And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down to them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They ceased not from their own doings.—Literally, as in the margin, “they let nothing fall of their deeds.”
Stubborn.—They are called “stiff-necked” in Exodus 32:9; Deuteronomy 10:16; Acts 7:51. The prophets and sacred writers are always careful to impress upon the Jews that they are chosen by God’s free grace to work out His purpose, and that their selection for this service was in no sense due to any merits of their own (Isaiah 65:2; Psalm 81:11-12; Matthew 23:37; Acts 7:51). It is to be noted that in the Bible there is none of the extravagant national self-satisfaction which defaces so much of the Talmud.Judges 21:15.) They returned to their former, and usual, and natural, though interrupted course.
More than their fathers, in Egypt or in the wilderness.
From their own doings, i.e. from their evil practices, which he calls their own partly because they were agreeable to their own natures, which in all mankind are deeply and universally corrupted, Genesis 6:5 8:21; and partly because they were familiar and customary to them. Compare Isaiah 58:13 66:3 Ezekiel 36:32 Acts 14:16 Judges 1:16.
Their stubborn way, Heb. hard way; so he calls their way of wickedness, either because it proceeded from a hard heart, and was managed with a hard and stiff neck; or to signify, that although it seemed at first very soft, and easy, and pleasant, yet they would certainly, and did constantly, find that it was hard, and difficult, and troublesome to them, as a hard way is to the traveller.
that they returned; to their evil ways and idolatrous practices, from which they reformed, and for which they showed outward repentance during the life of the judge; but he dying, they returned again to them:
and corrupted themselves more than their fathers; in Egypt and in the wilderness; or rather than their fathers that lived in the generation after the death of Joshua; and so in every generation that lived before a judge was raised up to deliver them out of the evils brought upon them; the children of those in every age successively grew worse than their fathers:
in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; not content with the idols their fathers served, they sought after and found out others, and were more constant and frequent in their worship and service of them, and increased their sacrifices and acts of devotion to them:
they ceased not from their own doings; or, "did not let them fall" (b); but retained them, and continued in the practice of them, being what they were naturally inclined unto and delighted in:
nor from their stubborn way; which they were bent upon, and determined to continue in: or "their hard way" (c); which their hard hearts had chosen, and they obstinately persisted in, being obdurate and stiffnecked; and which, in the issue, they would find hard, troublesome, and distressing to them, though at present soft and agreeable, and in which they went on smoothly; but in time would find it rough and rugged, offensive, stumbling, and ruinous; or it may signify a hard beaten path, a broad road which multitudes trod in, as is the way of sin.And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. when the judge was dead … they turned back] e.g. Jdg 4:1, Jdg 8:33; the whole period is a continual repetition of apostasy, subjugation, the cry for help, the deliverance—such is the Dtc. editor’s reading of the history; see note at the beginning of this section. As in Jdg 2:18, the tenses denote repeated acts; it used to come to pass, they used to turn back and deal corruptly.
than their fathers] i.e. their predecessors in the age of the Judges, not the godly fathers of Jdg 2:10; Jdg 2:17; Jdg 2:22.
they ceased not from their doings] Joshua could say before he died that not one of Jehovah’s good promises had failed of fulfilment (Joshua 23:14 D); the compiler bitterly remarks that Jehovah’s ungrateful people had let no kind of iniquity fail of performance. The same phraseology (‘bad doings,’ ‘way’) is used by Jeremiah 4:18; Jeremiah 7:3; Jeremiah 7:5; Jeremiah 18:11.1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33, and 2 Kings 23:13, in connection with the Sidonian Astharte, was the general name used to denote the leading female deity of the Canaanitish tribes, a moon-goddess, who was worshipped as the feminine principle of nature embodied in the pure moon-light, and its influence upon terrestrial life. It corresponded to the Greek Aphrodite, whose celebrated temple at Askalon is described in Herod. i. 105. In Judges 3:7, Asheroth is used as equivalent to Ashtaroth, which is used here, Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10. The name Asheroth
(Note: Rendered groves in the English version. - Tr.)
was transferred to the deity itself from the idols of this goddess, which generally consisted of wooden columns, and are called Asherim in Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 16:21. On the other hand, the word Ashtoreth is without any traceable etymology in the Semitic dialects, and was probably derived from Upper Asia, being connected with a Persian word signifying a star, and synonymous with Ἀστροάρχη, the star-queen of Sabaeism (see Ges. Thes. pp. 1083-4; Movers, p. 606; and Mller, ut sup.).
With regard to the nature of the Baal and Astharte worship, into which the Israelites fell not long after the death of Joshua, and in which they continued henceforth to sink deeper and deeper, it is evident form the more precise allusions contained in the history of Gideon, that it did not consist of direct opposition to the worship of Jehovah, or involve any formal rejection of Jehovah, but that it was simply an admixture of the worship of Jehovah with the heathen or Canaanitish nature-worship. Not only was the ephod which Gideon caused to be made in his native town of Ophrah, and after which all Israel went a whoring (Judges 8:27), an imitation of the high priest's ephod in the worship of Jehovah; but the worship of Baal-berith at Shechem, after which the Israelites went a whoring again when Gideon was dead (Judges 8:33), was simply a corruption of the worship of Jehovah, in which Baal was put in the place of Jehovah and worshipped in a similar way, as we may clearly see from Judges 9:27. The worship of Jehovah could even be outwardly continued in connection with this idolatrous worship. Just as in the case of these nations in the midst of which the Israelites lived, the mutual recognition of their different deities and religions was manifested in the fact that they all called their supreme deity by the same name, Baal, and simply adopted some other epithet by which to define the distinctive peculiarities of each; so the Israelites also imagined that they could worship the Baals of the powerful nations round about them along with Jehovah their covenant God, especially if they worshipped them in the same manner as their covenant God. This will serve to explain the rapid and constantly repeated falling away of the Israelites from Jehovah into Baal-worship, at the very time when the worship of Jehovah was stedfastly continued at the tabernacle in accordance with the commands of the law. The Israelites simply followed the lead and example of their heathen neighbours. Just as the heathen were tolerant with regard to the recognition of the deities of other nations, and did not refuse to extend this recognition even to Jehovah the God of Israel, so the Israelites were also tolerant towards the Baals of the neighbouring nations, whose sensuous nature-worship was more grateful to the corrupt heart of man than the spiritual Jehovah-religion, with its solemn demands for sanctification of life. But this syncretism, which was not only reconcilable with polytheism, but actually rooted in its very nature, was altogether irreconcilable with the nature of true religion. For if Jehovah is the only true God, and there are no other gods besides or beside Him, then the purity and holiness of His nature is not only disturbed, but altogether distorted, by any admixture of His worship with the worship of idols or of the objects of nature, the true God being turned into an idol, and Jehovah degraded into Baal. Looking closely into the matter, therefore, the mixture of the Canaanitish worship of Baal with the worship of Jehovah was actually forsaking Jehovah and serving other gods, as the prophetic author of this book pronounces it. It was just the same with the worship of Baal in the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was condemned by the prophets Hosea and Amos (see Hengstenberg, Christology, i. pp. 168ff., Eng. trans.).
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