Judges 3:7
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Did evil in the sight of the Lord.—Rather, did the evil, as in Judges 2:11.

And the groves.—Rather, and the Asheroth, i.e., the wooden images of the nature-goddess, Asherah (which are called also Asherim). The LXX. render the word Asherah by alsos, “a grove,” and other versions follow them. (Sec Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 16:21; 2Kings 23:14, &c.) Thus Luther renders it die Hainen, and it used to be erroneously supposed that the word pointed to tree-worship. The Vulgate rundere it “Astaroth.” It seems, however, to be clear from the researches of Mövers and others that Asherah and Astarte were different though allied deities. For the latter, see Judges 2:13. Asherah is from a root which means upright (like Orthia or Orthosia, a designation of Artemis, Herod. iv. 87), and her images are generally mentioned in connection with altars and images of Baal (Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3; 1Kings 14:23, &c.; Micah 6:12).

3:1-7 As the Israelites were a type of the church on earth, they were not to be idle and slothful. The Lord was pleased to try them by the remains of the devoted nations they spared. Temptations and trials detect the wickedness of the hearts of sinners; and strengthen he graces of believers in their daily conflict with Satan, sin, and this evil world. They must live in this world, but they are not of it, and are forbidden to conform to it. This marks the difference between the followers of Christ and mere professors. The friendship of the world is more fatal than its enmity; the latter can only kill the body, but the former murders many precious souls.And the groves - literally, Asheroth, images of Asherah (the goddess companion of Baal): see Deuteronomy 16:21 note. Jud 3:5-7. By Communion with These the Israelites Commit Idolatry.

5-7. the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites—The two peoples by degrees came to be on habits of intercourse. Reciprocal alliances were formed by marriage till the Israelites, relaxing the austerity of their principles, showed a growing conformity to the manners and worship of their idolatrous neighbors.

i.e. In the groves, in which the heathens usually worshipped their Baalims or idols. Or, the groves are here put metonymically for the idols of the groves, which are distinguished here from their

Baalim, which seem to have been worshipped in other places, as the prophets of Baal are distinguished from the prophets of the groves, 1 Kings 18:19.

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,.... Both by marrying with Heathens, and worshipping their gods:

and forgot the Lord their God; as if they had never heard of him, or known him, their Maker and Preserver, who had done so many great and good things for them:

and served Baalim, and the groves; of Baalim, see Judges 2:11; the groves mean either idols worshipped in groves, as Jupiter was worshipped in a grove of oaks, hence the oak of Dodona; and Apollo in a grove of laurels in Daphne: there were usually groves where idol temples were built; and so in Phoenicia, or Canaan, Dido the Sidonian queen built a temple for Juno in the midst of the city, where was a grove of an agreeable shade (d): so Barthius (e) observes, that most of the ancient gods of the Heathens used to be worshipped in groves. And groves and trees themselves were worshipped; so Tacitus says (f) of the Germans, that they consecrated groves and forests, and called them by the names of gods. Groves are here put in the place of Ashtaroth, Judges 2:13; perhaps the goddesses of that name were worshipped in groves; and if Diana is meant by Astarte, Servius (g) says that every oak is sacred to Jupiter and every grove to Diana; and Ovid (h) speaks of a temple of Diana in a grove. But as they are joined with Baalim, the original of which were deified kings and heroes, the groves may be such as were consecrated to them; for, as the same writer observes (i), the souls of heroes were supposed to have their abode in groves; See Gill on Exodus 34:13 and See Gill on Deuteronomy 7:5. It was in this time of defection that the idolatry of Micah, and of the Danites, and the war of Benjamin about the Levite's concubine, happened, though related at the end of the book; so Josephus (k) places the account here.

(d) "Lucus in urbe fuit media", &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1.((e) Animadv. ad Claudian. de raptu Proserp. l. 1. v. 205. (f) De mor. German. c. 9. Vid. Plin. l. 12. 1.((g) In Virgil. Georgic. l. 3. col. 295. (h) "Est nemus et piceis", &c. Ephesians 12. v. 67. Vid. Metamorph. l. 11. Fab. 9. v. 560. (i) In Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1. col. 481. & in l. 3. col. 721. (k) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 2. & 3.

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the {d} groves.

(d) Or Ashteroth, trees or woods erected for idolatry.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. did that which was evil] See Jdg 2:11 n.; forgat, cf. Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11 etc.; 1 Samuel 12:9; Hosea 2:13; Jeremiah 3:21.

the Baalim and the Asheroth] For the Baalim see Jdg 2:13 n. The word rendered groves by AV. (from the LXX ἄλσος, Vulgate lucus) is in Hebr. ashçroth (only here and 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3), usually ashçrim, plur. of ashçrah which denotes a wooden pole planted (Deuteronomy 16:21), or set up (2 Kings 17:10), beside an altar, and venerated as a sacred symbol. It was a characteristic feature of the Canaanite sanctuaries, and from them it was adopted by the Israelites; thus at Ophrah an ashçrah stood by the altar of Baal (Jdg 6:25), at Samaria, Beth-el, Jerusalem by the altar of Jehovah (2 Kings 13:6; 2 Kings 23:6; 2 Kings 23:15; cf. Deuteronomy 16:21 f.). It seems to have been a general symbol for deity. How it came to have this significance is disputed; some regard the sacred pole as a substitute for a tree and a relic of primitive tree-worship; others think that the name meant originally a sign-post, marking the precincts of the sanctuary, cf. Assyr. ashirtu ‘sanctuary,’ ‘temple.’ Here, however, and in a few other passages, ashçrah, like ‘Ashtoreth elsewhere (e.g. Jdg 2:13), is combined with Baal, and was served apparently as a divinity; cf. 2 Kings 23:4 and 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 21:7. Was ashçrah, then, a goddess, confused with ‘Ashtoreth and sometimes put in her place1[26]? From outside the O.T. we find undoubted evidence of a goddess Ashçrah, worshipped by the Babylonians in the remote period of Ḫammurabi (c. 2130 b.c.), and of Western or Canaanite origin; while the pr. name Abd-ashirta ‘servant of Ashçrah,’ which occurs frequently in the Amarna letters, implies her cult in Canaan in the xv cent. b.c.2[27] Still more decisive is the express mention of her name in the phrase ‘the finger of Ashirat,’ from one of the cuneiform tablets found at Taanach (Driver, Schweich Lects., p. 82). The goddess Ashratum, i.e. ‘the kindly,’ ‘the gracious,’ is simply the fem. of the god Ashur, sometimes written Ashir. In S. Arabia we meet with Athîrat, the wife of the moon-god; in N. Arabia (Têma) the name was pronounced Ashîra3[28]

[26] The confusion goes much further in the Versions, e.g. Vulg. here has Astaroth; but it is in no way due to any similarity in the names, which are quite distinct.

[27] The inscr. of Ḫammurabi which mentions Ash-ra-tum, ‘the bride of the king of heaven,’ is given by Hommel, Aufsätze u. Abhandlungen ii. 211 f. In the Amarna letters the pr. name alluded to is once written Ab-di-ash-ta-[ar]-ti, i.e. ‘servant of Ishtar,’ shewing how early the confusion between Ashçrah and ‘Ashtoreth began; see also Zimmern, Keilinschr. u. d. A. T.3 432 ff.

[28] For Athîrat in Minaean inscrr. see Hommel l.c. 206 ff., Expos. Times xi. (1899) 127; for the Aramaic inscr. of Têma see NSI. 195 ff. In the obscure expression ‘Ashtart in the ashçrah’ the name occurs once in Phoenician, inscr. of Ma‘sûb (NSI. 50). On some seals and gems, partly of Assyr.-Babyl., partly of Phoen. origin, an altar or a sacred tree is represented with what may be intended for a pole (or maṣṣçbah ‘pillar’) on either side.

. The bearing of this evidence upon the usage of the O.T. is not easy to make out; there was a goddess Ashçrah, though in the O.T. the name is probably not to be understood in this sense. At any rate the goddess never had a very distinct existence; in Babylonia she was overshadowed by Ishtar; in Canaan, at a later epoch, she was confused with, or absorbed into, the great Canaanite goddess ‘Ashtoreth, and survived merely in the name of the sacred pole, usually a general symbol for deity, but occasionally, as here, regarded as itself divine and worshipped. In this way, perhaps, we may do justice to all the facts.

7–11. Othniel delivers Israel from Cushan-rishathaim

The account of this deliverance is given as a typical illustration of the theory announced in Jdg 2:11-19. It is composed almost entirely of the standing formulae of the Deuteronomic editor. The other narratives of the Judges are founded upon some popular story, but there is no story here; the only details preserved are the bare names of the oppressor and the deliverer. As it stands this meagre notice can hardly be historical; but when we go behind it we seem to discover the faint tradition of an actual struggle.

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). Judges 3:7II. History of the People of Israel under the Judges - Judges 3:7-16:31

In order that we may be able to take a distinct survey of the development of the Israelites in the three different stages of the their history duringthe times of the judges, the first thing of importance to be done is to determine the chronology of the period of the judges, inasmuch as not only have greatly divergent opinions prevailed upon this point, but hypotheses have been set up, which endanger and to some extent directly overthrow the historical character of the accounts which the book of Judges contains.

(Note: Rud. Chr. v. Bennigsen, for example, reckons up fifty different calculations, and the list might be still further increased by the addition of both older and more recent attempts (see Winer, Bibl. Real-Wrterb. ii. pp. 327-8). Lepsius (Chronol. der. Aeg. i.-315-6, 365ff. and 377-8) and Bunsen (Aegypten, i. pp. 209ff. iv. 318ff., and Bibelwerk, i. pp. 237ff.), starting from the position maintained by Ewald and Bertheau, that the chronological data of the book of Judges are for the most part to be regarded as round numbers, have sought for light to explain the chronology of the Bible in the darkness of the history of ancient Egypt, and with their usual confidence pronounce it an indisputable truth that the whole of the period of the Judges did not last longer than from 169 to 187 years.)

If we take a superficial glance at the chronological data contained in the book, it appears a very simple matter to make the calculation required, inasmuch as the duration of the different hostile oppressions, and also the length of time that most of the judges held their office, or at all events the duration of the peace which they secured for the nation, are distinctly given. The following are the numbers that we find: -

1. Oppression by Chushan-rishathaim, (Judges 3:8), 8 years. Deliverance by Othniel, and rest, (Judges 3:11), 40 years. 2. Oppression by the Moabites, (Judges 3:14), 18 years. Deliverance by Ehud, and rest, (Judges 3:30), 80 years. 3. Oppression by the Canaanitish king Jabin, (Judges 4:3), 20 years. Deliverance by Deborah and Barak, and rest, (Judges 5:31), 40 years. 4. Oppression by the Midianites, (Judges 6:1), 7 years. Deliverance by Gideion, and rest, (Judges 8:28) 40 years. Abimelech's reign, (Judges 9:22), 3 years. Tola, judge, (Judges 10:2), 23 years. Jair, judge, (Judges 10:3), 22 years. Total, 301 years. 5. Oppression by the Ammonites, (Judges 10:8), 18 years. Deliveance by Jephthah, who judged Israel, (Judges 12:7), 6 years. Ibzan, judge, (Judges 12:9), 7 years. Elon, judge, (Judges 12:11), 10 years. Abdon, judge, (Judges 12:14), 8 years. 6. Oppression by the Philistines, (Judges 13:1), 40 years. At this time Samson judged Israel for 20 years (Judges 15:20; Judges 16:31 Total, 390 years. For if to this we add -

(a.) the time of Joshua, which is not distinctly mentioned, and 20 years. (b.) the time during which Eli was judge (1 Samuel 4:18) 40 years.

We obtain 450 years.

(Note: The earlier chronologists discovered a confirmation of this as the length of time that the period of the judges actually lasted in Acts 13:20, where Paul in his speech at Antioch in Pisidia says, according to the textus receptus, "After that He gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years until Samuel the prophet." The discrepancy between this verse and the statement in 1 Kings 6:1, that Solomon built the temple in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of Egypt, many have endeavoured to remove by a remark, which is correct in itself, viz., that the apostle merely adopted the traditional opinion of the Jewish schools, which had been arrive at by adding together the chronological data of the book of Judges, without entering into the question of its correctness, as it was not his intention to instruct his hearers in chronology. But this passage cannot prove anything at all; for the reading given in the lect. rec. is merely founded upon Cod Al., Vat., Ephr. S. rescr., but according to the Cod. Sinait., ed. Tischendorf and several minuscula, as well as the Copt. Sahid. Arm. Vers. and Vulg., is, καὶ καθελὠν ἔθνη ἑπτὰ ἐν γῇ Χαναὰν κατεκλληρονόμησεν αὐτοῖς τὴν γῆν αὐτῶν ὡς ἔτεσιν τετπακοσίοις καὶ πεντήκοντα, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἔδωκεν κριτὰς ἕως Σαμουήλ τ. πρ. This text is rendered thus in the Vulgate: et destruens gentes septem in terra Chanaan sorte distribuit eis terram eorum quasi post quadringentos et quinquaginta annos: et post haec dedit judices usque ad Samuel prophetam, and can hardly be understood in any other sense than this, that Paul reckoned 450 as the time that elapsed between the call of Abraham (or the birth of Isaac) and the division of the land, namely 215 + 215 (according to the Alex. reading of Exodus 12:40 : see the comm. on this passage) + 40 equals 470, or about 450.)

And if we add still further -

(c.) The times of Samuel and Saul combined, 40 years. (d.) The reign of David (2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 2:11), 40 years. (e.) The reign of Solomon to the building of the temple (1 Kings 6:1), 3 years. The whole time from the entrance of Israel into Canaan to the building of the temple amounted to,

533 years. Or if we add the forty years spent in the wilderness, the time that elapsed between the exodus from Egypt and the building of the temple 573 years. But the interval was not so long as this; for, according to 1 Kings 6:1, Solomon built the house of the Lord in the 480th year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, and in the fourth year of his reign. And no well-founded objections can be raised as to the correctness and historical credibility of this statement. It is true that the lxx have "the 440th year" instead of the 480th; but this reading is proved to be erroneous by Aquila and Symmachus, who adopt the number 480 in common with all the rest of the ancient versions, and it is now almost unanimously rejected (see Ewald, Gesch. ii. p. 479). In all probability it owed its origin to an arbitrary mode of computing the period referred to by reckoning eleven generations of forty years each (see Ed Preuss; die Zeitrechnung der lxx pp. 78ff.). On the other hand, the number 480 of the Hebrew text cannot rest upon a mere reckoning of generations, since the year and month of Solomon's reign are given in 1 Kings 6:1; and if we deduct this date from the 480, there remain 477 of 476 years, which do not form a cyclical number at all.

(Note: Bertheau has quite overlooked this when he endeavors to make the 480 years from the exodus to the building of the temple into a cyclical number, and appeals in support of this to 1 Chronicles 6:5., where twelve generations are reckoned from Aaron to Ahimaaz, the contemporary of David. But it is perfectly arbitrary on his part to include Ahimaaz who was a boy in the time of David (2 Samuel 15:27, 2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 18:19, 2 Samuel 18:22, 2 Samuel 18:27.), as the representative of a generation that was contemporaneous with David; whereas it was not Ahimaaz, but his father Zadok, i.e., the eleventh high priest from Aaron, who anointed Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 2:35), and therefore there had been only eleven high priests from the exodus to the building of the temple. If therefore this period was to be divided into generations of forty years each on the ground of the genealogies in the Chronicles, there could only be eleven generations counted, and this is just what the lxx have done.)

Again, the exodus of Israel from Egypt was an "epoch-making" event, which was fixed in the recollection of the people as no other ever was, so that allusions to it run through the whole of the Old Testament. Moreover, the very fact that it does not tally with the sum total of the numbers in the book of Judges is an argument in favor of its correctness; whereas all the chronological calculations that differ from this bring us back to these numbers, such, for example, as the different statements of Josephus, who reckons the period in question at 592 years in Ant. viii. 3, 1, and on the other hand, at 612 years in Ant. xx. 10 and c. Ap. ii. 2.

(Note: Josephus adds together the numbers which occur in the book of JudGes. Reckoning from the invasion of Chushan-rishathaim to the forty years' oppression of the Philistines (inclusive), these amount to 390 years, if we regard Samson's twenty years as forming part of the Philistine oppression, or to 410 years if they are reckoned separately. Let us add to this the forty years of the journey through the wilderness, the twenty-five years which Josephus assigns to Joshua (Ant. 5:1, 29), the forty years of Eli, the twelve years which he allots to Samuel before the election of Saul as king (6:13, 5), and the forty years which he reckons to Samuel and Saul together, and lastly, the forty and a half years of David's reign and the four years of Solomon's up to the time when the temple was built, and we obtain 40 + 25 + 40 + 12 + 40 + 401/2 + 4 equals 2011/2 years; and these added to 390 make 5911/2, or added to 410 they amount to 611 years.)

continued...

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