovah.’ In the first of these clauses (each of which is introduced by לְמַעַן), the subject is ‘Israel’ (fully, דֹּרוֹת בִּנֵי־ישׂ׳); in the second, ‘the nations.’ The first expresses the result of the second; that which Israel experiences is, that the nations teach it war.” Keil (who follows Bertheau) explains as follows: “only (רַק, with no other view than) to know the subsequent generations (דֹּרוֹת, the generations after Joshua and his contemporaries) of the sons of Israel, that He (Jehovah) might teach them war, only those who had not learned to know them (the wars of Canaan).” But, 1, if דֹּרוֹת were in the accus., the author could hardly have failed to remove all ambiguity by prefixing אֶת־ to it. 2. An infin. of design with לְ, following one with לְמַעַן, without ו to indicate coördination, can only be subordinate to the preceding. Thus in the English sentence: “We eat in order to live to work,” “to work,” would be at once interpreted as subordinate to “to live.” A second לְמַעַן might indicate coördination even without the assistance of ו, cf. in English: “We eat in order to live, in order to work;” where we feel at once that “to live” and “to work” are coördinate so far as their relation to the principal verb is concerned. Hence, Dr. Cassel inserts a second לְמַעַן; but this is an expedient too much like cutting the Gordian knot to be satisfactory. Bachmann, who in the main agrees with our author, avoids this by treating לְלַמְּדָם as a gerundive adverbial phrase. As for דַּעַת it is not indeed impossible that, remembering what he said in Judges 2:10 (לֹא יָדְעוּ, etc.), and just now substantially repeated in Judges 3:1 b, the writer of Judges uses it here absolutely, to indicate briefly the opposite of the condition there described, in which case Dr. Cassel’s rendering would be sufficiently justified. But since בְּנֵי ישׂ׳ דֹּרוֹת (Judges 3:2 a) clearly represents the אֵת כָּל־אְשֶׁר לֹא of Judges 3:1 b, it seems obvious that the דַּעַת of Judges 3:2 in like manner resumes the יָדְעוּ אֵת כָּל־מִלְחֲמוֹת כְּנָעַן of Judges 3:1. We may suppose, therefore, that the pronoun “them” is here, as frequently, omitted after דַּעַת, and translate, freely, thus: “And these are the nations which Jehovah left to prove Israel by them—all that Israel which did not know all the wars of Canaan, in order that the after generations of Israel (they also) might know (understand and appreciate) them (i.e. those wars), in that he (i.e. Jehovah, or they, the nations) taught them war, (not war in general, however, but) only the wars which (or, such wars as) they did not formerly know.” The first רַק, as Bachmann remarks, limits the design of Jehovah, the second the thing to be taught. As to the last clause of Judges 3:2, if the accents be disregarded, the only difficulty in the way of the rendering here given is the plural suffix ם; but this probably arises from the fact that the writer’s mind at once recurs to the “wars of Canaan.” The לְפָנִים, of old, is used from the point of time occupied by the “after generations,” as was natural to a writer who lived so late as the period of kings, and not from that in which the הִנִיחַ of Judges 3:1, and its design, took place. The masculine ם to represent a fem. plur. is not very unfrequent, cf. 2 Samuel 20:3; 2 Kings 18:13. Dr. Bachmann connects the last clause with דּעַת, respects the accents (which join לְפָנִים with אֲשֶׁר, not with לאֹ יְדָעוּם), and renders: “that Israel might learn to know …. war, namely, only those (wars) which were formerly, they did not know them = only the former wars which they did not know.” The sense is not materially affected by this change.—Tr.]
Cf. Joshua 4:24. [Compare the note under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]
Cf. Preller, Gr. Mythol., i. 77. He is such as ἀκραῖος, ἐπάκριος, etc. That ἀπεσάντιος also has no other meaning, Preller shows elsewhere. Mountain temples, says Welcker (Mythologie, i. 170), were erected to other gods only exceptionally. As for the temple of Hermes on Mount Cellene (Paus. viii. 17, 1), it could perhaps be made probable that here also the name of the mountain suggested the worship of Hermes.
Movers (Phœn. ii. 2, 515) thinks that he can explain the name of the Numidian seaport Cirta from רֹאשׁ גָּד, which is doubtful. On the other hand, when the Etymolog Magnum, under Γάδειρα, expresses the opinion that Gades in Spain was so named because “γάδον παῤ αν̓τοῖςτὸ ἐκ μικρῶν ᾠκοδομημένον,” there is evidently no reference to קָטֹן, but to Gad in the sense of Fortune. For the stress is laid not on the small beginnings, but on the good for tune, which from a small city made it great. This on Movers, ii. 2, 621, not. 89 a.
The History of Israel under the Judges: a history of sin, ever repeating itself, and of Divine Grace, constantly devising new means of deliverance. Meanwhile, however, the imperfections of the judicial institute display themselves, and prepare the way for the Appointment of a King.
The Servitude to Chushan-Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia. othniel, The Judge of Blameless and Happy Life
Israel is given up into the power of Chushan-rishathaim on account of its sins: Othniel is raised up as a Deliverer in answer to their penitence
5And the children [sons] of Israel dwelt among [in the midst of] the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: 6And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. 7And the children [sons] of Israel did evil5 in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and forgat the Lord [Jehovah] their God, and served Baalim, and the 8groves [Asheroth]. Therefore [And] the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was hot [kindled] against Israel, and he sold them [gave them up] into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia [Aram-naharaim]: and the children [sons] of Israel 9served Chushan-rishathaim eight years. And when [omit: when] the children [sons] of Israel cried unto the Lord [Jehovah], [and] the Lord [Jehovah] raised up a deliverer to the children [sons] of Israel, who [and] delivered6 them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10And the Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] came [was]7 upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord [Jehovah] delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia [Aram] into his hand; and his hand prevailed [became strong]8 against Chushan-rishathaim. 11And the land had rest forty years: and Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[1 Judges 3:7.—Literally, “the evil,” as at verse 12 and frequently. On the use of the article compare the “Grammatical” note on Judges 2:11. Wordsworth’s note on the present verse is: “They did that evil which God had forbidden as evil.’—Tr.]
[2 Judges 3:9.—וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם (from יָשַׁע,) here, without any preposition, with אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל, on the other hand, at 2 Kings 14:27, בְּיַד is inserted. [De Wette, in his German Version, also takes Jehovah as subject of וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם, which seems to be favored by the position of אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל, which according to the common view would be separated from its governing verb by another verb with a different and unexpressed subject. But Dr. Cassel is certainly wrong when he supplies “through” instead of the “even” of our E. V., and so makes “Othniel” the medium by whom Jehovah delivered. That would be expressed either by בְּיַד or by בְּ, cf. Hosea 1:7; 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:47. The words אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל are in apposition with מוֹשִׁיעַ.—Tr.]
[3 Judges 3:10.—So do Dr. Cassel and many others render וַתְּהִי; but the rendering “came” is very suitable, if with Dr. Bachmann, we assume וַתְּהִי, etc., to be explanatory of וַיָּקֶם, etc., in Judges 3:9.—Tr.]
[4 Judges 3:11.—וַתָּעָז, from עָזַז. [On the vowel in the last syllable, see Ges. Gram. 67, Rem. 2.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 3:5. And the sons of Israel dwelt. The introduction is ended, and the author now proceeds to the events themselves. Fastening the thread of his narrative to the relations which he has just unfolded, he goes on to say: Israel (therefore) dwelt among the Canaanite, Hittite, Amorite, Perizzite, Hivite, Jebusite. The last of these tribes he had not in any way named before; nor, apparently, is it accurate to say that Israel dwelt among the Jebusites. But the passage is a deeply significant citation. Deuteronomy 20:17 contains the following: “Thou shalt utterly destroy the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, as Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee; that they teach you not to do after all their abominations.” But, says the narrator, the contrary took place; Israel dwells among them, and is consequently, as Moses foretold, initiated into the sins of its neighbors. Hence, just as in that passage, so here also, only six nations are named. At Deuteronomy 7:1 the Girgashites are added. The most complete catalogue of the nations of Canaan is given in Genesis 10:15 ff. Another one, essentially different, is found Genesis 15:19-21. Here, the writer does not intend to give a catalogue; he names the nations only by way of reproducing the words of Moses, and of manifesting their truthfulness.
Judges 3:6-7. And they took their daughters. Precisely in this consisted the “covenant” (בְּרִית) which they were not to make with them. The reference here is especially to Deuteronomy 7:2 ff.: “Thou shalt make no covenant with them. And thou shalt not make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For it would turn away thy child from me, and they will serve false gods.” All this has here come to pass. We read the consequence of intermarriage in the words: “and they served their gods.” The same passage (Deuteronomy 7:5) proceeds: “Ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their Asheroth.” But now Israel served “Baalim and Asheroth.” It bent the knee before the altars of Baal and the idols of Astarte. Asherah (see below, on Judges 6:25) is the idol through which Astarte was worshipped. The altar was especially consecrated to Baal, the pillar or tree-idol to her. Hence the Baalim and Asheroth of this passage answer perfectly to the Baal and Ashtaroth of Judges 2:13. Instead of destroying, Israel served them. עָבַד is to render bodily and personal service. It is not a matter of thought or opinion merely. He who serves, serves with his body,—he kneels, offers, prays. The ancient translators are therefore right in generally rendering it by λειτουγεῖν. Among the Hellenes, liturgy (λειτουογία) meant service which, as Böckh shows, differed from all other obligations precisely in this, that it was to be rendered personally. Hence, also, liturgy, in its ecclesiastical sense, corresponded perfectly with abodah (צֲכֹדָה), and was rightly used to denote the acts of divine service. Now, when in this way Israel performed liturgy before idol images, that took place which Deuteronomy 7:4 foretold: “the anger of the Lord was kindled.” Whenever Israel, the people called to be free, falls into servitude, it is in consequence of the anger of God. It is free only while it holds fast to its God. When it apostatizes from the God of freedom, He gives it up to tyrants, as one gives up a slave (מָכַר).
Judges 3:8. He gave them up into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim. The explanation of Rishathaim, adopted by Bertheau, which derives it from רֶשַׁע, and gives it the sense of “double injustice” or “outrage,” is not to be thought of. To say nothing of its peculiar form, there is no reason whatever why this title should be given to Chushan and not to the other tyrants over Israel. Had it been intended to describe him as peculiarly wicked he would have been called הָרָע, as in the analogous case of Haman (Esther 7:6). The Midrash alone attempts an explanation, and makes Rishathaim to mean Laban. The “double sin” is, that Aram (of which, in the spirit of the Midrash, Laban is the representative) formerly injured Jacob, and now injures his descendants (cf. Jalkut, Judges, n. 41). The renderings of the Targum and Peshito9 sprang from this interpretation. Paul of Tela, on the other hand, follows the Septuagint, which has χουσαρσαθαίμ; he, and others of later date, write Χουσὰν Ρεσαθθώμ (ed. Rördam, p. 74). (Syncellus, ed. Bonn. i. 285, has χουσαρσαθώμ.10) Rishathaim is manifestly a proper name, and forms the complement of Chushan, which does not conceal its national derivation. At all events, at Habakkuk 3:7; Habakkuk 3:11 where it stands parallel with Midian, it is used to designate nationality.12 Now, ancient Persian tradition, as found in the Schahnameh of Firdousi, contains reminiscences of warlike expeditions from the centre of Iran against the West. One of the three sons of Feridoun, Selm (שלם), is lord of the territories west of the Euphrates. The nations of those countries are hostile to Iran. Mention is also made of assistance from Gangi Jehocht (as Jerusalem is several times designated) in a war against Iran (cf. Schack, Heldens. des Firdusi, p. 160). The Iranian heroes, on the other hand, Sam, Zal (זאל), and Rustem, who carry on the wars of the kings, east and west, are from Sedjestan. Sedjestan, whose inhabitants under the Sassanides also formed the nucleus of the army (cf. Lassen, Indische Alterth. ii. 363), derives its name from the Sacæ (Sacastene). The name Sacæ, however, is itself only a general ethnographic term, answering to the term Scythians, and comprehended all those powerful nations, addicted to horsemanship and the chase, who made themselves famous as warriors and conquerors in the regions east and west of the Tigris. All Scythians, says Herodotus, are called Sacæ by the Persians. The term Cossæans was evidently of similar comprehensiveness. As at this day Segestan (or Seistan) is still named after the Sacæ, so Khuzistan after the Cossæans (cf. Mannert, v. 2, 495). Moses Chorenensis derives the Parthians from the land of Chushan (ed. Florival, i. 308–311). In the Nakhshi Rustam inscription (Judges 3:30) we read of Khushiya, which certainly appears more suggestive of Cossæi, as Lassen interprets, than of Gaudæ, as Benfey explains (Die Pers. Keilinschr., p. 60). That I they are quite like the Parthians, Scythians, Sacæ, in the use of the bow and the practice of pillage and the chase, is sufficiently shown by the passage of Strabo (ed. Paris, p. 449, lib. xi. 13, 6). Like Nimrod (Genesis 10:8), all these nations, and also the princes of the Sacæ, Sam, Zal, and Rustem, are I represented as heroes and hunters. Nimrod descends from Cush, and rules at the rivers. So here also Cush is a general term for a widely-diffused family of nations. It does not indicate their dwelling-place, but their mode of life and general characteristics13 Even the reference in the name of this Chushan to darkness of complexion is not to be overlooked. A centaur (horseman) is with Hesiod (Scut. Herc. 185) an asbolos. “Asbolos,” says Eupolemus (in Euseb., Prœp. Ev. ix. 17; cf. Niebuhr, Assur und Babel, p. 262, note 2), is translated χον́μς by the Hellenes. The second Chaldee king is called Chomasbelos by Berosus (Fragmenta, ed. Müller, Paris, p. 503; Niebuhr, p. 490; Syncellus, i. 147, ed. Bonn); while in one passage (Lamentations 4:8) the LXX. translate shechor, “black,” by ἀσβόλη. Syncellus is therefore improperly censured by Niebuhr for comparing Evechios, and not the son of Chomasbelos, with Nimrod. He could compare none but the first king with him who was likewise held to be the first. Accordingly, it cannot appear surprising that kings and heroes beyond the Euphrates are named כּוּשַׁן, “Chushan.”14 One of the most famous of the primitive kings of Iran was named כי כאושׂ, Kai Kaous. Persian tradition tells of wars and conquests which he carried on in Mesi, Sham, and Rum, i.e. Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor (cf. Herbelot, Or. Bibl. iii. 59). They also relate misfortunes endured by him. In his wars in the West,15 he was defeated and taken prisoner. His hero and deliverer was always Rustem (רשתם or רסתם, also רֹושתם, cf. Vullers, Lex. Pers. ii. 32). Now, since it is obviously proper to compare these names with כושן רשעתים, “Chushan-rishathaim” (for the ע as well as the pointing of the Masora dates from the Rabbinic Midrash); there is nothing to oppose the idea that the celebrated Rustem of the East, the hero of Kaous, whom Moses Chorenensis calls the Saces, is actually mentioned here. It would enhance the interest of the narrative to find the hero of the Iranian world brought upon the scene of our history. Profane history would here, as so frequently elsewhere, receive valuable illustration from Scripture. An historical period would be approximately gained for Kai Kaous. On the other hand, such conflicts were sufficiently memorable for Israel to serve as testimonies first of God's anger, and then of salvation wrought out by Him.
And they served Chushan-rishathaim, וַיַּעַבְרוּ. God is served with sacrifices; human lords with tribute (cf. Judges 3:15). Hence the expression עוֹבֵרמס, when a people became tributary. The “eight years” are considered in the introductory section on the Chronology of the Book.
Judges 3:9. And the sons of Israel cried unto Jehovah. זָעַק is the anxious cry of distress. So cried they in Egypt by reason of their heavy service (Exodus 2:23). They cry to God, as children to their father. In his compassion, He hears them. However, Jeremiah (Judges 11:11) warns the people against that time “when they shall cry (וְזָעֲקוּ) unto God, but he will not hearken unto them.”
And He delivered them through Othniel the son of Kenaz. The Septuagint gives his name as Γοθονιήλ, while Josephus has ’Οθονίλος. Jerome (De Nominibus, ed. Migne, p. 809) has Athaniel, which he translates “my time of God” (tempus meum Dei). This is also the translation of Leusden in his Onomasticon, who however unnecessarily distinguishes between a Gothoniel (1 Chronicles 27:15) and Othniel. Gesenius derives the name from the Arabic, and says it means “lion of God.” How carefully Josephus follows ancient exegesis, appears from his inserting the story of Othniel only after the abominations of Gibeah (Judges 19:0) and those of the tribe of Dan (Judges 18:0); for these occurrences were regarded as belonging to the time of servitude under Chushan (Jalkut, Judges, n. 41). But his anxiety to avoid every appearance of improbability does not allow him to call Othniel the brother of Caleb. He speaks of him as “τῆς̓Ιούδα φυλῆς τις, one of the tribe of Judah” (Ant. v. 3, 3); for he fears lest the Greek reader should take offense at finding Othniel still young and vigorous enough to achieve victory in the field, and render forty years' service as Judge. But the narrator adds emphatically, “the younger brother of Caleb,”—in order to leave no doubt that the conqueror of Kirjath-sepher and the victor over Aram were one and the same person. Nor is there any foundation for the scrupulosity of Josephus. In Israel the men capable of bearing arms were enrolled upon the completion of their twentieth year (Numbers 26:2, seq.). Now, if Othniel was twenty-five years of age when he conquered Kirjath-sepher, and if after that a period of twenty years elapsed, during which a new generation grew up, he would be fifty-three years of age when as hero and conqueror he assumed the judicial office,—a supposition altogether natural and probable. Caleb in his eighty-fifth year still considered himself fully able to take the field. Besides, it is consonant with the spirit which animates the history here narrated, that it is Othniel who appears as the first Shophet. Not merely because of the heroism which he displayed before Kirjath-sepher; but a new dignity like this of Judge is easily attracted to one who is already in possession of a certain authority, which was evidently the case with Othniel. He was one of those who, in part at least, had shared the wars with Canaan. He was the brother and son-in-law of the celebrated Caleb, and hence a head of the tribe of Judah, to which in this matter also the initiative belongs. Once it was asked, “Who shall first go up?” Judah was the tribe selected by the response. The first Judge whom God appointed, must appear in Judah. That tribe still had strength and energy; there the memory of former deeds achieved by faith was still cherished among the people (cf. Shemoth Rabba, § 48, p. 144 a).
Judges 3:10. And the spirit of Jehovah was upon him. The spirit of faith, of trust in God, of enthusiasm. It is the same spirit which God bestows upon the seventy also, who are to assist Moses (Numbers 11:25). It was on that occasion that Moses exclaimed, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them.” In this spirit, Moses and Joshua performed their great deeds. In this spirit, Joshua and Caleb knew no fear when they explored the land. In this spirit, the spirit of obedience, which in faith performs the law, becomes a spirit of power. Of those seventy we are told (Numbers 11:25), that when they had received the Spirit of God, they prophesied. The Targum therefore translates, both there and here, רוּחַ נְבוּאָה, Spirit of Prophecy. It does this, however, in the case of no Judge but Othniel. For although the רוּחַ יְהוָֹה is also spoken of in connection with Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, it merely gives רוּחַ נְּבוּ־ָא in those cases, Spirit of heroism (Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25). The first ground of this distinction conferred on Othniel, is the irreproachable character of his rule. No tragic shadow lies on his life, as on the lives of the other heroes. To this must be added the ancient interpretation, already alluded to above (p. 35, note 2), which identified Othniel with Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10), and regarded him as a pious teacher of the law. They said concerning him, that his sun arose when Joshua’s went down (Bereshith Rabba, § 58, p. 51 b). They applied to him the verse in Canticles (Judges 6:7): “Thou art all fair, there is no spot in thee” (Shir ha-Shirim Rabba, on the passage, ed. Amsterd. p. 17 c.).16
And he judged Israel. He judged Israel before he went forth to war. It has already been remarked above, that שָׁפַט means to judge in the name of the law. The Judge enforces the law; he punishes sin, abolishes wrong. If Israel is to be victorious, it is not enough to “cry unto the Lord;” the authority of the law (מִשְׁפָּט) must be recognized. “These are the מִשְׁפָּטִים (judgments) which thou shalt set before them,” is the order, Exodus 21:1. Israel must become conscious of God and duty. At that point Othniel’s judicial activity began. This was what he taught them for the future. Not till that is accomplished can war be successfully undertaken.
Judges 3:11. And the land rested. שָׁקַט does not occur in the Pentateuch. It signifies that desirable condition of quiet in which the people, troubled by neither external nor internal foes, enjoys its possessions, when the tumults of war are hushed, and peaceful calm pervades the land. Such rest is found in Israel, when the people obediently serve their God. “The service of righteousness (says Isaiah 32:17), is rest (הַשְׁקֵט) and security forever.” Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:10) announces that when Israel shall be redeemed, Jacob shall rest and be free from care (שָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן). The present rest, alas, endured only until Othniel died. When he went home, his authority ceased, and peace departed.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Othniel the Judge without offense and without sorrow. The first Judge comes out of Judah. Here also that tribe leads. On all succeeding Judges there rests, notwithstanding their victories, the shadow of error, of grief, or of a tragic end. They were all of other tribes; only Othniel, out of Judah, saved and died without blemish and without sorrow. To him no abnormity of Jewish history attaches. He was the appointed hero of his time. The relative and son-in-law of Caleb continued the line of heroes which begins in the desert. For that very reason he was free from many temptations and irregularities. Men were accustomed to see Judah and the family of Caleb take the lead. Other Judges had first to struggle for that authority which Othniel already possessed. He who is exempt from this necessity, escapes many a temptation.
Thus Othniel is a type of sons descended from good families, and of inherited position. From him such may learn their duty to use life and strength for their country. His life shows that to lead and judge is easier for them than for others. There are many “Caleb-relatives” who squander the glory of their name; but yet there have never been wanting Christians who, historically among the first men of their country, have borne aloft the banner of truth. Joachim von Alvensleben composed his Confession of the Christian Faith (printed at Stendal, 1854), that he might acquit himself of his “paternal office” to his family, warn them faithfully, and preserve them from apostasy; so that Martin Chemnitz prays the “good and kind God to preserve hoc sacrum depositum in its purity, everywhere in his church, and especially in nobili hoc familia” (Brunswick, March 1, 1566). The spirit of Othniel clearly manifested itself in Zinzendorf; and he rendered useful service not only in spite of his distinguished name, but especially in his own day, because he bore it. His life, while it testifies that in the spirit of the gospel everything can be turned into a special blessing, shows also that no gift of Providence is to be suppressed,—least of all, one’s family and origin (cf. Otto Strauss: Zinzendorf, Leben und Auswahl seiner Schriften, etc., iv. 147, etc.). This spirit of Othniel was in the Minister Von Pfeil, in his life and work, confessing and praying. In his own words:—
“Knight of heaven Jesus made me,
Touched me with the Spirit’s sword,
When the Spirit’s voice declared me
Free forever to the Lord.”
Starke: What great depravity of the human heart, that men so easily forget the true God whom they have known, and voluntarily accept and honor strange gods, whom neither they nor their fathers knew. The Same: God is at no loss for means; He prescribes bounds to the aggressions of the enemy. But in the spiritual warfare also men must be bold. We do not conquer by sitting still. Lisco: The spirit of the Lord is the originator of everything good and of all great achievements.
[Henry: Affliction makes those cry to God with importunity, who before would scarcely speak to him. The same: Othniel first judged Israel, reproved them, called them to an account for their sins, and reformed them, and then went out to war; that was the right method. Let sin at home be conquered, that worst of enemies, and then enemies abroad will be more easily dealt with. Bishop Hall: Othniel’s life and Israel’s innocence and peace ended together. How powerful the presence of one good man is in a church or state, is best found in his death.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:7.—Literally, “the evil,” as at verse 12 and frequently. On the use of the article compare the “Grammatical” note on Judges 2:11. Wordsworth’s note on the present verse is: “They did that evil which God had forbidden as evil.’—Tr.]
Judges 3:9; Judges 3:9.—וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם (from יָשַׁע,) here, without any preposition, with אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל, on the other hand, at 2 Kings 14:27, בְּיַד is inserted. [De Wette, in his German Version, also takes Jehovah as subject of וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם, which seems to be favored by the position of אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל, which according to the common view would be separated from its governing verb by another verb with a different and unexpressed subject. But Dr. Cassel is certainly wrong when he supplies “through” instead of the “even” of our E. V., and so makes “Othniel” the medium by whom Jehovah delivered. That would be expressed either by בְּיַד or by בְּ, cf. Hosea 1:7; 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:47. The words אֵת עָתְנִיאֵל are in apposition with מוֹשִׁיעַ.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:10.—So do Dr. Cassel and many others render וַתְּהִי; but the rendering “came” is very suitable, if with Dr. Bachmann, we assume וַתְּהִי, etc., to be explanatory of וַיָּקֶם, etc., in Judges 3:9.—Tr.]
Judges 3:11; Judges 3:11.—וַתָּעָז, from עָזַז. [On the vowel in the last syllable, see Ges. Gram. 67, Rem. 2.—Tr.]
[The “Crime-committing ('frevelnde) Chushan.” See Bertheau in loc.—Tr.]
Josephus has χουσάρθος. On other readings see Haversamp, ad Josh., i. 289, not. x.
The opinion of Bertheau that the prophet alludes to our passage, is already found in the older Jewish expositors. From any objective, scientific point of view, this view can scarcely be concurred in.
[That is to say, the term expresses ethnological, not local relations.—Tr.]
We cannot enter here on a full illustration of the genealogy of Cush, as given Genesis 10:0. For some excellent remarks see Knobel Die ethnogr. Tafel, p. 251. Where he read Cush, In Wagenseil’s edition of Petachia, Carmoly’s edition, probably less correctly, has Acco. Where Benjamin of Tudela, ed. Asher, p. 83, has כּוּת, other manuscripts have כּוּשׁ, Cush (Ezekiel 38:5) may also pass for the African.
One of the worst enemies of Kai Kaous was Deo Sefid, i.e. the White Foe. At the birth of Rustem’s father, Zal, it was considered a misfortune that his head was white. He was therefore exposed (cf. Schack. Firdusi, p. 175).
Some call him ruler of Arabia, others of Syria. Cf Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, i. 27.
[Keil: “The Spirit of God is the spiritual life-principle in the world of nature and of mankind; and in man it is the principle as well of the natural life received by birth, as of the spiritual life received through the new birth, cf. Auberlen, Geist des Menschen, in Herzog’s Realencykl., iv. 731. In this sense, the expression ‘Spirit of Elohim’ alternates with ‘Spirit of Jehovah,’ as already in Genesis 1:2, compared with Judges 6:3, and so on in all the books of the O. T., with this difference, however, that whereas ‘Spirit of Elohim’ designates the Divine Spirit only in general, on the side of its supernatural causality and power, ‘Spirit of Jehovah’ presents it on the side of its historical operation on the world and human life, in the interests of salvation. In its operations, however, the Spirit of Jehovah manifests itself as the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, of Council and Strength, of Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). The impartation of this spirit in the O. T., takes the form for the most part of an extraordinary, supernatural influence exerted over the human spirit. The usual expression for this is, ‘the Spirit of Jehovah (or Elohim) וַתְּהּי צָלָיו came upon him;’ so here and in Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1Sa 19:23; 2 Chronicles 20:14; Numbers 24:2. With this, however, the expressions וַתִּצְלַח צָלְחָה עלָיו, Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; 1Sa 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13, and לָבשִׁה אֶת פ׳, the Spirit ‘put on (clothed) the person,’ Judges 6:34; 1Ch 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20, alternate; the former of which characterizes the influence of the Divine Spirit as one which overpowers the resistance of the natural will [the verb צַלַח, which in this connection the E. V. sometimes renders ‘to come upon mightily,’ as in Judges 14:6, sometimes merely ‘to come upon,’ as in Judges 3:19 of the same chapter, properly signifies ‘to cleave, to cut, to break through’—Tr.], while the latter represents it as a power which envelopes and covers man. They who receive and possess this spirit are thereby endowed with power to perform wonderful deeds. Commonly, the Spirit that has come upon them manifests itself in the ability to prophesy, but also in the power to perform wonders or exploits transcending the natural courage and strength of man. The latter was especially the case with the Judges. Hence the Targum already, on Judges 6:34, explains the ‘Spirit of Jehovah’ as the ‘Spirit of Strength from the Lord,’ while on the other hand in our passage it erroneously thinks of the ‘Spirit of Prophecy.’ Kimchi also understands here the ‘spiritum fortitudinis, quo excitatus, amoto omni metu, bellum adversus Cuschanem susceperit.’ It is however scarcely proper so to separate the various powers of the Divine Spirit, as to take it in its operation on the Judges, merely as the Spirit of Strength and Valor. The. Judges not only fought the enemy courageously and victoriously, but also judged the people, for which the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, and restrained idolatry (Judges 2:18 seq.), for which the Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of the Lord, was required.”—Tr.]
the servitude to eglon, king of moab. ehud, the judge with the double-edged dagger. shamgar, the deliverer with the ox-goad
Eglon, King of Moab, reduces Israel to servitude, and seizes on the City of Palms: they are delivered by Ehud, who destroys the oppressor
12And the children [sons] of Israel did evil again [continued to do evil] in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah]: and the Lord [Jehovah] strengthened [encouraged17] Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done [did] evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah]. 13And he gathered unto him [having allied himself with] the children [sons] of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and [they] 14possessed [took possession of] the city of palm-trees. So [And] the children [sons] 15of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. But when [And] the children [sons] of Israel cried unto the Lord [Jehovah], [and] the Lord [Jehovah] raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite [Ben-jemini], a man left-handed [weak18 of his right hand]: and by him the children [sons] of Israel 16sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.19 But [And] Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit [gomed] length: and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. 17And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. 18And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away [dismissed20] the people that bare the present. 19But he himself turned again [turned back] from the quarries [Pesilim] that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand21 unto thee, O king: who said, Keep [omit: keep] silence. 20And [thereupon] all that stood by him went out from him. And Ehud came [drew near] unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour [now he, i.e. the king, was sitting in the upper story of the cooling-house22], which he had for himself alone [his private apartment]: and Ehud said, I have a message from God [the Deity] unto thee. And 21[Then] he arose out of his seat. And [immediately] Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: 22And the haft also went in after the blade: and the fat closed upon [about] the blade, so that he could not [for he did not] draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt [the dagger23] came 23out [behind]. Then [And] Ehud went forth through the porch [went upon the balcony], and shut the doors of the parlour [upper story] upon him [after him], and locked them. 24When he was gone out, his [the king’s] servants came; and when they saw that [and they looked, and] behold, the doors of the parlour [upper story] were locked, [and] they said, Surely [doubtless], he covereth his feet in his summer-chamber 25[chamber of the cooling-house]. And they tarried till they were ashamed [waited very long]: and behold, he opened not [no one opened] the doors of the parlour [upper story], therefore they took a [the] key and opened them: and behold, their 26lord was fallen down dead on the earth. And [But] Ehud [had] escaped while they tarried; and [had already] passed beyond the quarries [Pesilim], and 27[had] escaped unto Seirath [Seirah]. And it came to pass when he was come [when he arrived], that he blew a [the] trumpet in the mountain [mountains] of Ephraim, and the children [sons] of Israel went down with him from the mount 28[mountains], and he before them. And he said unto them, Follow [Hasten] after me: for the Lord [Jehovah] hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass oJudges Judges 3:29 And they slew [smote] of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty,24 and all men of valour: and there escaped not a man. 30So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel: and the land had rest four-score years.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
[1 Judges 3:12.—וַיְחַזֵּק: the same word is used Exodus 4:21, etc., Joshua 11:20; but is here, as Bachmann remarks, to be explained not by those passages, but by Ezekiel 30:24. It implies here the impartation not so much of strength as of the consciousness of it.—Tr.]
[2 Judges 3:15.—אִטֵּר: Dr. Cassel, schwach, weak. “Impeded” would be the better word. Against the opinion of some, that Ehud’s right hand was either lamed or mutilated, Bachmann quotes the remark of Schmid that it would have been a breach of decorum to send such a physically imperfect person on an embassy to the king. It may be added that this explanation of אִטֵּר is at all events not to be thought of in the case of the 700 chosen men mentioned in Judges 20:16.—Tr.]
[3 Judges 3:15.—Dr. Cassel translates this clause: “when [als; i. e. Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer, when] the sons of Israel sent a present by him to Eglon, the king of Moab.” But it is altogether simpler and better to take the clause as an independent progressive sentence, as in the E. V. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
[4 Judges 3:18.—יְשַׁלַּח: dismissed them by accompanying them part of the way back, cf. Genesis 12:20; Genesis 18:16; etc.—Tr.]
[5 Judges 3:19.—דְּבַר־סֵתֶר: Dr. Cassel translates, “a secret word.” But “errand” is better; because like דָּבָר, it may be a word or message, or it may be a commission of a more active nature. Bachmann quotes Chyträus: rem, negotium secretum habeo apud te agendum. So, he goes on to remark, in Judges 3:20 “דְּבַר־אֱלהִֹים לִי אֵלֶיךָ, is not necessarily, ‘I have a word from God to say to thee;’ but may mean, ‘I have a commission from God to execute to thee.’ It would be preferable, therefore, to conform the English Version in Judges 3:20 to Judges 3:19, rather than the reverse.—Tr.]
[6 Judges 3:20.—The rendering given above is Dr. Cassel’s, except that he puts the verb (ישֵׁב) in the pluperfect, which can scarcely be approved. He translates בַּעֲלִיַּת הַמְּקֵרָה by Obergeschoss des kühlhauses, which we can only represent by the awkward phrase: “upper story of the cooling-house.” It would be better, however, to take מְקֵרָה as containing an adjective idea, descriptive of the ’alijah: “cool upper story.” Cf. Bachmann.—Tr.]
[7 Judges 3:22.—The term פַּרְשְׁדוֹן occurs only here, and is of exceedingly doubtful interpretation. Bachmann assumes that the וַיֵּצֵא which precedes it has Ehud for its subject, and then—by a course of reasoning far too lengthy and intricate to be here discussed—comes to the conclusion that פַּרְשְׁדוֹן denotes a locality, which in the next verse is more definitely indicated by מִסְדְּרוֹן. The latter term, he thinks, is best understood “of the lattice-work by which the roof was inclosed, or rather of the inclosed platform of the roof itself.” Accordingly he conceives the text to say that Ehud issued forth from Eglon’s private apartment “upon the flat roof, more definitely upon the inclosed plat from or gallery.”—Tr.]
[8 Judges 3:29.—Dr. Cassel: angesehene Leute, cf. the Commentary; but it seems better to hold fast to the E. V. The expression is literally: “fat men,” i. e. well-fed, lusty men, of great physical strength. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 3:12-14. And Jehovah encouraged Eglon, king of Moab. The second attack on Israel came likewise from the east, but from a point much nearer home than that from which the first by Aram had come. A warlike prince of Moab had formed a league for the occasion with neighbors north and south of him. For the sons of Ammon dwelt beyond the Jordan, east of the Dead Sea, above the Moabites; while the hosts of Amalek roved lower down, to the southwest of Moab. Hitherto no actual conflict had occurred between Moab and Israel. But the order that “no Ammonite or Moabite shall enter into the congregation of Jehovah” (Deuteronomy 23:4 (3)), sufficiently marks the antagonism that existed between them. The Moabites longed for the excellent oasis of the City of Palms. Jericho, it is true, was destroyed; but the indestructible wealth of its splendid site attracted them. They surprised Israel, now become dull and incapable. Neither in the land of Benjamin, where the battle was fought, nor from the neighboring tribes of Judah and Ephraim, did they meet with any energetic resistance. From the words “and they took possession of,” in connection with the following narrative, it appears that Eglon had fixed his residence in the City of Palms.25 This renders it probable that Eglon was not the king of all Moab, (whose principal seat was in Rabbath Moab,) but a Moabitish chieftain, whom this successful expedition placed in possession of this fair territory west of the Jordan.
Judges 3:15. And Jehovah raised them up a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, a Ben-jemini, a man weak of his right hand. אֵהוּד; for which the LXX. read אהוֹד, Aod (Jerome has Eud). It seems to me that the older derivation of this name from הוֹד, giving it the sense of “one who praises,’ or “one who is praised’ (gloriam accipiens, Jerome), is to be unqualifiedly preferred to the later, proposed by Fürst, from a conjectural root, אֵהוּד אָד is related to הדַד הוּד, as אָהַל, to be bright, is to &הַל הָלַל, and אַהֲרוֹן (Arabic, Hârûn) to &הָרַר הַר. Elsewhere I have already compared hod with the Sanskrit vad, ἄδω, ἀείδω, ὕδω, and the Gothic audags (Irene, p. 6, note.) At all events, as Ehud belongs to hod, so such names as Audo, Eudo, Heudo, seem to belong to audags (cf. Förstemann, Namenbuch, 1:162, 391).
He was a Ben-jemini, of the tribe of Benjamin, as the Targum expressly adds. When the son of Jacob was born, his dying mother named him Benoni, “son of my sorrow;” but his father, by way of euphemism, called him Ben-jamin, “son of good fortune” (Genesis 35:18). Jamin came to signify “good fortune,” only because it designated the right side. The inhabitants of the holy land had the sea (jam26) on the right, hence called that side jamin, literally, sea-side; and the high lands of Aram (or Sham, cf. Magyar, Altherth., p. 228) on the left, hence semol, the left, from Sam. Different nations derived their expressions for right and left from conceptions peculiar to themselves. Thus δεξιός and dexter27 are based on the idea of showing, pointing, with the right hand (δείκνυμι); sinister, from sinus, on the action of laying the right hand on the side of the heart. The left hand has everywhere been regarded as the weaker, which, properly speaking, did not wield arms. When oriental custom placed the stranger on the left, it assigned him the seat of honor in so far as the left side seemed to be the weaker and less protected (cf. Xenoph. Cyrop. viii. 4; Meiners, Ueber die Versch. der Menschennaturen, ii. 588). From the idea of weakness, sprang such terms as λαιοʹς, lœvus, Ger. link, [Eng. left], because that side is harmless, smooth, and gentle (cf. λε͂ιος, lœvis). Hence also the custom among Asiatic nations of inclining toward the left side, and resting on the left hand, when seated, (Meiners, iii. 213): the right hand was thus left free. It was by a euphemism that the name of Jacob’s son was Ben-jamin. Among the Greeks also the “left” was euphemistically called εὐώνυμος, good-omened, because it was wished to avoid the ominous ἀριστερός. A similar custom must have obtained in Israel, since just in the tribe of Benjamin there were, as we are informed Judges 20:16, large numbers of men who, like Ehud, were אִטֵּר יַד יְמִינוֹ, i.e. left-handed,—the sons of the right hand being thus most addicted to the use of the left. But for the very reason that it seems to have been a habit of the tribe to use the left hand, it cannot be supposed that אִטֵּר is meant to indicate lameness of the right hand. The LXX. felt this when they rendered the phrase by ἀμφιδέξιος, “double right-handed.” The same consideration influenced those more recent scholars who instanced (as Serarius already did, p. 84) the Homeric Asteropæus, who fought with both hands. However, this also contradicts the spirit of the narrative, and, as the peculiarity occurs only in Benjamin, the name as well. Those Ben-jemini, who, like Ehud, use the left hand, do it in contrast with others, who make use of the right without any lameness in the left. That which Stobæus (Eclogœ Physicœ, ed. Heeren, i. 52, 992) relates of certain African nations, might also be said of the Benjamites: that they are “good and for the most part left-handed fighters (ἀριστερομάχους), and do with the left hand whatever others do with the right.” These are manifestly the same tribes of whom Stephanus of Byzantium (ed. Westermann, p. 128) speaks as an Egyptian people near Ethiopia, and whom he styles ’Ευωνυμίται (thus designating them, like Benjamin, by the euphemistic term for left-handed). Accordingly אִטֵּר יַד יְמִינוֹ means no more than “unpracticed, weak, awk ward, with the right hand,” as other people are with the left. They are such as among other nations the people frequently called Linketatz, Linkfuss [literally, “left-paw,” “left-foot”] (Frisch, i. 616), in France gauchier [lit. “left-hander”; cf. the English awk, gawk, and their derivative forms]. It is remarkable that in the Roman legend the hero, who, like Ehud, undertakes to kill the enemy of his country, is also named Scævola, left-handed. The traditional explanation that he was so named because he burned his right hand, is not very suitable; he should in that case, be named “one-handed.” Still, no one will agree with Niebuhr (Röm. Gesch., i. 569), who, following Varro, proposed an altogether different derivation. The tradition must refer to an actually left-handed hero. Scœvus, says Ulpian (Digestor., lib. 1 Timothy 1:12, 1 Timothy 1:3), does not apply to one who is maimed; hence, he who cannot move the right hand is called mancus. As such a left-handed person we are to consider Laïus (Λάϊος), the father of Œdipus (Οἰδίπους).
Judges 3:16. And Ehud made him a dagger [German: Dolch] which had two edges, a gomed long. The word dolch [dagger, dirk] has passed over into the German, from the Slavic, since the sixteenth century, and was not yet known to Luther.28 It answers to חֶרֶב in this passage, better than “sword” would ”do, because it has become quite synonymous with stichdegen (dirk or poniard). Oriental daggers have always been double-edged and short-handled (Judges 3:22). Gomed is translated σπιθαμή by the Septuaginta. Among the Greeks, the σπιθαμή was half an ell, i.e. twelve digits or three fourths of a foot (cf. Böckh, Metrolog. Unters., p. 211). With this measure, gomed, in its general sense of cubitus, which is also given in the garmida of the Targum, corresponds. The dagger of Ehud was not curved, as the sicœ usually were and as the daggers of the Bedouins still are (cf. Jos. Ant. xx. 10). Its length could only be such as was consistent with concealment.
And girded it under his raiment. “To the presence of Dionysius the Tyrant, glided Mœros, the dagger in his garment,” sings our poet,29 and is withal perfectly historical, even though the Fable (n. 257) of Hyginus does not expressly say this. With such daggers in their garments the Sicarii raged among the crowds at the fall of Jerusalem. Prudentius (Psychomachia, 689) sings of Discordia: “sicam sub veste tegit!” Rothari, the would-be murderer of the Longobard king Luitprand, wore coat of mail and a dagger beneath his clothing (Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Lomb. vi. 37). Ehud had to wear the dagger on his right side because he was left-handed. However, among German warriors who were not left-handed, the dagger was also frequently worn on the right, because the sword hung on the left, as may be seen in old pictures and on gravestones (Klemm, Waffen und Werkzeuge, Leipzig, 1854, p. 173).
Judges 3:17. And Eglon was a very fat man. Considering the sense of בָּרִיא wherever it occurs in Scripture, there can be no doubt that it is intended here to express the corpulency of the king. The LXX. in giving ἀστεῖος, follow another interpretation. They do not (as Bochart thought, Phaleg, p. 534) take it as descriptive of a handsome man, nor do they imagine that all urbani, on account of their comfortable mode of living, have a tendency to become fat (cf. Serarius, p. 87); but since the statement “and Eglon was a fat man” is closely connected with the narrative of the presentation of the gifts, they make it refer to the manner in which the king received the presents.30 ’Αστεῖος is friendly, accessible (Plato, Phœd., 116 b.). In Egypt, where the translators lived, it was probably still a matter of present experience, that presentations of tribute and gifts to the rulers did not always meet with a gracious reception.
Judges 3:18. When the presentation of the present was over, he dismissed the people. Meuschen (Nov. Test, ex Talm., p. 971) very properly observes that קרַב, here employed to express the presentation of gifts to a king, is elsewhere used to denote the bringing of oblations to God, hence קָרְבָּן, offering. It was not lawful to appear before an Asiatic king without bringing a gift31 (Seneca, Ep. xvii.); only in this way, therefore, could Ehud inform himself of the situation and humor of the king. The presentation of gifts is a lengthy ceremony. The tenacious adherence of oriental nations to ancient customs, enables us to depict the present scene by the help of Persian descriptions of similar occasions. Our narrator properly speaks of the bearers of the present as הָעָם, the people; for the more numerous the persons who carried the gifts, the more honored was the king. “Fifty persons often bear what one man could easily carry,” says Chardin (Voyage, iii. 217). At this ceremony Ehud had no opportunity to attempt anything, for he neither came near the king, nor saw him alone; nor yet was he willing, among so many bystanders, to involve his companions in the consequences of a possible failure. On the contrary, he accompanied them back to the borders, in order to be sure that he was alone when making the dangerous attempt. Whether he suffered or escaped, he wished to be unhindered by their presence, and also to appear as acting without their concurrence.
Judges 3:19. But he himself turned back from the boundary-stones. This is evidently the sense in which פְּסִילִים is to be taken. פֶּסֶל is always a carved image, γλυπτόν. The entire number of instances in which this word is used by Scripture writers fails to suggest any reason for thinking here of “stone-quarries,” a definition which moreover does not appear to harmonize with the locality. But as the connection implies that the borders of Eglon’s territory, which he had wrenched from Israel, were at the pesilim, we must understand by them the posts, στῆλαι, stones, lapides sacri, which marked the line. In consequence of the honors everywhere paid them, these were considered Pesilim, idol images, just as at a later time the Hermœ, (ἕρμακες, heaps of stone) were prohibited as idolatrous objects (cf. Aboda Sara, Mischna, 4). With this, the interpretation of the Targum, מַחְצָבַיָּא, heaps of unhewn stones, may also be made to harmonize.32 This border line was in the vicinity of Gilgal, which had not fallen into the hands of Moab. Ewald has rightly insisted upon it that Gilgal must have lain northeast of Jericho (Gesch. des Volkes Israel, ii. 317). That this was the relative position of Gilgal, and its direction from Jericho, has already received confirmation from the first chapter of our Book.
And said, I have a secret message. It could not be matter of surprise that Ehud did not make this request until his return. The ceremony of the public audience did not allow it to be made at that time. The presentation of the presents must have been so conducted as to impress the king with the conviction that Ehud was especially devoted to him. Signs of discontent and ill-will on the part of the subjugated people cannot have escaped the conqueror. The more highly would he value the devotion of one of the Israelitish leaders. That Ehud had sent his companions away, and had not returned until they had crossed the border, was easily explained as indicating that he had a matter to present in which he did not wish to be observed by them. All the more eager, therefore, was Eglon to hear that which Ehud seemed to hide from Israel. It was only by such a feint that Ehud could succeed in approaching the tyrant and obtaining a private interview. Israel’s deliverer must first seem to be its betrayer. The same artifice has been used by others. When the Persians wished to destroy the pseudo-Smerdis, and doubtingly considered how they could pass the guards, Darius said that he would pretend to have a secret commission, concerning Persia, from his father to the king; adding, as Herodotus (iii. 72) says: “For when lying is necessary, lie”!
Who said, Silence! Thereupon all that stood by him went out. Ehud does not demean himself as if he wished that those present would depart. He appears to be on the point of telling his secret before them all. But this Eglon will not permit. Oriental manners could not be more perfectly set forth. The king’s injunction of silence (הָס, ’st!) on Ehud, is of itself a sufficient command to those present to leave the room. Eglon must therefore have expected matters not to be heard by all ears. All who “stood” about him, went out. They were his servants (Judges 3:24), who do not sit when the king is present. “Happy are these thy servants,” says the queen of Sheba to Solomon, “who stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.” In the Tutinameh (translated by Rosen, i. 42, 43) it is said: “The King of Khorassan was once sitting in his palace, and before his throne stood the pillars of the empire, the servants of the crown, high and low, great and small,” etc.
Judges 3:20. Now, he had seated himself in the upper story of the cooling-house. To understand what part of the house is thus indicated, we have only to attend to the description of oriental architecture given by Shaw, in his Travels (i. 386, Edinb. edit. 1808). Down to the present day many oriental houses have a smaller one annexed to them, which sometimes rises one story higher than the main building. In Arabic as in Hebrew this is called alijah, and serves for purposes of entire seclusion or rest. “There is a door of communication from it into the gallery of the house, besides another which opens immediately, from a privy stairs, down into the porch or street, without giving the least disturbance to the house.” The alijah of Eglon consisted of an inner chamber. opening on an exposed balcony (מסדּרוֹן), from which a door led into the house itself (at present called dor or bait) Within the door of the alijah there was however still another apartment (חֶדֶר, Judges 3:24), which served the purpose of a necessary-house. Being high and freely accessible to currents of air, the alijah was a cool retreat. Similar purposes were subserved in Germany by the pergulœ, balconies, galleries, arbors (Lauben); hence Luther’s translation, Sommer-laube (summer-arbor or bower). He followed the rendering of the LXX. who have τψ͂ θερινψ͂, while the Targum gives more prominence to the idea of repose (בֵּית קַיְטָא, κοίτη). The public reception of the gifts had taken place in the house. Afterwards, while Ehud accompanied his companions, the king had betaken himself to the alijah “which was for himself alone” (his private chamber). When Ehud returned he was received there, as he had anticipated.
And Ehud said, I have a message from the Deity unto thee. Then he arose from his seat. דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים is a commission from a higher being. He does not say Jehovah, for this is the name of the Israelitish God, with whom Eglon has nothing to do. We are not however to assume that the God of Eglon is meant; for what can Ehud the Israelite announce from Chemosh! It is therefore probable that by Elohim a superior prince is to be understood, whose liegeman or satrap Eglon was, as was already intimated above,—a human possessor of majesty and authority. As it is not to be supposed that the capital of Moab was transferred from Rabbah to the small bit of territory which had been acquired across the Jordan, Eglon in Jericho is not to be looked on as lord of all Moab. The relation in which he stood to the mother-country was most likely that of a vassal or feudal baron. That he is styled king does not contradict this. The potentates of single cities were all called “kings,” as the Greeks called them τύραννοι, without on that account being anything more than dependents of more powerful states and princes.33 It suits the rôle which Ehud wishes to be ascribed to him, that he should also have relations with the transfluvial Moab, a fact which of course must be kept profoundly secret. Thus Eglon’s rising is explained. The same honor was due to a message from the superior lord as to his presence. Like reverence was shown to royal letters even, as appears from the narrative of Herodotus concerning a message to Oroetes; and from it, the fidelity of those whom the message concerned was inferred (Herod. iii. 128). The same mark of honor was paid to parents and aged persons. From this custom the ecclesiastical usage of standing during the reading of the Gospel, is also to be derived. Eglon rises out of respect for the דְּבַר אֱלֹהִים. This has been the constant explanation. The diverging view of Bertheau34 does not commend itself. The Talmud—understanding the words, however, of the God of Israel—already deduces from them the lesson, that if a stranger thus rose up to receive a message from God, much more is it the duty of an Israelite so to do (Sanhedrin, 60 a).
Judges 3:21-24. Immediately Ehud put forth his left hand. Ehud made use of a pretext, in order to cause Eglon to rise. He was surer of his thrust if his victim stood. Eglon’s attention must be wholly diverted, that the attack, entirely unresisted, might be the more effective. In such sudden assaults, bulky people like Eglon are at a disadvantage. Cimber pressed closely on Cæsar, as if to make most urgent entreaty for his brother (Plut., Cœsar, 86). Parmenio was stabbed by cleander, while cheerfully reading a letter (Curtius, vii. 2, 27). The instance most like Eglon’s case, is that of King Henry III. of France. Clement, to secure an interview, had provided himself with a commission from a friend of the king. When he arrived, the king was sitting on his close-stool. Hoping to hear of an understanding with his opponents, Henry bade the messenger draw near; whereupon the monk stabbed him in the abdomen (cf. Ranke, Französ. Gesch., i. 171). Ehud’s thrust, though left-handed, was powerful. The dagger, together with its short handle, buried itself in the fat of the man, and came out behind. לַהַב signifies a flame; then the blade of a sword, which glitters and burns like a flame. In a mediæval writing, the following words occur: “Sîn swert flamnieret an sîner hant35 (Müller’s Mittelh. Wörterb., iii. 336). In technical language we also speak of flaming blades (geflammten klingen).
And came out behind, וַיֵּצֵא הַפַּרְשְׁדֹנָה. The ancient doubt as to this word, which occurs but once, and about which opinions are still divided, appears from the divergent renderings of the Septuagint and the Targum. It is certain, however, in the first place, that the Greek rendering προστάδα, can have little weight; for it arose from the similarity of the word in the text to מְּרוּכְדָא, current at the time, and meaning προστάς, vestibule. In the second place, the addition of Ehud after the second וַיֵּצֵא (Judges 3:23), shows that another subject begins, and that therefore the first וַיֵּצֵא can refer only to the sword, not to the man. Further, since הַפַּרְשְׁדֹנָה is provided with ה local, it manifestly denotes that part of the body toward which the course of the sword was directed, while וַיֵּצֵא testifies to the actual perforation of the body. Now, as the sword was thrust from before into the abdomen (בֶּטֶן), there would be no doubt as to the part where it emerged, even if the etymology, which has here to deal with an onomatopoetic word, did not make this perfectly plain. Parshedon is the Greek πρωκτός, and belongs to the same family as the Lithuanian persti, Lettish pirst, Polish pierdziec, Russian perdjet, Greek πέρδειν, Sanscrit pard, Latin pedere, Gothic fairtan, Old High German fërzan (cf. Pott, Etymolog. Forsch., i. 245; Grimm. Wörterb., iii. 1335). The sword emerged behind through the fundament. The king fell down without uttering a sound. Ehud did not delay, but went out unhindered through the balcony. The attendants had entirely withdrawn from the alijah: Ehud takes advantage of this circumstance, and locks the door to it, in order to delay the moment of discovery. The heedless conduct of the unsuspecting attendants supports his boldness. As soon however as they see him go out,—an earlier return to their lord is not lawful,—they endeavor to enter the alijah. Ehud had gone away so calmly, that they suspect nothing. They are not even surprised when they find the doors fastened. Serarius has properly directed attention to the aversion felt by the ancients to the least degree of exposure when complying with the necessities of nature. This applies especially to kings, inasmuch as subjection to these necessities, too plainly proved them men. Of Pharaoh, the Jewish legend says that he wished to appear like a god, above the need of such things. “He covers his feet,” is a euphemism, taken from the descent of the long garments (Cf. Bochart, Hierozoicon, i. 677).
Judges 3:25-30. And they waited long, בּוֹשׁעַד. These words add the notion of displeasure and ill humor to the idea of waiting (cf. 2 Kings 2:17; 2 Kings 8:11). At length they comprehend that something extraordinary must have taken place. They procure another key, with which they open the doors, and find their lord—dead. Ehud’s artifice, however, had succeeded. While they delayed (הִתְמַהְמְהָם, from מַהְמַה, morari, is onomatopoetic), he had got beyond the border, as far as Seirah. This place, which according to Judges 3:27 belonged to the mountains of Ephraim, is unknown. It bounded the territories of Benjamin on the north. Ehud reached it by way of the border which ran by Gilgal, which shows that both these places were north of Jericho. It is evident that he had agreed with the Israelites to give the signal there, in case he were successful. His trumpet-blast was transmitted among the mountains. Israel flocked together, and heard of the unprecedentedly fortunate deed. The people saw in it the firm resolve, which gives victory. The plan of battle had also been already determined by Ehud. It was of the last importance to cut the terrified and leaderless Moabites off from the assistance of their transjordanic friends. Hence, the first care of Israel is to seize the ford of the river. The ford in question was manifestly no other than that which, directly east of Jericho, half an hour north of Wady Heshban, is still in use. Seetzen called it el-Mökhtaa, Robinson el-Helu36 (Ritter xv. 484, 547, Gage’s transl. iii. 4, 49). That the occupation of this ford decides the victory, proves clearly that Eglon was not king of all Moab, but only of the Moab on this side of the Jordan. It was a terrible retribution, a sort of “Sicilian vespers,” which Israel, rising up after long subjection, inflicted on Eglon and his people. The falling foes were men of might. אִישׁ שָׁמֵן expresses the distinction (das Ansehn),37אִישׁ חַיִל the warlike character and abilities, of the smitten enemies. Moab was thoroughly vanquished, and Israel had rest for eighty years.
The exploit of Ehud doubtless surpasses all similar deeds of ancient history in the purity of its motive, as well as in the energy and boldness of its execution. Harmodius and Aristogiton, however celebrated by the Athenians, were moved to kill Hipparchus by private interests (cf. Thucyd. vi. 56). Blind warrior fury fills Mucius Scævola, as also Theodotus (Polyb. v. 81), the would-be murderer of Ptolemæus, and they fail of success. Ehud was equally bold and pure. He risked his life for no interest of his own, but for his people. And not merely for the external freedom of his nation, but for the maintenance and honor of its divine religion, which was inseparably linked with freedom. It was against the mortal enemy of Israel—against one lying under the ban, and shut out from the congregation of Israel—that he lifted up his sword. He exposed himself to a fearful peril, in order, if successful, to give therewith a signal of courage and comfort to his people. To be sure, if he did not succeed, the hatred and oppression of the enemy would increase in violence. But for that very reason men saw the more clearly that God had raised him up to be a deliverer. And yet, where in Israel are those praises of Ehud, which in Athens resounded for centuries in honor of Harmodius? Scævola’s deed38 is celebrated as one of the nation’s heroic performances. The historian makes him say (Livy, xi. 12): “As an enemy have I slain the enemy.” It is true, the remarkable act has had the honor of being minutely handed down, even to the least details of its progress. But all this was to point out the sagacity and energy of the strong left-handed man. Not one word of praise is found. On the contrary—and this fact deserves attention—the remark usually made of other Judges, is here wanting: it is not said that “the Spirit of Jehovah was upon him.” Nor is it said, as of Othniel, that he “judged Israel.” Neither are we told that the rest and peace of Israel were connected with his life and death. Subsequent exegesis called him the Wolf, with which Benjamin is compared (Midrash, Ber. Rabba, cap. 89, p. 87-a). As the wolf throws himself on his prey, so had Ehud thrown himself on Eglon. They saw in Ehud’s deed the act of a mighty man, influenced by zeal for God; but the “Spirit of Jehovah” inspires neither suck artifice nor such murder. So much the less could the act of Ehud, however brilliant under the circumstances, be made to exculpate similar deeds. So much the less could the crimes that defile the pages of Christian history, such as those committed against Henry III. and Henry IV., use it as a cover for themselves.39 Although Eglon was a heathen, a foreigner, a tyrant, an enemy actually engaged in hostilities, the Scripture speaks of Ehud only as a deliverer, but never of his deed as sprung from the Spirit of God. How much more disgraceful are murder and treason against one’s own king, countrymen, and fellow Christians! It was an insult to Christianity, a sin against the Holy Ghost, when in answer to Clement’s question, whether a priest might kill a tyrant, it was determined that “it was not a mortal sin, but only an irregularity” (Ranke, Franz. Gesch., i. 473); or when Pope Paul V. exclaimed, with reference to the murder of Henry IV. by Ravaillac: “Deus gentium fecit hoc, quia datus in reprobum sensum.” Worse than the dagger is such doctrine.40
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Ehud, the Judge with the two-edged sword.—1. Israel was again in bondage on account of sin. And the compassion of God was not exhausted, although no deliverer came out of Judah. In the kingdom of God, the great and rich may indeed become instruments of God’s will; but his power is not confined to them. If no one arises in Judah, some one in Benjamin does. If it be not Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, it is some unknown person who comes to rescue his people. Neither the name, nor the physique, is material. Deliverance may be begun with the left hand.
2. Ehud kills Eglon, the tyrant of Israel; yet he is not properly a murderer, but only a warrior. However, it is better to conquer as Othniel and Gideon conquered. He did it, not for private revenge, nor from fanaticism, but for the just freedom of Israel and its religion. He did it against Moab, and not against one who shared his own faith and country. God raised him up; but yet the Word of God does not approve his deed. He was a deliverer of Israel; but there hangs a shadow nevertheless over his official activity. Therefore, no murderous passion can appeal to him. By him no tyrant-murder, no political assassination, is exculpated. And this not simply because in Christian states and churches there can be no Eglons or Moabs.—Starke: “The Jesuit principle that it is right to put an heretical prince out of the way, will never be valid until a person can be certain of having such a calling from God to it, as Ehud undoubtedly had.”—His cause was pure; which cannot be said of any other assassination in history,—Christian history not excepted,—down to the murder of the North American President Lincoln; not even of those instances which remind us (as Mallet, Altes und Neues, p. 92, so beautifully did with reference to G. Sand, the murderer of Kotzebue) of the words of the Lord: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Gerlach: We are not to think that the deed of Ehud, in the manner of its accomplishment, is set before us as an example; but we must also beware lest, because the manner is no longer allowable, we be led to deny the operation of the Holy Ghost by whom this deliverer of his people was impelled.
3. Because Ehud’s cause was pure, his deed was followed by peace and freedom. That can be said of no other similar deed. He first searched out the enemy in his hiding-place, and then triumphed over him in the battlefield. He shows himself,—1, a true Israelite by faith; 2, a true son of Benjamin, who was compared with the wolf, by his strength. He drew his sword, not for the sake of war, but of peace. Therefore, Israel had peace through him until he died.
Ehud may not improperly be considered a type in spirit of him who likewise sprang from Benjamin—of Saul who first ravened like a wolf, but became patient and trustful like a lamb; of the Apostle who called the Word of God a two-edged sword that pierces through the conscience; of Paul, whose symbol in the church is the sword through which as martyr he lost his own life, after he had saved the lives of thousands by the sword of the Spirit.
[Judges 3:12.—וַיְחַזֵּק: the same word is used Exodus 4:21, etc., Joshua 11:20; but is here, as Bachmann remarks, to be explained not by those passages, but by Ezekiel 30:24. It implies here the impartation not so much of strength as of the consciousness of it.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:15.—אִטֵּר: Dr. Cassel, schwach, weak. “Impeded” would be the better word. Against the opinion of some, that Ehud’s right hand was either lamed or mutilated, Bachmann quotes the remark of Schmid that it would have been a breach of decorum to send such a physically imperfect person on an embassy to the king. It may be added that this explanation of אִטֵּר is at all events not to be thought of in the case of the 700 chosen men mentioned in Judges 20:16.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:15.—Dr. Cassel translates this clause: “when [als; i. e. Jehovah raised up Ehud as a deliverer, when] the sons of Israel sent a present by him to Eglon, the king of Moab.” But it is altogether simpler and better to take the clause as an independent progressive sentence, as in the E. V. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:18.—יְשַׁלַּח: dismissed them by accompanying them part of the way back, cf. Genesis 12:20; Genesis 18:16; etc.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:19.—דְּבַר־סֵתֶר: Dr. Cassel translates, “a secret word.” But “errand” is better; because like דָּבָר, it may be a word or message, or it may be a commission of a more active nature. Bachmann quotes Chyträus: rem, negotium secretum habeo apud te agendum. So, he goes on to remark, in Judges 3:20 “דְּבַר־אֱלהִֹים לִי אֵלֶיךָ, is not necessarily, ‘I have a word from God to say to thee;’ but may mean, ‘I have a commission from God to execute to thee.’ It would be preferable, therefore, to conform the English Version in Judges 3:20 to Judges 3:19, rather than the reverse.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:20.—The rendering given above is Dr. Cassel’s, except that he puts the verb (ישֵׁב) in the pluperfect, which can scarcely be approved. He translates בַּעֲלִיַּת הַמְּקֵרָה by Obergeschoss des kühlhauses, which we can only represent by the awkward phrase: “upper story of the cooling-house.” It would be better, however, to take מְקֵרָה as containing an adjective idea, descriptive of the ’alijah: “cool upper story.” Cf. Bachmann.—Tr.]
[Judges 3:22.—The term פַּרְשְׁדוֹן occurs only here, and is of exceedingly doubtful interpretation. Bachmann assumes that the וַיֵּצֵא which precedes it has Ehud for its subject, and then—by a course of reasoning far too lengthy and intricate to be here discussed—comes to the conclusion that פַּרְשְׁדוֹן denotes a locality, which in the next verse is more definitely indicated by מִסְדְּרוֹן. The latter term, he thinks, is best understood “of the lattice-work by which the roof was inclosed, or rather of the inclosed platform of the roof itself.” Accordingly he conceives the text to say that Ehud issued forth from Eglon’s private apartment “upon the flat roof, more definitely upon the inclosed plat from or gallery.”—Tr.]
[Judges 3:29.—Dr. Cassel: angesehene Leute, cf. the Commentary; but it seems better to hold fast to the E. V. The expression is literally: “fat men,” i. e. well-fed, lusty men, of great physical strength. So Bachmann also.—Tr.]
[It certainly appears that he had done so temporarily, but by no means that he had done so permanently.—Tr.]
The importance of this observation has been overlooked with reference to other lands as well as Palestine. The general fact that the sea-side was the right side, has been constantly ignored. That was the reason why Jacob Grimm (Gesch. der Deutschen Sprache, p. 990, etc.) failed to understand why among the Indians, Romans, etc., the south side of the mountains was the right, and the north side the left. The same idea prevailed among the Greeks. That in Roman augury “to the left” was more favorable than “to the right,” originated only in another view of the object which was supposed to produce good fortune. The sea-side was the free side.
Cf. Benfey, Griech. Grammat., i. 240.
This is the opinion of Grimm (Deutsch. Wörterb., ii. 1222). However, the view of Klemm (Waffen und Werkzeuge, p. 172) may nevertheless serve to find the original stymology of the word. [Luther has Schwert, sword.—Tr.]
[Schiller, in his ballad entitled Die Bürgschaft.—Tr.]
Hence they also translate טוֹב by ἀστεῖος, Exodus 2:2, where, to be sure, it rather signifies “beautiful.”
Transferred to God, Exodus 23:15 : “None shall appear before me empty.”
[To this interpretation of the pesilim, Bachmann (who agrees with our author in rejecting the commonly received “stone-quarries”) objects that it is not in accordance with he usual meaning of the word. He thinks that the pesiim were idolatrous images set up either by the apostate Israelites themselves, or by Eglon, “as boundary-marks of the territory immediately subject to him, and as signs of his supremacy.” He seems inclined to prefer the latter alternative, because of “the fact that Ehud does not feel himself and those with him secure until he has passed the pesilim.”—Tr.]
Thus the king of Hazor was king paramount over all the kings of his vicinity (Joshua 11:10).
[Bertheau says: “Divining the purpose of Ehud, he rose up to defend himself.”—Tr.]
[“His sword flamed in his hand.”—Tr.]
[Robinson’s map locates El-Helu not directly east, but southeast of Jericho, not north but south of Wady Heshban (cf. Bibl. Res. i. 535). It appears that the words “directly east” belong to Seetzen, and must in Ritter’s opinion be made to conform to Robinson’s location of El Helu. Cf. Gage’s Ritter, iii. 49. Van de Velde’s map places El-Helu southeast of Jericho, a short distance north of W. Heshban.—Tr.]
[Bertheau: “שָׁמֵן, the fat, i. e. (in contrast with persons of starved appearance) the well-fed and opulent man; cf. Latin opimus; hence, the man of consequence.” But compare note 8 under “Textual and Grammatical.”—Tr.]
In Plutarch’s Parallels of Greek and Roman History (n. 2), the same history is given of a Greek, Neocles, who made an attempt against Xerxes like that of Scævola against Porsenna.
Excellent remarks are found in the work of Hugo Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. 1. cap. 4. (ed. Traj, 1773), p. 178. Serarius declines to treat the subject, under the feeble pretext of lack of time, p. 92. (Compare Bayle, Dictionnaire, s. v. Mariana, ii. 2051, e.)
[Wordsworth: “Some have raised objections to this act of Ehud, as censurable on moral grounds: and they have described him as a ‘crafty Israelite,’ taking an unfair advantage over an unwieldy corpulent Moabite; others have apologized for it, on the plea that it is not to be measured by what way call the standard of our ‘enlightened modern civilization’ compared with what they term the ‘barbarous temper of those times.’ But surely these are low and unworthy motives.” He then quotes with approbation from Bp. Sanderson and Dr. Waterland, the gist of whose remarks (Sanderson’s however being made with immediate reference to the act of Phinehas, Numbers 25:0.) is, that the Lord raises up deliverers for Israel, and divinely warranted their actions, which actions, however, form no precedents for those who have not similar divine authority. But it is surely not an improper question to ask, whether, when God raised up a hero, endowed him with faith and zeal, with strength and energy, to secure certain results, He also, always and necessarily, suggested or even approved the methods adopted not only as a whole but even in detail.—Tr.]
Shamgar smites six hundred Philistines with an ox—goad
31And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which [and he] slew [smote] of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad; and he also [he, too,] delivered Israel.
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
After him. After his example. Following Ehud’s example,41 Shamgar smote the Philistines. That the expression is not to be taken of time, as if on the death of Ehud Shamgar had succeeded him, is evident from Judges 4:1. Moreover, if that were the meaning, a statement of the years of Shamgar would not be absent. The hypothesis of Josephus, that he governed one year, is untenable. Accordingly, the other Jewish expositors have properly assigned the exploit of Shamgar to the time of Ehud, i.e. to the period of eighty years.
Shamgar,42 the son of Anath. To what tribe he belonged, is not stated. If it be correct to connect עֲנָת with עֲנָתוֹת, Anathoth (cf. Kaplan, Erets Kedumim, ii. 142), it will follow that like Ehud he was of Benjamin, and defended the territory of that tribe in the west against the Philistines, as Ehud did in the east against the Moabites. His whole history, as here given, consists of a single heroic exploit, in which he repulsed an attack of the Philistines with extraordinary strength.43
With an ox-goad. The Septuagint gives ἀροτροπύς, by which it evidently means the plough-handle, stiva, that part which the ploughman holds in his hand, and with which he guides the plough.44 More correct, however, is the rendering “ox-goad” (cf. Bochart, Hierozoicon, i. 385); פְּרַשׁ תּוֹרַיָּא, as the Targum has it. It was the “prick” against which the oxen “kicked,” when struck with it. The Greeks called it βουπλῆξ. With such an instrument, King Lycurgus is said to have attacked the wandering Bacchus and his followers45 (Il. vi. 135). There is a tradition in Holstein that in the Swedish time a peasant armed with a pole put to flight a multitude of Swedes who had entered his house and threatened to burn it (Müllenhoff, Sagen, etc., p. 81).
He delivered Israel. He procured victory for them, and assisted them over the danger of present and local subjugation. But to “deliver” is not to “judge.” Nor is there any mention of the “Spirit of the Lord’ in connection with him.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Shamgar the deliverer with the ox-goad. Courageous examples find worthy followers. Shamgar trode in Ehud’s footsteps. One triumphs with a sword, the other with an implement of peace. Hence we may infer, says Origen, that a judge of the church need not always carry a sword, and be full of severity and admonitions to repentance, but should also be like a husbandman, “who, gradually opening the earth with his plough, prepares it for the reception of good seed.”
Starke: When God wishes to terrify the enemy, He needs not many men, nor strong defense and preparation for the purpose.—Gerlach: Shamgar’s deed is probably to be viewed only as the effect of a sudden outbreak of holy enthusiasm, under the influence of which he seized the first best weapon, and put to flight the enemy whom some terror from God had scared.
[Henry: 1. God can make those eminently serviceable to his glory and the church’s good, whose extraction, education, and employment are very obscure. He that has the residue of the Spirit, could, when he pleased, make ploughmen judges and generals, and fishermen apostles. 2. It is no matter what the weapon is, if God direct and strengthen the arm. An ox-goad, when God pleases, shall do more than Goliath’s sword. And sometimes He chooses to work by such unlikely means, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God.—Tr.]
[Bachmann observes that this and similar interpretations of this expression, militate against the analogy of Judges 10:1; Judges 10:3; Judges 12:8; Judges 12:11; Judges 12:13, in all which passages אַחֲרֵי refers to the duration of the official or natural life of the previously mentioned person. Appealing to Judges 5:6, where the “days of Shamgar” are described in such a way as to exclude the supposition that they belonged to the period of “rest” obtained by Ehud, he makes them synchronous with some part of the Canaanite oppression under Jabin. While the Canaanites subjugated the northern part of the And, the Philistines attempted to extend their power in the south, which occasioned the conflicts of Shamgar with them.—Tr.]
 שַׁמְגַּר. The ancients translated it: Nomen Advence, “Name of a stranger.” Ehud was the son of a certain גֵּרָא. Perhaps Shamgar also is somehow related to that name.
[Bachmann: “We are undoubtedly to think here of a marauding band like those brought to view in 1 Samuel 30:1 ff. and Job 1:15, against whom Shamgar, either engaged at the moment in ploughing, or else seizing the first weapon that came to hand, proceeded with an ox-goad, with such effect as to strike down six hundred of them.”—Tr.]
This interpretation of the LXX. has nothing to do (as Bertheau thinks) with the reading מִלְבַד הַבָּקָר, found by Augustine.
This legend is copiously treated by Nonnus, on the basis of Homer’s version of it. It is remarkable that although the scene is laid in “Arabia,” Nonnus nevertheless transfers the above-mentioned event and the city of Lycurgus to Carmel and the Erythræan Sea. It is doubtless true, as Köhler observes (Die Dionysiaka von Nonnus von Panopolis, Halle, 1853, pp. 76, 77), that by βουπλῆξ Nonnus appears to have understood an axe. The Roman poets also give an axe to Lycurgus.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25