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 Joshua's labours had not remained without effect. During his own lifetime, and that of the elders who outlived him, and who had seen all that the Lord did for Israel, all Israel served the Lord. "The elders" are the rulers and leaders of the nation. The account of the burial of Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought with them from Egypt to Canaan (Exodus 13:19), is placed after the account of Joshua's death, because it could not have been introduced before without interrupting the connected account of the labours of Joshua; and it would not do to pass it over without notice altogether, not only because the fact of their bringing the bones with them had been mentioned in the book of Exodus, but also because the Israelites thereby fulfilled the promise given by their fathers to Joseph when he died. The burial of Joseph in the piece of field which Jacob had purchased at Shechem (vid., Genesis 33:19) had no doubt taken place immediately after the division of the land, when Joseph's descendants received Shechem and the field there for an inheritance. This piece of field, however, they chose for a burial-place for Joseph's bones, not only because Jacob had purchased it, but in all probability chiefly because Jacob had sanctified it for his descendants by building an altar there (Genesis 33:20). The death and burial of Eleazar, who stood by Joshua's side in the guidance of the nation, are mentioned last of all (Joshua 24:33). When Eleazar died, whether shortly before or shortly after Joshua, cannot be determined. He was buried at Gibeah of Phinehas, the place which was given to him upon the mountains of Ephraim, i.e., as his inheritance. Gibeath Phinehas, i.e., hill of Phinehas, is apparently a proper name, like Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 15:34, etc.). The situation, however, is uncertain. According to Eusebius (Onom. s. v. Γαβαάς), it was upon the mountains of Ephraim, in the tribe of Benjamin, and was at that time a place named Gabatha, the name also given to it by Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 29), about twelve Roman miles from Eleutheropolis. This statement is certainly founded upon an error, at least so far as the number twelve is concerned. It is a much more probable supposition, that it is the Levitical town Geba of Benjamin, on the north-east of Ramah (Joshua 18:24), and the name Gibeah of Phinehas might be explained on the ground that this place had become the hereditary property of Phinehas, which would be perfectly reconcilable with its selection as one of the priests' cities. As the priests, for example, were not the sole possessors of the towns ceded to them in the possessions of the different tribes, the Israelites might have presented Phinehas with that portion of the city which was not occupied by the priests, and also with the field, as a reward for the services he had rendered to the congregation (Numbers 25:7.), just as Caleb and Joshua had been specially considered; in which case Phinehas might dwell in his own hereditary possessions in a priests' city. The situation, "upon the mountains of Ephraim," is not at variance with this view, as these mountains extended, according to Judges 4:5, etc., far into the territory of Benjamin (see at Joshua 11:21). The majority of commentators, down to Knobel, have thought the place intended to be a Gibeah in the tribe of Ephraim, namely the present Jeeb or Jibia, by the Wady Jib, on the north of Guphna, towards Neapolis (Sichem: see Rob. Pal. iii. p. 80), though there is nothing whatever to favour this except the name.

With the death of Eleazar the high priest, the contemporary of Joshua, the times of Joshua came to a close, so that the account of Eleazar's death formed a very fitting termination to the book. In some MSS and editions of the Septuagint, there is an additional clause relating to the high priest Phinehas and the apostasy of the Israelites after Joshua's death; but this is merely taken from Judges 2:6, Judges 2:11. and Joshua 3:7, Joshua 3:12., and arbitrarily appended to the book of Joshua.

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