JUDGES CHAPTER 2
1 An Angel rebuketh the people at Bochim. 6 The wickedness of the new generation after Joshua. 14 God’s anger and pity towards them. 20 The Canaanites are left to prove Israel.
Verse 1 Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.
The angel. The following five verses of Judges properly belong to the first chapter.
They are a fitting close to the account of the conquest and settlement recorded in chapter 1. In them the author explains why the chosen people were unable to make a complete conquest of the land.
The main theme of these verses is a rebuke to the Israelites for mingling the heathen religious practices of the people among whom they settled, with their own God-given religious forms. Instead of destroying the heathen altars, the Israelites worshiped before them.
It is difficult to ascertain of whom the writer is speaking when he refers to “an angel of the Lord.” The word “angel” literally means “messenger.”
The term “messenger of the Lord” may refer to a prophet whom God used to give His message to Israel (Haggai 1:13), but it may also refer to the Lord Himself, who is sometimes referred to by this title (see Ex. 23:20, 23; 33:2).
The fact that the message is not introduced with a “Thus saith the Lord,” which was the custom of later prophets, suggests that the speaker was the Lord Himself. The use of the first person also supports the latter view.
From Gilgal. The city that had served as the temporary headquarters of the tribes (Joshua 4:19; 9:6; 10:6; etc.). It was at this camp, on the western bank of the Jordan between Jericho and the river, that the mysterious “captain of the host” had appeared to Joshua (Joshua 5:13–15).
That captain was Christ (PP 488). It is possible, but by no means certain, that the same visitant is here presented.
Bochim. Literally, “weepers.” This name was given to the place following the experience that is now being recorded (see 4, 5).
No place by this name is known today, nor is it mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. The Septuagint, after the word “Bochim” adds the explanation, “and to Bethel.”
The event may have happened at Bethel, but the fact that they offered sacrifice there (5) suggests that most likely the place was Shiloh, where the tabernacle was pitched at that time.
The context indicates a great assembly, and it is possible that these events occurred in connection with one of the great religious assemblies such as the Passover or ingathering festival.
In this event the place would have been either Shiloh or a small village near it.
Which I swore. The promise was given in Gen. 12:7; 13:14–16; 15:18; 26:3; 28:13.
My covenant. See Ex. 34:10–16.
Verse 2 And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?
2. Make no covenant. See Ex. 34:12. It is evident from the record of the first chapter of Judges that the Israelites had made many leagues with the heathen inhabitants of Palestine.
The Israelites probably argued that these leagues were forced upon them because of their inability to drive the native inhabitants from their strong positions.
Tear down their altars. See Ex. 34:13. These “altars” were the peculiar stone pillar altars so prevalent in Palestine.
Social intercourse with the local inhabitants was the first step in Israel’s unfaithfulness.
The next step was taken when some of the people, through this means, were led to join in festivities around heathen altars, sacred trees, and pillars.
Once the barriers were broken down, apostasy, like a flood, swept in among them. In only a short time their course of fusion had wrought havoc with high religious principles. The same results follow a similar course today.
The Lord has warned, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Why have you done this? The messenger had begun by relating the things God had done for His people by delivering them from Egyptian bondage and establishing them in the Land of Promise.
Now the question is raised, What had they done for God in return? Their ingratitude was apparent in the religious apostasy that had become boldly evident within the space of only a few years.
Israel had flagrantly disobeyed in important matters that God had specifically commanded. They had broken the compact; therefore God could not fulfill His part of the agreement.
Verse 3 Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ ”
I also said. That is, God had given a previous warning (see Num. 33:55; Joshua 23:13).
That threat was now to be carried out. God would withdraw His conditional promises made in Ex. 23:31 and other places.
Shall be a snare. The worship of these heathen deities would result in gross corruption, which would cause the ruin of the entire nation (see Ex. 23:33; Ex. 34:12; Deut. 7:16; Joshua 23:13).
The failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land brought its own punishment. So it is with all sin.
Lust and corruption not only cut off the grace of God but bring retribution and punishment as a result of the sin itself. God often punishes sin with sin (see PP 728).
Verses 4,5 So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept.5 Then they called the name of that place Bochim; and they sacrificed there to the Lord.
Bochim. See on v. 1. The stern rebuke administered by the messenger caused the people to break into weeping.
It was a weeping of shame, and only partially of repentance. The name served thenceforth to recall the tears of disappointment and disgrace.
The place and the incidents connected with it remind us of the modern wailing wall in Jerusalem.
Like the Hebrews in this experience at Bochim, many today melt under the preaching of repentance, only to harden again before they can be cast into a new mold.
It is noteworthy how quickly these erring people were touched by the preaching of this messenger. The Word of God has the power to move and convert men, and one who is thus moved may properly weep over his past failures and mistakes.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
However, it would be much better if, instead of naming the place in such a way as to lay the principal stress on the feelings and demonstrations of sorrow, it might be called “Repentance.”
It is this latter experience that God is looking for. This expectation is well expressed in the words of Paul: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Cor. 7:10).
Too often religion is an experience of sentiment and emotion rather than of faith and obedience.
Verse 6 And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land.
When Joshua. By narrating the first efforts of the tribes to consolidate their position in Palestine, and the divine rebuke for Israel’s failure to obey God’s directions, the author has given the historical background that explains why it was that God raised up judges.
Now he turns to the main theme of the book, namely, to show how the alternating periods of oppression followed by deliverance were the result of God’s efforts to turn Israel from idolatry to loyal obedience to God and His law.
Before beginning the fluctuating history of oppressions and deliverances, the author ties his narrative to that of the book of Joshua.
Verses 6–10 are a recapitulation that picks up the story at the time of Joshua’s death and briefly fills in the history until the experience at Bochim related previously.
Verse 7 So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
Served the Lord. At least with outward deference and on a national basis. The memory of the mighty interpositions of God in their behalf for a time held the Israelites outwardly loyal to their faith.
Joshua. It is gratifying to realize how far-reaching the influence of a godly leader may be. His weight and influence over Israel were such that while Joshua lived they sufficed to keep the people loyal to their promises to the Lord.
Elders. The elders were the headmen of families and clans. They held official authority in social and religious matters and took a leading part in maintaining loyalty to the customs and religion defined by Moses.
When they died, religious apostasy set in quickly. This passage helps us to realize that not only great, renowned leaders may wield an influence for good but lesser officers as well may mold the pattern of religious life.
Verse 8 Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old.
Hundred and ten years. The record does not state how long Joshua lived after the assembly at Shechem.
His death probably occurred soon thereafter, for he was “old and stricken in age” (Joshua 23:1, 2) when he called this meeting of the heads and representatives of the tribes.
The occasion for calling the assembly was probably his realization that death was near. After telling of the breakup of the gathering, the narrator reports that Joshua died (Joshua 24:29), thus indicating he lived but a short time thereafter.
Verse 9 And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash.
In Timnath-heres. Literally, “portion of the sun.” In Joshua 19:50 and 24:30, Timnath-serah, “extra portion” (first and last letters of the second part transposed). It cannot be definitely known which represents the correct spelling.
The town was named Timnath, and because it was situated in a mountainous section known as Heres (see Judges 1:35), it is thought that the latter name may have been added to keep it from being confused with other towns named Timnath. The place is now called Khirbet Tibneh and is 9 ¾ miles (15.6 kilometers) northwest of Bethel in the central highlands.
Verse 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.
Another generation. This was a generation that had grown up in the land of Canaan subject to the corrupting influences of social and religious association with the idolatrous people of the land.
The children were reaping in abundant measure what their parents had sown.
Did not know not the Lord. They did not know from experience the mighty working of God, and their environment, with its corrupting influences, had not developed in them independent strength of character.
Joshua and the elders of the former day had served as buttresses (support)for their weak faith. When those buttresses were taken away by death, the people stumbled and fell because they had no strong religious foundation.
It is imperative that all Christians examine well the foundations of their faith to see whether their experience is a personal and direct relationship with God, or merely an outward endeavor based upon the experience of another.
Unless the former is true, they may suffer the same fate as these second-generation Israelites. Moreover, Christians do well to remember what Israel forgot, namely, the providential leadings of God in the past.
“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life sketches 196).
Verse 11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals;
Baals. variously rendered “husband,” “man,” “master,” “lord.” The term is also applied to heathen deities. At that time the Baal that was the most widely worshipped in Canaan was a god of agricultural fertility.
He was thought to be the giver of rain, whose energizing power caused plants and animals to grow.
He was worshiped in many places and under different guises.
The name gave rise to various terms such as Baal-peor, Baal-hermon, Baal-zebub, etc.
In the myths of the Canaanite people Baal was an opponent of the god Death (Mot). He was aided and abetted (aanspoor) by two female deities, Anath, his sister, and the sun-god Shamash.
Sometimes Baal was equated with Hadad, the Syrian rain or storm god. Since Canaan was predominantly an agricultural country, the worship of Baal under different titles was the supreme form of worship.
Sometimes the Hebrew writers used his name as the equivalent of any heathen deity, and that may be the case here.
The Israelites must have known of the terrible results of such worship, and of the eventual punishment to be meted out to those who took part in it.
They could hardly be ignorant of the experience of Baal-peor, when the plague carried off 24,000 people as a result of Baal worship and practices connected with it (Num. 25:3–9).
Verse 12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger.
Forsook the Lord. Their sin consisted not only of forsaking the God they had covenanted to worship but also of base ingratitude for their deliverance from abject servitude in Egypt from which God had delivered them.
From this servitude they could never have become free by their own power. They owed worship to the true God for what He was and for what He had done. His works for His people gave Him a right to their allegiance.
Other gods. Not only the deities of the peoples among whom they dwelt in Canaan, but, perhaps, the deities of the surrounding nations as well. When men forsake God there seems to be no limit to the extent to which they will go in their apostasy.
Verse 13 They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
Ashtaroth. The plural of Ashtoreth. This goddess was known also by the name of Astarte. In Babylonia she was called Ishtar.
She was the goddess of sexual love, maternity, and fecundity. In the Ras Shamra tablets she appears also as a goddess of war and of the chase.
Her worship was widespread all over the Near Eastern world, from Moab (her name is found on the Moabite Stone) to Babylonia.
She was worshiped in Canaan in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:5); Saul’s armor was placed by the Philistines in her temple as a trophy of their victory (1 Sam. 31:10); Solomon paid homage to her in his heyday (1 Kings 11:5).
The numerous female figurines found by archeologists in Hebrew and Canaanite dwellings are thought to be representations of her in her role of mother goddess.
In the Old Testament the names Baal and Ashtoreth are used almost synonymously for all the false gods and goddesses of Palestine.
The Hebrew language has no word for goddess. Ashtoreth was apparently used instead for the concept.
Verse 14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.
Plunderers. This word is a general summary of the various nations within Canaan and around its borders that raided, invaded, oppressed, or otherwise molested Israel.
The Hebrew word used here is the same that the Egyptians used of the Bedouin robber bands that harrassed their borders.
Verse 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.
Wherever they went. That is, whenever they went out to fight or embarked upon a military campaign, they were beaten because God was no longer with them.
Victories might have been interpreted as the sanction of God upon their sinful course and would thus have served only to confirm and to harden the Israelites in their apostasy.
This was one of the reasons why God allowed the heathen peoples to win and thus to punish His disobedient people. Yet in all this the purposes of God were salutary. (profited)
His punishments were corrective, designed to lead the Israelites back to their God.
Verse 16 Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
Judges. Their experience makes their name synonymous with “deliverer.”
They were champions or leaders whom the Lord called to meet special situations (see Introduction, page 301). After a period of punishment God would give the Israelites respite by enduing a chosen man with power and leadership sufficient to drive off the oppressors.
Later experiences would reveal whether or not the people had learned the lessons from the consequences of their religious apostasy.
Verse 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so.
Would not listen. Their defeats at the hands of enemies and the consequent oppression did not avail to teach the Hebrew people obedience.
In God’s efforts to save them He had allowed disaster to strike them. When He caused a lessening of their misery by the work of the judges, He found the people as impenitent as ever.
Played the harlot. This is a frequent metaphor in the Bible for religious apostasy. Inasmuch as the worship of heathen deities in the Near East was often accompanied by sexual immorality in their temples and groves, the term was not only metaphorically but literally exact.
Verse 18 And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.
When the objective was achieved, the oppression was removed or mitigated. This was entirely consistent with His original purpose.
Verse 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.
They reverted. That is, they returned to their former apostasies. They left off the worship of God and turned to the worship of heathen deities and the practice of corrupting idolatries.
In the setting of these facts the writer of the book of Judges presents his thesis, namely, that God allowed trouble to come as a result of sin to arouse His people to see the evil of their ways.
These troubles produced a form of sorrow and repentance. Then the Lord raised up a deliverer.
During the respite, He provided for a test of the genuineness of Israel’s repentance. After the death of the judge the ungrateful people soon fell back into their former ways.
It is this viewpoint that makes the book of Judges more than a mere history. It is a philosophy of history.
The author is not interested in merely recounting what happened after the settlement in Canaan. He is a preacher more than a historian.
He wants the reader to see why these things happened. He says that the period after the entrance to Canaan was unsettled, and in the main, disastrous for the Hebrews.
For a time they would be free; then again they would be in servitude or suffering invasion. Why was this?
It was because the people had turned from God, and He, in an effort to bring them back, allowed disaster to come. In other words, the author tells us that the hand of God was shaping history to bring about His desired ends.
The author of Judges was one of the first real historians. He sought to record for future generations the meaning of events.
More corruptly than their fathers. One of the striking characteristics of sin is the way it mushrooms.
Allow it a little beginning, and it soon chokes the ability to resist it, and overwhelms the entire life.
They did not cease. The sentence reads literally, “they let nothing fall of their deeds.” They were unwilling to put off any of their evil habits and practices.
Their hearts had not really been changed. If they had actually received a new spirit, it would have forced off these old practices as the rising sap in a tree forces off the dead leaves.
Verse 20 Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice,
Anger of the Lord. The passage is intended to portray God’s hatred of sin.
The anger is not that of impulse, but expressive rather of God’s abhorrence of evil, an abhorrence that has its foundation in the holiness of His character.
Man’s anger is a fire, burning with impulsive and selfish passion; God’s anger springs from eternal principles of righteousness and benevolence.
If God is infinitely good and holy, and if He knows the full misery that sin has brought into His creation, with what other sentiment can He regard sin than that of hatred and indignation that will ultimately doom it to annihilation?
In the meantime, God is seeking to save the sinner lest he too be consumed in the purifying fires (Eze. 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9).
Transgressed my covenant. God’s displeasure was not without cause. The fact that the people had taken part in and agreed to the covenant made at Sinai imposed on them obligations that were tantamount to commands.
The specific obligation they were so flagrantly ignoring was that which forbade the worship of any other god.
Verse 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,
No longer. The only victories they had gained had been won by the help of the Lord.
Israel had broken the terms of the covenant by worshiping other gods, so the Lord was free from His part of the contract and not under obligation to fulfill His promise to drive out the remaining native inhabitants of the land (Ex. 23:27, 31).
Verse 22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”
Test Israel. The object of leaving these heathen nations was not to ascertain whether Israel, thus exposed to close and constant contact with heathenism, would remain faithful to its own religion.
“God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).
Rather, from the first it was evident that Israel was not remaining faithful. God left the nations as instruments to afflict the Israelites, to punish them, and to teach them that the way of apostasy does not pay.
Through the afflictions God was endeavoring to turn the minds of His people back to Him.
This seems to be the connotation the word “test” holds here. It means “to try” in the sense of bringing trying experiences that will awaken the people to their true state.
Similar experiences have been the lot of men in all ages. Periods of suffering and disappointment have served to turn the thoughts of the tempted back upon the seriousness of duty and the great purpose of God in their existence.
These experiences were not to show up men’s characters to God, for He knows their hearts, but rather to “prove” to them their true estate.
Notwithstanding the repeated failures of Israel during this period, the discipline was not an entire failure. The chastisements by foreign nations must have wrought salutary changes in the lives of some of the Hebrews.
The stern and consistent punishments, no doubt, instilled in many the feeling that the way of sin was a way of sorrow.
To borrow Bunyan’s phrases, God made “By-path Meadow” rougher than the “King’s highway.”
After having been seized by “Giant Despair” several times, the Israelites were often glad to return again by the way they had departed.
These chastisements taught the people sufficiently hard lessons so that by the time of Samuel the Israelites seem to have made some progress spiritually.
At the end of the period of the judges, when Samuel’s judgeship was ushered in, we hear less of apostasies than formerly.
Furthermore, all these troubles tended to cause different tribes to draw closer together, so that by Samuel’s time a strong nationalistic feeling was discernible.
Keep the ways of the Lord. The natural tendency to do “every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8;Judges 17:6; 21:25) was fully demonstrated by Israel during the centuries they were ruled over by the judges, and later under the monarchy.
The ways of a man are usually “right in his own eyes” (Prov. 21:2). As a result, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).
Verse 23 Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
Left those nations. Obstacles are necessary to the development of character. It was well for the Israelites to learn how to live a holy life in the midst of a corrupt environment.
Continued conflict with the powers of evil would, if correctly met, develop true faith in God.
Because of this God had not fully prospered the first efforts of the tribes to consolidate their allotments.
It was for the same cause that He had not allowed Joshua to obtain absolute mastery of all the Canaanite territory.
The Lord had helped the Israelites to drive out as many of the Canaanites as were necessary in order to provide room for the tribes to settle.
His plan was that as the people increased in number and learned the lessons of obedience and faith, they were to be given power to drive out the remaining Canaanites.
In the history of Israel under David and Solomon this objective was, to a degree, at least, accomplished.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
2 MYP 432
7 PP 544
10–19 PP 545