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The subject which opened in the preceding Chapter, of the backsliding of Israel; from the Lord, is prosecuted in this. Here are inserted the names of Israel ' s enemies, which acted as instruments in the divine hand, for Israel's correction. Some account of their punishment, and of their humiliation in consequence thereof, is also given in this Chap ter. God's gracious interposition in the deliverance of Israel, by Othniel, from the oppression of their foes, and by Ehud, and Shamgar, three of the first judges, is also related.
This is an interesting chapter, and the first verse acts as a key to let us into the meaning of it. The Lord, we are told, left those nations to prove Israel. Hence we learn, that the trials of God's people are of God's appointment. I stay not to dwell much upon the historical part of it, for I think it quite enough to observe, that the five lords of the Philistines, which, in after ages of the days of the kings of Israel, made such a figure in history, were the lords of Ashdod, and Gaza, and Askelon, and Gath, and Ekron. 1 Samuel 6:17 . And all the Canaanites, included the idolatrous inhabitants from the extreme point of Israel's territories. But I rather would call the Reader's attention to the spiritual sense of the history. There is a passage in the Psalms that serves to show how the Lord raiseth up scourges for his people in their enemies, where it is said, that the Lord turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people. Psalms 105:25 . Hence in all the afflictions for sin, the Lord's hand is in every appointment. And this, Reader, may serve to illustrate the whole of our eventful life. Love is at the bottom of all the Lord's dispensations. He is ever pursuing one invariable plan of mercy. But if the followers of Jesus transgress, and are led away by their idolatrous neighbors, God will visit their offences with the rod, and their sins with the scourge. So the promise runs. Psalms 89:30-32 .
Those who have no knowledge of the corruption of the human heart, would be at a loss to conceive the possibility of such abominable conduct in Israel. But alas! what is not the human heart capable of doing, if left for one moment to itself! Read that solemn scripture, and pause over it, with an eye to self. Jeremiah 17:9 .
Here we have the relation of the first conqueror of Israel. King of Mesopotamia means, in the midst of rivers; probably so called from being situated between the two great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Eight years subjugation, no doubt, was long and grievous. Alas! how many years do God's people groan under the powerful enemies both within and without, which rise against them by reason of their rebellion.
Observe; before Israel's deliverance there was a cry to God for relief. How sweet is it to see when from the first descent of grace in the heart, the soul goes forth in the ascending prayer for mercy. Dearest Jesus! let thy prevenient grace be shed abroad in my heart; and then, the earnest supplication for mercy in thy all prevailing blood and righteousness, will be sure to bring relief down.
Othniel is the first judge of Israel after Joshua ' s death. But Reader! do not fail to observe, how he became the deliverer of Israel. It was because the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Oh! how precious is it to see that uniformity in every instance: that it is, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. And was it not so with the Lord Jesus? And must not the same blessed Spirit which anointed Jesus to his office, anoint also his church and people? Isaiah 61:1 .
Observe how many years the land had rest after God's deliverance. But oh! what an everlasting rest remaineth for the people of God, when Jesus hath given them rest, who is indeed himself the rest of his weary and afflicted ones. Hebrews 4:9 ; Matthew 11:28 .
There is a great degree of meaning in that little word again. Israel did evil again. Even Israel, God's people, and who had received from the Lord such a series of mercies. And what made their iniquity the more odious was, that it was again, after that they had smarted for it, and after so much mercy. But Reader! in Israel behold the church of God in all ages. Oh! what departures, again and again, in the Lord's people! This was the aggravated sin of Solomon. 1 Kings 2:9 .
The last servitude was eight years, and this eighteen. Observe, how the Lord, according to his promise, increaseth the stripes upon increased rebellion. See Leviticus 26:27-28 .
Reader! do not fail to remark, how grace manifests itself in the heart. When the Lord is about to appear in any remarkable manner, very frequently he sets his people to prayer. And then that promise is fulfilled, Isaiah 65:24 . Read another, to the same effect, Isaiah 30:18 . This Ehud was the second judge of Israel, after the death of Joshua. It is particularly recorded of him that he was left handed, and a Benjamite. The name Benjamin, signifies the son of the right hand. And therefore it is perhaps mentioned, as being the more remarkable. Jesus, as the deliverer of his people, is emphatically called, the Man of Jehovah's right hand. Psalms 80:17 .
Every circumstance related in this transaction, manifests that it was of God. Eglon was overawed at the supposed message from God, so as to arise. His servants were blinded to any thoughts of suspicion, from this visit of an enemy. And the event, in Ehud's safety, until he had escaped beyond the power of seizing him, carries evidence to the same purpose. And lastly, added to all, the destruction of Moab after Eglon's death, plainly testified that the thing was of the Lord. But oh! what a sweet thought is it to the oppressed of the true Israelites, that when the Holy Ghost awakens the cry for mercy, and deliverance, in the hearts of his people, how all things conspire to give sure conquest, in the name and strength of Jesus. That is a sweet scripture to this effect, in which the promise runs, For the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy, now will I arise saith the Lord. Psalms 12:5 .
This Shamgar was the third of the Judges which judged Israel. We have but a short account of him. But even this is as a Deliverer. As he rescued Israel from the Philistines, I am inclined to think the seat of his government lay south, and not to the east, on the banks of Jordan, as the situation of Ehud`s must have been. It is probable that Shamgar's deliverance of Israel was suddenly effected, as the weapon by which he wrought it should seem to intimate. What instruments are too weak when the Lord commissions them! Rams horns can blow down the walls of Jericho, and the foolishness of preaching turn men from darkness to light, when the Lord gives the word. Joshua 6:20 ; 1 Corinthians 1:21 .
MY soul! learn here again, in the history of Israel, how much in all ages the church of God is the same, and how uniformly the Lord is training his people for himself. God leaves his people in the midst of their enemies, to try them, and to prove them. As polished stones, for his temple, they are long preparing, and all the plan of his proceedings towards them, is mercy and goodness. But oh! how very precious is it to see, in Israel's history, how everything pointed to the Lord Jesus. Brought, as the people were, by sin and rebellion, into a state of repeated slavery, God raised up the several judges as their deliverers. But what are Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, compared to him who delivereth his people from the wrath to come, and whose deliverance is everlasting! Look up, m y soul, to Jesus, when the corruptions from within, or foes from without, would bring thee again into bondage; and in the cry of distress and sorrow to the Lord, oh for faith to behold Jesus the sent and sealed of the Father, to drive out thine enemies from before thee, and to make thee more than conqueror through him that loveth thee.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Judges 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25