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THE BOOK OF JUDGES.
Many commentators are of opinion that the Book of Judges extends only to the end of the sixteenth chapter; and that the remaining chapters should be regarded as an appendix.* A fragmentary history of the idolatry of the Danites is given in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters. It will be necessary to notice this fragment first in order, since it is supposed to be more ancient than any other portion of the Book. It refers to the time when the Danites were not established in any fixed habitations; but we learn from the concluding verses of the eighteenth chapter, that it could not have been written, in the precise form in which it has been transmitted to us, till after the carrying away of the Danites into captivity.
The History of the Idolatry of the Danites. This history is very important, as proving that the worship of Penates, or household-gods, was united with the belief in Jehovah—not only by a Hebrew tribe, but by the immediate descendants of Moses.
Micah, an Ephraimite, causes a molten image to be made of two hundred shekels of silver : he places this idol in a domestic chapel, and consecrates one of his sons to be its priest. Micah is shortly after visited by a Levite. The Ephraimite imagines that Jehovah will protect him, if he shall have a Levite for a priest to his idol; he therefore detains his visitor as his domestic chaplain :
Then said Micah, Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.”—Judges xvii, 13. * German theologians are divided in opinion respecting the date of this Book. Some distinguish three several parts, each belonging to a different period; the Book itself, and two appendices.--Tr.
But Micah does not long enjoy possession of his silver god or his priest. Six hundred Danites enter his house, seize the molten-image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and carry them off, together with the Levite, to be a god, and “ a priest, unto a tribe and a family in Israel," in order to secure prosperity to the new colony they are about to establish at Laish:
And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh."- Chap. xviii. 30, 31.
The Book of Judges, to Chap. xvi.
Representations of God. The opinions found in the Book of Judges are not of a higher character than those contained in the Book of Joshua. In so barbarous an age all intellectual progress is necessarily very slow. Jehovah is represented as the national-God of the Hebrews; as the protecting Deity of Israel. The Israelites universally believe in a national-god, and their actions correspond with such a belief. They continually worship the gods of the surrounding nations, with the hope of obtaining from them more powerful assistance than they receive from their own national-God :
They forsook Jehovah the God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook Jehovah and served Baal and Ashtaroth.”
Judges ii. 12, 13. Chemosh, the god of the Amorites, and Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, are both referred to by Jephthah, and the existence of the one God is as fully admitted as the existence of the other :
* Gershom was the son of Moses. See Exod, ii, 21,
“ So now Jehovah the God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess ? So whomsoever Jehovah our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.".
Chap. xi. 23, 24. When Jehovah is introduced as speaking of other gods, he seems to admit their reality; at any rate, he does not dispel the delusion of his people, by declaring that all the gods besides himself are merely imaginary beings, and that all trust in them is consequently utterly vain.
“ Thus saith Jehovah the God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bor age; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am Jehovah your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell.”— Chap. vi. 8-10.
“ Jehovah said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines ? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods : wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen ; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation."
Chap. x. 11-14. Attributes of God. In the above quotations power and jealousy are assigned to Jehovah. He frees the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, and drives out the Canaanites from the Land of Promise; he is therefore a mighty God. His anger and jealousy are often provoked by the worship of other gods :
They forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of Jehovah was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them. ..Whithersoever they went out, the hand of Jehovah was against them for evil.”—Chap. ii. 13-15. Jehovah repents of what he does :
“ Nevertheless Jehovah raised up judges which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. ..Then Jehovah was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies, all the days of the judge ; for it repented Jehovah because of their groanings,” &c.—Chap. ii. 16-18.
Government and Providence of God. The idea of a theocracy pervades this whole Book. Jehovah is the King of Israel. Gideon thus addresses the people:
“I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; Jehovah shall rule over you.”—Chap. viii. 23. When the Israelites renounce the worship of Jehovah and fall under the dominion of strangers, and feel the yoke of bondage, it is Jehovah who rescues them. They return to his service, and he raises up for them a leader who sets them free. The prosperity and adversity which succeed the allegiance to, or desertion from Jehovah, form the leading subjects of this Book.
Jehovah does not drive out all the nations of the Canaanites; he allows some to remain, because he wishes to prove the Israelites, and to ascertain whether or not they will suffer themselves to be led astray by their neighbours to serve other gods ; also because he is desirous that the inexperienced among them shall learn the practice of war.
“ Now these are the nations which Jehovah left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan ; only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as be. fore knew nothing thereof ; namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses."~Chap. iii. 1-4. Heroic courage is the effect of the immediate inspiration of Jehovah. Whoever performs any mighty deeds of valour, whoever is wrought up into a state of patriotic enthusiasm, whoever feels himself suddenly impelled to undertake some hazardous enterprise, he is filled with the spirit of Jehovah. It is not his own physical powers which are called into vigorous action, but it is the quickening power of his God working within him, that arouses, guides, and strengthens him to achieve a great victory.
“ The Spirit of Jehovah came upon Othniel, and he judged Israel, and went out to war, and Jehovah delivered the King of Mesopotamia into his hand.”—Chap. iii. 10.
“The Spirit of Jehovah came upon Gideon."~Chap. vi. 34. Of Samson we read
“The Spirit of Jehovah began to move him at times in the camp of Dan."-Chap. xiii, 25.
“The Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon him."
“And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them and took their spoil.”—Chap. xiv. 6 and 19.
“ And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.'
Chap. xv. 14. The “angel of Jehovah" takes a part in the divine government; sometimes the term “angel of Elohim” is employed. The angel appears in a human form to Gideon, to Manoah, and to his wife.
“And an angel of Jehovah came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land ; ye shall throw down their altars : but ye have not obeyed my voice : why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you ; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you."--Chap. ii. 1-3. The angel of Jehovah here speaks as if he were one and the same with Jehovah. In the sixth chapter, at verse 11, it is said—“There came an angel of Jehovah and sat under an oak, which was in Ophrah;" but at verses 14 and 16, this same angel is called Jehovah. He stimulates Gideon" to save the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites." Gideon makes ready a kid, unleavened cakes, and broth, and brings him this repast under the oak.
“And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of Jehovah put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of Jehovah departed out of his sight.”—
Chap. vi. 20, 21. It would seem that the visit of a stranger who had