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THE BOOK OF JUDGES.

INTRODUCTION

TO

THE BOOK OF JUDGES.

Name of the Book.–The English name " Judges" The sub-sections are:corresponds with the Hebrew Shophetim, as with the 1. The servitude to Cushan-rishathaim, and the Greek Kritai, and the Latin Liber judicum. A similar judgeship of Othniel (chap. iii. 5–11). magistracy (suffetes) existed among the Phænicians. 2. The servitude to Eglon, and the deliverance Officers of this title are mentioned in Num. xxv. 5, wrought by Ehud (chap. iii. 12/30). Brief reference Dent. i. 16, xvi. 18, &c., but they were only appointed to Shamgar (chap. iii. 31). for subordinate civil functions, whereas the judges 3. The servitude to Jabin, and the deliverance whose history is recorded in this book were chiefly wrought by Deborah and Barak (chaps. iv., v.). summoned to their great work by Divine appointment 4. The oppression of the Midianites, and the de. (chaps. iii. 15, iv. 6, vi. 12, &c.), and were “ deliverers” liverance wrought by Gideon (chaps. vi.-viii.). Episode from foreign bondage (chaps. iii. 9, xviii. 28) rather of Abimelech, the bramble-king (chap. ix.). Brief than civil rulers. (See note on chap. ii. 16.) In fact, notices of Tola and Jair (chap. x. 1-5). the very necessity for their call and their deeds arose 5. The oppression of the Ammonites, and the de. from the anarchy which rendered all ordinary functions liverance wrought by Jephthah (chaps. x. 6-xii. 13), unavailing against the prevalent corruption and misery. with the sequel of Jephthah's history (chaps. xi. 34– The most remarkable of their number were national xii. 7). Brief notices of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon (chap. heroes rather than civil or religious guides.

xii. 8—15).

6. The servitude to the Philistines, and the deeds of Plan.-The Book of Judges falls into five well. Samson (chaps. xiii.-xvi.). marked sections, namely :

IV. APPENDIX I.—The story of Micah's idolatry; I. GENERAL INTRODUCTION (chaps. i.-ii. 5).-In of Jonathan, grandson of Moses; and of the conquest the note on chap. i. 1 reasons will be given for believing of Laish by the Danites (chaps. xvii., xviii.). that this section is entirely retrospective. It furnishes V. APPENDIX II. — The story of the deed of a sketch of the imperfect conquest of the land previous Gibeah, and the vengeance inflicted on Benjamin, with to the death of Joshua, in order to show the want of the means taken to save that tribe from extirpation. faithfulness and obedience which was the cause of all It is clear that the Book of Judges is formed on one subsequent troubles. It ends with the solemn reproach general plan, because it is intended to illustrate definite addressed by God's messenger to the assembled people moral facts, and to narrate the providence of God as at Bochim.

shown continuously in a long series of different events. II. SECOND INTRODUCTION (chaps. ii. 6—iii. 6).- The arrangement is not strictly chronological, for (as It is the object of this section to show that the neglect will be seen by the notes on chaps. xvii.—xxi.) the which had begun before the great conqueror passed appendices belong to an epoch antecedent tó the away continued after his death, and that it was the earliest judge. Nor, again, is the arrangement intended cause of deep religious degeneracy. The people even to be geographical, for the earlier notices of the book sank into idolatry, and provoked the Divine retribution, refer mainly to the south of Palestine ; the story of from which they were delivered by successive judges. Deborah takes us to the north, and that of Gideon to In spite of this, they constantly relapsed when the the central region; that of Jephthah to the west, and judgment was removed. In this section the moral pur- that of Samson once more to the south. Three of the pose

of the book is most distinctly sketched in outline. chief judges—Qthniel, Ehud, Samson-were southrons; It shows that the presence of the Canaanites and the two-Barak, Gideon-belong to the north ; one-Jeph. fevival of their dominion were alike the cause and the thah-to western Palestine. consequence of the troubles of Israel, while, at the same time, God was so far from having utterly forsaken His Unity.-The subordination of all the incidents of people that even their sins and sufferings were made the history to the inculcation of definite religious to subserve the purposes of their Divine education, and lessons shows that the book, in its present form, was were overruled for their ultimate advantage. (See arranged by one person. On the other hand, it is chaps. ii. 22, iii. 1—4.)

nearly certain that he performed the functions of a III. MAIN SECTION OF THE BOOK (chaps. iii. 7— compiler rather than those of author. For it seems xvi. 31).—This section contains notices of the history clear that he not only consulted various sources of of twelve judges. The heroic deeds of six of these information, but that he actually incorporated several deliverers are related in detail, and six are mentioned documents, such as the words of tho Divine mes. with brief allusion. The episode of Abimelech's usur- senger at Bochim (chap. ii. 1-5), the song of pation is given at length, partly perhaps—as in the Deborah (chap. v.), the parable of Jotham (chap. ix. 8 later story of Eli—to point the lesson of the perils which -16), and various traditional fragments of Samson's result from imperfect paternal control, but mainly to festive words (chaps. xiv. 14, xv. 16). But further than warn the people of the perilous and abortive character this, the style points to the conclusion that the body of of a royalty unsanctioned by Jehovah (Deut. xvii. 15). I the book (chaps. iii. 7–xvi. 31) is not by the same author JUDGES.

as the appendices (chaps. xvi., xvii., xviii.—xxi.), and is such as could not have been delineated so naturally at that the author of these two memorable narratives is a later period. In its primitive hospitality, its awful the same as the author of the preface (chaps. i.--iii. 6). degradation, and its terrible savagery, it recalls some of The preface and appendices, referring as they do to the earliest annals of the Scripture history. (Comp. the same epoch, present special points of view, and chap. vi. 19 with Gen. xviii. 1–8; chap. vi. 21 with abound in identical phrases, which are not found in Gen. xv. 17; chap. xix. with Gen. xix.; chaps. viii. 16, the main narrative. Thus Judah (chaps. i., xx. 18) ix. 38 with Gen. xxxiv., &c.) and places in Judah (Bethlehem, Jerusalem) are pro. But while there can be no doubt as to the antiquity minent in these sections, and are hardly alluded to in of the documents utilised by the writer, it is not so easy the rest of the book; the migration of Dan is also to determine with precision the date at which the book touched upon in both these sections (chaps. i. 34, xviii.). was drawn up in its present form. The phrase " to this The general aspect of society and government is also day” (chaps. i. 21, xix. 30) shows that some years must alike in both sections (chaps. i. 1,2, ii. 4, xx. 26—28), and have elapsed since the events recorded. That the apboth allude to the twelve tribes (chaps. i., xix. 29, xx.1, pendices could not have been written earlier than the xxi. 3). For resemblance of phrases, compare chaps. i. reign of Saul is clear from their constant formula : “In 8, xx. 48; i. 21, xix. 30; i. 12, xxi. 14; i. 1, xx. 23; i. 23, that day there was no king in Israel” (chap. xvii. 6, &c.). xviii. 2; i. 11, &c., xviii. 29. (See note on chap. i. 1.) On the other hand, the absence of any allusion to the In the appendices "judges” are not once mentioned; exploits of David confirms the decisive inference, sugwhile the characteristic phrase which occurs again and gested by chap. i. 21, that the book existed, in part at again, “ In those days there was no king in Israel, but any rate, before his days; for in chap. i. 21, as well as every man did that which was right in his own eyes in chap. xix. 10–12, Jerusalem is still called Jebus, and (chaps. xvii. 6, xviii. 1, xix. 1, xxi. 25), is not once used is regarded as a city of the Canaanites, and as nominally in the body of the book. On the other hand, the cha- belonging to Benjamin (chap. i. 21). The attempts to racteristic phrases of the main narrative, “The anger of connect chap. i. 27–29 with events in the reign of the Lord was hot against Israel and He sold them Solomon (1 Kings iv. 7—19, ix. 16) are entirely futile. into the hands of their enemies ” (chaps. ii. 14, iii. 8, On the other hand, the expression in chap. xviii

. 30, iv. 2, x. 7), and " The Spirit of the Lord came upon. “ until the captivity of the land,” would bring the date (chaps. vi. 34, xi. 29, xiv. 6, 19, xv. 14), do not occur in of the redaction of the book down to a very late period, the other parts.*

if that phrase certainly referred to either the Assyrian We are, therefore, naturally led to infer that the main or the Babylonian captivity. But even if we do not section of the book is a homogeneous narrative, which accept the very slight change in two Hebrew letters has, however, been compiled with a free incorporation which will make it mean “ to the captivity of the arkof older documents; and that the two prefaces and two (see note on chap. xviii. 30, 31), it seems almost demonappendices, which come from a different hand, were strable that the allusion may be to that Philistine in. added to it, with the Book of Ruth as a third appendix, vasion which culminated in the massacre at Shiloh, of by some early editor, or perhaps by the author himself. which the terrible incidents are preserved for us in Ps. The efforts to trace parallel Jehovistic and Elohistic lxxviii. 60—65. In chap. xxi. 12 we find the expression documents, even in the history of Gideon, much more Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan," and this, in other parts of the book, fail to establish any probable too, has been pressed into an indication that the book is result.

not earlier than the time of the exile. It is much more

obvious to explain it by way of contrast to JabeshDate.—The freshness, vividness, and minuteness of gilead, which was on the other side of Jordan; or posthe details with which some of the stories of the judges sibly the phrase may point to the circumstance that abound show that the writer was in possession of after the sack and massacre of Shiloh the very site of almost contemporaneous records, or had access to very the place seems to have sunk into an oblivion from early traditions. There is an Homeric plainness in the which it has never since emerged. But if these phrases description of many of the events, as well as in the are of later origin, the evidences of antiquity which clear delineation of the leading characters. The cha- confront us on every page of this book would lead to racter and the circumstance of each hero are completely the conclusion that a few expressions were merely different from those of all the rest. Ehud first acts added by way of glosses in the final edition of the independently, and then arms the people; Barak sacred canon by Ezra and his school. The expressions stands at the head of a confederacy; Gideon at first and sentiments which are common to the Book of only invites the aid of his immediate neighbours; Jeph- Judges, with the other historical books (see 1 Sam. thah is a chief of freebooters; Abimelech avails himself xiii. 6, 20; 2 Kings ii. 17, viii. 12, xii. 20, xvii. 20, xxi. of Canaanite jealousies against Israel, and Ephraimite 15, xxii. 14; and especially comp. chap. ii. 11–23 with jealousies against Manasseh ; Samson only engages in a 2 Kings xvii. 7-23, and chap. ii. 1-3 with 2 Kings series of personal adventures. Local traditions and xvii. 35–39), may easily have been borrowed by the records have evidently been utilised. The style is in- later from the earlier writers. The pure Hebrew of imitably graphic in its very simplicity. We smile at the Book of Judges is far too untainted with Chalthe grim humour which alludes to the “ fatness of daisms and modernisms to allow any probability to the Eglon and his Moabites ; we hear the shrill accents of theory of its late authorship. Its many isolated exthe daughter of Caleb; we see the very flash of Ehud's pressions (hapax legomena, chaps. i. 15, iii. 22, iv. dagger; even the rough jests of Samson, and the tren- 4—19, v. 10—28, xv. 8, xvič. 7) show the use of an. chant irony of the Danites, and the shadows cast by the cient records, and the Aramaisms which have been troops of Abimelech, and the female vanity of the pointed out (e.g., the prefix w in chaps. v. 7, vi. 17, and ladies of Sisera's harem are, with many other minute expressions in chaps. xvii. 2, xix. i, &c.), since they incidents, immortalised in a few strokes. Again, the occur in those parts which are incontestably the oldest, picture of the manners prevalent at the epoch described are now generally admitted to be poetic forms, and

forms peculiar to the idiom of Northern Palestine. • See Ewald, 186, seq.

The general conclusion, then, as to the date of the

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