Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying…
In the accompaniments of war, not only have the most terrible injuries been inflicted during the battles, but when over the persons of the conquered have sometimes been subjected to worse torments than any they could have endured on the field. These doings have often been defended on the ground that they were necessary to self-defence and self-preservation. Alas! they are sometimes only to be explained by the depraved desire in the human heart of exercising arbitrary and cruel power. The practice referred to in this chapter — that of excision of the thumbs of captives — comes under this class. Probably it was to brand men as cowards that Adoni-bezek carried on such a cruel practice. He had evidently delighted in practising as much cruelty as possible. If he had thus treated seventy-two kings, it is probable that he had maltreated, or caused to be tormented, many others of inferior rank. The victorious Israelites advance, and Adoni-bezek has to fight a battle in which, instead of being the victor, he is the captive. He was taken and led, a prisoner, into the presence of another. Never had he anticipated this; much less that he would have to suffer as others had done through him. With hands and feet writhing from the recent excision, he makes this acknowledgment: "As I have done, so God hath requited me."
1. Adoni-bezek notices the remarkable correspondence between previous barbarity and present suffering. He takes it in the sense of retribution.
2. The evil which falls upon us may ofttimes be the consequence of the wrong-doing of others. Sometimes various circumstances connected with bringing the offender to justice are so remarkable, and seemingly so responsive to crime, that there arises in the minds of others the belief that it is a special and divinely-imposed retribution.
3. The recognition of the correspondence between past acts and his present misfortune leads Adoni-bezek to ascribe it to a Divine hand: "God has requited me." He was not an Israelite, had probably been an idolater, and may have trusted in false gods for a long time, He had heard of God, and what He had done to other nations; now he finds himself conquered, and is led to attribute his personal sufferings to the God of the Israelites. God has so arranged natural law that it works in harmony with eternal justice. There is a subtle connection between our acts and our sufferings. We may see illustrations of this every day. A man may act in a certain loose and careless way and prepare for himself consequences the most terrible and unlooked-for. Another gives way to fierce, ungoverned passions, and makes himself, thereby, wretched. Another chooses to spend his time only in the pursuits of pleasure, and to squander his money on every foolish thing that pleases his eye; he soon finds himself without the power to enjoy, and without money to procure such enjoyment. Another gives way to pilfering, and soon finds himself discharged, characterless. Even if he is not punished by law, he is dishonoured. Or a youth may have kind parents, and every opportunity of making his way in the world, but he gives way to dissipated habits, and finally, when character is gone and friends are dead, is glad to earn the most trifling sum under men whom he once despised A just retribution in all such cases certainly follows the sin. Like Adoni-bezek, such must confess that God "hath requited" the wrong-doing.
4. This acknowledgment concerning the just requital of sin is sure to take place in the other world, if not in this. Pagan mythology taught that the mean and sly will, in the other world, take the lynx form; the slanderers, that of the vampire fanning ever to sleep, and sucking the life-blood at the same time; that the hypocritical will be as crocodiles, crawling in mud and shedding false tears; and that the narrow and bigoted, fearful of truth and loving error, may be as owls, hooting amid darkness and ruin, in the forsaken and desolate regions of the other world. May not the dishonest man there have to cringe and hide himself still more? May not the drunken man have a constant craving, a burning thirst, a racking brain? May not the ambitious man have a constant anxiety to obtain power, and the torment of always being supplanted, or effectually checked, by others? May not the avaricious man be in a constant fever of suspicion? May not the ill-tempered man be in a constant whirl of passion, and make himself more and more wretched? May not the ruthless and cruel fear the scorn of their victims and clutches of their enemies? May not the voluptuary have to bear the torment of an inflamed heart and ungratified lusts?
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?