Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;
Verse 1. - Now these are the nations, etc. We are now told in detail what was stated in general in Judges 2:22, 23, after the common method of Hebrew narrative. To prove Israel. This word to prove is used here in a somewhat different sense from that which it bears in ver. 4 and in Judges 2:22. In those passages it is used of their moral probation, of proving or testing their faith and obedience; but here it is rather in the sense of "to exercise" or "to accustom them," to train them to war. A considerable period of rest had followed Joshua's conquest, during which the younger Israelites had no experience of war; but if they were to keep their hold of Canaan, it was needful that the warlike spirit should be kept up in their breasts.
Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before 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 Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
Verse 3. - The five lords, etc. The title seren, here rendered "lord," is one exclusively applied to the lords of the five Philistine cities enumerated in Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17, 18, viz., Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. It occurs repeatedly in ch. 16; 1 Samuel 5, 6, 29, etc. The word means an axle-tree. The entering in of Hamath. There are two theories in regard to Hamath. Some, as Professor Rawlinson in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' identify it with Hamah, a large and important city on the Orontes in Upper Syria, and consider that the kingdom of Hamath, which was overthrown by the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:34; 2 Kings 19:13), and of which Hamath was the capital, was for the most part an independent Hamitic or Canaanite kingdom (Genesis 10:18), but occasionally, as in the days of Solomon and Jeroboam (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:28; 2 Chronicles 8:4), subject to Israel Others, however, justly considering the great improbability of the Israelite dominion having ever extended so far north as the valley of the Orontes, and observing how it is spoken of as an integral part of Israel (1 Kings 8:65), look for Hamath much further south, in the neighbourhood of Beth-rehob (see Judges 18:28, note). As regards the phrase "the entering in of Hamath," the identical Hebrew words occur seven times, viz., Numbers 13:21; Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; in this passage; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 7:8, and are variously rendered in the A.V.: "as men come to Hamath;" "unto the entrance of Hamath;" "the entering into Hamath;" "the entering in of Hamath (three times); and the entering of Hamath." The exact meaning of the phrase seems to be "the approach to Hamath," some particular spot in the valley from whence the direct road to Hamath begins; very much like the railway term for certain stations which are the nearest to, though at some little distance from, the place from which they are named, as, e.g., Shapwick Road, Mildenhall Road, etc. The latter words of the verse describe the territory of the Hivites, which reached from Mount Baal-hermon in the Lebanon range as far as the point where the road leads to Hamath.
And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
Verse 5. - The Canaanites, etc. The same enumeration of the tribes of the Canaanites as in Exodus 34:11.
And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
Verse 6. - They took their daughters, etc. Here is a further downward step in the disobedience of the Israelites. Intermarriage with the Canaanite nations had been expressly forbidden (Exodus 34:15, 16; Deuteronomy 7:3; Joshua 23:12), and the reason of the prohibition clearly stated, and for some time after Joshua's death no such marriages appear to have been contracted. But now the fatal step was taken, and the predicted consequence immediately ensued: "they served their gods;.., they forgat the Lord their God, and served the Baalim and the Asheroth."
CHAPTER 3:7-11 This section introduces us into the actual narrative of the Book of Judges, the prefatory matter being now concluded. The whole book proceeds on the same model as this section does. The apostasy of Israel; their servitude under the oppressor sent to chastise them; their cry of distress and penitence; their deliverance by the judge raised up to save them; the rest which follows their deliverance. There is infinite variety in the details of the successive narratives, but they are all formed on the same plan.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Verse 7. - The groves. The Asheroth, here and elsewhere (Judges 6:25, 26; Deuteronomy 16:21, etc.)wrongly rendered groves, were large wooden images or pillars in honour of Ashtoreth, and so are properly coupled with Baalim. This verse is in fact identical in meaning with Judges 2:13, of which it is a repetition (see note to Judges 2:13, and Judges 8:23).
Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
Verse 8.- Chushan-rishathaim, i.e., as usually explained, Chushan the victorious, or the wicked. His name, Chushan, or Cushan, points to Cush, the father of Nimrod (Judges 3:9
And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
Verse 9. - A deliverer. Hebrew, Saviour, as ver. 15 (see Nehemiah 9:27). Othniel, etc. Mentioned Judges 1:13; Joshua 15:17, and 1 Chronicles 4:13, where he is placed under "the sons of Kenaz," and seems to be the father of Hathath and Meonothai. According to Judith 6:15, he had a descendant, Chabris, living in the time of Holofernes. The Hebrew, though grammatically it favours the view that Othniel was the brother of Caleb, does not absolutely exclude the rendering that Kenaz was his brother, and so Othniel his nephew. Compare Jeremiah 32:7, where the words "thine uncle" apply to Shallum, not to Hanameel, as is clear from ver. 8. And as the chronology seems to make it impossible that Othniel should be Caleb's brother, since Caleb was eighty-five years old at the time of Othniel's marriage, and Othniel therefore could not be less than fifty-five, an improbable age for his marriage; and since, again, Othniel could not well have been less than eighty at Joshua's death, which, allowing only ten years for the elders, and reckoning the eight years for Chushan's dominion, would make him ninety-eight when he was raised up to deliver Israel, it is a lesser difficulty to take Othniel as the nephew of Caleb, by understanding the words, Caleb's younger brother, to apply to Kenaz. But perhaps the least objectionable escape from the difficulty is to take the phrase in its most natural grammatical sense, but to understand the word brother in its wider and very common sense of kinsman or fellow-tribesman. They were both sons of Kenaz, or Kenizzites. Caleb was the head of the tribe, and Othniel was next to him in tribal dignity, and his junior in age, but probably succeeded to the chieftainship on Caleb's death. This would leave the exact relationship between Caleb and Othniel uncertain.
And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
Verse 10. - And the Spirit, etc. This marks Othniel as one of the extraordinary Shophetim, or judges, Divinely commissioned to save Israel (see Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6, 19).
And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Verse 11. - And Othniel, etc. The arrangement of this verse suggests that Othniel lived through the whole forty years of rest, but this is highly improbable. The first part of the verse only belongs to the preceding section, which it closes quite naturally. The result of Othniel's victories was a rest of forty years (cf. ver. 30; 5:31; 8:28, etc.). The latter half of the verse - And Othniel the son of Kenaz died - begins a new section, and is introductory to the first apostasy, which followed after his death.
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
Verse 13. - The children of Ammon. The technical name of the Ammonite people (see Genesis 19:38; Deuteronomy 2:19, 37; Judges 10:6, 11, 17, etc.). Sometimes, however, they are called Ammon, or Ammonites (see Deuteronomy 23:3; 1 Samuel 11:11, etc.). Amalek, or the Amalekites, were the hereditary enemies of Israel (see Exodus 17:8-16; Judges 5:14; Judges 6:3, 33; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 15:2, etc.). The Amalekites appear, from Genesis 36:12, to have been a branch of the Edomites, and the latest mention of them in the Bible finds a remnant of them in the neighbourhood of Mount Seir in the days of Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:41-43). The city of palm trees, i.e. Jericho, as Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16. Jericho was the first city in Canaan which any one crossing the fords of the Jordan would come to (see Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:1, etc.). Though no longer a fenced city, it was important from the fertility of the plain, and from its commanding the fords.
So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
Verse 15. - Left-handed. It was a peculiarity of the warriors of the tribe of Benjamin to be left-handed (see Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2). A left-handed man wearing no sword or dagger on his left side, and using his right hand for other purposes, would naturally throw a man off his guard. Thus Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him, and then smote him with the sword in his left hand (2 Samuel 20:10). A deliverer. Hebrew, a saviour (ver. 9). A present, i.e. their tribute.
But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
Verse 19. - The quarries. It is uncertain whether this is the meaning of the Hebrew word. Its common meaning is images, as Deuteronomy 7:25, and elsewhere.
And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
Verse 20. - For himself alone. It seems to have been Eglon's habit to sit quite alone in this summer parlour for coolness sake, his attendants waiting in the adjoining antechamber. On this occasion he appears to have dismissed them from the antechamber, for greater privacy, while Ehud spake to him.
And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
Verse 22. - The haft, etc. Ehud, feeling the necessity of killing Eglon at one blow, plunged the dagger into his body with such force that the handle went in with the blade, and he was unable to draw it out. Leaving it, therefore, buried in his fat, he went out at once into the parshedon, or antechamber, for so it is best to render the last words of the verse, and thence into the misederon, the outer porch, having first locked the door of the summer chamber. The words parshedon and misederon occur only here, and the former is very variously rendered.
Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
Verse 24.- Covereth his feet, i.e. is asleep (see 1 Samuel 24:3). The servants, finding the door locked, and all quiet within, coneluded that he was taking his sie
And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
Verse 26. ? The quarries. See above, ver. 19. Seirath, or rather has-seirah, is not known as the name of a place. It seems to mean the rough or woody district, the forest in the hill country of Ephraim, where there was good shelter to hide in.
And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.
Verse 27. - He blew a trumpet. Like Alfred in the marshes of Somerset, he gathered a host around him in the shelter of the forest; and then, full of faith in his Divine mission, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," dashed down boldly into the plain, and, seizing the fords, cut off all communication between the Moabites at Jericho and their countrymen east of the Jordan. They could neither escape into Moab nor get help from Moab. Thrown into confusion by the death of their king and the suddenness of the attack, the Moabites fell to the number of 10,000 men; and so ended the second servitude, to be followed by a rest (if the numeral in the text is sound) of eighty years.
And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.
And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man.
So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.
Verse 31. - Of the Philistines. This is an isolated movement of the Philistines, alluded to in Judges 10:11, but of which we have no further details. In Judges 10:6 we read of Israel worshipping the gods of the Phllistines, and of an alliance between the Ammonites and Philistines to vex Israel; but the precise connection between the events of the two chapters, or the exact time when either occurred, cannot be determined with certainty. Nothing more is known of Shamgar, except the mention of him in Deborah's song (Judges 5:6).