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§ 4. The State of Israel after the Death of Joshua.— Introduction of Idolatry.-War with Benjamin. Judges i. ii. xvii-xxi.



THE book of Judges, on which we now enter, is generally supposed to have been written by Samuel the prophet, and the last of the judges of Israel. appears to have been written after the establishment of monarchy in Israel-for the expression, "In those days there was no king in Israel" intimates that there was a king at the time when the history was written.

The period intervening between the death of Joshua, and the establishment of Saul as king in

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Israel, was about three hundred and thirty years. As Joshua appointed no successor; during the first century after his death, Israel was governed by the Sanhedrim (or seventy elders) alone: during this period the people gradually degenerated into idolatry, and were harassed and oppressed by their enemies; and then God, from time to time, raised them up judges or deliverers, who acted under his immediate authority, rescued the people from their oppressors, and did much to promote the fear and worship of God.

Joshua, before his death, had assured Israel that the Canaanites were yet in the land, and must be subdued. The people, therefore, inquired of the Lord, by the Urim and Thummin, which tribe should commence the attack?-Judah, the royal tribe, was appointed; and the venerable and stout-hearted Caleb was general of that tribe, until the valour and prowess of his kinsman and son-in-law, Othniel, brought him into notice. Probably also, the infirmities of age coming on, rendered it expedient that the command should devolve from Caleb to Othniel. The tribe of Simeon having its lot within that of Judah, joined with that tribe in the expedition; and they pursued their conquest with a mighty hand. Bezek they took Adoni-bezek, king of that place, and cut off his thumbs and great toes; which led him to acknowledge the retributive justice that had overtaken him; he having done the like to threescore and ten kings, and caused them to gather their meat


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from under his table. How often has it been seen, that with what measure we mete to others, it is measured to us again!

While the tribe of Judah conquered Zephath, Hormah, Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron (see map of Canaan) with its coasts, that of Joseph took Bethel, and, no doubt, the other tribes made some conquests; but in general, either from indolence, timidity, or false lenity, they forebore to pursue their conquests, as they were commanded, to the utter extirpation of the devoted Canaanites. See Judges i.

For this negligence they were reproved by the angel of the Lord at Bochim. The Lord had indeed fulfilled his promise to them, in giving them possession of the promised land; but it remained with them to secure their conquest by obeying the voice of the Lord, and totally extirpating idolatry;-this they had neglected to do, and they were now to be punished for their disobedience. They had, hitherto, been triumphant over all their opponents; but they were now in their turn to be brought into subjection, and to learn that lesson from adversity, which they had refused to acquire in prosperity. On receiving this intimation, the people wept, and offered sacrifices, and called the name of the place Bochim, or weeping.

Several years had now elapsed since the death of Joshua, and most of the men of his generation had also gone the way of all flesh; and the generation that rose up after them, awfully declined from the

piety of their fathers; for they "forsook the God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods-the gods of the people that were round about them-and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger, and forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth." Judges ii. 12, 13. Oh! ye children of pious parents, be warned,-when ye read in the history of the Israelites, that it was but one generation from those who declared that they would serve the Lord, and cleave to the Lord with their whole heart, to those who forsook the Lord and served Baal and Ashtaroth! Think against what light-what instructions-what examples, they sinned, and tremble lest you should do the same. Most effectually to prevent such dreadful apostasy, "remember now thy Creator in the days of youth," and "avouch the Lord to be your God,—in a covenant never to be forgotten."


In this book we have two very remarkable facts recorded, concerning, at first, individuals only; but in the end, productive of the most awful consequences to the people of Israel in general. The first relates to the introduction of idolatry :-A woman of Mount Ephraim, having been robbed of eleven hundred shekels of silver, was exceedingly enraged

*Though the narrative of these transactions is placed at the end of the book of Judges, the facts occurred not long after the death of Joshua; and certainly during the life of Phinebas, the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron. Chap. xx. 28.

at the loss, and openly imprecated the divine vengeance on the thief, if he would not restore it; declaring that it was devoted to God by a solemn vow, for the benefit of her son. He having stolen it, was affrighted by this curse, declared the theft, and restored the money. She not only forgave him, but gave him her blessing, such as it was, and they concurred together in the prosecution of her idolatrous design. In consequence, two hundred shekels were expended in making two images, and perhaps the remainder in preparation for the idolatrous worship. Micah had a house of gods, (a tabernacle or chapel ;) an ephod in imitation of the appointed garments worn by the priests; teraphim, or household gods, (probably with some design of imitating the cherubim over the mercy-seat;) and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. Thus furnished, he probably intended to worship the God of Israel, and having been at all this trouble and expense to imitate the divinely appointed ritual, he might ignorantly flatter himself that he could worship as acceptably as by going up to the tabernacle at Shiloh, and much more conveniently. In this manner have all inventions to add to the worship of God, or worship him in a way which he has not commanded, and all excuses for neglecting what he has commanded, crept in. Thus, those who worship saints, and angels, and images, and crucifixes, plead that they are designed to help them in worshipping the true God; and thus, those who neglect the divine appointments profess

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