Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim.—If the reading of all the MSS. be correct, this must be a term of hatred rather than a name, for it means “Cushan of the double wickedness.” Some MSS. of the LXX. have Chousarsathaim. Josephus (Antt. v. 3, § 3) shortens it into Chousarthes; and St. Clemens of Alexandria (Strom. i. 21) into Chousachar. Syncellus (Chronogr. i. 58) says that Paphos was founded by those who fled from this Mesopotamian conqueror (Ewald). Cushan only occurs elsewhere in Habakkuk 3:7, “I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction.” Cush was a son of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8), and our translators, in the margin of Habakkuk 3:11, render Cushan by Ethiopia. It is quite possible that Rishathaim may be the distorted form of the name of some town. It is always the tendency of a people to re-stamp a word which they receive into their current phraseology, because no nations like to use a term which they do not understand. Thus in our London streets, “Hangman’s Gains” is a corruption of Hammes et Guynes, and Blind Chapel Court, of Blanch Appleton.
The Jews were not only accustomed thus to re-stamp (sur-frapper) the names of foreign kings, peoples, and idols, but they especially rejoiced in using terms of hatred. Thus the Romans in the Talmud are called Idumeans; Beelzebul was changed into Beelzebub; Bethel into Bethaven; Ptolemy into Talmai; Ir-Cheres into Ir-Heres (see Note on Judges 1:33), &c. In an ancient Rabbinic commentary the “two wickednesses” are supposed to be those of Balaam and Cushan, or that of Laban repeating itself in his descendants. The Targum and Syriac render it “the criminal Cushan.”
King of Mesopotamia.—In the original Aram-naharian, “the highland of the two rivers” (Euphratesand Tigris), or, as the LXX. render it, “Syria of the rivers.” His invasion, like that of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and Amraphel, king of Shinar, was from the south. Hence it is repelled by Othniel, whose inheritance was in the tribe of Judah. We find no other invaders from the far east till the close of the monarchy.Jdg 3:8. He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim — So that the first enemies that oppressed the Israelites were the Syrians; who, either out of hatred, or a desire to enlarge their dominions, came over the Euphrates, and invaded them, and kept them in subjection eight years. King of Mesopotamia — Which was that part of Syria which lay between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates. This lay at such a distance, that one would not have thought Israel’s trouble should have come from such a far country; but this shows so much the more that the hand of God was in it.Judges 1:1 : Now, etc. Judges 3:8, therefore (or "and") etc.
Served Chushan-Rishathaim - This is the same phrase as in Judges 3:14. From it is derived the expression, "the times of servitude," as distinguished from "the times of rest," in speaking of the times of the Judges. Mesopotamia, or Aram-naharaim, was the seat of Nimrod's kingdom, and Nimrod was the son of Cush Genesis 10:8-12. Rishathaim is perhaps the name of a city, or a foreign word altered to a Hebrew form. Nothing is known from history, or the cuneiform inscriptions, of the political condition of Mesopotamia at this time, though Thotmes I and III in the 18th Egyptian dynasty are known to have invaded Mesopotamia. It is, however, in accordance with such an aggressive Aramean movement toward Palestine, that as early as the time of Abraham we find the kings of Shinar and of Elam invading the south of Palestine. There is also distinct evidence in the names of the Edomite kings Genesis 36:32, Genesis 36:35, Genesis 36:37 of an Aramean dynasty in Edom about the time of the early Judges. Compare, too, Job 1:17.
8-11. sold them—that is, "delivered them"
into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim—or, Chushan, "the wicked." This name had been probably given him from his cruel and impious character.
served Chushan-rishathaim eight years—by the payment of a stipulated tribute yearly, the raising of which must have caused a great amount of labor and privation.Judges 2:14,
and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia; or Aramnaharaim; that is, Syria, between the two rivers, which were Tigris and Euphrates; hence the Greek name of this place is as here called Mesopotamia. Josephus (l) calls him king of Assyria, and gives him the name of Chusarthus; and indeed Chushanrishathaim seems to be his whole name, though the Targum makes Rishathaim to be an epithet, and calls him Cushan, the wicked king of Syria; the word is of the dual number, and signifies two wickednesses; which, according to the mystical exposition of the Jews (m), refers to two wicked things Syria did to Israel, one by Balaam the Syrian, and the other by this Cushan. Mr. Bedford (n) thinks it may be rendered,"Cushan, king of the two wicked kingdoms;''the Assyrian monarchy being at this time like two kingdoms, Babylon being the metropolis of the one, and Nineveh of the other; but it is question whether the monarchy was as yet in being. Hillerus (o) makes Cushan to be an Arab Scenite, from Habakkuk 3:7; and Rishathaim to denote disquietudes; and it represents him as a man very turbulent, never quiet and easy, and so it seems he was; for not content with his kingdom on the other side Euphrates, he passed over that, and came into Canaan, to subject that to him, and add it to his dominions. Kimchi says that Rishathaim may be the name of a place, and some conjecture it to be the same with the Rhisina of Ptolemy (p); but it seems rather a part of this king's name, who came and fought against Israel, and the Lord delivered them into his hands:
and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years; became tributaries to him during that space of time, but when that began is not easy to say. Bishop Usher (q) places it in A. M. 2591, and before Christ 1413.Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. sold them] See Jdg 2:14 n.
Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia] The rendering Mesopotamia, i.e. the vast region between the Euphrates and Tigris, comes from the LXX; the Hebr. is Aram-naharaim ‘Syria of the two rivers,’ usually held to designate the country between the Euphrates and the Ḥabor (2 Kings 17:6) or Chabôras, now Khâbûr, because in the O.T. two towns are said to belong to it, Haran (Genesis 24:10) and Pethor (Deuteronomy 23:5), the latter, however, situated on the western side of the Euphrates. But the form naharaim with the dual ending (-aim) may be due merely to the scribes who vocalized the Hebr. text; the original pronunciation was probably Aram-nahârim (plur.) ‘Syria of Nahârim,’ i.e. the rivers (cf. Riviera), which will then be the Hebr. equivalent of Naharin in Egyptian inscrr., the land of Nahrima or Narima in the Amarna tablets, the ancient name of the country which stretched from the Orontes across the Euphrates, and indefinitely eastwards. The subjugation of the Israelite tribes by the king of this remote region is as surprising as his overthrow by the small clan of Othniel in the S. of Judah. Yet a faint recollection of some actual event may be detected in the narrative, which is most improbable as it stands. The name Cushan-rishathaim (‘Cushan of double wickedness,’ a contemptuous sobriquet) suggests a connexion with Cushan, a Midianite tribe (Habakkuk 3:7; cf. Numbers 12:1); nothing is more likely than that these Bedouin from Midian made an incursion into the S. of Judah, and were at last repulsed by the Kenizzites of Debir (Jdg 1:11 ff.). Perhaps the original tradition was perverted by the very natural confusion between Aram and Edom, which are barely distinguishable in the ancient writing (cf. 2 Kings 16:6 RVm.); Aram once in the text, Naharaim would readily be added.Verse 8.- Chushan-rishathaim, i.e., as usually explained, Chushan the victorious, or the wicked. His name, Chushan, or Cushan, points to Cush, the father of Nimrod (Judges 2:22, viz., "to prove Israel by them," is still further elucidated here. In the first place (Judges 3:1), את־ישׂראל is more precisely defined as signifying "all those who had not known all the wars of Canaan," sc., from their own observation and experience, that is to say, the generation of the Israelites which rose up after the death of Joshua. For "the wars of Canaan" were the wars which were carried on by Joshua with the almighty help of the Lord for the conquest of Canaan. The whole thought is then still further expanded in Judges 3:2 as follows: "only (for no other purpose than) that the succeeding generations (the generations which followed Joshua and his contemporaries) of the children of Israel, that He (Jehovah) might teach them war, only those who had not known them (the wars of Canaan)." The suffix attached to ידעוּם refers to "the wars of Canaan," although this is a feminine noun, the suffix in the masculine plural being frequently used in connection with a feminine noun. At first sight it would appear as though the reason given here for the non-extermination of the Canaanites was not in harmony with the reason assigned in Judges 2:22, which is repeated in Judges 3:4 of the present chapter. But the differences are perfectly reconcilable, if we only give a correct explanation of the two expression, "learning war," and the "wars of Canaan." Learning war in the context before us is equivalent to learning to make war upon the nations of Canaan. Joshua and the Israelites of his time had not overcome these nations by their own human power or by earthly weapons, but by the miraculous help of their God, who had smitten and destroyed the Canaanites before the Israelites. The omnipotent help of the Lord, however, was only granted to Joshua and the whole nation, on condition that they adhered firmly to the law of God (Joshua 1:7), and faithfully observed the covenant of the Lord; whilst the transgression of that covenant, even by Achan, caused the defeat of Israel before the Canaanites (Joshua 7). In the wars of Canaan under Joshua, therefore, Israel had experienced and learned, that the power to conquer its foes did not consist in the multitude and bravery of its own fighting men, but solely in the might of its God, which it could only possess so long as it continued faithful to the Lord. This lesson the generations that followed Joshua had forgotten, and consequently they did not understand how to make war. To impress this truth upon them-the great truth, upon which the very existence as well as the prosperity of Israel, and its attainment of the object of its divine calling, depended; in other words, to teach it by experience, that the people of Jehovah could only fight and conquer in the power of its God-the Lord had left the Canaanites in the land. Necessity teaches a man to pray. The distress into which the Israelites were brought by the remaining Canaanites was a chastisement from God, through which the Lord desired to lead back the rebellious to himself, to keep them obedient to His commandments, and to train them to the fulfilment of their covenant duties. In this respect, learning war, i.e., learning how the congregation of the Lord was to fight against the enemies of God and of His kingdom, was one of the means appointed by God to tempt Israel, or prove whether it would listen to the commandments of God (Judges 3:4), or would walk in the ways of the Lord. If Israel should so learn to war, it would learn at the same time to keep the commandments of God. But both of these were necessary for the people of God. For just as the realization of the blessings promised to the nation in the covenant depended upon its hearkening to the voice of the Lord, so the conflicts appointed for it were also necessary, just as much for the purification of the sinful nation, as for the perpetuation and growth of the kingdom of God upon the earth.
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