Page images
PDF
EPUB

likely person to whom the authorship could be attributed. That it was written after the establishment of the monarchical government, appears from the habit which the author has of saying that the event he is relating happened in the time when "there was no king in Israel ;” which renders it evident that there was a king when he wrote. But that it was written very soon after the establishment of kingly government is no less clear from other passages. Thus we see, from chap. i. 21, that the Jebusites were still in Jerusalem in the time of the author ; but this ceased to be the case in the time of David, by whom they were expelled from that city. (2 Sam. v. 6.) So also, in 2 Sam. xi. 21, there is a distinct and precise reference to a fact recorded in Judges ix. 53, which seems another proof that this book was written before the second book of Samuel : but this does not appear to be of a conclusive nature; as the fact may have been known to David, even had the book of Judges not been then written. Upon the whole, there is little question that the book was composed, in its present form, either in the reign of Saul, or during the first seven years of the reign of David: and this renders it more probable that it was compiled, from the public registers and records, by Samuel, than by any of the other prophets, priests, or kings, to whom it is assigned.

The chronology of this book is attended with much difficulty, and is stated by various chronologers with very serious difference. This chiefly arises from the period of servitudes, being by some counted as part of the years of the judges, while others count them separately; and also from judges being thought by some to have been successive, whom others consider to have been contemporary in different parts of Palestine. There are some also who prolong the account by supposing several anarchies or interregnums, the duration of which the history does not mention. The result of Dr. Hales's elaborate investigations gives 498 years (B.c. 1608 to s.c. 1110) from the passage of the Jordan to the election of Saul; and 400 years (B.C. 1582 to 1182) from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, which is the period more particularly comprehended in the present book. The period is, however, frequently stated as little exceeding 300 years.

Verse 6. “ Cut off his thumbs and his great toes.”—The Hebrews were no doubt aware of the manner in which Adonibezek had treated the captive kings, as mentioned by himself in the next verse; and this was probably their inducement to treat him as they did. As Adoni-bezek ackuowledges the justice of the transaction, we are bound to admit its retributive character, and to throw on him all that is savage and cruel in it. As we shall hereafter have occasion to advert to the general treatment of captive kings and commanders in ancient warfare, we now confine our. selves to the particular treatmen: here mentioned, the singularity of which, and its uniform infliction by Adoni-bezek on his captives, leads us to suppose that there was some ulterior object beyond mere gratuitous cruelty. Was it to disable them from acting in future in a warlike capacity? In the hands of a man without thumbs, few of the weapons of antiquity could be very effective; and the want of the great toes would be a check upon agility in flight or action. Accordingly, we read of many instances of similar mutilation in ancient history. Thus the Athenians cut off the thumb of the right hand of the inhabitants of the island of Ægina, to precluds them from managing the spear, and of disputing with themselves the empire of the sea. The disabling effect of such a mutilation in a military point of view, appears also from the practice, among those Romans who disliked a military life, of cutting off their own thumbs, that they might render themselves incapable of serving in the army. Parents were known thus to disable their children for the same reason. This became so common a practice at last, that the senate and the emperors found it necessary to punish the act severely, as a crime. Even at this day, in some of those continental states where the army is recruited by a compulsory conscription, men are occasionally known to cut off the thumb of the right hand, to prevent their being called to a service they dislike; and even soldiers in the army do the same, to ensure their discharge. It has therefore been necessary to render such an act a punishable offence. A trace of this practice exists in the word Poltron, which we and the French have adopted from the Italian, which, while it immediately denotes, as with us, a dastardly soldier who shrinks from his duty, etymologically signifies “ Cut-thumb," being formed from póllice, “thumb,” and trúnco, “cut off, maimed."

As to the loss of the great toes, independently of the inconvenience occasioned in the act of walking or running, the disabling effect to an Oriental is infinitely greater than to an European. The feet and toes are much employed in almost all handicraft operations throughout the East, and in many cases the loss of the great toes would completely disqualify a man from earning his subsistence. Besides the many little active operations which they are tutored to execute, the artisans, as they work with their hands, seated on the ground, hold fast and manage all their work with their feet and toes, in which the great toes have a very prominent duty to perform. Ward, in his · View of the Hindoos,' has fully shown to what excellent uses the toes are applied in India. "They are second-hand fingers ; they are called the feet-fingers in Bengalee. In his own house, a Hindoo makes use of them to fasten the clog to his feet by means of a button, which slips between the two middle toes. The tailor, if he does not thread his needle, certainly twists his thread with them. The cook holds his knife with his toes, while he cuts fish, vegetables, &c. The joiner, the weaver, &c., could not do without them; and almost every native has twenty different uses for his toes.”

7: Threescore and ten kings.”—This extraordinary number of kings will not surprise the attentive reader of Scripture, or of ancient history in general. The sacred history concurs with the profane in showing that the earliest sovereignties were of exceedingly confined extent, often consisting of no more than a single town, with a small surrounding district. In the time of Abraham there were not fewer than five kings in the vale of Sodom; that is, a king to every city that is mentioned: and in Joshua xii. there is a list of thirty-one kings, whom the hero of that name overthrew in the small country of Canaan; and now we come to a conqueror who, probably within the bounds of no very extensive territory, had overcome no less than seventy kings. Small states of this sort have existed in the early period of almost every nation, and their history has been everywhere the same. One or more of these states acquired, in the course of time, such predominance as enabled it to absorb the others gradually into its own body; or else foreign invaders conquered the several states in detail, and formed them into one kingdom. This has been the usual process by which large states were originally formed, wherever we find them existing. Egypt itself was at first divided into several states; and the Pharaoh of Moses was probably no more than the monarch of one of these states. So, in China and Japan, the several provinces into which we see those nations divided, were anciently so many independent sovereignties. 'It was the same in ancient Greece ; and, in reading the Iliad of Homer, the modern reader is astonished at the vast number of kings sent by Greece and its islands to the Trojan war; which renders it evident that this small region was at least not inferior to Canaan in the number of the little royalties into which it was divided. But we need not go out of our own country for examples. We may conceive the number of kingdoms into which this island was divided, from the fact, mentioned by Cæsar, that there were four kings in the single county of Kent. The Silures, the Brigantes, and other small tribes, among whom the country was portioned, had each their own king. The Saxons did things on a large scale when they divided the country into so few as seven kingdoms. In the time of the Romans, Gaul, Spain, and Germany were, in like manner, cut up into a countless number of small states and kingdors. lu more modern times, and even in our own, we see a similar state of things subsisting in Africa, America, and part of Asia, where we encounter a great number of sovereigns, or independent states, in a small extent of country; each canton having its own king.

18. “ Judah took Gaza... Askelon... Ekron."— These towns, however, must soon have been recovered by the Philistines. This is the only place from which we could gather that Judah ever did possess these cities; and when they are next mentioned, we again find them in the hands of their former owners; who probably availed themselves of the earliest “servitudes," with which the Israelites were punished for their apostacy, to retake their lost towns.

ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CHARIOT.–FROM A BAS-RELIEF.

19. “ Chariots of iron.”—See the note on Exod. xiv. 7. Most commentators and Biblical antiquaries agree in thinking that it is not necessary to suppose that these chariots were made of iron, but only that they were armed with it. As, however, such chariots do not occur in Egyptian sculptures, and are not mentioned by Homer in his Iliad, in which chariots of war are so often brought under our notice, it admits of a question whether armed chariots of war were at this time known in the west of Asia. If not, we may conclude-not, certainly, that the “iron chariots" of the Canaanites were wholly composed of iron, but that they were so braced and strengthened with that metal that their onset in war was more terrible than if they had been more entirely composed of some lighter material. In that case, “ iron chariots” was probably a term by which such were distinguished from other and lighter chariots, also employed in war. There is no difficulty in the epithet, if the Canaanites only used iron to emboss or sheath their chariots, in the same way that the Greeks of Homer used brass, tin, silver, and gold; for it is usual to describe an article as made of that substance with which it is only exteriorly covered or ornamented. Indeed, metal appears to have been profusely employed in the chariots of the Homeric period. Hence, from this burnished splendour, the epithets splendid” and bright” are continually applied to them. Thus Dolon describes the chariot of Rhesus, the Thracian ally of the Trojans:

“ His steeds I saw, the fairest by these eyes

Ever beheld, and loftiest; snow itself
They pass in whiteness, and in speed the winds.

With gold and silver all his chariot burns." The extent to which metal was employed in the superior sorts of chariots will, however, better appear by the description which the same poet gives of the chariot in which Juno and Minerva sped to assist the Greeks :

“Hebe to the chariot rollid
The brasen wheels, and join'd them to the smooth
Steel axle ; twice four spokes divided each,
Shot from the centre to the verge. The verge
Was gold, by fellies of eternal brass
Guarded, a dazzling show! The shining naves
Were silver ; silver cords, and cords of gold,
The seat upbore ; two crescents blazed in front.
The pole was argent all, to which she bound
The golden yoke with its appendant charge

Inserted braces, straps and bands of gold.” Supposing the Canaanites to have had the principal parts of iron, which are here described as of steel, silver, and gold, we may easily obtain a notion of the iron chariots of the text.

The general form of the ancient unarmed chariots will be seen from our two wood-cuts, together with that which has already been given in Exod. xiy. The first of the present cuts, like the former one, is from Egyptian sculpture, and the

594

vehicle seems, also like that, so small and light, as to be obviously intended merely for the conveyance of the warrior, without being, in itself, from its weight and power, an offensive engine. We observed, in the note to Exod. xiv. 7, that the Egyptian chariots have generally but one rider. The present has three, one holding the reins, another bearing a spear, and the third a shield. Yet it is still so small as scarcely to afford room for one person, and, with the three, is so crowded, that the warriors appear to be placed in unusual circumstances. In fact, as the travellers who have examined the battle-scene at Thebes, from which it was taken, describe it, this is a chariot of the defeated party, who, in their flight, crowd in twos and threes into the cars intended only for one person. (See Richardson, vol. ii

. p. 23.) In ordinary circumstances, a single person would have the shield in one hand, the spear in the other, and the reins lashed around his body. The chariots described by Homer always carried two persons—the warrior himself and his charioteer. The office of the latter was one of very considerable importance; and all the heroes were competent to perform its duties on occasion. Patroclus, who was the dear and intimate friend of Achilles, and from whose death such important consequences result, was at the same time the charioteer of that imperious hero.

The second cut is, in our opinion, of much more consequence than the others, as affording a more probable representation of the chariots (not Egyptian), mentioned in Scripture, which can now be obtained. It also agrees better with the description of Homer. Indeed it seems to us the most perfect representation of an ancient chariot that now exists. It formed the termination of a line of procession among the bas-reliefs of Persepolis, and is now in the British Museum. It is to be regretted that it is represented as forming part of a walking procession rather than in proper action. We need not give a verbal description of the details which the cut so clearly exhibits; but the reader will not fail to observe its evident superiority for the purposes of a war-chariot to the slight, toy-like cars of the Egyptians. Sir Robert Ker Porter, an excellent judge in matters of taste, observes: “ The whole of this chariot group is portrayed and finished with a beauty and accuracy that alike excite our wonder and admiration.”

We have described unarmed chariots as illustrating the present text; but we do not wish to be understood as rejecting the notion that the “iron chariots" of the Canaanites were armed with offensive projections. It is possible that they were, and we shall perhaps find a future opportunity of noticing such chariots. Meanwhile, the above statement will show that this supposition is not absolutely necessary to the elucidation of the text. The high antiquity of such chariots as those which have engaged our attention, compared with the less certain, though also probably very high, antiquity of armed chariots, gives the former an unquestionable claim to priority of attention.

[graphic]

ANCIENT PERSIAN CHARIOT.–From A PERSEPOLITAN BAS-RELIEP IN THE British MUSEUM.

31. “ Accho." - This place was, in times long subsequent, enlarged and improved by the first Ptolemy, after whom it was then called Ptolemais. It has now recovered its ancient name, being called by the Arabs Akka, and by the Turks Acra or Acre. The apostle Paul touched at, and spent a day in this place on his return to Jerusalem, from his travels in Greece and Asia Minor. (See the note on Acts xxi. 7.)

Nor the inhabitants of Zidon."—See the notes on Num. xxxiv. 6; and Josh. xix. 24. In the latter of these notes we have explained the opinion of Michaelis, that Sidon was not included in the lot of Asher, and given his answers to the objections which might be made to that opinion. On arriving at the present text, he confesses that in its literal meaning it bears strongly against his theory; and says that it is the only text by which it is not favoured. Hopeless of getting over the difficulty which it offers, he says: "To declare my opinion honestly, I conceive the words 1079 209, inhabitants of Sidon, to be of doubtful authority and a mere interpolation.". It is not however just for a critic, without being able to adduce ancient manuscripts or versions in support of his opinion, to propose to omit a particular clause, merely because it happens to stand in the way of a particular hypothesis. For ourselves, we are disposed to adopt the local hypothesis of Michaelis, in such a modified form as does, in our opinion, obviate all the difficulties of this perplex

ing subject, and has the advantage not only of being not adverse to, but of obtaining support from, the present text. It will be observed, that Tyre is not mentioned here, as in Josh. xix., but that Sidon is; and, further, that Achzib and Accho, towns on the coast to the south of Tyre, are mentioned among those whose inhabitants the Asherites could not drive out. Our impression is that Sidon, and its proper and ancient territory, were not included in the lot of Asher; but that Tyre was. We conceive that the Sidonians, having found an advantageous situation for a commercial port, southward of their own territory, had extended their frontier so as to include this spot, and had there recently founded Tyre. So now, under this view, the present text would mean that the Asherites had neglected to drive "the inhabitants of Sidon," that is, those who were formerly inhabitants of Sidon, from Tyre and the usurped district, and had not obliged them to retire within their old territory. Otherwise, under the same view, the expression "inhabitants of Sidon" may well be understood to denote the Sidonians generally; "Sidon" being understood as the name of the country as well as of the town. In the Old Testament there is no particular name for this district except that of the principal town-just as we find in Ps. lxxx. 7, where the words, "the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre," are obviously used generally for the Philistines and Phoenicians. Tyre was then the principal town, as Sidon was at the present date, and as such gave name to the whole Phoenician territory. Therefore, the text would express, that the Sidonians had not been expelled-but it does not say from what place, that being well understood: for the boundary of Asher having, in Josh. xix., been defined as extending to Sidon, and as including Tyre, "the daughter of Sidon," the present expression would obviously mean that the Sidonians ought to have been expelled from Tyre. If the text had said "the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon," this explanation would not be admissible; but the singular omission of Tyre here affords a strong ground for the view we have taken. We regret that we cannot here show in detail the applicability of this view to the solution of all the difficulties which attend the subject. But the reader who feels interested in the matter, and refers to the previous notes, will perceive these applications; and will, we trust, find his considerations better assisted by this view than by any which has yet been offered.

CHAPTER II.

1 An angel rebuketh the people at Bochim. 6 The wickedness of the new generation after Joshua. 14 God's anger and pity towards them. 20 The Canaanites are left to prove Israel.

AND an 'angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

2 And 'ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land: 'ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?

3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a 'snare unto you.

4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.

5 And they called the name of that place "Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

6¶ And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.

7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that 'outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.

8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the ser

1 Or, messenger.

[blocks in formation]

2 Deut. 7.2.
3 Deut. 12. 3.
4 Josh. 23. 13.
7 Heb. prolonged days after Joshua, Psal. 44. 12. Isa. 50, 1.

[blocks in formation]

17 And yet they would not hearken unto | their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did

from their own doings, nor from their stub-
born way.
20

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;

not so.

18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge : for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

19 And it came to pass, "when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; "they ceased not

21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:

22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it,

or not.

23 Therefore the LORD "left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

14 Or, suffered.

Verse 1. "From Gilgal to Bochim."-From this we may infer that the angel had made his appearance at Gilgal before he came to Bochim. The latter place is thought to have been at or near Shiloh, or, as some think, Bethel.

11 Chap. 3. 12. 12 Or, were corrupt. 13 Heb. they let nothing fall of their.

10. "All that generation."―That is, doubtless, the generation which had grown up in the wilderness, and had witnessed a part of the works of the Lord there. They had also crossed the divided Jordan, had beheld the wonders through which the Lord had enabled them to overcome "nations greater and mightier than themselves," and who, in the last days of Joshua, had solemnly renewed the covenant with Jehovah.

The chapter before us claims the most attentive consideration of those who would thoroughly understand the condition of the Israelites during the several centuries which elapsed from the death of Joshua to the establishment of a regal government. It is a masterly summary of the leading principles of conduct which the subsequent circumstances illustrate. The succeeding brief collection of leading facts would not be well understood without the general and connecting statement contained in this chapter.

11. "Served Baalim."―The word Baalim (lords) being plural, the meaning is, that they served not one particular deity, but the various gods of the country, as is expressly said in verse 12. Jahn's section, on 'The Theocracy from Joshua to Samuel,' in his History of the Hebrew Commonwealth,' forms so valuable, though short, a commentary on this chapter, that we shall not deny ourselves the satisfaction of quoting its substance in our notes. Referring to the apostacy of the Israelites, he observes: "The last admonitions of Joshua, and the renewal of the covenant with Jehovah, failed to produce all the effect intended. That generation, indeed, never suffered idolatry to become predominant, but still they were very negligent in regard to the expulsion of the Canaanites. Only a few tribes made war on their hereditary foes, and even they were soon weary of the contest. They spared their dangerous and corrupting neighbours, and, contrary to an express statute, were satisfied with making them tributary. They even became connected with them by unlawful marriages; and then it was no longer easy for them to exterminate or banish the near relatives of their own families. Thus the Hebrews rendered the execution of the law more difficult, if not impossible, and wove for themselves the net in which they were afterwards entangled." Their Canaanitish relatives invited them to their festivals, at which the most gross and corrupting rites of idolatry were freely exercised. These debaucheries were consecrated by the religious customs of all nations; and however painful it may be to refer to them, the truth of Hebrew history will not allow us to overlook them, in estimating the causes which operated in seducing the Israelites from their allegiance to Jehovah. The enticements of their pagan relatives and neighbours, and the impurities which their religion sanctioned, but which the law of Jehovah counted abominable, too soon brought His subjects to submit themselves to deities so tolerant of sin, and so highly honoured by the people with whom they associated. "At first, probably," says Jahn, "a representation of Jehovah was set up, but this was soon transformed to an idol, or was invoked as an idol by others, of which there is a remarkable example in the time soon after Joshua. (Judges xvii. and xviii.) Idolatrous images were afterwards set up with the image, and the Hebrews imagined that they should be the more prosperous if they rendered religious homage to the ancient gods of the land. The propensity to idolatry, which was predominant in all the rest of the world, thus spread itself like a plague. From time to time idolatry was openly professed; and this national treachery to their king Jehovah, always brought with it national misfortunes."

14. "He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them.”—Idolatry was probably not openly tolerated till the generation which had sworn anew to the covenant had become extinct. But, after that, the rulers were unable, or unwilling, any longer to prevent the worship of pagan deities. "Then the Hebrews," to continue our quotations from Jahn, "rendered effeminate by this voluptuous religion, and forsaken by their king Jehovah, were no longer able to contend with their foes, and were forced to bow their necks under a foreign yoke. In this humiliating and painful subjection to a conquering people, they called to mind their deliverance from Egypt, the ancient kindnesses of Jehovah, the promises and threatenings of the Lord; they forsook their idols, who could afford them no assistance, returned to the sacred tabernacle, and then found a deliverer who freed them from the yoke of bondage. The reformation was generally of no longer duration than the life of the deliverer. As soon as that generation was extinct, idolatry again

« PreviousContinue »