Judges 21:4
And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
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(4) Built there an altar.—We find David doing the same at the threshing-floor of Araunah (2Samuel 24:25), and Solomon at Gibeon. Unless the entire tabernacle had, for the time, been removed to Bethel, there was no regular altar there. It has been suggested that in any case this altar must have been necessitated by the multitude of sacrifices required for the holocausts and the food of the people. (See Note on Judges 20:26.) Probably there is some other reason unknown to us.

Jdg 21:4. The people rose early and built there an altar — It is likely that they erected a new altar upon this present occasion, when such a multitude of sacrifices were to be offered by all the people of Israel, that the ordinary altar was not sufficient to receive them. Thus Solomon did when he dedicated the temple, 1 Kings 8:64. And, by the direction of God, it was frequently done in other places besides at the house of God.

17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.It is not certain whether the brass altar was at Bethel at this time, or whether it may not have been elsewhere, e. g., at Shiloh with the tabernacle. Some, however, think that the altar here mentioned was "additional" to the brass altar, in consequence of the unusual number of sacrifices caused by the presence of the whole congregation (compare 1 Kings 8:64 note). 2-5. the people came to the house of God, … and lifted up their voices, and wept sore—The characteristic fickleness of the Israelites was not long in being displayed; for scarcely had they cooled from the fierceness of their sanguinary vengeance, than they began to relent and rushed to the opposite extreme of self-accusation and grief at the desolation which their impetuous zeal had produced. Their victory saddened and humbled them. Their feelings on the occasion were expressed by a public and solemn service of expiation at the house of God. And yet this extraordinary observance, though it enabled them to find vent for their painful emotions, did not afford them full relief, for they were fettered by the obligation of a religious vow, heightened by the addition of a solemn anathema on every violator of the oath. There is no previous record of this oath; but the purport of it was, that they would treat the perpetrators of this Gibeah atrocity in the same way as the Canaanites, who were doomed to destruction; and the entering into this solemn league was of a piece with the rest of their inconsiderate conduct in this whole affair. Built there an altar; not for a monument of the victory, as some say, but for sacrifices, as the next words show.

Quest. What need was there of this, when the ordinary altar was there, to which also they seem to be restrained, Deu 16:2?

Answ. They are not there restrained to one altar, but to one place of worship, as is expressed; and therefore there might be in that place more altars than one, when the multitude of sacrifices so required, which was the case 1 Kings 8:61; and probably at this time, when all the tribes being met, they had many sacrifices to offer, some in common for all, and some peculiar to every tribe. Nay, other altars might be, and ofttimes were, erected in other places, by David, direction or dispensation; as Judges 6:21,26 1 Samuel 7:9,17 11:15 16:2,5.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early,.... The day after their fasting and prayer, and a sense of their present case and circumstances being deeply impressed upon their minds, they rose early in the morning to acts of devotion, and exercises of religion, hoping that being in the way of their duty, the difficulties with which they were perplexed would be removed:

and built there an altar; if this place was Bethel, as Kimchi reasons, there Jacob had built an altar; but that in such a course of years might have been demolished: and if it was Shiloh, there was the tabernacle, and so the altar of the Lord there; wherefore this either signifies the repairing of that, being in ruins, which is not likely, since it was but lately used, Judges 20:26 or the building of a new one, which to do in the tabernacle was not unlawful, especially when the number of sacrifices required it, which it is highly probable was the case now, as it was at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:64 though the above mentioned writer thinks, that building an altar signifies, as in many places, only seeking the Lord; but the use for which it was built is expressed:

and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings; both to atone for the sins they had been guilty of in the prosecution of the war, and to return thanks for victory given, and to implore fresh favours to be bestowed upon them.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an {b} altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

(b) According to their custom, when they would consult the Lord.

4. built there an altar] But an altar must have existed in the sanctuary at Beth-el when the sacrifices were offered before, Jdg 20:26. Either these words, or the whole verse, must be a gloss, due perhaps to a recollection of 2 Samuel 24:25 and ch. Jdg 20:26.

Verse 4.- Offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. See ch. 20:26, note. Judges 21:4After the termination of the war, the people, i.e., the people who had assembled together for the war (see Judges 21:9), went again to Bethel (see at Judges 20:18, Judges 20:26), to weep there for a day before God at the serious loss which the war had brought upon the congregation. Then they uttered this lamentation: "Why, O Lord God of Israel, is this come to pass in Israel, that a tribe is missing to-day from Israel?" This lamentation involved the wish that God might show them the way to avert the threatened destruction of the missing tribe, and build up the six hundred who remained. To give a practical expression to this wish, they built an altar the next morning, and offered burnt-offerings and supplicatory offerings upon it (see at Judges 20:26), knowing as they did that their proposal would not succeed without reconciliation to the Lord, and a return to the fellowship of His grace. There is something apparently strange in the erection of an altar at Bethel, since sacrifices had already been offered there during the war itself (Judges 20:26), and this could not have taken place without an altar. Why it was erected again, or another one built, is a question which cannot be answered with any certainty. It is possible, however, that the first was not large enough for the number of sacrifices that had to be offered now.
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