Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI

This book contains the history of the Israelites under the judges, which lasted two hundred and ninety nine years: under Othniel, forty, under Ehud, eighty, under Barak, forty, under Gideon, forty, under Abimelek, three, under Tola, twenty - three, under Jair, twenty - two, under Jephtha, six, under Ibzan, seven, under Elon, ten, under Abdon, eight, under Samson, twenty. As for the years of their servitude, they coincide with the years of some or other of the judges. In the five last chapters we have an account of some memorable events, which happened in the days when the judges ruled. As to the state of Israel during this period,

  1. They were miserably corrupted, and miserably oppressed. Yet we may hope, the tabernacle service was kept up, and that many attended it.
  2. It seems, each tribe had its government within itself, and acted separately, without any common head. This occasioned many differences among themselves.
  3. The government of the judges was not constant but occasional. By their judging Israel is meant chiefly, their avenging Israel of their enemies, and purging them from their idolatries.
  4. During the government of the judges, God was in an especial manner the king of Israel. It is not improbably supposed, that the prophet Samuel was the penman of this book.

Chapter I

The conquests made by Judah and Simeon, ver. 1 - 20. Benjamin failed, ver. 21. The house of Joseph took Bethel, ver. 22 - 26. But Manasseh did not drive out the Canaanites, ver. 27, 28. Nor Ephraim, ver. 29. Nor Zebulun, ver. 30. Nor Asher, ver. 31, 32. Nor Naphtali, ver. 33. Nor Dan, ver. 34 - 36.

1 After the death - Not long after it; for Othniel, the first judge, lived in Joshua's time. Asked the Lord - Being assembled together at Shiloh, they enquired of the high - priest by the Urim and the Thummim. Against the Canaanites first - Finding their people multiply exceedingly, and consequently the necessity of enlarging their quarters, they renew the war. They do not enquire who shall be captain general to all the tribes; but what tribe shall first undertake the expedition, that by their success the other tribes may be encouraged to make the like attempt upon the Canaanites in their several lots.
2 Judah - The tribe of Judah is chosen for the first enterprise, because they were both most populous, and so most needing enlargement; and withal most valiant, and therefore most likely to succeed: for God chooseth fit means for the work which he designs. Moreover the Canaanites were numerous and strong in those parts, and therefore to be suppressed, before they grew too strong for them.
3 To Simeon - As nearest to him both by relation, being his brother by both parents, and by habitation. The Canaanites - Specially so called, because they are distinguished from the Perizzites, ver.4.
4 In Bezek - Not in the city, for that was not yet taken, ver.5, but in the territory of it.
5 Adoni - bezek - The lord or king of Bezek; as his name signifies. In Bezek - Whither he fled when he lost the field. Against him - That is, against the city wherein he had encamped himself, and the rest of his army.
6 Great toes - And this they did, either by the direction of God, or upon notice of his former tyranny and cruelty.
7 Threescore and ten - Which is not strange in those times and places. For it is well known, that anciently each ruler of a city, or great town, was called a king, and had kingly power in that place; and many such kings we meet with in Canaan: and it is probable, that some years before, kings were more numerous there, 'till the greater devoured many of the less. Under my table - An act of barbarous inhumanity thus to insult over the miserable, joined with abominable luxury.
8 And took - Yet some of the inhabitants retired into the castle, and held out there 'till David's time.
10 Judah went - Under the conduct of Caleb, as is recorded, Josh 15:14, &c., for that relation, and this, are doubtless one and the same expedition, and it is mentioned there by anticipation.
16 Moses's father - in - law - That is, of Jethro, so called from the people whom he descended, Numb 24:21,22. And, whatsoever he did, it is evident, that his posterity came into Canaan with the Israelites, and were there seated with them, see chap. 4:11,17 5:24 1Sam 15:6 1Chron 2:1 - 54,55. City of palm - trees - That is, from Jericho, so called, Deut 34:3, not the city which was destroyed, but the territory belonging to it, where it seems they were seated, in a most pleasant, and fruitful, and safe place, according to the promise made by Moses to their father, Numb 10:29 - 32, and whence they might remove, either to avoid the neighboring Canaanites; or out of love to the children of Judah. South of Arad - In the southern part of the land of Canaan, where Arad was, Numb 21:1. They went - That is some of them, for others of them dwelt in a contrary quarter, in the most northern part of the land. Among the people - Heb. that people, namely, those children of Judah that lived there.
17 Judah went with Simeon - According to his promise, ver.3, and the laws of justice and gratitude. Hormah - Either,
  1. The same place so called, Numb 21:3, and so what was there vowed, is here executed: or,
  2. Some other place called by the same name upon the like occasion, which was frequent among the Hebrews. This seems more probable.
18 Judah took - It is only said, they took the cities, and probably contented themselves with making them tributary; but it is not said that they slew the people, as they ought to have done; and as it is said of the other cities here. And the people being thus spared, did by God's just judgment recover their strength, and expel the Jews out of their cities. It is farther observable, that Ekron here taken, was one of Dan's cities, Josh 19:43, and it was taken here by Judah and Simeon, partly out of love for their brother Dan, and partly to secure their new conquests, and other adjoining territories, from such potent neighbours.
19 Could not drive - Because of their unbelief, whereby they distrusted God's power to destroy those who had chariots of iron, and so gave way to their own fear and sloth, whereby God was provoked to withdraw his helping hand.
22 House of Joseph - That is, the tribe of Ephraim.
24 The entrance - On which side it is weakest, that we might best invade and take it.
25 His family - Together with his estate, as the following verse manifests.
26 The Hittites - Where the Hittites seated themselves after they were driven out of Canaan, which seems to be northward from Canaan, and near upon it.
27 Manasseh - That is, that half of this tribe which dwelt in Canaan.
29 In Gezer - Which they possessed 'till Solomon's time, 1Kings 9:16.
34 The valley - That is, into the plain country; which was the occasion of that expedition for the getting new quarters, of which we read Josh 19:47,48 and chap.Jud 18:1 - 31.
35 House of Joseph - That is, of the Ephraimites, who helped their brethren the Danites against the Amorites.
36 Akrabbim - Which was in the southern part of Canaan, Josh 15:2,3, from whence it went up towards the north. This is added to shew the great power and large extent of this people.

Chapter II

An angel reproves Israel, who bewail their sins, ver. 1 - 5. They served God during the life of Joshua and his contemporaries, ver. 4 - 9. Their frequent revolts to idolatry, ver. 10 - 19. God stops their success, ver. 20 - 23.

1 The angel - Christ the angel of the covenant, often called the angel of the Lord, to whom the conduct of Israel out of Egypt into Canaan, is frequently ascribed. He alone could speak the following words in his own name and person; whereas created angels and prophets universally usher in their message with, Thus saith the Lord, or some equivalent expression. And this angel having assumed the shape of a man, it is not strange that he imitates the motion of a man, and comes as it were from Gilgal to the place where now they were: by which motion he signified, that he was the person that brought them to Gilgal, the first place where they rested in Canaan, and there protected them so long, and from thence went with them to battle, and gave them success. Bochim - A place so called by anticipation; it seems to be no other than Shiloh, where it is probable, the people were met together upon some solemn festival. I said - That is, I promised upon condition of your keeping covenant with me.
2 Done this - That is, disobeyed these express commands.
3 I said - With myself, I have now taken up this peremptory resolution.
4 Wept - Some of them from a true sense of their sins; others from a just apprehension of their approaching misery.
5 Bochim - That is, Weepers. They sacrificed - For the expiation of their sins, by which they had provoked God to this resolution.
6 Let the people go - When he had distributed their inheritances, and dismissed them severally to take possession of them. This was done before this time, whilst Joshua lived; but is now repeated to discover the time, and occasion of the peoples defection from God, and of God's desertion of them.
10 Knew not - Which had no experimental, nor serious and affectionate knowledge of God, or of his works.
11 In the sight - Which notes the heinousness and impudence of their sins, above other peoples; because God's presence was with them, and his eye upon them in a peculiar manner, which also they were not ignorant of, and therefore were guilty of more contempt of God than other people. Baalim - False gods. He useth the plural number, because the gods of the Canaanites, and adjoining nations, which Israel worshipped, were most of them called by the name of Baal.
13 Baal and Ashtaroth - That is, the sun and moon, whom many Heathens worshipped, tho' under divers names; and so they ran into that error which God had so expressly warned them against, Deut 4:19. Baalim signifies lords, and Ashtaroth, blessed ones, he - gods and she - gods. When they forsook Jehovah, they had gods many and lords many, as a luxuriant fancy pleased to multiply them.
14 Sold them - That is, delivered them up, as the seller doth his commodities unto the buyer.
15 Whithersoever they went - That is, Whatsoever expedition or business they undertook; which is usually signified by going out, and coming in.
16 Raised up - By inward inspiration and excitation of their hearts, and by outward designation testified by some extra - ordinary action. judges - Supreme magistrates, whose office it was, under God, and by his particular direction, to govern the commonwealth of Israel by God's laws, and to protect and save them from their enemies, to preserve and purge religion, and to maintain the liberties of the people against all oppressors.
17 Their judges - Who admonished them of their sin and folly, and of the danger and misery which would certainly befall them.
18 It repented the Lord - That is, the Lord changed his course and dealings with them, as penitent men use to do; removed his judgments, and returned to them in mercy.
19 Returned - To their former, and usual course. Their fathers - In Egypt, or in the wilderness. Their own doings - That is, from their evil practices, which he calls their own, because they were agreeable to their own natures, which in all mankind are deeply and universally corrupted, and because they were familiar and customary to them.
22 May prove - That I may try and see whether Israel will be true and faithful to me, or whether they will suffer themselves to be corrupted by the counsels and examples of their bad neighbours.

Chapter III

A general account of Israel's enemies, ver. 1 - 7. A particular account of Othniel, ver. 8 - 11, Of Ehud, ver. 12 - 30. and of Shamgar, ver. 31.

1 Had not known - That is, such as had no experience of those wars, nor of God's extraordinary power and providence manifested in them.
2 Teach them war - That by the neighbourhood of such warlike enemies, they might be purged from sloth and security, and obliged them to innure themselves to martial exercises, and to stand continually upon their guard, and consequently to keep close to that God whose assistance they had so great and constant need of.
3 Five lords - Whereof three had been in some sort subdued, chap.1:18. but afterwards recovered their strength. Canaanites - Properly so called, who were very numerous, and dispersed through several parts of the land, whence they gave denomination to all the rest of the people. Zidonions - The people living near Zidon, and subject to its jurisdiction. Baal - hermon - Which was the eastern part about Lebanon.
4 To know - That is, that they and others might know by experience.
6 Served their gods - Were drawn to idolatry by the persuasions and examples of their yoke - fellows.
7 And the groves - That is, in the groves, in which the Heathens usually worshipped their Baalim or idols.
8 Served - That is, were made subject to him. Mesopotamia 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: which shews so much the more of the hand of God in it.
9 Cried - That is, prayed fervently for deliverance.
10 Came upon him - With extraordinary influence, endowing him with singular wisdom and courage, and stirring him up to this great undertaking. Judged Israel - That is, pleaded and avenged the cause of Israel against their oppressors.
11 Forty years - It rested about forty years, or the greatest part of forty years: it being most frequent in scripture to use numbers in such a latitude. Nor is it unusual either in scripture, or in other authors, for things to be denominated from the greater part; especially, when they enjoyed some degrees of rest and peace even in their times of slavery.
12 Strengthened Eglon - By giving him courage, and power, and success against them.
13 City of Palm - trees - That is, Jericho. Not the city which was demolished, but the territory belonging to it. Here he fixed his camp, for the fertility of that soil, and because of its nearness to the passage over Jordan, which was most commodious both for the conjunction of his own forces which lay on both sides of Jordan; to prevent the conjunction of the Israelites in Canaan with their brethren beyond Jordan; and to secure his retreat into his own country.
14 Eighteen years - The former servitude lasted but eight years; this eighteen: for if smaller troubles do not the work, God will send greater.
15 A Benjamite - This tribe was next to Eglon, and doubtless most afflicted by him; and hence God raiseth a deliverer. Left handed - Which is here noted, as a considerable circumstance in the following story.
16 A cubit length - Long enough for his design, and not too long for concealment. His right thigh - Which was most convenient both for the use of his left hand, and for avoiding suspicion.
17 The present - Which was to be paid to him as a part of his tribute.
18 Sent the people - He accompanied them part of the way, and then dismissed them, and returned to Eglon alone, that so he might have more easy access to him.
19 Turned again - As if he had forgot some important business. Keep silence - 'Till my servants be gone: whom he would not have acquainted with a business which he supposed to be of great importance.
20 A summer parlour - Into which he used to retire from company: which is mentioned as the reason why his servants waited so long ere they went in to him, ver.25. A message - To be delivered not in words, but by actions. He designedly uses the name Elohim, which was common to the true God, and false ones; and not Jehovah, which was peculiar to the true God; because Ehud not knowing whether the message came; not from his own false god, he would more certainly rise, and thereby give Ehud more advantage for his blow; whereas he would possibly shew his contempt of the God of Israel by sitting still to hear his message. He arose - In token of reverence to God.
23 Went forth - With a composed countenance and gait, being well assured, that God, who by his extraordinary call had put him upon that enterprise, would by his special providence carry him through it. Upon him - Upon or after himself. Locked them - Either pulling it close after him, as we do when doors have spring locks; or taking the key with him.
24 Covereth his feet - This phrase is used only here, and 1Sam 24:3. A late judicious interpreter expounds it, of composing himself to take a little sleep, as was very usual to do in the day - time in those hot countries. And when they did so in cool places, such as this summer parlour unquestionably was, they used to cover their feet. And this may seem to be the more probable, both because the summer parlour was proper for this use, and because this was a more likely reason of their long waiting at his door, lest they should disturb his repose. And this sense best agrees with Saul's case in the cave, when being asleep, David could more securely cut off the lap of his garment.
25 Ashamed - Or, confounded, not knowing what to say or think; lest they should either disturb him, or be guilty of neglect towards him. A key - Another key, it being usual in princes courts to have divers keys for the same door.
27 The children of Israel - Whom doubtless he had prepared by his emissaries gathered together in considerable numbers.
28 Fords of Jordan - Where they passed over Jordan, that neither the Moabites that were got into Canaan, might escape, nor any more Moabites come over Jordan to their succour.
30 Fourscore years - Chiefly that part of it which lay east of Jordan: for the other side of the country, which lay south - west, was even then infested by the Philistines.
31 An ox goad - As Samson did a thousand with the jaw - bone of an ass; both being miraculous actions, and not at all incredible to him that believes a God, who could easily give strength to effect this. It is probable Shamgar was following the plough, when the Philistines made an inroad into the country. And having neither sword nor spear, when God put it into his heart to oppose them, he took the instrument that was next at hand. It is no matter how weak the weapon is, if God direct and strengthen the arm.

Chapter IV

Israel revolting from God is oppressed by Jabin, ver. 1 - 3. Deborah concerts their deliverance with Barak, ver. 4 - 9. Barak takes the field and conquers, ver. 10 - 16. Sisera flies and is killed, ver. 17 - 21. Barak sees him, and Israel is delivered, ver. 22 - 24.

2 Of Canaan - That is, of the land where most of the Canaanites, strictly so called, now dwelt, which seems to be in the northern part of Canaan. This seems to be of the posterity of that Jabin, whom Joshua slew, Josh 11:11, who watched all opportunities to recover his ancient possessions, and to revenge his own and his father's quarrel. In Hazor - In the territory or the kingdom of Hazor, which might now be restored to its former largeness and power. 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 traffick, whence Galilee, where this was, is called Galilee of the Gentiles.
3 Mightily oppressed - More than former tyrants; from his malice and hatred against the Israelites; and from God's just judgment, the growing punishment being suitable to their aggravated wickedness.
4 A prophetess - As there were men - prophets, so there were also women - prophetesses, as Miriam, Exod 15:20. Huldah, 2Kings 22:14, and divers others; but the word prophets or prophetesses is ambiguous, sometimes being used of persons extraordinarily inspired by God, and endowed with the power of working miracles, and foretelling things to come; and sometimes of persons endowed with special gifts or graces, for the better understanding and discoursing about the word and mind of God. Of this sort were the sons of the prophets, or such as were bred in the schools of the prophets. who are often called prophets, as 1Sam 10:5,10. And because we read nothing of Deborah's miraculous actions, perhaps she was only a woman of eminent holiness, and knowledge of the holy scriptures, by which she was singularly qualified for judging the people according to the laws of God. Judged Israel - That is, determined causes and controversies arising among the Israelites, as is implied, ver.5. And this Jabin might suffer to be done, especially by a woman. Yet the frequent discharge of this part of the judge's office, whereby she gained great power and authority with the people, did notably (though not observed by the tyrant) prepare the way for her sliding into the other part of her office, which was to defend and rescue the people from their enemies.
5 And she dwelt - Or, she sat: she had her judgment - seat in the open air, under the shadow of that tree; which was an emblem of the justice she administered there: thriving and growing against opposition, as the palm - tree does under pressures. Came to her - To have their suits and causes determined by her sentence.
6 Called Barak - By virtue of that power which God had given her, and the people owned in her. Kedesh Naphtali - So called, to distinguish it from other places of that name, one in Judah, and another in Issachar. Hath not the Lord, &c. - That is, assuredly God hath commanded thee; this is not the fancy of a weak woman, which peradventure thou mayst despise; but the command of the great God by my mouth. Mount Tabor - A place most fit for his purpose, as being in the borders of divers tribes, and having a large plain at the top of it, where he might conveniently marshal and discipline his army. Naphtali and Zebulun - These she names because they were nearest and best known to Barak, and therefore soonest brought together, because they were nearest to the enemy, and therefore might speedily be assembled, whilst the other tribes, being at a distance, had better opportunity of gathering forces for their succour; and because these had most smarted under this oppressor, who was in the heart of their country; but these are not named exclusively, as appears by the concurrence of some other tribes.
7 Draw to Thee - By my secret and powerful providence, ordering and over - ruling his inclinations that way. In fixing the very place, she gave him a sign, which might confirm his faith, when he came to engage.
8 I will not go - His offer to go with her, shews the truth of his faith, for which he is praised, Heb 11:32, but his refusal to go without her, shews the weakness of his faith, that he could not trust God's bare word, as he ought to have done, without the pledge of the presence of his prophetess.
10 Ten thousand at his feet - That is, who followed him; possibly he intimates that they were all foot - men; and so this is emphatically added, to signify by what contemptible means God overthrew Sisera's great host.
11 Heber - The husband of Jael. Of Hobab - Called also Jethro. The Kenites - From the rest of his brethren, who lived in the wilderness of Judah. His tent - That is, his dwelling, which probably was in tents, as shepherds used.
12 They - That is, this people dwelling there, or his spies.
14 Up - Heb. arise, delay not. If we have ground to believe, that God goes before us, we may well go on with courage and cheerfulness. Gone before thee - Namely, as general of thine army, to fight for thee. Went down - He doth not make use of the advantage which he had of the hill, where he might have been out of the reach of his iron chariots, but boldly marcheth down into the valley, to give Sisera the opportunity of using all his horses and chariots, that so the victory might he more glorious.
15 Discomfited - With great terror and noise, as the word signifies, probably with thunder and lightning, and hail - stones, poured upon them from heaven, as is implied, chap.5:20. Edge of the sword - That is, by the sword of Barak and his army, whose ministry God used; but so, that they had little else to do, but to kill those whom God by more powerful arms had put to flight. On his feet - That he might flee away more secretly in the quality of a common soldier, whereas his chariot would have exposed him to more observation.
16 Left - In the field; for there were some who fled away, as Sisera did.
17 The tent of Jael - For women had their tents apart from their husbands. And here he thought to lurk more securely than in her husband's tent. Peace - Not a covenant of friendship, which they were forbidden to make with that cursed people, but only a cessation of hostilities, which he afforded them because they were peaceable people, abhorring war, and wholly minding pasturage, and were not Israelites, with whom his principal quarrel was; and especially by God's over - ruling disposal of his heart to favour them who were careful to keep themselves uncorrupted with Israel's sins, and therefore preserved from their plagues.
18 Fear not - This was a promise of security, and therefore she cannot be excused from dissimulation and treachery.
19 A bottle of milk - As a signification of greater respect. Covered him - Upon pretence of hiding him.
21 A nail of the tent - Wherewith they used to fasten the tent, which consequently was long and sharp. This might seem a very bold attempt, but it must be considered, that she was encouraged to it, by observing that the heavens and all the elements conspired against him, as one devoted to destruction. In the following son, Deborah doth not commend Jael's words, ver.18. Turn in my Lord, fear not; but only her action: touching which, this one consideration may abundantly suffice to stop the mouths of objectors. It cannot be denied, that every discourse which is recorded in scripture, is not divinely inspired, because some of them were uttered by the devil, and others by holy men, but mistaken. This being so, the worst that any can infer from this place is, that this song, tho' indited by a good woman, was not divinely inspired, but only composed by a person transported with joy for the deliverance of God's people, but subject to mistake; who therefore, out of zeal to commend the instrument of so great a deliverance, might overlook the indirectness of the means, and commend that which should have been disliked, And if they farther object, that it was composed by a prophetess, and therefore must be divinely inspired; it may be replied, that every expression of a true prophet was not divinely inspired; as is evident from Samuel's mistake concerning Eliab, whom he thought to be the Lord's anointed, 1Sam 16:6. This is said upon supposition that Jael acted deceitfully in this affair; but if we suppose, which is much more likely, that Jael fully intended to afford Sisera the shelter and protection which he sought of her, but was afterwards by the immediate direction of heaven ordered to kill him, the whole difficulty vanishes, and the character both of Jael and of Deborah remains unimpeached.

Chapter V

Deborah's song begins with praise, ver. 1 - 3. Compares God's present appearance for them with his appearance on mount Sinai, ver. 4 - 5. Describes the condition they were in before, ver. 6 - 8. Calls all the delivered to join in praise, ver. 9 - 13. Commends those tribes that were forward in the war, and censures those that declined the service, ver. 14 - 19. Takes notice how God fought for them, and how Jael slew Sisera, ver. 20 - 30. Concludes with prayer, ver.. 31.

1 Deborah - The composer of this song.
2 The Lord - Give him the praise who hath done the work. The people - Chiefly Zebulun and Naphtali. Offered themselves - When neither Deborah nor Barak had any power to compel them.
3 The princes - You especially that live near, and have evil designs against Israel, know this for your caution, and terror too, if you presume to molest them. God of Israel - Who, as you see by this plain instance, is both able and resolved to defend them from all their enemies.
4 Edom - Seir and Edom are the same place; and these two expressions note the same thing, even God's marching in the head of his people, from Seir or Edom, towards the land of Canaan: while the Israelites were encompassing mount Seir, there were none of the following effects; but when once they had done that, and got Edom on their backs, then they marched directly forward towards the land of Canaan. The prophetess being to praise God for the present mercies, takes her rise higher, and begins her song with the commemoration of the ancient deliverances afforded by God to his people, the rather because of the great resemblance this had with them, in the miraculous manner of them. The earth trembled - God prepared the way for his people, and struck a dread into their enemies, by earth - quakes as well as by other terrible signs. Dropped water - That is, thou didst send storms and tempests, thunder and lightning, and other tokens of thy displeasure upon thine enemies.
5 Melted - Or, flowed, with floods of water powered out of the clouds upon them, and from them flowing down in a mighty stream upon the lower grounds, and carrying down part of the mountains with it. Sinai - She slides into the mention of a more ancient appearance of God for his people in Sinai; it being usual in scripture repetitions of former actions, to put divers together in a narrow compass. The sense is, No wonder that the mountains of the Amorites and Canaanites melted and trembled, when thou didst lead thy people toward them; for even Sinai itself could not bear thy presence, but melted in like manner before thee.
6 Jael - Jael, though an illustrious woman, effected nothing for the deliverance of God's people, 'till God raised me up. By - ways - Because of the Philistines and Canaanites, who, besides the public burdens which they laid upon them, waited for all opportunities to do them mischief secretly; their soldiers watching for travellers in common roads, as is usual with such in times of war; and, because of the robbers even of their own people, who having cast off the fear of God, and there being no king in Israel to punish them, broke forth into acts of injustice and violence, even against their own brethren.
7 Ceased - The people forsook all their unfortified towns, not being able to protect them from military insolence. A mother - That is, to be to them as a mother, to instruct, and rule, and protect them, which duties a mother owes to her children.
8 Chose - They did not only submit to idolatry when they were forced to it by tyrants, but they freely chose it. New gods - New to them, and unknown to their fathers, and new in comparison of the true and everlasting God of Israel, being but of yesterday. The gates - That is, in their walled cities, which have gates and bars; gates are often put for cities; then their strong holds fell into the hands of their enemies. Was there a shield - There was not, the meaning is not, that all the Israelites had no arms, but, either they had but few arms among them, being many thousands of them disarmed by the Canaanites and Philistines, or that they generally neglected the use of arms, as being without all hope of recovering their liberty.
9 My heart is toward - I honour and love those, who being the chief of the people in wealth and dignity, did not withdraw themselves from the work, as such usually do; but exposed themselves to the same hazards, and joined with their brethren in this noble but dangerous attempt. The Lord - Who inclined their hearts to this undertaking, and gave them success in it. As she gives instruments their due, so she is careful the sovereign cause lose not his glory.
10 Speak - Celebrate the praise of our mighty God. That ride on white asses - That is, magistrates and nobles, who used to do so, chap.10:4 12:14. That walk - That is, you that can safely travel in those high ways, which before you durst neither ride nor walk in: so great and mean persons are jointly excited to praise God.
11 From the noise - From the triumphant noise and shout of archers, rejoicing when they meet with their prey. Of drawing water - At those pits or springs of water, which were precious in those hot countries, to which the people's necessities forced them to resort, and nigh unto which the archers usually lurked, that they may shoot at them, and kill and spoil them. There - When they come to those places with freedom and safety, which before they could not, they shall with thankfulness rehearse this righteous and gracious work of God, in rescuing his people. Of the villages - Whom she mentions, because as their danger was greater, ver.7, so was their deliverance. Gates - Of their cities, which were the chief places to which both city and country resorted for public business and matters of justice, from which they they had been debarred by their oppressors; but now they had free access and passage, either in or out of the gates, as their occasions required; and they who had been driven from their cities, now returned to them in peace and triumph; so the citizens deliverance is celebrated here, as the country - mens is in the foregoing words.
12 Awake - Stir up thyself and all that is within thee, to admire and praise the Lord. This work needs and well deserves the utmost liveliness and vigour of soul. Lead captivity captive - How could this be done, when there was none of them left? chap.4:16.
  1. None were left to make head against them.
  2. None is often put for few, and those few might be taken after the battle, and carried captive, and led in triumph.
13 He made him, &c. - Thus God did not only preserve the poor and despised remnant of his people, from the fury of the oppressor, and from the destruction which Sisera designed, but also gave them the victory, and thereby the dominion over the nobles of Canaan, who were combined against them. Me - Tho' but a weak woman.
14 Ephraim - Now she relates the carriage of the several tribes in the expedition; and she begins with Ephraim. A root - Of the Ephraimites. By root she seems to mean a branch, as that word is sometimes used. By which also she may note the fewness of those that came out of Ephraim, yielding but one branch or an handful of men to this service. Amalek - The constant enemy of the Israelites, who were confederate with their last oppressors the Moabites, chap.3:13, and in all probability took their advantage now against the Israelites in the southern or middle parts of Canaan, while their main force was drawn northward against Jabin and Sisera. Against these therefore Ephraim sent forth a party, and so did Benjamin. Benjamin - Benjamin followed Ephraim's example. The people - Among the people of Benjamin, with whom these few Ephraimites united themselves in this expedition. Machir - That is, out of the tribe of Manasseh, which are elsewhere called by the name of Machir, namely, out of the half tribe which was within Jordan; for of the other she speaks, ver.17. Governors - Either civil governors, princes and great persons, who were as ready to hazard themselves, as the meanest: or military officers, valiant and expert commanders, such as some of Machir's posterity are noted to have been. Writer - That is, even the Scribes, who gave themselves to study and writing, whereby they were exempted from military service, did voluntarily enter into this service.
15 With Deborah - Ready to assist her. Issachar - Heb. and Issachar, that is, the tribe or people of Issachar, following the counsel and example of their princes. Barak - That is, they were as hearty and valiant as Barak their general; and as he marched on foot against their enemies horses and chariots, and that into the valley, where the main use of horses and chariots lies; so did they with no less courage and resolution. Divisions - Or, separations, not so much one from another, (for they seem to be all so well agreed in abiding at home with their sheep) as all from their brethren, from whom they were divided no less in their designs and affections, than in their situation by the river Jordan: and they would not join their interests and forces with them in this common cause. Great thoughts - Or, great searchings, great and sad thoughts, and debates, and perplexities of mind among the Israelites, to see themselves deserted by so great and potent a tribe as Reuben was.
16 Why abodest - Why wast thou so unworthy and cowardly, that thou wouldest not engage thyself in so just, so necessary, and so noble a cause, but didst prefer the care of this sheep, and thy own ease and safety, before this generous undertaking? Reuben thought neutrality their wisest course; being very rich in cattle, Numb 32:1. They were loath to run the hazard of so great a loss, by taking up arms against so potent an enemy as Jabin: and the bleatings of their sheep were so loud in their ears, that they could not hear the call of Deborah and Barak.
17 Gilead - Sometimes taken strictly for that part of the land beyond Jordan which fell to the half - tribe of Manasseh, and sometimes both for that part of Manasseh's, and for Gad's portion, as Josh 13:24 - 25,29 - 31, and so it seems to be understood here; and the land Gilead is here put for the people or inhabitants of it, Gad and Manasseh. Beyond Jordan - In their own portions, and did not come over Jordan to the help of the Lord, and of his people, as they ought to have done. In ships - Dan, whose coast was near the sea, was wholly intent upon his merchandise, and therefore could not join in this land expedition. Sea - shore - Where their lot lay. His breaches - Either in the creeks of the sea, or, in their broken and craggy rocks and caves.
18 Jeoparded - Heb. despised, comparatively; they chose rather to venture upon a generous and honourable death, than to enjoy a shameful and servile life. High - places - That is, upon that large and eminent plain in the top of mount Tabor, where they put themselves in battle array, and expected the enemy; though when they saw they did not come up to them, they marched down to meet them.
19 The kings - There were divers petty kings in those parts who were subject to Jabin. Megiddo - Taanah and Megiddo were two eminent cities, not far from mount Tabor, nor from the river Kishon. No gain - They fought without pay, whether from mere hatred of the Israelites, and a desire to be revenged upon them: or from a full hope and confidence of paying themselves abundantly out of Israel's spoils.
20 From heaven - Or, they from heaven, or the heavenly host fought, by thunder, and lightning, and hail - stones, possibly mingled with fire. The stars - Raising these storms by their influences, which they do naturally. Courses - Or, from their paths, or stations. As soldiers fight in their ranks and places assigned them, so did these.
21 River of Kishon - Which, though not great in itself, was now much swelled by the foregoing storm and rain, and therefore drowned those who being pursued by the hand of God, and by the Israelites, were forced into it, and thought to pass over it, as they did before. Ancient river - So called, either, first, in opposition to those rivers which are of a later date, being made by the hand and art of man. Or, secondly, because it was a river anciently famous for remarkable exploits, for which it was celebrated by the ancient poets or writers, though not here mentioned. Trodden down - Thou, O Deborah, though but a weak woman, hast by God's assistance subdued a potent enemy. Such abrupt speeches are frequent in poetical scriptures.
22 Horses hoofs - Their horses, in which they put most confidence, had their hoofs, which are their support and strength, broken, either by dreadful hail - stones, or rather, by their swift and violent running over the stony grounds, when they fled with all possible speed from God and from Israel. Pransings - Or because of their fierce or swift courses. Mighty ones - Of their strong and valiant riders, who forced their horses to run away as fast as they could.
23 Meroz - A place then, no doubt, eminent and considerable, tho' now there be no remembrance of it left, which possibly might be the effect of this bitter curse; as God curseth Amalek in this manner, that he would utterly blot out their remembrance. And this place above all others may be thus severely cursed; because it was near the place of the fight, and therefore had the greatest opportunity and obligation to assist their brethren. The angel, &c. - She signifies, that this curse proceeded not from her ill - will towards that place, but from divine inspiration; and that if all the rest of the song should be taken but for the breathings of a pious soul, but liable to mistake, yet this branch of it was immediately directed to her by the Lord, the angel of the covenant. Of the Lord - Of the Lord's people: for God takes what is done for, or against his people, as if it was done to himself. The cause between God and the mighty, the principalities and powers of the kingdom of darkness, will not admit of a neutrality.
24 Blessed - Celebrated, and endowed with all sorts of blessings more than they. In the tent - In her tent or habitation, in her house and family, and all her affairs: for she and hers dwelt in tents. The tent is here mentioned as an allusion to the place where the fact was done.
25 Butter - Or, cream, that is, the choicest of her milk: so the same thing is repeated in different words. Lordly dish - Which you are not to understand of such a costly dish as the luxury of after ages brought in, which is not agreeable to the simplicity either of this family, or of those ancient times; but of a comely and convenient dish, the best which she had, and such as the better sort of persons then used. Probably Jael at that time intended him no other than kindness, 'till God by an immediate impulse on her mind, directed her to do otherwise.
28 Looked out - Expecting to see him returning: for she concluded, that he went forth not so much to fight, as to take the spoil.
30 Have they not, &e. - That is, it is certain they have got the prey, only they tarry to distribute it, according to every man's quality and merit.
31 So let - That is, so suddenly, so surely, so effectual and irrecoverably. Deborah was a prophetess and this prayer was a prediction, that in due time all God's enemies shall perish. In his might - When he first riseth, and so goeth on in his course, which he doth with great might, even as a strong man that runneth a race, and so as no creature can stop, or hinder him; even so irresistible let thy people be. Such shall be the honour and such the joy of all that love God in sincerity, and they shall shine for ever as the sun in the kingdom of their father.

Chapter VI

The calamities of Israel by the Midianites, ver. 1 - 6. The message God sent them by a prophet, ver. 7 - 10. God's commission to Gideon, confirmed by a sign, ver. 11 - 24. He breaks down the altar of Baal, ver. 25 - 32. The preparation for war, and encouragement by another sign, ver. 33 - 40.

1 Of Midian - For although the generality of the Midianites had been cut off by Moses about two hundred years ago, yet many of them doubtless fled into the neighbouring countries, whence afterwards they returned into their own land, and in that time might easily grow to be a very great number; especially, when God furthered their increase, that they might be a scourge for Israel when they transgressed. Let all that sin, expect to suffer: let all that turn to folly, expect to return to misery.
3 Children of the east - That is, the Arabians, who are commonly called the children of the east. Not all the Arabians; but the eastern part of them.
4 Unto Gaza - That is, from the east, on which side they entered, to the well, where Gaza was, near the sea: so they destroyed the whole land.
5 Without number - That is, so many that it was not easy to number them. And not in a regular army to engage, but in a confused swarm, to plunder the country. Yet Israel, being forsaken of God, had not spirit to make head against them; God fighting against them with those very terrors, with which otherwise he would have fought for them.
8 A prophet - We have reason to hope, God is designing mercy for us, if we find he is by his grace preparing us for it.
10 Not obeyed my voice - He intends to bring them to repentance. And our repentance is then genuine, when he sinfulness of sin, as disobedience to God, is that in it which we chiefly lament.
11 In Ophrah - In Manasseh: there was another Ophrah in Benjamin, Josh 18:23. The Abi - ezrite - Of the posterity of Abiezer. Threshed - Not with oxen, as the manner was, Deut 25:4, but with a staff to prevent discovery. Wine - press - In the place where the wine - press stood, not in the common floor.
12 Is with thee - That is, will assist thee against thine enemies. Man of valour - To whom I have given strength and courage for this end.
13 With us - The angel had said, Peace be with Thee: but he expostulates for All: herding himself with all Israel, and admitting no comfort, but what they might be sharers in.
14 Looked - With a settled and pleasant countenance, as a testimony of his favour, and readiness to help him. Go - Or, go now, in thy might: in the strength which thou hast already received, and dost now farther receive from me. Have not I sent thee - I do hereby give thee command and commission for this work. God's fitting men for his work, is a sure evidence of his calling them to it.
15 My family - Heb. my thousand: for the tribes were distributed into several thousands, whereof each thousand had his peculiar governor. Is poor - That is, weak and contemptible. The least - Either for age, or fitness for so great a work.
16 As one man - As easily, as if they were all but one man.
17 That thou - That it is thou, an angel or messenger sent from God, that appears to me, and discourseth with me. Or, a sign of that which thou talkest with me; that is, that thou wilt by me smite the Midianites.
18 My present - A repast for the angel, whom he thought to be a man. Set it - That thou mayest eat and refresh thyself.
19 An ephah - The choicest part of a whole ephah; as also he brought to him the best part of a kid dressed; for a whole ephah, and a whole kid had been superfluous, and improper to provide for one man.
21 Consumed the flesh - By which, he shewed himself to be no man that needed such provisions, but the Son of God; and by this instance of his omnipotency, gave him assurance, that he both could, and would consume the Midianites.
22 Alas - I am an undone man: I must die, and that speedily; for that he feared, ver.23, according to the common opinion in that case.
23 Said unto him - Perhaps by an audible voice. Peace be to thee - Thou shalt receive no hurt by this vision; but only peace, that is, all the blessings needful for thy own happiness, and for the present work.
24 There - On the top of the rock, as is evident from ver.26, where that which is here expressed only in general, is more particularly described. Jehovah - shalom - That is, the Lord's peace; the sign or witness of God's speaking peace to me, and to his people: or the place where he spake peace to me, when I expected nothing but destruction.
25 The second bullock - He was to offer one for himself, the other for the sins of the people, whom he was to deliver. 'Till sin be pardoned thro' the great sacrifice, no good is to be expected. Thy father hath - Which thy father built in his own ground, tho' for the common use of the city. The grove - Planted by the altar for idolatrous uses, as the manner of idolaters was. This action might seem injurious to his father's authority; but God's command was a sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father's superior, and was authorized to root out all idolatry, and the instruments thereof.
26 Of this rock - Heb. of this strong hold: for in that calamitous time the Israelites retreated to such rocks, and hid and fortified themselves in them. Ordered place - That is, in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built. And offer - Gideon was no priest, nor was this the appointed place of sacrifice; but God can dispense with his own institutions, though we may not; and his call gave Gideon sufficient authority.
27 Ten men - Whom doubtless he had acquainted with his design, and the assurance of success in it, whereby they were easily induced to assist him. He feared - Not so much, lest he should suffer for it, as lest he should be prevented from doing it.
28 Was offered - Not upon Baal's altar, for which it was designed; but upon an altar erected in contempt of Baal.
30 They said - Probably some of the persons employed in it.
31 Will ye plead - Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal, for the worship whereof you suffer such grievous calamities at this day? It is plain, that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal: but probably he was now convinced by Gideon. He that will plead - He that shall farther plead for such a god as this, deserves to die for his folly and impiety. It is not probable, that this was all which he said for his son: but it is usual in scripture to give only short hints of things which were more largely discoursed. While it is morning - That is, instantly, without delay. Let him plead - As the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done him. But Baal hath now shewed, that he is neither able to help you, nor himself; and therefore is not worthy to be served any longer. This resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the peoples fury; and it was drawn from him, by the sense of his son's extreme danger; and by the confidence he had, that God would plead his son's cause, and use him for the rescue of his people.
32 He called - Joash called Gideon so, chap.8:29, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand upon Baal. Jerub - baal - That is, Let Baal plead. It is a probable conjecture, that that Jerombalus, whom Sanchoniathon, (one of the most ancient of all the Heathen writers) speaks of as a priest of Jao, (a corruption of Jehovah) and to whom he was indebted for a great deal of knowledge, was this Jerub - baal.
33 Of Jezreel - Not Jezreel in Judah, but another in the borders of Manasseh and Issachar, which was not far distant from Ophrah, where Gideon dwelt.
34 The spirit came - Inspiring him with extraordinary wisdom, and courage, and zeal to vindicate God's honour, and his country's liberty. The Hebrew is, The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon; clothed him as a robe, to put honour upon him; clothed him as a coat of mail to put a defence upon him. Those are well clad that are thus clothed. Abiezer - That is, the Abiezrites, his kindred, and their servants, and others; who finding no harm coming to him for destroying Baal, but rather a blessing from God, in giving him strength and courage for so great an attempt, changed their minds, and followed him as the person by whose hands God would deliver them.
35 All Manasseh - On Both sides of Jordan. Unto Asher, &c. - Because these tribes were nearest, and so could soonest join with him; and were nearest the enemy also, ver.33, and therefore were most sensible of the calamity, and would in all reason be most forward to rescue themselves from it.
36 Gideon said - In a way of humble supplication, for the strengthening his own faith, and for the greater encouragement of his soldiers in this great attempt.
37 On all the earth - That is, upon all that spot of ground which encompasses the fleece.
39 On the ground - Which was more preternatural than the former instance, because if there be any moisture, such bodies as fleeces of wool are likely to drink it up.
40 And God did so - See how tender God is, even of the weak; and how ready to condescend to their infirmities! These signs were very expressive. They are going to engage the Midianites. Could God distinguish between a small fleece of Israel, and the vast floor of Midian? Yes, by this token it appears that he can. Is Gideon desirous, that the dew of divine grace might descend on himself in particular? He sees the fleece wet with dew, to assure him of it. Does he desire, that God will be as the dew to all Israel? Behold all the ground is wet!

Chapter VII

God's direction to Gideon for modelling his army, ver. 1 - 8. The dream of the Midianite, ver. 9 - 15. His manner of attacking the camp of Midian, ver. 16 - 20. Their total overthrow, ver. 21 - 25.

2 Too many - For my purpose; which is, so to deliver Israel, that it may appear to be my own act, that so I may have all the glory, and they may be the more strongly obliged to serve me. This may help us to understand those providences, which sometimes seem to weaken the church of Christ. Its friends are too many, too mighty, too wise, for God to work deliverance by. God is taking a course to lessen them, that he may be exalted in his own strength.
3 Mount Gilead - Not mount Gilead beyond Jordan; for both the camps of the Israelites and the Midianites were on this side Jordan: but another mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh. There returned - These finding their whole army very small, in comparison of their enemies, who were a hundred and thirty five thousand, chap.8:10, and they, no doubt well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success; whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unarmed, lost the courage which they had at first.
4 The water - Either that which ran from the well of Harod, mentioned ver.1, or some other brook.
6 That lapped - Taking up a little water in the palm of their hands.
7 His own place - That is, to his own home. By this farther distinction it was proved, that none should be made use of, but,
  1. Men that were hardy, that could endure fatigue, without complaining of thirst or weariness:
  2. Men that were hasty, that thought it long, 'till they were engaged with the enemy, and so just wetted their mouth and away, not staying for a full draught.
Such as these God chuses to employ, that are not only well affected, but zealously affected to his work.
8 Their trumpets - That is the trumpets belonging to the whole army, which he retained for the use following.
9 The same night - After he had dismissed all but the three hundred. The Lord said - In a dream or vision of the night.
11 Thine hand strengthened - Thou wilt be encourage to proceed, notwithstanding the smallness of thy number.
13 A cake - A weak and contemptible thing; and in itself as unable to overthrow a tent, as to remove a mountain; but being thrown by a divine hand, it bore down all before it.
14 His fellow answered, &c. - As there are many examples of significant dreams, given by God to Heathens, so some of them had the gift of interpreting dreams; which they sometimes did by divine direction as in this case.
15 He worshipped - He praised God for this special encouragement.
16 Three companies - To make a shew of a vast army. Within the pitchers - Partly to preserve the flame from the wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden flashes of light.
17 Look on me - For though two hundred of his men were placed on other sides of the camp; yet they were so disposed, that some persons, set as watchmen, might see what was done, and give notice to the rest to follow the example.
18 Of Gideon - He mentions his own name, together with God's, not out of arrogance, as if he would equal himself with God; but from prudent policy, because his name was grown formidable to them, and so was likely to further his design. See ver.14.
19 Middle watch - That is, of the second watch; for though afterward the night was divided into four watches by the Romans, Matt 14:25, yet in more ancient times, and in the eastern parts, it was divided into three: he chose the dark and dead of the night, to increase their terror by the trumpets, whose sound would then be loudest, and the lamps, whose light would then shine most brightly, to surprise them, and conceal the smallness of their numbers.
21 They stood - As if they had been torch - bearers to the several companies.
22 Against his fellow - They slew one another, because they suspected treachery, and so fell upon those they first met with; which they might more easily do, because they consisted of several nations, because the darkness of the night made them unable to distinguish friends from foes, because the suddenness of the thing struck them with horror and amazement; and because God had infatuated them, as he had done many others.
24 The waters - That is, the passes over those waters to which they are like to come. Jordan - The fords of Jordan, which they must pass over into their own country.
25 The other side of Jordan - For Gideon in the pursuit had passed over Jordan. Oreb and Zeeb had probably taken shelter, the one in a rock, the other by a wine - press. But the places of their shelter were made the places of their slaughter, and the memory of it preserved in the names of the places.

Chapter VIII

Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites, ver. 1 - 3. Pursues the Midianites, ver. 4 - 12. Chastises the men of Succoth and Penuel, ver. 13 - 17. Slays the two kings of Midian, ver. 18 - 21. Declines the government of Israel, ver. 22, 23. Makes an ephod, ver. 24 - 27. Keeps the country quiet forty years, ver. 28. Dies, leaving a numerous family, ver, 29 - 32. Israel quickly forget God and him, ver. 33 - 35.

1 Why haft thou, &c. - Why hast thou neglected and despised us, in not calling us in to thy help, as thou didst other tribes? These were a proud people, puffed up with a conceit of their number and strength, and the preference which Jacob gave them above Manasseh, of which tribe Gideon was, who by this act had seemed to advance his own tribe, and to depress theirs.
2 What have I, &c. - What I have done in cutting off some of the common soldiers, is not to be compared with your destroying their princes; I began the war, but you have finished. The gleaning - What you have gleaned or done after me, Of Abiezer - That is, of the Abiezrites, to whom he modestly communicates the honour of the victory, and does not arrogate it to himself.
3 Was abated - His soft and humble answer allayed their rage.
4 Passed over - Or, had passed over.
6 Are the hands, &c. - Art thou so foolish, to think with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers, to conquer and destroy an host of fifteen thousand Men? Thus the bowels of their compassion were shut up against their brethren. Were these Israelites! Surely they were worshippers of Baal, or in the interest of Midian.
8 Penuel - Another city beyond Jordan; both were in the tribe of Gad.
9 Your tower - Your confidence in which makes you thus proud and presumptuous.
10 That drew sword - That is, persons expert and exercised in war, besides the retainers to them.
11 That dwelt in tents - That is, of the Arabians, so fetching a compass, and falling upon them where they least expected it. Was secure - Being now got safe over Jordan, and a great way from the place of battle; and probably, supposing Gideon's men to be so tired with their hard service, that they would have neither strength nor will to pursue them so far.
13 Before the sun was up - By which it might be gathered, that he came upon them in the night, which was most convenient for him who had so small a number with him; and most likely to terrify them by the remembrance of the last Night's sad work.
14 He described - He told him their names and qualities.
17 Slew the men of the city - Not all of them; probably those only who had affronted him.
18 What manner of men - For outward shape and quality. At Tabor - Whither he understood they fled for shelter, upon the approach of the Midianites; and where he learned that some were slain, which he suspected might be them. Resembled - Not for their garb, or outward splendor, but for the majesty of their looks: by which commendation they thought to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror.
19 I would not slay - For being not Canaanites, he was not obliged to kill them; but they having killed his brethren, and that in cool blood, he was by law the avenger of their blood.
20 Up, and slay - That he might animate him to the use of arms for his God and country, and that he might have a share in the honour of the victory.
21 So is his strength - Thou excellest him, as in age and stature, so in strength; and it is more honourable to die by the hands of a valiant man.
22 Rule - Not as a judge, for that he was already made by God; but as a king. Thy son's son - Let the kingdom be hereditary to thee, and to thy family. Thou hast delivered us - This miraculous and glorious deliverance by thy hands deserves no less from us.
23 I will not rule - As a king. The Lord shall rule - In a special manner, as he hath hitherto done, by judges, whom God particularly appointed and directed, even by Urim and Thummim, and assisted upon all occasions; whereas Kings had only a general dependance upon God.
24 Ishmaelites - A mixture of people all called by one general name, Ishmaelites or Arabians, who used to wear ear - rings; but the greatest, and the ruling part of them were Midianites.
27 Thereof - Not of all of it; for then it would have been too heavy for use; but of part of it, the rest being probably employed about other things appertaining to it; which elsewhere are comprehended under the name of the ephod, as chap.17:5. Put it - Not as a monument of the victory, for such monuments were neither proper nor usual; but for religious use, for which alone the ephod was appointed. The case seems to be this; Gideon having by God's command erected an altar in his own city, Ophrah, ch.6:24, for an extraordinary time and occasion, thought it might be continued for ordinary use; and therefore as he intended to procure priests, so he designed to make priestly garments, and especially an ephod, which was the chief and most costly; which besides its use in sacred ministrations, was also the instrument by which the mind of God was enquired and discovered, 1Sam 26:6,9, and it might seen necessary for the judge to have this at hand, that he might consult with God upon all occasions. Went a whoring - Committed idolatry with it; or went thither to enquire the will of God; whereby they were drawn from the true ephod, instituted by God for this end, which was to be worn by the high - priest only. A snare - An occasion of sin and ruin to him and his, as the next chapter sheweth. Though Gideon was a good man, and did this with an honest mind, and a desire to set up religion in his own city and family; yet here seem to be many sins in it;
  1. Superstition and will - worship, worshipping God by a device of his own, which was expressly forbidden.
  2. Presumption, in wearing or causing other priests to wear this kind of ephod, which was peculiar to the high - priest.
  3. Transgression of a plain command, of worshipping God ordinarily but at one place, and one altar, Deut 12:5,11,14.
  4. Making a division among the people.
  5. Laying a stumbling - block, or an occasion of idolatry before that people, whom he knew to be too prone to it.
28 Lifted up their head - That is, recovered not their former strength or courage, so as to conquer or oppress others. Forty years - To the fortieth year, from the beginning of the Midianitish oppression. The days, &c. - As long as Gideon lived.
29 His own house - Not in his father's house; as he did before; nor yet in a court like a king, as the people desired; but in a middle state, as a judge for the preservation and maintenance of their religion and liberties.
31 Shechem - She dwelt there, and he often came thither, either to execute judgment, or upon other occasions. Abimelech - That is, my father the king; so he called him, probably, to gratify his concubine, who desired it either out of pride, or design.
32 A good old age - His long life being crowned with the continuance of honour, tranquility, and happiness.
33 As soon as, &c. - Whereby we see the temper of this people, who did no longer cleave to God, than they were in a manner constrained to it, by the presence and authority of their judges. Baalim - This was the general name including all their idols, one of which here follows. Baal - berith - That is, the Lord of the covenant; so called, either from the covenant wherewith the worshippers of this god bound themselves to maintain his worship, or to defend one another therein; or rather, because he was reputed the god and judge of all covenants, and promises, and contracts, to whom it belonged to maintain them, and to punish the violaters of them; and such a god both the Grecians and the Romans had.

Chapter IX

Abimelech usurps the government at Shechem, ver. 1 - 6. Jotham's parable, ver. 7 - 21. Strife between Abimelech and the Shechemites, ver. 22 - 41. The slaughter of the Shechemites, ver. 42 - 49. The death of Abimelech, fulfilling Jotham's curse, ver. 50 - 57.

2 Reign - He supposed they would take that government which their father refused; and that the multitude of his sons would occasion divisions, and confusions, which they might avoid by chusing him king; and so they might enjoy the monarchy which they had long desired. Your bone and flesh - Your kinsman, of the same tribe and city with you; which will be no small honour and advantage to you.
3 Brethren - That is, kinsmen. He is our brother - They were easily persuaded to believe what served their own interest.
4 Pieces of silver - Not shekels, which were too small a sum for this purpose; but far larger pieces, the exact worth whereof it is not possible for us now to know. The house of Baal - berith - Out of his sacred treasury; having since Gideon's death built this temple (which he would never have suffered whilst he lived) and endowed it with considerable revenues. Light persons - Unsettled, idle and necessitous persons, the proper instruments of tyranny and cruelty.
5 His brethren - The only persons who were likely to hinder him in establishing his tyranny. Threescore and ten - Wanting one, who is here expressed. Jotham was left - Whereby he would signify, that this was an act of justice, in cutting them all off in an orderly manner, for some supposed crime, probably, as designing sedition and rebellion.
6 House of Millo - Some eminent and potent family living in Shechem, or near it. King - Over all Israel, ver.22, which was a strange presumption for the inhabitants of one city; but they had many advantages for it; as the eager, and general, and constant inclination of the Israelites to kingly government; Abimelech's being the son of Gideon, to whom, and to his sons, they offered the kingdom. And though the father could, and did refuse it for himself; yet they might imagine, that he could not give away his sons' right, conveyed to them by the Israelites, in their offer; the universal defection of the Israelites from God to Baal, whose great patron and champion Abimelech pretended to be; the power and prevalency of the tribe of Ephraim, in which Shechem was, whose proud and imperious spirit, would make them readily close with a king of their own brethren; and Abimelech's getting the start of all others, having the crown actually put upon his head, and an army already raised to maintain his tyranny. Of the pillar - Or, by the oak of the pillar, by the oak, where Joshua erected a pillar as a witness of the covenant renewed between God and Israel, Josh 24:26. This place they chose, to signify that they still owned God, and their covenant with him; and did not worship Baal in opposition to God, but in conjunction with him, or in subordination to him.
7 Mount Gerizim - Which lay near Shechem. The valley between Gerizim and Ebal, was a famous place, employed for the solemn reading of the law, and its blessings and curses: and it is probable it was still used, even by the superstitious and idolatrous Israelites for such occasions, who delighted to use the same places which their ancestors had used. Cried - So that they who stood in the valley might hear him, though not suddenly come at him to take him. Men of Shechem - Who were here met together upon a solemn occasion, as Josephus notes, Abimelech being absent. That God may hearken - When you cry unto him for mercy; so he conjures and persuades them to give him patient audience.
8 The trees, &c. - A parabolical discourse, usual among the ancients, especially in the eastern parts. To anoint - To make a king, which was done among the Israelites, and some others, with the ceremony of anointing. Olive - tree - By which he understands Gideon.
9 Honour God - In whose worship oil was used for divers things; as, about the lamps, and offerings, and for anointing sacred persons and things. And man - For oil was used in the constitution of kings, and priests, and prophets, and for a present to great persons, and to anoint the head and face. Promoted - Heb. to move hither and thither, to wander to and fro, to exchange my sweet tranquility, for incessant cares and travels.
10 Fig - tree - Gideon refused this honour, both for himself, and for his sons; and the sons of Gideon, whom Abimelech had slain, upon pretence of their affecting the kingdom, were as far from such thoughts as their father.
13 Cheareth God - Wherewith God is well pleased, because it was offered to God.
14 Bramble - Or, thorn, fitly representing Abimelech, the son of a concubine, and a person of small use, and great cruelty.
15 If in truth - If you deal truly and justly in making me king. Then trust - Then you may expect protection under my government. Devour the cedars - In stead of protection, you shall receive destruction by me; especially you cedars, that is, nobles, such as the house of Millo, who have been most forward in this work.
18 Ye have slain - Abimelech's fact is justly charged upon them, as done by their consent, approbation and assistance. Maidservant - His concubine, whom he so calls by way of reproach. Over Shechem - By which limitation of their power, and his kingdom, he reflects contempt upon him, and chargeth them with presumption, that having only power over their own city, they durst impose a king upon all Israel.
20 Devour Abimelech - This is not so much a prediction as an imprecation, which, being grounded upon just cause, had its effect, as others in like case had.
21 And fled - Which he might easily do, having the advantage of the hill, and because the people were not forward to pursue a man whom they knew to have such just cause to speak, and so little power to do them hurt. To Beer - A place remote from Shechem, and out of Abimelech's reach.
22 Over Israel - For though the men of Shechem were the first authors of Abimelech's advancement, the rest of the people easily consented to that form of government which they so much desired.
23 God sent - God gave the devil commission to work upon their minds.
24 The cruelty - That is, the punishment of the cruelty.
25 For him - To seize his person. Robbed all - Such as favoured or served Abimelech; for to such only their commission reached, though it may be, they went beyond their bounds, and robbed all passengers promiscuously.
26 Gaal - It is not known who he was; but it is evident, he was a man very considerable for wealth, and strength and interest; and ill - pleased with Abimelech's power. Went to Shechem - By his presence and council to animate and assist them against Abimelech.
27 Went out - Which, 'till his coming they durst not do, for fear of Abimelech. Made merry - Both from the custom of rejoicing, and singing songs in vintage time, and for the hopes of their redemption from Abimelech's tyranny. Their goals - Baal - berith, ver.4, either to beg his help against Abimelech, or to give him thanks for the hopes of recovering their liberty. Eat and drink - To the honour of their idols, and out of the oblations made to them, as they used to do to the honour of Jehovah, and out of his sacrifices. Cursed - Either by reviling him after their manner, or, rather in a more solemn and religious manner, cursing him by their god, as Goliath did David.
28 Who is Abimelech - What is he but a base - born person, a cruel tyrant, and one every way unworthy to govern you? Who is Shechem - That is, Abimelech, named in the foregoing words, and described in those which follow. He is called Shechem for the Shechemite. The sense is, who is this Shechemite? For so he was by the mother's side, born of a woman of your city, and she but his concubine and servant; why should you submit to one so basely descended? Of Jerubbaal - Of Gideon, a person famous only by his fierceness against that Baal which you justly honour and reverence, whose altar he overthrew, and whose worship he endeavoured to abolish. And Zebul - And you are so mean spirited, that you do not only submit to him, but suffer his very servants to bear rule over you; and particularly, this ignoble and hateful Zebul. Serve, &c. - If you love bondage, call in the old master and lord of the place; chuse not an upstart, as Abimelech is; but rather take one of the old flock, one descended from Hamor, Gen 34:2, who did not carry himself like a tyrant, as Abimelech did; but like a father of his city. This he might speak sincerely, as being himself a Canaanite and Shechemite, and possibly came from one of those little ones whom Simeon and Levi spared when they slew all the grown males, Gen 34:29. And it may be that he was one of the royal blood, a descendent of Hamor, who hereby sought to insinuate himself into the government, as it follows, ver.29. Would to God that this people were under my hand; which he might judge the people more likely to chuse both because they were now united with the Canaanites in religion; and because their present distress might oblige them to put themselves under him, a valiant and expert commander.
29 My hand - That is, under my command; I wish you would unanimously submit to me, as your captain and governor; for he found them divided; and some of them hearkening after Abimelech, whom they had lately rejected, according to the levity of the popular humour. I would remove - As you have driven him out of your city, I would drive him out of your country. He said - He sent this message or challenge to him. Increase thine army - I desire not to surprise thee at any disadvantage; strengthen thyself as much as thou canst, and come out into the open field, that thou and I may decide it by our arms.
35 And stood - To put his army in order, and to conduct them against Abimelech, whom he supposed to be at a great distance.
36 To Zebul - Who concealed the anger which he had conceived, ver.30, and pretended compliance with him in this expedition, that he might draw him forth into the field where Abimelech might have the opportunity of fighting with him, and overthrowing him. The shadow - For in the morning, as this was, and in the evening, the shadows are longest, and move quickest.
38 Where is now, &c. - Now shew thyself a man, and fight valiantly for thyself and people.
40 He fled - Being surprised by the unexpected coming of Abimelech, and probably not fully prepared for the encounter.
41 Dwelt at Arumah - He did not prosecute his victory, but retreated to Arumah, to see whether the Shechemites would not of themselves return to his government, or else, that being hereby grown secure, he might have the greater advantage against them. Thrust out - It seems the same night. Probably the multitude, which is generally light and unstable, were now enraged against Gaal, suspecting him of cowardice or ill - conduct. Zebul's interest was not so considerable with them, that he could prevail with them either to kill Gaal and his brethren, or to yield themselves to Abimelech; and therefore he still complies with the people, and waits for a fairer opportunity.
42 Went out - to their usual employments about their land.
43 Three companies - Whereof he kept one with himself, ver.44, and put the rest under other commanders.
44 Entering of the gate - To prevent their retreat into the city, and give the other two companies opportunity to cut them off.
45 With salt - In token of his desire of their utter and irrecoverable destruction.
46 The tower - A strong place belonging to the city of Shechem, made for its defence without the city. Berith - Or, Baal - berith, ver.4. Hither they fled out of the town belonging to it, fearing the same event with Shechem; and here they thought to be secure; partly by the strength of the place, partly by the religion of it, thinking that either their god would protect them there, or that Abimelech would spare them out of pity to that god.
48 Zalmon - A place so called from its shadiness.
50 Thebez - Another town near to Shechem; and, as it seems, within its territory.
51 And all - All that were not slain in the taking of the town. Top of the tower - Which was flat and plain, after their manner of building.
53 Mill - stone - Such great stones no doubt they carried up with them, whereby they might defend themselves, or offend those who assaulted them. Here the justice of God is remarkable in suiting the punishment to his sin. He slew his brethren upon a stone, ver.5, and he loseth his own life by a stone.
54 A women - Which was esteemed a matter of disgrace.
56 Wickedness - In rooting out, as far as he could, the name and memory of his father.
57 Render upon their heads - Thus God preserved the honour of his government, and gave warning to all ages, to expect blood for blood.

Chapter X

The government of Tola and Jair, ver 1 - 5. Israel's sin and trouble, ver. 6 - 9. Their repentance and reformation, which found acceptance with God, ver. 10 - 16. Preparation for their deliverance, ver. 17, 18.

1 There arose - Not of himself, but raised by God, as the other judges were. To defend - Or, to save, which he did not by fighting against, and overthrowing their enemies, but by a prudent and pious government of them, whereby he kept them from sedition, oppression, and idolatry. In Shamir - Which was in the very midst of the land.
3 A Gileadite - Of Gilead beyond Jordan.
4 And he had thirty sons - They were itinerant judges, who rode from place to place, as their father's deputies to administer justice. Havoth - jair - These villages were called so before this time from another Jair, but the old name was revived and confirmed upon this occasion.
6 Forsook the Lord - They grew worse and worse, and so ripened themselves for ruin. Before they worshipped God and idols together, now they forsake God, and wholly cleave to idols.
7 Philistines, &c. - The one on the west, the other on the east; so they were molested on both sides.
8 That year - Or, that year they had vexed and oppressed the children of Israel eighteen years - This was the eighteenth year from the beginning of that oppression. And these eighteen years are not to be reckoned from Jair's death, because that would enlarge the time of the judges beyond the just bounds; but from the fourth year of Jair's reign: so that the greatest part of Jair's reign was contemporary with this affliction. The case of Jair and Samson seem to be much alike. For as it is said of Samson, that he judged Israel in the days of the tyranny of the Philistines, twenty years, Judg 15:20, by which it is evident, that his judicature, and their dominion, were contemporary; the like is to be conceived of Jair, that he began to judge Israel, and endeavoured to reform religion, and purge out all abuses; but being unable to effect this through the backwardness of the, people, God would not enable him to deliver the people, but gave them up to this sad oppression; so that Jair could only determine differences amongst the Israelites, but could not deliver them from their enemies.
10 And served also - Because not contented to add idols to thee, we have preferred them before thee.
11 The Lord said - Either by some prophet whom he raised and sent for this purpose: or by the high - priest, who was consulted in the case. From the Amorites - Both Sihon and Og, and their people, and other kings of the Amorites within Jordan. Of Ammon - Who were confederate with the Moabites, Judg 3:13,14.
12 The Zidonians - We do not read of any oppression of Israel, particularly, by the Zidonians. But many things were done, which are not recorded. The Maonites - Either first, those who lived in, or near the wilderness of Maon, in the south of Judah, 1Sam 23:25 25:2, whether Edomites or others. Or, secondly, the Mehunims, a people living near the Arabians, of whom, 2Chron 26:7. For in the Hebrew, the letters of both names are the same, only the one is the singular, the other the plural number.
13 No more - Except you repent in another manner than you yet have done; which when they performed, God suspended the execution of this threatning.
14 Chosen - You have not been forced to worship those gods by your oppressors; but you have freely chosen them before me.
15 Do thou unto us - Do not give us up into the hands of these cruel men, but do thou chastise us with thine own hand as much as thou pleasest; if we be not more faithful and constant to thee, than we have hitherto been.
16 They put away - This was an evidence of the sincerity of their sorrow, that they did not only confess their sins, but also forsake them. His soul, &c. - He acted towards them, like one that felt their sufferings; he had pity upon them, quite changed his carriage towards them, and punished their enemies as sorely as if they had grieved and injured his own person.
17 Mizpeh - That Mizpeh which was beyond Jordan.

Chapter XI

The birth of Jephthah, rejected by his brethren, ver. 1 - 3. The Gileadites chuse him for their general, ver. 4 - 11. His treating with the king of Ammon, ver. 12 - 28. His war with, and victory over the Ammonites, ver. 29 - 33. His vow and the performance of it, ver. 34 - 40.

1 Gileadite - So called, either from his father Gilead, or from the mountain, or city of Gilead, the place of his birth. Son of a harlot - That is, a bastard. And though such were not ordinarily to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deut 23:2. Yet God can dispense with his own laws, and hath sometimes done honour to base - born persons, so far, that some of them were admitted to be the progenitors of the Lord Jesus Christ. And Gilead - One of the children of that ancient Gilead, Numb 32:1.
3 Of Tob - The name either of the land, or of the man who was the owner or ruler of it. This place was in, or near Gilead, as appears by the speedy intercourse which here was between Jephthah and the Israelites. Vain men - Idle persons, who desired rather to get their living by spoil and rapine, than by honest labour. These evil persons Jephthah managed well, employing them against the enemies of God, and of Israel, that bordered upon them; and particularly upon parties of the Ammonites, which made the Israelites more forward to chuse him for their chieftain in this war. Went out - When he made excursions and attempts upon the enemy.
4 Made war - The Ammonites had vexed and oppressed them eighteen years, and now the Israelites begin to make opposition, they commence a war against them.
5 Went - By direction from God, who both qualified him for, and called him to the office of a judge, otherwise they might not have chosen a bastard.
7 Expel me - And deprive me of all share in my father's goods, which, though a bastard, was due to me. This expulsion of him was the act of his brethren; but he here ascribes it to the elders of Gilead; either because some of them were among these elders, as is very probable from the dignity of this family; or because this act, though desired by his brethren, was executed by the decree of the elders, to whom the determination of all controversies about inheritance belonged; and therefore it was their faults they did not protect him from the injuries of his brethren.
8 Therefore - Being sensible that we have done thee injury, we come now to make thee full reparation.
9 If, &c. - If you recall me from this place where I am now settled, to the place whence I was expelled. Shall I, &c. - Will you really make good this promise? Jephthah was so solicitous in this case, either from his zeal for the public good, which required that he should be so; or from the law of self - preservation, that he might secure himself from his brethren; whose ill - will he had experienced, and whose injuries he could not prevent, if, after he had served their ends, he had been reduced to his private capacity.
10 The Lord be witness - The Lord be an hearer: so the Hebrew word is. Whatever we speak it concerns us to remember, that God is an hearer!
11 All his words - Or, all his matters, the whole business. Before the Lord - That is, before the public congregation, wherewith God was usually, and then especially present.
12 Messengers - That is, ambassadors, to prevent blood - shed, that so the Israelites might be acquitted before God and men, from all the sad consequences of this war; herein he shewed great prudence, and no less piety. What hast thou, &c. - What reasonable cause hast thou for this invasion? In my land - He speaks this in the name of all the people.
13 My land - That is, this land of Gilead, which was mine, but unjustly taken from me, by Sihon and Og, the kings of the Ammonites; and the injury perpetuated by Israel's detaining it from me. This land, before the conquests of Sihon and Og, belonged partly to the Ammonites, and partly to the Moabites. And indeed, Moab and Ammon did for the most part join their interests and their forces.
16 The Red - sea - Unto which they came three times; once, Exod 13:18, again, a little after their passage over it, and a third time, long after, when they came to Ezion Geber, which was upon the shore of the Red - Sea, from whence they went to Kadesh; of this time he speaks here.
17 Abode - Peaceably, and did not revenge their unkindness as they could have done.
19 My place - That is, unto the land of Canaan, which God hath given me.
20 Sihon fought - So Sihon was the aggressor, and the Israelites were forced to fight in their own defence.
22 The coasts - Or, borders; together with all the land included within those borders. Wilderness - Namely, the desert of Arabia.
23 So the Lord - God, the sovereign Lord of all lands, hath given us this land; this he adds, as a farther and convincing reason; because otherwise it might have been alledged against the former argument, that they could gain no more right to that land from Sihon, than Sihon himself had.
24 Wilt not thou - He speaks according to their absurd opinion: the Ammonites and Moabites got their land by conquest of the old inhabitants, whom they cast out; and this success, though given them by the true God, for Lot's sake, Deut 2:9,19, they impiously ascribe to their god Chemosh, whose gift they owned to be a sufficient title.
25 Than Balak - Art thou wiser than he? Or hast thou more right than he had? Balak, though he plotted against Israel, in defence of his own land, which he feared they would invade and conquer, yet never contended with them about the restitution of those lands which Sihon took from him or his predecessors.
26 Three hundred years - Not precisely, but about that time, either from their coming out of Egypt; or, from their first conquest of those lands. He urges prescription, which is by all men reckoned a just title, and it is fit it should be so for the good of the world, because otherwise the door would be opened both to kings, and to private persons, for infinite contentions and confusions.
27 I have not - I have done thee no wrong. Be judge - Let him determine this controversy by the success of this day and war.
29 Spirit came - Indued him with a more than ordinary courage and resolution. Manasseh - That is, Bashan, which the half tribe of Manasseh beyond Jordan inhabited. Mizpeh of Gilead - So called to distinguish it from other cities of the same name, having gathered what forces he suddenly could, he came hither to the borders of the Ammonites.
33 Minnith - A place not far from Rabbah, the chief city of the Ammonites. Subdued before Israel - It does not appear, that he offered to take possession of the country. Tho' the attempt of others to wrong us, will justify us in the defence of our own right, yet it will not authorize us to do them wrong.
34 His daughter - In concert with other virgins, as the manner was.
35 Trouble me - Before this, I was troubled by my brethren; and since, by the Ammonites; and now most of all, tho' but occasionally, by thee. Opened my mouth - That is, I have vowed. Cannot go back - That is, not retract my vow; I am indispensably obliged to perform it.
36 Do to me - Do not for my sake make thyself a transgressor; I freely give my consent to thy vow.
37 Mountains - Which she chose as a solitary place, and therefore fittest for lamentation. Bewail - That I shall die childless, which was esteemed both a curse and a disgrace for the Israelites, because such were excluded from that great privilege of increasing the holy seed, and contributing to the birth of the Messiah.
39 Did with her - Jephthah's daughter was not sacrificed, but only devoted to perpetual virginity. This appears,
  1. From ver.37,38, where we read, that she bewailed not her death, which had been the chief cause of lamentation, if that had been vowed, but her virginity:
  2. From this ver.39, where, after he had said, that he did with her according to his vow; he adds, by way of declaration of the matter of that vow, and she knew no man.
It is probably conceived, that the Greeks, who used to steal sacred histories, and turn them into fables, had from this history their relation of Iphigenia (which may be put for Jephtigenia) sacrificed by her father Agamemnon, which is described by many of the same circumstances wherewith this is accompanied.
40 The daughter of Jephthah - It is really astonishing, that the general stream of commentators, should take it for granted, that Jephthah murdered his daughter! But, says Mr. Henry, "We do not find any law, usage or custom, in all the Old Testament, which doth in the least intimate, that a single life was any branch or article of religion." And do we find any law, usage or custom there, which doth in the least intimate, that cutting the throat of an only child, was any branch or article of religion? If only a dog had met Jephthah, would he have offered up that for a burnt - offering? No: because God had expressly forbidden this. And had he not expressly forbidden murder? But Mr. Poole thinks the story of Agamemnon's offering up Iphigenia took its rise from this. Probably it did. But then let it be observed, Iphigenia was not murdered. Tradition said, that Diana sent an hind in her stead, and took the maid to live in the woods with her.

Chapter XII

Jephthah's encounter with, and slaughter of the Ephraimites, ver. 1 - 6. His death, ver. 7 A short account of three other judges, ver. 8 - 15.

1 Northward - Over Jordan, where Jephthah was, in the northern part of the land beyond Jordan. And said - Through pride and envy, contending with him as they did before with Gideon. Over - Not over Jordan, for there he was already; but over the borders of the Israelites land beyond Jordan.
2 When I called - Hence it appears, that he had craved their assistance, which they had denied; though that be not elsewhere expressed.
3 Put my life - That is, I exposed myself to the utmost danger; as a man that carries a brittle and precious thing in his hand, which may easily either fall to the ground, or be snatched from him. Wherefore - Why do you thus requite my kindness in running such hazards to preserve you and yours?
4 Ye Gileadites - These words are a contemptuous expression of the Ephraimites concerning the Gileadites, whom they call fugitives of Ephraim; the word Ephraim being here taken largely, as it comprehends the other neighbouring tribes, of which Ephraim was the chief; and especially their brethren of Manasseh, who lived next to them, and were descended from the same father, Joseph. By Gileadites here they seem principally to mean the Manassites beyond Jordan, who dwelt in Gilead. And although other Gileadites were joined with them, yet they vent their passion against these; principally, because they envied them most; as having had a chief hand in the victory. These they opprobriously call fugitives, that is, such as had deserted their brethren of Ephraim and Manasseh, planted themselves beyond Jordan, at a distance from their brethren, and were alienated in affection from them.
5 Said Nay - To avoid the present danger.
6 Shibboleth - Which signifies a stream or river, which they desired to pass over: so it was a word proper for the occasion, and gave them no cause to suspect the design, because they were required only to express their desire to go over the Shibboleth or river. Sibboleth - It is well known, that not only divers nations, but divers provinces, or parts of the same nation who use the same language, differ in their manner of pronunciation. Could not frame - Or rather, he did not frame to speak right; so as he was required to do it. The Hebrew text doth not say, that he could not do it, but that he did it not, because suspecting not the design he uttered it speedily according to his manner of expression. There fell - Not in that place, but in that expedition, being slain either in the battle, or in the pursuit, or at Jordan. See the justice of God! They had gloried, that they were Ephraimites: But how soon are they afraid to own their country? They had called the Gileadites, fugitives: And now they are in good earnest become fugitives themselves. It is the same word, ver.5, used of the Ephraimites that fled, which they had used in scorn of the Gileadites. He that rolls the stone, or reproach unjustly on another, it may justly return upon himself.
9 Took in - That is, took them home for wives to his sons. What a difference between his and his predecessor's family! Ibzan had sixty children, and all married: Jephthah but one, and she dies unmarried. Some are increased, others diminished: all is the Lord's doing.
15 Mount of the Amalekites - So called from some remarkable exploit, done by, or upon the Amalekites in that place. It is strange, that in the history of all these judges, there is not so much as once mention of the high - priest, or of any other priest or Levite, appearing either for council or action in any public affair, from Phinehas to Eli, which may well be computed two hundred and fifty years! Surely this intimates, that the institution was chiefly intended to be typical, and that the benefits which were promised by it, were to be chiefly looked for in its anti - type, the everlasting priesthood of Christ, in comparison of which that priesthood had no glory.

Chapter XIII

Samson was an eminent believer, Heb 11:13,32, and a glorious type of him who with his own arm wrought salvation. The occasion of raising him up, ver. 1. His birth foretold by an angel, ver. 2 - 5. His mother relates this to his father, ver. 6, 7. The angel repeats it to them both, ver. 8 - 14. Manoah offers to entertain him and asks his name, ver. 15 - 18. He discovers himself at parting, ver. 19 - 23. Samson is born, ver. 24, 25.

1 Did evil - That is, fell into idolatry, not after the death of Abdon the last judge, but in the days of the former judges. Forty years - To be computed, not from Abdon's death, but before that time. And it is probable that great slaughter of the Ephraimites made by Jephthah, greatly encouraged the Philistines to rise against Israel, when one of their chief bulwarks was so much weakened; and therefore began to domineer over them not long after Jephthah's death. These were a very inconsiderable people. They had but five cities of any note. And yet when God used them as the staff in his hand, they were very oppressive and vexatious.
2 Of the family - That is, of the tribe or people. Bare not - An emphatical repetition of the same thing in other words, which is an usual elegancy both in scripture and other authors.
3 The angel - The Son of God, yet distinguished from the Lord, because he appeared here in the form of a servant, as a messenger sent from God. The great Redeemer did in a particular manner concern himself about this typical redeemer.
4 Beware - Because the child was to be a Nazarite from the womb, ver.5, and from the conception; and because the mother's pollution extends to the child, she is enjoined from this time to observe the following rules belonging to the Nazarites. Strong drink - Under which are comprehended the other particulars mentioned, Numb 6:2 - 4. Nor eat - Any of those meats forbidden, Levit 11:1 - 47, which were forbidden to all, but especially to the Nazarites.
5 A Nazarite - A person consecrated to God's service. Begin to deliver - And the deliverance shall be carried on and perfected by others, as it was by Eli, Samuel, and Saul; but especially by David. God chuses to carry on his work gradually and by several hands. One lays the foundation of a good work, another builds, and perhaps a third brings forth the top stone.
6 Man of God - A prophet, or sacred person, sent with a message from God. Terrible - Or, venerable, awful, full of Majesty.
12 Let thy words - Or, thy words shall come to pass: I firmly believe thy promises shall be fulfilled. How - What rules shall we observe about his education?
13 Let her - Whilst the child is in her womb, and after the child is born let him observe the same orders.
15 Made ready - Supposing him to be a man and a prophet, to whom he would in this manner express his respect, as was usual to strangers.
16 Bread - That is, meat, as bread is commonly taken in scripture. To the Lord - Not unto a man, as thou apprehendest me to be; but unto the Lord, as thou wilt by and by perceive me to be.
17 Honour - Either by making honourable mention of thee, or by shewing respect to thee, by a present, which they usually gave to prophets.
18 Secret - Hidden from mortal men: or, wonderful, such as thou canst not comprehend: my nature and essence, (which is often signified by name in scripture) is incomprehensible. This shews, that this was the angel of the covenant, the Son of God.
19 Meal - offering - Which were generally joined with the chief sacrifices. A Rock - The angel's presence and command being a sufficient warrant for the offering of sacrifice by a person who was no priest, and in a place otherwise forbidden.
20 The altar - That is, from that part of the rock which served instead of an altar, upon which the sacrifice was laid. Ascended - To manifest his nature and essence to be spiritual. Fell - Partly in reverence to that glorious presence manifested in so wonderful a manner: and partly, out of a religious horror and fear of death; for the prevention thereof they fell down in way of supplication to God.
23 Nor would, &c. - This expression seems to have some emphasis in it, to enhance God's mercy to them, as being afforded them in a time of such grievous calamity; and in a time when the word of the lord was precious; and there was no open vision.
24 Blessed him - That is, endowed him with all those graces and gifts of mind and body which were necessary for the work he was designed for.
25 To move - That is, to stir him up to heroical designs; to shew forth its power in the frame of his mind, and in the strength of his body, discovered to his neighbours in extraordinary actions; to encline his heart to great attempts for the help and deliverance of God's people, to give some essays of it to his brethren, and to seek all opportunities for it. Of Dan - A place so called, either from the expedition of the Danites, Judg 18:11,12, which though placed after this history, was done before it: or from some other camp which the Danites had formed there, to give some check to the incursions of the Philistines.

Chapter XIV

Samson's marriage with a Philistine, and killing a lion, ver. 1 - 7. He finds honey in the carcase, ver. 8, 9. His riddle, ver. 10 - 14. Unriddled by means of his wife, ver. 15 - 18. He kills thirty Philistines, and leaves her, ver. 19, 20.

1 Went - After he was come to mature age. Timnath - A place not far from the sea.
2 To wife - Herein he is an example to all children, conformable to the fifth commandment. Children ought not to marry, nor to move toward it without the advice and consent of their parents. They that do, as Bishop Hall speaks, unchild themselves. Parents have a property in their children, as parts of themselves. In marriage this property is transferred. It is therefore not only unkind and ungrateful, but palpably unjust, to alienate this property, without their concurrence. Who so thus robbeth his father or mother, stealing himself from them who is nearer and dearer to them than their goods, and yet saith, It is no transgression, the same is the companion of a destroyer, Pro 28:24.
3 Philistines - With whom the Israelites were forbidden to marry. For although the Philistines were not Canaanites in their original, yet they were so in their concurrence with them in wickedness, and therefore were liable to the same judgments with them. Get her - This action of Samson's, though against common rules, seems to be warranted, by the direction of God, (mentioned in the following words) which was known to Samson, but not to his parents. Pleaseth me - Not so much for her beauty, as for the design mentioned in the next verse.
5 Father and mother - Who accompanied him, either because they were now acquainted with his design; or, to order the circumstances of that action which they saw he was set upon.
6 Came mightily - Increased his courage and bodily strength. A kid - As soon and as safely. Told not, &c. - Lest by their means it should be publickly known; for he wisely considered, that it was not yet a fit time to awaken the jealousies and fears of the Philistines concerning him, as this would have done.
8 After a time - Heb. after days; that is, either after some days: or, rather, after a year, as that word often signifies; when the flesh of the lion, (which by its strong smell is offensive to bees) was wholly consumed, and nothing was left but the bones. Bees - Settling themselves there, as they have sometimes done in a man's skull, or in a sepulchre.
9 Came to, &c. - From whom he had turned aside for a season, ver.8.
11 Saw him - Or, observed him, his stature, and strength, and countenance, and carriage, which were extraordinary. Brought - Partly in compliance with the custom of having bride - men; though they were not so numerous; but principally by way of caution, and as a guard put upon him under a pretence of respect and affection.
12 Seven days - For so long marriage - feasts lasted. Sheets - Fine linen - clothes, which were used for many purposes in those parts. Changes - Suits of apparel.
15 Seventh day - They had doubtless spoken to her before this time, but with some remissness, supposing that they should find it out; but now their time being nigh slipped, they put her under a necessity of searching it out. To take that we have - That is, to strip us of our garments.
17 The seven days - That is, on the residue of the seven days; namely, after the third day.
18 If ye had not &c. - If you had not employed my wife to find it out, as men plough up the ground with an heifer, thereby discovering its hidden parts; he calls her heifer, because she was joined with him in the same yoke.
19 The spirit came - Though he had constant strength and courage; yet that was exceedingly increased upon special occasions, by the extraordinary influences of God's spirit. To Ashkelon - Either to the territory; or to the city itself, where he had both strength and courage enough to attempt what follows; and upon the doing hereof they were doubtless struck with such terror, that every one sought only to preserve himself, and none durst pursue him. His anger was kindled - For the treachery of his wife and companions. He went - Without his wife. It were well for us, if the unkindnesses we meet with from the world, and our disappointments therein has this good effect on us, to oblige us to return by faith and prayer, to our heavenly father's house.
20 Was given - By her father. Whom he had used - That is, to the chief of the bride - men, to whom he had shewed most respect and kindness.

Chapter XV

From the treachery of his wife and her father, Samson takes occasion to burn their corn, ver. 1 - 5. He smites the Philistines with a great slaughter, ver. 6 - 8. He slays a thousand of them with the jaw - bone of an ass, ver. 9 - 17. He is distressed, and supplied with water, ver. 18 - 20.

1 Wheat harvest - Which was the proper season for what follows. With a kid - As a token of reconciliation. Into the chamber - Into her chamber, which the women had separate from the mens.
2 Hated her - Because thou didst desert her: but this was no sufficient cause; for he should have endeavored a reconciliation, and not have disposed of another man's wife without his consent.
3 Now shall I, &c. - Because they have first provoked me by an irreparable injury: but although this may look like an act of private revenge; yet it is plain Samson acted as a judge (for so he was) and as an avenger of the publick injuries of his people.
4 Foxes - Of which there were great numbers in Canaan. But it is not said that Samson caught them all, either at one time, or by his own hands; for being so eminent a person, and the judge of Israel, he might require assistance of as many persons as he pleased. And it must be allowed, that the God who made the world, and by his singular providence watched over Israel, and intended them deliverance at this time, could easily dispose things so that they might be taken. He chose to do this not by his brethren, whom he would preserve from the hatred and mischief which it might have occasioned them, but by brute creatures, thereby to add scorn to their calamity, and particularly by foxes; partly, because they were fittest for the purpose, being creatures very fearful of fire; and having such tails as the fire - brands might most conveniently be tied to; and not going directly forward, but crookedly, whereby the fire would be dispersed in more places. Fire - brands - Made of such matter as would quickly take fire, and keep it for a long time; which was easy to procure. And put, &c. - That the foxes might not make too much haste, nor run into their holes, but one of them might delay another, and so continue longer in the places where they were to do execution.
5 Let them go - Successively at several times; and in divers places, so that they might not hinder one another, nor all run into the same field; but being dispersed in all parts, might spread the plague farther; and withal might be kept at a distance from the fields and vineyards of the Israelites.
6 Burnt her - For the mischief which she had occasioned them; thus she brought upon herself that mischief which she studied to avoid. The Philistines had threatened to burn her and her father's house with fire. To avoid this she betrayed her husband. And now the very thing she feared comes upon her!
8 Hip and thigh - It seems to be a phrase, to express a desperate attack, attended with the utmost hurry and confusion: and perhaps intimates, that they all fled before him. So he smote them in the hinder parts. Rock Etam - A natural fortress, where he waited to see what steps the Philistines would take.
11 Unto us - Thou hast by these actions punished not them only, but us, who are sure to smart for it.
12 Bind thee - Why not rather, to fight under thy banner? Because sin dispirits men, nay, it infatuates them, and hides from their eyes the things that belong to their peace. Swear - Not that he feared them, or could not as easily have conquered them, as he did the host of the Philistines; but because he would be free from all temptation of doing them harm, though it were in his own defence.
13 And they bound him - Thus was he a type of Christ, who yielded himself to be bound, yea and led as a lamb to the slaughter. Never were men so besotted as these men of Judah, except those who thus treated our blessed Saviour. The rock - That is, from the cave in the rock, in which he had secured himself, out of which he was first brought up, and then carried down from the rock to the plain.
14 Shouted - Because they had now their enemy, as they supposed, in their hands. Loosed - Heb. were melted; that is, were dissolved, as things which are melted in the fire. This typified the resurrection of Christ, by the power of the Spirit of holiness. In this he loosed the bands of death, it being impossible he should be holden of them. And thus he triumphed over the powers of darkness, which had shouted against him.
15 New jaw - bone - And therefore the more tough and strong.
16 Slain a thousand men - What could be too hard for him to do, on whom the Spirit of the Lord came mightily? It was strange the men of Judah did now at least come in to his assistance. But he was to be a type of him, who trod the wine - press alone.
17 Ramath - Lehi - That is, the lifting up of the jaw - bone; by contraction Lehi, ver.14, as Salem is put for Jerusalem.
18 Sore a thirst - A natural effect of the great pains he had taken. And perhaps there was the hand of God therein, to chastise him for not making mention of God in his song, and to keep him from being proud of his strength. One would have thought that the men of Judah would have met him with bread and wine: but they so little regarded him, that he is fainting for want of a draught of water! Thus are the greatest slights often put upon those that do the greatest services! Shall I die - Wilt thou not finish what thou hast begun? Wilt thou undo what thou hast done.
19 In the Jaw - Either causing the jaw - bone to send forth water, as the rock formerly did, causing a spring to break forth in that Lehi, mentioned ver.14, for Lehi is both the name of a place, and a jaw - bone. En - hakkore - That is, the fountain of him that cried for thirst; or, that called upon God for deliverance; that is, the fountain which was given in answer to my prayer. In Lehi - According to this translation, Lehi is the name of a place.
20 He judged - That is, he pleaded their cause, and avenged them against the Philistines. Of the Philistines - That is, whilst the Philistines had the power and dominion, from which he was not fully to deliver, but only to begin to deliver them. From this place it is manifest, that in the computation of the times of the judges, the years of servitude or oppression are not to be separated from the years of the judges, but added to them, and are comprehended within them; which proposition is of great importance for clearing this difficult part of scripture - chronology.

Chapter XVI

Samson is greatly endangered by his intercourse with an harlot, ver. 1 - 3. Betrayed by Delilah to the Philistines thrice, ver. 4 - 14. Weakened and effectually betrayed, ver. 15 - 20. Seized, blinded, bound, imprisoned and made sport of, ver. 21 - 25. Avenged of the Philistines, ver. 26 - 31 .

1 And saw - Going into an house of publick entertainment to refresh himself. He there saw this harlot accidentally; and by giving way to look upon her, was ensnared, Gen 3:6.
2 In the morning - This they chose to do, rather than to seize upon him in his bed by night; either, because they knew not certainly in what house he was; or, because they thought that might cause great terror, and confusion, and mischief among their own people; whereas in the day - time they might more fully discover him, and more certainly use their weapons against him. O that all who indulge any unholy desire, might see themselves thus surrounded, and marked for destruction by their spiritual enemies! The more secure they are, the greater is their danger.
3 Arose - Perhaps warned by God in a dream; or rather by the checks of his own conscience. Went away - The watch - men not expecting him 'till morning, and therefore being now retired into the sides, or upper part of the gate - house, as the manner now is, to get some rest, to fit themselves for their hard service intended in the morning: nor durst they pursue him, whom they now again perceived to have such prodigious strength, and courage; and to be so much above the fear of them, that he did not run away with all speed, but went leisurely. Hebron - Which was above twenty miles from Gaza. And Samson did this not out of vain ostentation, but as an evidence of his great strength, for the encouragement of its people to join with him vigorously; and for the greater terror and contempt of the Philistines. It may seem strange that Samson immediately after so foul a sin should have courage and strength from God, for so great a work. But first,
  1. It is probable, that Samson had in some measure repented of his sin, and begged of God pardon and assistance.
  2. This singular strength and courage was not in itself a grace, but a gift, and it was such a gift as did not so much depend on the disposition of his mind, but on the right ordering of his body, by the rule given to him, and others of that order.
4 Loved - Probably as an harlot: because the dreadful punishment now inflicted upon Samson for this sin, whom God spared for the first offence, is an intimation, that this sin was not inferior to the former.
5 The lords - The lords of their five principal cities, who were leagued together against him as their common enemy. Afflict - To chastise him for his injuries done to us. They mean to punish him severely, but they express it in mild words, lest it might move her to pity him. Pieces of silver - Shekels, as that phrase is commonly used.
7 Samson said - Samson is guilty both of the sin of lying, and of great folly in encouraging her enquiries, which he should at first have checked: but as he had forsaken God, so God had now forsaken him, otherwise the frequent repetition and vehement urging of this question might easily have raised suspicion in him.
9 With her - That is, in a secret chamber within her call. Nor is it strange that they did not fall upon him in his sleep, because they expected an opportunity for doing their work more certainly, and with less danger.
13 Web - Or, thread which is woven about a weaver's loom: or, with a weaver's beam. If my hair, which is all divided into seven locks, be fastened about a weaver's beam; or interwoven with weaver's threads: then I shall be weak as another man.
15 Not with me - Not open to me.
16 Vexed - Being tormented by two contrary passions, desire to gratify her, and fear of betraying himself. So that he had no pleasure of his life.
17 If I be shaven - Not that his hair was in itself the cause of his strength, but because it was the chief condition of that covenant, whereby God was pleased to ingage himself to fit him for, and assist him in that great work to which he called him: but upon his violation of the condition, God justly withdraws his help. (EFN Isa 40:31 Psa 29:11)
18 And brought money in their hand - See one of the bravest men then in the world bought and sold, as a sheep for the slaughter. How does this instance sully all the glory of man, and forbid the strong man ever to boast of his strength!
19 Sleep - By some sleepy potion. Knees - Resting his head upon her knees. To weaken or hurt, tho' he felt it not.
20 Said - Within himself. Shake myself - That is, put forth my strength. Knew not - Not distinctly feeling the loss of his hair, or not considering what would follow. Many have lost the favourable presence of God, and are not aware of it. They have provoked God to withdraw from them; but are not sensible of their loss.
21 His eyes - Which was done both out of revenge and policy, to disable him from doing them harm, in case he should recover his strength; but not without God's providence, punishing him in that part which had been instrumental to his sinful lusts. Gaza - Because this was a great and strong city, where he would be kept safely; and upon the sea - coast, at sufficient distance from Samson's people; and to repair the honour of that place, upon which he had fastened so great a scorn. God also ordering things thus, that where he first sinned, Judg 16:1, there he should receive his punishment. Grind - As slaves use to do. He made himself a slave to harlots, and now God suffers men to use him like a slave. Poor Samson, how art thou fallen! How is thine honour laid in the dust! Wo unto him, for he hath sinned! Let all take warning by him, carefully to preserve their purity. For all our glory is gone, when the covenant of our separation to God, as spiritual Nazarites, is profaned.
22 The hair - This circumstance, though in itself inconsiderable, is noted as a sign of the recovery of God's favour, and his former strength, in some degree, upon his repentance, and renewing his vow with God, which was allowed for Nazarites to do.
23 Dagon - An idol, whose upper part was like a man, and whose lower part was like a fish: probably one of the sea - gods of the Heathens.
25 Made sport - Either being made by them the matter of their sport and derision, of bitter scoffs, and other indignities: or, by some proofs of more than ordinary strength yet remaining in him, like the ruins of a great and goodly building: whereby he lulled them asleep, until by this complaisance he prepared the way for that which he designed.
26 Whereon the house standeth - Whether it were a temple, or theatre, or some slight building run up for the purpose.
27 The roof - Which was flat, and had window's through which they might see what was done in the lower parts of the house.
28 Samson called - This prayer was not an act of malice and revenge, but of faith and zeal for God, who was there publickly dishonoured; and justice, in vindicating the whole common - wealth of Israel, which was his duty, as he was judge. And God, who heareth not sinners, and would never use his omnipotence to gratify any man's malice, did manifest by the effect, that he accepted and owned his prayer as the dictate of his own Spirit. And that in this prayer he mentions only his personal injury, and not their indignities to God and his people, must be ascribed to that prudent care which he had, upon former occasions, of deriving the rage of the Philistines upon himself alone, and diverting it from the people. For which end I conceive this prayer was made with an audible voice, though he knew they would entertain it only with scorn and laughter.
30 Two pillars - Instances are not wanting of more capacious buildings than this, that have been supported only by one pillar. Pliny in the 15th chapter of the 36th Book of his Natural History, mentions two theatres built by C. Curio, in Julius Caesar's time; each of which was supported only by one pillar, tho' many thousands of people sat in it together. Let me die - That is, I am content to die, so I can but contribute to the vindication of God's glory, and the deliverance of God's people. This is no encouragement to those who wickedly murder themselves: for Samson did not desire, or procure his own death voluntarily, but by mere necessity; he was by his office obliged to seek the destruction of these enemies and blasphemers of God, and oppressors of his people; which in these circumstances he could not effect without his own death. Moreover, Samson did this by Divine direction, as God's answer to his prayer manifests, and that he might be a type of Christ, who by voluntarily undergoing death, destroyed the enemies of God, and of his people. They died, just when they were insulting over an Israelite, persecuting him whom God had smitten. Nothing fills up the measure of the iniquity of any person or people faster, than mocking or misusing the servants of God, yea, tho' it is by their own folly, that they are brought low. Those know not what they do, nor whom they affront, that make sport with a good man.
31 Buried - While the Philistines were under such grief, and consternation, that they had neither heart nor leisure to hinder them.

Chapter XVII

Micah provides an image for his God, ver. 1 - 6. And a Levite for his priest, ver. 7 - 13.

1 There was, &c. - The things mentioned here, and in the following chapters, did not happen in the order in which they are put; but much sooner, even presently after the death of the elders that over - lived Joshua, as appears, because Phinehas the son of Eleazar was priest at this time, chap.20:28, who must have been about 350 years old, if this had been done after Samson's death.
2 Cursedst - That is, didst curse the person who had taken them away. I took it - The fear of thy curse makes me acknowledge mine offence, and beg thy pardon. Blessed - I willingly consent to, and beg from God the removal of the curse, and a blessing instead of it. Be thou free from my curse, because thou hast so honestly restored it.
3 The Lord - In the Hebrew it is, Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God. Whereby it is apparent, that neither she, nor her son, intended to forsake the true God; as appears from his rejoicing when he had got a priest of the Lord's appointment, but only to worship God by an image; which also both the Israelites, Exod 32:1, &c. and Jeroboam afterwards, designed to do. For my son - For the benefit of thyself and family; that you need not be continually going to Shiloh to worship, but may do it at home. To thee - To dispose of, as I say.
4 Restored - Though his mother allowed him to keep it, yet he persisted in his resolution to restore it, that she might dispose of it as she pleased. Two hundred - Reserving nine hundred shekels, either for the ephod or teraphim, or for other things relating to this worship.
5 Of gods - That is, an house consecrated for the service of God in this manner. Teraphim - A sort of images so called. One of his sons - Because the Levites in that corrupt estate of the church, neglected the exercise of their office, and therefore they were neglected by the people, and others put into their employment.
6 No king - No judge to govern and control them. The word king being used largely for a supreme magistrate. God raised up judges to rule and deliver the people, when he saw fit; and at other times for their sins he suffered them to be without them, and such a time this was; and therefore they ran into that idolatry, from which the judges usually kept them; as appears by that solemn and oft - repeated passage in this book, that after the death of such or such a judge, the people forsook the Lord, and turned to idols. His own eyes - That is, not what pleased God, but what best suited his own fancy.
7 Bethlehem - judah - So called here, as Matt 2:1,5, to difference it from Bethlehem in Zebulun. There he was born and bred. Of Judah - That is, of or belonging to the tribe of Judah; not by birth, for he was a Levite; but by his habitation and ministration. For the Levites were dispersed among all the tribes; and this man's lot fell into the tribe of Judah. Sojourned - So he expresseth it, because this was not the proper place of his abode, this being no Levitical city.
8 To sojourn - For employment and a livelihood; for the tithes and offerings, which were their maintenance, not being brought into the house of God, the Levites and priests were reduced to straights.
10 A father - That is, a priest, a spiritual father, a teacher or instructor. He pretends reverence and submission to him; and what is wanting in his wages, he pays him in titles.
11 Content - Being infected with the common superstition and idolatry of the times. His sons - That is, treated with the same degree of kindness and affection.
12 Consecrated - To be a priest, for which he thought a consecration necessary, as knowing the Levites were no less excluded from the priest's office than the people. The young man - Instead of his son, whom he had consecrated, but now seems to restrain him from the exercise of that office, and to devolve it wholly upon the Levite, who was nearer akin to it.
13 Do me good - I am assured God will bless me. So blind and grossly partial he was in his judgment, to think that one right circumstance would answer for all his substantial errors, in making and worshipping images against God's express command, in worshipping God in a forbidden place, by a priest illegally appointed.

Chapter XVIII

The Danish spies call at Micah's house, ver. 1 - 6. The report they bring back, ver. 7 - 10. The Danites send forces, who by the way plunder Micah of his gods, ver. 11 - 26. They take Laish and set up idolatry there, ver. 27 - 31.

1 Those days - Not long after Joshua's death. The tribe - A part of that tribe, consisting only of six hundred men of war, with their families, ver.16,21. Inheritance - The lot had fallen to them before this time, but not the actual possession, because the Philistines and Amorites opposed them.
2 There - Not in the same house, but near it.
3 Knew - By the acquaintance which some of them formerly had with him.
5 Ask - By thine Ephod, and Teraphim, or images, which they knew he had, ver.14.
6 Before the Lord - That is, your design is under the eye of God; that is, under his care, protection and direction. This answer he either feigns to gratify their humour; or, did indeed receive from the devil, who transformed himself into an angel of light, and in God's name gave him answers, and those not sometimes very true, which God suffered for the trial of his people. But it is observable, his answer was, as the devil's oracles usually were, ambiguous, and such as might have been interpreted either way.
7 Manner of the Zidonians - Who living in a very strong place, and abounding in wealth, and perceiving that the Israelites never attempted anything against them, were grown secure and careless. Put to shame - Or, that might rebuke or punish any thing, that is, any crime. Putting to shame seems to be used for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the effect of it. Zidonians - Who otherwise could have succoured them, and would have been ready to do it. No business - No league or confederacy, nor much converse with other cities, it being in a pleasant and plentiful soil, between the two rivulets of Jor and Dan, not needing supplies from others, and therefore minding only their own ease and pleasure.
10 Given - This they gather partly from God's promise which they supposed they had from the Levite's mouth; and partly from his providence, which had so disposed them, that they would be an easy prey.
12 Mahaneh - dan - That is, the camp of Dan.
13 To the house - That is, to the town in which his house was, for they were not yet entered into it.
14 Answered - That is, spake, the word answering being often used in scripture of the first speaker. These houses - That is, in one of these houses. What to do - Whether it be not expedient to take them for your farther use.
17 Thither - Into the house, and that part of it, where those things were. The gate - Whither they had drawn him forth, that they might without noise or hindrance take them away.
18 These - The five men.
19 Lay thy hand - That is, be silent. A family - Namely, a tribe, that is, a family.
20 Was glad - Being wholly governed by his own interest. The midst - Both for the greater security of such precious things, and that Micah might not be able to come at him, to injure or upbraid him; and, it may be, because that was the place where the ark used to be carried.
21 Before them - For their greater security, if Micah should pursue them.
24 I made - So far was he besotted with superstition and idolatry, that he esteemed those gods, which were man's work. But he could not be so stupid, as to think these were indeed the great Jehovah that made heaven and earth; but only a lower sort of gods, by whom, as mediators, he offered up his worship to the true God, as divers of the Heathen did. What have I - I value nothing I have in comparison of what you have taken away. Which zeal for idolatrous trash may shame multitudes that call themselves Christians, and yet value their worldly conveniences more than all the concerns of their own salvation. Is Micah thus fond of his false gods? And how ought we to be affected toward the true God? Let us reckon our communion with God our greatest gain; and the loss of God the sorest loss. Wo unto us, if He depart! For what have we more.
25 Thy voice - Thy complaints and reproaches. Angry fellows - The soldiers, who are in themselves sharp and fierce, and will soon be enflamed by thy provoking words. Thy Life - Which, not withstanding all thy pretences, thou dost value more than thy images.
27 Burnt - Not wholly, but in great measure, to make their conquest more easy.
28 And they built a city - That is, rebuilt it.
29 Of Dan - That it might be manifest, that they belonged to the tribe of Dan, though they were seated at a great distance from them, in the most northerly part of the land; whereas the lot of their tribe was in the southern part of Canaan.
30 Image - Having succeeded in their expedition according to the prediction which, as they supposed, they had from this image, they had a great veneration for it. The captivity - When the whole land of the ten tribes, whereof Dan was one, was conquered, and the people carried captive by the Assyrian, 2Kings 17:6,23, which is called by way of eminency, the captivity. It is not said, that the graven image was there so long, for that is restrained to a shorter date, even to the continuance of the ark in Shiloh, ver.31, which was removed thence, 1Sam 4:3 - 5. But only that Jonathan's posterity, (so his name is at last mentioned) were priests to this tribe or family of Dan, which they might be under all the changes, even 'till the Assyrian captivity, sometimes more openly, sometimes more secretly, sometimes in one way of idolatry, and sometimes in another.

Chapter XIX

The adultery of the Levite's concubine, ver. 1, 2. The reconciliation to her, and entertainment at her father's, ver. 3 - 9. His journey homeward as far as Gibeah, ver. 10 - 15. An Ephraimite takes him in, ver. 16 - 21. The men of Gibeah assault the house, ver. 22 - 24. They force his concubine to death, ver. 25 - 28. He sends notice of it to all the tribes of Israel, ver. 29, 30

1 A. concubine - Heb. a wife, a concubine, that is, such a concubine as was also his wife: called a concubine, only because she was not endowed. Perhaps he had nothing to endow her with, being himself only a sojourner.
2 Against him - That is, against her faith given to him. Went away - Either for fear of punishment; or, because her heart was alienated from him; wherein not only she sinned, but her father by connivance at her sin, and neglect of just endeavours for her reconciliation to her husband.
3 Friendly - To offer her pardon and reconciliation.
12 A stranger - That is, of a strange nation: which the Canaanites possess; for though the city Jerusalem had been taken by Caleb, chap.1:8, yet the strong fort of Zion was still in their hands, whence it is likely they did much molest, and afterwards by God's permission, drive out the Israelites who dwelt there.
15 To lodge - Though they were soft and effeminate in other respects, yet they were hard - hearted to strangers, and at that time there were no public - houses in that country.
16 Ephraim - Whence also the Levite was, which enclined him to shew the more kindness to his country - man. Benjamites - This was indeed one of the cities belonging to the priests; but the cities which were given to the priests, and whereof they were owners, were not inhabited by the priests or Levites only, especially at this time when they were but few in number, but by many other persons of different professions.
18 House of the Lord - Which was in Shiloh. Thither he went, either because he lived there, for that was in the tribe of Ephraim; or, rather, because he would there offer prayers and praises, and sacrifices to God, for his mercy in reconciling him and his wife.
20 Let all, &c. - It matters not whether thou wantest nothing or everything, I will take care to supply all thy wants.
21 Washed - As they used to do to travellers in those hot countries.
22 Merry - That is, refreshing themselves with the provisions set before them. Sons of belial - Children of the devil, wicked and licentious men.
23 Into my house - And therefore I am obliged to protect him by the laws of hospitality.
26 Fell down - Namely, dead; killed partly with grief of heart, and partly with excessive abuse. Thus the sin she formerly chose, ver.2, is now her destruction; and though her husband pardoned her, God would punish her, at least as to this life.
29 Sent - By several messengers, with a relation of the fact.
30 Speak - Let us meet together, and seriously consider, and every one freely speak what is to be done in this case.

Chapter XX

The Levite's case heard in a general convention of the tribes, ver. 1 - 7. They resolve to avenge his quarrel, ver. 8 - 11. The Benjamites assemble in defence of the criminals, ver. 12 - 17. The defeat of Israel in the two first battles, ver. 18 - 25. They humble themselves before God, ver. 26 - 28. The total rout of the Benjamites, ver. 29 - 48.

1 All - That is, a great number, and especially the rulers of all the tribes, except Benjamin, ver.3,12. One man - That is, with one consent. Dan, &c. - Dan was the northern border of the land, near Lebanon; and Beersheba the southern border. Gilead - Beyond Jordan, where Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were. To the Lord - As to the Lord's tribunal: for God was not only present in the place where the ark and tabernacle was, but also in the assemblies of the gods, or judges, Psa 82:1, and in all places where God's name is recorded, Exo 20:24, and where two or three are met together in his name. Mizpeh - A place on the borders of Judah and Benjamin. This they chose, as a place they used to meet in upon solemn occasions, for its convenient situation for all the tribes within and without Jordan; and the being near the place where the fact was done, that it might be more throughly examined; and not far from Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, whither they might go or send.
2 Four hundred thousand - The number is here set down, to shew their zeal and forwardness in punishing such a villainy; the strange blindness of the Benjamites that durst oppose so great and united a Body; and that the success of battles depends not upon great numbers, seeing this great host was twice defeated by the Benjamites.
3 Heard - Like persons unconcerned and resolved, they neither went nor sent thither: partly for their own pride, and stubbornness; partly because as they were loth to give up any of their brethren to justice, so they presumed the other tribes would never proceed to war against them; and partly, from a Divine infatuation hardening that wicked tribe to their own destruction. Tell us - They speak to the Levite, and his servant, and his host, who doubtless were present upon this occasion.
5 Slain me - Except I would either submit to their unnatural lust, which I was resolved to withstand even unto death: or deliver up my concubine to them, which I was forced to do.
6 Folly - That is, a lewd folly; most ignominious and impudent wickedness.
7 Ye are - The sons of that holy man, who for one filthy action left an eternal brand upon one of his own sons: a people in covenant with the holy God, whose honour you are obliged to vindicate, and who hath expressly commanded you to punish all such notorious enormities.
8 His tent - That is, his habitation, until we have revenged this injury.
10 According, &c. - That we may punish them as such a wickedness deserves. In Israel - This is added as an aggravation, that they should do that in Israel, or among God's peculiar people, which was esteemed abominable even among the Heathen.
12 All the tribe - They take a wise and a just course, in sending to all the parts of the tribe, to separate the innocent from the guilty, and to give them a fair opportunity of preventing their ruin, by doing what their duty, honour, and interest obliged them to; by delivering up those vile malefactors, whom they could not keep without bringing the curse of God upon themselves.
13 Evil - Both the guilt and the punishment, wherein all Israel will be involved, if they do not punish it. Would not hearken - From the pride of their hearts, which made them scorn to submit to their brethren; from a conceit of their own valour; and from God's just judgment.
15 Were numbered - "How does this agree with the following numbers? For all that were slain of Benjamin were twenty - five thousand and one hundred men, ver.35, and there were only six hundred that survived, ver.47, which make only twenty - five thousand and seven hundred." The other thousand men were either left in some of their cities, where they were slain, ver.48, or were cut off in the two first battles, wherein it is unreasonable to think they had an unbloody victory: and as for these twenty - five thousand and one hundred men, they were all slain in the third battle.
16 Not miss - An hyperbolical expression, signifying, that they could do this with great exactness. And this was very considerable and one ground of the Benjamites confidence.
17 Men of Israel - Such as were here present, for it is probable they had a far greater number of men, being six hundred thousand before their entrance into Canaan.
18 Children of Israel - Some sent in the name of all. House of God - To Shiloh, which was not far from Mizpeh. Which - This was asked to prevent emulations and contentions: but they do not ask whether they should go against them, or no, for that they knew they ought to do by the will of God already revealed: nor yet do they seek to God for his help by prayer, and fasting, and sacrifice, as in all reason they ought to have done; but were confident of success, because of their great numbers, and righteous cause.
21 Destroyed, &c. - Why would God suffer them to have so great a loss in so good a cause? Because they had many and great sins reigning among themselves, and they should not have come to so great a work of God, with polluted hands, but should have pulled the beam out of their own eye, before they attempted to take that out of their brother Benjamin's eye: which because they did not, God doth it for them, bringing them through the fire, that they might he purged from their dross; it being probable that the great God who governs every stroke in battle, did so order things, that their worst members should be cut off, which was a great blessing to the whole common - wealth. And God would hereby shew, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. We must never lay that weight on an arm of flesh, which only the Rock of Ages will bear.
22 Encouraged - Heb. strengthened themselves, supporting themselves with the consciousness of the justice of their cause, and putting themselves in better order for defending themselves, and annoying their enemies.
23 Wept - Not so much for their sins, as for their defeat and loss. My brother - They impute their ill success, not to their own sins, but to their taking up arms against their brethren. But still they persist in their former neglect of seeking God's assistance in the way which he had appointed, as they themselves acknowledged presently, by doing those very things which now they neglected.
26 Fasted - Sensible of their not being truly humbled for their sins, which now they discover to be the cause of their ill success. Burnt, &c. - To make atonement to God for their own sins. Peace - offerings - To bless God for sparing so many of them, whereas he might justly have cut off all of them when their brethren were slain: to implore his assistance, yea and to give thanks for the victory, which now they were confident he would give them.
28 Phinehas - This is added to give us light about the time of this history, and to shew it was not done in the order in which it is here placed, after Samson's death, but long before. Stood - That is ministered as high - priest. The Lord said - When they sought God after the due order, and truly humbled themselves for their sins, he gives them a satisfactory answer.
29 Liers in wait - Though they were assured of the success, by a particular promise, yet they do not neglect the use of means; as well knowing that the certainty of God's promises doth not excuse, but rather require man's diligent use of all fit means for the accomplishment of them.
30 The children of Israel - That is, a considerable part of them, who were ordered to give the first onset, and then to counterfeit flight, to draw the Benjamites forth from their strong - hold. See ver.32.
34 Chosen men - Selected out of the main body, which was at Baal - tamar; and these were to march directly to Gibeah on the one side, whilst the liers in wait stormed it on the other side, and whilst the great body of the army laboured to intercept the Benjamites, who having pursued the Israelites that pretended to flee, now endeavoured to retreat to Gibeah.
37 Drew along - Or, extended themselves; whereas before they lay close and contracted into a narrow compass, now they spread themselves, and marched in rank and file as armies do.
44 There fell - Namely, in the field, of battle.
45 Gleaned - That is, a metaphor from those who gather grapes or corn so clearly and fully, that they leave no relicks for those who come after them.
46 Twenty and five thousand - Besides the odd hundred expressed ver.35, but here only the great number is mentioned, the less being omitted, as inconsiderable. Here are also a thousand more omitted, because he speaks only of them who fell in that third day of battle.
48 Turned again - Having destroyed those that came to Gibeah, and into the field, now they follow them home to their several habitations. Men - Comprehensively taken, so as to include women and children. If this seem harsh and bloody, either it may be ascribed to military fury; or perhaps it may be partly justified, from that command of God in a parallel case, Deut 13:15, and from that solemn oath by which they had devoted to death all that came not up to Mizpeh, chap.21:5, which none of the Benjamites did.

Chapter XXI

The lamentation of Israel over Benjamin, ver. 1 - 7. They procure wives for the remaining Benjamites of the virgins of Jabesh - Gilead, ver. 8 - 15. And of the daughters of Shiloh, ver. 16 - 25.

1 Had sworn - In the beginning of this war, after the whole tribe had espoused the quarrel of the men of Gibeah. Saying - They do not here swear the utter extirpation of the tribe, which fell out beyond their expectation, but only not to give their daughters to those men who should survive; justly esteeming them for their villainy, to be as bad as Heathens, with whom they were forbidden to marry.
4 An altar - Not for a monument of the victory, but for sacrifices, as the next words shew. There might be in that place more altars than one, when the multitude of sacrifices be required, which was the case, 1Kings 8:64, and probably at this time, when all the tribes being met, they had many sacrifices to offer, some in common for all, and some peculiar to every tribe.
5 Great oath - That is a solemn oath joined with some terrible execration against the offenders herein. Put to death - Because by refusing to execute the vengeance due to such malefactors, they were justly presumed guilty of the crime, and therefore liable to the same punishment, as was the case of that city that would not deliver up an Idolater dwelling among them, to justice.
6 Repented - Not for the war, which was just and necessary, but for their immoderate severity in the execution of it. That is no good divinity which swallows up humanity. Even necessary justice is to be done with compassion.
15 The Lord, &c. - The Benjamites were the only authors of the sin, but God was the chief author of the punishment, and the Israelites were but his executioners.
17 An inheritance - The inheritance promised by Jacob and Moses, and given by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin, doth all of it belong to those few who remain of that tribe, and cannot be possessed by any other tribe; and therefore we are obliged to procure wives for them all, that they may make up this breach, and be capable of possessing and managing all their land: that this tribe, and their inheritance may not be confounded with, or swallowed up by any of the rest.
19 A feast - Probably it was the feast of tabernacles, which they celebrated with more than ordinary joy. And that feast was the only season, at which the Jewish virgins were allowed to dance. But even this was not mixed dancing. No men danced with these daughters of Shiloh. Nor did the married women so forget their gravity, as to join with them. However their dancing thus in public, made them an easy prey: whence Bishop Hall observes, "The ambushes of evil spirits carry away many souls from dancing to a fearful desolation."
21 Daughters of Shiloh - By whom we may understand not those only who were born or settled inhabitants there, but all those who were come thither upon this occasion, and for a time sojourned there: for although only the males were obliged to go up to the three solemn feasts; yet the women had liberty to go, and those who were most devout did usually go. Vineyards - Which were near to the green where they danced. Catch - Take them away by force, which they might the better do, because the women danced by themselves.
23 And took, &c. - That is, each man his wife. By which we may see, they had no very favourable opinion of polygamy, because they did not allow it in this case, when it might seem most necessary for the reparation of a lost tribe. Repaired - By degrees, increasing their buildings as their number increased.
25 Right in his own eyes - What wonder was it then, if all wickedness overflowed the land? Blessed be God for magistracy!

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