« AnteriorContinuar »
thumbs and their great toes. What he had done to them the Israelites now did to him, which was, no doubt, an act of God's justice, or else such cruelty would have been very wicked. The king himself felt that God had done this: “And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table : as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.”
Judah's part of Jerusalem was now completely conquered, a king of which city Joshua had before taken. The tribe of Judah also took Hebron, and Gaza, and Askelon, and Ekron, and other places.
I have said that Judah's part of Jerusalem was conquered, for this city stood partly in the lot of Judah, and partly in the lot of Benjamin, and Judah had only taken their own part, which was the southern part, but the northern part they left for the tribe of Benjamin to conquer, but they did not drive out the Jebusites who dwelt there; and there they remained when the Book of Judges was written.
Then the house of Joseph took Bethel, part of which belonged to Benjamin, and the other part to Ephraim. The tribe of Manasseh were very indolent, and left the Canaanites to hold several cities in their lot. Ephraim, also, neglected Gezer, a large city, and left the Canaanites to dwell there. Zebulun were alike careless about enlarging their lot, and only made the Canaanites in it to pay them some taxes for letting them alone. As for those of Asher they even dwelt among the Canaanites, and let them hold their lot. Naphtali did the same, except that they made the people pay them something for remaining quiet. Dan was forced into the mountains, and durst not go into the valleys given to them.
We shall see, by-and-by, what the Israelites got by their cowardice and neglect in taking the whole of the lots which Joshua had given them, and what miseries they brought upon themselves by living among the Canaanites.
Now, when Israel “took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods,” the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel—that is to say, he treated Israel as one would treat another when his anger is hot; though, as I think I have before told you, God cannot be moved with anger, and sin as we do.
Well, to show Israel how much he was displeased, he sold them, or parted with them, so as no longer to take special care of them, and let the king of Mesopotamia rule over them, which he did for cight years. But when they found that he treated them very cruclly, then they cried to the Lord, and he
was so kind that he pitied them, though they had behaved so ill towards him, and he gave his spirit to Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, "and he judged Israel and went out to war," and God delivered Israel from the cruel king, and “the land had rest forty years."
After Othniel, the first judge, was dead, " the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord.”
God now “strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab, against Israel.” And he smote Israel, and the people served him eighteen years.
Then Israel cried to God again, and O what a God is he to hear prayer ! for when they prayed to him in earnest,—which is what is meant by crying to God,—then he raised up another deliverer. This was “Ehud, the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left-handed," or, as some suppose, who could use his left hand as well as his right.
This Ehud was sent from the children of Israel to take a present, or, as it is thought, to take the taxes which Eglon had made Israel pay. So Ehud made a dagger of two edges, as long as his arm, and he put it under his garments, on his right thigh. The sword is mostly put on the left side, but that is for the purpose of being drawn by the right hand; here it was put to be drawn by his left hand; and perhaps he might bind it for the use of his left hand, to escape any observation that he wore one. When Ehud had offered the present, he sent away the people that were with him, and then going back, he said to the king, “ I have a secret errand for thee, O king." The king thought he had something very important to say, and commanded all to be silent, and then sent his state-servants away. Ehud was in a lonely room, built for the sake of quiet, and made very airy and cool, to use in the summer, in that part of the world where it is so hot. Then Eglon went near to him and said, “I have a message from God unto thee." The king rose to receive him with respect, and at that moment he ran him through the body, and being a very fat man, he fell heavily and died, yet no one heard what had happened. Ehud now shut the doors and locked them, and took the key, and passing quietly by the guards, he escaped. The servants now returned to attend the king, but, finding the doors fast, they thonght the king was asleep. “He covereth his feet," said they; for, as they wore slippers, when they went to slep on a sofa, they dropped them, and wrapped them round in the tail of their long garment. At length, however, after waiting a very long time, the servants feared that all was not right, and having got a key they opened the doors, “And, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth."
All this time Ehud was getting safely away, and, having escapod to his people, he blew a trumpet in Mount Ephraim, and he said to the children of Israel that came to him, “ Follow after me; for the Lord hath delivered your enemies, the Moabites, into your hands.” Now the Moabites had probably placed soldiers among the Israelites to keep them in slavery; so the Israelites went to the fords of Jordan, or places where they must pass home, and, as the Moabitish soldiers were trying to return home on hearing of the death of their king, Ehud slew them. “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" of all that had been oppressing Israel. "And the land had rest fourscore (or eighty) years."
For any man now to do what Ehud did it would be murder ; but he was the man whom God raised up to punish a wicked king, and act as his judge; and God showed his approval of what he did by saving Israel through his deed.
After Ehud “was Shamgar, the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad: and he also delivered Israel.”
Some think that Shamgar was only a commander under Ehud, and not a judge. He was, however, a brave man. The Philistines were very troublesome neighbours to the Israelites, and plundered them wherever they could get at them, so that, in the fifth chapter, we read that in the days of Shamgar, “ the highways were unoccupied;" that is, people were afraid of going on the great roads, lest they should meet the Philistine robbers, "and the travellers walked through bye-ways," or roads not generally used.
Shamgar, like most of the Israelites, was engaged in working his fields, when some of the Philistines came, perhaps, to take away
crops. Shamgar and his companions fought them, relying upon God for strength to drive them away; and he, being a strong man, seized an ox-goad, which used to be about three yards long, with an iron pike at one end, to drive the ox, and a sharp spade at the other end, to clean the plough. With this he himself slew six hundred men; they having, no doubt, soon taken flight, and been pursued by Shamgar and his friends. This courageous desence delivered Israel from these robbers.
Deborah and Barak judge Israel —Jael kills Sisera—Song of Deborah and Barak—Gideon's Exploits and Death.
JUDGES IV. VIII. “ And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord when Ehud was dead."
As former punishment did not cure the children of Israel, they were made slaves, and obliged to work to pay heavy taxes to a foreign king called Jabin, who reigned in a place called Hazor, and he was very powerful, “ for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.”
So God raised up Deborah a prophetess, a woman to whom he gave his Spirit to foretell things. And, when Israel again cried unto the Lord, she foresaw their deliverance. And she sent for Barak, and told him to command the armies, and what he should do, and how God would help him. So at her desire he collected “ ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali, and of the children of Zebulun," and at Barak's request she went with them to direct them, because God had given her so much wisdom.
Now Sisera, the chief general, or commander-in-chief of the armies of Jabin, soon heard what Barak was doing, and he collected all his chariots of iron, nine hundred in number, and a large army of foot-soldiers ; and he thought probably that he could surround the Israelites who were on the Mount Tabor.
Jewish writers say, that when Barak saw the large army of Jabin, he was quite frightened, but Deborah encouraged him, and said, “This is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. “And the Lord discomfited, or defeated, Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword, before Barak;" so that, in order to get away faster, “ Sisera lighted down off his chariot and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host.” “ And all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword, and there was not a man left."
Sisera ran away from his army, and, being invited by a woman named Jael, he hid himself in her tent, and “she covered him over with a mantle or cloak."
As soon as Sisera was asleep, Jael took a long nail, which was used in fastening the tent, and she boldly drove it into his temples, so as to fasten his head into the ground.
Barak was seeking after Sisera, but could not find him. At last he came Dear Jael's tent, and she ran to meet him, and told him she would show him his enemy; and there lay the general dead, with the nail driven through his head.
And now the Israelites were resolved to rid the country of this tyrant of Canaan. “ And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin, king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin, king of Canaan."
Then, according to the custom of the times, the conquerors made a song of victory to sing of the defeat of Sisera; and that this deliverance might not be forgotten, but be remembered as in a history. You may read this song in the fifth chapter of Judges.
Again we find Israel doing evil, " and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the Israelites were so cruelly treated, that they left their towns, and went and hid in caves or hollow places in the rocks. For, when they had sown their land, the Midianites wantonly destroyed the crop, and left no food for man or beast.
Now, Israel cried again to God; and God sent a prophet to the children of Israel, to tell them of their sins in forsaking him, and to cheer them. And an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, the son of Joash, as he threshed wheat by the wine-press, that the Midianites might not find it out. “And the Lord looked upon him and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites; have not I sent thee?"
And Gideon asked for some sign, that he might be sure he was right in trying to become a judge of Israel. Then he went and got something for the angel to eat, not knowing that he was an angel, as he looked like a man. And when he brought out a kid and some cakes, the angel told him to put them on a rock which was close by, and he touched them with a staff, which he had in his hand, and fire came out of the rock and consumed them.
Then the angel vanished away, and Gideon knew by this sign that he was not a man.
Gideon was now frightened, and he thought as he had seen an angel that he should die, but God spoke to his mind, - Thou shalt not die." And Gideon was then satisfied, and built an altar to praise God, and he called it Jehovah-shalom, which means, The Lord peace; or, as we understand it, “The Lord send peace.”
On the same night God commanded Gideon to throw down his father's