Judges 20:18 MEANING

Judges 20:18
(18) To the house of God.--Rather, to Bethel (as in the LXX., Syriac, Arabic, and Chaldee). The reason why our translators adopted their translation is shown by the Vulgate, which renders it "to the house of God that is in Shiloh." But Beth El cannot mean "house of God," which is always either Beth ha-Elohim or Beth Adonai (house of the Lord). Why they did not meet at the more central Shiloh we cannot say.

Asked counsel of God.--Namely, by the Urim and Thummim. Apparently the high priest was not prevented by any scruple from taking the ephod, with its jewelled breastplate and Urim and Thummim, to any place where its use was needed. The ark was similarly carried from place to place, and had been brought (Judges 20:27) to the venerable sanctuary of Bethel with the high priest. It is not necessary to suppose that the tabernacle was itself removed. It may have been--for Shiloh was never understood to be more than its temporary resting-place. Bethel--as being a sacred place and near Gibeah--would be a convenient place of rendezvous.

Which of us . . .?--Judges 1:1-2.

Judah . . . first.--This is remarkable as indicating that the Urim and Thummim were something more than a pair of lots, and that the questions with which God was consulted by its means were other than those which admitted a mere positive or negative answer.

Verse 18. - The house of God. In this rendering the A.V. follows the Vulgate, which has in demure Dei, hoc est, in Silo. But the Septuagint has Βαιθὴλ, and all the ancient authorities, as well as modern commentators, generally agree in rendering it Bethel. The reason, which seems a conclusive one, for so doing is that the Hebrew בית אל invariably means Bethel, and that the house of God is always expressed in Hebrew by בית האלהים (beth-ha-elohim). The conclusion is that at this time the ark of God, with the tabernacle, was at Bethel, which was only seven or eight miles from Shiloh. Bethel would be eight or ten miles from Gibeah, i.e. about half way between Shiloh and Gibeah. Asked counsel. The same phrase as Judges 1:1, where it is rendered simply asked (see note to Judges 1:1, and vers. 23, 47). In following this precedent the Israelites put the men of Gibeah on the footing of the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. With reference to ver. 9, it is worth considering whether this is not the fulfilment of the purpose there expressed by the Israelites, to go up against Gibeah by lot; either by understanding that the answer asked was given by a Divinely-directed lot, according to which Judah's turn came first (see Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:41; Acts 1:24-26; etc.), or by taking the expression by lot in a wider sense, as meaning generally Divine direction.

17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.And the children of Israel arose,.... From Mizpeh, where they were assembled, having heard that the Benjaminites were gathered together to defend the men of Gibeah:

and went up to the house of God; to the tabernacle which was in Shiloh, Judges 18:31, see Joshua 18:1 though the Targum takes Bethel for the name of a place so called; and so do Ben Gersom and Josephus (p), which was near Shiloh, for Shiloh is said to be on the north side of Bethel, Judges 21:19 but as there is no reason to believe the tabernacle was now removed from Shiloh thither, so it is not likely they would go to any other place but where the tabernacle ark, and high priest were:

and asked counsel of God; before Phinehas the high priest, according to the judgment of Urim and Thummim, Judges 20:28.

and said which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? there being no supreme magistrate, judge, or general, to lead them; they did not ask whether they should go to war or no with their brethren; they made no doubt of that, taking it for granted they had sufficient reason for so doing, and that it was according to the will of God; nor did they inquire whether they should be victorious or not, they made no doubt of being victorious, both from their superior numbers, and the justness of their cause; they only inquire who should lead them on, having no general; and this they might do, to prevent any contentions among them about being precedence:

and the Lord said, Judah shall go up first: which tribe pitched their standard first about the tabernacle, and marched first in their journeys in the wilderness, and was ordered to go up first and fight the Canaanites, being a powerful and warlike tribe.

(p) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 2. sect. 10.)

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