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Judges 11:26: Jephthah Answers Ammon, Part 6

Verse 26:[1] While Israel dwelt in (Num. 21:25) Heshbon and her towns, and in (Deut. 2:36) Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?

[For three hundred years] In what do these three hundred years consist? Responses: 1. In Seder Olam[2] the Hebrews thus count the years: Joshua ruled Israel twenty-eight years; Othniel, forty; Ehud, eighty; Deborah and Barak, forty; Gideon, forty; Abimelech, three; Tola, twenty-three; Jair, twenty-two; and eighteen in which they served the children of Ammon: which make nearly three hundred years (Munster, Drusius). 2. Others maintain that the years of servitude are to be distinguished from the years of the Judges (Cano[3] in Bonfrerius, Serarius). But this makes the Scripture false, 1 Kings 6:1 (Bonfrerius). 3. The number begins from the exodus out of Egypt, whence he had made the beginning of the narration, Judges 11:16. But thus the years are three hundred and five. But this sort of ellipsis is not uncommon in the rounding of numbers. See Judges 20:46 (Junius). He does not speak with precision, but in a round number (Serarius, Bonfrerius, Menochius). For three hundred years, that is, approximately: For, as the most learned think, some years fall off. But this mode of expressing numbers is common in the Scriptures, as it appears in Numbers 1:46; 2:32; 11:21, and often elsewhere (Grotius). Thus the seventy sons of Gideon, Judges 8:30 and 9:5. And thus from Euripides,[4] when he had said in Orestes 352, χιλιόναυν στρατὸν (that is, a thousand-ship army), the Scholiast said, ἀπηρτισμένῳ ἐχρήσατο ἀριθμῷ (that is, he makes use of a whole number). Let us commence from either direction, there is always either something wanting, or something superfluous: for from the exodus there were three hundred and five, or three hundred and six, years; from the beginning of the conquest, two hundred and sixty-six, or two hundred and sixty-seven (Serarius). He calls them three hundred, because the manner of speech either of Scripture or of man everywhere bears this, and because it was nearer to three hundred than to two hundred (Bonfrerius). He urges long prescription (Lapide). We see that the right of prescription is not new, but engrafted in the minds of men by God Himself (Martyr). Laconians, in Archidamus’ speech, written by Isocrates,[5] We held Messene for more than four hundred years. It will not escape your notice that possession, whether private or public, are confirmed by prescription of long time. If the force of prescription be denied, material for quarrels and wars would never be wanting to Kings. Therefore, Tacitus, in Annals 6, ridicules Artabanus, King of the Parthians,[6] who was demanding back the ancient boundaries of the Persians and Macedonians and the things possessed by Cyrus and Alexander (Serarius). Doubtlessly, just as civil laws state that there is a certain time in which legal actions are excluded for the sake of the public good; so also between nations, but for a longer space of time, the same prevails with the right received, of which we treated in in Concerning the Law of War and Peace 2:4 (Grotius).

Three hundred years; not precisely, but about that time; either from their coming out of Egypt, or from their first conquest of those lands; and thus numbers are oft expressed: see Numbers 1:46; 2:32; 11:21; Judges 20:46. He urgeth prescription, which is by all men reckoned a just title, and it is fit it should be so for the good of the world, because otherwise the door would be opened both to kings and to private persons for infinite contentions and confusions.

[1] Hebrew: בְּשֶׁ֣בֶת יִ֠שְׂרָאֵל בְּחֶשְׁבּ֙וֹן וּבִבְנוֹתֶ֜יהָ וּבְעַרְע֣וֹר וּבִבְנוֹתֶ֗יהָ וּבְכָל־הֶֽעָרִים֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־יְדֵ֣י אַרְנ֔וֹן שְׁלֹ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ לֹֽא־הִצַּלְתֶּ֖ם בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִֽיא׃

[2] Seder Olam Rabbah was a chronicle from Adam to the Bar Kochba rebellion, written around 160 AD.

[3] Melchior Cano (c. 1509-1560) was a Spanish Dominican and Scholastic theologian; he served as Professor of Theology at Salamanca (1546-1552).

[4] Euripides (c. 480-406) was a Greek playwright, one of the great tragedians.

[5] Isocrates wrote a speech for Archidamus, prince of Sparta, protesting the settling of Thebans in Messene as a violation of treaty and of the right of prescription. Isocrates (436-338 BC) was one of the most influential rhetoricians of his day.

[6] Artabanus III was King of Parthia from 10 to 38 AD.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

Matthew Henry: 'He pleads prescription.... Their possession had never yet been disturbed, Judges 11:26. He pleads that they had kept this country as their own now about 300 years, and the Ammonites in all that time had never attempted to take it from them, no, not when they had it in their power to oppress them, Judges 3:13, 14. So that, supposing their title had not been clear at the first (which yet he had proved it was), yet, no claim having been made for so many generations, the entry of the children of Ammon, without doubt, was barred for ever. A title so long unquestioned shall be presumed unquestionable.'

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