Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – Judges (Vol. 1)》

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Introductory delineation of the condition of Israel after the death of Joshua; sin, and the judgments entailed by it, rendering the judgeship necessary. Judges 1:1 to Judges 3:4.

1st Section. The relations of Israel towards the remaining Canaanites, as forming the background of the ensuing history. Believing and obedient Israel enjoys divine direction and favor, is united within and victorious without; but faithlessness and disobedience lay the foundations of apostasy and servitude. Judges 1.

2d Section. The religious degeneracy of Israel which resulted from its disobedient conduct with respect to the Canaanites, and the severe discipline which it rendered necessary, as explaining the alternations of apostasy and servitude, repentance and deliverance, characteristic of the period of the Judges. Judges 2:1 to Judges 3:4.


The history of Israel under the Judges: a history of sin, ever repeating itself, and of divine grace, constantly devising new means of deliverance. Meanwhile, however, the imperfections of the judicial institute display themselves, and prepare the way for the appointment of a king. Judges 3:5-16.

1st Section. The servitude to Chushan Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia. Othniel, the Judge of blameless and happy life. Judges 3:5-11.

2d Section. The servitude to Eglon, King of Moab. Ehud, the Judge with the doubleedged dagger. Shamgar, the deliverer with the ox-goad. Judges 3:12-31.

3d Section. The servitude to Jabin, King of Canaan. Deborah, the female Judge of fiery spirit, and Barak, the military hero. Judges 4, 5.

4th Section. The incursions and oppressions of the Midianites. Gideon, the Judge who refuses to be king. Judges 6-8.

5th Section. The usurped rule of Abimelech, the fratricide and thorn-bush king. Judges 9.

6th Section. Two Judges in quiet, peaceful times: Tolah of Issachar, and Jair the Gileadite. Judges 10:1-5.

7th Section. The oppression of the Midianites. Jephthah, the Judge of the vow. Judges 10:6 to Judges 12:7.

8th Section. Three Judges of uneventful lives in peaceful times: Ibzan of Bethlehem, Elon the Zebulonite, and Abdon the Pirathonite. Judges 12:8-15.

9th Section. The oppression of the Philistines. Samson the Nazarite Judge. Judges 13-16.


The conclusion of the Book, tracing the evils of the period, the decay of the priesthood, the self-will of individuals, and the prevalence of licentiousness, passion, and discord, to the absence of a fixed and permanent form of government. Judges 17-21.

1st Section. The history of Micah’s private temple and image-worship: showing the individual arbitrariness of the times, and its tendency to subvert and corrupt the religious institutions of Israel. Judges 17, 18.

2d Section. The story of the infamous deed perpetrated at Gibeah, and its terrible consequences: another illustration of the evils that result when “every man does what is good in his own eyes.” Judges 19-21


FN#1 - מַם, the difference between which and מַם עֹבֵד, 1 Kings 9:21, is also to be noted.

FN#2 - The author seems to take the genitive in אִישׁ הָאֱלהִֹים, as a gen. of quality, as in אִישׁ דְּבָרִים, “an eloquent man.” But this is certainly incorrect. The expression “man of God,” does not indicate subjective character or nature, but objective official relations. First applied to Moses ( Deuteronomy 33:1), it was commonly used to designate a prophet. It denotes a man whom God has taken into relations of peculiar intimacy with himself in order through him to instruct and lead his people. The genitive may be defined as the gen. of the principal, from whom the “man” derives his knowledge and power, and for whom he acts.—Tr.]

FN#3 - The Jewish traditions concerning Deborah are given in a popular form in Beth Jisrael, Amsterdam, 1724.

FN#4 - The following paragraphs were written by the author as “Preliminary Observations” to the “Homiletical Hints,” which he gives in a body at the close of the commentary, and not, as in the other volumes of this work, after the several sections to which they refer. It was thought advisable in translating the book to alter this arrangement and make it conform to that observed in other parts of the general work. The more detailed analysis of the contents, as also the formal division of the work itself into parts and sections, together with the resumés placed at the head of each division throughout the work, have been added by the translator, guided for the most part by hints, and largely even in the language of the author himself. It is proper to add that these are the only additions that have not been inclosed in brackets—Tr.]
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Part First

Introductory Delineation of the Condition of Israel after the Death of Joshua; Sin, and the Judgments entailed by it, rendering the Judgeship necessary.



The Relations Of Israel Towards The Remaining Canaanites As Forming The Background Of The Ensuing History. Believing And Obedient Israel Enjoys Divine Direction And Favor, Is United Within And Victorious Without; But Faithlessness And Disobedience Lay The Foundations Of Apostasy And Servitude.


Who shall first go up against the Canaanite?”

Judges 1:1-2

1Now [And] after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children [sons] of Israel asked the Lord [Jehovah],[FN1] saying, Who shall go up for us[FN2] against[FN3] the Canaanites first to fight against them? 2And the Lord [Jehovah] said, Judah shall go up: behold,[FN4] I have delivered the land into his hand.


[ Judges 1:1.—The author renders: “the sons of Israel asked God;” and by way of explanation adds the following note: “Thus do we intend constantly to render יְהוָֹה, on the ground that it expresses the absolute idea of the true God in Israel. Since אֱלֹהִים is also used in connection with heathen worship, it corresponds to our ‘Godhead, Deity’ or ‘the Gods.’ ” In this translation the word Jehovah will be inserted.—Tr.]

[ Judges 1:1.—מִי־יַעֲלֶה־לָּנוּ. Dr. Cassel takes לָנוּ in a partitive sense, and translates, “who of us shall go up.” It is more properly regarded as dat. commodi; for, (1.) The partitive relation, though sometimes indicated by לְ (apparently, however, only after numerals, cf. Ges. Lex. s. v. לְ, 4 b), would be more properly expressed by בְּ or מִן; and (2.) If the writer had intended to connect לָנוּ with מִי, he would not have placed the verb between them, cf. Isaiah 48:14; Judges 21:8. As it stands, the expression is a perfect grammatical parallel with Isaiah 6:8 : מִי־יֵלֶךְ־לָנוּ Moreover, לָנוּ, in the sense of בָּנוּ or מִמֶּנּוּ, adds nothing which is not already implied in the words, מִי יַעֲלֶה בַּתְּחִלָּה, “who shall first go up.” On the other hand, taken in its natural sense, as indirect object after the verb, it expresses the thought that whoever “goes first,” makes a beginning, will do it for the advantage of all. What that advantage was, may be seen from our author’s exposition of the inquiry.—Tr.]

[ Judges 1:1.—אֶל, properly, towards. Dr. Cassel has gegen, which means both “towards” and “against.” The same preposition occurs in Judges 1:10-11; and though translated “against,” is not to be taken in the sense of עַל. The hostile intent in these passages is not expressed by אֶל, but appears from the context. In this verse, attention to the proper meaning of אֶל, does away with the appearance of tautology which in English the inquiry presents.—Tr.]

[ Judges 1:2.—Dr. Cassel: “Wohlan! Up then!” On this rendering of הִנֵּה, cf. the foot-note on p26.—Tr.]


Judges 1:1. And after the death of Joshua it came to pass. This commencement corresponds entirely with that of Joshua, Judges 1:1׃ “and after the death of Moses, the servant of Jehovah, it came to pass.” On account of this correspondence the usual addition, “the son of Nun,” but also the designation “servant of Jehovah,” elsewhere applied to Joshua ( Joshua 24:29; Judges 2:8), is omitted. A similar correspondence exists between Joshua 24:29, and Deuteronomy 34:5. Wherever Joshua is compared with Moses, care is taken to indicate at the same time the important difference between them. Joshua also is a “servant of Jehovah,” but not in the same high sense as his master. Joshua also died, but not like Moses “through the mouth of Jehovah” (עַל־פִּי יְהוָֹה). Moses was clothed with the authority of origination and establishment. He had been the Father (cf. Numbers 11:12), the Priest ( Exodus 24:8), the sole Regent ( Numbers 16:13), and Judge ( Exodus 18:16), of his tribes. He transferred the priesthood from himself to Aaron ( Exodus 28:1); he selected those who assisted him in deciding minor lawsuits ( Exodus 18:21; Numbers 11:17). He took seventy men of the “elders of the people,” to bear with him the burden of governing the tribes ( Numbers 11:16); he imparted of his own honor to Joshua, that the congregation of Israel might obey him ( Numbers 27:20.) With the death of Moses the work of legislation is closed.

After him, Joshua exercises the authority of government and direction. By his deeds he gains for himself respect among the people, like that which Moses had ( Joshua 1:5; Joshua 1:17; Joshua 4:14; Joshua 17:4; Joshua 18:3); similar wonders arc wrought through him: but he executes only inherited commands; his task demands the energy of obedience. Moses had always been named before Aaron (Moses and Aaron);[FN5] but when Joshua and the Priest were named together, Eleazar stood first. (Thus, Numbers 34:17; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 17:4; Joshua 19:51; Joshua 21:1). When Moses lived, the priesthood received their commands through him; after his death, Joshua received support and aid through the Priest ( Numbers 27:21). In accordance with this, we must understand what is said, Joshua 1:1, namely, that “the Lord spake unto Joshua.” For henceforth “there arose not a prophet like unto Moses.” That which Moses was, could not repeat itself in any other person. Joshua, therefore, was only the reflection of a part of the power of Moses; but as such he had conducted the first historical act of fulfillment demanded by the Mosaic law. The conquest of Canaan was the necessary presupposition of the Mosaic system. Israel, having been liberated, received a national homestead. When Joshua died, the division of the land among the tribes was completed. With the death of Moses the spirit revealed in the law enters upon its course through the history of the world. With the departure of Joshua, the national development of Israel in Canaan commences. The position of Moses was unique, and like that of a father, could not be refilled. When he dies, the heir assumes the house and its management. This heir was not Joshua, but the people itself. Joshua was only a temporary continuator of the Mosaic authority, specially charged with the seizure of the land. He was but the executive arm of Moses for the conquest (מְשָׁרֵת, “minister,” Joshua 1:1). His personality is inseparable from that of Moses. As Elijah’s spirit does not wholly depart from the nation until Elisha’s death, so the personal conduct and guidance of the people by Moses do not entirely cease until the death of Joshua. Joshua’s activity is just as unique as that of his teacher. He is no lawgiver, but neither is he a king or Judges, as were others who came after him. He is the servant of Jehovah, inasmuch as he is the minister of Moses. The correspondence between Judges 1:1 and Joshua 1:1, is therefore a very profound one. The death of the men, which these verses respectively record, gave rise to the occurrences that follow.

The sons of Israel asked Jehovah. Literally: “And it came to pass ….and the sons of Israel asked,” etc. The first “and” (ו) introduces the cause,[FN6] the second the consequence. It is moreover intimated that the consequence is speedy in coming, follows its cause without any interval. The translation might have been: “And it came to pass … that the sons of Israel immediately asked;” or, “Scarcely had Joshua died, when the sons of Israel,” etc. It lies in the nature of the Hebrew copula, that when it introduces a consequence, it also marks it as closely connected with its antecedent in point of time. The Greeks and Romans made similar use of καὶ and et. Cf. the line of Virgil (Æneid, iii9): Vix prima inceperat œstas, et pater Anchises dare fatis vela jubebat. The Hebrew idiom has also passed over into the Greek of the New Testament, cf. Luke 2:21; καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήςθησαν ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ .… καὶ ἐκλήθη, etc.: “and the child was eight days old, when forthwith it was named Jesus,” where the Gothic version likewise retains the double yah, “and.” This brings out the more definite sense, both in the parallel passage, Joshua 1:1, and here. Scarcely had Moses died, if the idea there, when God spake to Joshua. The government of Israel was not for a moment to be interrupted. Scarcely was Joshua dead, when the sons of Israel asked Jehovah. As Joshua succeeded Moses in the chief direction of affairs, so the congregation of the children of Israel succeeded Joshua. The representatives of this congregation, as appears from Joshua 24:31 and Judges 2:7, an the Elders (זְקֵנִים). Jewish tradition, accordingly, makes the spiritual doctrine pass from Moses to Joshua, and from Joshua to the Elders. These Elders are the seventy men chosen by Moses ( Numbers 11:16) to assist him in bearing the burden of the people. The term “Elder,” it is true, is applied to every authority among the people, especially civil. “Elders,” as representatives of the people, are witnesses of the wonders of God in the desert ( Exodus 17:5). The “Elders” are Judges 7 ( Deuteronomy 22:16); the civil authorities of each city are “Elders” ( Deuteronomy 25:7). “Seventy of the Elders,” with Moses and the priests, behold the glory of God ( Exodus 24:1, seq.). The שֹׁטְרִים, shoterim, officers charged with executive and police duties, become “Elders” as soon as they execute the regulations of Moses among the people ( Exodus 12:21). The seventy Elders who assisted Moses in bearing the burden that pressed upon him must, therefore, be distinguished from the authorities of the several tribes and cities. They represent the whole nation. As such, they unite with Moses, at the close of his career, in commanding the people to keep the law, and after passing the Jordan to erect a memorial of great stones ( Deuteronomy 27:1-2). During the regency of Joshua, the authorities and representatives of the people, beside the priests and Levites, consist of Elders, heads of tribes, Judges, and magistrates (shoterim). Such is the enumeration after the conquest of Ai, and particularly in Joshua 23:2, where, in order to give his last instructions to Israel, Joshua calls all the representatives of the people together. Again, in Joshua 24:1, it is stated that Joshua “called for the Elders of Israel, and for their heads, Judges, and magistrates.” If no distinction were intended here, it had been sufficient to say, “elders and heads;” for judges and magistrates were also “elders.” But he called together the national representatives and those of the several tribes, like two “Houses” or “Chambers.” The tribal representatives and authorities he dismisses; but the “Elders,” who belong to all the tribes in common, remain near him, as they had been near Moses. These, therefore are they who, when Joshua dies, step into his place. As on him, so on them, there had been put of the spirit that was on Moses ( Numbers 11:17). They quickly and zealously undertake the government. They determine to begin at once where Joshua stopped, to make war on the nations who have not yet been conquered, though their lands have been assigned to the several tribes ( Joshua 23:4). Joshua is scarcely dead, before the Elders inquire of God.[FN8]

No father ever cared for his children as Moses, under divine direction, cared for his people. Who, then, when he is gone, shall determine what the people are or are not to undertake? The answer to this question is recorded Numbers 27:21 : After the death of Moses, Joshua is to stand before Eleazar the priest, inquire of him after the judgment of Urim from Jehovah, and according to his answer they shall go out and come in. That Joshua ever did this, the book which bears his name nowhere records. It is characteristic of his exceptional position, as bound by the word and directions of Moses, that the word of God comes directly to him, although he ranks after Eleazar the priest. But this is not the position of the congregation of Israel; and hence the provision made by Moses for Joshua now formally becomes of force. For the first time since Numbers 27:21, we find here the word שָׁאַל with בְּ, in the signification “to inquire of Jehovah;” for the שָׁאל בּאוּרִים of that passage and the שָׁאל בּיהוָֹה of this are equivalent expressions. Inquiries put to the Urim and Thummim were answered by none but God. In the sublime organism of the Mosaic law every internal thought, every spiritual truth, presents itself in the form of an external action, a visible symbol. Urim and Thummim (Light and Purity) lie in the breast-plate on the heart of the priest, when he enters into the sanctuary ( Exodus 28:30). They lie on the heart; but that which is inquired after, receives its solution from the Spirit of God in the heart of the priest. Consequently, although in the locus classicus ( Numbers 27:21), the expression Isaiah, “to inquire of the Urim,” here and elsewhere in the Book of Judges it is always, “and they inquired of Jehovah.” The Greeks also used the expression ἑρωτᾶν τὸν θεόν for “inquiring of the oracle,” cf. Xenoph, Mem., viii3). The Urim also were an oracle, and a priest announced the word of God. The God of Israel, however, does not speak in riddles ( Numbers 12:8), but in clear and definite responses. Israel asks:—

Who of us[FN9] shall first go up against the Canaanite to fight against him? The word “go up” is not to be taken altogether literally. The Hebrew עָלָה, here and frequently answers in signification to the Greek ἐφορμᾶν, Latin aggredi. It means to advance to the attack, but conceives the defense as made from a higher level. The point and justification of the inquiry lies in the word “first.” The question is not whether aggressive measures shall or shall not be adopted, but which of the tribes shall initiate them. Hitherto, Moses, and after him, Joshua have directed the movements of the people. Under Joshua, moreover, all the tribes united in common warfare. All for one, each for all. The general war is at an end; the land is divided, the tribes have had their territories assigned them. Now each single tribe must engage the enemies still settled within its borders. This was another, very difficult task. It was a test of the strength and moral endurance of the several tribes. The general war of conquest under Joshua did not come into collision with the joy of possession and rest, for these had as yet no existence But after the dispersion of the tribes such a common war, under one leadership, was no longer practicable. It may also have appeared unwise that all the tribes should be engaged in general and simultaneous action within their several territories. Had one tribe been defeated, the others would not have been in a position to assist it. The question there fore concerned the honor and duty of the first attack. As yet no tribe held any definite priority of rank. For the sake of peace and right, it was left with God to determine who should first go up to fight against the inhabitants of the land, to grind them, as the word used expresses it, and thus deprive them of that power for evil which as nations they possessed. The signification “to war” of לָחַם, is illustrated by the meaning “to eat,” which it also has. The terrible work of war is like the action of the teeth on bread, it tears and grinds its object. Hence the Greek μάχαιρα, knife, belongs to μάχομαι, to fight, just as the Hebrew מַאֲכֶלֶת, knife, belongs to אָכל, to eat.

Judges 1:2. And Jehovah said, Judah shall go up. Judah takes a prominent position among the sons of Jacob, even in the lifetime of their father The misdemeanors of his elder brethren favor this. It is he who saves Joseph from the pit in which the wrath of the others designed him to perish; and who, by suggesting his sale into Egypt, paves the way for the wonderful destinies which that land has in store for Israel. He is capable of confessing his sins ( Genesis 38:26). He pledges himself to Jacob for the safe return of Benjamin, and him the patriarch trusts. He, also, in the hour of peril, speaks the decisive word to the yet unrecognized Joseph ( Genesis 44:18); and, although he bows himself before Joseph, the blessing of Jacob nevertheless says of him ( Genesis 49:8 ff.): “Thy brethren praise thee; the sceptre shall not depart from Judah.” The tribe of Judah holds the same prominent position. It is the most numerous tribe. At the first census ( Numbers 2), its military strength is greater than that of both the tribes of Joseph. In the desert, it leads the first of the four encampments,—that, namely, which faces the east ( Numbers 2:3).[FN10] It began the decampment and advance ( Numbers 10:14). Among those appointed by Moses to allot the land, the representative of Judah is named first ( Numbers 34:19); and hence when the allotment was actually made under Joshua, the lot of Judah came out first ( Joshua 15:1).

But the tribe of Judah had yet other merits, by reason of which it took the initiative on the present occasion. When Moses sent twelve men to reconnoitre the land, one man from each tribe, the messengers of Judah and Ephraim alone, full of faith and courage, sought to awaken within the people a spirit pleasing to God. The messenger of Ephraim was Joshua, the son of Nun, the minister of Moses; the representative of Judah was Caleb. Both obtained great credit for their conduct. Joshua became the successor of Moses. When Joshua died, Caleb still lived. The great respect which he enjoyed, as head of the tribe of Judah, and on account of the approbation of Moses, may also be inferred from Joshua 14:6.[FN11]

Up then! I have delivered the land into his hand. “Up then,” the address of encouragement: agite, macte![FN12] Judah may boldly attack—victory is certain. Caleb stands at the head of the tribe. He has already been assured of victory by Moses ( Numbers 14:24; Joshua 14:9). Josephus (Ant. v2, 1) calls the priest who officiates Phinehas. He infers this from Joshua 24:33, where the death of Eleazar is recorded. According to Jewish tradition, Phinehas also wrote the conclusion of the Book of Joshua.

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