Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.…
I. These men, in some of whom the miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit were singularly manifested, were not chosen, like the suffetes of Carthage, with regal powers for a year; nor like the archons of Athens, with divided and carefully defined responsibilities; nor like the dictators of Rome, chosen to exercise uncontrolled power during extraordinary emergencies. They were not chosen by the people at all. They were sent forth by the Divine King of Israel — impelled by an inward inspiration, which was in several instances confirmed by outward miraculous signs to act in His great name. They were raised up as the exigencies of the times required; and their presence and their absence were alike calculated to keep alive in the nation a sense of dependence upon its invisible King.
II. The functions which the judges were called upon to discharge may be partly understood by referring to the position in which Moses and Joshua stood in relation to the twelve tribes. The judges were God's vicegerents. The parallel between the office of the judges and that of Moses or Joshua was not, however, complete. In so far as they were specially raised up to be God's vicegerents in Israel, it holds good; yet it was a separate and distinct form of government, and is recognised as such by St. Paul. Moses and Joshua was called, each of them, to introduce a new order of things. But during the period of the judges, nothing, in respect of God's covenant, was put upon a new footing. The history of the people is a succession of various fortunes, afflictions, and deliverances, alternating according to their public sin or their repentance: but no change occurred, permanently or deeply affecting their public condition. As often as the sins of the people brought down God's chastisements, and chastisement produced repentance, judges were raised up to repel the invader, and to restore peace and tranquillity. Hence they are frequently called, in the sacred history, "deliverers and saviours." The judges were the chief magistrates of the Hebrew commonwealth. As such, they had to deal with religious, no less than with civil, affairs; for the sharp line of separation between these which modern ingenuity has invented did not then exist. It became the duty of the judges to stir up the people to return to the Lord; and hence they needed to be themselves men of faith.
III. With regard to the effect of their administration upon the nation of the Jews, I think the period of the judges was, upon the whole, a period of national advancement. For, in the first place, the rule of the judges secured long periods of public tranquillity. Gloomy and fearful as are some of the details furnished in the Book of Judges, the Hebrew nation was nevertheless in a better state during that period, morally, politically, and spiritually, than it became afterwards during the reigns of the later kings. Not only the intervals of repose, but also the periods of warfare, must be taken into account in estimating the benefits of their rule. In general, they exerted themselves to prevent idolatry, dissuading the people from their besetting sin; but there were times when the people "would not hearken unto their judges"; and further, "when the judge was dead," they took advantage of the interregnum which sometimes occurred, and "returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers." These apostasies were followed by chastisements. The Lord forsook them; He permitted their enemies to oppress and torment them; "the east wind from the wilderness" dried up the fountain of their strength, until, at the point to die, they bethought themselves of His holy name. Miserable and forsaken, their name might have been blotted out for ever but for the "saviours" — figures of a greater Saviour — whom their God raised up to deliver them. Nor was success denied to these men in that which they undertook. The kings of Mesopotamia, of Moab, and of Canaan, the fierce mountaineers of Ammon: the innumerable hordes of the Bedouin; the lordly and persistent Philistines, were in turn humbled and subdued by these men who, through faith, "quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the ninnies of the aliens."
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.).
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.