Judges 20:26-28: Israel's Earnest Inquiry into the Will of the Lord

Verse 26:[1] Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, (Judg. 20:18) went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

[They, sitting, were weeping] A session/sitting-down of weepers was held. In the Sacred Books sitting down and rising up are opposed, Psalm 139:2; Lamentations 3:63 (Menochius).

Sat there before the Lord, and fasted; being now sensible of their former slightness, and now being truly humbled for their sins, which now they discover to be the true cause of their ill success.

[They fasted until evening] No other fasts were used among the Jews than those that were extended to the evening (Bonfrerius). Now, that they fasted and offered sacrifices, were indications of a fuller faith and repentance. But they wept, not perfunctorily and lightly, but bitterly and earnestly, and for the entire day (Martyr).

[They offered burnt-offerings, etc.] They restored by public decree public worship, interrupted on account of the negligence, not of Phinehas, but of the other priests; or, on account of unsafe regions. See on Judges 17:5 (Vatablus).

Offered burnt-offerings, to make atonement to God for their own sins. Peace-offerings; partly to bless God for sparing so many of them, whereas he might justly have cut off all of them when their brethren were slain; and partly to implore his assistance for the future, and to give him thanks for the victory, which now they were confident he would give them.

Verse 27:[2] And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the [Josh. 18:1; 1 Sam. 4:3, 4] ark of the covenant of God was there in those days…

Inquired of the Lord, to wit, by Urim and Thummim, Numbers 27:21. Was there; in Shiloh, where they were now assembled.

Verse 28:[3] [Josh. 24:33] And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, [Deut. 10:8; 18:5] stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

[And Phinehas] Who lived three hundred years, because of that zeal in Numbers 25 (Hebrews in Munster, Drusius, Montanus’ Commentary).

Phinehas the son of Eleazar: this is added to give us some light about the time of this history, and to show it was not done in the order in which it is here placed, after Samson’s death, but long before.

[Overseer of the house] Hebrew: standing to the faces, or, toward the faces, of it;[4] namely, the Ark, or God. See Deuteronomy 10:8 (Malvenda).

Stood, that is, ministered, as the word stand oft signifies, as Deuteronomy 10:8; 18:7; Proverbs 22:29; Jeremiah 52:12,[5] compared with 2 Kings 25:8,[6] because standing is the usual posture of servants. Before it, that is, before the ark; or, before his, that is, the Lord’s face, or presence; which shows that he was the high priest, for none else might appear there.

[Ought we to go out…or to cease?] This inquiry is fuller than the former ones: for they relinquish the whole matter to the will of God (Martyr). That is to say, Whatever is pleasing to thee, we will do (Osiander). They now profess themselves to be willing to act, not from hatred and ill will (which they had hitherto done), but according to the counsel and judgment of God; on account of which they call them their brothers (Montanus’ Commentary).

Or shall I cease? which, if thou requirest, we are willing to do, notwithstanding the provocation they have given us, and our own inclination to revenge.

[Tomorrow I will deliver] He promised and furnished victory on that day, yet with the people first cleansed (Grotius) [as it was said].

Tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand: now, when they had sought God after the due order, and truly humbled themselves for their sins, he gives them a full and satisfactory answer to their desires.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲל֣וּ כָל־בְּנֵי֩ יִשְׂרָאֵ֙ל וְכָל־הָעָ֜ם וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ בֵֽית־אֵ֗ל וַיִּבְכּוּ֙ וַיֵּ֤שְׁבוּ שָׁם֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וַיָּצ֥וּמוּ בַיּוֹם־הַה֖וּא עַד־הָעָ֑רֶב וַֽיַּעֲל֛וּ עֹל֥וֹת וּשְׁלָמִ֖ים לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁאֲל֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּֽיהוָ֑ה וְשָׁ֗ם אֲרוֹן֙ בְּרִ֣ית הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים בַּיָּמִ֖ים הָהֵֽם׃

[3] Hebrew: וּ֠פִינְחָס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָ֙ר בֶּֽן־אַהֲרֹ֜ן עֹמֵ֣ד׀ לְפָנָ֗יו בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵם֮ לֵאמֹר֒ הַאוֹסִ֙ף ע֜וֹד לָצֵ֧את לַמִּלְחָמָ֛ה עִם־בְּנֵֽי־בִנְיָמִ֥ן אָחִ֖י אִם־אֶחְדָּ֑ל וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ עֲל֔וּ כִּ֥י מָחָ֖ר אֶתְּנֶ֥נּוּ בְיָדֶֽךָ׃

[4] Hebrew: עֹמֵ֣ד׀ לְפָנָ֗יו.

[5] Jeremiah 52:12: “Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served (עָמַ֛ד לִפְנֵ֥י, stood before) the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem…”

[6] 2 Kings 25:8: “And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant (עֶבֶד) of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem…”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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