|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:4-11 Sometimes Israel and Judah seemed disposed to repent under their sufferings, but their goodness vanished like the empty morning cloud, and the early dew, and they were as vile as ever. Therefore the Lord sent awful messages by the prophets. The word of God will be the death either of the sin or of the sinner. God desired mercy rather than sacrifice, and that knowledge of him which produces holy fear and love. This exposes the folly of those who trust in outward observances, to make up for their want of love to God and man. As Adam broke the covenant of God in paradise, so Israel had broken his national covenant, notwithstanding all the favours they received. Judah also was ripe for Divine judgments. May the Lord put his fear into our hearts, and set up his kingdom within us, and never leave us to ourselves, nor suffer us to be overcome by temptation.
Verses 8, 9. - In these two verses the prophet adduces proof of that faithlessness with which he had just charged Israel. Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. The latter clause is more literally rendered, foot-printed or foot-tracked from blood. Two things require consideration here - the place and its pollution. Gilead is sometimes a mountain range, and sometimes the mountainous region east of the Jordan; it has Bashan on the north, the Arabian plateau on the east, and Moab on the south. It stretches from the south end of the Sea of Galilee to the north end of the Dead Sea - some sixty miles in length by twenty in breadth. The part of Gilead between the Hieromax and the Jabbok is now called Jebel Ajlun; while the section south of the Jabbok forms the province of Belka. In the New Testament it is spoken of under the name of Pertea, or beyond Jordan. Sometimes the whole trans-Jordanic territory belonging to Israel is called Gilead. In the passage before us it is the name of a city, though some take it to mean the whole land of Gilead. The men of Gilead and the Gileadites in general seem to have been fierce, wild mountaineers; and yet they are represented as still worse in this Scripture. They are nut only barbarous and wicked, but murderous and infamous for homicidal atrocities. As evidence in some sort of the justness of this dark picture, the murder of Pekahiah by Pekah with "fifty men of the Gileadites." as recorded in 2 Kings 15:25, may be specified. The word עְקַוּבָּה is taken
(1) by some as the feminine of the adjective עָקוב, crafty, cunning, wily; thus Rashi explains it: "Gilead is full of people who lie in wait for murder;" and Kimchi likewise has, "Gilead is a city of evil-doers, who are crafty to murder men." But
(2) it is rather the Qal Pual participle feminine from עָקַב, to seize the heel of any one, hold, tread in the footsteps, follow, go after; which is the right meaning, viz. "tracked," as given above. We retain the Authorized Version of the first clause of ver. 9, slightly modified, viz.
(1) As troops of robbers wait for a man, so is the company of priests; חַכֵּי equivalent to חַכֵּה, wait, being an anomalous form of the infinitive Piel for חַכּוה; thus Kimchi says, "The yod stands in the place of he, and the form is the infinitive." Both Aben Ezra and Kimchi translate the first clause as above; the former beg, "The sense is, As robber-troops wait for a man who is to pass along the way, that they may plunder him, so is (or so does) the company of the priests;" the latter explains, "As troops of robbers wait for a man passing along the way to plunder him, so is the company of priests, he means to say, as the priests of the high places who combine to plunder those who pass along the way. There is
(2) another translation, which, connecting ish taken collectively with gedhudhim, and making it the subjective genitive of the infinitive כ, is, "Like the lurking of the men of the gang, s is the company of the priests." This first clause is
(3) quite misread and not rendered by the LXX.: Καὶ ἡ ἰσχύς σου ἀνδρὸς πειρατοῦ ἔκρυψαν ἱερεῖς ὁδόν, "And thy strength is that of a robber: the priests have hid the way." Instead of כְּחַכֵּי they read כְּחַך, and for חבד they read חבו or חבאו. In the second clause we prefer decidedly the translation which is intimated in the margin of the Authorized Version; thus: Along the way they murder even go Shechem. The word derekh is an adverbial accusative of place; and Sichem, the present Nablus, was situated on Mount Ephraim between Ebal and Gerizim. It was a Levitical city and a city of refuge; it thus lay on the west as Gilead on the east of Jordan, and both cities, thus perhaps nearly parallel in place on opposite sides of the river, were equal in crime and infamy. The prophet does not tell us who the wayfarers were, or whither they were bound; he only intimates that they fell victims to certain miscreant priests located in these quarters. As this city lay on the main route from the north to Jerusalem, pilgrims to the annual feasts passed along this way. The priests of the calf-win, ship, being in general persons taken from the dregs of the people, waylaid those pilgrims, whether for plunder, or through hostility to the purer worship still maintained in the holy city, or from sheer cruelty. Or it is even possible that the wayfarers referred to may have been persons going from Samaria, the northern capital, to the idolatrous worship at Bethel. In either case, on the way to their destination or on the return journey they were set upon and robbed, or, in the event of resistance, they were murdered. For they commit lewdness; rather, yea, they have committed enormity. The zimmah, or infamy, here mentioned is referred
(1) by some to unnatural wickedness (comp. Leviticus 18:17; Leviticus 19:29); it is rather
(2) a designation of wickedness and abominations in general; thus Kimchi explains it of "evil and abominable work of every kind." He further remarks: "The prophet says, Net this alone have they done; but all their works are zimmah. And perhaps zimmah may be explained of thought, as if he said, As they have thought in their heart so they have acted." On this verse generally it may be briefly remarked
(1) that "by consent" of the Authorized Version would require אחד to be joined with "shoulder;"
(2) the connection of the first and second clauses in the Authorized Version is much the same with that of Ewald: "And as troops lie in wait the company of priests murder along the way to Sichem."
(3) His explanation is that the priests murdered those that fled by the way before they reached the refuge, perhaps at the command of some leading persons ill disposed towards them.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity,.... The chief city in the land of Gilead, which lay beyond Jordan, inhabited by Gad and Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh; and so belonged to the ten tribes, whose sins are here particularly observed. It had its name from the country, or the country from that, or both from the mountain of the same name. It is thought to be Ramothgilead, a city of refuge, and put for all the cities of refuge in those parts, which were inhabited by priests and Levites; and who ought to have had knowledge of the laws, and instructed the people in them, and observed them themselves, and set a good example to others; but, instead of this, the whole course of their lives, was vicious; they made a trade of sinning, did nothing else but work iniquity; and this was general among them, the city or cities of them consisted of none else; and all manner of iniquity was committed by them, particularly idolatry; for so the words may be rendered, "a city of them that serve an idol" (a); not only at Dan and Bethel, but in the cities of the priests, idols were set up and worshipped; this shows the state to be very corrupt:
and is polluted with blood; with the blood of murderers harboured there, who ought not to have been admitted; or with the blood of such who were delivered up to the avenger of blood, that ought to have been sheltered, and both for the sake of money; or with the blood of children, sacrificed to Mo: the word used has the signification of supplanting, lying in wait, and so is understood of a private, secret, shedding of blood, in a deceitful and insidious way: hence some render it, "cunning for blood" (b); to which the Targum seems to agree, calling it a city
"of them that secretly or deceitfully shed innocent blood.''
It has also the signification of the heel of a man's foot, and is by some rendered, "trodden by blood" (c); that is, by bloody men: or "footed" or "heeled by blood" (d); that is, such an abundance of it was shed, that a man could not set his foot or his heel any where but in blood.
(a) "civitas operantium idolum", V. L. (b) "callida et astuta sanguine", so some in Vatablus; "callida sanguine", Castslio. (c) "Calcata a sanguine", Piscator. (d) "Vestigiata a sanguine", Capellus, Tarnovius; "vestigis sanguinolentis", Juuius & Tremellius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. Gilead … city—probably Ramoth-gilead, metropolis of the hilly region beyond Jordan, south of the Jabbok, known as "Gilead" (1Ki 4:13; compare Ge 31:21-25).
work iniquity—(Ho 12:11).
polluted with blood—"marked with blood-traces" [Maurer]. Referring to Gilead's complicity in the regicidal conspiracy of Pekah against Pekahiah (2Ki 15:25). See on Ho 6:1. Many homicides were there, for there were beyond Jordan more cities of refuge, in proportion to the extent of territory, than on this side of Jordan (Nu 35:14; De 4:41-43; Jos 20:8). Ramoth-gilead was one.
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