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Judges 17:6: "There Was No King in Israel..."

Verse 6:[1] (Judg. 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) In those days there was no king in Israel, (Deut. 12:8) but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.



[There was no king] The language of King is here taken broadly, so that it might also comprehend a Judge, or Chief Magistrate, as in Deuteronomy 33:5 and Judges 21:25 (Grotius, similarly Junius, Vatablus, Drusius, Piscator, Malvenda). Thus it is taken in Genesis 36:31 and Deuteronomy 33:5. For otherwise in the hands of avengers, concerning whom hitherto in this book, was not the ordinary administration and authority for governing: see on Judges 2:16 (Junius). Others explain: that is to say, These matters were not conducted in the times of the Kings, but of the Judges, whose power to restrain the people was not so great as that of Kings: thus Judges 18:1; 21:25 (Malvenda). I do not think that the Judges ought to be comprehended under the title of King. For in Judges 18:1 the same thing is said concerning that whole time in which the house of the Lord was in Shiloh, which includes the time of the Judges unto Saul, under whom it is read for the first time that the Tabernacle was in Nob[2] (Bonfrerius on verse 1). The sense of the passage: It is not strange that idolatry crept in, since there was no one that might efficaciously impede it, of which sort Kings were. But the Judges were compelling their own to their duty rather by exhortation and counsel, than by efficacious authority and punishments; as it is able to be gathered from Judges 2:16 and 1 Samuel 7:3 (Bonfrerius).



No king, that is, no judge to govern and control them. The word king being here used largely for a supreme magistrate; as Genesis 36:31; Deuteronomy 33:5. God raised up judges to rule and deliver the people when he saw fit; and at other times for their sins he suffered them to be without them, and such a time this was; and therefore they ran into that idolatry from which the judges usually kept them, as appears by that solemn and oft-repeated passage in this book, that after the death of such or such a judge the people forsook the Lord, and turned to idols. That which was right in his own eyes, that is, not what pleased God, but what best suited his own fancy or lusts.

[1] Hebrew: בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם אֵ֥ין מֶ֖לֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֛ישׁ הַיָּשָׁ֥ר בְּעֵינָ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃


[2] See 1 Samuel 21; 22.

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I had not thought about the language of King referring to the rule of judges. I had never connected the idea that at the time of Judges there was no king in Israel.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 12, 2019

George Swinnock's The Beauty of Magistracy: 'Take away government, and what would nations be but dens of devils, and cages of unclean birds? We see how wickedness abounds though we have magistrates to restrain it; but oh, the abominations that would be in the world if there were no government! What idolatry, witchcraft, blasphemy, heresy, murder, theft, atheism, barbarism, routs and riots, cruelty and villany would overflow in all places! When there was no king in Israel, then every man's lust was a law, and they fell to idolatry, uncleanness and much wickedness, as appears, Judges 17:6, and Judges 18 ult., and Judges 19:1; hence the taking away of the judge and the prophet is reckoned as a sore judgment…

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 12, 2019

Thomas Boston's Man's Fourfold State: 'The understanding, that leading faculty, is despoiled of its primitive glory, and covered over with confusion. We have fallen into the hands of our grand adversary, as Samson into the hands of the Philistines, and are deprived of our two eyes. "There is none that understandeth," Roman 3:11. "Mind and conscience are defiled," Titus 1:15. The natural man's apprehension of divine things is corrupt. Psalm 50:21, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself." His judgment is corrupt, and cannot be otherwise, seeing his eye is evil: therefore the scriptures, to shew that man does all wrong, says, "every one did that which was right in his own eyes," Judges 17:6, an…

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 12, 2019

Matthew Henry: 'What was the cause of this corruption (Judges 17:6): There was no king in Israel, no judge or sovereign prince to take cognizance of the setting up of these images (which, doubtless, the country about soon resorted to), and to give orders for the destroying of them, none to convince Micah of his error and to restrain and punish him, to take this disease in time, by which the spreading of the infection might have been happily prevented. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes, and then they soon did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. When they were without a king to keep good order among them, God's hous…

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Mar 12, 2019

Hebrew: This is a question about the broader semantics of the book... Does the language of King simply refer to the Judges? or is the writer of the book longing for a better government than that of the Judges? perhaps even Davidic Kingship?

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