An angel reproveth Israel at Bochim; they bewail their sins, 1-5. The wickedness of the new generation after Joshua; their frequent idolatry, 6-13; for which they are often punished of God by the enemy; and being delivered by the judges grow worse, 14-19; wherefore God will leave the Canaanite to prove and vex them, 20-23.
Verse 1: And an angel (or, messenger) of the LORD came up from Gilgal (Judg. 2:5) 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 (Gen. 17:7) I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
[And the Angel of the Lord ascended from Gilgal] Question 1: Who then was this Angel? Response: He was an Angel properly so called (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Lyra, Estius, Tirinus). Neither is there to be an appeal to metaphors without necessity (Bonfrerius). It was the same that appeared to Joshua, Joshua 5 (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Tirinus). A man would definitely not say, I led you out of Egypt, etc. The Prophets are wont to say this beforehand, thus saith the Lord (Bonfrerius). This was the Angel of the Covenant, as He is called in Malachi 3:1, namely, the Son of God (certain interpreters in Malvenda, Lightfoot). Other prefer him to be a man (thus Vatablus, Drusius, Junius, Piscator, Montanus’ Commentary, Martyr). He was an Angel, but not from above, but rather from below. The Prophets were of this sort, etc. (Drusius). A Legate, or Prophet, sent by the Lord (Vatablus). Such are called Angels, Haggai 1:13; Malachi 2:7 (Drusius, Grotius). Heavenly Angels are not said to ascend (as here), but to descend (Drusius, Montanus’ Commentary): and they descend from heaven, not from Gilgal, or any other earthly location (Drusius). But the Angel is said to ascend from Gilgal, because in Gilgal he first appeared, and thence transported himself unto this place (Lapide). When he began to appear, he seemed to approach unto them from the region of Gilgal where they were. Now, fittingly he came from that place, where he stayed for a long time for the protection of the camp, and was supposed to have stayed even now (Bonfrerius). Especially when that circumstance is able to excite again the memory of the former benefits received there (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Tirinus), and of the covenant renewed by circumcision (Theodoret in Menochius); and to rebuke the present idleness of the Israelites, who after so many commandments and promises had acted as those released to leisure (Bonfrerius). Moreover, it is evident that he was a man, because it is not read that he disappeared, as it is related concerning other Angels (Junius, Piscator). I believe that he is some Man of God, Prophet (Malvenda, thus Drusius). There is no necessary reason to indicate his name, since the matter itself demands credit, not from the name and credit of the speaker, but from the authority of the office and mandate (which at that time was sufficiently evident) (Montanus’ Commentary). The Hebrews maintain that this was Phinehas; concerning which they are to be derided (Bonfrerius). Either he was Prophet extraordinarily, or Phinehas (Junius, Piscator). But Phinehas had fixed his dwelling in Gibeah, not in Gilgal (Montanus’ Commentary). Perhaps this man of God dwelt in Gilgal (Malvenda). From Gilgal he went up, namely, after the people had transported the Ark from there to Shiloh (Junius). Question 2: When did he appear? Response: While Joshua was yet living (Tostatus, Torniellus and Salianus in Bonfrerius). For in verse 6 the dismissing of the assembly and the death of Joshua are reviewed. Concerning which see on verse 6 (Bonfrerius). He had gone up when Joshua, being near death, had summoned the people to himself, Joshua 24 (Junius). This does not satisfy: Then Joshua would have rebuked the people, and not have said that they had adhered to God unto that day, Joshua 23:8; neither would the people have declared, we will serve the Lord, etc., Joshua 24:24. In addition, it is evident that God had not willedthat all the Canaanites be driven out so quickly, or with Joshua living, Exodus 23:29, 30; Deuteronomy 7:22. Moreover, when Joshua says, Joshua 23, that God is not going destroy the Canaanites, if they enter into friendships and covenants with them, he clearly supposes that they had not yet entered into this fault; but here the Angel indicates that the fault was allowed. Then, I ask of them, whether the other Tribes, Ephraim, Manasseh, etc., which are noted as not destroying the Canaanites, ought to fulfill that before the Tribe of Judah renewed the war, or after. If before, how is it that all the Tribes consult God concerning that matter, and receive a response from God, that the beginning of the war ought to be undertaken by the tribe of God? But if after, that entire seeking after the oracle, and the beginning of the war by Judah, was after the death of Joshua, as it is evident from Judges 1:1, etc. (Bonfrerius). Therefore, others think that this Angel appeared after the death of Joshua (Bonfrerius out of Procopius, Serarius, Cajetan).
An angel of the Lord: either, first, A created angel. Or, secondly, A prophet or man of God, for such are sometimes called angels, which signifies only messengers of God; and then the following words are spoken by him in the name of God, as may easily be understood. Or, thirdly, Christ, the Angel of the covenant, who is oft called the Angel of the Lord, as we have formerly seen, to whom the conduct of Israel out of Egypt, and through the wilderness, and into Canaan, here spoken of, is frequently ascribed, as Exodus 14:19; 23:20; 33:14; Joshua 5:13, 14; Judges 6:12; 13:3; who alone of all the angels could speak the following words in his own name and person; whereas created angels and prophets do universally usher in their Divine messages with, Thus saith the Lord, or some equivalent expression. And this angel having assumed the outward shape of a man, it is not strange that he imitates the local motion of a man, and comes as it were from Gilgal to the place where now they were; by which motion he signified that he was the person that brought them to Gilgal, the first place where they rested in Canaan, and there renewed covenant with them, and protected them there so long, and from thence went out with them to battle, and gave them success.
[To the place of weepers (thus Munster), אֶל־הַבֹּכִים] To the weepers (Bonfrerius, Malvenda); to Bochim (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius). The place is thus named by way of anticipation, the reason of which is indicated in verse 5 (Piscator out of Junius). Question: Where then is this place? Responses: In Shiloh (certain interpreters in Bonfrerius), or near it (Junius). For, 1. we read that they sacrificed there; which was not lawful, except at the Tabernacle. But it was indeed lawful to sacrifice elsewhere, when it was evident that God willed it; as in Judges 6:19; 13:19; 2 Samuel 24; 1 Kings 18; 1 Chronicles 21 (Bonfrerius). 2. It is scarcely able to be pretended that all the children of Israel (unto whom he here speaks) were gathered into one place, except at Shiloh, for the sake of the solemn feasts. But God was able, after the people had gathered in Shiloh for the appointed feast, to appoint this assembly through a Prophet. Question: Why did he come up to this place? Response: Perhaps because it was near Jerusalem (as we shall see), where the Temple was to be erected, and the people were often to be gathered; for whom therefore the name and sight of the place might recall to memory both the blessings of God and their own ingratitude, etc. Moreover, both Josephus in his Antiquities 7:4 and the Septuagint call this place Κλαυθμῶνα, Place of Weeping, both here, and in 2 Samuel 5:23; and they locate it near Jerusalem, and think that it was a forest, or valley, or rather both (Bonfrerius).
Bochim; a place so called here by anticipation, for the reason expressed here, verse 5. And it seems to be no other than Shiloh, where it seems probable that the people were met together upon some solemn festival. And this was the proper and usual place of sacrificing, verse 5.
[And he says] Understanding, in the person of the Lord; which is to say, the Lord God says this (Vatablus). This Angel speaks in the person of God, just as a legate in the person of the one sending, I brought you out, etc. (Lapide). Others gather thence that He was God, because He subjoined, I brought you out, etc. (Malvenda). Perhaps this was that Angel of great counsel, who formerly appeared to the Fathers, and led Israel out of Egypt. But if it was a Prophet, thus saith the Lord ought to be understood (Drusius).
[I brought you out, etc., אַעֲלֶ֙ה אֶתְכֶ֜ם] I caused you to come up (Septuagint, Jonathan, Montanus, Munster, similarly Syriac, Arabic, Tigurinus, Pagnine). Verbatim: I shall cause to go up; the verb of the future/imperfect tense is in the place of the past/perfect (Vatablus, Glassius); as it is evident from the other verbs, וָאָבִיא, and I brought in, with the ו-conversive. Thus the future is in the place of the past elsewhere: Exodus 15:5, the depths יְכַסְיֻמוּ, will cover, them, that is, they covered; Numbers 23:13, the utmost part of them תִרְאֶה, thou shalt see, and the whole thou shalt not see, in the place of, thou hast seen, thou hast not seen, as it is evident from a comparison with Numbers 22:41. Thus in Judges 5:8, יִבְחַר, he will choose, in the place of, he chose, or had chosen, new gods; for it explains the reasons for the afflictions (Glassius’ “Grammar” 385). [Junius and Tremellius thus render it, and he had said, I will have brought it to pass that ye might come up out of Egypt, and will have brought you into this land, which I had promised by oath to your ancestors, and will have said, I shall not ever make my covenant with you void.] A weighty rebuke κατ᾽ ἀγῶνα, with respect to argumentative force (Junius). God framed the present rebuke by a comparing and contrasting of the matters themselves, and of the actions both parties, commemorating His own mercy, truth, and constancy, and complaining of their folly and obstinacy (Montanus’ Commentary). Either the future/imperfect is in the place of the past/ perfect to indicate the continuous benignity of God. Or the tense has respect to the beginning of the covenant and the oath with the fathers; which is to say, This is the summary and formula of the covenant formerly struck with you fathers, I shall bring you out of Egypt, and I will bring you in, etc. (Malvenda). Now, the beginning is taken from the very sorrow of the Israelites, in which they appear to complain of God (as it was customary) as the author of their calamities. This messenger denies this, and establishes that God was always the author of good things to them, but that they were the authors of their own miseries. I promised, that I would not make void: Therefore, this calamity has not proceeded from my forgetfulness, or from some causeless change of circumstances. I did not voluntarily inflict these evils, but was provoked by your demerit (Montanus’ Commentary). Now, in this chapter there is a very plain abstract of the following history; which in the very circumstances shows the usefulness of Royal power for the people, and thus restrains defections (Grotius).
And I said, that is, I promised, upon condition of your keeping covenant with me.
Verse 2: And (Deut. 7:2) ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; (Deut. 12:3) ye shall throw down their altars: (Judg. 2:20; Ps. 106:34) but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
[That ye strike not a covenant] Question: Were these covenants of the Israelites with the Canaanites valid? Response: I confess that this matter is confused to a remarkable degree; and there is reason for doubt, because with respect to substance it was unlawful, and prohibited by God. Many also think that the covenant with the Gibeonites was unlawful, although they had received the truth Religion: how much more this covenant with idolaters (Bonfrerius)? Likewise, I think that these covenants were unlawful to the Hebrews, but not necessarily void (Lapide, Bonfrerius). They were bound to keep them, especially if they were confirmed with an oath, because the law of nature and of nations requires this; otherwise all commerce would be destroyed, if they violate their agreements; and the Canaanites would be greatly scandalized, if the Hebrews had perjured themselves, and blasphemed God, as it were. Nevertheless, after it was plainly evident to them that God prohibited these covenants, they were not able to be scandalized, if the Hebrews, yielding obedience to God, rescinded them. The marriages of the Hebrews with the Canaanites were true marriages. And, although marriages of this sort are dissolved in Ezra 9 and 10, this is done, not because the marriages were nothing, but because under the old Law repudiation for just causes was permitted. Now, difference of worship, and the danger corruption, were just causes (Bonfrerius out of Lapide). Moreover, if these covenants were void, and the Angel had urged them to rescind the covenants, and the Israelites, being truly penitent, had been obliged to destroy the Canaanites; Solomon would not have tolerated them, as he did in 1 Kings 9:20, 21. Therefore, these covenants were indeed unlawful, but the performance of them was lawful. And indeed it is manifestly evident that these things are able to be distinguished: for, if a contract is unlawful, it is not necessarily void, unless the contract itself either is render void by a superior, or terminates upon unlawful material: neither of which here obtained. For God did not make these contracts void, nor did He prohibit them to be kept. The matter stands otherwise when the matter is evil, or plainly prohibited (Bonfrerius). [Peter Martyr thinks otherwise:] He asks why would they retain a covenant unlawfully made, when, if their repentance be true, they ought to have emended their sin. I do not have anything else that I might answer to these, except that it was not done because strength was wanting to them, and in punishment God had taken away from them strength and boldness. And, although they repented, yet He did not restore to them their former strength (Martyr).
[Why have ye done these things? מַה־זֹּ֥את עֲשִׂיתֶֽם׃] What? For what reason? (Vatablus). What is this? which is to say, How grievous is the sin? (Piscator). What is this that ye have done? (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Montanus’ Commentary). He asks as if of an unknown matter, so that He might show that He was a complete stranger to that counsel: which is to say, Ye have made covenants with them, with my admonitions slighted: I have declared them enemies, and I have delivered them to be destroyed; ye have made and chosen them as friends; therefore keep ye your friends (Montanus’ Commentary).
Why have ye done this?: that is, Disobeyed these express commands of mine?
Verse 3: Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be (Josh. 23:13) as thorns in your sides, and (Judg. 3:6) their gods shall be a (Ex. 23:33; 34:12; Deut. 7:16; Ps. 106:36) snare unto you.
[For which reason I was unwilling to destroy; that is, I do not wish to destroy, or, I have decreed not to destroy (Bonfrerius): וְגַ֣ם אָמַ֔רְתִּי לֹֽא־אֲגָרֵ֥שׁ] For this reason also I say, I will not drive out, etc. (Junius). I also said, I will not cast out, etc. (Tigurinus, Munster). I said, that is, within myself, that is, I have decreed (Piscator). That is, For this reason I was able rightfully to say, or, For this reason I will not drive out (Vatablus).
I also said with myself; I have now taken up this peremptory resolution.
[So that ye might have them as enemies] Hebrew: and they shall be to you לְצִדִּים. Which they render variously: in your sides (Pagnine, Montanus, Dutch); to your sides (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), that is, to prick your sides, after the likeness of thorns (Piscator). It is a defective expression (Drusius); understanding from Joshua 23:13, for thorn-bushes in your sides, that is, after the likeness of thorns, by which your sides shall be pricked (Vatablus). As thorns in your sides (English). They shall be to you on the side, that is, around you; they shall be ever troublesome to you (Malvenda). Others: they shall be to you for snares (certain interpreters in Malvenda), or hunting-spears, by which ye may be taken (certain interpreters in Drusius, Hebrews in Munster); from צוּד, to hunt, and to fish. Now, fishing is generally done with a curved barb (Munster), so that צִדִּים/sides might be in the place of צִידִים/pricks, as elsewhere צִצִּים/blossoms is in the place of צִיצִים/blossoms (Drusius). They shall be to you for oppressors (Jonathan in Drusius), for afflictions (Septuagint, Kimchi in Drusius). They appear to have read לְצָרִים, for afflictions, that is, with a ר/r instead of a ד/d. The root is צוּר, to oppress (Drusius). They shall be unto vanity (Syriac), for error (Arabic).
Thorns in your sides: see on Numbers 33:55; Joshua 23:13.
[And that their gods might be to you for ruin] The ut in the former member is to be taken causally (for God willed that they have enemies by whom they might be exercised), but in the latter member only consecutively (Lapide, Bonfrerius, similarly Estius). For God was not intending this fall into idolatry, but only to permit it, to punish their former sins (Lapide, Bonfrerius). God threatens that in His own manner He is going to punish sins with sins, as in Romans 1:24 (Martyr).
Verse 4: And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
[Unto all the children of Israel] That is, unto the whole assembly (Lapide). All, namely, that were obliged and wont to be present at similar gatherings (Bonfrerius).
[They lifted up their voice] Confessing their sins, and imploring the mercy of God (Martyr).
Wept: Some of them from a true sense of their sins; but most of them from a just apprehension of their danger and approaching misery from the Canaanites’ growing power, and God’s forsaking of them; as the following history makes most probable.
[The place of weepers] For the same reason it also is called the valley of tears, Psalm 84:6 (in which passage there is an allusion to this) (Bonfrerius).
[Sacrifices] Either, 1. sacrifices for sin (Serarius). This does not satisfy: For those are used nowhere except the Tabernacle; neither are they able to be used, on account of the ceremonies requisite in them: For they were able to be eaten by the priests alone, and only in the holy place. Or, 2. burnt-offerings. For, even if they are primarily intended to show honor to God, nevertheless in Scripture we find them used to propitiate God (Bonfrerius).
They sacrificed, etc.: For the expiation of their sins, by which they had provoked God to this resolution; and for the regaining of God’s favour.
[circa 1444 BC] Verse 6: And when (Josh. 22:6; 24:28) Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.
[Therefore, Joshua dismissed the people] Hence some conclude that the preceding things were said while Joshua was alive; how would he otherwise say this, and what would be the connection otherwise? Response 1: The connection that they allege is not able to stand. It is proven. It is treated here of Joshua’s dismissal of individuals unto their lots and possessions, as it is evident from this verse, which sufficiently indicates that they had not yet taken possession of them. But this appearance of the Angel was not able to be before their taking possession of them; for how are they to be blamed that they had left Canaanites in their lots, if they were not yet occupying their lots? Moreover, while this is true, they wickedly reject this appearance into the latter years of Joshua. Response 2: The connection with what precedes according to our opinion is manifest: The Angel had said that it was going to happen that the god of the Canaanites would be their ruin: now the Scripture declare how it was actually accomplished. Wherefore he repeats the matter from above, and declares when, and how long, and with what helps, they continued in their duty; namely, as long as Joshua lived (who dismissed them unto their lots), and the Elders, etc. (Bonfrerius). This narration is inserted for this reason, that there might be a relation of how long the Israelites retained the true worship of God (Martyr). These things are said by way of recapitulation (Vatablus). There is in this place a Hysteron-proteron. He repeats certain things out of the book of Joshua, so that he might smoothly pass from thenceto the institution and origin of the Judges that succeeded him (Lapide). This verse indicates the cause of those things that were narrated, and that will be narrated hereafter: They departed unto their possession, that they might obtain it. The sense: It was the pursuit and intention to enjoy the things furnished, and to decline the labor and tedium of war. Out of this pursuit of private advantage were following the covenants with the Canaanites, their neglect of public affairs, and their contempt of Religion, etc. But Joshua had dismissed the people, so that they might settle their wives and children in homes, and, after the example of the Trans-jordanians, who were ready for war, with troops mustered, they might with consummate zeal press to overthrow and destroy the enemy. But their whole concern was to possess the land, etc. (Montanus’ Commentary). But they urge those words, therefore, he dismissed. Response: They translate that וַיְשַׁלַּח, he had dismissed (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Montanus’ Commentary). Rather, for he had dismissed. For a declaration of the preceding history follows, or an exposition of the reason why God deserted the Israelites (Piscator).
When Joshua had let the people go; when he had distributed their inheritances, and dismissed them severally to take possession of them. This was done before this time, whilst Joshua lived; but is now repeated in order to the discovery of the time, and cause, or occasion of the people’s defection from God, and of God’s desertion of them.
Verse 7: (Josh. 24:31) And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua (Heb. prolonged days after Joshua), who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.
[circa 1426 BC] Verse 8: And (Josh. 24:29) Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
[Timnath-serah] From the dryness of this place it was thus called (certain interpreters in Drusius). So indeed it is called in Joshua 24:30, with the latter letters transposed (Vatablus, Drusius). But here in Hebrew it is called Timnath-heres, from the image of the sun imposed upon the sepulcher of Joshua (Hebrews in Munster).
Timnath-heres, called Timnath-serah, Joshua 19:50; 24:30.
Verse 10: And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which (Ex. 5:2; 1 Sam. 2:12; 1 Chron. 28:9; Jer. 9:3; 22:16; Gal. 4:8; 2 Thess. 1:8; Tit. 1:16) knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
[They had not known the Lord] That is, they did not worship Him. From that which precedes, that which follows is to be understood. He that does not know God does not worship Him, Seneca’s Epistles 96. The knowledge of God is not mere knowledge (Drusius).
Which knew not the Lord; which had no experimental nor serious and affectionate knowledge of God, nor of his works.
Verse 11: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim…
In the sight of the Lord; which notes the heinousness and the impudence of their sins above other people’s sins; because God’s presence was with them, and his eye upon them, in a peculiar manner, and he did narrowly observe all their actions, which also they were not ignorant of, and therefore were guilty of more contempt of God than other people.
[And they served Baalim] That is, Idols, or the gods of the nations: for by Baalim he signifies all the male gods; just as by Ashtaroth all the female goddesses (Lapide, Bonfrerius). בַּעֲלִים/Baalim with the plural termination often has a singular sense, like אֲדֹנִים/Adonim, אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, etc. (Drusius). They make use of the plural either for the sake of honor, after the manner of the Hebrews (Tirinus); or, on account of the diverse likenesses of Baal (Bonfrerius out of Augustine); or they even include other inferior gods (Bonfrerius). Baalim, that is, tutelary gods (Junius).
Baalim, that is, false gods. He useth the plural number, because the gods of the Canaanites and adjoining nations, which Israel worshipped, were divers, and most of them called by the name of Baal.
Verse 12: And they (Deut. 31:16) forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed (Deut. 6:14) other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and (Ex. 20:5) bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
Verse 13: And they forsook the LORD, (Judg. 3:7; 10:6; Ps. 106:36) and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
[Baal] Thus they call their god antonomastically, that is, the lord absolutely; the rest they addressed with an addition, like Beel-zebub, that is, the god of the flies (Lapide, Bonfrerius). בַּעַל/Baal, by others Beel, Bel, Belus, or Saturn, who is recorded as the first to have reigned among the Assyrians, that is, Nimrod. Among the Tyrians and Phœnicians he is none other than Jupiter (Bonfrerius). Fully written it is בַּעַל שָׁמֵין, Baal-shamen, the Lord of heaven, the Sun, the highest of the gods to those nations, whence he is called Jupiter by the Assyrians. See Macrobius’ Saturnalia 1:23 (Grotius).
[Ashtaroth, וְלָעַשְׁתָּרוֹת] It is plural, from the singular עַשְׁתֹּרֶת/Ashtoreth; just as the Greek and the Latins say Astartes, from Astarte. This is indeed an appellation common to the gods (that is, the female gods, as has been said); nevertheless, a single goddess is thus called (Bonfrerius). It is derived from the verb עָשַׁר, to be enriched, and properly to be blessed. Those women that foolish antiquity referred to the number of the gods, it called blessed. And, although it is ascribed to one in particular, yet it is not the proper of name of any, but has obtained the force of an epithet (Montanus’ Commenatary). Question: Who then was this goddess? Responses: Either, 1. Juno (Augustine in Bonfrerius); or, 2. Venus. Thus a great many suppose (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Malvenda). It is a cognomen, πολύμαστος, that is, the many-breasted one, or, rather, μεγαλόμαστος, that is, the large-breasted one, which was a symbol of fertility, which sort is in female sheep. Thence, therefore, this goddess from sheep was framed by the Tyrians and Sidonians, so that from her they might obtain the fertility of sheep (Lapide, Bonfrerius). The appellation came to this goddess from sheep; perhaps from the multitude of sacrificial victims (Drusius): or, that is, from the form of a sheep (Junius, Piscator, Munster). עַשְׁתָּרוֹת/Ashtaroth signifies the female of sheep (Munster). Others think that Juno is so called, because she was adored under the appearance of a sheep: for Jupiter Ammon was also worshipped under the appearance of a ram (Malvenda). Perhaps it is derived from עש/constellation, and תור/taurus/bull in Chaldean and Syriac; which is to say, Hyades, or the constellation of Taurus. Hyades is in the head of Taurus. Hence they were relating that Astarte, the daughter of Heaven and sister and wife of Saturn, placed the royal insignia, the head of Taurus, on her own head (Malvenda). I would prefer the goddess to be this Land; and to have it name from אֲשֵׁרִים and אֲשֵׁרוֹת, which signifies groves, as in Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:3; Judges 3:7, in which אֲשֵׁרוֹת/Asheroth is conjoined with Baalim. Whence it is proven that עַשְׁתָּרוֹת/Ashtaroth is a different pronunciation signifying the same thing; hence also in 1 Samuel 7:4. The Greeks translate it ἄλση/groves. Now, in such groves the Earth was worshipped. Under the name of Cybele this custom passed to other nations. Ovid’s Metamorphoses 7: A temple to the mother of the gods, which, hidden in dense forest, illustrious Echion had formerly made in fulfillment of his vow. Tacitus teaches us that the unspoiled forest of the Earth was thus consecrated by the Germans. Now, in some places the mere groves were dedicated to the Earth; in other places images were hidden, as under the appearance of a sheep among the Moabites, as the Rabbis relate (Grotius). The Gentiles were originally worshipping the Sun and the Moon: the Romans called them Jove and Juno; the Egyptians, Osiris and Isis; the Syrians, Baalim and Ashtaroth. A third was also added, the star of Venus, or Lucifer, which after the Moon shines more brightly than the other stars. Whence the anceints said that Venus is a lesser Moon, and that the Moon is truly a greater Venus. On account of which Astarte is Ἀστροάρχη/Astroarche, that is, the chief of the stars, to Herodianus. And the city of Ashtaroth was called Karnaim, on account of the two horns of Luna (Lapide). That Astarte is Luna is maintained by Lucian in Concerning the Syrian Goddess, and Herodianus in Roman History 5 “Concerning Heliogabalus”: but Philo of Byblos and most others maintain that she is Venus (Bonfrerius, Malvenda).
Baal and Ashtaroth; that is, The sun and the moon, whom many heathens worshipped, though under divers names; and so they ran into that error which God had so expressly warned them against, Deuteronomy 4:19.
Verse 14: (Judg. 3:8; Ps. 106:40-42) And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he (2 Kings 17:20) delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and (Judg. 3:8; 4:2; Ps. 44:12; Is. 50:1) he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they (Lev. 26:37; Josh. 7:12, 13) could not any longer stand before their enemies.
[And they sold, וַיִּמְכְּרֵם] And He sold them (Septuagint, Jonathan, Munster, Tigurinus, Montanus); He gave (Junius and Tremellius); He delivered (Syriac, Arabic), that is, He delivered them after the manner of a seller (Vatablus). To sell is everywhere taken for to deliver; as in Judges 3:8, He sold into the hands of Cushan, etc.; so in Judges 4:9, He shall sell Sisera, in the place of which, in verse 14, He gave Sisera. Contrariwise, Cicero, Avoid delivering, that is, selling, as learned men explain, thy books to anyone. Delivery is wont to follow selling as an effect. There is no need to inquire concerning the price, since the Scripture signifies that selling is able to be done without price; as in Psalm 44:12; Isaiah 52:3, ye have sold yourselves for nought (Bonfrerius).
Sold them, that is, delivered them up, as the seller doth, his commodities unto the buyer. This the same phrase is used Judges 3:8; 4:9, compared with Judges 4:14; Psalm 44:12.
Verse 15: Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and (Lev. 26; Deut. 28) as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
[But whithersoever they had determined to proceed, בְּכֹ֣ל׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יָצְא֗וּ] Whithersoever they went out (Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus). In every place in which they went out (Jonathan). By going out here is understood whatever business, either private, or rather public (Bonfrerius).
Whithersoever they went out, that is, whatsoever expedition or business they undertook; which is usually signified by going out and coming in.
[Just as He said] He had said. There is an allusion to Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (Bonfrerius).
[And they were exceedingly afflicted, וַיֵּ֥צֶר לָהֶ֖ם מְאֹֽד׃] [They vary. Some take it transitively, and refer it to God:] He vexed (constricted [Jonathan], afflicted [Munster, Tigurinus]) them greatly (Septuagint), grievously (Tigurinus, Munster). [Others render it intransitively:] And straightness was to them exceedingly (Montanus, similarly Pagnine).
[He raised up judges] Avengers extraordinarily. For it is evident from Judges 8:22, etc., that they were not ordinary Judges (Malvenda out of Junius).
The Lord raised them up, by inward inspiration and excitation of their minds and hearts, and by outward designation, testified by some heroical and extraordinary action. Judges; supreme magistrates, whose office it was, under God, and by his particular direction, to govern the commonwealth of Israel by God’s laws, and to protect and save them from their enemies; to preserve and purge religion; to maintain the liberties of the people against all oppressors. See Judges 3:9, 10, 15; 4:4; 6:25, 26; 8:23.
Verse 17: And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they (Ex. 34:15, 16; Lev. 17:7) went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.
[They would not hearken to them] That is, consistently, in such a way that they might not revert to idolatry. Compare verses 18 and 19 (Bonfrerius).
Their judges admonished them of their sin and folly, and of the danger and misery which would certainly befall them.
[And, hearing the commandments of God, they did all things contrary] That is, with the commandments having been heard, etc. (Bonfrerius). [But the rest refer it to the fathers, who are said to walk in the way of the Lord, etc.]
[לִשְׁמֹעַ] To hearken (or, by hearkening [Syriac, similarly Junius and Tremellius], or, so that they might obey [Munster, Tigurinus]) the precepts, etc. (Septuagint, Montanus).
Verse 18: And when the LORD raised them up judges, then (Josh. 1:5) the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: (see Gen. 6:6; Deut. 32:36; Ps. 106:44, 45) for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
It repented the Lord, that is, the Lord changed his course and dealings with them, as penitent men use to do; removed his judgments, and returned to them in mercy, Genesis 6:6.
Verse 19: And it came to pass, (Judg. 3:12; 4:1; 8:33) when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves (or, were corrupt) more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings (Heb. they let nothing fall of their doings), nor from their stubborn way.
They returned to their former, and usual, and natural, though interrupted course.
[They were doing worse things than their fathers, וְהִשְׁחִ֣יתוּ מֵֽאֲבוֹתָ֔ם] And they were corrupting themselves more than their fathers (Montanus, similarly Junius and Tremellius). And they were ruining, understanding, their way (Vatablus). They were spoiling the way of piety and morals more than their fathers (Montanus’ Commentary). Returning, and corrupting from the fathers (Jonathan). They were indulging their corruptions, in a way different from their fathers (Syriac). They were returning to corruption, after the manner of their fathers (Arabic).
More than their fathers, in Egypt or in the wilderness.
[They did not abandon their own inventions, לֹ֤א הִפִּ֙ילוּ֙ מִמַּ֣עַלְלֵיהֶ֔ם] They did not cause to fall from their actions (Montanus); not ceasing (abandoning [Syriac], removing [Arabic]) from their evil deeds (Jonathan, similarly Piscator); they did not shake themselves loose from their pursuits (Munster). While they were worshipping idols, they were diminishing or omitting nothing from the pursuits of their fathers, but were rather committing worse things (Vatablus). They ceased not from their own doings (English). They did not cast away their own pursuits (Septuagint, similarly Junius, Piscator), that is, did not put them away with detestation (Junius and Piscator). They were not diminishing, understanding, anything, from their doings (Junius and Tremellius).
From their own doings, that is, from their evil practices, which he calls their own partly because they were agreeable to their own natures, which in all mankind are deeply and universally corrupted, Genesis 6:5; 8:21; and partly because they were familiar and customary to them. Compare Isaiah 58:13; 66:3; Ezekiel 36:32; Acts 14:16; Jude 16.
[And the hardest way, וּמִדַּרְכָּ֖ם הַקָּשָֽׁה׃] And from their hard way (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus, similarly the Septuagint), that is, corrupt and depraved (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic), persistent way (Junius and Tremellius), stubborn way (English, Castalio), a way hard, difficult, evil, and disobedient (Vatablus). He calls their perverse way hard, either, 1. because it proceeds from a hard heart (Bonfrerius); or, 2. because they were disobedient and stiff-necked (Lapide); or, 3. because, although the way of sin appears soft and pleasant, yet it makes God harsh and angry (Menochius); or, 4. because, as a hard strikes against the feet of those walking, so an impious way strikes against God, and also injures the man himself (Piscator).
Their stubborn way; Hebrew hard way; so he calls their way of wickedness, either because it proceeded from a hard heart, and was managed with a hard and stiff neck; or to signify, that although it seemed at first very soft, and easy, and pleasant, yet they would certainly, and did constantly, find that it was hard, and difficult, and troublesome to them, as a hard way is to the traveller.
Verse 20: (Judg. 2:14) And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath (Josh. 23:16) transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice…
Verse 21: (Josh. 23:13) I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died…
[I will not destroy] That is, quickly (Grotius). Hebrew: I will not continue to drive out (Vatablus).
[Which Joshua let go and died (thus Montanus)] Which dying Joshua let go, or, left (Munster, Tigurinus, Syriac, similarly Junius and Tremellius); which he left after his death (Arabic).
Verse 22: (Judg. 3:1, 4) That through them I may (Deut. 8:2, 16; 13:3) prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
[So that in them I might prove] That is, that I might prove (Bonfrerius). Not that he does not know what is going to happen, but that in this way He might act as if He did not know, and desired to make trial (Bonfrerius, Lapide).
That I may prove Israel; either, first, That I may try, and see whether Israel will be true and faithful to me, or whether they will suffer themselves to be corrupted by the evil counsels and examples of their bad neighbours, whom I will leave among them for their trial and exercise. Or, secondly, That by them I may afflict and punish Israel; for afflictions are commonly and justly called trials. But the former sense suits better with the following words.
Hastily, or speedily; when the Israelites desired it and needed it.