Judges 1 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Judges 1
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers




Late Dean of Canterbury.




Name of the Book.—The English name Judges” corresponds with the Hebrew Shophetim, as with the Greek Kritaí, and the Latin Liber judicum. A similar magistracy (suffetes) existed among the Phœnicians. Officers of this title are mentioned in Numbers 25:5, Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:18, &c., but they were only appointed for subordinate civil functions, whereas the judges whose history is recorded in this book were chiefly summoned to their great work by Divine appointment (Judges 3:15; Judges 4:6; Judges 6:12, &c.), and were “deliverers” from foreign bondage (Judges 3:9; Judges 18:28) rather than civil rulers. (See note on Judges 2:16.) In fact, the very necessity for their call and their deeds arose from the anarchy which rendered all ordinary functions unavailing against the prevalent corruption and misery. The most remarkable of their number were national heroes rather than civil or religious guides.

Plan.—The Book of Judges falls into five well-marked sections, namely:—

I. GENERAL INTRODUCTION (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5).—In the note on Judges 1:1 reasons will be given for believing that this section is entirely retrospective. It furnishes a sketch of the imperfect conquest of the land previous to the death of Joshua, in order to show the want of faithfulness and obedience which was the cause of all subsequent troubles. It ends with the solemn reproach addressed by God’s messenger to the assembled people at Bochim.

II. SECOND INTRODUCTION (Judges 2:6 to Judges 3:6).—It is the object of this section to show that the neglect which had begun before the great conqueror passed away continued after his death, and that it was the cause of deep religious degeneracy. The people even sank into idolatry, and provoked the Divine retribution, from which they were delivered by successive judges. In spite of this, they constantly relapsed when the judgment was removed. In this section the moral purpose of the book is most distinctly sketched in outline. It shows that the presence of the Canaanites and the revival of their dominion were alike the cause and the consequence of the troubles of Israel, while, at the same time, God was so far from having utterly forsaken His people that even their sins and sufferings were made to subserve the purposes of their Divine education, and were overruled for their ultimate advantage. (See Judges 2:22; Judges 3:1-4.)

III. MAIN SECTION OF THE BOOK (Judges 3:7 to Judges 16:31).—This section contains notices of the history of twelve judges. The heroic deeds of six of these deliverers are related in detail, and six are mentioned with brief allusion. The episode of Abimelech’s usurpation is given at length, partly perhaps—as in the later story of Eli—to point the lesson of the perils which result from imperfect paternal control, but mainly to warn the people of the perilous and abortive character of a royalty unsanctioned by Jehovah (Deuteronomy 17:15).

The sub-sections are:—

1. The servitude to Cushan-rishathaim, and the judgeship of Othniel (Judges 3:5-11).

2. The servitude to Eglon, and the deliverance wrought by Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). Brief reference to Shamgar (Judges 3:31).

3. The servitude to Jabin, and the deliverance wrought by Deborah and Barak (Judges 4, 5).

4. The oppression of the Midianites, and the deliverance wrought by Gideon (Judges 6-8). Episode of Abimelech, the bramble-king (Judges 9). Brief notices of Tola and Jair (Judges 10:1-5).

5. The oppression of the Ammonites, and the deliverance wrought by Jephthah (Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:13), with the sequel of Jephthah’s history (Judges 11:34 to Judges 12:7). Brief notices of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (Judges 12:8-15).

6. The servitude to the Philistines, and the deeds of Samson (Judges 13-16).

IV. APPENDIX I.—The story of Micah’s idolatry; of Jonathan, grandson of Moses; and of the conquest of Laish by the Danites (Judges 17, 18).

V. APPENDIX II.—The story of the deed of Gibeah, and the vengeance inflicted on Benjamin, with the means taken to save that tribe from extirpation.

It is clear that the Book of Judges is formed on one general plan, because it is intended to illustrate definite moral facts, and to narrate the providence of God as shown continuously in a long series of different events. The arrangement is not strictly chronological, for (as will be seen by the notes on Judges 17-21) the appendices belong to an epoch antecedent to the earliest judge. Nor, again, is the arrangement intended to be geographical, for the earlier notices of the book refer mainly to the south of Palestine; the story of Deborah takes us to the north, and that of Gideon to the central region; that of Jephthah to the west, and that of Samson once more to the south. Three of the chief judges—Othniel, Ehud, Samson—were southrons; two—Barak, Gideon—belong to the north; one—Jephthah—to western Palestine.

Unity.—The subordination of all the incidents of the history to the inculcation of definite religious lessons shows that the book, in its present form, was arranged by one person. On the other hand, it is nearly certain that he performed the functions of a compiler rather than those of author. For it seems clear that he not only consulted various sources of information, but that he actually incorporated several documents, such as the words of the Divine messenger at Bochim (Judges 2:1-5), the song of Deborah (Judges 5), the parable of Jotham (Judges 9:8-16), and various traditional fragments of Samson’s festive words (Judges 14:14; Judges 15:16). But further than this, the style points to the conclusion that the body of the book (Judges 3:7 to Judges 16:31) is not by the same author as the appendices (Judges 16, 17, 18-21), and that the author of these two memorable narratives is the same as the author of the preface (Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 3:6). The preface and appendices, referring as they do to the same epoch, present special points of view, and abound in identical phrases, which are not found in the main narrative. Thus Judah (Judges 1, Judges 20:18) and places in Judah (Bethlehem, Jerusalem) are prominent in these sections, and are hardly alluded to in the rest of the book; the migration of Dan is also touched upon in both these sections (Judges 1:34; Judges 1:18). The general aspect of society and government is also alike in both sections (Judges 1:1-2; Judges 2:4; Judges 20:26-28), and both allude to the twelve tribes (Judges 1:1-36; Judges 19:29; Judges 20:1; Judges 21:3). For resemblance of phrases, compare Judges 1:8; Judges 20:48; Judges 1:21; Judges 19:30; Judges 1:12; Judges 21:14; Judges 1:1; Judges 20:23; Judges 1:23; Judges 18:2; Judges 1:11, &c., Judges 18:29. (See note on Judges 1:1.) In the appendices “judges” are not once mentioned; while the characteristic phrase which occurs again and again, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25), is not once used in the body of the book. On the other hand, the characteristic phrases of the main narrative, “The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel . . . and He sold them into the hands of their enemies” (Judges 2:14; Judges 3:8; Judges 4:2; Judges 10:7), and “The Spirit of the Lord came upon” (Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14), do not occur in the other parts.[16]

[16] See Ewald, 1:186, seq.

We are, therefore, naturally led to infer that the main section of the book is a homogeneous narrative, which has, however, been compiled with a free incorporation of older documents; and that the two prefaces and two appendices, which come from a different hand, were added to it, with the Book of Ruth as a third appendix, by some early editor, or perhaps by the author himself. The efforts to trace parallel Jehovistic and Elohistic documents, even in the history of Gideon, much more in other parts of the book, fail to establish any probable result.

Date.—The freshness, vividness, and minuteness of the details with which some of the stories of the judges abound show that the writer was in possession of almost contemporaneous records, or had access to very early traditions. There is an Homeric plainness in the description of many of the events, as well as in the clear delineation of the leading characters. The character and the circumstance of each hero are completely different from those of all the rest. Ehud first acts independently, and then arms the people; Barak stands at the head of a confederacy; Gideon at first only invites the aid of his immediate neighbours; Jeph-thah is a chief of freebooters; Abimelech avails himself of Canaanite jealousies against Israel, and Ephraimite jealousies against Manasseh; Samson only engages in a series of personal adventures. Local traditions and records have evidently been utilised. The style is inimitably graphic in its very simplicity. We smile at the grim humour which alludes to the “fatness” of Eglon and his Moabites; we hear the shrill accents of the daughter of Caleb; we see the very flash of Ehud’s dagger; even the rough jests of Samson, and the trenchant irony of the Danites, and the shadows cast by the troops of Abimelech, and the female vanity of the ladies of Sisera’s harem are, with many other minute incidents, immortalised in a few strokes. Again, the picture of the manners prevalent at the epoch described is such as could not have been delineated so naturally at a later period. In its primitive hospitality, its awful degradation, and its terrible savagery, it recalls some of the earliest annals of the Scripture history. (Comp. Judges 6:19 with Genesis 18:1-8; Judges 6:21 with Genesis 15:17; Judges 19 with Genesis 19; Judges 8:16; Judges 9:38 with Genesis 34, &c.)

But while there can be no doubt as to the antiquity of the documents utilised by the writer, it is not so easy to determine with precision the date at which the book was drawn up in its present form. The phrase “to this day” (Judges 1:21; Judges 19:30) shows that some years must have elapsed since the events recorded. That the appendices could not have been written earlier than the reign of Saul is clear from their constant formula: “In that day there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6, &c.). On the other hand, the absence of any allusion to the exploits of David confirms the decisive inference, suggested by Judges 1:21, that the book existed, in part at any rate, before his days; for in Judges 1:21, as well as in Judges 19:10-12, Jerusalem is still called Jebus, and is regarded as a city of the Canaanites, and as nominally belonging to Benjamin (Judges 1:21). The attempts to connect Judges 1:27-29 with events in the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 4:7-19; 1 Kings 9:16) are entirely futile. On the other hand, the expression in Judges 18:30, “until the captivity of the land,” would bring the date of the redaction of the book down to a very late period, if that phrase certainly referred to either the Assyrian or the Babylonian captivity. But even if we do not accept the very slight change in two Hebrew letters which will make it mean “to the captivity of the ark” (see note on Judges 18:30-31), it seems almost demonstrable that the allusion may be to that Philistine invasion which culminated in the massacre at Shiloh, of which the terrible incidents are preserved for us in Psalm 78:60-65. In Judges 21:12 we find the expression “Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan,” and this, too, has been pressed into an indication that the book is not earlier than the time of the exile. It is much more obvious to explain it by way of contrast to Jabesh-gilead, which was on the other side of Jordan; or possibly the phrase may point to the circumstance that after the sack and massacre of Shiloh the very site of the place seems to have sunk into an oblivion from which it has never since emerged. But if these phrases are of later origin, the evidences of antiquity which confront us on every page of this book would lead to the conclusion that a few expressions were merely added by way of glosses in the final edition of the sacred canon by Ezra and his school. The expressions and sentiments which are common to the Book of Judges, with the other historical books (see 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 13:20; 2 Kings 2:17; 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 12:20; 2 Kings 17:20; 2 Kings 21:15; 2 Kings 22:14; and especially comp. Judges 2:11-23 with 2 Kings 17:7-23, and Judges 2:1-3 with 2 Kings 17:35-39), may easily have been borrowed by the later from the earlier writers. The pure Hebrew of the Book of Judges is far too untainted with Chaldaisms and modernisms to allow any probability to the theory of its late authorship. Its many isolated expressions (hapax legomena, Judges 1:15; Judges 3:22; Judges 4:4-19; Judges 5:10-28; Judges 15:8; Judges 18:7) show the use of ancient records, and the Aramaisms which have been pointed out (e.g., the prefix שׁ in Judges 5:7; Judges 6:17, and expressions in Judges 17:2; Judges 19:1, &c), since they occur in those parts which are incontestably the oldest, are now generally admitted to be poetic forms, and forms peculiar to the idiom of Northern Palestine.

The general conclusion, then, as to the date of the book in its earlier shape is that it was compiled in the reign of Saul; and if there was any recorder (mazkir) in his primitive court, as there subsequently was at the court of David (2 Samuel 8:16), these histories might have been drawn up from older sources by such an officer; or possibly even by the Prophet Samuel (see below). With this would agree very well the almost unbroken silence respecting Judah (which would otherwise be inexplicable); the prominence of Gibeah and of Benjamin, with the narrative which explained why it was “the smallest of the tribes” (1 Samuel 9:21), and the tone of hostility towards Ephraim (Judges 8, 11, 12). With this hypothesis would also agree the absolutely unsacerdotal character of the book. In David’s reign the priesthood rose into great prominence and activity, whereas in the days of the judges and of Saul it seems to have sunk to the very nadir of inefficiency and neglect. Not once in the main narrative of the Book of Judges are priests appealed to. After Phinehas, they did not furnish one national hero from their ranks; nor did they once strike a blow for freedom or religion. The Levites shared in their decadence. The name of the wandering Levite of Bethlehem-Judah (Judges 19) has already been forgotten; and the other Levite, though no less a person than a grandson of Moses himself (see note on Judges 18:30), is content to serve a shrine of private idolatry for the reward of a few shillings a year.

The Author.—We have already seen sufficient to dispose of the fancy that the book was written by Ezra, although it is quite possible that he or his school may have added some trivial explanatory touches here and there. De Wette has entirely refuted[17] the conjecture of Stahelin that it is by the same author as the Book of Deuteronomy. Nor could it have been written by the author of the Book of Joshua, because it differs from that book not only in style, but in the two marked particulars that it barely makes any allusion to the Mosaic law, and that it abounds in moral utterances of a character which are not found in the previous book. The Rabbis generally follow the conjecture of the Talmud (Baba Bathra, f. 14, b) that it was written by the prophet Samuel. That is a sufficiently obvious conjecture; and though it can neither be proved nor disproved, it accords with many of the facts. From what we know of the character of Samuel, even in what seem to us to be its more dubious or less enlightened features, we see that there is a moral affinity between his views and those expressed in the Book of Judges. The man who so greatly disliked the establishment of royalty (1 Samuel 8) may well have written the story of Abimelech. The man who commanded the extermination of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3) was in that stage of as yet imperfect enlightenment (Matthew 5:38) which would have viewed without reprobation the vengeance inflicted by Israel on his enemies. The man who hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal (1 Samuel 15:33) would have felt no difficulty in commending the deeds of Ehud, of Jael, and of Gideon. The book may have been drawn up by him, or in the school of the prophets of which he was the founder. That he was well acquainted with the incidents of this period we see from his appeal to them in his speech to the people (1 Samuel 12:11). The mention of “Bedan” with Jerubbaal, Jephthah, and Samson[18] in this verse has always been a source of perplexity. The notion that Bedan can mean Samson, as though it were “in Dan,” is now abandoned. Perhaps “Barak” (as in the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic) is the true reading; but if “Bedan” be a corruption for “Abdon,” it would point to the possession on Samuel’s part of many particulars respecting the judges which are now quite lost to us.

[17] Einleitung, p. 142.

[18] In 1 Samuel 12:11 “Samson,” not Samuel, is the much more probable reading of the Peshito.

There are other allusions to the judges in 2 Samuel 11:21; Psalm 78:56-64; Psalm 83:7-11; Psalm 106:34-45; Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26; Hosea 10:9; Nehemiah 9:25-31.

Chronology.—The chronology of the Book of Judges offers immense difficulties, and the difficulties are increased by the uncertainties which affect both the reading and interpretation of the passages which bear upon it.

The elements of decision are briefly as follows:—

I. If the stories of the judges are taken to be consecutive, and the periods of forty or eighty years’ rest (Judges 3:11; Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28) are supposed to be stated accurately, and not in round numbers, then, adding up the separate totals, we get:—

Servitude under Cushan

8 years

Judges 3:8

Rest under Othniel

40 years

Judges 3:11

Servitude under Moab

18 years

Judges 3:14

Rest under Ehud

80 years

Judges 3:30

Servitude under Jabin

20 years

Judges 4:3

Rest under Deborah and Barak

40 years

Judges 5:31

Oppression of the Midianites

7 years

Judges 6:1

Rest under Gideon

40 years

Judges 8:28

Tyranny of Abimelech

3 years

Judges 9:22

Judgeship of Tola

23 years

Judges 10:2

Judgeship of Jair

22 years

Judges 10:3

Oppression of the Ammonites

18 years

Judges 10:8

Judgeship of Jephthah

6 years

Judges 12:7

Judgeship of Ibzan

7 years

Judges 12:9

Judgeship of Elon

19 years

Judges 12:11

Judgeship of Abdon

8 years

Judges 12:14

Oppression of the Philistines

40 years

Judges 13:1

Judgeship of Samson

20 years

Judges 15:20

410 years.

If to this 410 years we add 40 years for Saul’s reign, and 40 years for David’s, we get 490 years; and as (on this principle of consecutiveness) we must allow about 10 years for the events before Cushan’s tyranny (Judges 3:10) began, and 20 for the judgeship of Samuel, and 1 for Shamgar (Judges 3:31), we get at once at the traditional Jewish reckonings, which is the basis of much of our received chronology, and which assigns to the epoch between Joshua and Solomon a period of five centuries, in round numbers twelve generations.

II. In 1 Kings 6:1 we find that Solomon built the Temple “in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of Egypt.” It is doubtful whether the words are genuine, since they are omitted by Origen and other Fathers, were unknown to Josephus, and furnish the only Old Testament passage in which an era is taken as a starting-point. If genuine, there is no obvious way of reconciling them with the previous computation, though it has been suggested that “after the children of Israel came out of Egypt” may mean “after their settlement in Canaan.”

III. In Acts 13:20. St. Paul says that “the judges unto Samuel the prophet” occupied a period of 450 years. But here, again, the reading is not certain, and the order of the words seems to have been tampered with.

IV. In Judges 11:20. Jephthah says that Israel had lived in Heshbon and the coasts of Arnon 300 years. Now, doubtless, by a certain amount of ingenuity and manipulation, and by lengthening or curtailing those elements in the reckoning which are not specified—such as the length of Samuel’s judgeship, the interval between Joshua’s death and Cushan’s tyranny, &c.—we may give to these different data sufficient semblance of accordance to look plausible. But it is quite obvious that we can arrive at no certainty, and, in point of fact, scarcely two of the authors who have elaborately gone into the question come to the same conclusion. Further than this, these scattered data have to be reconciled with those which we gather from no less than ten genealogies—those of David, Zadok, Abiathar, Saul, Heman, Ahimoth, Asaph, Etham, Zabad, and the kings of Edom, which are found scattered chiefly in the Books of Chronicles, and of which some are repeated two, three, and even four times. Now it appears from every one of these genealogies, as they have been thoroughly examined by a former Bishop of Bath and Wells,[19] that seven and eight generations are assigned to the period between the conquest of Canaan and the accession of David.[20] The time allowed for a generation is usually thirty years, and this seems to show conclusively that the period covered by the judges was much shorter than that demanded by the received reckoning. For allowing even eight generations, this gives us 240 years, from which we have to subtract for the actual period covered in the Book of Judges, the reign of Saul, the judgeships of Eli and Samuel, and the latter years of Joshua. Now this curtailment of the period, though impossible to reconcile exactly and literally with 1 Kings 6:1, Judges 11:20, and Acts 13:20 (in which, as we have seen, the reading may be wrong), does coincide remarkably with many indications of the Book of Judges itself. There is not the least warrant for supposing that the numbers 40 and 80 are meant to be stated with precision,[21] nor is there anything to bar the very reasonable hypothesis that parts both of the servitudes and the deliverances may have been synchronous in different parts of Israel: so that, for instance, the movements of Ehud, of Barak, and of Gideon may have taken place in the same fifty years. Thus no high priest is recorded in any genealogy or historical references between Phinehas and Eli, and Jewish legend says that Phinehas was deposed for having sanctioned the offering of Jephthah’s daughter. Similarly Boaz, in the Book of Ruth, is the son of Rahab, and the Levite of Judges 17, 18 is a grandson of Moses. By thus curtailing the period of the judges many serious difficulties are avoided, and the uncertain meaning and reading of the passages on which the received chronology is founded cannot for a moment be set against the distinct information derived from such a multitude of genealogies. The subject is, however, still involved in obscurity, as may be seen in the notes on Judges 3:10; Judges 4:2, &c. It is clear that many of the fifty schemes of chronology which have been proposed must be completely mistaken, and we must be content with the general conclusion that the whole period covered some 250 years.

[19] Lord Arthur Hervey, On the Genealogies.

[20] There are five generations between Moses and David in Ruth 4:18; and we may be sure that when there are so many genealogies, and so often repeated, there are no omissions.

[21] Reuss points out the curious circumstance that these round numbers added together—Othniel, 40; Ehud, 80; Jabin, 20; Barak, 40; Gideon, 40; Philistines, 40; Samson, 20—make 280, which is exactly the number required to make 480, if we add the Wanderings, 40; Joshua, 40; Eli, 40; Samuel and Saul, 40; David, 40 = 200(1 Kings 6:1).

Characteristics of the Epoch.—The Book of Judges gives us an insight into a definite and well-marked epoch of Israelitish history, and we shall understand the book and its object better if we summarise the peculiarities of that age. We mark—

I. The deepening disunion between the tribes. While some of them pursued that agricultural mode of life which was specially fostered by the Mosaic institutions, others of them—as Dan, Asher, and the northern tribes—began to engage in navigation and commerce. This may have been one of the tendencies which led each tribe to act more and more as an independent body, while the fierce claim to the leading position advanced by Ephraim (Judges 8, 12) was only partially conceded, and at last entirely rejected. There were even separate towns—like Shechem—that could successfully assert their independence of the body of the nation, and choose their own rulers. Shechem thus stood at the head of a confederacy, like those of the German and Italian towns in the Middle Ages, under the protection of Baal-berith—the lord of the covenant—whose temple also served as a strong fortress (Judges 9).

II. This civil disunion resulted in part from the religious disintegration. There was, indeed, a central sanctuary at Shiloh, but the ark itself was at Bethel; and since in these wild times it became all but impossible to carry out the regulations of the Levitic law—which seems, indeed, to have fallen into absolute abeyance—all sorts of local sanctuaries and high places sprang up. Altars were freely raised at any place hallowed by Divine messages or providences, and the irregular and reprehensible, if not directly idolatrous, cult of ephods and teraphim (Judges 8:27; Judges 18:18) proved to be an irresistible temptation. A nation which had gone so far would be hardly likely to hold out against the manifold seductions and fascinations of the wild forms of nature-worship by which they were on every side surrounded. The sensual temptations of these

“Gay religions, full of pomp and gold,”

could only be effectually resisted by the influence of one religion, firmly established and faithfully obeyed.

III. Another element of degeneracy lay in the extreme depression of the priesthood and Levite-hood. The only priest of whom we hear is Phinehas (Judges 20:28). The grandson of Aaron towers immeasurably above the dreadful degeneracy of Jonathan, the grandson of Moses (Judges 18:30). It is with a positive sense of pity that we witness the pauperism and homelessness into which the near descendant of the great lawgiver had fallen (Judges 17:8-10). If for a mere pittance he could be induced to give his office and his life to the service of a private and semi-idolatrous chapel, we cannot but see that the salt of his order must have lost its savour. The splendid zeal which Phinehas had shown on former occasions (Numbers 25:11; Numbers 31:6; Psalm 106:30; Joshua 22:13) would have led us to expect from him the exertion of an influence which should have rendered impossible the state of degradation which marks the whole story of “the deed of Gibeah.” It is clear, however, that he had sunk into impotence or into apathy. We never hear of him after this time; and it is a mysterious and unexplained circumstance that the next high priest who is mentioned—Eli—does not even belong to the line of Eleazar and Phinehas, but to the younger line of Ithamar. The elder line was only restored to its rights in the reign of David, and in the person of Zadok.

IV. “Like people, like priest.” If the priests and Levites had not abnegated their true functions, the people could hardly have sunk to a moral standpoint so low as that which is involved in the conduct of the tribe of Benjamin, or in Jephthah’s vow; much less into the condition which left unpunished the hideous massacre by Abimelech of his father’s sons. Even Ehud and Samson, though they were redeemed into nobleness by the faith and patriotism which animated their deeds, adopted methods which are regarded by purer ages as deeply reprehensible.

V. Sin is weakness, and the spiritual degeneracy of the people reduced them to that state of feebleness which made them the easy prey of the Canaanites in the north, the Ammonites in the west, the Midianites and Amalekites whose hordes overran the Plain of Jezreel, and the Philistines in the south, who in course of time extended their authority beyond the confines of the tribe of Judah.

VI. And yet, amid all this distress and degeneracy, the sacred fire did not wholly die out from the hearts of the Israelites. Had it been otherwise, these hero-figures could hardly have risen among them, nor could such a burning song as the song of Deborah have been poured forth from the nation’s heart. So many lessons of Divine education could hardly have been in vain. Ten times over in the Book of Judges are repeated the formulæ, “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and each repetition is like the sound of a bell which tolls some approaching ruin. Ten times over recurs the formulæ, “the children of Israel cried unto the Lord,” and each time of its recurrence introduces a breathing-space of deliverance and of hope. As the years sped on, such lessons sank more and more deeply into the hearts of the people, until at last the time was ripe for reunion, the moral guidance of prophets, and the restoration of the national religious life.[22] In the hour of its worst peril and weakness Israel was preserved by the memory of its past, and was being prepared by a loving and guiding Providence for the grandeur of its future.

[22] See note on Judges 3:22.

Moral Characteristics.—In considering the moral characteristics of the Book of Judges. we must distinguish between its general purport and the details of its special narratives.

Its general purport, as the incomplete record of a transitional period, is to illustrate certain broad propositions, which are of the utmost importance to mankind. It is meant to prove that righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people; that evil companionships ruin good dispositions; that moral degeneracy always brings with it national weakness; that the affairs of the chosen people were under the immediate care of Divine Providence; that national sin is never left unpunished; that the punishment which it involves is intended always to be educational, not vindictive; that the retribution is withdrawn when it has produced sincere repentance; that the deliverance never comes from unaided human efforts, but from the strength and enthusiasm inspired by the Spirit of God. These and similar lessons elevate the Book of Judges into the position of a sacred philosophy of history, which clearly explains the laws and the objects of a sacred Nemesis. They are summed up not only in the Book of Judges (especially in Judges 2:11-22), but also in other passages which have been suggested or deeply influenced by its teachings; such as Psalm 106:34-45; 2 Kings 17, 2 Kings 24:2-4; 2 Chronicles 26:11-21; Jeremiah 11:2-10; Nehemiah 9:16-38. The whole book may be regarded as an historical comment on the promises and threatenings of the Book of Deuteronomy.

But when we look from the general lessons to the special deeds even of heroes who were summoned by God’s calling to the work of deliverance, we see abundant traces of the imperfection of that moral enlightenment which God vouchsafed to the chosen people only by slow degrees as the result of ever deepening experiences. Both in its pathos and in its passion, the book is intensely human, and its heroes are the children of their own day, alike in their wrath and their tenderness, their laxity and their superstition. It must be now clear to every Christian that the exterminating wars of Joshua, the fearful and indiscriminate vengeance inflicted by Israel on the offending tribe of Benjamin, the treachery of Ehud and of Jael, the wild revenge of Samson, the blood-vengeance of Gideon, and other events herein narrated, are not to be quoted as examples for modern times. They are entirely alien to the whole drift of all that is best and highest in the moral teaching even of the Old Testament Scriptures, and still more alien to all the teachings of Christ. The view which we take of these actions will be found in the notes; and it will be seen that while no attempt is made to gild with imaginary sanction deeds which in themselves were due to times of ignorance and the passions of men on whose minds the full light had not yet dawned, yet, on the other hand, the faith and the courage by which these old heroes were animated receive their full recognition, and they are judged solely by the standard prevalent in their own age and country. In adopting this line of judgment we follow the example set us by Christ Himself (Matthew 5:38; Matthew 19:8, &c.). We recognise the nobleness and courage of these heroes of faith, while we guard against the dangerous error of admiring their ignorance or consecrating their imperfections.

Among the books consulted in writing the following commentary I may mention Josephus, Antiquities, bk. 5; Rosenmüller’s Scholia; Ewald, Gesch. d. Volkes Israel; Eisenlohr’s Das Volk Israel; Stanley’s Jewish Church and Sinai and Palestine; Reuss, Hist. des Israelites; Bertheau, Das Buch der Richter (Kurzgef. Exeget. Handbuch); Keil and Delitsch; Prof. Cassel in Lange’s Bibelwerk; Lord Arthur Hervey, On the Genealogies, and in the Speaker’s Commentary; Bishop “Wordsworth’s Commentary; Davidson’s Introd. to the Old Testament; articles in Dr. Smith’s Bible Dictionary; Kitto’s Bible Cyclopœdia; Herzog’s Real. Encyclop., &c.


“And concerning the Judges, every one by name, whose heart went not a whoring, nor departed from the Lord, let their memory be blessed. Let their bones flourish out of their place, and let the name of them that were honoured be continued upon their children” (Ecclesiasticus 46:11-12).

“Temporibus Judicum, sicut se habebant peccata populi et misericordia Dei, alternabant prospera et adversa bellorum” (Aug. De Civ. Dei. xvi. 43).

1-8. Wars of Judah and Simeon. Defeat of Adoni-bezek. Temporary capture of Jerusalem. Judges 1:9-10. Judah and Caleb drive the Anakim out of Hebron. Judges 1:11-13. Debir conquered by Othniel. Judges 1:14-15. The request of Achsah. Judges 1:16. Notice of the Kenites. Judges 1:17-20. Further successes of Judah. Judges 1:21. Partial success of Benjamin at Jerusalem. Judges 1:22-26. Ephraim gains Bethel by treachery. Judges 1:27-36. Partial successes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan.

Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?
(1) Now.—The “now” should rather be rendered And, as in Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 1:1, Joshua 1:1, 1 Samuel 1:1, 2 Samuel 1:1, 2 Kings 1:1. The word connects this book with the last, “as a link in the chain of books which relate in unbroken connection the sacred history of the world from the Creation to the Exile” (Bertheau).

Alter the death of Joshua.—In these first words we are met by a difficulty, for there can be little reasonable doubt that most, at any rate, of the events narrated from this verse to Judges 2:5 took place before the death of Joshua, whose death and burial are accordingly mentioned in Judges 2:8-9. For (1) the whole passage (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:5) evidently describes the first movements of the Israelites after their establishment on the western side of the Jordan. (See Joshua 18:1-3; Joshua 21:43; Joshua 22:32; Joshua 24:28.) (2) It is inconceivable that the Israelites should have remained inactive during the long life of Joshua, who attained the age of 110 years. (3) The events in Judges 1:10-36 are evidently identical with those in Joshua 12:9-24; Joshua 12:14; Joshua 12:19 (4) The angel’s message (Judges 2:1-5) and the subsequent notices (6-18) are closely parallel with, and sometimes verbally the same as, those in Joshua 24:24-33. That these should be records of different and yet most closely analogous series of circumstances is all but impossible. Various ways of accounting for the difficulty have been suggested. (1) Some suppose that many events narrated or touched upon in the Book of Joshua (especially Judges 15:14-19; Judges 15:16-17, &c.) are narrated by anticipation. (2) Clericus arbitrarily supplies the words, “After the death of Joshua the Canaanites recovered strength, but in his lifetime the children of Israel.” (3) Schmidt renders the verbs as pluperfects: “It came to pass after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel had consulted Jehovah,” &c. (4) A more recent conjecture is that the name “Joshua” has here crept in by an error of the scribes. If we read, “After the death of Moses,” all becomes clear and coherent; and if the book, in its original form, possibly began at Judges 3:7, with the words, “And it came to pass, after the death of Joshua, that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,” &c., the clerical error may have been caused by the addition of prefatory matter to the book at the same time that the appendix (Judges 17-21) was added. It is in favour of the possibility of this suggestion that there are close resemblances between the style and the allusions of the preface, or perhaps we may say of the two prefaces (Judges 1:1 to Judges 2:10; Judges 2:11-23), and the style and allusions of the last five chapters: e.g., in the references to Judah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem (Judges 1:1-21; Judges 1:19; Judges 20:18), Dan (Judges 1:34; Judges 18:1-31) and the Twelve Tribes (passim); the consultations of the Lord by Urim (Judges 1:1-2; Judges 20:26-28); the silence as to the existence of Judges; and the recurrence of various phrases, such as “set on fire,” and “with the edge of the sword” (Judges 1:8; Judges 20:48), “unto this day” (Judges 1:21; Judges 19:30), “give his daughter to wife” (Judges 1:12; Judges 21:1; Judges 21:14; Judges 21:18), &c. (5) On the other hand, the conjecture can only be regarded as possible, since it is not supported by a single MS. or suggested by any ancient commentator. It is perhaps simpler to suppose that the book originally began with the words, “Now after the death of Joshua,” and that this beginning was left unaltered as a general description of the book when the prefatory matter and appendix were attached to it.

The children of Israel.—Mainly, it would seem, the western tribes.

Asked the Lord.—The phrase is peculiar, meaning, literally, enquired in Jehovah (as we find it in the LXX.). The usual construction is “Shaal eth-Jehovah” (“asked the Lord”). This phrase (shaal be) is only found again in. Judges 20:23-27. Rabbi Tanchum (whose commentary on this book has been edited by Schnurrer and Haarbürcker) says that the phrase implies the consultation of Jehovah through the high priest by means of the Urim and Thummim. “To ask of Elohim” occurs in Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18. Similarly in Greek, “to ask God” (Xen. Mem. viii. 3) means to consult an oracle. If the narrative of this chapter be retrospective, the high priest must have been Eleazar, the son of Aaron (Joshua 14:1); if not, it must have been his son Phinehas (Joshua 24:33), as Josephus seems to imply (Jos. Antt. v. 2, § 1). On this method of inquiring of God, in the absence of any authoritative declaration on the part of a prophet, see Numbers 27:21, Joshua 9:14. On the Urim and Thummim, which was not the jewelled “breastplate of judgment,” but something which was put “in it,” see Exodus 28:30. It is probably useless to inquire as to the method by which the will of God was revealed by the Urim and Thummim. The words mean “lights and perfections,” or something closely resembling those conceptions. The Rabbis were themselves ignorant as to the exact nature of the Urim and Thummim, and the mode in which they were used. One favourite theory is that adopted by Milton, when he speaks of Aaron’s breastplate as having been “ardent with gems oracular.” It identifies the Urim with the twelve gems, and supposes that the answers of God were spelt out by a mystic light which gleamed over these gems. But not to dwell on the fact that the names of the tribes did not contain all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, this explanation is not consistent with the distinction made between the breastplate which was on the ephod, and the Urim and Thummim that were placed inside it (Exodus 28:30). Another theory supposes that the mind of the high priest was abstracted from earthly things by gazing on the gems until the will of God was revealed to him. A third regards the Urim and Thummim as cut and uncut gems, kept in the folds of the breastplate, and used almost like lots. These are but theories, and in all probability the exact truth, which has now been forgotten for thousands of years, will never be discovered.

Who shall go up for us . . .?—At the solemn investiture of Joshua, as the successor of Moses, Moses is directed to “set him before Eleazar the priest,” who was “to ask consent for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in” (Numbers 27:18-21).

And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.
(2) The Lord said.—The answer is given to the priest by the Urim, and he announces it to the people.

Judah shall go up.—The phrase go up” is used in a military sense (Joshua 6:5). The question had not been, “Who shall be our leader?” but, “Which tribe shall fight first?” The reason why Judah is chosen is from the eminence and power of the tribe, which was also the most numerous at both of the censuses taken in the wilderness (Numbers 1:26; Numbers 26:19-22). Jacob’s blessing on the tribe had been, “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies” (Genesis 49:8). (Comp. Numbers 34:19; Joshua 15:1.) In the arrangement of the camp, Judah was stationed at the east, with Issachar and Zebulon, and always started first on the march (Numbers 2:3-9), with its lion-standard, which was a symbol of its lion-courage (Genesis 49:9; Revelation 5:5). The same answer is given by Urim in Judges 20:18.

And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.
(3) Unto Simeon his brother.—Both Judah and Simeon were sons of Leah. It was natural that the two tribes should help one another, because their lots were conterminous; indeed, the lot of the Simeonites is said to lie “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (Joshua 19:1), and was given them “out of the portion of the children of Judah” (ib., Judges 1:9), because a larger territory had been assigned to the tribe of Judah than it required. The tribe of Simeon was remarkable for its fierce valour (1 Chronicles 4:24-43), of which we find a trace even in Judith, who belonged to that tribe (Judith 9:2). It would, however, have been helpless without the assistance of Judah; for we see from a comparison of the first with the second census in the Desert that Simeon had decreased in strength from 59,300 to 22,200. This fearful diminution seems to have been due to the plague, which may have fallen most heavily on them from their greater guilt, as we may infer from the shamelessness of their prince Zimri (Numbers 25:14; Numbers 1:23; Numbers 26:14). Hence the tribe is omitted in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33). They seem to have melted away among the nomad tribes of the south, but we see them showing a last flash of vitality in the days of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:41).

Into my loti.e., into the territory assigned me by lot (“Croesus devasted the lots (klerous) of the Syrians” (Herod. i. 76). The lots of Judah and Simeon fell within two lines drawn to the Mediterranean from the northern and southern extremities of the Dead Sea (Joshua 15).

And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.
(4) And Judah went up.—Under the leadership of Caleb (Joshua 14:6).

The Canaanites and the Perizzites.—See Genesis 13:7; Genesis 34:30. The former seem to have been lowlanders—“by the sea and by the coast of Jordan” (Numbers 13:29), “on the east and on the west” (Joshua 11:3; Joshua 17:16). The Perizzites were the mountain and forest tribes (Joshua 11:3; Joshua 17:15). Their antiquity and importance appear from the allusions to them in Genesis 13:7; Genesis 34:30; 1 Kings 9:20; 2 Esdras 1:21. The name itself seems to imply “open villages” (1 Samuel 6:18; Deuteronomy 3:5), and may imply that they were agriculturists. The name does not occur in the genealogy of nations in Genesis 10

In Bezek.—The name means lightning.” There seems to be no adequate reason to distinguish this town from the one mentioned in 1 Samuel 11:8. Saul numbered the people there before his expedition to deliver Jabesh Gilead. At first sight the mention of this town is surprising, for we have no information of any Bezek except the two villages of that name referred to by Eusebius and Jerome, which were seventeen miles from Shechem, and therefore in the lot of Ephraim. It is, however, needless to conjecture that there was another Bezek in the lot of Judah. We must suppose that the two warlike tribes began their conquest by marching into the centre of Palestine to strike a blow at the main stronghold of Canaanitish power. Ewald conjectures that in this expedition they took Shiloh, and refers Genesis 49:8-12 to this fact, rendering “till he come to Shiloh” (Hist. Isr. i. 284, E. Tr.). If this chapter does not refer retrospectively to events which occurred before the death of Joshua, it might well be considered strange that this powerful king is not mentioned among those attacked by the Israelites in Joshua’s lifetime. It is, however, possible, as Ewald suggests, that a new power may have sprung up.

And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
(5) They found.—The expression perhaps alludes to the suddenness of their march, which enabled them to take the lord of Bezek by surprise.

Adoni-bezek.—This is not a proper name, but a title, meaning “lord of Bezek,” as Adoni-zedek, in Joshua 10:1, and perhaps Melchi-zedek, in Genesis 14:18.

They slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.—This seems to refer to a second battle, or perhaps to the slaughter in the city after the battle described in the last verse.

But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
(6) Cut off his thumbs and his great toes.—The cutting off of his thumbs would prevent him from ever again drawing a bow or wielding a sword. Romans who desired to escape conscription cut off their thumbs (Suet. Aug. 24). The cutting off of his great toes would deprive him of that speed which was so essential for an ancient warrior, that “swift-footed” is in Homer the normal epithet of Achilles. Either of these mutilations would be sufficient to rob him of his throne, since ancient races never tolerated a king who had any personal defects. This kind of punishment was not uncommon in ancient days, and it was with the same general object that the Athenians inflicted it on the conquered Æginetans. Mohammed (Koran, Sur. 8:12) ordered the enemies of Islam to be thus punished; and it used to be the ancient German method of punishing poachers (Ælian, Var. Hist. ii. 9). The peculiar appropriateness of the punishment in this instance arose from the Lex talionis, or “law of equivalent punishment,” which Moses had tolerated as the best means to limit the intensity of those blood-feuds (Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21; comp. Judges 15:10-11). which, “because of the hardness of their hearts,” he was unable entirely to abolish.

And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.
(7) Threescore and ten kings.—The number might seem incredible, were it not that the title “king” was freely given to every petty Emir, and even to village Sheykhs. The “seventy” kings may have been the rulers of the towns which Adoni-bezek had taken in extending the territory of Bezek. Josephus says seventy-two kings (Antt. v. 2, § 2), and this common variation is found in some MSS. of the LXX. The Persians treated their Greek captives in this way (Curtius, v. 5,6). Mutilation in the East was so common that it was hardly accounted cruel (Xen. Anab. i. 9-13). Cutting off the hand or foot was the prescribed Mohammedan punishment for theft in British India (Mill, iii. 447), and many mutilated persons are still to be seen in Northern Scinde (see Grote’s Greece, xii. 235).

Gathered their meat under my table.—The words “their meat” are wanting in the original. Adoni-bezek, with cruel insolence, treated these subject Sheykhs like dogs “which eat of the fragments that fall from the table of their lords” (Matthew 15:27). Posidonius says that the king of Parthia used to fling food to his courtiers, who seized it like dogs (Athen. 4:152). The existence of these feuds among the Canaanites would render the task of the Israelites more easy.

As I have done, so God hath requited me.—Comp. Judges 8:19; 1 Samuel 15:33, “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women;” Judges 15:11, “As they (the Philistines) did unto me, so have 1 (Samson) done unto them;” Jeremiah 51:56, “The Lord God of recompences shall surely requite thee;” Exodus 18:11, “For the thing wherein they sinned came upon them.” (See Matthew 7:2; Galatians 6:7; James 2:13.) The word used for God is Elohim. In Greek theology this punishment of like by like is called “the retribution of Neoptolemus,” who murdered Priam at an altar, and was himself murdered at an altar (Pausan. v. 17, 3). The fate of Phalaris, burnt in his own brazen bull (Ovid, De Art. Am. i. 653), and of Dionysius (Ælian, Var. Hist. ix. 8), were also prominent illustrations of the law. We must not suppose that this Canaanite prince worshipped Jehovah, but only that he recognised generally that a Divine retribution had overtaken him. It is one of the commonest facts of history that

“Even-handed justice

Commends the ingredients of the poisoned chalice

To our own lips.”

This truth, “that wherewithal a man sinneth, by the same also shall he be punished,” is magnificently, if somewhat fancifully, worked out in Wisdom 11, 17, 18

They brought him to Jerusalem.—Rabbi Tanchum, author of the celebrated traditional Midrash (or “exposition”), says that this notice must be prospective, i.e., it must refer to a time subsequent to the conquest of Jerusalem mentioned in the next verse. It may, however, merely mean that they kept him with them in their camp when they advanced to the siege of Jerusalem; or the “they” may refer to his own people. The Israelites may have contemptuously spared his life, and suffered him to join his own people, as a living monument of God’s vengeance. In any case the name Jerusalem is used by anticipation, for it seems to have been called Jebus till the days of David. As it is also called Jebusi (i.e., “the Jebusite”) in Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16, probably the name of the town comes from that of the tribe, and the derivation of it is unknown. The meaning “dry” suggested by Ewald is very uncertain.

Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.
(8) Now.—Rather, And.

Had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it.—Our version here most unwarrantably interpolates the word “had,” meaning it perhaps as a sort of explanatory gloss to imply that the conquest took place before the fact mentioned in the last verse. If we are right in supposing that these chapters refer in greater or less detail to events already touched upon in the Book of Joshua, we must then supplement this brief notice by Joshua 12:8-10; Joshua 15:63, from which it appears that though the people of Jerusalem were slaughtered, the king conquered, and the city burnt, yet the Jebusites either secured the citadel (as Josephus implies) or succeeded in recovering the city. In Judges 19:11-12, the city is called Jebus (with the remark, “which is Jerusalem”), and the Levite expressly refuses to enter it, because it is a “city of the Jebusites,” “the city of a stranger.”

With the edge of the sword.—Literally, with the mouth of the sword (Genesis 34:26; Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:28. Comp. Judges 4:15; Judges 20:37). It seems to mean that no quarter was given.

Set the city on fire.—Literally, sent the city into fire, as in Judges 20:48; 2 Kings 8:12; Psalm 74:7. The phrase does not occur elsewhere. And at a later period Josephus tells us that the siege occupied a long time, from the strength of the position (2 Samuel 5:7).

And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.
(9) Went down to fight.—“Went up” is the phrase applied to military expeditions (see Judges 1:2); “went downis the phrase for special battles (1 Samuel 26:10; 1 Samuel 29:4), like the Latin descendere in aciem. No doubt the phrase arose from the custom of always encamping on hills when it was possible to do so.

In the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.—These are three marked regions of Palestine—the “hill-country” (ha-Har, Joshua 9:1), in which were Hebron and Debir (Judges 1:10-11); the south or Negeb (Joshua 15:21), in which were Arad and Zephath; and the valley, or rather low lands (Shephelah, Joshua 11:16; Joshua 15:33), in which were the three Philistian towns of Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron (Judges 1:18). The Har is the central or highland district of Palestine, which runs through the whole length of the country, broken only by the plain of Jezreel. The Negeb, derived from a root which means “dry,” was the region mainly occupied by the tribe of Simeon. The Shephelah, or low maritime plains (of which the root is perhaps also found in Hi-Spalis, Seville—see Stanley, Sin. and Pal. 485), is Palestine proper, i.e., the region of Philistia, the sea-coast south of the Plain of Sharon. In the E.V. the name is sometimes rendered as here, “the valley” (Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 9:1, &c.), sometimes we find it as “the plain” (Obadiah 1:19, &c.), or “the low plains” (1 Chronicles 27:28).

And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.
(10) That dwelt in Hebron.—See Joshua 10:36-37. Hebron is midway between Jerusalem and Beersheba, and twenty miles from either. The first name of the city, which is one of the most ancient in the world (Numbers 13:22), was Mamre (Genesis 13:18), from the name of its chief (Genesis 14:24). It is now called El-Khulîl (“the friend”), from Abraham. It was a city of refuge (Joshua 21:11-13). If the view taken as to the chronology of this chapter is correct, this assault is identical with those touched upon in Joshua 11:21; Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13-14. The LXX. have, “Hebron came forth against Judah.” For later references to Hebron, see Nehemiah 11:25; 1 Maccabees 5:65.

Kirjath-arba.—That is, “the city of Arba.” The word afterwards became archaic and poetical (Psalm 48:2; Isaiah 25:2). All the cities thus named (Kir-jath-huzoth, Kirjath-jearim, &c.) existed before the conquest of Palestine. We find the root in Iskariot (i.e., man of Kerioth, a town in the south of Judah). Arba was the father of Anak (Joshua 15:13; Joshua 14:15), and Fürst interprets the name “hero of Baal.” Some, however, take Arba for the numeral “four,” so that Kirjath-arba would mean Tetrapolis; and connect the name Hebron with the Arabic “Cherbar,” a confederation, “the cities of Hebron” (2 Samuel 2:3).

Sheshai, and Animan, and Talmai.—Possibly the names of three clans of the Anakim (Numbers 13:22-23). The Anakim are connected with the Nephilim—giant races sprung from the union of the sons of God with the daughters of men. Josephus says that giant bones of the race were shown in his day (Antt. v. 2, § 3). They were doubtless the bones of extinct animals, and being taken for human remains might well lead to the conclusion of Josephus, that these giants “had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight.”

And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:
(11) Debir.—See Joshua 15:15; Joshua 15:49. In Joshua 10:38-39, its conquest is assigned to Joshua. The name means “the oracle.” It afterwards became a Levitic town. There seem to have been two other Debirs (Joshua 15:7; Joshua 13:26). This one is identified by Dr. Rosen with Dewirban, near the spring Ain Nunkûr south-west of Hebron.

Kirjath-sepher.—The name is curious and interesting. It means “the city of the book,” and is rendered in the LXX. by “city of letters.” It was also called Kirjath-sannah (Joshua 15:49), which, according to Bochart, means “city of learning.” Perhaps, therefore, we may consider that it was a famous centre of Canaanite culture and worship. All further attempts to explain its three names must be purely conjectural. We may compare with it the name of the Egyptian Byblos (Ewald). The LXX. here fall into mere confusion.

And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
(12) And Caleb said.—See Joshua 15:16. Caleb was a “Kenizzite,” which seems to imply that he was descended from Kenaz, a grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:11). In Numbers 13:6 he is mentioned as being a prince (nasi, or chief, rosh) of the tribe of Judah. He was certainly affiliated to that tribe; but if the name “Caleb” means “dog,” it would seem a very unlikely name for a pure Jew, for I cannot think that the effort to trace a sort of totem system (or naming of tribes from animals) among the ancient Jews (Journ. of Philology, June, 1880) is successful. His father’s name. Je-phunneh, is of uncertain derivation. Fürst and Meier derive Caleb from a root meaning “valiant;” but the peculiarity of the expressions used respecting him in Joshua 15:13; Joshua 14:14, together with certain marked names and features in the genealogies of his family, at least give some probability to the conjecture that he was of foreign origin.

Will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.—Comp. 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:17. So the Messenian hero Aristomenes gave a peasant woman, who had saved his life, in marriage to his son. This story shows the strength and importance of this fastness of the south, which is also proved by the fact that Caleb has to refer to his unbroken strength before he gains permission to win the region by the sword (Joshua 14:11).

And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
(13) Othniel.Joshua 15:15-17. It is here added that he was Caleb’s younger brother. (See Judges 3:9.) The Hebrew may mean either that Othniel was “son of Kenaz and brother of Caleb” (in which case he married his niece); or “son of Kenaz, who was Caleb’s brother” (as in “Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother,” 2 Samuel 13:3), in which case Achsah was his cousin. The Masoretes, to whom is due the punctuation, &c., of our Hebrew Scriptures, show by their pointing that they understood the words in the former sense. But though Ben-kenaz may simply mean Kenezite (Joshua 14:6; Numbers 32:12), it is strange in that case that Othniel should never be called a son of Jephunneh. If he was a brother of Caleb’s, he must have lived to extreme old age, and have been an old man when he married Achsah. For the importance of Caleb’s family, see 1 Chronicles 27:15. The Rabbis identify Othniel with the Jabez who is so abruptly introduced in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, and connect Achsah’s petition with the prayer there recorded; and they suppose that he founded the school of scribes at Jabez (1 Chronicles 2:55), and was a teacher of law to the Kenites.

And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou?
(14) When she came to him.—When she first reached his house as a bride.

She moved him.—He was too modest to ask for himself, and he declined her request; but she will not enter till she has gained her way.

A field.—Rather, the field. In the passage in Joshua 15:18 there is no definite article, but by the time this book was written the field then obtained by Achsah had become historical.

Lighted.—Not merely in sign of reverence (like Rebecca in Genesis 24:64, and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:25), but “leaped off” with eager impetuosity. The Hebrew verb tsanach here used occurs in Judges 4:21, where it is rendered “fastened,” i.e., “drove it firmly by a blow.” The LXX. render it “screamed” or “shouted from the ass;” the Vulg., “sighed as she was sitting on the ass;” but they probably had a different reading. “Suddenly,” says Ewald, “as if some accident had happened to her, she fell from her ass, and on being embraced by her anxious father, she adjured him as if in words of inspiration” (Hist. Isr. ii. 366).

What wilt thou?—Caleb was unable to understand her conduct in refusing to enter the house of her bridegroom.

And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.
(15) A blessingi.e., “a present” (Genesis 33:11).

A south land.—The word also means “a dry and barren land” (Psalm 126:4). The LXX. read “hast given me (in marriage) into a south land.”

Springs of water.—In thus asking for the fertile land which lay at the foot of the mountain slope, she showed herself at once more provident and less bashful than her husband.

The upper springs and the nether springs.—The word here rendered springs” is gulloth, i.e., “bubblings.” Probably the district for which she asked was called “the upper Gulloth” and “the lower Gulloth,” just as we have “the upper and the nether Beth-horon” (Beit-ur el-foka and el-tahti). The addition of “the deep green glen” to the arid mountain tract of Debir enormously increased the value of her portion. “The source of this incident,” says Dean Stanley, “was first discovered by Dr. Rosen. . . . The word gulloth well applies to this beautiful rivulet. The spots are now called Ain-Nunkûr and Dewîr-ban, about one hour south-west of Hebron. Underneath the hill on which Debir stood is a deep valley, rich with verdure from a copious rivulet, which, rising at the crest of the glen, falls with a continuity unusual in Judean hills down to its lowest depth” (Jewish Church, ii. 264, and Sin. Palest., p. 165. Mr. Wilton, in his Negeb, p. 16, identifies it with Kurnuil). Othniel had a son, Hathath (1 Chronicles 4:13), and his posterity continued to late times (Judith 6:15).

And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.
(16) The children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law.—It is difficult to disentangle the names Jethro, Reuel, or Raguel, and Hobab (Judges 4:11); but in my article on Jethro in Kitto’s Bible Cyclopœdia I have shown that Jethro and Reuel are identical, the latter name (“friend of God”) being his local title as a priest of Midian; and that he was the father of Zipporah and Hobab. When Jethro refused to stay with the Israelites (Exodus 18:27), Hobab consented to accompany them as their hybeer or caravan-guide. He is well known in the Mohammedan legends as Schocib, but is confounded with Jethro.

The Kenites were the elder branch of the tribe of Midianites. They lived in the rocky district on the shores of the gulf of Akabah (Numbers 21:1; Numbers 24:21; 1 Samuel 15:6). They seem to have been named from a chieftain Kain (Genesis 15:19; Numbers 24:22; Heb., where there is a play on Kenite and Kinneka, “thy rest”). They were originally a race of troglodytes or cave-dwellers. The Targum constantly reads Salmaa for Kenite, because the Kenites were identified with the Kinim of 1 Chronicles 2:55. Jethro, they say. was a Kenite, who gave to Moses a house (Beth) and bread (lehem) (Exodus 2:20-21). They identify Jethro with Salmaa, because in 1 Chronicles 2:5 Salma is the father of Bethlehem. They also identify Rechab, the ancestor of the Rechabites—who were a branch of the Kenites—with Rechabiah, the son of Moses.

Went up.—Probably, in the first instance, in a warlike expedition.

The city of palm trees.—Probably Jericho (see Judges 3:13; Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15). When Jericho was destroyed and laid under a curse, it would be quite in accordance with the Jewish feeling, which attached such “fatal force and fascination” to words, to avoid even the mention of the name. The Kenites would naturally attach less importance to the curse, or at any rate would not consider that they were braving it when they pitched their nomad tents among those beautiful groves of palms and balsams, which once made the soil “a divine country” (Jos. B. J. i. 6. §6; iv. 8, § 3; Antt. v. 1, § 22), though they have now entirely disappeared. Rabbinic tradition says that Jericho was assigned to Hobab. From the omission of the name Jericho, some have needlessly supposed that the reference is to Phaenico (a name which means “palm-grove”), an Arabian town mentioned by Diod Sic. iii. 41 (Le Clerc, Bertheau, Ewald); but there is no difficulty about the Kenites leaving Jericho when Judah left it.

The wilderness of Judah.—The Midbar—not a waste desert, but a plain with pasture—was a name applied to the lower Jordan valley and the southern hills of Judea (Genesis 21:14; Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:1; Luke 15:4). The Kenites, like all Bedouins, hated the life of cities, and never lived in them except under absolute necessity (Jeremiah 35:6-7).

In the south of Arad.—Our E.V. has, in Numbers 21:1, King Arad; but more correctly, in Joshua 15:14, “the king of Arad.” It was a city twenty miles from Hebron, on the road to Petra, and the site is still called Tell-Arad (Wilton, Negeb, p. 198). They may have been attracted by the caves in the neighbourhood, and, although they left it at the bidding of Saul (1 Samuel 15:6), they seem to have returned to it in the days of David (1 Samuel 30:29).

Among the people.—It seems most natural to interpret this of the Israelites of the tribe of Judah; hut it may mean “the people to which he belonged,” i.e., the Amalekites (Numbers 21:21), and this accords with 1 Samuel 15:21. For the only subsequent notices of this interesting people, see Judges 4:11; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Chronicles 2:55; Jeremiah 35. They formed a useful frontier-guard to the Holy Land.

And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.
(17) Zephath.—This name is only mentioned elsewhere in 2 Chronicles 14:10, as the scene of Asa’s battle with Zerah the Ethiopian.

Hormahi.e., “a place devoted by ban.” The name Chormah is derived from Cherem (anathema or oan), and the verb rendered “utterly destroyed” means ‘executed the ban upon it.” By their conquest the Israelites fulfilled the vow which they had made in consequence of the “defeat inflicted on them by the king of Arad,” as a punishment for their disobedient Attempt to force their way into Palestine (see Numbers 14:45; Numbers 21:1-3). The town belonged to Simeon (Joshua 19:4; 1 Chronicles 4:28-32), and was close to the lands of the Kenites (1 Samuel 30:29-30).

Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.
(18) Took Gaza . . . Askelon . . . Ekron.—Three of the five Philistian lordships, to which the LXX. add Ashdod (Azotus). In Joshua 13:3 these five townships are mentioned as still unconquered, and here the LXX. put in a negative—“Judah did not inherit Gaza, nor,” &c. St. Augustine had the same reading. It is, however, possible that “not” may have been conjecturally added because of the apparent discrepancy between this passage and Judges 3:8; or, again, “did not inherit” may be a sort of explanatory gloss on the “took.” Josephus (Antt. v. 2, § 4) says that Askelon and Ashdod were taken in the war, but that Gaza and Ekron escaped, because their situation in the plains enabled them to use their chariots; yet in 3, § 1, he says that the Canaanites re-conquered Askelon and Ekron. In any case, the conquest was very transitory. (See Joshua 11:22; Judges 3:3; Judges 3:13 seq.)

And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
(19) The Lord was with Judah.—The Targum here has “The Word of the Lord.” The expression is frequently used to imply insured prosperity (Genesis 39:23; 1 Samuel 18:14; 2 Kings 18:7. Comp. Matthew 18:20).

But.—Rather, for (): i.e., they only dispossessed their enemies of the mountain, for, &c.

Could not.—The Hebrew seems purposely to avoid this expression, and says “there was no driving out.” Judah could have driven them out; but their faith was cowed by the (Judges 1:19) iron chariots.

The valley.—Here Emek, not Shephelah. “Broad sweeps between parallel ranges of hills,” like, e.g., the “valley of Jezreel,” i.e., the plain of Esdraelon. It differs from Gî, which means a gorge or ravine.

Chariots of iron.—See Judges 4:3; Joshua 11:6-9; Joshua 17:16; 1 Samuel 13:6. R. Tanchum makes it mean “very strong chariots;” but the phrase means either “chariots with iron-bound wheels,” or “scythed chariots.” Ktesias attributes scythed chariots to Ninus, but none are seen on the Nineveh sculptures, and it is doubtful whether they were known so early. Xenophon says that scythed chariots were invented by Cyrus, which would not be till five centuries after this period. For this clause the LXX. have,” because Rechab resisted them,” mistaking rekeb, “chariot,” for a proper name (as they often do with other words). Hence the notion of Theodoret that the Kenites, to which Rechab belonged (2 Kings 10:15-23; Jeremiah 35:2), secretly helped the Philistines, is quite groundless. We see a reason for the partial failure of the Israelites in the fact that at this time they had not attained to the same level of civilisation as the Canaanites in arts and arms. This advantage could only have been rendered unavailing by more faith and faithfulness than they showed in their conduct. “Their warriors often rather overran than subdued the land. . . . The chariots and better arms of the Canaanites rendered the conquest of the valleys and plains long and laborious, especially to Joseph, Judah, and Dan. . . . The Hebrews ‘walked upon the high places of the land’ (Psalm 18:33; 2 Samuel 22:34; Habakkuk 3:19; Isaiah 58:14; Deuteronomy 32:13; Deuteronomy 32:29; Deuteronomy 32:33); but these heights were often encompassed like islands by the inhabitants of the valleys” (Ewald, ii. 264).

And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.
(20) Hebron.—See Joshua 14:12-15; Joshua 15:13-14.

As Moses said.Numbers 14:21.

It is remarkable that after this time Judah is only mentioned in Judges 10:9; Judges 15:10; Judges 20:18. The tribe produced no judge, with the possible exception of Ibzan (see Judges 12:8), nor is it mentioned in the song of Deborah. Perhaps we may see a reason for this in the strength which had won for Judah so secure a position. On the other hand, their conduct towards Samson was of the most abject kind (Judges 15:13). “As the nation gained in settled position and command of the soil it lost in unity and strength of external action. Each tribe looked out for itself(Ewald, ii. 264).

And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.
(21) The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites.—In Joshua 15:63 we find the same statement respecting the children of Judah. (See Judges 1:8.) Jerusalem was on the borders of Judah (Joshua 16:8) and Benjamin (Judges 18:28). It belongs more properly to the latter, but the conquest of Zion by David (2 Samuel 5:7) naturally caused its closer identification with Judah. The Jebusites were tolerated inhabitants ever after this conquest, and had their own prince—Araunah (2 Samuel 24:18)—“Araunah the king.” We even find traces of them after the exile (Ezra 9:1). Jerusalem is a remarkable exception to the rule that the Israelites conquered “the hill-country,” but not the plain.

Unto this day.—The assignment of Jerusalem to Benjamin shows that this narrative, though not contemporaneous, is older than the conquest of Jerusalem by David.

And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.
(22) The house of Joseph.—Ephraim and Manasseh. The narrative now leaves the conquest of southern for that of central Palestine (Joshua 16, 17).

Beth-el.—The position of this town on the “highway” between Hebron and Shechem—the main thoroughfare of Palestine (Judges 20:31; Judges 21:19)—gave it great importance, as did also its sacred connection with events in the life of Abraham (Genesis 12:8-9; Genesis 13:3-4; Genesis 12:8) and Jacob (Genesis 28:10-17). For its subsequent history, see Judges 20:18-26, and the history of the northern kingdom, Hosea 10:8; Amos 5:21-23; Amos 7:10; 1 Kings 12, 13; 2 Kings 2:3, &c. It is now the wretched village of Beitin. Bethel belonged properly to Benjamin (Joshua 18:22), but possibly, as in the case of Jerusalem, the border of Ephraim and Benjamin separated the upper from the lower town.

And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)
(23) To descry Beth-el.—The word perhaps implies a regular siege, and it is so understood by the LXX. (Cod. Alex.) and the Vulgate.

Luz.—We are also told that this was the original name of the city in Genesis 28:19; but there seems to be in that verse a distinction between the city and the place of Jacob’s dream. (Comp. Joshua 16:2.) The name means either “hazel,” or “sinking,” i.e., a valley depression.

And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.
(24) The spies.—Perhaps, rather, the scouts of the blockading squadron. The Israelites, like most ancient nations, were little able to take cities by storm, and relied either on blockade or on internal treachery.

Saw a man come forth.—Probably he stole out secretly, and was seized by the scouts. Similarly the Persians took Sardis by seizing a path used by a man who had dropped his helmet, and descended the hill fortress to pick it up (Herod. i. 84).

We will shew thee mercy.—They bribed him. with the promise of personal safety. (Compare Joshua 2:12; Joshua 2:6)

And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.
And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.
(26) Into the land of the Hittites.—Probably the inhabitants of Bethel belonged to this tribe of Canaanites. In Joshua 1:4 their name is used for all the inhabitants of Canaan, but probably it means the coastdwellers. They are often conjecturally classed with the inhabitants of Citium, in Cyprus. They first appear as “children of Heth,” in Genesis 23:19, but seem at that time to have been only a small tribe. Abraham, as Ewald observes, went to the Amorites for his allies, but to the Hittites for his grave. The Talmud says that this Luz was famous for its purple dye, and partly on this account Thomson identifies it with Kulb Louzy, not far from Antioch. It was not uncommon in ancient days for the fugitives from a city to build another city elsewhere of the same name. Thus Teucer, when driven from Salamis, built a new Salamis in Cyprus:

“Ambiguam tellure novâ Salamina futuram” (Hor. Od. i. 7).

Although the site of this new Luz has not been certainly identified, it was probably in some northern district on the Phœnician frontier (Ewald).

Unto this day.—This formula implies the lapse of some time between the event and this record of it.

Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
(27) Neither did Manasseh.—The sacred historian is glancing at the conquest of Canaan, advancing from the southern tribes upwards to central and northern Palestine. (See Joshua 17:11-13.)

Beth-shean.—The town to the walls of which the victorious Philistines nailed the bodies of Saul and Jonathan after the battle of Gilboa, and from which they were recovered by the gratitude of the brave people of Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 31:8; 2 Samuel 21:12). It is again mentioned in 1 Kings 4:12, and in later days was well known under the name of Scytho-polis, or “city of Scythians” (2 Maccabees 12:29), a name contemptuously given to it from the barbarism of its inhabitants (Jos. Vit. 6). Though conquered by Manasseh, it was in the lot of Issachar (Joshua 17:11). It is now called Beisan. It was in a district so rich and fruitful that the Rabbis describe it as the gate of Paradise.

And her towns.—Literally, and her daughters.

Taanach.—The name means “the sandy.” It was a town of Issachar assigned to the Levites, and was famous for Barak’s victory over Sisera. It is still called Taanuk (Robinson, Bibl. Res. i. 316).

Dor.—Properly in Asher, it seems to have been attacked by Manasseh, and was ultimately won by Ephraim (Joshua 11:2; Joshua 17:11; 1 Chronicles 7:29). It long continued to be an important place (1 Maccabees 15:11; Jos. Antt. xiv. 5, § 3). It lies near the foot of Carmel, and is now called Tantura. Endor (“the fountain of Dor”) was probably one of its dependencies.

Ibleam.—Also called Bileam (1 Chronicles 6:70). It was a Levitical town (Joshua 21:25). The only event connected with it in Scripture is the death of Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27). Perhaps Khirbet-Belameh.

Megiddo.—Near Taanach. It is now called Lejjûn, from having been a station of the Romans. See Judges 1:19; 2 Kings 9:27 (the death of Ahaziah); and 2 Kings 23:29; Zechariah 12:11 (the defeat of Josiah by Pharaoh Necho). It was fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15). From this town is derived the famous name Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) as a scene of battle and wailing.

The Canaanites would dwell in that landi.e., the old inhabitants obstinately and successfully held their own (Joshua 17:12).

And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
(28) Did not utterly drive them out.—This is mentioned by way of blame, as the cause of their future sins and disasters (Judges 2:2; Josh. 16:16, Joshua 17:13). As to the morality of these exterminating wars, we must bear in mind that men and nations must alike be judged by the moral standard of their own day, not by the advanced morality of later ages. We learn from unanimous testimony that the nations of Canaan had sunk to the lowest and vilest depths of moral degeneracy. When nations have fallen thus low, the cup of their iniquity is full; they are practically irreclaimable. To mingle with them would inevitably be to learn their works, for their worst abominations would find an ally in the natural weakness and corruption of the human heart. The Israelites therefore believed that it was their positive duty to destroy them, and the impulse which led them to do so was one which sprang from their best and not from their worst instincts. It must not be forgotten that the teaching of Christ has absolutely changed the moral conceptions of the world. It intensified, to a degree which we can hardly estimate, our sense of the inalienable rights of humanity and of the individual man. In these days there is scarcely any amount of evidence which would convince us that we were bidden to exterminate a whole population, and involve women and children in one indistinguishable massacre. But neither the Israelites nor any other ancient nations, at this early stage of their moral development, had any conception corresponding to those which would in our minds rightly excite horror, were we to receive a command like that given by Moses, that “thou shalt save nothing alive that breatheth” (Deuteronomy 22:16), or by Samuel, “Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). We should instantly declare it to be impossible that God—as Christ has revealed to us the character of our Father in heaven—should give us commands which would militate against our sense of justice no less than against our sense of compassion. To quote such commands as an excuse for, or an incentive to, such horrible acts of wickedness as the Sack of Beziers, or the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, is ignorantly and recklessly to obliterate the whole results of God’s progressive moral education of our race. It is to ignore the fact that we are living under a wholly different dispensation, and to disavow every blessing which has accrued to humanity from the broadening light and divine revelation of three thousand years. But the ancient Israelites, living as they did in the “days of ignorance” which God “winked at” (Acts 17:30), had never attained to that idea of human individuality—that sense of the independence and infinite worth of each human life—which would have shown them that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of (Luke 9:56). The wild and passionate sense of severe justice, the comparative indifference to human life, the familiarity with pain and death which blunted the keen edge of pity, “the deficient sense of individuality, the exaggerated sense of the solidarity which united a criminal with all his surroundings and possessions,” prevented them from regarding the execution of their ban on guilty nations, cities, or families in any other light than that of the zeal for righteousness by which it was impelled. Their deeds must be estimated by the elements of nobleness which mingled with them, and not indiscriminately condemned by standards of judgment of which neither they nor the age in which they lived had any conception. They firmly believed that in exterminating Canaan they were acting under Divine commands; and there was nothing in such commands which would in that day have shocked the moral sense of the world. “They did not look unnatural to the ancient Jew; they were not foreign to his standard; they excited no surprise or perplexity; they appealed to a genuine but rough idea of justice which existed, when the longing for retribution upon crime in the human mind was not checked by the strict sense of human individuality” (Mozley, Lectures on the Old Test., p. 103).

Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.
(29) Neither did Ephraim.—See Joshua 16:10. Gezer.—This town was not won from the Canaanites till its capture by Pharaoh, who gave it as a present to his daughter, the wife of Solomon (1 Kings 9:16).

Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.
(30) Neither did Zebulun.—See Joshua 19:10-16. Nothing is known of the towns here mentioned. It is remarkable that Issachar is not mentioned, but it may perhaps be accounted for by the condition of contented subjection in which this tribe “bowed his shoulder to the yoke” (Genesis 49:14-15).

Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:
(31) Neither did Asher.—See Joshua 19:24-31.

Accho.—The seaport so famous under the names of Ptolemais (Acts 21:7; 1 Maccabees 5:15; 1 Maccabees 10:1), Acre, and St. Jean d’Acre (now Acca). Josephus called it Ako (Antt. ix. 14, § 2).

Zidon.—(Joshua 11:8.) Asher never succeeded in conquering Zidon, which was the capital of Phœnicia, though eclipsed by its neighbour Tyre. (2 Samuel 5:11; Isaiah 23; Jeremiah 27, 47; Matthew 11:22, &c.) It is now called Saida.

Ahlab.—An unknown town.

Achzib.—(See Joshua 19:29.) Better known as Ecdippa (Jos. B. J. i. 13, § 4), the modern Zib, about nine miles north of Akka. There was a less well-known Achzib in Judah (Chezib)—Genesis 38:5; Micah 1:14; Joshua 15:44.

Helbah.—The name is rendered “the coast” in Joshua 19:29. The site is unknown.

Aphik.—The Aphek of Joshua 19:30, now Afka (Robinson, Bible Res., 3:606). The name means “strength.” It was famous for a Temple of Venus, destroyed by Constantine. (Euseb. Vit. Const.) There seems to have been another Aphek near Hebron. (Joshua 12:18.)

Rehob.—A Levitical city (Joshua 21:31; 1 Chronicles 6:75).

But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.
(32) The Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites.—The change of phrase from Judges 1:30 implies that in these districts the Canaanites had the upper hand. Thus Asher reached the climax of degradation. The best summary of the moral lesson involved in the narrative is in Psalm 106:34-36 : “They did not destroy the nations concerning whom the Lord commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen and learned their works. And they served their idols, which were a snare unto them.”

Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.
(33) Neither did Naphtali.—See Joshua 19:32-38. Beth-shemesh.—The name means “house of the sun,” and the place was probably a great centre of Baal-worship; but this Beth-shemesh in Naphtali is not the same as Ir-shemesh (“city of the sun”) in Joshua 15:10, which was on the borders of Judah. It is the “mount of the sun” (Har-cheres) in Judges 1:35. In Isaiah 19:18, alluding to another “city of the sun” (On, i.e., Heliopolis), the prophet calls it not Is-ha-Cheres, “the city of the sun,” but Ir-ha-Heres, “the city of overthrow,” with one of those scornful plays on words of which the Jews were fond.

Beth-anath.—Nothing is known of this town. The name perhaps means “house of echo,” and some identify it with Baneas or Paneas, a place at which the echo was famous.

Nevertheless.—The tribe of Naphtali was in the same unhappy condition as that of Asher, living in the midst of a Canaanite population of superior strength to themselves. They had, however, so far succeeded as to reduce the two chief towns (out of nineteen—Joshua 19:38) to a tributary condition.

And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:
(34) The Amorites.—They were the Highlanders of Palestine (Joshua 10:6; Numbers 13:29; Deuteronomy 1:44).

Forced.—Literally “squeezed” or “pressed.”

Forced the children of Dan into the mountain.—The condition of this tribe was, therefore, the worst of all. So far from reducing under tribute the Canaanites of its assigned possession, as the central tribes did, the Danites did not even succeed in establishing a tolerated neutrality among them, like the northern tribes, but were driven into a few mountain-strongholds. It was probably this failure, and the consequent pressure of space under which the tribe laboured, which induced them to undertake the successful northern expedition alluded to in Joshua 19:47 and described in Judges 18

But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.
(35) Mount Heres.—(See Judges 1:33.) Cheres is used for the sun in Job 9:7. The Vatican Codex of the LXX. has the strange rendering, “in the mountains of potsherds” (comp. the Monte Testacclo at Rome), and Jerome follows them in reading תֶךֶש for תֶךֶס. The Alexandrian Codex renders it, “the mountain of the myrtle-grove,” reading Haras.

Aijalon.—The name means “gazelles,” and is still preserved in the name Yalo, a village on the south side of the beautiful valley, Merj Ibn Omeir. It is mentioned in the story of the battle of Beth-horon (Joshua 10:12), and as a scene of the defeat of the Philistines by Saul (1 Samuel 14:31). It was a Levitical town (Joshua 21:24).

Shaalbim.—The name means “jackals” (comp. Judges 15:4; and Hazar-shual, Joshua 15:28; and Shalim, 1 Samuel 9:4). The LXX. render this and Aijalon by “where the bears and foxes are.” Not far off is Zeboim, i.e. “Hyænas.”

Yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed.—This may imply that when Dan was unable to dislodge the Amorites they were effectually aided by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Hence the LXX. render it, “The hand of the house of Joseph was heavy on the Amorites.” (Comp. 1 Samuel 5:6; Psalm 32:6.)

Tributaries.—Not to Dan, but to their conquerors, the Ephraimites; so that the assistance rendered by the house of Joseph to their weak brother was, at the best, somewhat selfish, although it enabled Dan to hold the sea-coast (Judges 1:17).

And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.
(36) The coast of the Amorites.—This notice is added to account for the obstinate resistance of the Amorites, by showing the extent of their domain, which reached far to the south of Petra. Hazezon Tamar, “the sanctuary of the palm,” afterwards called Engedi, “the goat’s fountain,” belonged to them (Genesis 14:7; 2 Chronicles 20:2; Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 784). Another opinion given is, that the verse is added to sum up the chapter, by showing that neither the northern, eastern, nor western boundaries were thoroughly secured, but only that of the southern tribes.

From the going up to Akrabbim.—The same as Maaleh Akrabbim (Joshua 15:3), and “the ascent of scorpions” (Numbers 34:4), probably the Wady-es-Zuweirah (De Saulcy, La Terre Sainte, i. 528), where scorpions abound to this day under every stone; or the Wady-es-Sufah. Robinson supposes it to be the line of rocks which crosses the Jordan valley at right angles, eleven miles south of the Dead Sea (Bibl. Res. Ii. 120). It is the Akrabattine of 1 Maccabees 5:3. It formed the southern boundary of the Holy Land, being a wall of cliffs which separates the Jordan valley from the wilderness.

From the rock.—From “Ras-Selah,” i.e., from Petra, the famous capital of Idumea (2 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 16:1; Obadiah 1:3). Keil and Delitzsch refer it to the well-known rock at Kadesh-Meribah (Numbers 20:8-10).

And upward.—It is uncertain whether this means “and beyond,” i.e., their border extended even farther south; or, “and northwards,” i.e., this was their extreme southern limit.

The history of the Twelve Tribes is nowhere separately drawn out in Scripture. The reader will find the character and career of each tribe graphically sketched in Dean Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, Judges 3-11; and more briefly in the Lectures on the Jewish Church, 1:261-281.

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