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Bible Commentaries
Judges 2

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-6


It is often extremely difficult to make out the sequence of a Hebrew narrative, the narrator going back and travelling over the same ground in respect of time which he had already traversed, in order to introduce some circumstances which had been omitted (see Judges 7:25, note, and Judges 7:4, note). This appears to be the ease With this section. The mention of Gilgal in Judges 2:1 seems to point distinctly to the early time of the entrance into Canaan under Joshua, because it was quite in the beginning of the Israelite occupation that the camp was at Gilgal, and it was there that the angel of the Lord spake to Joshua (Joshua 5:9, Joshua 5:10, Joshua 5:13-15). We find the camp still at Gilgal in Joshua 10:9, Joshua 10:43, and it was from the camp at Gilgal that Caleb went forth to his conquest (Joshua 14:6), and also that Ephraim and Manasseh went forth to take their inheritance (chs. 16; 17.); but in Joshua 18:1, Joshua 18:9, Joshua 18:10 we find Shiloh, in the hill country of Ephraim, the place of the national gathering of "the host," and the tabernacle pitched there; and the same in Joshua 19:51; Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:9, Joshua 22:12. Josephus tells us that Joshua moved his camp from Gilgal to Shiloh in the hill country at the close of the fifth year ('J.A.' 5. 1.19). This ascent of the angel from Gilgal in the plains of Jericho to Bochim in the hill country would seem, therefore, to have been about the beginning of the sixth year of the occupation of Canaan, and the rebuke in it to apply chiefly to Ephraim and Manasseh, though in part to Judah also. The place of this section chronologically would be between verse 29 and verse 30 of ch. 1. It should be noticed also that this section is very closely connected with Joshua 24:1-33.; for, first, Judges 2:6 is identical With Joshua 24:28, and the verses that follow Judges 2:6 are also identical With those that follow Joshua 24:28. It is likely, therefore, that what immediately precedes Judges 2:6 should be very closely connected With what immediately precedes Joshua 24:28, and should relate to the same time. Now the discourse of Joshua (Joshua 24:1-15) is only an expansion of the brief address of the angel in Judges 2:1-3. The expostulation about the strange gods in Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:23, is in exact accordance with the complaint of the angel in Judges 2:2; and the warm protestation of the people, "We will serve the Lord," in Joshua 24:18, Joshua 24:21, Joshua 24:24, is in full accordance with what is said Judges 2:4 : "The people lifted up their voice, and wept." Again, the mention in Joshua 24:1 of the people presenting themselves "before God," and of "the sanctuary of the Lord" (Joshua 24:26), agrees with what is said Judges 2:5 : "They sacrificed there unto the Lord." And lastly, the somewhat mysterious words in Joshua 24:27, "This stone … hath heard all the words of the Lord which he hath spoken to us," would have an easy solution if the message of the angel (Judges 2:1-8) had been spoken before it. The inference is that Joshua's address in Joshua 24:1-33. was delivered immediately after the transaction recorded in this section.

Judges 2:1

An angel of the Lord. Rather, the angel of the Lord, i.e. the angel of his presence, whose message consequently is delivered as if the Lord himself were speaking (see Genesis 16:7, Genesis 16:9, Genesis 16:11, etc.). A good example of the difference between a message delivered by a prophet and one delivered by the angel of the Lord may be seen by comparing Judges 6:8 with Judges 6:11-16. Bochim, i.e. weepers (Judges 6:4, Judges 6:5). The site is unknown, but it was probably near Shiloh. The phrase "came up" denotes that it was in the hill country.

Judges 2:3

I said, i.e. I now declare to you my resolve. It was this that made the people weep. Thorns in your sides. This is not a translation of the Hebrew text, which only has "for sides," but a partial adaptation of Joshua 23:13, where the phrase is "scourges in your sides and thorns in your eyes." Either the words for "scourges in" have fallen out of the text, or the word here rendered "sides" should be rendered, as some think, "enemies." A snare. See Judges 8:27, note.

Judges 2:5

They sacrificed. A clear intimation that they were near Shiloh, where the tabernacle was.

Judges 2:6

And when Joshua, etc. The same words as Joshua 22:6, marking the identity of time.


Judges 2:1-6

The expostulation.

We have here an extraordinary messenger, the angel of the Lord, but the message is one which in its spirit might be addressed to men at any time, and at any place. For it speaks of God's flowing mercy arrested by man's stubbornness. "I made you to go up out of Egypt—I have brought you into the promised land. I have faithfully kept my covenant, but you have altogether failed to do your part. Ye have not obeyed my voice." The one requirement of God that, when they took possession of the land, they should make no league with its inhabitants, but should throw down their abominable altars, they had neglected to fulfil. They had thought of their own interest and convenience, and not of the honour of God. They had taken God's earthly gifts, but had rejected his word. They bad shown themselves to be self-seekers, greedy, carnal, and forgetful of him from whom they had all. It was the old story of self slipping into the place of God—self as the supposed giver, and self as the person for whose glory the gift was to be used. "My power and the might of mine hand bath gotten me this wealth," and therefore I will use it to my own ends. "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" This is the spirit that is constantly slipping in, in a greater or less degree, even in the Church of God. and frustrating the purposes of his unbounded grace. For it is just as in the case of Israel. When they used the gift of Canaan not for God's purposes but for their own, which were quite contrary to God's—for God's purpose was the extirpation of idolatry; their purpose was the enjoyment of vineyards which they had not planted, and wells which they. had not digged—they at once closed up the fountain of God's grace. "I will not drive them out from before you; they shall be as thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare unto you." And their future history was the history of the fulfilment of this threat. So it was in the history of the Church. The grace of God bestowed in such rich abundance upon the early Church at Pentecost and afterwards, that those who named the name of Christ might be patterns to an evil world of love and purity and unselfish service, was soon stayed and checked by strife and discord, by worldly ambitions, by compromises with sin, and by fellowship with the corruptions of heathenism. So too it is with individual Christians. We check God's grace by not using it to the full; we hinder his mercy by not appropriating it, and not valuing it; we stop the flow of his good-will to us by setting up the objects of our own carnal desires and pursuing them, while we neglect the things which make for the glory of God. And just as the entire conquest of the Canaanites was not stopped by any deficiency of power in Almighty God, nor by any failure in love or faithfulness on his part, but simply by the sin of Israel, so now we may be quite,; sure that there is an infinite fulness of grace in Christ Jesus for all the Church's needs, and all the spiritual wants of each individual disciple, if only the hindrances of man's selfish disobedience are taken away, and an open channel is kept for God's free mercy to flow unimpeded in its gracious course. But, be it ever remembered, the disobedience to God's word, whatever it be, must be taken away. It is not enough to lift up the voice and weep over the consequences of sin past; it is not enough to sacrifice unto the Lord in hopes of averting his threatened punishments; there must be an entire return to the path of obedience, to walk with a whole heart in the way of God's commandments, and to obey his voice. For that is the end for which God bestows his grace "Elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Let the Church, let the individual disciple, throw themselves unreservedly into this path of obedience, and God will fulfil in them all the good pleasure of his goodness, and their peace shall flow like a river.


Judges 2:1-5


Who this "angel of the Lord" was we do not, probably were not meant to, know. He might have been Phinehas, the same who, according to Rabbinical interpreters, was the mouth-piece of Jehovah after the death of Joshua (verse 1). But the probabilities are decidedly against such a supposition. It is "an angel," or messenger. At any rate the personality of the messenger (surely no celestial visitant, else why the journey and apparently public discourse?) is kept in the background. He is nothing, a mere "voice," but a voice giving utterance to Israel's consciousness of offending, and addressing and rousing it. The mere circumstance that he came from Gilgal, the first spot touched by Israel in Canaan, gave significance to his message. Bochim was probably at Shiloh, the appointed meeting-place of the tribes.

I. A PLACE OF SOLEMN RECOLLECTION AND RE-STATEMENT. Shiloh, the place of Israel's worship and sacrifice, is also the place of Israel's repentance. A name, Bochim, is given to it. "They named the place from their tears." So the house of God becomes the monument and memorial of our deepest religious experiences. No new revelation is here made. The simple facts of the Divine deliverance of the people, their perfidy and faithlessness, are recited; in contrast with which God's steadfastness is mentioned. The foundation article of the covenant is rehearsed, and the question asked, "Why have ye done this?" And then the connection of their punishment with their sin is set forth.

II. A PLACE OF INQUIRY, REMONSTRANCE, AND SORROWFUL APPEAL. The tone of this address is sympathetic and yet severe. The question, "Why have ye done this?" suggests to the people how foolish and profitless their conduct has been. How fitting would such a question be to many sinners of to-day. We too have broken plain precepts and sinned against the light of truth. What reason has there been in the conduct of God, in the nature of the duties neglected, or in the advantages we supposed we should secure? An appeal to conscience like this is of infinitely more value than a speculative disquisition. He is a true angel who bears such a message.

III. A PLACE OF REPENTANCE. Israel is invited to change its mind. God is solicitous for its repentance. He has sent "an angel" to produce this result. The tears that flow so freely are precious in his sight, and may avail, if followed up, to recover his favour and to reinstate them in their lost possessions. How great a privilege was this; not that it was a place of tears only, but that it might become a place of repentance, a turning-point in Israel's history. This Esau found not, though he sought it carefully with tears. Let it therefore be seized as a blissful augury that God wills not the death of a sinner, hut that all men may turn to him and live. Such experiences are not to be artificially produced. A faithful recalling of God's real dealings with us in the past ought to make tears flow from the most hardened of sinners. But let the next step be taken, and beyond the tears, even beyond the ostentatious sacrifice, let reformation commence at once with his help and blessing. Then shall we have reason to recall our tears with gratitude when we discover that our repentance is not to he repented of.—M.


Judges 2:1-5

The preaching of repentance.


1. A special messenger is sent to preach repentance. There are men whose peculiar gifts and position mark them out as called to this difficult work, e.g. Elijah, John the Baptist, Savonarola, John Knox.

2. This man was sent by God. It needs a Divine call and inspiration to speak rightly to men of their sins as well as to preach the gospel of peace. He who is thus called must not shrink from fear or false kindness to men.

3. The preacher is simply commissioned to convey a message from God. The voice is a man's, but the words are God's. The true preacher must always regard himself as the messenger of God, not at liberty to indulge in his own speculations, or to claim authority for his own judgment, but simply to declare, and interpret, and apply, the truth which God has entrusted to him (1 Timothy 1:11).

4. The preacher carries the message to the people. He does not wait for an audience to assemble about him; he does not wait for a spontaneous repentance. He journeys from Gilgal to Bochim. They who most need the preacher are least likely to come to hear him. Therefore he must go after them. The visitor, the city missionary, etc; have here a special work to reach those who will never enter the church, but all preachers of repentance must learn to seek their hearers.


1. This commences with a review of God's goodness and faithfulness. If we have been sinful he has still been merciful to us. He has kept his side of the great covenant, so that if we miss the good fruits of it this must be because we fail on our side. It is well to call attention to these facts before pointing out the sin of men,

(1) that this may be felt more deeply in contrast with the goodness of God,

(2) that the purpose of God in calling to repentance may be recognised as gracious, not vindictive (Romans 2:4).

2. The message contains a definite charge of sin. This must be definite to be effective. All admit they are imperfect. The difficult and delicate task of rebuking consists in making men see their special guilt in regard to particular sins.

(1) In the present case the sin consists in guilty tolerance of evil. Religion should be aggressive. The Church is called to separate herself from the world (1 Corinthians 5:11).

(2) The root of the sin is disobedience. All sin is disobedience to the written law, or the law in our hearts; it is the setting up of our will against God's will.

3. The message closes with a warning of punishment. This punishment was to be a direct consequence of their tolerance of evil. Punishment is a natural fruit of sin.

III. THE RESULTS. We see the preaching of repentance producing the most varied results. Some turn a deaf ear; some hear and resent it; some hear and approve, but apply the message to others; some hear and admit the truth of the rebuke, but have no feeling of the sting of it; some feel sorrow under the rebuke, but do not rise to the active repentance of will. In the present instance the people heard meekly, humbly, and penitently, and the word bore fruit in genuine repentance and reformation.

1. They wept. Sorrow for past sin is natural and helpful towards future amendment, though if left to itself it will be a barren sentiment.

2. They sacrificed. Thus they acknowledged guilt, sought forgiveness in the mercy of God, and reconsecrated themselves to his service. It is not repentance, but faith in Christ, the sacrifice for sin, following this, that secures to us God's forgiving mercy.

3. They served the Lord. This is the final outcome, and certain proof of genuine repentance. The depth of our repentance must be measured not by the number of tears we shed, but by the thoroughness of our amendment of life, and the faithfulness of our subsequent service of God (Luke 3:11).—A.

Verses 7-13


Judges 2:7

And the people served, etc. This verse is the epitome of the religious history of Israel from the time of the expostulation of the angel till the dying off of all those who had been elders in the time of Joshua. It probably includes some forty or fifty years from the entrance into Canaan, viz; about thirty years of Joshua's lifetime, and ten, fifteen, or twenty years after Joshua's death. The record of the people's continuance in the service of the Lord connects itself with the promise made by them in Joshua 24:21, Joshua 24:24. All the great works, etc. Scarcely those prior to the crossing of the Jordan, though some might remember some of the events in the wilderness when they were mere children (Numbers 14:31), but the victories in Canaan.

Judges 2:7-9

These three verses are identical with Joshua 24:29-31, except that the order is slightly varied.

Judges 2:8

An hundred and ten years old. Caleb was eighty-five years old, he tells us (Joshua 14:10), when he went to take possession of Hebron, forty-five years after the spies had searched Canaan from Kadesh-Barnea, and consequently some time in the seventh year of the entrance into Canaan. Joshua was probably within a year or two his contemporary.

Judges 2:9

Timnath-heres. Probably, though not certainly, the modern Tibneh, six miles from Jifna. It is called in Joshua 19:50 and Joshua 24:30 Timnath-serah, the letters of which are identical, but the order is inverted. Timnath-heres is probably the right form. It means "The portion of the Sun." We have Mount Heres in Judges 1:35, near Ajalon. Ir-shemesh (city of the sun) and Beth-shemesh (house of the sun) are other instances of places called from the sun. Some have supposed some connection between the name Timnath-heres, as Joshua's inheritance, and the miracle of the sun standing still upon Gibeon at the word of Joshua (Joshua 10:12, Joshua 10:13). The neighbourhood of Timnath-heres to Ajalon (Judges 1:35) may give some countenance to this. The hill Gaash is only elsewhere mentioned as the birthplace of Hiddai or Hurai (2 Samuel 23:30; 1 Chronicles 11:32), but the exact site is unknown.

Judges 2:10

Which know not the Lord, etc. The memory of God's great works gradually faded away, and with this memory their influence upon the hearts of the people. The seductions of idolatry and the influence of heathen example were ever fresh and powerful. Had the people obeyed the voice of the Lord, the idolatry and the idolaters would have been out of the way. We may notice by the way the value to the Church of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in keeping alive a perpetual memory of Christ's precious death until his coming again.

Judges 2:12

They forsook the Lord, etc. Here again there is a manifest allusion to Joshua 24:16, Joshua 24:17.

Judges 2:13

Baal and Ashtaroth. Ashtaroth is the plural of Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians (1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33), just as Baalim (Judges 2:11) is the plural of Baal. The many images of Baal and Ashtoreth are, in the opinion of some, indicated by the plural; but others think that different modifications or impersonations of the god and goddess are indicated. Thus we read of Baal-berith, the god who presides over covenants; Baal-zebul, or Zebub, the god who presides over flies, who could either send or remove a plague of flies, and so on. "Baal (lord or master) was the supreme male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations, as Ashtoreth (perhaps the star, the planet Venus) was their supreme female divinity. Baal and Ashtoreth are frequently coupled together. Many Phoenician names—Hannibal, Asdrubal, Adherbal, Belus, etc.—are derived from Baal."


Judges 2:7-13


Joshua holds a distinguished place among the worthies of the Old Testament. As the faithful minister of Moses, as the servant of God, as the bold and believing spy, as the successor of Moses, as the captain of the hosts of Israel, as the conqueror of Canaan, as the type of the Lord Jesus, whose name he bore, he stands in at least the second rank of the great men of the sacred history. But in nothing is he more conspicuously great than in the INFLUENCE which he exercised upon others by his authority and example. We learn in this section that his weight and influence with the Israelitish nation was such that for a period of not much less than half a century it sufficed to keep the fickle people steadfast in their allegiance to the God of their fathers. By his own influence while he lived, and after his death by the influence of those whom he had trained during his lifetime, the contagion of idolatry was checked, and the service of God maintained. It is not all great men who have this faculty of influencing others, but it is a most invaluable one.


(1) Force of character. There must be a firm and steady will, moving always in the orbit of duty, and propelled by inflexible principle, in those who are to influence others.

(2) There must be also a quick discernment, a sound judgment which makes few or no mistakes, and a high range of morals and of intellect.

(3) There must be a lofty courage to cope with difficulties without flinching, to inspire confidence, and to break down obstacles.

(4) There must be unselfishness, and a noble, generous purpose soaring high above petty worldly objects, so as to provoke no rivalries and to excite no suspicions.

(5) There must be the qualities which attach men—kindness, geniality of disposition, fairness, considerateness, love; and the qualities which excite admiration, and make it a pleasure and an honour to follow him that has them.

(6) There must be an absence of vanity and self-conceit and love of praise, and a genuine simplicity of aim.

(7) And above all, to make a man's influence strong and lasting, there must be in him the true fear and love of God, and the conscious endeavour to promote his glory in everything. Joshua seems to have possessed all these in a high degree, and his influence was in proportion. That he not only possessed but actively exerted this influence for good we see by his address to the people recorded in Joshua 24:1-33. And this perhaps should make us add,

(8) as one more quality necessary in those who are to influence others largely, that moral courage which makes a man speak out boldly what he knows to be true for the express purpose of persuading and guiding others.

II. While, however, influence on the scale in which Joshua exercised it can be possessed by few, EVERY CHRISTIAN MAN OR WOMAN, whatever may be their station, CAN AND OUGHT TO BE EXERCISING A HEALTHY INFLUENCE IN THEIR OWN IMMEDIATE CIRCLE. The light of a genuine Christian life is a light which will make itself seen wherever it shines. In the home, be it palace or cottage, in the village street, in the town court, in the shop, in the factory, in the camp, in the ship, in the social circle, be it humble or be it exalted, be it rude or be it refined, be it unlettered or be it literary and scientific, the influence of a pure, humble, vigorous, devout Christian life must be felt. It must be a power wherever it is. The object of these remarks is to stimulate the reader to desire and to endeavour to exercise such an influence for good, and to supply a motive for checking any action, or course of action, which may weaken or impede such influence. An outbreak of temper, a single grasping or unscrupulous action, a single step in the path of selfishness, or uncharitable disregard of another's feelings or interests, may undo the effect of many good words and good works. A conscientious desire to influence others for their good and for God's glory will supply a strong motive for watchful care to give offence in nothing.

III. But this section supplies an important caution to those who are influenced. When Joshua and the elders were dead, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. THEY HAD NO selbständigkeit, NO INDEPENDENT STRENGTH, NO POWER TO STAND FIRM BY THEMSELVES. Their religion, their good conduct, depended upon another. He was the buttress that supported them; when the buttress was taken away they fell. Hence the caution not to trust in mere influence, but to look well to the foundations of our own faith. The influence of another man is no substitute for a converted heart, and for soundness in faith and love. St. Paul well knew the difference in some of his followers when he was present and when he was absent, and so would have their faith stand not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. It behoves us all to take care of our real principles of action, to examine ourselves, to prove our own selves, whether we be in the faith, whether Christ be really formed in us, whether we are seeking only to please those who have influence over us, or to please God. Else that may happen to us which happened to the Israelites, our upright Christian walk will last as long as we have the support of the good and strong, and no longer. We shall serve the Lord for a while only, and end by serving Baalim and Ashtaroth. The sober Christian life will be exchanged for folly and dissipation, and the pure creed degenerate into superstition or unbelief.


Judges 2:6-13

The force of personal testimony and influence.

These verses are an explanation of how the evils came about which Israel deplored at Bochim. They explain, too, the fact that idolatry had not yet made much way amongst the people. "They described the whole period in which the people were submissive to the word of God, although removed from under the direct guidance of Joshua. The people were faithful when left to themselves by Joshua, faithful after his death, faithful still in the days of the elders who outlived Joshua. That whole generation which had seen the mighty deeds which attended the conquest of Canaan stood firm. Our passage says, 'for they had seen,' whereas Joshua 24:31 says, 'they had known.' 'To see' is mere definite than 'to know.' The facts of history may be known as the acts of God without being witnessed and experienced. But this generation had stood in the midst of events; the movements of the conflict and its results were still present in their memories" (Cassel). A new generation arises which "knows not Jehovah, nor yet the works which he had done." The "elders"—Joshua and his contemporaries—did this service; not only were they themselves faithful to God, but they kept alive the recollection of his mighty deeds and the national piety of Israel.

I. TESTIMONY IS OF GREATEST EFFECT WHEN IT IS THAT OF THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN AND KNOWN. St. John makes this claim for himself and his fellow apostles (1 John 1:1), and even St. Paul declares that Christ was manifested to him also as unto one that was born out of due time. It is a law of our nature upon which this proceeds. The nearer we are to our own personal experience, other things being equal, the more are we impressed with the reality of events. It was as if the people themselves had seen the miracles of the exodus when they had still amongst them Joshua and the elders. This advantage may be realised by Christians to-day, The gospel facts must become a real experience in the heart of him who would seek to influence others. By faith it may be so. We too may see our Saviour face to face. The preacher's vivid realisation of the supernatural and the Divine often exercises an overwhelming effect upon the hearer; whereas, on the other hand, to speak of our Saviour and his works as if we were telling an idle tale is to expose ourselves to certain failure. A Church that could relive the heroisms of the cross would be irresistible.

II. IT RECEIVES FRESH CONFIRMATION IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE WITNESSES. They were holy men. They lived in the constant remembrance of those awe-inspiring scenes. This was the most effective way of conveying to others their own impression and enthusiasm. Witness like this is within reach of all, and does not require scholarship to make it possible.

III. DEATH AND TIME ARE THE GREAT IMPAIRERS OF THIS INFLUENCE. With each good man who dies a witness disappears. The further we get in years from the actual scenes of miraculous power, the less effect are they calculated to produce. But the word of God liveth and endureth for ever, and God repeats spiritually the sigmas and mighty acts of his salvation in the experience of every true believer.—M.


Judges 2:11-13

Israel's apostasy.

The repeated apostasy of Israel and the consequences of it furnish the ever-recurring theme of the darker pages of the Book of Judges. It may be well, therefore, to look at the subject generally, apart from special instances.


1. It consisted in forsaking God. All sin begins here, because while we live near to him it is impossible for us to love and follow evil. If we cannot serve God and mammon, so long as we are faithful to God we shall be safe from the idolatry of worldliness. The guilt of forsaking God is great because it involves

(1) disobedience to our Father,

(2) ingratitude to our Benefactor,

(3) the fall from devotion to the Highest to lower pursuits.

2. This apostasy consisted in the worship of other gods. The shrine of the heart cannot long be empty. Man is a religious being, and he will have some religion; if not the highest and purest, then some lower form of worship. We must have a master, a God.

3. There was nothing inventive in the apostasy of Israel. The people only worshipped the old deities of the native population. They who give up Christianity for supposed novel forms of religion generally find themselves landed in some old-world superstition.

4. The guilt of the apostasy was aggravated by the character of the worship into which the people fell. This was

(1) false—the worship of supposed gods which possessed no Divine power;

(2) materialistic—the worship of idols in place of the unseen spiritual God; and

(3) immoral—the worship of impure deities with impure rites.


1. Defective education. So long as Joshua and his contemporary elders lived the people remained faithful. Apostasy arose in a new "generation which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel." But if the former generation had trained its children aright they would not have been thus ignorant. The Church should feel the supreme importance of the religious education of the young. Her continued existence depends on this. Children do not inherit their father's religion by natural succession. They must be trained in it.

2. Circumstances of ease. While the people were surrounded with the perils of the wilderness they displayed a moral heroism which melted beneath the sun of peaceful prosperity. Worldly comfort brings a great inducement to religious negligence.

3. Tolerance of evil. The earlier generation had failed to extirpate the idolatry of Canaan, and now this becomes a snare to the later generation. Indifference and indolence in regard to the wickedness which is around us is certain to open the door of temptation to our children, if not to ourselves.

4. The worldly attractions of the lower life. The service of God involves high spiritual efforts, purity of life, self-sacrifice, and difficult tasks (Joshua 24:19). The service of the world is more agreeable to the pleasures of sense and selfishness. Regarded from the low ground of sense and with the short sight of worldly wisdom, it is easier to worship Baal than to worship the Eternal.—A.

Verses 14-23


Judges 2:14, Judges 2:15

The anger of the Lord, etc. These verses contain an awful view of the wrath of God excited by wilful sin, and are a practical illustration of Exodus 20:5 : "I am a jealous God." Compare Psalms 79:5, which shows how closely allied the notions of anger and jealousy are in Hebrew. He sold them. A forcible expression, implying the handing over of the people into the hands of their enemies, as if God had no more any property in them or concern about them; as if he said, "Ye are not my people, and I am not your God;" as if he said to the heathen, "Take them, and do as you will with them; they are yours, not mine" (see Leviticus 26:1-46. and Deuteronomy 28:1-68.). As the Lord had sworn, etc; showing that God fulfilled his threatenings as well as his promises.

Judges 2:16

Raised up judges. Hence the name of this book, which recites the names and exploits of those whom God raised up to deliver them out of the hand of their enemies. The title Judges (Hebrew, shophetim) is, as is well known, identical with the Carthagenian suffetes. Mark the riches of God's mercy.

Judges 2:22

To walk therein. The Hebrew has in them. Probably for way we should read ways, as Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12, etc. This verse does not seem to be part of what the Lord said, but to be the comment of the writer. The A.V.—that through them I may prove—inserts an I which is not in the original. Deuteronomy 10:22 depends upon verse 23. The literal rendering is, For the sake of proving Israel, etc.... the Lord left those nations. The writer, after rehearsing the Lord's reason for not completing the extirpation of the nations after the death of Joshua, adds the further information why they had not been delivered into Joshua's hand in his lifetime (cf. Joshua 3:1, Joshua 3:4). In Exodus 23:29, Exodus 23:30; Deuteronomy 7:22, an additional reason is given for the gradual extirpation of the Canaanites—"lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee."


Judges 2:14-23

The goodness and severity of God.

To know God as he is relatively to man—not as the absolute, which is impossible to be known, but such as he is relatively to man—is the highest of all knowledge which man can attain, and the most important for him to possess. Accordingly, one main purpose of revelation is to give us such knowledge. And this is given in two ways. One is by descriptions of God's character, as, e.g; that in Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7 : "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children," etc. The other is by the authentic record of God's acts, specially in the gift of his only begotten Son to be the Saviour of the world, and in the Saviour's work as related in the Gospels, and also generally in his providential dealings with his people Israel, as set forth in the Old Testament. Of the latter method the Book of Judges, of which this section is an epitome, is a striking and instructive specimen. In it we have represented to us in vivid colours two characteristic features of the mind of God.

I. GOD'S HATRED OF SIN. With the usual anthropomorphism of Holy Scripture, we are told that when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, they "provoked the Lord to anger." "The anger of the Lord was hot "against them," it is twice repeated, and "his hand was against them for evil." Here, then, we see God's hatred of sin. And if God is infinitely good and holy, and if he knows the full misery that sin has brought into his creation, with what other sentiment can he regard sin but with that of hatred and indignation? Sin excites a holy anger in his mind, and his hand must be stretched out to punish and to check. If we reflect calmly, we must see that both of these are inevitable. God must look upon sin with displeasure, and he must ACT upon that displeasure. Evil must excite displeasure in one that is perfectly good; and in the moral Governor of the universe such displeasure cannot be quiescent and impotent, it must be active and effective. Reason teaches us so, and revelation sanctions, enlarges, and enforces the lesson.

II. GOD'S EXCEEDING AND TENDER MERCY. TO use the same anthropomorphism as before, we see God ever relenting, ever yearning over the miseries of his people, ever repenting of the evil that he had brought upon them, when he heard their groanings, ever forgetting their provocations and offences, and stepping forward to deliver them. It is impossible to have mercy, forgiveness, benevolence, and love, depicted in more vivid colours. Anything more remote from the idea of a vindictive, hard, unforgiving nature it is impossible to conceive. And when we go on to inquire what are the conditions in man which, so to speak, draw out these not opposite, but different sides of the Divine character, we find that it is against persistent sin that the wrath of God burns, and upon which his heavy hand falls to smite; and that it is to the contrite and penitent who forsake their sins that his quick and willing mercy is extended. And then a little further reflection seems to show that just as in nature different forces are found ultimately to resolve themselves into one common force, so these two attributes of God, hatred of sin, and mercy, may really be expressed by one term—goodness, or love. Goodness or love relatively to persistent sin is righteous punishment; relatively to penitent sorrow it is mercy and forgiveness. And the reason of this is plain. Sin involves the misery of all who are subject to it, and of all God's creation, if it is suffered to continue and grow in it. It must therefore be the part of a good and loving God to extirpate sin, and that doubtless is the purpose of punishment, which is only another way of saying that punishment is remedial: remedial, if possible, to the being punished, that is, if it brings him to repentance; but anyhow remedial to creation, which in the continued punishment of the impenitent sees the evil of sin, and avoids it. The further doctrine of the ATONEMENT does not arise here, but it may just be observed how entirely it agrees with what we see here of God's character, since in it, as made by the death of the only begotten Son upon the cross, the two attributes of hatred of sin, and ineffable mercy, stand out with marvellous force and brightness. We conclude then that while mercy is goodness acting towards those who are not beyond the reach of goodness, severity is goodness acting with a view as far as possible to the happiness of the whole creation. And we see in the atonement a provision of infinite wisdom, by which the risk of injury to the many by mercy to the few is removed and done away with, and by which the severity and the mercy infinitely enhance and magnify each other. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. Other important lessons of the DEADLY FRUIT OF SIN, and of the INVETERATE PERVERSENESS OF MAN, recurring to sin again and again, in spite of bitter experience, like a moth flying into the candle, and of the BARRIERS which man's stubborn disobedience sets up against the coming in of all the good things which God's love had prepared for him, flow spontaneously from the narrative in this section. So also does the lesson of the use of trouble as THE TRIAL OF FAITH (1 Peter 1:7) and the test of obedience. In fact it opens a large and comprehensive chapter on the providential government of the Church and of the world.


Judges 2:14-18

Mercy is the midst of judgment.

As the sin of Israel continues and multiplies, the anger of the Lord waxes hot. As the misery of his people deepens, his compassions fail not. There is no contradiction in this. The mercy of God is not a weakness, it is the minister and honourer of his law. The judges, who represented the mercy of God, by whom they were raised up in faithless times, were also witnesses of his righteousness, and living embodiments of his kingdom amongst men.

I. THE MERCY OF GOD DOES NOT CONSIST IN ALTERING THE LAWS OF HIS KINGDOM, BUT IN LEADING MEN TO CONFORM MORE PERFECTLY TO THEM. The covenant is still felt as a living power even when it is ignored. The evils foretold come to pass, and in ever-increasing force. But God pursues a plan of restoration. This plan is never one of destruction or reversal. Not one jot or tittle of the law has to pass in order that the gospel may have effect. God seeks to change the hearts of his erring children, and by the punitive operation of the laws of his kingdom to make them loyal subjects. The law that curses will also, when obeyed, be found to bless. The judges were a continuous witness to righteousness and protest against sin, and by the prestige of their mighty acts and the constant influence of their lives they led men back again to God and goodness. They were the embodiments of his mercy.

II. THE VICTORIES OF SIN ARE NEVER CONSIDERED BY HIM AS IRREVERSIBLE. It was said in praise of English soldiers that they did rot know when they were beaten. How much truer is this of God and his people! The most appalling apostasy has not daunted our Heavenly Father, or driven him utterly away from his world. "Where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound." Some of the best of men and most comforting of doctrines were born in ages of spiritual darkness. He has never left himself without a witness. The course of revelation is never stopped. The succession of prophets, apostles, and martyrs is never interrupted. The servants of God in Old Testament times might be driven away or destroyed, but they, being dead, yet speak, and in the fulness of time he sends his Son; he, too, may be crucified, but nevertheless the Father will send the Comforter in his name. And so in the individual life this law will be found to operate. The darkest conscience has not been without its light.

III. ON THE WHOLE THE SPIRITUAL GAINS OVER THE CARNAL IN THE PROGRESS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD AMONGST MEN. One judge passes away and another rises. The apostasies which they have to correct may become darker and more terrible; but greater deeds are forthcoming. The testimony is more and more emphatic. The principles of God's kingdom are illustrated and honoured, and Israel gradually emancipated from its ignorance and inexperience.—M.


Judges 2:21, Judges 2:22

Tested by temptation.

The pagan nations of Canaan were a.constant source of temptation to idolatry and immorality. If they were left in the land, the fidelity of Israel would be tried by the way in which this temptation was met.

I. TEMPTATION IS NOT IMMEDIATELY SENT BY GOD, Israel had been commanded to expel the Canaanites; it was owing to the indolence and weakness of the invaders that their work was not completed. Having failed on their side, they now find that God will no longer secure them victory over their enemies. The temptation which thus resulted from the presence of the heathen in their midst grew out of their own conduct. God never tempts us (James 1:13). Temptation often arises out of negligence, indolence, needless pleasure, wilful presumption. It is vain to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," while we are creating temptations for ourselves.


1. It frequently comes as the consequence of former sin. The memory of sin, the contracted habit of sin, the associations of sin, and the weakness resulting from sin are all sources of new temptation.

2. Temptation is one of the most painful consequences of sin. If we have any love for goodness, one of the saddest results of our sin must be the consciousness of new temptations to which it renders us liable. For a good man to suffer temptation is to suffer pain.

3. We must therefore con-elude that all the temptations we meet with are not unavoidable and necessary. We bring them on ourselves; we might have escaped them; they are dangerous calamities which we must deplore. We need not wish to be tried. If temptation is often a punishment, it is better to rest humbly ignorant of our own weakness than to court trial which will reveal the extent of it.

III. TEMPTATION IS USED BY GOD AS A TEST OF FIDELITY. The people of Israel would be proved by the temptation arising out of the presence of immoral idolaters in the midst of them.

1. Fidelity consists

(1) in care and firmness,"to keep the way of the Lord,"—and

(2) in diligence and progressive activity—"to walk therein."

2. This fidelity is tested by the attractions of evil ways. We cannot be said to keep the way simply because we are found in it. But when the way is contested, or a more pleasing path opens out near to it, the strength of our fidelity will be put to the test. Some men need the test of temptation more than others. If they have already shown weakness, the punishment which comes in the form of a temptation may be a useful means of self-revelation. This need of proof, however, is a humiliation. It is better to be so clearly true as neither to invoke the punishment of temptation nor require the test it affords.—A.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Judges 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/judges-2.html. 1897.
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