And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Bezek.—Bezek was in the tribe of Issachar, in the plain of Jezreel, an open district, well adapted for the assembling of the great host which so promptly obeyed the peremptory summons of the war-signal of King Saul.
The children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.—It has been suggested that this verse was the addition of some late reviser of the book, who lived in the northern kingdom after the final separation of Israel and Judah, but such a supposition is not necessary to account for the separate mention of Judah and Israel, or for the apparently great disproportion in the numbers supplied by the great southern tribe. The chronicler, with pardonable exultation, specially mentions the splendid result of the young hero’s first summons to the tribes, adding, with perhaps an undertone of sadness, that the rich and populous Judah to that great host only contributed 30,000. There is no doubt, as Dean Payne Smith well observes, that “as a matter of fact Judah always stood apart until there was a king who belonged to itself. Then, in David’s time, it first took an active interest in the national welfare, and it was its vast power and numbers which made the shepherd-king, who sprang from Judah, so powerful.” In the reign of King Asa of Judah, the numbers of the men of war of that proud tribe amounted to 300,000. It is, however, to be remembered that in the Old Testament Books, owing to the mistakes of copyists, numbers are not always to be strictly relied upon.1 Samuel 11:8. The men of Judah thirty thousand — They were numbered apart to their honour, to show how readily they, to whom the kingdom was promised, (Genesis 49:10,) submitted to their king, though of another tribe, and how willing they were to hazard themselves for their brethren, although they might have excused themselves from the necessity of defending their own country from their dangerous neighbours the Philistines.Judges 21:9).
Bezek has been conjectured to be the name of a district rather than of a town. Two villages retained the name in the time of Eusebius 17 miles from Nablous, on the way to Beth-shean.
The children of Israel and the men of Judah - This looks like the language of later times, times perhaps subsequent to the establishment of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel here (including Benjamin) is as ten to one compared with Judah. This is about the true proportion.
The men of Judah are numbered apart to their honour, to show how readily they, to whom the kingdom was promised, Genesis 49:10, submitted to their king, though of another and far meaner tribe; and how willing they were to hazard themselves for their brethren’s rescue, although they might have excused themselves from the necessity of defending their own country from their dangerous neighbours the Philistines. Judges 1:4; see Gill on Judges 1:4 though some take the word to be an appellative, and not, the proper name of a place, and render it, "with a stone"; with which he numbered, taking a stone from each, and laying them on a heap, and then telling them (u); so Bizakion signifies little stones (w) with the Greeks: or "with a fragment"; either of an earthen vessel, or of a stone, or of the branch of a tree they carried in their hands, and so the king's servants numbered not the men, but the branches (x):
and the children of Israel were three hundred thousand men; who came together on this occasion; these were of the eight tribes and a half on this side Jordan:
and the men of Judah thirty thousand; which tribe is mentioned distinctly, because a noble and warlike tribe, which usually first went up to battle; and though the number of them at this time assembled may seem comparatively small, yet this may easily be accounted for; because they bordered upon the Philistines, who watched every opportunity to take an advantage of them, and therefore could not leave their tribe destitute, but reserved a sufficient number to guard their coasts, and yet were desirous to testify their obedience to Saul, though chosen king out of another tribe, when they might have expected from prophecy that the dominion belonged to them. Josephus (y) has made a gross mistake in the numbers here, he makes the men of Israel to be 700,000, and the men of Judah 70,000, contrary to the text, the Targum, Syriac and Arabic versions; but the Septuagint comes pretty near him, which has 600,000 of the men of Israel, 70,000 of the men of Judah.And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. in Bezek] Probably to be identified with Ibzîk, about half way between Shechem and Beth-shan, and 7 miles W. of the Jordan. It was within a day’s march of Jabesh.
three hundred thousand, &c.] The numbers seem large, but not too large for a general levy of the nation. Cp. Jdg 20:2. The separate numbering of Israel and Judah has been taken to mark the date of the book as posterior to the Division of the Kingdom. It may however be only an indication of a tendency on the part of Judah to isolation which was confirmed by the separation in the early part of David’s reign, and prepared the way for the Disruption.Verse 8. - He numbered them in Bezek. This place was in the tribe of Issachar, and must be distinguished from that mentioned in Judges 1:3, 4, which was in Judah, and too remote from the scene of operations. And here Saul appears as the commander-in-chief; for the numbering included the forming of battalions, arranged in thousands, hundreds, and fifties, and the setting officers over them. These, naturally, were the chief men in each district. The result would be that, coming to Bezek, the appointed rendezvous, a disorderly multitude, they would leave it as an army arranged in order, and Saul, in the many difficulties that would arise, would have his first opportunity of showing his powers of command. Children of Israel,... men of Judah - the distinction which ended in the disruption of the nation. Judah, too, with its 30,000 men, is but poorly represented, nor is it a sufficient explanation of the small number who came that the tribe had enough to do at home in making head against the Philistines. As a matter of fact, Judah always stood apart until there was a king who belonged to itself. Then, in David's time, it first took an active interest in the national welfare, and it was its vast power and numbers which made him so powerful. Had it been so nearly overpowered by the Philistines, it could not so suddenly have sprung forth with a might which made it well nigh a match for all the rest.
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