Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Book of Judges
Contents, and Character, Origin and Sources, of the Book of Judges
The book of Judges, headed Shophetim in the Hebrew Bibles, and Κριταί in the Alexandrian version, and called liber Judicum in the Vulgate, contains the history of the Israelitish theocracy for a period of about 350 years, from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, or to the time of the prophet Samuel. It may be divided according to its contents into three parts: (1) an introduction (Judges 1-3:6); (2) the history of the several judges (Judges 3:7-16:31); and (3) a twofold appendix (Judges 17-21). In the Introduction the prophetic author of the book first of all takes a general survey of those facts which exhibited most clearly the behaviour of the Israelites to the Canaanites who were left in the land after the death of Joshua, and closes his survey with the reproof of their behaviour by the angel of the Lord (Jud1:1- Joshua 2:5). He then describes in a general manner the attitude of Israel to the Lord its God and that of the Lord to His people during the time of the judges, and represents this period as a constant alternation of humiliation through hostile oppression, when the nation fell away from its God, and deliverance out of the power of its enemies by judges whom God raised up and endowed with the power of His Spirit, whenever the people returned to the Lord (Judges 2:6-3:6). This is followed in the body of the work (Judges 3:7-16:31) by the history of the several oppressions of Israel on the part of foreign nations, with the deliverance effected by the judges who were raised up by God, and whose deeds are for the most part elaborately described in chronological order, and introduced by the standing formula, "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord," etc.; or, "And the children of Israel again did evil (added to do evil)," etc. They are arranged in six historical groups: (1) the oppression by the Mesopotamian king, Chushan-rishathaim, with the deliverance from this oppression through Othniel the judge (Judges 3:7-11); (2) the oppression by the Moabitish king Eglon, with the deliverance effected through Ehud the judge (Judges 3:12-30), and the victory achieved by Shamgar over the Philistines (Judges 3:31); (3) the subjugation of Israel by the Canaanitish king Jabin, and the deliverance effected through the prophetess Deborah and Barak the judge (Judges 4), with Deborah's song of victory (Judges 5); (4) the oppression by the Midianites, and the deliverance from these enemies through the judge Gideon, who was called to be the deliverer of Israel through an appearance of the angel of the Lord (Judges 6-8), with the history of the three years' reign of his son Abimelech (Judges 9), and brief notices of the two judges Tola and Jair (Judges 10:1-5); (5) the giving up of the Israelites into the power of the Ammonites and Philistines, and their deliverance from the Ammonitish oppression by Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7), with brief notices of the three judges Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (Judges 12:8-15); (6) the oppression by the Philistines, with the account of the life and deeds of Samson the judge, who began to deliver Israel out of the power of these foes (Judges 13-16). To this there are added two appendices in Judges 17-21: viz., (1) the account of the worship of images by the Ephraimite Micah, and the transportation of that worship by the Danites to Laish-Dan (Judges 17-18); and (2) the infamous conduct of the inhabitants of Gibeah, and the war of revenge which was waged by the congregation of Israel against the tribe of Benjamin as a punishment for the crime (Judges 19-21). Both these events occurred in the earliest part of the period of the judges, as we may gather, in the case of the first, from a comparison of Judges 18:1 with Judges 1:34, and in that of the second from a comparison of Judges 20:28 with Joshua 22:13 and Joshua 24:33; and they are merely placed at the end of the book in the form of appendices, because they could not well be introduced into the six complete historical tableaux; although, so far as the facts themselves are concerned, they are intimately connected with the contents and aim of the book of Judges, inasmuch as they depict the religious and moral circumstances of the times in the most striking manner in two pictures drawn from life. The relation in which the three parts stand to one another, therefore, is this: the introduction depicts the basis on which the deeds of the judges were founded, and the appendices furnish confirmatory evidence of the spirit of the age as manifested in those deeds. The whole book, however, is pervaded and ruled by the idea distinctly expressed in the introduction (Judges 2:1-3, Judges 2:11-22), that the Lord left those Canaanites who had not been exterminated by Joshua still in the land, to prove to Israel through them whether it would obey His commandments, and that He chastised and punished His people through them for their disobedience and idolatry; but that as soon as they recognised His chastening hand in the punishment, and returned to Him with penitence and implored His help, He had compassion upon them again in His gracious love, and helped them to victory over their foes, so that, notwithstanding the repeated acts of faithlessness on the part of His people, the Lord remained ever faithful in His deeds, and stedfastly maintained His covenant.
We must not look to the book of Judges, therefore, for a complete history of the period of the judges, or one which throws light upon the development of the Israelites on every side. the character of the book, as shown in its contents and the arrangement of the materials, corresponds entirely to the character of the times over which it extends. The time of the judges did not form a new stage in the development of the nation of God. It was not till the time of Samuel and David, when this period was ended, that a new stage began. It was rather a transition period, the time of free, unfettered development, in which the nation was to take root in the land presented to it by God as its inheritance, to familiarize itself with the theocratic constitution given to it by the Mosaic law, and by means of the peculiar powers and gifts conferred upon it by God to acquire for itself that independence and firm footing in Canaan, within the limits of the laws, ordinances, and rights of the covenant, which Jehovah had promised, and the way to which He had prepared through the revelations He had made to them. This task could be accomplished without any ruler directly appointed by the Lord. The first thing which the tribes had to do was to root out such Canaanites as remained in the land, that they might not only establish themselves in the unrestricted and undisputed possession and enjoyment of the land and its productions, but also avert the danger which threatened them on the part of these tribes of being led away to idolatry and immorality. The Lord had promised them His help in this conflict, if they would only walk in His commandments. The maintenance of civil order and the administration of justice were in the hands of the heads of tribes, families, and households; and for the relation in which the congregation stood to the Lord its God, it possessed the necessary organs and media in the hereditary priesthood of the tribe of Levi, whose head could inquire the will of God in all cases of difficulty through the right of Urim, and make it known to the nation. Now as long as the generation, which had seen the wonderful works of the Lord in the time of Joshua, was still living, so long did the nation continue faithful to the covenant of its God, and the tribes maintain a successful conflict with the still remaining Canaanites (Judges 1:1-20, Judges 1:22-25). But the very next generation, to which those mighty acts of the Lord were unknown, began to forget its God, to grow weary and lax in its conflicts with the Canaanites, to make peace with them, and to mix up the worship of Jehovah, the jealous and holy God, with the worship of Baal and Astarte, the Canaanitish deities of nature, and even to substitute the latter in its place. With the loss of love and fidelity to the Lord, the bond of unity which formed the tribes into one congregation of Jehovah was also broken. The different tribes began to follow their own separate interests (vid., Judges 5:15-17, Judges 5:23; Judges 8:5-8), and eventually even to oppose and make war upon one another; whilst Ephraim was bent upon securing to itself the headship of all the tribes, though without making any vigorous efforts to carry on the war with the oppressors of Israel (vid., Judges 8:1., Judges 12:1-6). Consequently Israel suffered more and more from the oppression of heathen nations, to which God gave it up as a chastisement for its idolatry; and it would have become altogether a prey to its foes, had not the faithful covenant God taken compassion upon it in its distress as often as it cried to Him, and sent deliverers (מושׁיעים, Judges 3:9, Judges 3:15; cf. Nehemiah 9:27) in those judges, after whom both the age in question and the book before us are called. There are twelve of these judges mentioned, or rather thirteen, as Deborah the prophetess also judges Israel (Judges 4:4); but there are only eight (Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson), who are described as performing acts by which Israel obtained deliverance from its oppressors. Of the other five (Tolah, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon) we are merely told that they judged Israel so many years. The reason for this we are not to seek in the fact that the report of the heroic deeds of these judges had not been handed down to the time when our book was written. It is to be found simply in the fact that these judges waged no wars and smote no foes.
The judges (shophetim) were men who procured justice or right for the people of Israel, not only be delivering them out of the power of their foes, but also by administering the laws and rights of the Lord (Judges 2:16-19). Judging in this sense was different from the administration of civil jurisprudence, and included the idea of government such as would be expected from a king. Thus in 1 Samuel 8:5-6, the people are said to have asked Samuel to give them a king "to judge us," to procure us right, i.e., to govern us; and in 2 Kings 15:5 Jotham is said to have judged, i.e., governed the nation during the illness of his father. The name given to these men (shophetim, judges) was evidently founded upon Deuteronomy 17:9 and Deuteronomy 19:17, where it is assumed that in after-times there would be a shophet, who would stand by the side of the high priest as the supreme judge or leader of the state in Israel. The judges themselves corresponded to the δικασταί of the Tyrians (Josephus, c. Ap. i. 21) and the Suffetes of the Carthaginians (qui summus Paenis est magistratus, Liv. Hist. xxvii. 37, and xxx. 7), with this difference, however, that as a rule the judges of Israel were called directly by the Lord, and endowed with miraculous power for the conquest of the enemies of Israel; and if, after delivering the people from their oppressors, they continued to the time of their death to preside over the public affairs of the whole nation, or merely of several of its tribes, yet they did not follow one another in a continuous line and unbroken succession, because the ordinary administration of justice and government of the commonwealth still remained in the hands of the heads of the tribes and the elders of the people, whilst occasionally there were also prophets and high priests, such as Deborah, Eli, and Samuel (Judges 4:4; 1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Samuel 7:15), in whom the government was vested. Thus "Othniel delivered the children of Israel," and "judged Israel," by going out to war, smiting Chushan-rishathaim, the Aramaean king, and giving the land rest for forty years (Judges 3:9-11); and the same with Ehud and several others. On the other hand, Shamgar (Judges 3:31) and Samson (Judges 13-16) are apparently called judges of Israel, simply as opponents and conquerors of the Philistines, without their having taken any part in the administration of justice. Others, again, nether engaged in war nor gained victories. No warlike deeds are recorded of Tola; and yet it is stated in Judges 10:1, that "he rose up after Abimelech to deliver Israel (את־ישׂראל להושׁיע), and judged Israel twenty-three years;" whilst of his successor Jair nothing more is said, than that "he judged Israel twenty-two years." Both of these had delivered and judged Israel, not by victories gained over enemies, but by placing themselves at the head of the tribes over whom Gideon had been judge, at the termination of the ephemeral reign of Abimelech, and by preventing the recurrence of hostile oppression, through the influence they exerted, as well as by what they did for the establishment of the nation in its fidelity to the Lord. This also applies to Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, who followed Jephthah in direct succession (Judges 12:8-15). Of these five judges also, it is not stated that Jehovah raised them up or called them. In all probability they merely undertook the government at the wish of the tribes whose judges they were; whilst at the same time it is to be observed, that such cases as these did not occur until the desire for a king had begun to manifest itself throughout the nation (Judges 8:22-23).
But if all the judges did not fight against outward enemies of Israel, it might appear strange that the book of Judges should close with the death of Samson, without mentioning Eli and Samuel, as both of them judged Israel, the one forty years, the other for the whole of his life (1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Samuel 7:15). But Eli was really high priest, and what he did as judge was merely the natural result of his office of high priest; and Samuel was called to be the prophet of the Lord, and as such he delivered Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, not with the sword and by the might of his arm, like the judges before him, but by the power of the word, with which he converted Israel to the Lord, and by the might of his prayer, with which he sought and obtained the victory from the Lord (1 Samuel 7:3-10); so that his judicial activity not only sprang out of his prophetic office, but was continually sustained thereby. The line of actual judges terminated with Samson; and with his death the office of judge was carried to the grave. Samson was followed immediately by Samuel, whose prophetic labours formed the link between the period of the judges and the introduction of royalty into Israel. The forty years of oppression on the part of the Philistines, from which Samson began to deliver Israel (Judges 13:1, Judges 13:5), were brought to a close by the victory which the Israelites gained through Samuel's prayer (1 Samuel 7), as will be readily seen when we have determined the chronology of the period of the judges, in the introductory remarks to the exposition of the body of the book. This victory was not gained by the Israelites till twenty years after Eli's death (comp. 1 Samuel 7:2 with 1 Samuel 6:1 and 1 Samuel 4:18). Consequently of the forty years during which Eli judged Israel as high priest, only the last twenty fell within the time of the Philistine oppression, the first twenty before it. But both Samuel and Samson were born during the pontificate of Eli; for when Samson's birth was foretold, the Philistines were already ruling over Israel (Judges 13:5). The deeds of Samson fell for the most part within the last twenty years of the Philistine supremacy, i.e., not only in the interval between the capture of the ark and death of Eli and the victory which the Israelites achieved through Samuel over these foes, which victory, however, Samson did not live to see, but also in the time when Samuel had been accredited as a prophet of Jehovah, and Jehovah had manifested himself repeatedly to him by word at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:20-21). Consequently Samuel completed the deliverance of Israel out of the power of the Philistines, which Samson had commenced.
The book of Judges, therefore, embraces the whole of the judicial epoch, and gives a faithful picture of the political development of the Israelitish theocracy during that time. The author writes throughout from a prophet's point of view. He applies the standard of the law to the spirit of the age by which the nation was influenced as a whole, and pronounces a stern and severe sentence upon all deviations from the path of rectitude set before it in the law. The unfaithfulness of Israel, which went a whoring again and again after Baal, and was punished for its apostasy from the Lord with oppression from foreign nations, and the faithfulness of the Lord, who sent help to the people whenever it returned to Him in its oppression, by raising up judges who conquered its enemies, are the two historical factors of those times, and the hinges upon which the history turns. In the case of all the judges, it is stated that they judged "Israel," or the "children of Israel;" although it is very obvious, from the accounts of the different deliverances effected, that most of the judges only delivered and judged those tribes who happened to be oppressed and subjugated by their enemies at a particular time. The other tribes, who were spared by this or the other hostile invasion, did not come into consideration in reference to the special design of the historical account, namely, to describe the acts of the Lord in the government of His people, any more than the development of the religious and social life of individual members of the congregation in harmony with the law; inasmuch as the congregation, whether in whole or in part, was merely fulfilling its divinely appointed vocation, so long as it observed the law, and about this there was nothing special to be related (see the description given of the book of Judges in Hengstenberg, Diss. on the Pentateuch, vol. ii. pp. 16ff.).
Lastly, if we take a survey of the gradual development of Israel during the times of the judges, we may distinguish three stages in the attitude of the Lord to His constantly rebelling people, and also in the form assumed by the external and internal circumstances of the nation: viz., (1) the period from the commencement of the apostasy of the nation till its deliverance from the rule of the Canaanitish king Jabin, or the time of the judges Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, Deborah and Barak (Judges 3-5); (2) the time of the Midianitish oppression, with the deliverance effected by Gideon, and the government which followed, viz., of Abimelech and the judges Tola and Jair (Judges 6-10:5); (3) the time of the Ammonitish and Philistine supremacy over Israel, with the judges Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon on the one hand, and that of Samson on the other (Judges 10:6-16:31). Three times, for example, the Lord threatens His people with oppression and subjugation by foreign nations, as a punishment for their disobedience and apostasy from Him: viz., (1) at Bochim (Judges 2:1-4) through the angel of the Lord; (2) on the invasion of the Midianites (Judges 6:7-10) through the medium of a prophet; and (3) at the commencement of the Ammonitish and Philistine oppression (Judges 10:10-14). The first time He threatens, "the Canaanites shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you" (Judges 2:3); the second time, "I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you; I said unto you, I am Jehovah, your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites: but ye have not hearkened to my voice" (Judges 6:9-10); the third time, "Ye have forsaken me and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more; go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation" (Judges 10:13-14). These threats were fulfilled upon the disobedient nation, not only in the fact that they fell deeper and deeper under the oppression of their foes, but by their also becoming disjointed and separated more and more internally. In the first stage, the oppressions from without lasted a tolerably long time: that of Chushan-rishathaim eight years; that of Eglon the Moabite, eighteen; and that of the Canaanitish king Jabin, as much as twenty years (Judges 3:8, Judges 3:14; Judges 4:3). But, on the other hand, after the first, the Israelites had forty years of peace; after the second, eighty; and after the third, again forty years (Judges 3:11, Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31). Under Othniel and Ehud all Israel appears to have risen against its oppressors; but under Barak, Reuben and Gilead, Dan and Asher took no part in the conflict of the other tribes (Judges 5:15-17). In the second stage, the Midianitish oppression lasted, it is true, only seven years (Judges 6:1), and was followed by forty years of rest under Gideon (Judges 8:28); whilst the three years' government of Abimelech was followed by forty-five years of peace under Tola and Jair (Judges 10:2-3); but even under Gideon the jealousy of Ephraim was raised to such a pitch against the tribes who had joined in smiting the foe, that it almost led to a civil war (Judges 8:1-3), and the inhabitants of Succoth and Penuel refused all assistance to the victorious army, and that in so insolent a manner that they were severely punished by Gideon in consequence (Judges 8:4-9, Judges 8:14-17); whilst in the election of Abimelech as king of Shechem, the internal decay of the congregation of Israel was brought still more clearly to light (Judges 9). Lastly, in the third stage, no doubt, Israel was delivered by Jephthah from the eighteen years' bondage on the part of the Ammonites (Judges 11:8.), and the tribes to the east of the Jordan, as well as the northern tribes of the land on this side, enjoyed rest under the judges Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon for thirty-one years (Judges 12:7, Judges 12:9,Judges 12:11, Judges 12:14); but the Philistine oppression lasted till after Samson's death (Judges 13:5; Judges 15:20), and the internal decay increased so much under this hostile pressure, that whilst the Ephraimites, on the one hand, commenced a war against Jephthah, and sustained a terrible defeat at the hands of the tribes on the east of the Jordan (Judges 12:1-6), on the other hand, the tribes who were enslaved by the Philistines had so little appreciation of the deliverance which God had sent them through Samson, that the men of Judah endeavoured to give up their deliverer to the Philistines (Judges 15:9-14). Nevertheless the Lord not only helped the nation again, both in its distress and out of its distress, but came nearer and nearer to it with His aid, that it might learn that its help was to be found in God alone. The first deliverers and judges He stirred up by His Spirit, which came upon Othniel and Ehud, and filled them with courage and strength for the conquest of their foes. Barak was summoned to the war by the prophetess Deborah, and inspired by her with the courage to undertake it. Gideon was called to be the deliverer of Israel out of the severe oppression of the Midianites by the appearance of the angel of the Lord, and the victory over the innumerable army of the foe was given by the Lord, not to the whole of the army which Gideon summoned to the battle, but only to a small company of 300 men, that Israel might not "vaunt themselves against the Lord," and magnify their own power. Lastly, Jephthah and Samson were raised up as deliverers out of the power of the Ammonites and Philistines; and whilst Jephthah was called by the elders of Gilead to be the leader in the war with the Midianites, and sought through a vow to ensure the assistance of God in gaining a victory over them, Samson was set apart from his mother's womb, through the appearance of the angel of the Lord, as the Nazarite who was to begin to deliver Israel out of the power of the Philistines. At the same time there was given to the nation in the person of Samuel, the son for whom the pious Hannah prayed to the Lord, a Nazarite and prophet, who was not only to complete the deliverance from the power of the Philistines which Samson had begun, but to ensure the full conversion of Israel to the Lord its God.
With regard to the origin of the book of Judges, it is evident from the repeated remark, "In those days there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25; cf. Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1), that it was composed at a time when Israel was already rejoicing in the benefits connected with the kingdom. It is true this remark is only to be found in the appendices, and would have no force so far as the date of composition is concerned, if the view held by different critics were well-founded, viz., that these appendices were added by a later hand. But the arguments adduced against the unity of authorship in all three parts, the introduction, the body of the work, and the appendices, will not bear examination. Without the introduction (Judges 1:1-3:6) the historical narrative contained in the book would want a foundation, which is absolutely necessary to make it intelligible; and the two appendices supply two supplements of the greatest importance in relation to the development of the tribes of Israel in the time of the judges, and most intimately connected with the design and plan of the rest of the book. It is true that in Judges 1, as well as in the two appendices, the prophetic view of the history which prevails in the rest of the book, from Judges 2:11 to Judges 16:31, is not distinctly apparent; but this difference may be fully explained from the contents of the two portions, which neither furnish the occasion nor supply the materials for any such view-like the account of the royal supremacy of Abimelech in Judges 9, in which the so-called "theocratical pragmatism" is also wanting. But, on the other hand, all these portions are just as rich in allusions to the Mosaic law and the legal worship as the other parts of the book, so that both in their contents and their form they would be unintelligible apart from the supremacy of the law in Israel. The discrepancies which some fancy they have discovered between Judges 1:8 and Judges 1:21, and also between Judges 1:19 and Judges 3:3, vanish completely on a correct interpretation of the passages themselves. And no such differences can be pointed out in language or style as would overthrow the unity of authorship, or even render it questionable. Even Sthelin observes (spez. Einl. p. 77): "I cannot find in Judges 17-21 the (special) author of Judges 1-2:5; and the arguments adduced by Bertheau in favour of this, from modes of expression to be found in the two sections, appear to me to be anything but conclusive, simply because the very same modes of expression occur elsewhere: לשׁבת יואל in Exodus 2:21; חתן in Numbers 10:29; בּיד נתן, Joshua 10:30; Joshua 11:8; Judges 6:1; Judges 11:21; לאשּׁה נתן, Genesis 29:28; Genesis 30:4, Genesis 30:9; Genesis 34:8, etc.; חרב לפי הכּה, Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 13:16; Joshua 8:24; Joshua 10:28, Joshua 10:30, Joshua 10:32, etc. Undoubtedly בּי שׁאל only occurs in Judges 1:1 and the appendix, and never earlier; but there is a similar expression in Numbers 27:21 and Joshua 9:14, and the first passage shows how the mode of expression could be so abbreviated. I find no preterites with ו, used in the place of the future with ו in Judges 1; for it is evident from the construction that the preterite must be used in Judges 1:8, Judges 1:16, Judges 1:25, etc.; and thus the only thing left that could strike us at all is the idiom בּאשׁ שׁלּח, which is common to both sections, but which is too isolated, and occurs again moreover in 2 Kings 8:12 and Psalm 74:7." But even the "peculiar phrases belonging to a later age," which Sthelin and Bertheau discover in Judges 17-21 do not furnish any tenable proof of this assertion. The phrase "from Dan to Beersheba," in Judges 20:1, was formed after the settlement of the Danites in Laish-Dan, which took place at the commencement of the time of the judges. נשׁים נשׂא, in Judges 21:23, is also to be found in Ruth 1:4; and the others either occur again in the books of Samuel, or have been wrongly interpreted.
We have a firm datum for determining more minutely the time when the book of Judges was written, in the statement in Judges 1:21, that the Jebusites in Jerusalem had not been rooted out by the Israelites, but dwelt there with the children of Benjamin "unto this day." The Jebusites remained in possession of Jerusalem, or of the citadel Zion, or the upper town of Jerusalem, until the time when David went against Jerusalem after the twelve tribes had acknowledge him as king, took the fortress of Zion, and made it the capital of his kingdom under the name of the city of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9; 1 Chronicles 11:4-9). Consequently the book was written before this event, either during the first seven years of the reign of David at Hebron, or during the reign of Saul, under whom the Israelites already enjoyed the benefits of a monarchical government, since Saul not only fought with bravery against all the enemies of Israel, and "delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them" (1 Samuel 14:47-48), but exerted himself to restore the authority of the law of God in his kingdom, as is evident from the fact that he banished the wizards and necromancers out of the land (1 Samuel 28:9). The talmudical statement therefore in Bava-bathra (f. 14b and 15a), to the effect that Samuel was the author of the book, may be so far correct, that if it was not written by Samuel himself towards the close of his life, it was written at his instigation by a younger prophet of his school. More than this it is impossible to decide. So much, however, is at all events certain, that the book does not contain traces of a later age either in its contents or its language, and that Judges 18:30 does not refer to the time of the captivity (see the commentary on this passage).
With regard to the sources of which the author made use, unless we are prepared to accept untenable hypotheses as having all the validity of historical facts, it is impossible to establish anything more than that he drew his materials not only from oral tradition, but also from written documents. This is obvious from the exactness of the historical and chronological accounts, and still more so from the abundance of characteristic and original traits and expressions that meet the reader in the historical pictures, some of which are very elaborate. The historical fidelity, exactness, and vividness of description apparent in every part of the book are only to be explained in a work which embraces a period of 350 years, on the supposition that the author made use of trustworthy records, or the testimony of persons who were living when the events occurred. This stands out so clearly in every part of the book, that it is admitted even by critics who are compelled by their own dogmatical assumptions to deny the actual truth or reality of the miraculous parts of the history. With regard to the nature of these sources, however, we can only conjecture that Judges 1 and 17-21 were founded upon written accounts, with which the author of the book of Joshua was also acquainted; and that the accounts of Deborah and Barak, of Gideon, and the life of Samson, were taken from different writing, inasmuch as these sections are distinguished from one another by many peculiarities. (Further remarks on this subject will be found in the exposition itself.)
I. Attitude of Israel Towards the Canaanites, and Towards Jehovah Its God - Judges 1-3:6
Hostilities between Israel and the Canaanites after Joshua's Death - Judges 1:1-2:5
After the death of Joshua the tribes of Israel resolved to continue the war with the Canaanites, that they might exterminate them altogether from the land that had been given them for an inheritance. In accordance with the divine command, Judah commenced the strife in association with Simeon, smote the king of Bezek, conquered Jerusalem, Hebron and Debir upon the mountains, Zephath in the south land, and three of the chief cities of the Philistines, and took possession of the mountains; but was unable to exterminate the inhabitants of the plain, just as the Benjaminites were unable to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem (vv. 1-21). The tribe of Joseph also conquered the city of Bethel (Judges 1:22-26); but from the remaining towns of the land neither the Manassites, nor the Ephraimites, nor the tribes of Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali expelled the Canaanites: all that they did was to make them tributary (Judges 1:27-33). The Danites were actually forced back by the Amorites out of the plain into the mountains, because the latter maintained their hold of the towns of the plain, although the house of Joseph conquered them and made them tributary (Judges 1:34-36). The angel of the Lord therefore appeared at Bochim, and declared to the Israelites, that because they had not obeyed the command of the Lord, to make no covenant with the Canaanites, the Lord would no more drive out these nations, but would cause them and their gods to become a snare to them (Judges 2:1-5). From this divine revelation it is evident, on the one hand, that the failure to exterminate the Canaanites had its roots in the negligence of the tribes of Israel; and on the other hand, that the accounts of the wars of the different tribes, and the enumeration of the towns in the different possessions out of which the Canaanites were not expelled, were designed to show clearly the attitude of the Israelites to the Canaanites in the age immediately following the death of Joshua, or to depict the historical basis on which the development of Israel rested in the era of the judges.
Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?With the words "Now, after the death of Joshua, it came to pass," the book of Judges takes up the thread of the history where the book of Joshua had dropped it, to relate the further development of the covenant nation. A short time before his death, Joshua had gathered the elders and heads of the people around him, and set before them the entire destruction of the Canaanites through the omnipotent help of the Lord, if they would only adhere with fidelity to the Lord; whilst, at the same time, he also pointed out to them the dangers of apostasy from the Lord (Joshua 23). Remembering this admonition and warning, the Israelites inquired, after Joshua's death, who should begin the war against the Canaanites who still remained to be destroyed; and the Lord answered, "Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand" (Judges 1:1, Judges 1:2). בּיהוה שׁאל, to ask with Jehovah for the purpose of obtaining a declaration of the divine will, is substantially the same as האוּרים בּמשׁפּט שׁאל (Numbers 27:21), to inquire the will of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest. From this time forward inquiring of the Lord occurs with greater frequency (vid., Judges 20:23, Judges 20:27; 1 Samuel 10:22; 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 23:2, etc.), as well as the synonymous expression "ask of Elohim" in Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18; 1 Samuel 14:37; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Chronicles 14:10; whereas Moses and Joshua received direct revelations from God. The phrase אל־הכּנעני יעלה, "go up to the Canaanites," is defined more precisely by the following words, "to fight against them;" so that עלה is used here also to denote the campaign against a nation (see at Joshua 8:1), without there being any necessity, however, for us to take אל in the sense of על. בתּחלּה עלה signifies "to go up in the beginning," i.e., to open or commence the war; not to hold the commandership in the war, as the Sept., Vulgate, and others render it (see Judges 10:18, where להלּחם יחל is expressly distinguished from being the chief or leader). Moreover, מי does not mean who? i.e., what person, but, as the answer clearly shows, what tribe? Now a tribe could open the war, and take the lead at the head of the other tribes, but could not be the commander-in-chief. In the present instance, however, Judah did not even enter upon the war at the head of all the tribes, but simply joined with the tribe of Simeon to make a common attack upon the Canaanites in their inheritance. The promise in Judges 1:2 is the same as that in Joshua 6:2; Joshua 8:1, etc. "The land" is not merely the land allotted to the tribe of Judah, or Judah's inheritance, as Bertheau supposes, for Judah conquered Jerusalem (Judges 1:8), which had been allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28), but the land of Canaan generally, so far as it was still in the possession of the Canaanites and was to be conquered by Judah. The reason why Judah was to commence the hostilities is not to be sought for in the fact that Judah was the most numerous of all the tribes (Rosenmller), but rather in the fact that Judah had already been appointed by the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:8.) to be the champion of his brethren.
And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.
And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.Judah invited Simeon his brother, i.e., their brother tribe, to take part in the contest. The epithet is applied to Simeon, not because Simeon and Judah, the sons of Jacob, were the children of the same mother, Leah (Genesis 29:33, Genesis 29:35), but because Simeon's inheritance was within the territory of Judah (Joshua 19:1.), so that Simeon was more closely connected with Judah than any of the other tribes. "Come up with me into my lot (into the inheritance that has fallen to me by lot), that we may fight against the Canaanites, and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him," i.e., joined with Judah in making war upon the Canaanites. This request shows that Judah's principal intention was to make war upon and exterminate the Canaanites who remained in his own and Simeon's inheritance. The different expressions employed, come up and go, are to be explained from the simple fact that the whole of Simeon's territory was in the shephelah and Negeb, whereas Judah had received the heart of his possessions upon the mountains.
And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men."And Judah went up," sc., against the Canaanites, to make war upon them.
The completion of the sentence is supplied by the context, more especially by Judges 1:2. So far as the sense is concerned, Rosenmller has given the correct explanation of ויּעל, "Judah entered upon the expedition along with Simeon." "And they smote the Canaanites and the Perizzites in Bezek, 10,000 men." The result of the war is summed up briefly in these words; and then in Judges 1:5-7 the capture and punishment of the hostile king Adoni-bezek is specially mentioned as being the most important event in the war. The foe is described as consisting of Canaanites and Perizzites, two tribes which have been already named in Genesis 13:7 and Genesis 34:30 as representing the entire population of Canaan, "the Canaanites" comprising principally those in the lowlands by the Jordan and the Mediterranean (vid., Numbers 13:29; Joshua 11:3), and "the Perizzites" the tribes who dwelt in the mountains (Joshua 17:15). On the Perizzites, see Genesis 13:7. The place mentioned, Bezek, is only mentioned once more, namely in 1 Samuel 11:8, where it is described as being situated between Gibeah of Saul (see at Joshua 18:28) and Jabesh in Gilead. According to the Onom. (s. v. Bezek), there were at that time two places very near together both named Bezek, seventeen Roman miles from Neapolis on the road to Scythopolis, i.e., about seven hours to the north of Nabulus on the road to Beisan. This description is perfectly reconcilable with 1 Samuel 11:8. On the other hand, Clericus (ad h. l.), Rosenmller, and v. Raumer suppose the Bezek mentioned here to have been situated in the territory of Judah; though this cannot be proved, since it is merely based upon an inference drawn from Judges 1:3, viz., that Judah and Simeon simply attacked the Canaanites in their own allotted territories-an assumption which is very uncertain. There is no necessity, however, to adopt the opposite and erroneous opinion of Bertheau, that the tribes of Judah and Simeon commenced their expedition to the south from the gathering-place of the united tribes at Shechem, and fought the battle with the Canaanitish forces in that region upon this expedition; since Shechem is not described in Josha as the gathering-place of the united tribes, i.e., of the whole of the military force of Israel, and the battle fought with Adoni-bezek did not take place at the time when the tribes prepared to leave Shiloh and march to their own possessions after the casting of the lots was over. The simplest explanation is, that when the tribes of Judah and Simeon prepared to make war upon the Canaanites in the possessions allotted to them, they were threatened or attacked by the forces of the Canaanites collected together by Adoni-bezek, so that they had first of all to turn their arms against this king before they could attack the Canaanites in their own tribe-land. As the precise circumstances connected with the occasion and course of this war have not been recorded, there is nothing to hinder the supposition that Adoni-bezek may have marched from the north against the possession of Benjamin and Judah, possibly with the intention of joining the Canaanites in Jebus, and the Anakim in Hebron and upon the mountains in the south, and then making a combined attack upon the Israelites. This might induce or even compel Judah and Simeon to attack this enemy first of all, and even to pursue him till they overtook him at his capital Bezek, and smote him with all his army. Adoni-bezek, i.e., lord of Bezek, is the official title of this king, whose proper name is unknown.
In the principal engagement, in which 10,000 Canaanites fell, Adoni-bezek escaped; but he was overtaken in his flight (Judges 1:6, Judges 1:7), and so mutilated, by the cutting off of his thumbs and great toes, that he could neither carry arms nor flee. With this cruel treatment, which the Athenians are said to have practised upon the capture Aegynetes (Aelian, var. hist. ii. 9), the Israelites simply executed the just judgment of retribution, as Adoni-bezek was compelled to acknowledge, for the cruelties which he had inflicted upon captives taken by himself. "Seventy kings," he says in Judges 1:7, "with the thumbs of their hands and feet cut off, were gathering under my table. As I have done, so God hath requited me." מקצּצים ... בּהנות, lit. "cut in the thumbs of their hands and feet" (see Ewald, Lehrb. 284 c.). The object to מלקּטים, "gathering up" (viz., crumbs), is easily supplied from the idea of the verb itself. Gathering up crumbs under the table, like the dogs in Matthew 15:27, is a figurative representation of the most shameful treatment and humiliation. "Seventy" is a round number, and is certainly an exaggerated hyperbole here. For even if every town of importance in Canaan had its own king, the fact that, when Joshua conquered the land, he only smote thirty-one kings, is sufficient evidence that there can hardly have been seventy kings to be found in all Canaan. It appears strange, too, that the king of Bezek is not mentioned in connection with the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. Bezek was probably situated more on the side towards the valley of the Jordan, where the Israelites under Joshua did not go. Possibly, too, the culminating point of Adoni-bezek's power, when he conquered so many kings, was before the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan, and it may at that time have begun to decline; so that he did not venture to undertake anything against the combined forces of Israel under Joshua, and it was not till the Israelitish tribes separated to go to their own possessions, that he once more tried the fortunes of war and was defeated. The children of Judah took him with them to Jerusalem, where he died.
And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.
And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.
Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.After his defeat, Judah and Simeon went against Jerusalem, and conquered this city and smote it, i.e., its inhabitants, with the edge of the sword, or without quarter (see Genesis 34:26), and set the city on fire. בּאשׁ שׁלּח, to set on fire, to give up to the flames, only occurs again in Judges 20:48; 2 Kings 8:12, and Psalm 74:7. Joshua had already slain the king of Jerusalem and his four allies after the battle at Gibeon (Joshua 10:3, Joshua 10:18-26), but had not conquered Jerusalem, his capital. This was not done till after Joshua's death, when it was taken by the tribes of Judah and Simeon. But even after this capture, and notwithstanding the fact that it had been set on fire, it did not come into the sole and permanent possession of the Israelites. After the conquerors had advanced still farther, to make war upon the Canaanites in the mountains, in the Negeb, and in the shephelah (vv. 9ff.), the Jebusites took it again and rebuilt it, so that in the following age it was regarded by the Israelites as a foreign city (Judges 19:11-12). The Benjaminites, to whom Jerusalem had fallen by lot, were no more able to drive out the Jebusites than the Judaeans had been. Consequently they continued to live by the side of the Benjaminites (Judges 1:21) and the Judaeans (Joshua 15:63), who settled, as time rolled on, in this the border city of their possessions; and in the upper town especially, upon the top of Mount Zion, they established themselves so firmly, that they could not be dislodged until David succeeded in wresting this fortress from them, and make the city of Zion the capital of his kingdom (2 Samuel 5:6.).
(Note: In this way we may reconcile in a very simple manner the different accounts concerning Jerusalem in Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:8, Judges 1:21; Judges 19:11., 1 Samuel 17:54, and 2 Samuel 5-6, without there being the slightest necessity to restrict the conquest mentioned in this verse to the city that was built round Mount Zion, as Josephus does, to the exclusion of the citadel upon Zion itself; or to follow Bertheau, and refer the account of the Jebusites dwelling by the children of Judah in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63) to a time subsequent to the conquest of the citadel of Zion by David-an interpretation which is neither favoured by the circumstance that the Jebusite Araunah still held some property there in the time of David (2 Samuel 24:21.), nor by the passage in 1 Kings 9:20., according to which the descendants of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who still remained in the land were made into tributary bondmen by Solomon, and set to work upon the buildings that he had in hand.)
And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.After the conquest of Jerusalem, the children of Judah (together with the Simeonites, Judges 1:3) went down to their own possessions, to make war upon the Canaanites in the mountains, the Negeb, and the shephelah (see at Joshua 15:48; Joshua 21:33), and to exterminate them. They first of all conquered Hebron and Debir upon the mountains (Judges 1:10-15), as has already been related in Joshua 15:14-19 (see the commentary on this passage). The forms עלּית and תּחתּית (Judges 1:15), instead of עלּיּות and תּחתּיּות (Joshua 15:19), are in the singular, and are construed with the plural form of the feminine גּלּות, because this is used in the sense of the singular, "a spring" (see Ewald, 318, a.).
And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.
And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:
And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou?
And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.
And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.The notice respecting the Kenites, that they went up out of the palm-city with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah in the south of Arad, and dwelt there with the Judaeans, is introduced here into the account of the wars of the tribe of Judah, because this migration of the Kenites belonged to the time between the conquest of Debir (Judges 1:12.) and Zephath (Judges 1:17); and the notice itself was of importance, as forming the intermediate link between Numbers 10:29., and the later allusions to the Kenites in Judges 4:11; Judges 5:24; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29. "The children of the Kenite," i.e., the descendants of Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses (compare Judges 4:11, where the name is given, but קין occurs instead of קיני, with Numbers 10:29), were probably a branch of the Kenites mentioned in Genesis 15:19 along with the other tribes of Canaan, which had separated from the other members of its own tribe before the time of Moses and removed to the land of Midian, where Moses met with a hospitable reception from their chief Reguel on his flight from Egypt. These Kenites had accompanied the Israelites to Canaan at the request of Moses (Numbers 10:29.); and when the Israelites advanced into Canaan itself, they had probably remained as nomads in the neighbourhood of the Jordan near to Jericho, without taking any part in the wars of Joshua. But when the tribe of Judah had exterminated the Canaanites out of Hebron, Debir, and the neighbourhood, after the death of Joshua, they went into the desert of Judah with the Judaeans as they moved farther towards the south; and going to the south-western edge of this desert, to the district on the south of Arad (Tell Arad, see at Numbers 21:1), they settled there on the border of the steppes of the Negeb (Numbers 33:40). "The palm-city" was a name given to the city of Jericho, according to Judges 3:13; Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15. There is no ground whatever for thinking of some other town of this name in the desert of Arabia, near the palm-forest, φοινικών, of Diod. Sic. (iii. 42) and Strabo (p. 776), as Clericus and Bertheau suppose, even if it could be proved that there was any such town in the neighbourhood. ויּלך, "then he went (the branch of the Kenites just referred to) and dwelt with the people" (of the children of Judah), that is to say, with the people of Israel in the desert of Judah. The subject to ויּלך is קיני, the Kenite, as a tribe.
And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.Remaining Conquests of the Combined Tribes of Judah and Simeon. - Judges 1:17.
Zephath was in the territory of Simeon. This is evident not only from the fact that Hormah (Zephath) had been allotted to the tribe of Simeon (compare Joshua 19:4 with Joshua 15:30), but also from the words, "Judah went with Simeon his brother," which point back to Judges 1:3, and express the thought that Judah went with Simeon into his territory to drive out the Canaanites who were still to be found there. Going southwards from Debir, Judah and Simeon smote the Canaanites at Zephath on the southern boundary of Canaan, and executed the ban upon this town, from which it received the name of Hormah, i.e., banning. The town has been preserved in the ruins of Septa, on the south of Khalasa or Elusa (see at Joshua 12:14). In the passage mentioned, the king of Hormah or Zephath is named among the kings who were slain by Joshua. It does not follow from this, however, that Joshua must necessarily have conquered his capital Zephath; the king of Jerusalem was also smitten by Joshua and slain, without Jerusalem itself being taken at that time. But even if Zephath were taken by the Israelites, as soon as the Israelitish army had withdrawn, the Canaanites there might have taken possession of the town again; so that, like many other Canaanitish towns, it had to be conquered again after Joshua's death (see the commentary on Numbers 21:2-3). There is not much probability in this conjecture, however, for the simple reason that the ban pronounced by Moses upon the country of the king of Arad (Numbers 21:2) was carried out now for the first time by Judah and Simeon upon the town of Zephath, which formed a part of it. If Joshua had conquered it, he would certainly have executed the ban upon it. The name Hormah, which was already given to Zephath in Joshua 15:30 and Joshua 19:4, is no proof to the contrary, since it may be used proleptically there. In any case, the infliction of the ban upon this town can only be explained from the fact that Moses had pronounced the ban upon all the towns of the king of Arad.
Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.From the Negeb Judah turned into the shephelah, and took the three principal cities of the Philistines along the line of coast, viz., Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, with their territory. The order in which the names of the captured cities occur is a proof that the conquest took place from the south. First of all Gaza, the southernmost of all the towns of the Philistines, the present Guzzeh; then Askelon (Ashkuln), which is five hours to the north of Gaza; and lastly Ekron, the most northerly of the five towns of the Philistines, the present Akr (see at Joshua 13:3). The other two, Ashdod and Gath, do not appear to have been conquered at that time. And even those that were conquered, the Judaeans were unable to hold long. In the time of Samson they were all of them in the hands of the Philistines again (see Judges 14:19; Judges 16:1.; 1 Samuel 5:10, etc.). - In Judges 1:19 we have a brief summary of the results of the contests for the possession of the land. "Jehovah was with Judah;" and with His help they took possession of the mountains. And they did nothing more; "for the inhabitants of the plain they were unable to exterminate, because they had iron chariots." הורישׁ has two different meanings in the two clauses: first (ויּרשׁ), to seize upon a possession which has been vacated by the expulsion or destruction of its former inhabitants; and secondly (להורישׁ, with the accusative, of the inhabitants), to drive or exterminate them out of their possessions-a meaning which is derived from the earlier signification of making it an emptied possession (see Exodus 34:24; Numbers 32:21, etc.). "The mountain" here includes the south-land (the Negeb), as the only distinction is between mountains and plain. "The valley" is the shephelah (Judges 1:9). להורישׁ לא, he was not (able) to drive out. The construction may be explained from the fact that לא is to be taken independently here as in Amos 6:10, in the same sense in which אין before the infinitive is used in later writings (2 Chronicles 5:11; Esther 4:2; Esther 8:8; Ecclesiastes 3:14 : see Ges. 132-3, anm. 1; Ewald, 237, e.). On the iron chariots, i.e., the chariots tipped with iron, see at Joshua 17:16. - To this there is appended, in v. 20, the statement that "they gave Hebron unto Caleb," etc., which already occurred in Joshua 15:13-14, and was there explained; and also in Judges 1:12 the remark, that the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusite who dwelt in Jerusalem, which is so far in place here, that it shows, on the one hand, that the children of Judah did not bring Jerusalem into the undisputed possession of the Israelites through this conquest, and, on the other hand, that it was not their intention to diminish the inheritance of Benjamin by the conquest of Jerusalem, and they had not taken the city for themselves. For further remarks, see at Judges 1:8.
The hostile attacks of the other tribes upon the Canaanites who remained in the land are briefly summed up in Judges 1:22-36. Of these the taking of Bethel is more fully described in Judges 1:22-26. Besides this, nothing more is given than the list of the towns in the territories of western Manasseh (Judges 1:27, Judges 1:28), Ephraim (Judges 1:29), Zebulun (Judges 1:30), Asher (Judges 1:31, Judges 1:32), Naphtali (Judges 1:33), and Dan (Judges 1:34, Judges 1:35), out of which the Canaanites were not exterminated by these tribes. Issachar is omitted; hardly, however, because that tribe made no attempt to disturb the Canaanites, as Bertheau supposes, but rather because none of its towns remained in the hands of the Canaanites.
And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.
And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.
And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.Like Judah, so also ("they also," referring back to Judges 1:2, Judges 1:3) did the house of Joseph (Ephraim and western Manasseh) renew the hostilities with the Canaanites who were left in their territory after the death of Joshua. The children of Joseph went up against Bethel, and Jehovah was with them, so that they were able to conquer the city. Bethel had indeed been assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:22), but it was situated on the southern boundary of the tribe-land of Ephraim (Joshua 16:2; Joshua 18:13); so that the tribe of Joseph could not tolerate the Canaanites in this border town, if it would defend its own territory against them, and purge it entirely of them. This is a sufficient explanation of the fact that this one conquest is mentioned, and this only, without there being any necessity to seek for the reason, as Bertheau does, in the circumstance that the town of Bethel came into such significant prominence in the later history of Israel, and attained the same importance in many respects in relation to the northern tribes, as that which Jerusalem attained in relation to the southern. For the fact that nothing more is said about the other conquests of the children of Joseph, may be explained simply enough on the supposition that they did not succeed in rooting out the Canaanites from the other fortified towns in their possessions; and therefore there was nothing to record about any further conquests, as the result of their hostilities was merely this, that they did not drive the Canaanites out of the towns named in Judges 1:27, Judges 1:29, but simply made them tributary. יתירוּ, they had it explored, or spied out. תּוּר is construed with בּ here, because the spying laid hold, as it were, of its object. Bethel, formerly Luz, now Beitin: see at Genesis 28:19 and Joshua 7:2.
And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)
And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.And the watchmen (i.e., the spies sent out to explore Bethel) saw a man coming out of the town, and got him to show them the entrance into it, under a promise that they would show him favour, i.e., would spare the lives of himself and his family (see Joshua 2:12-13); whereupon they took the town and smote it without quarter, according to the law in Deuteronomy 20:16-17, letting none but the man and his family go. By "the entrance into the city" we are not to understand the gate of the town, but the way or mode by which they could get into the town, which was no doubt fortified.
And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.
And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.The man whom they had permitted to go free, went with his family into the land of the Hittites, and there built a town, to which he gave the name of his earlier abode, viz., Luz. The situation of this Luz is altogether unknown. Even the situation of the land of the Hittites cannot be more precisely determined; for we find Hittites at Hebron in the times of Abraham and Moses (Genesis 23), and also upon the mountains of Palestine (Numbers 13:29), and at a later period on the north-east of Canaan on the borders of Syria (1 Kings 10:29). That the Hittites were one of the most numerous and widespread of the tribes of the Canaanites, is evident from the fact that, in Joshua 1:4, the Canaanites generally are described as Hittites.
Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.Manasseh did not root out the Canaanites from the towns which had been allotted to it in the territory of Asher and Issachar (Joshua 17:11), but simply made them tributary. וגו בּית־שׁאן הורישׁ לא, considered by itself, might be rendered: "Manasseh did not take possession of Bethshean," etc. But as we find, in the further enumeration, the inhabitants of the towns mentioned instead of the towns themselves, we must take הורישׁ in the sense of rooting out, driving out of their possessions, which is the only rendering applicable in Judges 1:28; and thus, according to a very frequent metonymy, must understand by the towns the inhabitants of the towns. "Manasseh did not exterminate Bethshean," i.e., the inhabitants of Bethshean, etc. All the towns mentioned here have already been mentioned in Joshua 17:11, the only difference being, that they are not placed in exactly the same order, and that Endor is mentioned there after Dor; whereas here it has no doubt fallen out through a copyist's error, as the Manassites, according to Joshua 17:12-13, did not exterminate the Canaanites from all the towns mentioned there. The change in the order in which the towns occur, - Taanach being placed next to Bethshean, whereas in Joshua Bethshean is followed by Ibleam, which is placed last but one in the present list, - may be explained on the supposition, that in Joshua 17:11, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo are placed together, as forming a triple league, of which the author of our book has taken no notice. Nearly all these towns were in the plain of Jezreel, or in the immediate neighbourhood of the great commercial roads which ran from the coast of the Mediterranean to Damascus and central Asia. The Canaanites no doubt brought all their strength to bear upon the defence of these roads; and in this their war-chariots, against which Israel could do nothing in the plain of Jezreel, were of the greatest service (see Judges 1:19; Joshua 17:16). For further particulars respecting the situation of the different towns, see at Joshua 17:11. Dor only was on the coast of the Mediterranean (see at Joshua 11:2), and being a commercial emporium of the Phoenicians, would certainly be strongly fortified, and very difficult to conquer.
And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.As the Israelites grew strong, they made serfs of the Canaanites (see at Genesis 49:15). When this took place is not stated; but at all events, it was only done gradually in the course of the epoch of the judges, and not for the first time during the reign of Solomon, as Bertheau supposes on the ground of 1 Kings 9:20-22 and 1 Kings 4:12, without considering that even in the time of David the Israelites had already attained the highest power they ever possessed, and that there is nothing at variance with this in 1 Kings 4:12 and 1 Kings 9:20-22. For it by no means follows, from the appointment of a prefect by Solomon over the districts of Taanach, Megiddo, and Bethshean (1 Kings 4:12), that these districts had only been conquered by Solomon a short time before, when we bear in mind that Solomon appointed twelve such prefects over all Israel, to remit in regular order the national payments that were required for the maintenance of the regal court. Nor does it follow, that because Solomon employed the descendants of the Canaanites who were left in the land as tributary labourers in the erection of his great buildings, therefore he was the first who succeeded in compelling those Canaanites who were not exterminated when the land was conquered by Joshua, to pay tribute to the different tribes of Israel.
Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.Ephraim did not root out the Canaanites in Gezer (Judges 1:29), as has already been stated in Joshua 16:10.
Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.Zebulun did not root out the Canaanites in Kitron and Nahalol.
Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob:Asher did not root out those in Acco, etc. Acco: a seaport town to the north of Carmel, on the bay which is called by its name; it is called Ake by Josephus, Diod. Sic., and Pliny, and was afterwards named Ptolemais from one of the Ptolemys (1 Macc. 5:15, 21; 10:1, etc.; Acts 21:7). The Arabs called it Akka, and this was corrupted by the crusaders into Acker or Acre. During the crusades it was a very flourishing maritime and commercial town; but it subsequently fell into decay, and at the present time has a population of about 5000, composed of Mussulmans, Druses, and Christians (see C. v. Raumer, Pal. p. 119; Rob. Bibl. Res.; and Ritter, Erdk. xvi. pp. 725ff.). Sidon, now Saida: see at Joshua 11:8. Achlab is only mentioned here, and is not known. Achzib, i.e., Ecdippa: see at Joshua 19:29. Helbah is unknown. Aphek is the present Afkah: see Joshua 13:4; Joshua 19:30. Rehob is unknown: see at Joshua 19:28, Joshua 19:30. As seven out of the twenty-two towns of Asher (Joshua 19:30) remained in the hands of the Canaanites, including such important places as Acco and Sidon, it is not stated in Judges 1:32, as in Judges 1:29, Judges 1:30, that "the Canaanites dwelt among them," but that "the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites," to show that the Canaanites held the upper hand. And for this reason the expression "they became tributaries" (Judges 1:30, Judges 1:35, etc.) is also omitted.
But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.
Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.Naphtali did not root out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath, two fortified towns, the situation of which is still unknown (see at Joshua 19:38); so that this tribe also dwelt among the Canaanites, but did not make them tributary.
And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:Still less were the Danites able to drive the Canaanites out of their inheritance. On the contrary, the Amorites forced Dan up into the mountains, and would not suffer them to come down into the plain. But the territory allotted to the Danytes was almost all in the plain (see at Joshua 19:40). If, therefore, they were forced out of that, they were almost entirely excluded from their inheritance. The Amorites emboldened themselves (see at Deuteronomy 1:5) to dwell in Har-cheres, Ajalon, and Shaalbim. On the last two places see Joshua 19:42, where Ir-shemesh is also mentioned. This combination, and still more the meaning of the names Har-cheres, i.e., sun-mountain, and Ir-shemesh, i.e., sun-town, make the conjecture a very probable one, that Har-cheres is only another name for Ir-shemesh, i.e., the present Ain Shems (see at Joshua 15:10, and Rob. Pal. iii. pp. 17, 18). This pressure on the part of the Amorites induced a portion of the Danites to emigrate, and seek for an inheritance in the north of Palestine (see Judges 18). On the other hand, the Amorites were gradually made tributary by the powerful tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who bounded Dan on the north. "The hand of the house of Joseph lay heavy," sc., upon the Amorites in the towns already named on the borders of Ephraim. For the expression itself, comp. 1 Samuel 5:6; Psalm 32:4.
But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.
And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.In order to explain the supremacy of the Amorites in the territory of Dan, a short notice is added concerning their extension in the south of Palestine. "The territory of the Amorites was," i.e., extended (viz., at the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites), "from the ascent of Akrabbim, from the rock onwards and farther up." Maaleh-Akrabbim (ascensus scorpiorum) was the sharply projecting line of cliffs which intersected the Ghor below the Dead Sea, and formed the southern boundary of the promised land (see at Numbers 34:4 and Joshua 15:2-3). מהסּלע, from the rock, is not doubt given as a second point upon the boundary of the Amoritish territory, as the repetition of the מן clearly shows, notwithstanding the omission of the copula ו. הסּלע, the rock, is supposed by the majority of commentators to refer to the city of Petra, the ruins of which are still to be seen in the Wady Musa (see Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 703ff.; Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 573ff., iii. 653), and which is distinctly mentioned in 2 Kings 14:7 under the name of הסּלע, and in Isaiah 16:1 is called simply סלע. Petra is to the southeast of the Scorpion heights. Consequently, with this rendering the following word ומעלה (and upward) would have to be taken in the sense of ulterius (and beyond), and Rosenmller's explanation would be the correct one: "The Amorites not only extended as far as the town of Petra, or inhabited it, but they even carried their dwellings beyond this towards the tops of those southern mountains." But a description of the territory of the Amorites in its southern extension into Arabia Petraea does not suit the context of the verse, the object of which is to explain how it was that the Amorites were in a condition to force back the Danites out of the plain into the mountains, to say nothing of the fact that it is questionable whether the Amorites ever really spread so far, for which we have neither scriptural testimony nor evidence of any other kind. On this ground even Bertheau has taken ומעלה as denoting the direction upwards, i.e., towards the north, which unquestionably suits the usage of מעלה as well as the context of the passage. But it is by no means in harmony with this to understand הסּלע as referring to Petra; for in that case we should have two boundary points mentioned, the second of which was farther south than the first. Now a historian who had any acquaintance with the topography, would never have described the extent of the Amoritish territory from south to north in such a way as this, commencing with the Scorpion heights on the north, then passing to Petra, which was farther south, and stating that from this point the territory extended farther towards the north. If ומעלה therefore refers to the extension of the territory of the Amorites in a northerly direction, the expression "from the rock" cannot be understood as relating to the city of Petra, but must denote some other locality well known to the Israelites by that name. Such a locality there undoubtedly was in the rock in the desert of Zin, which had become celebrated through the events that took place at the water of strife (Numbers 20:8, Numbers 20:10), and to which in all probability this expression refers. The rock in question was at the south-west corner of Canaan, on the southern edge of the Rakhma plateau, to which the mountains of the Amorites extended on the south-west (comp. Numbers 14:25, Numbers 14:44-45, with Deuteronomy 1:44). And this would be very appropriately mentioned here as the south-western boundary of the Amorites, in connection with the Scorpion heights as their south-eastern boundary, for the purpose of giving the southern boundary of the Amorites in its full extent from east to west.