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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Judges 2

Verse 1

CHAP. II.

Joshua being dead, the Israelites revolt to strange gods: are oppressed by the Canaanites, and weep, being rebuked by an angel: God afterwards sendeth them judges, who subdue the Canaanites; but after their death the Israelites return to their wickedness, and are punished.

Before Christ 1432.

Judges 2:1. And an angel of the Lord This should be rendered, and the angel of the Lord; for it is plain beyond all controversy, from the context, that this angel was the great messenger of the covenant, the same who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and concerning whom we have spoken so often in the foregoing notes. He came up from Gilgal to Bochim. Probably he had made his first appearance at Gilgal, and had there communicated to some persons of distinction his commission. Bochim, doubtless, means the same as Shiloh. The reason of the former name is given in Judges 2:5.

REFLECTIONS.—Such a glaring violation of the divine command as they had committed in their treatment of the Canaanites could not fail of a divine rebuke. Accordingly, when they were assembled, probably at one of the solemn feasts at Shiloh, God sends them a solemn message.

1. The person who brought it is called an angel of the Lord, the glorious angel of the covenant, the eternal Redeemer, Jesus the Son of God, who speaks in his own name. He came from Gilgal, in some glorious manner probably, which attracted their notice, and was the same person who had before appeared there to Joshua as the captain of the Lord's hosts.
His expostulation with them is sharp and pointed. He reminds them of his mercies in bringing them from Egypt; of his gracious covenant, which on his part had been, and would have been for ever, if they had been faithful, punctually fulfilled. He mentions the reasonable expectations he had, that they should comply with his orders in erasing every monument of idolatry, and utterly destroying the people. In direct opposition to which, they had spared the Canaanites, and connived at their worship; for all which they were without excuse. Therefore, as the just punishment of such neglect and disobedience, God will stay the current of their victories; will make those very sinners whom they have spared their scourge, and leave them to follow those gods whose altars they refused to destroy. Note; (1.) Sinners are without excuse. (2.) They who expect advantage from friendship with the enemies of God will be utterly deceived. (3.) Those corruptions to which we allow the lowest measure of indulgence will soon gain strength, and quickly prove our conquerors. (4.) They, who offend God by one sin, provoke him to give them up to a greater.

3. Struck with the alarming message, and confounded by the presence of their Lord, the tears of penitential sorrow burst from their eyes. They cried aloud for mercy, that they might avert the judgments which were threatened; offered sacrifices, that, by the blood of atonement they might obtain pardon of their sin; and called the name of the place Bochim, weepers, to perpetuate the memory of their humiliations. Note; (1.) They, who have felt the bitterness of sin, are no strangers to the tears of penitence. (2.) When God's word makes the heart tremble, there is hope; for to that man will God look. (3.) The sins that we lament we must reform, else our repentance will be hypocrisy. Many melt under the terrors of God's word, who quickly return to their iniquities, as the dog to his vomit. (4.) Not all our tears are available to wash away our sins; the blood of the Lamb which was slain is alone able to make us pure from our iniquity.

Verses 6-9

Judges 2:6-9. And when Joshua had let the people go This is an important passage, and by some interpreters misunderstood; they have fancied, that in it the historian continues the relation of what had happened since the death of Joshua: upon this foundation, Houbigant conceives that there is a transposition; and accordingly he begins this chapter with Judges 2:6-10, following them with Judges 2:1-5, and then goes on with Judges 2:11; an alteration, for which, says Mr. Chais, there appears no necessity: the series of the chapter evidently destroys the supposition above advanced. The sacred writer, having just related the reproaches delivered by the angel of the Lord against the Israelites, would now shew his readers how and when the nation had incurred those reproaches. To this end, he carries the matter as far back as possible; and first he ascends to that happy period when, Joshua having finished the division of the conquered country of the Canaanites, the Israelites went each to his inheritance and possessed it, and dwelt in the portion of the land which had fallen to his lot. This division was, in fact, the immediate work of Providence. Lots were cast before the Lord; he had presided over them, and, without doubt, Joshua, who had used such fine exhortations to the two tribes and a half beyond Jordan, when they set out to take possession of their territories, failed not strongly to recommend religion and obedience to the other tribes, on settling them in the lands which had been assigned to them; which he repeated before his death in the most affecting manner. See on Joshua 24:0. All of them therefore, equally instructed, and impressed with gratitude, had entered upon their estates with intentions promising a constant fidelity. But the love of this world seduced them: they soon thought only of their private interest, how to extend and aggrandize themselves; and, speedily losing sight of the public good, shamefully neglected the sacred duties of religion. To make this more clear, it would be better to read the beginning of the 6th verse thus: Now when Joshua had let, &c.

Verse 10

Judges 2:10. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers The sacred writer means evidently to speak not only of those of the Israelites who had seen the works of God in Egypt, and in the wilderness, but those also who had seen the Jordan crossed over with dry feet, the walls of Jericho overthrown with the sound of the trumpet, the sun stopped at the command of Joshua, &c.; prodigies, the impression of which had powerfully attached them to the service of the Lord, and with them bound to him their cotemporaries. The generation immediately following that of Joshua was of quite another character than the foregoing. Solely occupied with the care of settling themselves, of building houses, planting vineyards, and improving their estates, these new Israelites were little, if at all, engaged in the care of knowing the Lord, or studying his religion. Not having been eye-witnesses of the wonders which the great God had wrought to deliver the nation, or to facilitate its conquest of the land of Canaan, they paid them but a superficial attention. We see them without scruple form the closest connections with the Canaanites, whom they had orders to destroy. In the midst of peace, prosperity intoxicated their hearts. It is commonly thus: the Greeks and Romans, each in their turn, fatally experienced the like. Happy the people who are never reduced to the disgraceful necessity of applying to themselves the words of the famous Latin poet: the evils we suffer are the fruit of a long peace! Juven. Sat. 6: ver. 2:293.

Verse 11

Judges 2:11. And served Baalim The objects of false worship were called by the general name Baalim, or Lords; and indeed, as St. Paul remarks, the Pagans had gods many and lords many; the first and chief of which, and from whom the rest seem to have derived this name, was Baal, or the Lord, the Sun; as Ashtaroth, or Astarte, seems to have been the Moon; worshipped in different countries under the names Juno, and Venus, Judges 2:13.; see Selden de Diis Syr. et Vossius de Orig. et Prog. Idol. The reason why the Israelites so often lapsed into idolatry may easily be deduced from the common notion of tutelary deities, which they had imbibed during their residence in Egypt, the fruitful parent of idolatry. One generally-received opinion was, that the peculiar or tutelar deity of any country could not be neglected without impiety, and that this impiety would certainly meet with punishment from the deity who was thus neglected. The Israelites therefore, unwilling to expose themselves to the vengeance which the tutelary deity was supposed to take on those who, inhabiting his land, yet slighted his worship; unwilling likewise to leave their paternal God, they incorporated the worship of both; and served not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but likewise the Baalim, or local tutelary deities of the countries wherein they were settled. In process of time, this weakness increased to such a degree, that the rights of the tutelary deity were acknowledged to be superior to those of the gentilitial god of the conquerors. This might arise from the common opinion, that the favours of the local deity were particularly attached and confined to one certain spot; or from an apprehension of the strength of the inhabitants among whom they were settled, who, would not have endured to have their God slighted, without vindicating his honour, and endeavouring to extirpate the offenders. This piece of complaisance and condescension the Israelites seem to have been guilty of, when they are said "to have forsaken the Lord God of their fathers, and to have followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them." Their defection from the God of Israel did not, however, consist in rejecting Him as a false god, or in renouncing the law of Moses as a false religion; but only in joining foreign worship and idolatrous ceremonies to the ritual of the true God. The bias to the idolatries of Canaan was, a prevailing principle, that the tutelary god of the place should be worshipped by its inhabitants; and their motive for all other idolatries, a vain expectation of good from the guardian gods of famous and happy nations. Div. Leg. vol. 4: p. 44.

Verse 18

Judges 2:18. For it repented the Lord, because of their groanings That is, the Lord acted as men do when they repent; he changed his conduct towards them. Seeing them afflicted for their offences, and returning to duty, he heard their voice, ch. Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15.; He broke their chains, and restored them to liberty. See Genesis 6:6.

Verse 21

Judges 2:21. I also will not henceforth drive out We have in these verses the great reason why the Lord did not wholly extirpate the people of Canaan. They were suffered to remain, in punishment of his people's infidelity and disobedience, and to prove and exercise their faith in future.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here, 50: A recapitulation of what was mentioned before concerning the death and burial of Joshua, and the piety which was preserved in Israel during his life and the lives of the elders who survived him, who had seen God's almighty works. Note; The life and power of religion have seldom flourished in one place for more than one generation at a time.

2. The generation which afore after the elders were dead, greatly declined from their godly walk and conversation. They forgot the good instructions delivered to them, and, yielding themselves up to the indulgence of their appetites in that land of plenty, neglected God's worship, and, strange to tell! with base ingratitude, impious perfidy, and blind stupidity, went a whoring after dumb idols, and worshipped Baalam and Ashtaroth, the male and female deities of their wretched neighbours, the sun and the moon, and the hosts of heaven. Note; (1.) Forgetfulness of God is the door at which every abomination enters. (2.) Nobody knows how brutish in sin he may become, if once given up to his own heart's lusts.

3. The anger of God was justly provoked by such abominations committed by a people so favoured. In just judgment, therefore, he gave them up into their enemies' hand; every where they were vanquished by those whom they had before enslaved, and forced to fly from those of whom one Israelite had chased a thousand. Thus spoiled, oppressed, and insulted by the meanest of the surrounding nations, they were distressed beyond measure, without power to help, or strength to relieve themselves. Note; (1.) They, who sell themselves to work wickedness, will find their plague in their sin. (2.) They who forsake God have only themselves to blame for the miseries which ensue.

4. In their state of helpless wretchedness God pitied them. Their groaning, though not so much the cry of sorrow for sin, as of anguish for suffering, came before him, and he repented him of the evil. Soon he changed his dispensations towards them; and, though he might justly have left them to perish in their iniquities, yet, as beloved for the father's sake, and for purposes of his own glory, he raised them up judges, men extraordinarily qualified to deliver them from their oppressors, and recover them from their backslidings. With these God vouchsafed his presence, blessing their labours, and giving success to their undertakings. Note; (1.) In the Church's great distress and degeneracy, God does usually raise up some teachers eminently qualified, and as eminently zealous for his service, and the salvation of men's souls. (2.) Whom God calls to his work, he will distinguish with his blessing.

5. Many, it should seem the most of them, under mercies as well as judgments, continued as impenitent as ever: even during the administration of the judges they were refractory, would not hearken to their reproofs, nor be guided by their counsels; and if, for a moment, they seemed to relent, they turned quickly again to their old evil ways. Their reformation vanished as the early cloud, and as the morning dew. At farthest, at the judge's death the nation with a general revolt returned to their former abominations, and grew worse and worse, more deeply sunk in idolatry, which is spiritual adultery, and more brutish and barbarous in the worship of their strange gods. Note; (1.) They, who are not converted by the word of God, are hardened under it. (2.) They, who apostatize from the profession of religion that they have made, usually grow more abandoned than any others.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 2". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/judges-2.html. 1801-1803.