« PreviousContinue »
crept in by the same way. Then followed subjection and oppression under the yoke of a neighbouring people, till a second reformation prepared them for a new deliverance. Between these extremes of prosperity and adversity, as the consequences of their fidelity or treachery to their king, Jehovah, the Hebrew nation was continually fluctuating till the time of Samuel. Such were the arrangements of Providence, that as soon as idolatry gained the ascendency, some one of the neighbouring people grew powerful, acquired the preponderance, and subjected the Hebrews. Jehovah always permitted their oppressions to become sufficiently severe to arouse them from their slumbers, to remind them of the sanctions of the law, and to turn them again to their God and king. Then a hero arose, who inspired the people with courage, defeated their foes, abolished idolatry, and re-established the authority of Jehovah. As the Hebrews, in the course of time, became continually more obstinate in their idolatry, so each subsequent oppression of the nation was always greater and more severe than the preceding. So difficult was it, as mankind were then situated, to preserve a knowledge of the true God in the world ; though so repeatedly and expressly revealed, and in so high a degree made evident to the senses.” This and the preceding extracts, from the same author, excellently discriminate the spirit of the period, the history of which now engages our attention. Milton, alluding to the same facts, after noticing the idols to whose worship the Hebrews were addicted, says
“ For those the race of Israel oft forsook
Their Living-Strength, and unfrequented left
Of despicable foes.” 16. " Judges."-See the introductory note to this book. It is important to the right understanding of the very interesting period before us to have a distinct idea of the nature of the office held by the Hebrew judges. It will have been observed that the Hebrew constitution made no provision for a permanent and general governor of the nation. It is true that such rulers did exist, as Moses, Joshua, and the judges ; but their office was not a permanent institution, but arose from circumstances, and from the necessity of the times, each ruler being, as occasion required, appointed by God, or elected by the people. We must not regard this irregularity as a defect in the Hebrew system of government ; for, framed as it was, it was very possible for the state to subsist in happiness and strength without a general ruler. In the first place, God himself was the chief magistrate, and had established an agency, through which his will might be at all times ascertained. Under him there was his visible minister, the high-priest, who was empowered to attend to the general affairs of the nation, where there was no military or civil ruler specially appointed for the purpose. We are also to remember that every tribe had its own chief or prince, whose office was permanent, and who, with the subordinate heads of families, wielded the patriarchal powers, which, in ordinary circumstances, were amply sufficient to keep the affairs of his tribe in proper order. In this state of affairs the mild authority of the high-priest ought to have been sufficient for the purposes of general government. But this was not the case; the apostacy and rebellion of the Hebrews, and the punishment with which such sins were visited, gave occasion to the appointment of extraordinary functionaries, which the organization of the state did not in itself require. These were the judges. They arose, from time to time, as they were wanted ; and were sometimes called by God himself to their high work, and were sometimes elected by the people. The judge was commonly a person, who, having been instrumental in delivering the people from their oppression, usually continued to administer the general government during the remainder of his life. Some, however, seem to have been appointed to govern in time of peace. Deborah ruled in Israel before the war with Jabin ; Samuel certainly was not introduced to the government by his military exploits; and of Jair, Ibzan, Ebon, and Abdon, it is at least uncertain that they held any military command. The oppressions which this book records were not always equally felt over all Israel ; and hence the authority of the deliverer sometimes only extended over the tribes he had delivered, or over those which chose to acknowledge his authority, or concurred in his appointment. Thus Jephthah did not exercise his authority on the west of the Jordan ; nor did that of Barak extend to the east of that river. Some of the judges appear to have ruled, contemporarily, over different tribes: and this is one of the circumstances which perplexes the chronology of the period.
The judges, as we have seen, did not transmit their dignity to their descendants, neither did they appoint successors. The authority of the judges was very considerable ; and was in fact limited only by the law. They exercised most of the rights of sovereignty, but they could not enact laws or impose taxes on the people ; they made peace and war, and in their judicial character they decided causes without appeal: yet all this power seems rather to have been the result of character and influence, than of any authority recognized as inherent in the office. No salary or income attached to it, unless it might be a larger share in the spoils of war, and such presents as might, according to Oriental custom, be offered to the judge as testimonials of respect. These high functionaries have no external marks of distinction ; they were surrounded by no circumstances of pomp or cereinony; they had no courtiers, guards, train, or equipage. They were in general men of moderate desires ; and were content to deserve well of their country, without caring to aggrandize their own power, or to be enriched by the public wealth. Some of them manifest errors of conduct, which the sacred writer does not extenuate or conceal; but ancient or modern history does not exhibit a succession of public men so distinguished for disinterested patriotism and zeal, and so free from the public crimes which, in common histories, so frequently flow from resentments and the lust of wealth or power. “ Their exalted patriotism, like everything else in the theocratical state of the Hebrews, was partly of a religious character ; and these regents always conducted themselves as the officers of God; in all their enterprises they relied upon Him, and their only care was that their countrymen should acknowledge the authority of Jehovah, their invisible king.... They were not merely deliverers of the state from a foreign yoke, but destroyers of idolatry, foes of pagan vices, promoters of the knowledge of God, of religion, and of morality, restorers of theocracy in the minds of the Hebrews, and powerful instruments of Divine Providence in the promotion of the great design of preserving the Hebrew constitution, and, by that means, of rescuing the true religion from destruction.” (Jahn’s · Heb. Commonwealth'-sect. Office of the Judges ; see also his . Archæologia ;' Michaelis, art. 53; Lewis's Origines Hebrææ ;' and Horne's • Introduction,' vol. ij. 84.)
1 The nations which were left to prove Israel. By communion with them they commit idolatry. 8 Othniel delivereth them from Chushan-rishathaim. 12 Ehud from Eglon. 31 Shamgar from the Philistines.
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Čanaan;
2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of 'Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a 'deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of 'Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the
3 Heb. was.
Heb. Aram-naharaim. 2 Heb, saviour. 7 Or, graven images. 8 Heb. a parlour of cooling.
LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm
14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
17 And he brought the present unto Eg lon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
18 And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
19 But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And 'he arose out of his seat.
21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and 'the dirt came out.
23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
24 When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he "covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
4 Heb. Aram. 5 Or, the son of Jemini. 6 Heb. shut of his right hand. Or, it came out at the fundament. 10 Or, doth his casement.
26 And Ehud escaped while they tarried, of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped man to pass over. unto Seirath.
29 And they slew of Moab at that time 27 And it came to pass, when he was come, about ten thousand men, all "lusty, and all that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of men of valour; and there escaped not a man. Ephraim, and the children of Israel went 30 So Moab was subdued that day under down with him from the mount, and he be- | the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fore them.
fourscore years. 28 And he said unto them, Follow after 31 And after him was Shamgar the son me: for the Lord hath delivered your ene- of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six mies the Moabites into your hand. And hundred men with an ox goad: and he also they went down after him, and took the fords delivered Israel.
11 Heb. fat. Verse 7. “ Served Baalim and the groves.”—Groves were consecrated to the worship of Pagan divinities, but were not themselves objects of worship. The common interpretation is, that the expression denotes, by metonymy, an idol worshipped in a grove, or a sylvan goddess. But, as Baal and Ashtaroth are usually coupled together as objects of worship, the one being the sun and the other the moon, and as the word translated “groves” differs little from what is usually the proper name of Ashtaroth, it is fair to conclude that the word here (hinwx, asharoth) is the same as the usual name of Ashtaroth (ninnvy), wrongly spelt, or else another name, slightly modified, of the same goddess.
8. “ Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia.”—This king must have been something of a great conqueror, as we caunot but suppose that he had subdued the other nations west of the Euphrates before he reached the Hebrews.
“ Served.”—This servitude, as applied to the state of subjection to which the Hebrews were oftentimes reduced, must be understood with some variation of meaning according to circumstances ; but generally it signifies the obligation to pay tribute and make presents to the conqueror. That they were obliged to render personal or military service does not appear from the Scriptures; but that they were sometimes subject to the most severe and cruel treatment will appear in the sequel. It is very probable that their subjection to this distant king was more favourable than that to the immediately neighbouring nations, and even to nations dwelling in the same land with themselves, to which they were afterwards reduced.
12. " Eglon the king of Moab.”—The Moabites, by a long peace, would seem to have recovered the strength which they had lost in their wars with the Amorites. Probably they and their kindred tribe the Amorites used, as the pretence for their aggressions, the reasons which we find in Judg. xi. 13–15; namely, that they were entitled to the country which formerly belonged to them, but which had been taken from thein by the Amorites, and which the Hebrews, having recovered from the latter, retained as their own possession. As to the Amalekites, the deep and rooted enmity between them and the Hebrews, sufficiently accounts for the aid which Eglon received from them in his undertaking.
13. “ The city of palm trees.”—That is, Jericho. Eglon would seem, in virtue of his new conquests, to have established the royal residence on the west of the river at Jericho. As this was in the tribe of Benjamin, that tribe doubtless felt more strongly than those more remote, the severity of the Moabitish oppression. Hence we are not surprised to find the next deliverer belonging to that tribe.
15. " Lefthanded.”—The Septuagint and Vulgate versions sanction the opinion entertained by many that Ehud was an ambidexter, one who could use both hands alike. The original indeed seems to sanction the other opinion that Ehud was really left-handed, that is, that he had a better use of his left hand than of his right. It is 90' 7“bound in his right hand ;" which seems to imply a deficiency of power in the right hand, compensated by unusual power in the left ; and this is the explanation of Josephus. One thing is certain, that the tribe of the Benjamites was remarkable for men who enjoyed a singular facility in the use of their left hand, whatever might be the condition of their right. Thus in chap. xx. 16, we read of 700 left-handed Benjamites, every one of whom could sling a stone at a hair's breadth, and not miss. The expression for "left-handed” is exactly the same there as that which here characterises the left-handedness of Ehud; and that this singular endowment or acquirement was not mere lefthandedness, we seem to learn from 1 Chron. xii. 2, where the sacred historian, speaking of the men of that tribe who resorted to David at Ziklag, says:-“They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow.” Notwithstanding, therefore, the rather strong inference from the Hebrew words rendered “left-handed,” it is highly probable that the left-handed” Ehud, and the 700 "left-handed" Benjamites were ambidexterous, like the men of the same tribe in the above-cited text. We may, nevertheless, suppose that some of the Benjamites were particularly skilled in the left hand, to the neglect of the right, and that others were trained to use both hands with equal effect. It is curious to find this tribe, in particular, distinguished in this manner. “Benjamin” means “son of the right hand,” and one might also suspect that some fancy in connection with their name had led the tribe to give particular attention to cultivate the power of their hands. The reason why the left-handedness of Ehud is here noticed, is evidently to account for his being able to good purpose to carry on his right thigh, under his garment, the weapon usually worn on the left. No one would suspect that he had any weapon unless they saw it girded upon his left thigh; and very probably he disposed his dress so as to expose his left side more than the other, which would at the same time preclude the suspicion that he had arms, and enable him the more effectually to conceal the weapon he actually carried. See further in the note to 1 Chron. xx. 16.
18. “When he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.”—This present was perhaps the annual tribute, or at least an occasional offering, such as it is usual in the East for tributaries and subordi. nate governors to send to their lord. Such offerings the pride of Oriental despotism determines to be tribute, even when they are strictly presents from a foreign and independent power. The English ambassadors to Persia and China had great trouble to make it distinctly understood that the presents of which they were the bearers, were not to be regarded in the light of tribute, but as tokens of consideration from a friendly power. This point was, with much trouble and debate, gained in Persia; but it was never unequivocally conceded in China, where our ambassadors were invariably regarded as the bearers of tribute. Israel, then, being in subjection to Eglon, their “present” was doubtless a customary tribute. It seems to have been introduced with great state, being carried by several persons. It is quite Oriental, to make the utmost parade of such offerings. The king, to magnify his power, and the offerer, to enhance the apparent value of his gift, concur in this desire for parade-a great number of men, horses, and camels, being employed to convey what a very few, if not one, might carry with case. The principle of this matter seems to us to be well illustrated by the existing practice in Persia. At the great annual festival of Nouroze, at the vernal equinox, the king sits iu state, and receives with great solemnity the presents which are at that season sent to him from all parts of his empire. The tributary and dependent chiefs and princes who acknowledge him as paramount lord then send their tributes and dues in the form of presents ; the governors of provinces thus also send their annual offerings; and even the ministers of state, and all those invested with high office, are expected to contribute their present on the occasion. And all this, although in the first instance it has the appearance of a voluntary offering, is in fact a rigidly exacted tribute, which no one can with safety hope to evade. It is an Oriental feeling to prefer receiving in this form and with this state and parade, what might be conveniently and certainly obtained in another form. Two-fifths, if not onehalf of the revenue of Persia, is received in this manner and on this occasion. These offerings usually consist of the best specimens of the produce and manufactures of the countries from which they come. Even money is often offered, and is sure to be favourably received. Mr. Morier's account of the affair is an instructive illustration of the many passages of Scripture which allude to the custom:-" The first ceremony was the introduction of the presents from different provinces. That from Prince Hossein Ali Mirza, governor of Shiraz, came first. The master of the ceremonies walked up, having with him the conductor of the present” (this was Ehud's office on the present occasion), “ and an attendant who, when the name and titles of the donor had been proclaimed, read aloud from a paper a list of the articles. The present from Prince Hossein Ali Mirza consisted of a very long train of large trays pluced on men's heads, on which were shawls, stuffs of all sorts, pearls, &c.; then many trays filled with sugar, and sweetmeais; after that many mules laden with fruits, &c. The next present was from Mohammed Ali Khan, Prince of Hamadan, the eldest' born of the king's sons. His present accorded with the character which is assigned him; it consisted of pistols and spears, a string of one hundred camels, and as many mules. After this came the present from the Prince of Yezd, another of the king's sons, which consisted of shawls and silken stuffs, the manufacture of his own town. Then followed that of the Prince of Mesched; and last of all, and most valuable, was that from Hajee Mohamed Hossein Khan, Ameen-ed-Doulah” (prime minister). “It consisted of fifty mules, each covered with a fine Cashmere shawl, and each carrying a load of one thousand tomauns.” A tomaun is a gold coin worth about twelve shillings; and one or two camels would have carried the whole, which fifty were employed to carry for the purpose of parade.
19. “ The quarries that were by Gilgal.”—It does not appear what sort of quarries there might be at Gilgal in the plain of Jericho. The word unquestionably means graven images in other places (see Deut. vii. 25; Jer. vii. 19; li. 52); and is so understood by the Septuagint and Vulgate in the present text. The idols might, as Dr. Boothroyd conjectures, have been erected at Gilgal by Eglon, and the sight of them there might inspire Ehud with new ardour to execute his purpose.
21. “ He covereth his feet in his summer chamber."— It is customary for people in the East to take a nap in the afternoon during the heat of the day; and the servants of Eglon appear to have supposed that their lord had locked himself up in the summer parlour to enjoy his customary sleep. As to the summer parlour, which Eglon “had for himself alone"- see
- see the note on 2 Kings iv. 10—we need only here observe that it appears to have been an apartment detached from the main building, but having a communication with it, and also with the exterior. It also probably enjoyed a free circulation of the air, which rendered it particularly agreeable in the heat of summer, especially in so very warm a district as the plain of Jericho.
28. “ Took the fords of Jordan.”—This must have been to prevent the Moabites, who remained in their own country east of the Dead Sea, from passing over the Jordan, to assist their countrymen who had established themselves on the west of that river, as well as to prevent the escape of the latter. The river Jordan has several fordable places, which are of course more numerous in summer than in winter or spring, when the stream is swollen with rains or melted snows. It is now seldom forded except on horseback; and the few places otherwise fordable, were, as we see, well known to the ancient inhabitants, who on this and other occasions guarded them, to prevent the passage across the river. The points where the river may, in different parts of the year be forded, are still well known to the inhabitants of the land, although the communication across the river is now very infrequent.
31. “ Slew...sux hundred men with an ox good.”—We are to suppose that the Philistines made an attempt to subdue the southern tribes, but were repulsed with the loss of six hundred men by Shamgar, who was probably a husbandman, and other men, who fought the invaders with the ox-goads which they were employing in their labour. It is not necessary to suppose this the single-handed exploit of Shamgar; but as, even so, the deed was not equal to some afterwards performed by Samson, this point must be allowed to reinain uncertain. The ox-goads, which are still used in Syria, are well calculated for offensive weapons on occasion, as will be seen by the following description from Buckingham. On the journey from Soor (Tyre) to Acre he observed the people ploughing the ground for corn :“ Oxen were yoked in pairs for this purpose, and the plough was small and of simple construction, so that it seemed necessary for two to follow each other in the same furrow, as they invariably did. The husbandman holding the plough with one hand, by a handle like that of a walking crutch, bore in the other a goad of seven or eight feet in length, armed with a sharp point of iron at one end, and at the other with a plate of the same metal shaped like a calkingchisel. One attendant only was necessary for each plough, as he who guided it with one hand spurred the oxen with the point of the goad, and cleaned the earth from the ploughshare by its spaded heel with the other.” (*Palestine,' vol. i.
p. 91.860.) Maundrell, who gives nearly the same description, says, “ May we not conjecture that it was with such a goad as one of these that Shamgar made that prodigious slaughter related of him? I am confident that whoever should see one of these instruments would judge it to be a weapon not less fit, perhaps fitter, than a sword for such execution."
AND the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and
1 Psal 83. 9, 10.
said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the 'river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee. notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak te Kedesh.
10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of 'Hobab the father in law of
2 Num. 10. 29.