Judges 1:6
But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
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(6) Cut off his thumbs and his great toes.—The cutting off of his thumbs would prevent him from ever again drawing a bow or wielding a sword. Romans who desired to escape conscription cut off their thumbs (Suet. Aug. 24). The cutting off of his great toes would deprive him of that speed which was so essential for an ancient warrior, that “swift-footed” is in Homer the normal epithet of Achilles. Either of these mutilations would be sufficient to rob him of his throne, since ancient races never tolerated a king who had any personal defects. This kind of punishment was not uncommon in ancient days, and it was with the same general object that the Athenians inflicted it on the conquered Æginetans. Mohammed (Koran, Sur. 8:12) ordered the enemies of Islam to be thus punished; and it used to be the ancient German method of punishing poachers (Ælian, Var. Hist. ii. 9). The peculiar appropriateness of the punishment in this instance arose from the Lex talionis, or “law of equivalent punishment,” which Moses had tolerated as the best means to limit the intensity of those blood-feuds (Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21; comp. Judges 15:10-11). which, “because of the hardness of their hearts,” he was unable entirely to abolish.

1:1-8 The Israelites were convinced that the war against the Canaanites was to be continued; but they were in doubt as to the manner in which it was to be carried on after the death of Joshua. In these respects they inquired of the Lord. God appoints service according to the strength he has given. From those who are most able, most work is expected. Judah was first in dignity, and must be first in duty. Judah's service will not avail unless God give success; but God will not give the success, unless Judah applies to the service. Judah was the most considerable of all the tribes, and Simeon the least; yet Judah begs Simeon's friendship, and prays for aid from him. It becomes Israelites to help one another against Canaanites; and all Christians, even those of different tribes, should strengthen one another. Those who thus help one another in love, have reason to hope that God will graciously help both. Adoni-bezek was taken prisoner. This prince had been a severe tyrant. The Israelites, doubtless under the Divine direction, made him suffer what he had done to others; and his own conscience confessed that he was justly treated as he had treated others. Thus the righteous God sometimes, in his providence, makes the punishment answer the sin.The Canaanites and the Perizzites - See Genesis 12:6, note; Genesis 13:7, note. Bezek may be the name of a district. It has not yet been identified. 5, 6. Bezek—This place lay within the domain of Judah, about twelve miles south of Jerusalem.

found Adoni-bezek—that is, "lord of Bezek"—he was "found," that is, surprised and routed in a pitched battle, whence he fled; but being taken prisoner, he was treated with a severity unusual among the Israelites, for they "cut off his thumbs and great toes." Barbarities of various kinds were commonly practised on prisoners of war in ancient times, and the object of this particular mutilation of the hands and feet was to disable them for military service ever after. The infliction of such a horrid cruelty on this Canaanite chief would have been a foul stain on the character of the Israelites if there were not reason for believing it was done by them as an act of retributive justice, and as such it was regarded by Adoni-bezek himself, whose conscience read his atrocious crimes in their punishment.

That he might be disenabled to fight with his hands, or to run away upon his feet. And this they did, either by the secret instinct and direction of God, or upon notice of his former tyranny and cruelty expressed upon others, in this manner, as it follows: either way it was a just requital.

But Adonibezek fled, and they pursued after him, and caught him,.... It is very probable his view was to get to Jebus or Jerusalem, a strong and fortified city and he made his way thither as fast as he could, but was pursued and overtaken by some of the forces of Judah and Simeon; and the rather it may seem he took this course, since when he was taken by them, they brought him thither, as follows:

and cut off his thumbs and his great toes; whereby he was disabled both for fighting and for fleeing. So the Athenians cut off the thumbs of the right hand of the Aeginetae, the inhabitants of the island of Aegina, to disable them from holding a spear, as various writers (f) relate. Whether the Israelites did this, as knowing this king had used others in like manner, and so, according to their law of retaliation, "eye for eye", &c. Exodus 21:23, required it; or whether, ignorant of it, were so moved and directed by the providence of God to do this, that the same measure might be measured to him which he had measured to others, is not certain; the latter seems most probable, since the Israelites did not usually inflict such sort of punishments; and besides, according to the command of God, they should have put him to death, as they were to do to all Canaanites.

(f) Valerius Maximus, l. 9. c. 2. Aelian, Var. Hist. l. 2. c. 9. Cicero de Officiis, l. 3. c. 11.

But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and {d} cut off his thumbs and his great toes.

(d) This was God's just judgment, as the tyrant himself confesses, that as he had done, so did he receive, Le 24:19,20.

6. and cut off] A barbarity frequently practised in ancient warfare to mark the humiliation of the captives and prevent them from further mischief. Thus the Athenians are said to have decreed that the right thumb of every Aeginetan taken prisoner should be cut off ‘that they may be incapable of carrying a spear, but not incapable of working an oar,’ Aelian, Var. Hist. ii. 9.

Verse 6. - Cut off his thumbs, etc. These cruel mutilations, like the still more cruel one of putting out the eyes (Judges 16:21; Numbers 16:14; 1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 25:7), were intended to cripple the warrior in his speed, and to incapacitate hint from the use of the bow, or sword, or spear, while yet sparing his life, either in mercy, or for the purpose of retaining his services for the conqueror.

CHAPTER 1:8-20 Judges 1:6"And Judah went up," sc., against the Canaanites, to make war upon them.

The completion of the sentence is supplied by the context, more especially by Judges 1:2. So far as the sense is concerned, Rosenmller has given the correct explanation of ויּעל, "Judah entered upon the expedition along with Simeon." "And they smote the Canaanites and the Perizzites in Bezek, 10,000 men." The result of the war is summed up briefly in these words; and then in Judges 1:5-7 the capture and punishment of the hostile king Adoni-bezek is specially mentioned as being the most important event in the war. The foe is described as consisting of Canaanites and Perizzites, two tribes which have been already named in Genesis 13:7 and Genesis 34:30 as representing the entire population of Canaan, "the Canaanites" comprising principally those in the lowlands by the Jordan and the Mediterranean (vid., Numbers 13:29; Joshua 11:3), and "the Perizzites" the tribes who dwelt in the mountains (Joshua 17:15). On the Perizzites, see Genesis 13:7. The place mentioned, Bezek, is only mentioned once more, namely in 1 Samuel 11:8, where it is described as being situated between Gibeah of Saul (see at Joshua 18:28) and Jabesh in Gilead. According to the Onom. (s. v. Bezek), there were at that time two places very near together both named Bezek, seventeen Roman miles from Neapolis on the road to Scythopolis, i.e., about seven hours to the north of Nabulus on the road to Beisan. This description is perfectly reconcilable with 1 Samuel 11:8. On the other hand, Clericus (ad h. l.), Rosenmller, and v. Raumer suppose the Bezek mentioned here to have been situated in the territory of Judah; though this cannot be proved, since it is merely based upon an inference drawn from Judges 1:3, viz., that Judah and Simeon simply attacked the Canaanites in their own allotted territories-an assumption which is very uncertain. There is no necessity, however, to adopt the opposite and erroneous opinion of Bertheau, that the tribes of Judah and Simeon commenced their expedition to the south from the gathering-place of the united tribes at Shechem, and fought the battle with the Canaanitish forces in that region upon this expedition; since Shechem is not described in Josha as the gathering-place of the united tribes, i.e., of the whole of the military force of Israel, and the battle fought with Adoni-bezek did not take place at the time when the tribes prepared to leave Shiloh and march to their own possessions after the casting of the lots was over. The simplest explanation is, that when the tribes of Judah and Simeon prepared to make war upon the Canaanites in the possessions allotted to them, they were threatened or attacked by the forces of the Canaanites collected together by Adoni-bezek, so that they had first of all to turn their arms against this king before they could attack the Canaanites in their own tribe-land. As the precise circumstances connected with the occasion and course of this war have not been recorded, there is nothing to hinder the supposition that Adoni-bezek may have marched from the north against the possession of Benjamin and Judah, possibly with the intention of joining the Canaanites in Jebus, and the Anakim in Hebron and upon the mountains in the south, and then making a combined attack upon the Israelites. This might induce or even compel Judah and Simeon to attack this enemy first of all, and even to pursue him till they overtook him at his capital Bezek, and smote him with all his army. Adoni-bezek, i.e., lord of Bezek, is the official title of this king, whose proper name is unknown.

In the principal engagement, in which 10,000 Canaanites fell, Adoni-bezek escaped; but he was overtaken in his flight (Judges 1:6, Judges 1:7), and so mutilated, by the cutting off of his thumbs and great toes, that he could neither carry arms nor flee. With this cruel treatment, which the Athenians are said to have practised upon the capture Aegynetes (Aelian, var. hist. ii. 9), the Israelites simply executed the just judgment of retribution, as Adoni-bezek was compelled to acknowledge, for the cruelties which he had inflicted upon captives taken by himself. "Seventy kings," he says in Judges 1:7, "with the thumbs of their hands and feet cut off, were gathering under my table. As I have done, so God hath requited me." מקצּצים ... בּהנות, lit. "cut in the thumbs of their hands and feet" (see Ewald, Lehrb. 284 c.). The object to מלקּטים, "gathering up" (viz., crumbs), is easily supplied from the idea of the verb itself. Gathering up crumbs under the table, like the dogs in Matthew 15:27, is a figurative representation of the most shameful treatment and humiliation. "Seventy" is a round number, and is certainly an exaggerated hyperbole here. For even if every town of importance in Canaan had its own king, the fact that, when Joshua conquered the land, he only smote thirty-one kings, is sufficient evidence that there can hardly have been seventy kings to be found in all Canaan. It appears strange, too, that the king of Bezek is not mentioned in connection with the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. Bezek was probably situated more on the side towards the valley of the Jordan, where the Israelites under Joshua did not go. Possibly, too, the culminating point of Adoni-bezek's power, when he conquered so many kings, was before the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan, and it may at that time have begun to decline; so that he did not venture to undertake anything against the combined forces of Israel under Joshua, and it was not till the Israelitish tribes separated to go to their own possessions, that he once more tried the fortunes of war and was defeated. The children of Judah took him with them to Jerusalem, where he died.

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