Darby's Bible Synopsis
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 Canaan;
The following commentary covers Chapters 3, 4, and 5.
God, knowing what the people were, and what was their condition, had left within the borders of their land that which put obedience to the proof-the Philistines, the Sidonians, etc., that they might learn war, and experience the ways and the government of Jehovah. Thus the wisdom and foreknowledge of God, who knows what is in man, turned the unfaithfulness of the people into blessing. Outward prosperity, without trial, would not have remedied unbelief, whilst it would have deprived them of those exercises and conflicts in which they might learn what God was, His ways and His relations to them, as well as what their own hearts were. We go through the same experience, and for the same reasons.
I will now go over the principal subjects presented in the history of this book. Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar were, in succession, the first instruments raised up by God to deliver His people. First we have to remark the failure of the people, who begin to serve false gods; thereupon their servitude. In their distress they cry unto Jehovah. This is always the way in which deliverance comes (Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 4:3). In this last instance Jehovah departs from His usual ways. The nation had lost its strength and energy, even as to its internal affairs. This is the effect of repeated falls; the sense of God's power is lost.
At the period of which we speak, a woman judged Israel. It was a sign of God's omnipotency, for she was a prophetess. But it was contrary to God's ordinary dealings, and a disgrace to men. Deborah calls Barak (for where the Spirit of God acts, He discerns and directs); she communicates to him the command of God. He obeys; but he lacks faith to proceed as one who has had direct instruction from God and consequently needs no other. These direct communications give the consciousness of God's presence, and that He interposes on behalf of His people. Barak will not go without Deborah. But this want of faith is not to his credit. Men will keep the place which answers to the measure of their faith; and God will again be glorified through the instrumentality of a woman. Barak has faith enough to obey if he has some one near who can lean immediately on God, but not enough to do so himself. This is too often the case. God does not reject him, but He does not honour him. In fact, it is by no means the same faith in God. And it is by faith that God is honoured.
We have, moreover, in this case, not the immediate destruction of the enemy, but the discipline of the people in war to recover them from the state of moral weakness into which they had fallen. They began with small things. A woman was the instrument; for fear does not honour God, and God cannot allow His glory to rest on such a condition as this. But little by little "the hand of the children of Israel prevailed against Jabin until they had destroyed him." The usual effect of such a work of the Holy Ghost as this is to present the people as willingly offering themselves (Judges 5:2). Nevertheless the Spirit of God has shewn us that unbelief amongst the people had caused many of them to stay behind; and thus they lost the manifestation and the experience of the power of God. The judgment of God amounts to a curse where there was an entire holding back, a refusing to be associated with the people in their weakness.
Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
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.
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
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.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
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.
And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
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.
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.
And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
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.
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.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
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.
Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
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.
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.
And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.
And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.
So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.