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it was the only bond of union, and the only guarantee of law and order and political importance that the people possessed. That neglected, there existed no other. They could not trust in their numbers. In civilization they were the inferiors of the Canaanites. Simplicity and austere purity of life was their only hope. The grossly sensual worship of the Phoenician godswas certain to destroy wiat moral fibre the people possessed. And that, as the latter chapters of Judges shew, was very little. The Mosaic institutions were at present too lofty and pure for a people who had imbibed the vices of slaves, and had been trained in the heathen civilization of their Egyptian masters. The personal influence of men like Joshua and Phinehas no doubt secured a certain amount of external decorum. But occurrences such as those related in Numb. xxv. and Judg. xix. shew how insecure was the foundation of public morality. As soon as the worship of Jehovah was abandoned the only safeguard was swept away, and the whole nation speedily became almost as corrupt as its neighbours. The history does not fail to point out the connection between national apostasy and national ruin, and its silence is as eloquent as its direct assertions. Side by side with the complaints of the prevalence of idolatrous worship we may place the absence of any reference to that which God had enjoined. After the invasion of Chushan-Rishathaim there is no mention of a national observance of the law of Moses. The high priest is never once mentioned. Of the tabernacle worship we hear never a word. Micah led the way with his superstitious burlesque of the Mosaic rites?, in which he had the countenance of a descendant of Moses. The Danites soon followed his example: Gideon felt himself compelled to substitute the worship of a visible for that of an invisible Jehovah“. A few years later, and, in spite of Israel's repentance”, Jephthah does not appear to have had the slightest knowledge of the provisions of God's law as affecting his vowo, nor does any one suggest them to him. Samson and his parents, beyond their acquaintance with the

a

i See note on ch. ii. 11, 13.
3 ch. xviii.
5 ch. x. 16.

2 ch. xvii.
4 ch. viii. 27.

See Jost 1. 183. 6 See note on ch. xi. 36.

precepts relating to the Nazarite vow, betray scarcely the slightest knowledge of the Mosaic institutions?.

V. Influence of the Mosaic Law. Yet it would be a mistake to infer from this wide-spread demoralization and this general neglect of the Law that it had been altogether a failure during the period with which we are concerned. What its effect upon individuals was may be seen in the passages already mentioned?, as well as in the delightful picture of pastoral simplicity, uprightness, and piety which meets us in the book of Ruth. The sacred fire was smothered, not quenched. Its rites may have been confined to its own immediate neighbourhood, but the worship of the tabernacle must have been kept up in almost unbroken continuance throughout the whole of the period between Joshua and Samuels. The books of Moses still existed as a record of the high ideal set before Israel by Jehovah; a record to which his prophets could and did appeal4 The distresses and disorders in Israel were the evident results of a disobedience of its warnings. And the national conscience awoke to this fact under the exhortations of Samuel. Thus the period of the Judges was an important stage in the moral and religious development of Israel. It was a time of probation, a time of conflict between untamed nature and the discipline enjoined by God. Not only were the precepts of the Mosaic law, in their conceptions both of God and of duty, far above the level of the Israelites, they were immeasureably superior to any the world had yet seen. And they had been given to a people who were at the time, save in the one point of a traditional monotheism-a tradition we have no reason to believe very clearly comprehended-probably behind rather than in advance of the Egyptians both in philosophical and ethical enlightenment. When Joshua died they had only enjoyed the advantage of the Mosaic institutions for about 60 years, and a

1 Cf. ch. xiv. 3, with the strong prohibition in Deut. vii. 3, and Josh. xxiii. 12. ? See p. 16.

3 Ewald II. 442. ch. iii. 1; 1 Sam. ii. 27–30, vii. 3. 5 Bachmann, Commentary on Judges, Introduction.

nation whose institutions are far in advance of themselves do not, as a rule, appreciate them as they shouldı. But adversity was to do its work, and recall Israel to a sense of the blessings it had slighted. The reform introduced by Samuel was a prelude to the glorious times of David and Solomon. And though a fresh rebellion against God brought in the end fresh distresses upon God's people, yet they never again, whatever their sins may have been, sank so low as in the period covered by this book, Manifold as were the shortcomings of the Jews, grievous as were their misapprehensions of the higher meaning of their Law, that Law never, after this, entirely ceased to be both a witness to the world at large of One God, holy, just and true, Who would reward righteousness and punish iniquity, and a protest against the base, impure, unworthy ideas of God current among the heathen.

VI. Israel and her oppressors. A few words should be added concerning Israel's oppressors. The first was a king of Mesopotamia?, no doubt, as his name implies, a monarch of that Turanian dynasty founded by Nimrod in Babylon, before the Semitic kingdom founded by Asshur in Nineveh attained its supremacy. This was probably the last expiring effort of the Turanian power in Babylon. We read no more of Assyria or Babylon till the reign of Uzziah3. And this agrees with the recent discoveries from the monuments, which give us a time of anarchy and decay, previous to the transfer of power from Babylon to Nineveh 4.

The next period of oppression marks the last attempt of the Phoenicians to regain their ascendency over the land which

1 We may illustrate this remark by a reference to the history of our own country. The laws and reforms of Ina and Offa, of Alfred, of Henry II., of Edward I. were excellent, but they were not properly carried out, and so, for a time at least, they seemed to fail of their object. The history of rising nationalities in our own time will suggest further parallels.

See note on Chushan-Rishathaim, ch. ii. 8.

2 Kings xv. 19. • See Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies. Sayce, Babylonian Literature. In the latter a valuable summary of recent discoveries in Babylonian history is given in a small space.

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had once been theirs. Jabin king of Canaan, no doubt in possession of the resources which centres of commerce like Tyre and Sidon must have amassed, was a powerful monarch'. But his decisive defeat by Barak put an end for ever to Phoenician ascendency in Palestine.

The next calamity was of a different character, more resembling the incursions of the Danes in our own history. Nomad tribes, known as the “children of the east?,” invaded Palestine yearly, not for conquest, but for plunder, and their ravages caused the greatest terror and distress. But the signal chastisement inflicted on them by Gideon dispersed their bands, and delivered Israel permanently from these disorderly marauders.

This deliverance, however, wrought little real good. Since the true source of national strength had been forsaken, Israel lay at the mercy of her enemies on every side. The Philistines on the south, and the Ammonites on the east, endeavoured to partition the country between them? The latter put forth as a plea their desire to regain the territory which was once theirs, but which, after having fallen into the hands of the Amorites, had been occupied by Israel4. The brunt of the Ammonite invasion had to be borne by Gilead. By Gilead, accordingly, it was at last repelled. With Jephthah at their head the transJordanic tribes organized an expedition into the Ammonite territory', and put an end to Ammonite endeavours to subdue Israel.

The Philistine invasion was of a more formidable character. Dan and Judah were at the mercy of the invaders till the great victory under Samuel 6. Samson's exploits, though they annoyed the Philistînes, did not shake the foundations of their authority. It is doubtful if he did them as much injury as a guerilla chief might have done?. For in the time of Eli, who was probably

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4 xi. 13.

xi. 32.

2 ch. vi. 3. 1 ch. iv. 3

X. 7-9. 6 Sam. vii. 10.

7 Not so much, probably, as the border forays recorded in our history, or the raids by the Highlands upon the lowlands of Scotland.

contemporary with Samson, we find the Philistines penetrating beyond Judah and Dan into central Israel?. And the whole history of Samson implies that he and his countrymen were under Philistine dominion?. To relate how the Philistine yoke was shaken off is beyond our province. Commenced by Samuel, the struggle was carried on with varying success by Saul until the Philistine power was finally broken by David.

CHAPTER III.

THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE JUDGES.

The history of the Old Testament, as we are often told, differs from ordinary history chiefly in this respect, that while in the latter we must be content as a rule to trace the secondary causes of events, in the Sacred history we are brought face to face with the primary cause, namely the Will of God. And thus it follows that the ethical lessons which all history is calculated to teach, lie more clearly upon the surface in Scripture than elsewhere. It has already been shewn that an ethical purpose underlies the whole of this history. And we cannot doubt that from the careers of the various Judges we are intended to learn what to imitate and what to avoid.

I. Of Othniel, Ehud, and Barak there is little to be said. The significant omissions of the sacred writer in the history of Ehud3 are a sufficient proof of the fact that he did not commend a cowardly assassination. Othniel, we are led to suppose, was a brave and religious mano. Barak was no less personally brave, but he was superstitious. He could not conceive of the assistance of Jehovah without the personal presence of His prophetess 5.

1

i Sam. iv. 1, cf. vii. 12.

2 ch. xiii. 1, xiv. 4, xv. 11. 3 See note on ch. iii. 10. 4 iii. 12, where the declension occurs after his death.

Biv. 8, 9.

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