Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- Judges

by Johann Peter Lange


professor in berlin.

translated from the german, with additions

professor of biblical literature in the protestant episcopal divinity school at cambridge, mass.
§ 1. Contents and Plan

1. The Book of Judges is in a special sense the first historical book of Israel. It does not, like the Book of Joshua, relate the deeds of one man, nor does it, like the last four books of Moses, revolve around the commanding figure and lofty wisdom of a prophet. To a certain extent, this book also is a Genesis. The first book of the Pentateuch describes the opening period of the primitive patriarchal family; the Book of Judges relates the earliest history of the people of Israel in Canaan. “The children of Israel asked the Lord,” is its opening sentence. It rehearses the fortunes, deeds, and sufferings of the people, as they occurred after the death of Joshua. For this personage was only the testamentary executor of the prophet who remained behind on the other side of the Jordan (cf. on Judges 1:1). When he also died, Israel, the heir, deprived both of the authoritative direction of Moses and the executive guidance of Joshua, entered upon the independent management of its acquired possession. The Book of Joshua is the history of a conqueror; the Book of Judges that of a people for the first time in possession. Hitherto, Israel had always been in a condition of unrest and movement, first enslaved, then wandering in the desert, finally undergoing the hardships of the camp and conquest; the Book of Judges exhibits the nation in the first period of its life as a settled, possessing, and peaceable people. Hitherto, the nation, like a minor, had been authoritatively directed by its guardian and friend; the Book of Judges opens at the moment in which the people itself is to assume the administration of its affairs in accordance with the sacerdotal and civil constitution which has been framed for it. This is indicated, from various points of view, by the name which our Book bears in the Canon: Shophetim, Judges. The same title is borne by the Synagogue pericope which begins, at Deuteronomy 16:18, with the command, “Thou shalt make thee Judges (Shophetim) in all thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Since Moses no longer exercised his legislative, nor Joshua his executive functions, these Shophetim constituted the highest civil authority (cf. on Judges 2:16), who in conjunction with the priesthood, were to watch over the observance of the law. The Book of Judges, accordingly, recounts the history of the times, after the death of Joshua, in which the governing authority in Israel was to be exercised by the Shophetim.

2. The Biblical books are throughout books of instruction. For this purpose, and this alone, were they written. Their design is to show the relations, first of God, and through God of Israel, to history. In their view, all history, and that of Israel especially, is a continuous fulfillment of the truth and purposes of God. The achievements and the fortunes of all nations are the consequences of their moral relations to God. But the preëminence of Israel consists in this, that the God of nature and of time was first revealed to it, and that in the Law which it received from Him, it has a clear and definite rule by which it can order its relations to God and know the moral grounds of whatever befalls it. Upon the observance of this law, as the evidence and expression of faith in the living God, the freedom, well-being, and peace of Israel repose. This had been made known to the people, before under Joshua’s direction they left the desert and addressed themselves to the conquest of Canaan. If after victory, they shall observe the law, and be mindful of their calling to be a holy People of God, prosperity will follow them; if not, they shall fall into bondage, poverty, and discord (Deuteronomy 7:1 ff.). The Book of Judges is a text-book of fulfillment to this prediction. The twenty-one sections of which it consists are organically put together for this purpose. It may, indeed, be said that there are three principal divisions recognizable: first, Judges 1:2; secondly, Judges 3-16; thirdly, Judges 17-21. But the lessons which these three divisions respectively contain, evince precisely the organic connection in which the whole narrative stands with all its parts, as the necessary fulfillment of what was promised in the law. The first two chapters are a pragmatic introduction to the history of the book as a whole. They explain the possibility of the events about to be related. Not in the history of Joshua could the germs of the subsequent conflicts lie; for Joshua stood in the spirit of the law, and moved in the steps of Moses. It was only in what the tribes did after his death, that their foundation was laid. Accordingly, when Judges 1:0 relates the prosecution of the conquest by Israel, its main object in so doing is not to tell what was conquered and how, but rather to show that in violation of the Mosaic command the tribes failed to expel the Canaanites. In consequence of this failure, the forewarnings of the law (Deuteronomy 7:0) went into fulfillment. Peace endured only so long as the elders yet lived who remembered all the great works that were done for Israel at their entrance into Canaan (Joshua 24:31). The younger generation soon fell into the snares of temptation, and consequently into spiritual and political servitude. In distress, indeed, they sought after God, and then heroes rose up among them, who were truly their Judges, and who, acting in the spirit of God, regained their liberty. Their deeds are reported in Judges 3-16. But the root of the evil was not thereby removed. Heathenism continued to exist in the bosom of Israel. The occasion of apostasy afforded by the idolatry of the Canaanites was permanent, but the institution of the judgeship was transient. The service of Baal perpetuated itself from generation to generation; but the strength and energy of the Judge expired with the person in whom they dwelt. So also all those judges whom according to the law Israel was to elect for the administration of its local affairs (Deuteronomy 16:18 f.), were invested with merely personal, not hereditary, dignity. The permanent evil was not confronted with any equally permanent institution. To this fact Judges 2:0 already alludes; for it says, Deuteronomy 16:19, that “when the Judge was dead, they turned back.”

3. In consequence of this, the Book of Judges is the book of fulfillment from yet another point of view. It teaches that by reason of the fact just alluded to, the hereditary kingly office had to be set up. In Deuteronomy (Judges 16:18 f.), the institution of Judges in all the gates of Israel is immediately followed by this provision (Deuteronomy 17:14 ff.): “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me, then shalt thou set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose.” The Book of Judges shows that this result was unavoidable. The government of the Judges, it points out already in Judges 2:0, has no traditional strength. The authority of the greatest among them ceases when he dies. Each one of the great heroes who are portrayed from Judges 3:0 onward, affords proof of the want of the hereditary kingly office, albeit in different ways. When Othniel died, no second hero of Judah was forthcoming to restrain Israel from sin. Ehud was a deliverer (Judges 3:0), but he is not even called a Judge. After him, the work of delivering and judging devolved on a woman, and Barak was willing to fight only if she went with him (Judges 4:5). Gideon became inspired with courage only through great wonders on the part of God (Judges 6:0); and however pious and great, he himself occasioned confusion in Israel (Judges 8:27). Jephthah had no legal descent of any kind. Samson was an incomparable hero; but he fought single-handed, without a people to support him.

The Judges were indeed deliverers; but their authority was not recognized throughout all Israel. The call of Deborah was answered by only two tribes. Gideon’s leadership was at first opposed by Ephraim. Jephthah fell into sanguinary discord with the same tribe. Samson was bound to be delivered up to the Philistines by the terror-stricken tribe of Judah itself.
The judgeship did not even maintain itself within the same tribe. Of the six principal heroes, three belonged to the south,—Othniel, Ehud, Samson,—and three to the north,—Barak, Gideon, Jephthah; none to Ephraim, the tribe of Joshua, and two to Manasseh.
The title of the hero was Shophet, Judge. But judges there were always. In every tribe, the judge was the local magistrate. The hero who rose up to conquer bore no new title. And his authority was merely the authority of the common Shophet territorially extended by virtue of his mighty deeds. But whatever unity he might have formed during his activity, dissolved itself at his death. The tribes then stood again under their separate Shophetim. Permanent organic connection could be secured only through a king. Without this common and permanent centre, the interests of the several tribes diverged, and each section became indifferent to whatever occurred in the others. National interest decayed, and with it, of course, national strength. The narratives of Judges 17-21 form, it is true, a division by themselves, but a division that stands in organic connection with the whole Book. The events there related do not follow after the last judge of whom Judges 16:0 speaks. They belong to much earlier times, and yet the position assigned them is well considered and instructive. They demonstrate by new and striking illustrations the necessity of the kingly office to strengthen Israel, within and without, over against the existing idolatry, which could maintain itself only by reason of the divisions and want of unity between the tribes of Israel. The events of these last five chapters do not seem to have occurred under the tyranny of any hostile king. So much the more strikingly do they set forth the weakness of the form of government which Israel had at that time,—a weakness which, to be sure, had its ultimate ground in the weakness of the people itself. They show the decay both of religion among the people and of the priesthood. The first two of these chapters (17 and 18) teach us what sins in spiritual matters and what deeds of civil violence were possible in Israel, without causing the whole nation to rise in remonstrance. The last two show the reverse of this, namely, the fanaticism of self-righteousness with which the whole people proceeded against one of the brotherhood of tribes, reducing it even to the verge of extinction. Both kinds of sins were possible only because the hereditary, general, and authoritative kingly office was wanting, which everywhere interposes with the same comprehensiveness of view, because it everywhere governs with the same strength. For that reason the narrator several times adds the remark (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1): “There was no king in Israel.” It is the last sentence he writes: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” But the whole Book points to this conclusion. It is the essence of its special teaching. It is that which makes its title doubly significant. The civil authority of the Shophetim would have sufficed, if Israel had been obedient, and had not retained the Canaanites in its borders. As it was not obedient, it needed extraordinary Shophetim to effect its deliverance. But their sporadic activity could not prevail against a permanent evil. This the concentrated strength of the kingly office alone could overcome; just as, according to the gospel, every evil to which the children of men were subject, has been dissolved by the true kingship of the Son of God.

§ 2. Time of Composition

The doctrinal tendency which we thus perceive in the Book is of great importance; for it undoubtedly furnishes a clew to the time in which it was edited. The idea of explaining the possibility of such events as are related in Judges 17-21 by the remark, “There was no king in Israel,” could be entertained only at a time when perfect political unity and order were still expected to result from the kingly office. No such explanation could have been appended to the account of Micah in Judges 17:0, if the division of Israel, and the institution of Jeroboam’s political idolatry, had already taken place. After the reigns of various sinful kings of Judah and Israel had become matters of history, and after the rebellion against David and the sanguinary conflicts between Judah and Israel had taken place, the want of a king could not have been offered in explanation of the civil war between Israel and Benjamin. This could only be done while people yet looked with confidence to the kingly office for certain victory without, and divine peace and order within. On the other hand, the prominence with which the lack of hereditariness in the judgeship, and the want of any guaranty against apostasy are set forth, is explainable only if done at a time when the judicial office had ceased to inspire confidence. There is but one period in the history of Israel in which both these conditions meet, namely, when the people desired a king from Samuel, and he consecrated Saul, and the victories of the latter afforded peace within and without. The Book might be called a text-book for the people, collected and written to instruct and establish them in the new kingly government.

The desire for a king appears as early as Gideon’s time. After that hero’s victory, the people come and wish to have him for a king. But Gideon declines, and our author manifestly approves his course. Abimelech’s disgraceful kingship is minutely related; but the parable of Jotham sets in a convincing light the wrongfulness of the manner in which the trees, i.e. the people, seek to make a king. A king so made can be of no service to Israel. It is written (Deuteronomy 17:15): “Thou shalt make him king whom the Lord shall choose.” In Samuel’s time, also, the people wish a king, but they do not undertake to choose one themselves. They pray Samuel to select one for them; and it is only at God’s command that Samuel complies.

Samuel, as chronologically he stands between King Saul and the Judges, so as Prophet and Priest he mediates the transition from the judicial to the kingly office. His prophetic exercise of the judicial office first teaches the people how rightly to desire and ask for a king. It is on that account that the Book of Judges closes with the heroic deeds and death of Samson. The age of heroes is past. The age of kings can begin only when a prophet enjoys respect as a judge throughout all Israel, which had never been the case before Samuel. Hence, this prophet’s history forms the introduction to the history of the kingship, since without his consecration no king could exist. This is why the Septuagint and the Vulgate call the Books of Samuel the First and Second of Kings.

The extreme points of time between which the composition of our Book must have taken place, may easily be indicated. It must have been later than the great victory of Samuel over the Philistines, the reformation of Israel, and the return of the ark of the covenant from exile (cf. on Judges 18:30). One consequence of the reformation was that, notwithstanding Samuel’s protest at first, the people desired a king; for in this promised office they sought security both against their enemies and against themselves and their own unbelief. Another consequence, probably, was the composition of this manual of penitence and instruction.

On the other hand, our Book must have been written before the reign of David. Jerusalem was still called Jebus, and the Jebusites had not yet been expelled (Judges 1:21; Judges 19:10). But if 2 Samuel 5:6 ff. is to have any meaning at all, it must refer to the utter destruction of the Jebusites’ power by David, a conclusion which the whole history confirms. Moreover, if our Book had not been written before the time of David, references to his reign could not be wanting. From Othniel’s time, the tribe of Judah, David’s tribe, falls into the background. The mention of it in the history of Samson, is far from honorable. The relatively copious treatment of affairs in which Benjamin figures, points to the time of King Saul, While the history of Othniel is quite summarily related, that of Ehud is drawn out to the minutest detail. Similarly rich is the flow of tradition in the narrative concerning Gibeah (Judges 19:0 seq.). Saul says of himself that he is “of the smallest of the tribes” (1 Samuel 9:21). This history of Gibeah explains the cause of Benjamin’s smallness, and traces it to the savage war made on him by Israel.

§ 3. The Sources

1. The author did not command materials in equal abundance from all the tribes. A full supply flowed in upon him out of the traditions of the tribes bordering on Ephraim, namely, Benjamin, Manasseh, and Dan. The story of Deborah describes the heroic exploit of Naphtali and Zebulun; but Deborah herself resided between Ramah and Bethel, on Mount Ephraim, near the confines of Benjamin. Of the tribes at the extremities of the land, of Reuben (Gad is included in Gilead), of Simeon (only the incident in Judges 1:0), of Asher, the author’s sources afforded scarcely any information. Concerning Judah’s preëminence, only Judges 1:0 (cf. Judges 20:18) communicates anything. Toward Ephraim (for Judges 1:22 ff. refers to the whole house of Joseph), the sources nourish an unfavorable disposition. No hero, properly speaking, came out of Ephraim; for of Abdon nothing but his name and wealth is mentioned (Judges 12:13). Ephraim originates the sinful opposition to Gideon and Jephthah. In Ephraim Abimelech plays his rôle as royal usurper. There Micah sets up his false religion. Thence also sprang that Levite who was the cause of the civil war. It must not be overlooked that for the author and his times all this was of great significance. When the king demanded of Samuel is appointed, he is not chosen out of Ephraim, but out of Benjamin. The author, who favors the institution of the kingship, brings the moral incapacity which Ephraim as leading tribe has hitherto shown, into prominence. The priesthood, it is true, had their seat at Shiloh. But the whole history of the Judges shows the powerlessness of the priesthood in times of danger. The facts related in the last five chapters of our book, by way of supplement to the deeds of the heroes, are sufficiently indicative of the fall of the priestly tribe. Such things, also, as are told of Levites, occurred only “because there was no king.” Ephraim, it is true, gave Samuel to the nation, the restorer of Israel’s spiritual strength, and the reformer of the priesthood; but even he could give no guaranty for his children, who when in old age he transfers his office to them, do not walk in his steps.

2. As to the authorship of the Book of Judges, the traditions which ascribe it to Samuel are ancient; but if in such obscure matters one were to risk a conjecture, he would hardly attach himself to these traditions. The Book apparently presupposes the reign of Saul, just as in the Books of Samuel the reign of David is presupposed. To record the deeds and instructions of God, as brought to view in the history of the nation, was certainly a well-considered, and, as the extant sacred writings show, a fearlessly and honestly executed office. If this was the office held by the mazkir at the courts of David, Solomon, and the kings in general (cf. 2 Samuel 8:16, 1 Kings 4:3, etc.), it would be natural to ascribe our Book to a Benjaminite of the court of Saul. This man had before him narratives, extending over a period of 400 years, which must have been written by contemporaries of the events related. Local and material details such as the histories of Ehud, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, as also those of Micah and the priest at Gibeah, exhibit, can only proceed from narrators who stood personally near the events. Nevertheless, as has already been remarked, an organic recasting of the materials extends through the whole Book, by means of which the doctrine it is designed to teach is brought prominently to view, and the arrangement of the individual narratives determined. To this it is owing that the record of the great deeds achieved by the Judges closes with Samson, although it is not certain that the death of that hero is the latest event of the Book, and also that the narratives concerning Micah and Gibeah stand at the end, although, as the author himself does not conceal, the events occurred much earlier (cf. Judges 18:12; Judges 13:25; also, Judges 20:28). The lesson conveyed in the introduction of the Book, especially in Judges 2:0, that sin and apostasy are the cause of servitude, and that apostasy in turn is the consequence of the people’s disobedience in not expelling the Canaanites, is brought out in similar turns of thought and expression throughout the work (cf. Judges 2:11; Judges 4:1; Judges 6:1; Judges 10:6; Judges 13:1; Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8; Judges 10:7; Judges 2:17; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:13 ff.). The objection that Judges 17-21 do not contain such expressions, testifies only to the clearness and order which everywhere pervade the simple narrative. Until the story reaches the age of Samson, these expressions occur because they indicate the moral links in the historical connection. But Judges 17-21 are placed outside of this connection. They present occurrences out of times in which the formulæ, “the sons of Israel continued to do evil”. (cf. Judges 4:1, etc.), or, “they did evil” (cf. Judges 2:11, etc.), were not properly applicable, since they were times of “rest” to the land, in consequence of the victories of one great Judge or another (cf. Judges 3:11, etc.). Accordingly, these chapters find the ground of the evils they set forth not in the want of a Shophet but of a king. Their unity with the Book as a whole, appears clearly on a comparison of them, as to style and diction, with the introduction, Judges 1-3; as again similar philological characteristics testify to the unity of Judges 1-3 with Judges 4-16 (cf. Keil, Lehrb. der hist. krit. Einleit., § 47, notes 4 and 5).

3. Notwithstanding this, it is plain that the different narratives of the Book exhibit a difference of coloring among themselves. This could not be otherwise. From the earliest times down to the Middle Ages, it has ever been the manner of the chronicler to tell his story, for the most part, in the very words of his sources. Precisely the Christian historiography of pious men in mediæval times abounds with proofs and instructive illustrations of this fact. To this practice the numerous hapax legomena of our Book, found nowhere else, are due (cf. Judges 1:15; Judges 3:22; Judges 4:4-19; Judges 5:10; Judges 5:28; Judges 7:3; Judges 14:9-18; Judges 15:8; Judges 18:7, etc.); while in many places traces of abridgment by the author might be pointed out (cf. Judges 4:15, Judges 4:16:13 ff., Judges 4:20). The communication of invaluable contemporary documents like the Song of Deborah and the Parable of Jotham not only confirms this explanation, but also makes it probable that in other parts of his work too the author made use of popular and heroic songs, although the fact that his prose account of the victory of Deborah and Barak is manifestly independent of the Song of Deborah shows that this conjecture is to be applied with great caution.

The author was acquainted with the contents of the Book of Joshua and of the entire Pentateuch. His first chapter becomes intelligible only when viewed in connection with the Book of Joshua. In the 13th chapter of that Book, the Lord says to Joshua that while he is old much land remains still to be possessed. The territories yet to be conquered are indicated, and orders are given for the division of the whole land among the tribes. With this account Judges 1:0 of our Book connects itself. It shows what conquests remained to be made, from what necessary exertions the people still shrank, and where contracts of toleration were still made with the heathen inhabitants. The enumeration of places, especially in Judges 1:27-36, presupposes familiarity with chaps, 13–19 of Joshua so necessarily, that without it it would be altogether unintelligible. Only those places are named which were not fully subdued consequently, the knowledge of what formed the entire territory allotted to each tribe is presupposed. But this knowledge could only be obtained from the above-mentioned chapters in Joshua, since the territorial possessions of the respective tribes had nowhere else been defined.

In fact, the Book of Judges as a whole sets forth the fulfillment of what was contained in the Pentateuch and Joshua: its author must therefore have been acquainted with the contents of both. Chapter 2 is largely made up of sentences found in the last four books of Moses [cf. Hengst. Pentateuch, Ryland’s ed., ii. 24 f.]. The history of the exodus is evidently known to the author in the very words of the Biblical narrative (cf. Judges 2:12; Judges 6:13). The song of Deborah speaks in like manner of the journey through the desert and of Sinai. The narrative of the discord in Shechem (Judges 9:28), reminds one of the story of Dinah (Genesis 34:0); and the deed in Gibeah is related in phraseology similar to that used in the history of Lot (Genesis 19:0). We must here glance at a misunderstanding emphatically maintained by Bertheau in several passages of his Commentary. The Book of Judges, he asserts, contains references to matters that occurred under Solomon, and therefore its author must have lived after this king. In support of this, he refers to 1 Kings 4:7-19 compared with Judges 1:27-28; but the reference proves nothing. The passage in Kings relates, to be sure, that Solomon appointed twelve officers over all the realm, whose duty it was to provide for the royal household. Of course, the districts mentioned Judges 1:27 fell under the charge of some one of these officers. But in Judges 1:28, it is stated that Manasseh did not drive out the Canaanites of these districts, but let them remain on condition of paying tribute, and in that we are to find a reference to Solomon!! As if Solomon had not appointed these officers over the whole kingdom! or as if their appointment had any reference to the Canaanites or to “tribute,” neither of which are so much as named in connection with it! A measure necessary in every regal government for the existence of the state, we are to identify, forsooth, with a measure of subjugation against enemies in a district! The very passage in 1 Kings 9:15-22, which Bertheau connects with 1 Kings 4:7-19, should have shown him the true nature of the appointment of these officers. For these verses, while they state that Solomon made serfs of the still remaining heathen, expressly add that he did not make servants of any Israelites. But this action of Solomon toward heathen is not the subject of discourse at 1 Kings 4:7-19, where officers are appointed over all Israel; and as little in Judges 1:28, which speaks of the time when Israel grew strong (which it certainly had been long before Solomon’s day), and imposed tribute1 upon the Canaanites. This is the very thing for which Manasseh is blamed, that when it grew strong, instead of expelling the heathen inhabitants, it made them tributary, thus sowing the seeds of future sin. The whole passage, if it referred to Solomon, would be senseless. And why, if the author thought of Solomon, did he not name him?

Yet more singular is another conjecture put forth by Studer and Bertheau. Judges 1:29 states that Ephraim did not drive the Canaanites out of Gezer, but that they continued to dwell there. Now, we read in 1 Kings 9:16 ff., that an Egyptian Pharaoh conquered Gezer, and slew the Canaanites, after which Solomon rebuilt the city. To this conquest, now, we are to suppose the author of Judges alludes in Judges 1:29! But the author manifestly knows only this, that the Canaanite still dwelt in Gezer! Had he alluded to the conquest of Gezer and its rebuilding, he must have told of the destruction of the Canaanite; for at the time of Solomon’s rebuilding, the Canaanite was no longer there! Of such grounds as these for bringing down the date at which our book was written, Bertheau has four more (p. 29): 1. His interpretation of Judges 18:30, which he thinks may refer either to the Assyrian or Babylonian conquest, on which see the commentary below. 2. The expression “until this day” (Judges 1:21; Judges 1:26; Judges 6:24; Judges 10:4, etc.), implies a long lapse of time between the occurrence and the author. But even fifty years would suffice, and the author had a period of four centuries under review. 3. The author was acquainted with regal government in Israel (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1, etc.). Undoubtedly, because he lived under Saul, and therefore also, 4. Shiloh had ceased to be the seat of the priesthood. But how all this can be made to prove the composition of the Book of Judges in the Assyrian period, it is hard to say. Bertheau (after others) speaks of a cycle of twelve judges; but to justify this, either Barak or Abimelech must be omitted. The Jews counted fourteen. The number seven can only be got by force for the Book contains eight extended biographical sketches, to which Othniel is to be added All such play on numbers, which if the author had intended or found, he would have unquestionably set forth clearly and boldly, can at best neither prove nor disprove anything.

4. But it is precisely the traces by which the author’s use of earlier narratives is indicated, that testify to his freedom and originality. They show a natural and living appropriation of sacred history and its teaching, not a slavish and mechanical borrowing. The language of our Book, too, contains expressions not found in the Pentateuch and in Joshua (cf. on Judges 2:14; Judges 2:18; Judges 20:26, and Keil, l. c.). The manner in which earlier history records occurrences analogous to those which our author has to relate, is recalled with freedom, without servile imitation. Compare, e. g. the account of the appearance of the angel to Gideon and the kindling of his present, with that of the visit of the angels to Abraham (Genesis 18:0) and the kindling of his sacrifice (Genesis 15:17); .the story of Jephthah’s vow with Abraham’s offering up of Isaac (Genesis 22:0).

Very significant is the clearly discriminating use of the divine names Jehovah and Elohim, the former of which constantly designates the absolute God who has revealed himself to Israel, while the latter expresses the general conception of Deity, as recognized also by heathenism. The nations of Canaan were not without Elohim on whom to call. But Baal and Ashtaroth were false Elohim. Israel had the true Deity, the only Elohim (הָאֶלהִֹים): the living Jehovah. This God of Israel the heathen, and with them the apostate Israelites themselves, did indeed consider and speak of as an Elohim; but he was no nature-deity, but the God of Israel’s history, Jehovah, the Deliverer from Egypt, the mighty wonder-worker, the Creator of all men. The use of the names Jehovah and Elohim is indicative of the difference between Israel and the nations in their relations to the true God and in their views of the universe. It implies not different documents but different spiritual conditions; and the profound subtilty of the narrative is shown nowhere more strikingly than in the alternation of these names. When the heathen Adonibezek speaks, in Judges 1:0, he uses Elohim. Ehud, when he addresses King Eglon, says Elohim; but when he speaks to Israel, Jehovah (cf. Judges 3:20; Judges 3:28). Micah’s private chapel is merely called a house of Elohim (Judges 17:5), although he himself pretends to serve Jehovah. To sinning Ephraim Gideon speaks only of Elohim, just as this name only occurs in the history of Abimelech. The name used corresponds with the spirit of those by whom or in whose ears it is spoken. In Micah’s idolatrous temple, in the Shechem of Abimelech’s time, and in Ephraim’s pride, the fear of the true God of Israel does not manifest itself.

Occasionally, Jehovah and ha-Elohim (הָאֱלהִֹים), the God, sc. of Israel, are used interchangeably; but yet not altogether as equivalents. Even the heathen Midianites may speak of the God of Israel as ha-Elohim (Judges 7:14), but not as Jehovah. The latter is only put into the mouths of such as worship the Holy One in full faith. Very instructive in this respect is the alternation of the divine names in the accounts of the angelophanies to Gideon and the parents of Samson. The angels appear in human form, but their exalted nature shines through the lowlier appearance. On this account, an angel (Judges 13:6), as also a prophet, may be called an Ish ha-Elohim, a godlike man; but no one is ever called Ish Jehovah, a Jehovah-like man. That description can be applied to neither angel nor man. The divine appearance in the human form under which the angel comes, can only be described by the term Elohim, or, in so far as its source in the God of Israel is to be specially indicated, by ha-Elohim.2 True, the expression “Angel of Jehovah” may be used as well as “Angel of ha-Elohim;” but still, in Judges 6:20-21, these expressions seem to be distinguished from each other in such a way, that the latter designates the angel simply in his appearance (Judges 6:20), the former as the possessor of supernatural powers (Judges 6:21). When Gideon once more hesitates, and desires to assure himself whether he be really the chosen deliverer, and therefore longs to have the reality of the angelic appearance already enjoyed confirmed, he addresses himself to ha-Elohim (Judges 6:36; Judges 6:39). It may indeed appear strange that in connection with the answer in Judges 6:40 simply Elohim is used; but the explanation is that the meaning being plain, the article is omitted as unnecessary.

5. These discriminations between the divine names are not to be ascribed to our author in any such sense as if the earlier times which he describes, and the sources which came down to him out of them, had not yet possessed any clear perception of them. All tradition, in whatever form he used it, narrative and song, was pervaded with the same consciousness as that which lives in Biblical books and doctrines, from which indeed it had derived them. The Song of Deborah, the documentary character and genuineness of which are undoubted, celebrates with prophetic power the Jehovah of the generations of Israel. The document which Jephthah sends to the king of Ammon shows a living knowledge of the contents and language of the Books of Moses, although it treats both with great freedom. If Gideon did not live in the consciousness of the authoritative God, who revealed himself in the law, and led Israel through the desert into Canaan, he could not say, while refusing an offered crown, “Jehovah shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). When Jephthah makes a vow, he makes it not after the model of any heathen usage, but in the language, form, and spirit of the Israelitish vow, as regulated by Moses. The story of Samson becomes intelligible only by the light of the Nazaritic institute of the Pentateuch. (Numbers 6:0). The priestly body comes to view in the service with Urim (Judges 1:2; Judges 20:18). Respect for the priesthood shows itself plainly, albeit in a perversion of it, in the conduct of Micah (Judges 17:13). The officiating Levite is known by his priestly dress, furnished with the prescribed bells (Judges 18:3). It is undoubtedly true that the circumstances of the Levites, as they come to view here and there, as also the story in Judges 19:0, indicate a wretched condition of the order; but decay implies vigor, just as caricature implies truth. The false ephod points to the true; the idol altar of Gideon’s father, to that which his son erects in the place of it. The Book of Judges treats of great international conflicts. But these wars are waged by the nations of Canaan not only against the strange people, but against that people’s God. No conflict had ever arisen, but for Israel’s Jehovah, from whom his people derived their national existence and character,—and, indeed, it was only the living Jehovah, who would not suffer himself to be represented by dead images, that could produce this deep and lasting antagonism. Without him, Israel could not have maintained itself in a struggle of four hundred years, to be finally victorious, and to find itself in possession of solid foundations for future civil and religious life.

Of course, the Book of Judges does not aim at giving a history of the general culture of the age, after the manner of modern times. That it says so little of the priestly institutions and the law, proves only that it presupposes them as known. It is certain, at least, that the discourses of the prophetic messengers (chaps, 2 and 10), like the whole Book, explain the several apostasies of the nation out of the decay of their religious and spiritual life.
To infer from the abnormities that come to view, as the idolatry in Ophra, the sin of Abimelech, the discord between the tribes under Jephthah, the abomination in Gibeah, and the wretched condition of the Levites, that the law, in all the fullness of its instructions, was not yet known or published, would be a singular procedure. As if during the times succeeding Clovis there had been no churches, no bishops, no Christian people, in Gaul, notwithstanding the horrible deeds of the kings and their helpers! Or as if in our own day and land, in which the Christian Church and Christian doctrine are unquestionably prevalent, the presence and existence of these might nevertheless be denied, because of the abominations of apostasy which come to light, as to morals, in police-reports, and as to doctrine in the myriad books of modern idolatry! It is the nature of Biblical historiography to disclose the truth, without regard to men and without flattery. It does not, in modern fashion, glorify in breathless declamations the dutiful deeds of the “faithful”; it mentions them in few words. But it brings the disgrace and punishment of sin into the foreground, in order to warn against transgression and induce repentance. That it has become common, especially since the rationalistic period, to represent the age of the Judges as wild and barbarous, only shows that men are prone to overlook the vices and bloodshed peculiar to their own day. Our Book covers a space of four hundred years. Now, as the periods of servitude are characterized as times of apostasy, while those of independence are represented as times of order, it is not unimportant to observe that apostasy prevailed during but one third of the time described.

§ 4. Chronology

1. The Book of Judges contains also chronological data in connection with the occurrences which it records. It is a suggestive fact, with reference to the peculiarities of his sources, and the manner in which he used them, that the first numerical statement of time given by the author refers to the duration of the oppression of Israel by Chushan Rishathaim, king of Aram. Concerning the occurrences between the death of Joshua and the time of Chushan, related in the introductory chapters, no dates are given, and their duration can only be approximately ascertained. The table of chronological data is conveniently divided into two parts: from Chushan to the domination of Ammon, and from that to the death of Samson.

Israel served Chushan

  8 years

Had rest under Othniel

40 “

Served Moab

18 “

Had rest under Ehud

80 “


Served Jabin

20 “

Had rest under Barak

40 “

Served Midian

  7 “

Had rest under Gideon

40 “

Was ruled by Abimelech

  3 “

Had Tola for Judge

23 “

Jair, Judge

22 “


301 years.


Among these numbers, only the statement that after Ehud’s victory there followed eighty years of rest, excites special attention. The number forty is by no means an unhistorical, round number. Nevertheless, it seems manifestly to express the duration of a period, particularly that of a generation. In forty years the generation of the desert died out (cf. Numbers 14:33). The statements that after the achievements of Othniel, Deborah, and Gideon, respectively, a period of forty years passed in rest, bring to light the internal ground of renewed apostasy, already indicated in the introduction (Judges 2:10), namely, that after the death of the generation which had witnessed the deeds of the heroes, another rose up which had no living remembrance of them. So much stress may properly be laid on this internal ground, as to make the number eighty after Ehud’s exploit very remarkable in its singularity; so remarkable, in fact, as to incline one to suppose that the original reading was forty. Apart from every other consideration, this supposition would have much in its favor, if it were certain—which, however, despite the statement in Judges 4:1, it is not—that the number in question was also intended to give the length of Ehud’s subsequent life. It would also give a clearness unusual in chronological matters to the statement of Jephthah that three hundred years had passed since Israel gained a firm footing in Heshbon, beyond the Jordan (Judges 11:26). For from the year in which Jephthah says this, backward to the first year of Chushan, would on this reckoning be 261 + 18 = 279 years. Twenty years would very satisfactorily fill up the gap between the last of Joshua’s conquests and the commencement of the Aramæan domination. For although the kings of Sihon and Og were defeated by Moses seven years earlier, the two and a half trans-Jordanic tribes came into possession, properly speaking, only after the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 22:0). If the number eighty be left untouched, we get a period of three hundred and nineteen years from Jephthah back to Chushan’s domination, to which the interval of twenty (or twenty-seven) years must be added, for this length of time must in any case have elapsed between the entrance into Canaan and the invasion of Chushan (cf. Judges 2:10; Judges 3:7). But it is natural to suppose that Jephthah in his letter to the king of Ammon would use the larger, not the smaller, number of which the case admitted, in order to prove the right of Israel to its land. The change of eighty into forty is also of importance with reference to other chronological combinations, as will appear farther on.

2. In Judges 10:7 the historian states that God, by reason of Israel’s renewed apostasy, delivered them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites. The statement gives the impression that this domination of these nations over Israel was contemporaneous, but exerted over different parts of the land. The narrative then proceeds to speak first of the tyranny of Ammon, which lasted eighteen years, and then of that of the Philistines, which continued forty years. From the first of these oppressors, Jephthah delivered the eastern tribes; against the other, Samson began the war of liberation.

It certainly seems as if the author of our Book wished to convey the lesson that, as time went on, the condition of kingless Israel became continually worse. At first, hostile attacks had come from one side only; a great victory was then won, and “the land rested.” After Gideon, this expression no longer occurs. Moreover, it is never said of subsequent heroes that “they judged;” and the duration of their official activity no longer reaches to forty years. These facts are not to be neglected in our chronological survey.

The combination of the chronological data of the Book of Judges with those found elsewhere, and especially with the well-known statement in 1 Kings 6:1, according to which four hundred and eighty years intervened between the exodus from Egypt and the building of the temple, is still attended with difficulty. Doubtless, the difficulty is itself a most striking proof of the antiquity, originality, and independence of our Book. Had it been composed at a late period, by the same hand that wrote the Books of Kings, would not its author have attempted to get rid of these remarkable difficulties? But the fidelity of the Old Testament tradition never shows itself more clearly than in cases in which, according to modern notions, it had been so easy for an editor to remove all occasion for resorting to hypotheses. For without these, it is at this day impossible to produce agreement. We know that agreement must exist,—for, surely, ancient authors were not incapable of arithmetical addition!—but coercive, scientific proof of it, we do not possess. The opinions of even the oldest Jewish chronologists were divergent. In support of our hypothesis we adduce the passage 1 Samuel 12:11, where it is said that “Jehovah sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel,” and delivered Israel from their enemies round about. Now, Bedan is, without doubt, to be understood of Samson, the hero out of Dan. The passage, therefore, presents the peculiarity that it places Samson before Jephthah. Keil insists that the Ammonitish and Philistine oppressions occurred, not successively, but simultaneously. It is undoubtedly correct to say, that we are not first to sum up the numbers relating to the occurrences set forth in Judges 9:12 thus:—


18 years.


  6 “


  7 “


10 “


  8 “


49 years.

and then add the years of the Philistine domination and those of Samson. Just as in 1 Samuel 12:11, Samson stands before Jephthah, so in Judges 10:7 the Philistines are named before the Ammonites: “Jehovah gave Israel into the hands of the Philistines and of the sons of Ammon.” That notwithstanding this Jephthah’s deeds are first related, has its ground in the fact that in this way the achievements against the Philistines connect themselves with the principal wars of Israel in the days of Samuel and Saul. According to Judges 13:1, the Philistine domination lasted forty years. After Samson’s great victory at Lehi, it is remarked, Judges 15:20, and afterwards repeated, that “he judged Israel twenty years.” These twenty years cannot be included in the forty. It is against the spirit of the Book, after such a victory to speak of Samson’s “judging,” and yet to suppose that at the same time Israel continues to be given “into the hands of the Philistines.” Therefore, when the prediction concerning Sam son (Judges 13:5) only says that “he shall begin to deliver Israel,” the meaning is that he will not thoroughly subdue them, as was done in the days of Samuel and David, for after the death of Samson their power again became dominant. Now, if this be undoubtedly correct, the supposition that the Ammonitish and Philistine servitudes commenced exactly at the same time, would compel us, notwithstanding 1 Samuel 12:11, to place Jephthah long before Samson; for the Ammonitish domination lasted only eighteen years, and Jephthah ruled only six. The following conjecture is therefore to be preferred: With Gideon’s death the land ceased “to have rest.” Judges of forty years’ service appear no more; but a servitude of forty years begins. The Philistine attack occurred perhaps soon after Abimelech, induced probably by reports of the discord that prevailed in Israel. While in the North and East Tola and Jair judged forty-five years, the Philistine servitude began in the southwest; and while Ammon oppressed Gilead in the East, Samson smote the Philistines in the southwest. The Gileadites make Jephthah their chieftain “because he had begun to smite the enemy” (cf. on Judges 11:1-2); for Samson also had become Judge when he had commenced to put down the Philistines (cf. on Judges 15:20).

The combination of the chronological data of our Book with those of Samuel and especially the important one in 1 Kings 6:1, is further facilitated by the fact that in 1 Samuel 12:11, Eli is not named between Jephthah and Samuel. The inference from this omission is, that the forty years during which he ruled, are not to be separately taken into account. He was high-priest during the occurrence of the events in the North and South. The following additional conjectures may therefore be regarded as probable: The war spoken of in 1 Samuel 4:1, commenced by Israel against the Philistines, may be held to indicate the new vigor which the victories of Samson and the terrible catastrophe at Gaza had infused into the people. About thirty years had probably elapsed since the death of Samson. Then follow twenty years of penitence on the part of Israel (1 Samuel 7:2), dated from the exile of the ark and its restoration to Kirjath-jearim, that great event with which the Book of Judges is also acquainted. If next, according to ancient tradition, we add forty years for the time of Samuel and Saul, and forty for the reign of David, we arrive at the number four hundred and eighty in a manner sufficiently satisfactory and historically probable, as shown by the following tables:—

Samuel before the victory (1 Samuel 7:10)


Therefore,     From Exodus to Chushan



Samuel and Saul


     Chushan to Gideon





     Abimelech to Abdon





     Samuel to Solomon








Those who accept the eighty years of Ehud, as has hitherto been done, are obliged with Keil to reduce the interval from the death of Moses to Chushan to seventeen years, and that from the death of Jair to Solomon to one hundred and twenty-three, whereby Samson’s judgeship vanishes, and no account is taken of the twenty years preceding the victory under Samuel.

3. In conclusion, we remark that in the historical sketch of the Apostle Paul, Acts 13:18-20, where he says, Acts 13:18, “and God nourished (ἐτροφοφόρησεν) them forty years in the wilderness;” Acts 13:19, “and destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot;” Acts 13:20, “and after that he gave them Judges for about four hundred and eighty years, until Samuel the prophet,” the reading four hundred and eighty can scarcely be the original one. The apostle evidently had his eye on our canonical books: in Acts 13:17-18, on the Books of Moses; in Acts 13:19, on the Book of Joshua; in Acts 13:20, on the Book of Judges; for this is followed by references to the Books of Samuel. As he was undoubtedly acquainted with the number four hundred and eighty in Kings, he could not assign four hundred and fifty years to the period from Joshua to Samuel, with which moreover no ancient tradition coincided. The conjectural reading, three hundred and fifty, appears therefore to be preferable; and it is certainly not a matter of indifference that, adding the numbers one after another as was done by Jewish tradition in general, three hundred and fifty years would actually represent the period from Chushan to the end of the Philistine domination. True, it would show that Paul also read only forty years in connection with Ehud. The objection that Paul also assigns a definite period of forty years for the reign of Saul, for which the Old Testament gives no authority, is destitute of force. For the Book of Samuel gives no information at all concerning the length of this king’s reign, and the Apostle followed the view, entertained also by Josephus (Ant. vi. 14, 9), according to which the reign of Saul, during and after the lifetime of Samuel, lasted forty years. It was sought in this way to explain 1 Samuel 13:1.

[Note by the translator. Keil and Bachmann, both of whom have repeatedly investigated the chronology of the Book of Judges, have come to conclusions somewhat different from those of our author. As their schemes essentially agree, it will be sufficient to indicate that of Bachmann, the latest published and the least accessible to the English reader. It may be found in his commentary, Das Buch der Richter, vol. i. pp. 53–74. Its turning points so far as they differ from our author’s, may be briefly stated as follows: (1.) It adheres in every instance to the numbers given; hence, the period from Chushan to Gideon inclusive (cf. the table above), becomes two hundred and fifty-three years. (2.) It makes the forty years Philistine servitude come to an end with the victory near Mizpeh. (3.) While it makes the Ammonitish and Philistine servitudes synchronistic in the main, as required by Judges 10:7, it supposes the beginning of the Philistine to fall from three to five years later than that of the Ammonitish oppression. If they began simultaneously, it would follow that a new Judge, Abdon, was somewhere recognized after Samuel had already assembled all the house of Israel, and had shown himself the Judge and deliverer of all Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3; 1 Samuel 7:5-6), which is not likely. Abdon, however, having once been recognized as Judge, before the victory under Samuel, might continue to be regarded as such until his death. It is only necessary, therefore, to bring down the beginning of the Philistine servitude far enough to allow of this previous recognition. (4.) It includes the twenty years of Samson in the “days of the Philistines,” according to Judges 15:20. It supposes Samson to begin his work as a young man of eighteen or nineteen years of age (cf. Judges 14:4 ff.), and thus allows his birth to fall after the beginning of the Philistine servitude, as demanded by Judges 13:5. (5.) As to Eli, since his pontificate ended twenty years before the victory of Mizpeh, its beginning must antedate the commencement of the Philistine oppression by twenty, and the Ammonitish by from fifteen to seventeen years. And, in fact, the earlier years of Eli’s pontificate afford no traces of hostile oppression. The people journey to the great festivals regularly and securely (1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:21; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 2:19); and even the sins of the sons of Eli, by which the people also are led astray (1 Samuel 2:17; 1 Samuel 2:24), are such as bespeak a time of careless security and prosperity. The following table exhibits the results thus obtained, for the time beginning with the Ammonitish and ending with the Philistine oppression. The figures at the left denote years after the death of Jair:—


Ammonitish servitude begins in the East, and continues eighteen years.

Eli is in the seventeenth year of his pontificate.



In this year or one year earlier or later, the Philistine servitude begins in the West.


Jephthah breaks the Ammonitish yoke, and judges six years.




Samson begins his career, as a young man of eighteen to nineteen years.


Ibzan, Judge, seven years.

Eli dies. Samuel.


Elon, Judge, ten years.



Abdon becomes Judge, and rules eight years.




Samson dies.


The third year of Abdon’s Judgeship.

The victory near Mizpeh, under Samuel, ends the Philistine servitude, 1 Samuel 7:0.

Now, allowing ten years, instead of Dr. Cassel’s twenty, for the interval between the division of the land and the invasion of Chushan, and retaining the eighty years of Ehud, we get,—

From the Exodus to Chushan

  57 years.

From Chushan to Gideon

253 “

From Abimelech to Mizpeh

  92 “

Samuel and Saul, 40; David, 40; Solomon, 3,

  83 “


485 years.

This total, which it would be more proper to express variably as four hundred and eighty-four to four hundred and eighty-six, is not so far away from four hundred and eighty as to occasion any difficulty. In the first place it may be questioned whether the three years of Abimelech ought to be reckoned in; and in the second place, it is highly probable that some of the periods include fractional years, so that the last year of one and the first of the next properly form but one, whereas in the process of addition they come to stand for two. But are not ten years too short to cover the interval between the division of the land and the inroad of Chushan-Rishathaim? No, says Bachmann, p. 72 ff., “for, 1. Nothing demands a lengthened period between the death of Joshua and the beginning of the Mesopotamian servitude. The passage at Judges 2:11 ff. does not describe an earlier visitation than the Mesopotamian, but merely gives a general view of the causes and consequences of all the visitations about to be related. Under the דּוֹר אַחֵר, the “other generation,” cf. Judges 2:10, neither a chronological generation of forty years (Bertheau), nor a familia eminens, that placed itself at the head of the nation (M. Hartmann), is to be understood. Nor does the remark of Judges 2:7, about the elders who “outlived Joshua,” require any considerable number of years. It merely affirms that they outlived him, without saying that they outlived him long. If in the second year of the Exodus these elders were eighteen or nineteen years old (Numbers 14:29), at the division of the land, that is 38 + 7 years later, they would be sixty-three or sixty-four; and ten years more, until the first hostile oppression, would suffice fully to bring them to that age which according to Psalms 90:10 constituted the highest average of human life even in the time of Moses. Nor, finally, is it necessary to assign much time to the process of moral deterioration in Israel (Judges 2:6 ff.); for this began and went on progressively in and even before the days of the elders, and it was only the completed apostasy to idolatry that ensued after their death. 2. From Joshua 13:1, compared with Judges 14:10 ff. it is evident that Joshua cannot have continued to live long after the division of the land. While the second of these passages represents Caleb, at the age of eighty-five years, still full of youthful strength and perfectly ready to undertake the conquest of his inheritance, the first gives the great age of Joshua as the reason for the command to divide the land, although the conquest was yet far from complete. And since exactly the same expression recurs in Joshua 23:1-2, it is impossible to suppose that the farewell gatherings of Joshua 23, 24, which were held shortly before the death of Joshua (Joshua 23:14), took place many years later. Neither the יָמִים רַבִּים, “many days,” of Joshua 23:1, nor the circumstance that, according to Joshua 19:50, Joshua built a city and lived in it, can prove the contrary; for a few years’ time satisfies them both. Nor is there any ground in Exodus 33:11 and Numbers 11:28 for inferring that Joshua must have lived a considerable time after the division of the land; for the term נַעַר denotes office, not age, and מִבְּחֻרָיו, even if we explain it “from his youth” (“of his chosen ones,” is probably to be preferred, cf. the Sept. and Vulg.), does not assert that Joshua was then a young man. On the other hand, it is only when we assume that Joshua died at a relatively early date, that the contents of Judges 1:1-21 appear in their true light. But especially decisive for the utmost possible reduction of the length of the interval in question is the passage Judges 11:26. According to this passage, three hundred years had elapsed since Israel took possession of the land on the east of the Jordan. Now, between the Mesopotamian invasion and the death of Jair, there lies a period of three hundred and one, or, excluding Abimelech, two hundred and ninety-eight years. It is evident, therefore, that, reckoning Jephthah’s three hundred years from the dismissal of the eastern tribes (Joshua 22:0) to the attack of the Ammonites (Judges 10:7), the shorter the preceding period be computed, the closer becomes the agreement between the historical fact and the approximate number of Jephthah. It is manifestly more likely that three hundred and eight to three hundred and eleven, than that three hundred and thirty to three hundred and forty or more years, should be roundly represented as three hundred. We hold, therefore, with Lightfoot (Opp. i. 42), S. Schmid, Vitringa, Keil, and others, that an interval of about ten years, as left at our disposal by our computation of the chronology of the whole period, is in fact fully sufficient for the events between the division and the first subjugation of the land; and we accordingly reject, as wholly groundless extensions of the chronological frame, the assumption, since Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 29; vi. 5, 4) almost become traditional, that twenty-five years are to be allowed for Joshua, and eighteen for the “elders;” the computation of various Rabbins (Sed. Olam, Isaaki, Abr. Zakut, and others), which assigns twenty-eight years to Joshua and the “elders” together; and every other similar hypothesis.”—Tr.].

§ 5. Critical and Exegetical Helps

1. In the criticism and translation of the Hebrew text, constant use has been made of the large Rabbinic Bible published at Venice, 1617–1618 by Petrus and Laurentius Bragadin, after the Bomberg edition. Compare the preface by Judah Arjeh of Modena, corrector of the work. Use has also been made of the Biblia Universa, published in 1657, at Leipzig, by Christian Kirchner, after the edition of B. A. Montanus. Compare the preface prefixed to the work by the Dean and Theological Faculty of the University of Leipzig. Also of the Biblia Hebraica of Joh. H. Michaelis, Halle, 1720; the Biblia of Döderlein and Meisner, as edited by Knapp, 1819; and the edition of the Book of Judges, with a German translation and commentary, by Mair Obernik, Fürth, 1805.

A treatment of the text such as has recently again been attempted by the wild theories of Geiger, Dozy, and others, is at variance with the laws of objective scientific criticism, and renders textual tradition, language, and contents so many footballs for subjective caprice. Its application is the more to be lamented, since it also increases the difficulties of such criticism as is both necessary and in accord with the spirit of Holy Scripture. But we must not be hindered by excesses of this kind from acknowledging, that it is more in keeping with piety toward the sacred volume to venture upon textual emendations in a few passages than to reject them. This conviction has governed us in the exposition of several passages (cf. on Judges 2:3; Judges 4:15; Judges 5:11; Judges 7:6; Judges 7:8), and especially in the treatment of Judges 18:30, where it is shown that the antiquity of the current reading is by no means a guaranty of its correctness, but only a proof of the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition.

It is unfortunately impracticable here to institute a closer collation of the Hebrew text with the LXX. and the Targum, as also with Josephus, than has been incidentally done in the exposition. It is, however, a matter sufficiently necessary, not to be neglected hereafter. The beginnings made by Ziegler (Bemerkungen über das Buck d. Richter, in the Theol. Abhandl., Göttingen, 1791) and Frankel (in his Vorstudien zur Septuaginta, Leipzig, 1841) are certainly still in want of a thorough continuation.

The Syriac version of the Books of Judges and Ruth by Paul of Tella (beginning of the 7th century), has been published at Copenhagen, by Th. Skat Rördam: Libri Judicum et Ruth, secundum versionum Syriaco-Hexaplarem, Havniæ, 1859. The exposition of the Midrash on the Book of Judges, is given in the Jalkut Shimeoni, by R. Simeon, of Frankfurt, Venice edition, printed by Bragadin, tom. 2

For assistance in gaining acquaintance with Talmudic expositions, the following works may be consulted: Nachalath Shimeoni, by R. Simeon, of Lissa, ed. Wandsbeck; Toledoth Jakob, by R. Jakob Sasportas, Amsterdam, 1657, 4to; Sepher Mareh Kohen, by R. Isachar, Cracow edition, 1689, 4to. The Jewish expositors of the Middle Ages, R. Solomon Isaaki (i.e. Raschi, frequently but improperly called Jarchi), R. David Kimchi (Redak), R. Levi ben Gerson (Ralbag), and other expositions, are found in the large Rabbinic Bibles. The commentary of R. Isaak Abarbanel on the Prophetœ Priores appeared at Leipzig, 1686.

Expositions, partly excellent, of passages of our Book, by the Caraite Aaron, are found in Wolff’s Bibliotheca Hebrœa, Hamburg, 1715–43. A Jewish German translation in rhyme is found in Koheleth Jakob, Prague, 1763, but with expositions and legends intermixed. A better, older, and literal Jewish German translation appeared at Amsterdam, 1679, fol. In more recent times several synagogue versions of the Holy Scriptures have been printed. Of these that which appeared under the conduct of Dr. Zunz adheres most closely to the Masoretic text, cf. Orient. Literaturbl., 1840, p. 618.

The Book of Judges as a whole did not receive separate and special treatment at the hands of the earlier Christian exegesis. We must here refer to the general introductions to the O. T. for information concerning editions and expositions which include our Book. Jerome, Theodoret, and, later, Rhabanus Maurus and Rupert von Deutz, might be particularly mentioned.
Among the later Roman Catholic expositors Serarius stands preëminent on account of his diligence and voluminousness: Commentarii in libros Judicum et Ruth, Paris, 1611, Moguntiæ, 1619. Among Protestant expositors Brentius, Bucer, P. Martyr, Chyträus, Seb. Schmid, Osiander, Starke, and Drusius, are still worthy of attention. The commentary of Le Clerc began the rationalistic mode of exposition, and has furnished it with most of its materials. It is only forty years since the Book began again to receive any real attention. For ten years the commentary of Studer, Das Buch der Richter, grammatish und historisch erklärt, Bern, 1835, almost entirely controlled the exposition. Valuable matter was contributed by Hengstenberg, die Authentie des Pentateuchs [translated into English by Ryland, under the title Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pentateuch, Edinburgh, 1847.—Tr.]. Still longer than Studer did Bertheau’s exposition, Das Buch der Richter und Rut, Leipzig, 1845, maintain its prominence, to which for that reason special attention is given in the present work. The first volume of C. R. Keil’s Biblischer Commentar über die Prophetischen Geschichtsbücher des A. T., containing Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (Leipzig, 1863), appeared after the greater part of our Book was finished. The author’s theological attitude, diligence, and erudition are in no need of special characterization in this place. [Since the publication of Dr. Cassel’s work, the first volume of a new commentary by Dr. Joh. Bachmann, Professor at Rostock, has appeared, entitled, Das Buch der Richter, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Geschichte seiner Auslegung und kirchlichen Verwendung erklärt, etc., Berlin, Ersten Bandes erste Hälfte, 1868, Zweite Hälfte, 1869. Theologically, the author stands on substantially the same ground with Cassel and Keil. His work is thorough and exhaustive. For English works on the whole Bible, cf. the commentary on Matthew, p. 19. We here add: Bush, Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Judges, New York; and the Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; with Notes and Introductions by Chr. Wordsworth, D. D., London, 1865, forming Part I. of vol. 2. of The Holy Bible; with Notes, etc., by the same author. Dr. Wordsworth is learned and devout, but somewhat too much given to allegorizing.—Tr.].

It cannot be desirable to enumerate here all the exegetical introductions and other writings more remotely connected with the business of exposition. For such enumeration we refer to Danz’s Universalwörterbuch, to the works named by Dr. Lange in the commentary on Genesis, and to the older general commentaries of Starke, Lisco, and Gerlach. It is sufficient here to mention the Introductions of Hävernick and Keil, Ewald’s Geschichte Israels, and Stähelin’s Untersuchungen über den Pentateuch, die Bücher Joshua, Richter, etc., Berlin, 1843. Much that is excellent—to confine ourselves to what specially belongs here—is contained in the little work of Prof. Wahl, Ueber den Verfasser des Buches der Richter, a “programme” of the Gymnasium and Realschule at Ellwangen, 1859. Compare also Nägelsbach, s. v.Richter, in Herzog’s Real Encyklopädie, vol. 13.; and in general, the articles of this encyclopædia on the several Judges.

On the chronology of the Book, the following works deserve to be mentioned: Jewish—the Sepher Juchasin, by Abraham Sacuto, Amsterdam, 1717; Tsemach David, by David Gans, in the edition of Vorstius, Hebrew and Latin, 1644, 4 to; and Seder Haddoroth, by R. Jechiel, of Minsk, 1810, fol. Herzfeld, Chronologia Judicum et primorum Regum Hebrœorum, Berolini, 1836; and Bachmann, Symbolarum ad tempora Judicum recte constituenda specimen (Rostock University “Programme” for 1860). The very latest conjectures may be found in Röckerath, Bibl. Chronologie, Münster, 1865.

2. Of writings treating single parts of the Book of Judges, the number is larger. The Song of Deborah has been especially favored. We mention the following:3 Lette, Animad-versiones Sacrœ, L. Bat. 1759. Ruckersfelder, Sylloge comentt. et observatt. philol. exeget., Deventiræ, 1762. Wilh. Abrah. Teller, Uebers. des Segens Jakobs und Mosis, insgleichen des Liedes der Israeliten und der Debora, etc., Halle and Helmst., 1766. Schnurrer, Diss. in Deborœ-Canticum, Tüb. 1775 (cf. his Dissertt. Phil. Criticœ, Gothæ, 1790). Köhler, Nachlese einiger Anmerkk. über das Siegeslied der Deb., in Eichhorn’s Repertorium for 1780, p. 163 ff. Hollmann, Comment. phil. crit. in Carmen Deborœ, Lips. 1818. Köhler, in the Studien und Kritiken for 1831, pp. 72–76. Kemink, Commentatio de Carmine Deborœ, Traj. ad Rhen., 1840. Kalkar, Questionum Biblic. Specimen, I., Othiniæ, 1835. Böttger, in Käuffer’s Biblischen Studien (only to ver. 23), Dresden and Leipzig, 1842–44. Gumpach, Alttestamentlichen Studien, Heidelberg, 1852. Sack, Die Lieder in den historischen Büchern des A. T., Barmen, 1864. Among translations, that of Herder, in his Geist der Hebräischen Poesie, ii. 196 (Cotta’s edition of his works, 1852), still holds its merited rank. Little known, and yet not unimportant, is that of J. C. W. Scherer, in Irene, a monthly periodical by G. A. v. Halem, Münster, 1804, 1:44. Less valuable is Debora, a Portrait of Female Character, by E. Münch, in Minerva, an annual, for 1828, p. 339. Many excellent remarks on the Song of Deborah are found in Lowth’s celebrated book on Hebrew Poetry; but the annotations of Schmidt (in Auszuge aus Lowth’s Vorlesungen, Dantzig, 1793) are worthless.

In the exposition of the Song below, compression has been so much sought after, that its brevity, in view of the many new explanations that are offered, may be deemed a fault. Some improvement may perhaps be made in this respect hereafter.
The history of Jephthah has experienced an equally abundant treatment. To the literature mentioned in the exposition below, we here add the following: Reinke, Beiträge zur Erklärung des A. T., Münster, 1852. Very sensible remarks against the assumption that Jephthah’s daughter was sacrificed are found in Schedius, Syngramma de Diis Germanis, Halæ, 1728. A discourse on “Jephthah’s Sacrifice,” with special reference to the importance of vows of homage, may be found among the Discourses of the Stolberg Chancellor, Joh. Titius, Halberstadt, 1678. F. Ranke, also, in his Klaglied der Hebräer, felt himself obliged to follow the old view. It is a curiosity of uncommon ignorance that in the French Opera L’Enfant Prodigue, of Sue and Auber, the bride of the Prodigal, that is to say, a woman, is named Jephthah.

Roskoff, in his work Die Simsonssage, nach ihrer Entstehung, Form, und Bedeutung, und der Heraklesmythus, Leipzig, 1860, gives the literature of those writings in which Samson is put on a parallel with Hercules. The author’s own zeal for the parallelism is far more moderate than that of E. Meier, for instance, in his Gesch. der poetischen Nationalliteratur der Hebräer, Leipzig, 1856. But even his admissions we have not been able to consider well founded and trustworthy. We cannot believe, for instance, that there is such similarity between the answer to Samson’s prayer, after his exploit at Lehi, and the myth which recounts how Hercules, when unable to sleep on account of crickets, got rid of them, as to make it a safe foundation for scientific results. And it is only the thorough-going establishment of the historical and moral as well as ideal difference between the two characters that can give any real significance to other analogies that may exist, and that appear to suggest themselves so plainly. In the commentary on the narrative we have engaged in no polemics, but have attempted a positive exposition of the ideas contained in it.

Single parts of Samson’s life were formerly frequently treated. As against the boundlessly insipid and wretched views of the so-called rationalistic exposition, which reached its acme in Baur’s Biblisher Moral, 1803, i. 195 ff. the modern mythical apprehension is, to a certain extent, a real advance. But it is only by setting aside the subjective party opinions of the day, and by adopting a mode of apprehending the narrative that shall be at once objective, historical, and congenial to its contents, that exegesis can claim to be scientific or be capable of advancing science. A beautiful elogium of Samson as compared with Hercules is found in Petri Labbe Elogia Sacra, Lips. 1686, p. Judges 667:—

“Herculi coætaneus verus Hercules fuit;
Quæ in illo fabula, in hoc fuere miracula.”
“Samson’s Foxes” are treated of by Paullini, in his Philosoph. Luststunden, i. 147. Essays on the jawbone in Lehi are named below. Schiller, perhaps, had the miracle of Lehi in mind in his ballad Der Bürgschaft, verses twelve and thirteen, where Möros in answer to prayer is delivered from thirst by water issuing from the rock. In the Wiltinasage (ed. Peringskiöld, p. 272), Sigurd, who has freely allowed himself to be bound, at the right time rends all his cords asunder. Thackeray relates (in his Four Georges, ch. vii.) that when George III. of England was blind and mentally diseased, he nevertheless selected himself the music for sacred concerts, and always from the Samson of Milton and Händel, and all his selections had reference to blindness, imprisonment, and suffering. There is a dramatic poem in three acts, by Sack, entitled Simson, Zurich, 1854.

The narrative in Judges 1:17 is supposed to be improved and supplemented in the work of the Leiden Professor, Dozy: De Israeliten te Mekka, van Davids tyd tot in de vyfde eeuw onser tydrekening, Haarlem, 1864. German translation, Leipzig, 1864. If any book can bring contempt and ridicule on philological and ethnographical investigations and expositions, it is this volume. Few books can ever have been written whose authors presumed, to such an extent, and with such naive boldness, to substitute subjective arbitrariness for objective tact and moderation in the treatment of history and language. It is here made clear how little a knowledge of Arabic literature implies a fitness for historical investigation and conjecture. It happens unfortunately too often that some knowledge of technology imagines itself to be master of art, and that some acquaintance with grammatical forms deems itself proficient in exegesis. Let it not be thought that this judgment is here written down because Prof. Dozy holds the freest views of the Bible, considers Abraham and Sarah to be myths, and subscribes to Geiger’s opinion that the Jews falsified Scripture. For Prof. Dozy, the credibility of Scripture is conditioned by the necessities of his hypothesis. If a passage suits him, it is by all means to be accepted; if it does not suit him, the reasons for rejecting it are at once apparent. The book, likely to dazzle and deceive by reason of its unequaled audacity and the splendor of its exterior, deserves the severest censure, because it treads under foot all lawful methods of scientific and philological research. A few sentences, having reference to the above-mentioned passage will show this.

We pass over his identification of the fact recorded at Numbers 21:2-3, with that related in Judges 1:17, for therein he follows others. But he thinks that the reading of the Syriac and Arabic versions, “Simeon went with Judah his brother,” is better than that of the Hebrew text (which the Sept. has also), “Judah went with Simeon his brother.” The Hebrew text, he thinks, was altered by the Jewish doctors, “who begrudged Simeon the first rôle.” Now, the matter stands thus: In Numbers 21:3 Judah invites Simeon to assist him to subjugate the territory allotted to him, promising that he will afterwards help him (Simeon) to take possession of his also. Simeon consents, “and,” says the writer, “Simeon went with him (Judah). Simeon therefore stands first in this instance, and yet the envy of the Jews did not alter the clause. When the turn came to Simeon’s territory, to which Zephath belongs, Judah rendered assistance to Simeon; consequently Numbers 21:17 says, “and Judah went with Simeon.” If rank comes into consideration at all in this expression, it belongs to the second named, to whom he who goes with him merely renders assistance. If the Peshito reversed the order in Numbers 21:17, it was only to bring about a verbal agreement with Numbers 21:3 b.

Simeon and Judah had smitten the Canaanites in Zephath, inflicted the ban upon them, and given to Zephath the name Hormah (prop. Chormah) from cherem, cf. below on Judges 1:17. Now this putting under the ban was not anything peculiar to these two tribes. Moses had done it in behalf of all Israel (Numbers 21:3). Its infliction throughout the conquest was expressly enjoined, Deuteronomy 7:2. Joshua executed it in Jericho, in Ai, and everywhere else (cf. Joshua 6:17; Joshua 7:10, etc.). But Dozy finds in the ban (cherem) something peculiar to the tribe of Simeon; and combining this assumption with the narrative in 1 Chronicles 4:24-43, where (1 Chronicles 4:41) we read of a ban executed by the tribe of Simeon, he arrives at the following conclusion: “Since the sons of Simeon made and inflicted the ban (וַיּחֲרימוּ), it follows that they made a herem.” The place therefore “was called Herem or Hormah.” But what place in Arabia—for that the place was in Arabia similar reasonings have previously proved—could be called Herem but Mecca! For Herem means also a “place consecrated to God,” and Mecca is called Haram, which is equivalent to Herem. Therefore, the battle of the sons of Simeon took place in Mecca; and even the name Mecca dates from it; for maka raba signifies a great defeat, to wit, that which the enemy there suffered at the hands of Simeon. The Simeonites came to the entrance of Gedor, on the east side of the valley (1 Chronicles 4:39). Now, of course, the walls of the old temple in Mecca were called al gadr (al gidar = the wall); consequently, Gedor is to be read Geder, and signifies the temple in Mecca, to which they came. It must, however, be read Geder Baal, although the second word be wanting; for 2 Chronicles 26:7 speaks of Arabians who dwelt in Gur Baal, and Gur is to be read Geder. The LXX. at this place speaks of Arabians dwelling ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας. Common sense would think of Petra; but Dozy knows that they mean the black stone in Mecca, etc.

Dozy says at the beginning, that exegesis requires so much learning only because it deals with “Hebrew books.” Unquestionably! for where but in Hebrew exegesis would one dare to be guilty of such scientific folly! Had one ventured to do this in the domain of classical philology, he would have experienced the fate with which the philosophers menaced Homer when they threatened to drive him from the stadium with scourges.
All science becomes impossible, when credible objective tradition is made the plaything of subjective caprice. We cannot here enter farther into details; these must be left for other places. For those who know, it is enough to say, that if such arguments are valid, the next thing will be, instead of the Israelites in Mecca, a book on “the Meccans in Zion.”

Science, too, needs to experience the promise written in Ezekiel 39:29.

§ 6. The Course of Thought.4

The Book derives its name from the Judges whom God raised up to guide and deliver Israel. It begins, therefore, by depicting the sins and consequent sufferings into which Israel fell after the death of Joshua, and which rendered the judgeship necessary.
After this introduction follows the main body of the work, which treats of the history of Israel under the Judges themselves. The raising up of the successive heroes exhibits with ever-growing lustre the gracious guidance of God, revealing itself more and more wonderfully as the distress into which Israel falls becomes more pressing. The selection of the several judges and heroes forms a climax of divine wonders, in which the multiformity of Jehovah’s saving resources shows itself in contrast with the monotonousness of Israel’s sins, and the workings of His grace in the hidden and obscure in opposition to that pride of the people in which their falls originated. The histories of the Judges, especially those of Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, through whom and their adherents the great and merciful deeds of God do show themselves in ever-increasing fullness, form the sections into which the Book may be divided. From Othniel to Samson, under whom the history returns to the tribe of Judah from which it started, every Judge illustrates a new side of God’s wonderful assistance. This manifoldness characterizes the judgeship. It rests on no tradition. The changes of the persons and tribes entrusted with its functions, interrupt its efficacy. The narrative gradually indicates the want of unity, despite the abundance of strength. Hence that which peculiarly characterizes the judgeship, marks at the same time its imperfection. For even times of peace admitted of such occurrences as those which fill the closing part of the Book, after the record of Samson’s death.
In the closing part of the Book, the decay of the priesthood, the arbitrariness of individuals, and the abominations of licentiousness, passion, and discord, are traced back to the want of a settled, permanent government. The close of the Book of Judges forms an introduction to the Books of Kings.
The following analysis indicates a little more in detail the course of the narrative as sketched above:—


Introductory delineation of the condition of Israel after the death of Joshua; sin, and the judgments entailed by it, rendering the judgeship necessary. Judges 1:1 to Judges 3:4.

1st Section. The relations of Israel towards the remaining Canaanites, as forming the background of the ensuing history. Believing and obedient Israel enjoys divine direction and favor, is united within and victorious without; but faithlessness and disobedience lay the foundations of apostasy and servitude. Judges 1:0.

2d Section. The religious degeneracy of Israel which resulted from its disobedient conduct with respect to the Canaanites, and the severe discipline which it rendered necessary, as explaining the alternations of apostasy and servitude, repentance and deliverance, characteristic of the period of the Judges. Judges 2:1 to Judges 3:4.


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. Judges 3:5-16.

1st Section. The servitude to Chushan Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia. Othniel, the Judge of blameless and happy life. Judges 3:5-11.

2d Section. The servitude to Eglon, King of Moab. Ehud, the Judge with the doubleedged dagger. Shamgar, the deliverer with the ox-goad. Judges 3:12-31.

3d Section. The servitude to Jabin, King of Canaan. Deborah, the female Judge of fiery spirit, and Barak, the military hero. Judges 4:5.

4th Section. The incursions and oppressions of the Midianites. Gideon, the Judge who refuses to be king. Judges 6-8.

5th Section. The usurped rule of Abimelech, the fratricide and thorn-bush king. Judges 9:0.

6th Section. Two Judges in quiet, peaceful times: Tolah of Issachar, and Jair the Gileadite. Judges 10:1-5.

7th Section. The oppression of the Midianites. Jephthah, the Judge of the vow. Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:7.

8th Section. Three Judges of uneventful lives in peaceful times: Ibzan of Bethlehem, Elon the Zebulonite, and Abdon the Pirathonite. Judges 12:8-15.

9th Section. The oppression of the Philistines. Samson the Nazarite Judge. Judges 13-16.


The conclusion of the Book, tracing the evils of the period, the decay of the priesthood, the self-will of individuals, and the prevalence of licentiousness, passion, and discord, to the absence of a fixed and permanent form of government. Judges 17-21.
1st Section. The history of Micah’s private temple and image-worship: showing the individual arbitrariness of the times, and its tendency to subvert and corrupt the religious institutions of Israel. Judges 17, 18.

2d Section. The story of the infamous deed perpetrated at Gibeah, and its terrible consequences: another illustration of the evils that result when “every man does what is good in his own eyes.” Judges 19-21


[1] מַם, the difference between which and מַם עֹבֵד, 1 Kings 9:21, is also to be noted.

[2][The author seems to take the genitive in אִישׁ הָאֱלהִֹים, as a gen. of quality, as in אִישׁ דְּבָרִים, “an eloquent man.” But this is certainly incorrect. The expression “man of God,” does not indicate subjective character or nature, but objective official relations. First applied to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), it was commonly used to designate a prophet. It denotes a man whom God has taken into relations of peculiar intimacy with himself in order through him to instruct and lead his people. The genitive may be defined as the gen. of the principal, from whom the “man” derives his knowledge and power, and for whom he acts.—Tr.]

[3]The Jewish traditions concerning Deborah are given in a popular form in Beth Jisrael, Amsterdam, 1724.

[4][The following paragraphs were written by the author as “Preliminary Observations” to the “Homiletical Hints,” which he gives in a body at the close of the commentary, and not, as in the other volumes of this work, after the several sections to which they refer. It was thought advisable in translating the book to alter this arrangement and make it conform to that observed in other parts of the general work. The more detailed analysis of the contents, as also the formal division of the work itself into parts and sections, together with the resumés placed at the head of each division throughout the work, have been added by the translator, guided for the most part by hints, and largely even in the language of the author himself. It is proper to add that these are the only additions that have not been inclosed in brackets—Tr.]

Ads FreeProfile