Judges 4:2
And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelled in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Sold them.—See Judges 2:14.

Jabin.—The name means, “he is wise.” It may have been a dynastic name, like Abimelech, Melchizedek, Pharaoh, Hadad, Agag, &c.

King of Canaani.e., of some great tribe or nation of the Canaanite8. In Joshua 11:1 Jabin is called king of Hazor, and sends messages to all the other Canaanite princes.

Reigned in Hazor.—See Joshua 11:1. Hazor was in the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:36), and overlooked the waters of Merom (Jos., Antt. v. 5, § 1). We find from Egyptian inscriptions of Barneses II., &c., that it was a flourishing town in very ancient days. Owing to its importance, it was fortified by Solomon (1Kings 9:15). Its inhabitants were taken captive by Tiglath-pileser (2Kings 15:29); and it is last mentioned in 1 Maccabees 9:27. (Comp. Jos., Antt. xiii. 5, § 7.) De Saulcy discovered large and ancient ruins to the north of Merom, which he identifies with this town. The Bishop of Bath and Wells (Lord A. Hervey On the Genealogies, p. 28) has pointed out the strange resemblance between the circumstances of this defeat and that recorded in Joshua 11. In both we have a Jabin, king of Hazor; in both there are subordinate kings (Judges 5:19; Joshua 11:1); in both chariots are prominent, which, as we conjecture from Joshua 11:8, were burnt at Misrephoth-maim (“burnings by the waters”); and in both the general outline of circumstances is the same, and the same names occur in the list of conquered kings (Joshua 11:21-22). This seems to be the reason why Josephus, in his account of the earlier event (Antt. v. 1, § 18), does not mention either Jabin or Hazor, though strangely enough he says, in both instances, with his usual tendency to exaggeration, that the Canaanites had 300,000 foot, 10,000 horse, and 3,000 chariots. It is again a curious, though it may be an unimportant circumstance, that in 1Samuel 12:9 the prophet mentions Sisera before Eglon. Of course, if the received view of the chronology be correct, we must make the not impossible supposition, that in the century and a half which is supposed to have elapsed since the death of Joshua, Hazor had risen from its obliteration and its ashes (Joshua 11:11; Jos., Antt. v. 5, § 4), under a new Canaanite settlement, governed by a king who adopted the old dynastic name. If, on the other hand, there are chronological indications that the whole period of the Judges must be greatly shortened, we may perhaps suppose that the armies of Joshua and Barak combined the full strength of the central and northern tribes in an attack from different directions, which ended in a common victory. In that case, the different tribal records can only have dwelt on that part of the victory in which they were themselves concerned. It is remarkable that even so conservative a critic as Bishop Wordsworth holds “that some of the judges of Israel were only judges of portions of Canaan, and that the years run parallel to those of other judges in other districts of the same country.” If there are difficulties in whatever scheme of chronology we adopt, we must remember the antiquity and the fragmentary nature of the records, which were written with other and far higher views than that of furnishing us with an elaborate consecutive history.

The captain of whose host.—In Eastern narratives it is common for the king to play a very subordinate personal part. In the last campaign of Crœsus we hear much more of Surenas, the general of the Parthians, than of Orodes (Arsaces, 14).

Sisera.—The name long lingered among the Israelites. It occurs again in Ezra 2:53, as the name of the founder of a family of Nethinim (minor servants of the Levites, of Canaanite origin, 2 Samuel 21; Ezra 2:43; 1Chronicles 9:2); and in the strange fashion which prevailed among some of the Rabbis of claiming a foreign descent, the great Rabbi Akhivah professed to be descended from Sisera.

Harosheth.—The name means “wood-cutting.” The Chaldee renders it, “In the strength of citadels of the nations.” It was an ingenious and not improbable conjecture of the late Dr. Donaldson, that the town was named from the fact that Sisera made the subject Israelites serve as “hewers of wood” in the cedar-woods and fir-woods of Lebanon. The site of Harosheth has been precariously identified with Harsthîeh, a hill on the south-east of the plain of Akka. (Thomson’s Land and Book, ch. 29)

Of the Gentilesi.e., of the nations; of mixed inhabitants; lying as it did in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” (Comp. “Tidal, king of nations,” Genesis 14:1, and “The king of the nations in Gilgal,” Joshua 12:23.)

Jdg 4:2. Jabin — This Jabin was probably descended from the other prince of that name, who fell by the hands of Joshua, Joshua 11:11. He doubtless had watched all opportunities to recover his ancient possessions, and to revenge his own and his father’s quarrel. King of Canaan — That is, of the land where most of the Canaanites, strictly so called, now dwelt, which seems to have been the northern part of Canaan. That reigned in Hazor — In the territory or kingdom of Hazor, which might now be restored to its former extent and power. Perhaps he had seized on the spot where Hazor formerly stood, and rebuilt that city. Harosheth of the Gentiles — So called, because it was much frequented and inhabited by the Gentiles; either by the Canaanites, who, being beaten out of their former possessions, seated themselves in those northern parts; or by other nations coming thither for traffic, whence Galilee, where this was, is called Galilee of the Gentiles.4:1-3. The land had rest for eighty years, which should have confirmed them in their religion; but it made them secure, and indulge their lusts. Thus the prosperity of fools destroys them. Jabin and his general Sisera, mightily oppressed Israel. This enemy was nearer than any of the former. Israel cried unto the Lord, when distress drove them to him, and they saw no other way of relief. Those who slight God in prosperity, will find themselves under a necessity of seeking him in trouble.See Joshua 11:1 note. Since the events there narrated, Hazor must have been rebuilt, and have resumed its position as the metropolis of the northern Canaanites; the other cities must also have resumed their independence, and restored the fallen dynasties.

Harosheth (identified by Conder with El Harathlyeh, see Judges 4:6) is marked by the addition of the Gentiles, as in Galilee of the nations Genesis 14:1; Isaiah 9:1. The name Harosheth signifies workmanship, cutting and carving, whether in stone or wood Exodus 31:5, and hence, might be applied to the place where such works are carried on. It has been conjectured that this being a great timber district, rich in cedars and fir-trees, and near Great Zidon Joshua 11:8, Jabin kept a large number of oppressed Israelites at work in hewing wood, and preparing it at Harosheth for transport to Zidon; and that these woodcutters, armed with axes and hatchets, formed the soldiers of Barak's army.

2, 3. Jabin king of Canaan—"Jabin," a royal title (see on [215]Jos 11:1). The second Jabin built a new capital on the ruins of the old (Jos 11:10, 11). The northern Canaanites had recovered from the effect of their disastrous overthrow in the time of Joshua, and now triumphed in their turn over Israel. This was the severest oppression to which Israel had been subjected. But it fell heaviest on the tribes in the north, and it was not till after a grinding servitude of twenty years that they were awakened to view it as the punishment of their sins and to seek deliverance from God. King of Canaan, i.e. of the land where the most of the Canaanites, strictly so called, now dwelt, which seems to be in thee northern part of Canaan. This seems to be of the posterity of that Jabin, whom Joshua slew, Joshua 11:10 who watched all opportunities to recover his ancient possessions, and to revenge his own and father’s quarrel upon the Israelites.

In Hazor; either,

1. In the city of Hazor, which though taken and burnt by Joshua, Joshua 11:11, yet might be retaken and rebuilt by the Canaanites. Or,

2. In the territory or kingdom of Hazor, which might now be restored to its former largeness and power, Joshua 11:10, the names of cities being oft put for their territories, as Zorah, a city, Joshua 15:33, is put for the fields belonging to it, Judges 13:2, in which Samson’s parents lived, Judges 13:25 Judges 16:31 18:2.

Harosheth of the Gentiles; so called, because it was much frequented and inhabited by the Gentiles; either by the Canaanites, who being beaten out of their former possessions, seated themselves in those northern parts; or by other nations coming there for traffic, or upon other occasions, as Strabo notes of those parts; whence Galilee, where this was, is called Galilee of the Gentiles. And the Lord sold them,.... Delivered them into a state of bondage and slavery, where they were like men sold for slaves, see Judges 3:8,

into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; there was a city of this name, and a king of it of the same name, as here, in the times of Joshua, which city was taken and burnt by him, and its king slain, Joshua 11:1; and either the country about it is here meant, as Jericho in the preceding chapter is put for the country adjacent to it; or this city had been rebuilt, over which reigned one of the posterity of the ancient kings of it, and of the same name; or Jabin was a name common to the kings of Canaan, as Pharaoh to the Egyptian kings; and by Canaan is meant, not the land of Canaan in general, but a particular part of it inhabited by that, or some of that nation or tribe, which was peculiarly so called:

the captain of whose host was Sisera; Jabin maintained a standing army to keep the people of Israel in subjection, the general of which was Sisera, of whom many things are after said:

which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles; not Jabin, as many understand it, for he had his royal seat and residence in Hazor; but Sisera his general, and where the army under his command was. This place had its name either because it was built by same of various nations, or inhabited by workmen of different countries; or rather it was a wood originally, as the name signifies, to which many of the seven nations of the Canaanites fled from before Joshua, and hid and sheltered themselves, and in process of time built strong towers and fortresses in it, and became numerous and powerful; and so the Targum paraphrases the words,"and he dwelt in the strength of the towers of the people;''

and in other times, as Strabo relates (w), the northern parts of the land of Canaan, as those were where Hazor and Harosheth were, were inhabited by a mixed people, Egyptians, Arabians, and Phoenicians; such were they, he says, that held Galilee, Jericho, Philadelphia, and Samaria.

(w) Geograph. l. 16. p. 525.

And the LORD sold them into the hand of {a} Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in {b} Harosheth of the Gentiles.

(a) There was another Jabin, whom Joshua killed and burnt his city Hazor, Jos 11:13.

(b) That is in a wood, or strong place,

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor] Hazor, already a royal city in the 15 cent. b.c. (Amarna Tablets 154, 41), lay in the neighbourhood of Kedesh-naphtali (Joshua 19:36 f., 2 Kings 15:20) and to the S. of it (1Ma 11:63; 1Ma 11:67 ff.); the name (= enclosure) is preserved in Jebel Ḥaḍîreh (= sheep-fold) and Merj el-Ḥaḍîreh, W. of the lake of Ḥûleh, but the site is not known with certainty; Guthe (Bibel Atlas) places it at Ḥurçbeh, 2 m. E. of Jebel Ḥaḍîreh; in any case Jabin’s city was at least 30 m. N. of the scene of Barak’s victory. The compiler here and in Jdg 4:23-24 raises Jabin king of Hazor (Jdg 4:17, Joshua 11:1) to the rank of king of Canaan (cf. Genesis 26:1; Genesis 26:8 ‘king of the Philistines’), an anomalous title, for Canaan was not an organized kingdom under a single head, but a general name for a region of independent towns each with a chief of its own (Joshua 5:1; Joshua 9:1; Joshua 11:1 etc.). The tradition is further magnified in Joshua 11:1-15, where the struggle between Jabin king of Hazor and the two tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, a reminiscence of which probably underlies the present narrative and Joshua 11, becomes the conquest of N. Canaan by Joshua and all Israel.

the captain of whose host was Sisera] Cf. Jdg 4:7. By subordinating Sisera in this way an attempt was made to combine the two traditions. But the narrative as it proceeds makes it clear that Sisera was an independent chief; the nine hundred chariots of iron (see Jdg 1:19 n.) in Jdg 4:13 belong to him; like Jabin, he had his own capital, Harosheth, probably Ḥârithîyeh, on the right bank of the Kishon, at the S.W. corner of the Plain of Jezreel, where the chariots could be used with effect. The name Sisera, which occurs again in Ezra 2:53, is foreign, cf. the Assyr. sasur ‘progeny,’ seseru ‘child’: it may not be Semitic at all; Moore compares the Hittite names ending in -sira, Ḥtasira, Maurasira (W. H. Müller, As. u. Eur., p. 332).Verse 2. - Sold them. See Judges 2:14, note. Jabin king of Hazor. The exact site of Hazor has not been identified with certainty, but it is conjectured by Robinson, with great probability, to have stood on the Tell now called Khuraibeh, overlooking the waters of Merom (now called Lake Huleh), where are remains of a sepulchre, Cyclopean walls, and other buildings. In Joshua 11:1-14 we read of the total destruction by fire of Hazor, and of the slaughter of Jabin, the king thereof, with all the inhabitants of the city, and of the slaughter of all the confederate kings, and the capture of their cities; Hazor, however, "the head of all those kingdoms," being the only one which was "burnt with fire." It is a little surprising, therefore, to read here of another Jabin reigning in Hazor, with confederate kings under him (Judges 5:19), having, like his predecessor, a vast number of chariots (cf. Judges 4:3, 13 with Joshua 11:4, 9), and attacking Israel at the head of a great force (cf. Judges 4:7, 13, 16 with Joshua 11:4). It is impossible not to suspect that these are two accounts of the same event. If, however, the two events are distinct, we must suppose that the Canaanite kingdoms had been revived under a descendant of the former king, that Hazor had been rebuilt, and that Jabin was the hereditary name of its king. Gentiles, or nations, or Goim, as Joshua 12:23, and Genesis 14:1. Whether Goim was the proper name of a particular people, or denoted a collection of different tribes, their seat was in Galilee, called in Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:15, Galilee, of the nations, or Gentiles, in Hebrew Goim. Ehud had escaped whilst the servants of Eglon were waiting, and had passed the stone quarries and reached Seirah. Seirah is a place that is never mentioned again; and, judging from the etymology (the hairy), it was a wooded region, respecting the situation of which all that can be decided is, that it is not to be sought for in the neighbourhood of Jericho, but "upon the mountains of Ephraim" (Judges 3:27). For when Ehud had come to Seirah, he blew the trumpet "upon the mountains of Ephraim," to announce to the people the victory that was placed within their reach by the death of Eglon, and to summon them to war with the Moabites, and then went down from the mountain into the plain near Jericho; "and he was before them," i.e., went in front as their leader, saying to the people, "Follow me; for Jehovah has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand." Then they went down and took (i.e., took possession of) the fords near Jericho (see at Joshua 2:7), למואב, either "from the Moabites" or "towards Moab," and let no one (of the Moabites) cross over, i.e., escape to their own land.
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