Judges 2:22
That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
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(22) That through them I may prove Israel.—Yet in this as in all God’s punishments there was an element of mercy mingled with the judgment, as we see from Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22; and infr. Judges 3:1-2. If in one point of view the non-extermination of Canaan at first led the Israelites into temptation and brought down retributive punishments upon them, yet out of these evils God raised the two-fold good, that they meanwhile increased sufficiently in numbers to be able effectually to till the soil and keep down the wild beasts, and were also being trained in bravery and warlike skill, while the aborigines were being driven out “by little and by little.” Further, we see that a real growth was going on during this period of suffering and anarchy. The peril of internal discord was partly averted by the noble life, and inspiring memories, and treasures of infinite truth which they had acquired in the free air of the desert. “They learned by perpetual struggle to defend their new home, and the free exercise of their religion, and so they prepared for coming generations a sacred place where that religion and national culture might develop. During the long pause of apparent inaction a hidden movement was going on, and the principles and truths so marvellously brought to light were taking firm root.” (Ewald.)

Jdg 2:22. That through them I may prove Israel — That I may try and see whether Israel will be true and faithful to me, or whether they will suffer themselves to be corrupted by the counsels and examples of their bad neighbours. 2:6-23 We have a general idea of the course of things in Israel, during the time of the Judges. The nation made themselves as mean and miserable by forsaking God, as they would have been great and happy if they had continued faithful to him. Their punishment answered to the evil they had done. They served the gods of the nations round about them, even the meanest, and God made them serve the princes of the nations round about them, even the meanest. Those who have found God true to his promises, may be sure that he will be as true to his threatenings. He might in justice have abandoned them, but he could not for pity do it. The Lord was with the judges when he raised them up, and so they became saviours. In the days of the greatest distress of the church, there shall be some whom God will find or make fit to help it. The Israelites were not thoroughly reformed; so mad were they upon their idols, and so obstinately bent to backslide. Thus those who have forsaken the good ways of God, which they have once known and professed, commonly grow most daring and desperate in sin, and have their hearts hardened. Their punishment was, that the Canaanites were spared, and so they were beaten with their own rod. Men cherish and indulge their corrupt appetites and passions; therefore God justly leaves them to themselves, under the power of their sins, which will be their ruin. God has told us how deceitful and desperately wicked our hearts are, but we are not willing to believe it, until by making bold with temptation we find it true by sad experience. We need to examine how matters stand with ourselves, and to pray without ceasing, that we may be rooted and grounded in love, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. Let us declare war against every sin, and follow after holiness all our days.This verse is connected with Judges 2:13. The intermediate verses refer to much later times; they have the appearance of being the reflections of the compiler interspersed with the original narrative. But Judges 2:20 catches up the thread only to let it fall immediately. All that follows, down to the end of Judges 3:7, seems to be another digression, closing with words like those of Judges 2:13.

It does not appear how this message was given to Israel, whether by Angel, or prophet, or Urim, nor indeed is it certain whether any message was given. The words may be understood as merely explaining what passed through the divine mind, and expressing the thoughts which regulated the divine proceeding.

16. which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them—The judges who governed Israel were strictly God's vicegerents in the government of the people, He being the supreme ruler. Those who were thus elevated retained the dignity as long as they lived; but there was no regular, unbroken succession of judges. Individuals, prompted by the inward, irresistible impulse of God's Spirit when they witnessed the depressed state of their country, were roused to achieve its deliverance. It was usually accompanied by a special call, and the people seeing them endowed with extraordinary courage or strength, accepted them as delegates of Heaven, and submitted to their sway. Frequently they were appointed only for a particular district, and their authority extended no farther than over the people whose interests they were commissioned to protect. They were without pomp, equipage, or emoluments attached to the office. They had no power to make laws; for these were given by God; nor to explain them, for that was the province of the priests—but they were officially upholders of the law, defenders of religion, avengers of all crimes, particularly of idolatry and its attendant vices. That I may prove Israel; either, first, That I may try, and see whether Israel will be true and faithful to me, or whether they will suffer themselves to be corrupted by the evil counsels and examples of their bad neighbours, whom I will leave among them for their trial and exercise. Or, secondly, That by them I may afflict and punish Israel; for afflictions are commonly and justly called trials. But the former sense suits better with the following words. That through them I may prove Israel,.... Afflict them by them, and so prove or try them, their faith and patience, which are tried by afflictions; and such were the Canaanites to them, as afflictions and temptations are to the spiritual Israel of God; or rather, whether they would keep in the ways of God, or walk in those the Canaanites did, as follows:

whether they will keep the way of the Lord, as their fathers did keep it, or not; whether they would worship the true God their fathers did, or the gods of the Canaanites; not that the Lord was ignorant of what they would do, and so made the experiment; but that the sincerity and faithfulness, or insincerity and unfaithfulness of their hearts, might appear to themselves and others.

That through them I may {m} prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.

(m) So that both outward enemies and false prophets are but a trial to prove our faith, De 13:3, Jud 3:1.

22. prove Israel] Jdg 3:1; Jdg 3:4, as He had proved them in the wilderness, Exodus 16:4 J, Exodus 15:25, Exodus 20:20 E, Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 13:3. The purpose of God’s proving is to test man’s loyalty and to perfect the character, Genesis 22:1; Psalm 26:2; James 1:2-4. In Jdg 2:20-21 the nations were not driven out because Israel must be punished, in Jdg 2:22 because Israel must be tested. The two ideas are not irreconcileable in thought; but it is probable that Jdg 2:22 was not written by the author of Jdg 2:20-21; at any rate the form of the sentence whether they will keep … or not is Deuteronomic; see the refs. to Deut. just given. In the Hebrew way must be corrected to ways to agree with therein (plur.).Verse 22. - To walk therein. The Hebrew has in them. Probably for way we should read ways, as Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12, etc. This verse does not seem to be part of what the Lord said, but to be the comment of the writer. The A.V. - that through them I may prove - inserts an I which is not in the original. Ver. 22 depends upon ver. 23. The literal rendering is, For the sake of proving Israel, etc.... the Lord left those nations. The writer, after rehearsing the Lord's reason for not completing the extirpation of the nations after the death of Joshua, adds the further information why they had not been delivered into Joshua's hand in his lifetime (cf. Joshua 3:1, 4). In Exodus 23:29, 30; Deuteronomy 7:22, an additional reason is given for the gradual extirpation of the Canaanites - "lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee."

But the Lord did not rest content with this. He did still more. "He raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of their plunderers," to excite them to love in return by this manifestation of His love and mercy, and to induce them to repent. But "they did not hearken even to their judges," namely, so as not to fall back again into idolatry, which the judge had endeavoured to suppress. This limitation of the words is supported by the context, viz., by a comparison of Judges 2:18, Judges 2:19. - "But (כּי after a negative clause) they went a whoring after other gods (for the application of this expression to the spiritual adultery of idolatrous worship, see Exodus 34:15), and turned quickly away (vid., Exodus 32:8) from the way which their fathers walked in, to hearken to the commandments of the Lord," i.e., from the way of obedience to the divine commands. "They did not so" (or what was right) sc., as their fathers under Joshua had done (cf. Judges 2:7).
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