One generation goes and another comes, but the word of God abides forever. It holds good for fathers and children; it judges ancestors and descendants. The new Israel had not beheld the deeds of Joshua and Caleb; but the God in whose spirit they were accomplished, still lived. They had not witnessed the recompense which was visited upon Adoni-bezek; but the Word which promises reward and punishment, was still living. Israel apostatized not because it had forgotten, but because sin is ever forgetful. When the blind man sins, it is not because he does not see the creation which God created, but because sin is blind both in those who see and in those who see not.
Therefore, no one can excuse himself, when he falls away into idolatry. Creation is visible to all, all have come up out of Egypt, all enjoy the favor of their God. Inexperience, satanic arts of temptation, temperament, can explain many a fall; yet, no one falls save by his own evil lusts, and all wickedness is done before the eyes of God ( Judges 2:11).
Starke: Constantly to remember and meditate on the works of God promotes piety, causing us to fear God, to believe in Him, and to serve Him.
Lisco: As long as the remembrance of the mighty works of God continued alive, so long also did active gratitude, covenant faithfulness, endure.
FN#9 - Judges 2:7.—הֶאֱרִיךְ יָמִים, to prolong one’s days, usually means, “to live long;” but here the addition “after Joshua” shows that the expression is not to be taken in this ordinary acceptation, but according to the proper sense of the words: “they prolonged days (life) after Joshua,” i. e. they survived him: not, “they lived long after Joshua,” cf. the remarks of Bachmann quoted on p15.—Tr.]
FN#10 - Judges 2:10.—The sing. suf. in אֲבוֹתָיו, although the verb is plural, arises from the fact that the expression אֶל־אֲבוֹתָיו נֶאֱסַף, and others of like import, are generally used of individuals. Habit gets the better of strict grammatical propriety.—Tr.]
FN#11 - Judges 2:10.—Dr. Cassel: die Gott nicht kannten, und [also] auch seine That nicht; i. e. “who knew not God (Jehovah), nor [consequently], the works.” The explanation of this rendering is that he takes “knew” in the sense of “acknowledge,” see below; so that the clause gives him the following sense: “they acknowledged not what God had done for them, and of course did not rightly value his works. But, as Bachmann observes, “לֹא יָרְעוּ conveys no reproach, but only states the cause of the ensuing apostasy. The new generation did not know the Lord and his work, sc. as eye witnesses (cf. Judges 2:7; Judges 3:2); they only knew from hearsay.”—Tr.]
FN#12 - As תוּשִׁים and אַלְגּוּמִּים,שׁוּתָם and שַׁלְמַי אַלְמֻנּים and שׁמְלַי. Cf. Bochart, Hierozoicon, lib1. cap20. tom2, p137.
FN#13 - Ritter16:562, Gage’s Transl4:246; [Smith’s “Visit to Antipatris,” in Bibliotheca Sacra for1843 (published at New York) p484.—Tr.] On the desire of the Bedouins to be buried on mountains, cf. Wetzstein, Hauran, p26.
The apostasy of Israel during the period of the Judges: Idolatry and its consequences
11And the children [sons] of Israel did evil[FN14] in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and served Baalim: 12And they forsook the Lord [Jehovah the] God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt [Mitsraim], and followed other gods, of the gods of the people [peoples] that were round about them, and bowed themselves 13 unto them, and provoked the Lord [Jehovah] to anger. And [Yea] they forsook the Lord [Jehovah], and served Baal and Ashtaroth 14 And the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was hot [kindled] against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that [and they] spoiled them, and he sold them [gave them up[FN15]] into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before 15 their enemies. Whithersoever [Wheresoever][FN16] they went out, the hand of the Lord [Jehovah] was against them for evil [disaster], as the Lord [Jehovah] had said, and as the Lord [Jehovah] had sworn unto them: and they were [became] greatly distressed.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
1 Judges 2:11—הָרַע: lit. “the evil.” The use of the article, however, scarcely warrants the stress laid on it by Dr. Cassel (see below), as הָרַע, although most frequently used of idolatry, occurs also of sin in general and of other sins, cf. Numbers 32:13; 2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 51:6. The art, is probably used here as with other words denoting abstract ideas, cf. Ges. Gr. § 109, Rem1, c.—Tr.]
2 Judges 2:14.—Bachmann: “The giving up to the enemy is represented as a selling. The term of comparison, however, is not the price received, but the complete surrender into the stranger’s power.”—Tr.]
3 Judges 2:15.—The E. V. takes בְּכָל־מָקוֹם = בְּכֹל, and אֲשֶׁר as the accus whither, cf. Numbers 13:27. So also Bertheau, Keil, and most versions and commentators. Dr. Cassel takes אְשֶׁר as accus. where, as in Genesis 35:13, 2 Samuel 7:7. Dr. Bachmann thinks it safer “in accordance with 2 Kings 18:7 (cf. Joshua 1:7; Joshua 1:9), to understand the whole expression not of the place of the undertaking, but of the undertaking itself (cf. Deuteronomy 28:20 : מִשְׁלַח יָרְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל־, with Judges 2:19 :. … בְּבֹאֶדָ בְּצֵאתֶדָ): lit. “in all what = for what they went out,” i. e. (since the connection points to matters of war) in all undertakings for which they took the field. It is at least safe to say that 2 Kings 18:7 requires this interpretation of the phrase in question, cf. Thenius in loc.—Tr.]
EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL
Judges 2:11-13. And they did the evil in the sight of Jehovah. In what the evil consisted, we are soon informed: they served other gods, not their God. These other gods of the nations round about them, are national gods. They severally represent the morals, inclinations, and aptitudes, of those nations. The heathen god is the embodiment of the spiritual life and character of the people that worships him. The God of Israel is the very opposite of this. He is the God of the universe, inasmuch as He created heaven and earth; and the God of Israel, inasmuch as He elected them from among the nations in order to be a holy people unto Himself. The law is the abstract representation of that divine morality which is characteristic of the holy nation, as such. Israel forsakes God, when it does not follow this law. It forgets God, when it ascribes to itself that which belongs to Him; when it explains the history of its wars and victories by referring them, not to divine guidance, but to its own strength. Hence also, as soon as Israel forgets God as the author of its history, it falls into the service of other gods, since these are the opposite of the absolute God, namely, the visible embodiment of the nation’s own self. The God of Israel is a God on whom the people feels itself dependent; the heathen deity, with its material representation, is the resultant of the popular will. The very moment in which the impatient Israel of the desert forsook God, it worshipped the golden calf, the type of Egypt. Now, in Canaan also, Israel is induced to forget God as its benefactor. It seeks to remove the contrariety which exists between itself and the Canaanites: to cancel the dividing-lines drawn by the law of the invisible God. It can have fellowship with the other nations only by serving their gods. Among the nations of antiquity no leagues found place except on the basis of community in sacred things; for in these the national type or character expressed itself. In the Italian cities, a union for joint-sacrifices was called concilium, and formed the indispensable prerequisite to connubium and commercium. The children of Israel, for the sake of their neighbors, forget their God. To please men, they do “the evil in the sight of the Lord.” Evil, רַע, is the opposite of what God wills. Whatever the laws forbids, is “evil.” “Ye shall not worship strange gods,” is the burden of the first, and the ultimate ground of all, commandments. Therefore, when Israel serves them it does what Isaiah, not simply “evil,” but “the evil” (הָרַע). The trains of thought of the simple sentences, are bound together by a profoundly penetrating logic. The new generation no longer knows the works of God in Israel’s behalf. Hence it longs for intercourse with the nations round about. For these have not been driven out. In order to gratify this longing, it serves their strange gods. But thereby it forsakes Jehovah, and provokes Him to anger.
And they served Baalim. Baal (בַּעַל), as deity, is for the nation, what as master he is in the house, and as lord in the city. He represents and impersonates the people’s life and energies. Hence, there is one general Baal, as well as many Baalim. The different cities and tribes had their individual Baalim, who were not always named after their cities, but frequently from the various characteristics for which they were adored. The case is analogous to that of Zeus, who by reason of his various attributes, was variously named and worshipped in Greece. The Israelites, as they forgot their own God, apostatized to that form of Baal service which obtained in the tribe or city in which they happened to live, according to the manifold modifications which the service of the idol assumed. Our passage reproduces very closely the words of the Mosaic law (cf. Deuteronomy 17:2-3; Deuteronomy 29:25 (26)), except that it substitutes Baalim for im acherim, other gods. im acherim is of universal comprehensiveness. “Other gods” being forbidden, the false gods of all ages and countries, whatever names they may bear, are forbidden. Acher is “another,” not in any sense implying coördination, but as expressive of inferiority, spuriousness. It is used like ἕτερος, posterior, and the German after and aber. (Aberglaube [superstition] is a false glaube [faith], just as elohim acherim are false gods.[FN17]) Baalim is here substituted as being the current name of the country for the false god. And in truth the very name of Baal, in its literal signification, expresses the contrast between him and the absolute and true Elohim, Jehovah. For as Baal (i.e. Lord, Master), he is dependent on the existence of him whose Baal he Isaiah, just as he is no husband who has not a wife; whereas it is the nature of the absolute God to be perfectly free and independent of every extraneous object. These Baalim were the “gods of the nations who dwelt round about them.” Every word of Judges 2:12 indicates that what now occurred, had been foretold by Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 28:20; Deuteronomy 31:16; Leviticus 22:33). The chief passages which are kept in view, are Deuteronomy 6:10 ff; Deuteronomy 29:25 ff. Ver 13 begins with the same words as Judges 2:12, “they forsook God,” not to repeat but to strengthen the statement. It must astound the reader that they have forsaken God (עָזַב has the sense of our expression “to ignore one,” “not to notice him,” as one lets a poor mar stand and beg without noticing him), to serve “Baal and Ashtaroth.” Israel, the narrator wishes to say, was actually capable of giving up its own glorious God, who brought it up out of Egypt, for the sake of Baal and Ashtaroth! The statements of Judges 2:11-14 form a climax; for sin is not stationary, but sinks ever deeper. Judges 2:11 had said that “they served Baalim.” Judges 2:12 intimates that this was in fact nothing else than that which Moses, in the name of God, had described as the deepest and most radical crime of which the nation could be guilty. Judges 2:13 shows the blindness of Israel in its deepest darkness. The people has forsaken its God of truth and purity, for the sake of Baal and Ashtaroth! That has come to pass against which Deuteronomy 4:19 warned as possible: “Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, shouldest bow down to them and serve them.” The luminaries of the heavens are the original symbols of ancient idolatry. Baal answers to Zeus, the Greek Light god. Ashtaroth, in like manner, corresponds to Hera (according to the meaning of her name, a Baalah), the Star-queen. Ashtoreth means “the star” (אֶסְתֵּר, Persian sitareh, ἀστήρ, star); in the plural her name is Ashtaroth. This plural expresses the Scripture phrase “host of heaven,” in one collective conception. As Elohim in its plural form represents the Deity, so Baalim represents Baaldom, and Ashtaroth the shining night-heavens. (Just as cives and civitas, בְּעָלִים and בַּעֲלָה, are used to express all that is included in the idea of the State.) The Greek form of Ashtoreth, it is well known, was Astarte. Hence, names formed like Abdastartus[FN18] (Servant of Astarte), find their contrast in such as Obadiah (Servant of Jah), formed in the spirit of the Israelitish people. Astarte represents on the coast of Phœnicia the same popular conception, suggested by natural phenomena, which till a very late period Asia Minor worshipped in the goddess of Ephesus. The Greek conceptions of Hera, Artemis, and Aphrodite do not so coalesce in her as to prevent us from clearly finding the common source. From the instructive passages of Scripture, in which the language shows a relation of Astarte to the propagation of flocks ( Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 28:4), it is evident that as luminous night-goddess she, like Hera, was a patroness of corporeal fertility, an Ilithyia, Lucina, Mylitta. On account of this idea, which is characteristic of both goddesses, the heavenly Hera (Juno cœlestis) coincides with Aphrodite Urania, so that Hesychius remarks concerning Belthis (Baalath), that she may be the one or the other. Astarte was worshipped as Ashtoreth, not only in Zidon ( 1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:13), but throughout Canaan; special mention is made of her temple in Askelon ( 1 Samuel 31:10). It is evidently this temple of which Herodotus (i105) speaks as dedicated to Aphrodite Urania, and which, as the national sanctuary of Askelon, the Scythians destroyed. It was on account of its national character, that the Philistines deposited in it the armor of Saul as trophies. They saw in its goddess the victor over the defeated enemy, just as at Ephesus the repulse of the Cimmerians was attributed to the aid of Artemis. Powers of resistance and defense were ascribed to all those Asiatic goddesses who presided over the principle of fecundity in nature. Their weapons protect pacific nature and that which she cherishes, against the hostility of wild and savage forces. The worship of the Ephesian goddess is founded and celebrated by Amazons. Juno, the celestial, is represented with lance in hand. The same conception is indicated by ancient representations of Aphrodite, in which she appears armed and prepared for battle. Astarte is at all events considered favorable to her nation in war; since trophies of victory hang in her temple, and the capital of the terrible warrior Og bears the name Ashtaroth ( Joshua 9:10; Joshua 12:4). This King Og of Bashan is regarded as a scion of the mighty Rephaim. These latter have their seat at Ashteroth Karnaim, where they are attacked by the eastern kings ( Genesis 14:5). Ashteroth Karnaim points to the horns of the crescent moon, by which also Astarte of Askelon is indicated on the coins of that city (cf. Stark, Gaza, p259). The armed Aphrodite in Sparta is the same with Helena or Selene, the moon-goddess,—a fact clearly demonstrative of her identity with Astarte. Moon and stars, the luminaries of the night-sky, are blended in Ashtaroth. She represents the collective host of heaven. Before this “host” Israel bowed down when it forsook its “Lord of hosts.” Baal and Ashtaroth stand for the whole national worship of Phœnicia, over against Jehovah, the God of the universe. They are the representatives of their nation’s prosperity; and it is therefore a profound conception, which Epiphanias says some held (Hœres. 55. cap2), which makes Hercules (Baal) to be the father, and Ashtaroth (or Asteria, τὴν καὶ ’Αστερίαν,) the mother, of Melchizedek. Thus when Melchizedek bowed himself before Abraham and Abraham’s God, the national spirit of Canaan submitted itself. When Israel prostrates itself before such symbols, it cannot fail to provoke the anger of its God.
Judges 2:14. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel. A climax appears also in the expressions concerning the displeasure of God. First, that which they do is evil in his sight ( Judges 2:11); then, they provoke Him to anger ( Judges 2:12; cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18); finally, his anger is kindled ( Judges 2:14; also Numbers 25:3; Numbers 32:13).
And He delivered them into the hands of the oppressors [spoilers]—and gave them up into the hands of their enemies.[FN19] Thus far the phraseology has been literally quoted from Mosaic utterances, except that Baal and Ashtaroth were substituted for sun, moon, and stars. The above words occur here for the first time. They express the historical consequences of Israel’s wrong-doing. When Israel forsakes God and his law, it loses the basis of its nationality. With God and God’s law, and through them, it is a people; without them, it has neither law nor national power. The gods after whom they run, do not at all belong to them. On the contrary, they are the property of nations who are their enemies. Israel left Egypt a crowd of slaves. It was God’s own revelation of Himself, fulfilling his promise to the fathers, that made it free. If it give up this Revelation, it has no longer a basis of freedom. Freedom is henceforth impossible; for by serving the gods of other nations, it dissolves its own national existence. Hence, this faithlessness towards God, is the worst folly against itself. For the enemy who gave way before Israel’s God and Israel’s enthusiasm, will no longer spare the conquerors of Canaan when, like men without character, they kneel at strange altars. When God who elected Israel is not in the midst of the nation as its protector, it is like the defenseless hart which the hunter pursues. Such is the figure which underlies the expression: “and God gave them into the hands of their שֹׁסִים” The root שָׁכַס שָׁסָה, is not found in the Pentateuch, and occurs here for the first time. The shosim are enemies of the property of another, robbers, plunderers,—as the hunter robs his game of life and happiness. The word is kindred to the Greek χάζω, with the same meaning, although, to be sure, only the passive χάζομαι is in use. (It seems also that the Italian cacciare and the French chasser are to be derived from this word; but cf. Diez, Lex. der Röm. Spr., p79). Israel, having broken its covenant with God for the sake of men, was by these very men oppressed. They robbed it of goods and freedom. For God had “sold it,” like a person who has lost his freedom. What but servitude remained for Israel when it no longer possessed the power of God? It cannot stand before its enemies, as was foretold, Leviticus 26:37, in somewhat different words. A people that conquered only through the contrariety of its spirit with that of its enemies, must fall when it ceases to cherish that spirit. No one can have power to succeed, who himself destroys his sole vocation to success. Hence, Israel could no more be successful in anything. The measure of its triumph with God, is the measure of its misery without Him. Apostasy from God is always like a return to Egypt into bondage ( Deuteronomy 28:68).
Judges 2:15. As Jehovah had said, and as he had sworn unto them. By applying to their sin the very words used in the law, the narrator has already emphasized the enduring truthfulness of the divine announcements. Israel is to experience that everything threatened comes to pass; and with reason, for every promise also has been verified. But here he expresses himself still more plainly. The hand of the Lord ( Deuteronomy 2:15) was against them for evil ( Deuteronomy 29:20), as He “had sworn unto them.” No sentence evinces more plainly how closely the narrator keeps to the Mosaic writings. When God is said to swear unto Israel, it is almost always in connection with blessings to be bestowed. Only in two instances ( Deuteronomy 2:14; cf. Joshua 5:6), the Lord is represented as having sworn that to those who had not obeyed his voice, He would not show the land. In these, therefore, the oath is confirmatory of threatened punishment. The double form of expression also, that God spake and swore, is prefigured Deuteronomy 29:12 (13).
And they became greatly distressed, וַיֵּצֶר. Deuteronomy 28:50-52 describes the plunderers, who shall rob them of their cattle and their harvests. “Thou shalt be distressed in all thy gates” (וְהֵצַר לְךָ), is twice repeated in Judges 2:52. The narrator presupposes intimate acquaintance with the ancient writings, and therefore cites only their salient points.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
After the judgment of the word comes the judgment of the sword. He who ceases to remember the works of God, ceases also to enjoy the power of God. For him who shuts his eyes, the sun affords no light. Men are judged by the truth which they despise, and betrayed by the sin which they love. Israel can no longer withstand the nations over whom it formerly triumphed, because it courts their idols and leaves its own God.
Thus men suffer through the passions which they entertain. They are plundered, when instead of God, they serve Baal-Mammon. The judgment of the word which they forsake, is confirmed Men lose the freedom of the children of God, when (1) they are no longer grateful to God; consequently, (2) remember Him no more; hence, (3) attend no longer to the preaching of repentance; and despite of it, (4) serve idols.
Starke: He who engages in another worship, forsakes the true God, and apostatizes from Him. But woe to the man who does this: for he brings himself into endless trouble. The same: God is as true to his threats as to his promises. Lisco: The people whom trouble and bondage had brought to a consciousness of their guilt, sank again into idolatry through levity and commerce with heathen, and thus new chastisements became necessary. Gerlach: The judgment affords a deep glance into God’s government of the world, showing how He makes all sin subservient to his own power, by punishing it with the very evils that arise from it.
FN#14 - Judges 2:11—הָרַע: lit. “the evil.” The use of the article, however, scarcely warrants the stress laid on it by Dr. Cassel (see below), as הָרַע, although most frequently used of idolatry, occurs also of sin in general and of other sins, cf. Numbers 32:13; 2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 51:6. The art, is probably used here as with other words denoting abstract ideas, cf. Ges. Gr. § 109, Rem1, c.—Tr.]
FN#15 - Judges 2:14.—Bachmann: “The giving up to the enemy is represented as a selling. The term of comparison, however, is not the price received, but the complete surrender into the stranger’s power.”—Tr.]
FN#16 - Judges 2:15.—The E. V. takes בְּכָל־מָקוֹם = בְּכֹל, and אֲשֶׁר as the accus whither, cf. Numbers 13:27. So also Bertheau, Keil, and most versions and commentators. Dr. Cassel takes אְשֶׁר as accus. where, as in Genesis 35:13, 2 Samuel 7:7. Dr. Bachmann thinks it safer “in accordance with 2 Kings 18:7 (cf. Joshua 1:7; Joshua 1:9), to understand the whole expression not of the place of the undertaking, but of the undertaking itself (cf. Deuteronomy 28:20 : מִשְׁלַח יָרְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל־, with Judges 2:19 :. … בְּבֹאֶדָ בְּצֵאתֶדָ): lit. “in all what = for what they went out,” i. e. (since the connection points to matters of war) in all undertakings for which they took the field. It is at least safe to say that 2 Kings 18:7 requires this interpretation of the phrase in question, cf. Thenius in loc.—Tr.]
FN#17 - Cf. my Abhandlung über Wissensch. und Akademien, p38.
FN#18 - Compare Methuastartus (מתוצשתרת), formed like Methubaal, Methusalem, Man of (belonging to) Astarte. Compare אמצשתרת, “my mother is Astarte,” on the Sidonian Inscription of Eshmunazar. Rödiger (Zeitschrift d. d. m. Ges., 1865, p656) regards it as an abbreviation for אמתצשתרת, “maid-servant of Astarte,” wherein he is followed by others.
FN#19 - On these words Bachmann remarks: “This does not describe a twofold visitation, either simultaneous or successive: first spoiling, then servitude (P. Mart.), or roving robber bands and regular hostile armies (Schm.); still less (Cajet.) a threefold degree of calamity—spoiling, slavery, flight [the latter indicated by ‘they were no longer able to stand before their enemies’—Tr.]; but God in abandoning the people to the resistless violence of their hostile neighbors, does thereby deliver them into the hands of the spoilers.”—Tr.]
The interposition of God in Israel’s behalf by the appointment of Judges. Deliverance and the death of the Deliverer the occasion of renewed apostasy
16Nevertheless [And] the Lord [Jehovah] raised up Judges, which [and they] delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them 17 And yet they would not [But neither did they] hearken unto their Judges, but[FN20] they went a whoring[FN21] after other [false] gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly[FN22] out of the way[FN23] which their fathers walked in, obeying[FN24] the commandments of the Lord18[Jehovah]; but they did not so. And when the Lord [Jehovah] raised them up Judges, then the Lord [Jehovah] was with the Judges, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: (for it repented the Lord [Jehovah] because of their groanings [wailings[FN25]] by reason of them that oppressed[FN26] them and 19 vexed [persecuted[FN27]][FN28] them.) And [But] it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned [turned back], and corrupted themselves[FN29] more than their fathers, in following other [false] gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from[FN30] their own [omit: own] [evil] doings,[FN31] nor from their stubborn way.[FN32] 20And the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was hot [kindled] against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant[FN33] which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; 21I also will not henceforth [will not go on to] drive out any [a man] from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: 22that through them I may prove [in order by them to prove[FN34]][FN35] Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord [Jehovah] to walk 23 therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore [And] the Lord [Jehovah] left those [these] nations [at rest[FN36]], without driving them out hastily [so that they should not be speedily driven out], neither delivered he them [and delivered them not] into the hand of Joshua.