King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Judges 3

The nations left to prove Israel. (1-7) Othniel delivers Israel. (8-11) Ehud delivers Israel from Eglon. (12-30) Shamgar delivers and judges Israel. (31)

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The nations left to prove Israel

1 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;

3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.

4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:

6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

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.

Othniel delivers Israel

8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.

9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.

10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.

11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

Ehud delivers Israel from Eglon

12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.

13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.

14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.

16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.

17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.

18 And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.

19 But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.

20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.

21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:

22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.

23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.

24 When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.

25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.

26 And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.

27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them.

28 And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over.

29 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.

30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.

Shamgar delivers and judges Israel

31 And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Instruct. The original is translated try, v. 4, and C. ii. 22. — And all. Heb. “as many of Israel as had not,” &c. H. — Those who had served under Josue, were so strongly impressed with a sense of the divine power and severity, that they never forgot them: but there was a danger lest their children should grow careless, if they were suffered to enjoy a constant state of prosperity. Virtue or power is made perfect in infirmity. 2 Cor. xii. 9. C. — He that hath been experienced in many things, multiplieth prudence. Eccli. xxxiv. 10.

Ver. 2. And be. Heb. “at least, such as before knew nothing thereof.” Though war be in itself an evil, the passions of men render it necessary, and God makes use of it as a scourge, to punish the wicked, and at the same time to keep all under due restraint. H. — Too long a peace has proved sometimes fatal to states and to the virtue of individuals. In adversity we call upon God, and adhere to him with greater fervour and constancy. The Jews were so prone to evil, that, if they were permitted to enjoy tranquility for a few years, they presently forgot themselves and the author of all their good, and even turned their backs upon the only true God. Their enemies forced them to have recourse to Him. C.

Ver. 3. Princes, (satrapas) a Persian word. M. — These heads of the five great cities of the Philistines, are called Seranim, (H.) but never kings, whether they were governors of so many petty states, united in the same form of republican or aristocratical government, or independent of each other. See Jos. xiii. Three of these cities are said to have been take by Juda, (C. i. 18,) unless the Sept. be more accurate, as this passage would seem to insinuate. C. — They might have thrown off the yoke in a short time, as we before observed. These five cities were Gaza, Geth, Ascalon, Azotus, and Accaron. H. — All but Geth were on the Mediterranean sea. C. — All the Chanaanites, &c. who dwelt in Libanus, with some others, who were dispersed though the country, v. 5. H. — These chiefly inhabited the environs of Sidon. — Baal Hermon. The idol of Baal might probably be adored on this mountain. M. — We find Baal-gad in the same neighbourhood, and both may mean the same city. C.

Ver. 4. Not. Various reasons are assigned, on the part of God, for not exterminating these nations at once. But their being spared so long, must be imputed to the disobedience of the Israelites, otherwise they would surely never have been tolerated with their idol-worship in the land of promise, to contaminate, by their wicked example, the manners of God’s people. If they would have redeemed their lives, they must at least have given up the land and their idols. As the Israelites proved so little zealous in destroying the latter, they were justly punished by God, in being deprived of what would have contributed to make them richer and more comfortable in this world. H.

Ver. 6. Gods. This was the fatal consequence which God had foretold. Deut. vii. 4. H.

Ver. 7. Astaroth. Heb. Asheroth, Sept. “the groves,” (M.) of which Astaroth was the goddess, (C.) like Diana. C. ii. 11. Various trees were sacred to idols. M.

Ver. 8. Chusan. This name leads us to conclude that this prince was of Scythian extraction, a descendant of Chus: (C.) it signifies “black,” or an Ethiopian.” M. — Rasathaim was perhaps the place of his nativity. As it means “of two sorts of malice,” Arias thinks that the Syrian kings took this title to shew that they would punish or repress all crimes against the civil or criminal law, (M.) those which affected the property as well as the lives of their subjects. H. — Mesopotamia. In Hebrew Aram naharayim. Syria of the two rivers; so called because it lies between the Euphrates and the Tigris. It is absolutely called Syria, v. 10. Ch. — Eight years, by manual labour and presents, testifying their submission to their oppressor, who might not perhaps live among them. C. — Moir’s edition, by mistake, reads eighty years. The Hebrews were equally fallible. C. iii. 30. H.

Ver. 9. Saviour. “We must remark, that the man by whom God grants us safety, is styled a saviour,” (S. Aug. q. 18,) though Christ is the proper and principal Saviour. W. — Caleb. Sept. “the younger son of Cenez, who was the brother of Caleb.” H. — Othoniel was one of the ancients. If he could not prevent the people from falling into idolatry, he rescued them from it. C.

Ver. 10. In him, to instruct and enable him both to rout the enemy, and to govern the people with prudence. H. — Chal. “the spirit of prophecy.” The oracle excited him to attack Chusan. Joseph. v. 3. He was entrusted with an extraordinary authority, in a wonderful manner, and God gave him all those virtues which were requisite for his exalted station. C. — Him. Heb. “his hand was strong upon Chusan Rasathaim.” He gained a complete victory over him, (H.) the particulars of which are not mentioned, though they must have been very interesting and extraordinary, as the power of Chusan was so extensive. C.

Ver. 11. Died, “forty years after Josue, according to the chronology of Usher, which we follow,” (C.) or rather Usher translates the land began to rest “in the fortieth year” from the peace of Josue. He places the death to that leader A. 2570, and the end of Chusan’s dominion 2599; so that, if we deduct 40 years from this last date, we shall come to the year 2559, the sixth of Josue’s administration, when he began to divide the conquered lands. He supposes that the peace of Othoniel lasted about 62 years, when Eglon disturbed it for eighteen years. “Aod delivered Israel. After him Samgar appeared, and the land rested till the 80th year from the peace of Othoniel.” Houbigant censures this indiscriminate use of cardinal and of ordinal numbers, and the blending times of servitude with those of peace; (H.) and “surely this method of reckoning is very harsh, and contrary to the usual acceptation of words.” C. — Yet it is adopted by many. W. — It may suit to form a system, but can have no solid foundation. H. — The epoch from which Usher dates is no where so distinctly specified, as that we should suppose that the author of the Book of Judges had it in view. Moreover, by this method, we are left to guess how long each of the judges reigned, or how long the peace which they had procured, subsisted. Usher admits that they years of servitude are specified; and, why not also the years of peace, since they are expressed exactly in the same manner? If the ordinal numbers 40th, 80th, &c. were intended, b would be prefixed, as Deut. i. 3.; and this grammatical observation along, suffices to overturn the calculation of Usher. Houbig. Proleg. — Salien dates from the death of Josue in 2600, and allows that 40 years elapsed from that period till the decease of Othoniel; including the years which some attribute to the ancients, and to the anarchy; (C. xvii. &c. to the end,) and also the eight years of servitude; so that instead of a rest of 40 years, we shall find that all was in confusion the greatest part of the time. The idolatry of Israel, which shortly brought on the servitude under Eglon, commenced immediately after the conclusion of these 40 years, when Salien begins to enumerate the years of Aod’s government. Thus he does from one judge to another. This system does not indeed make the text bend to uphold it, but it supposes that the sacred writer includes anarchy and servitude under the name of rest. In these matters much is to be supplied by conjecture, and hence the chronological difficulties which infidels propose, to invalidate the authority of the Scripture, can have but little weight, till the learned shall have discovered the exact disposition of former times. The first judge of Israel was of the tribe of Juda. The second was chosen from the almost ruined tribe of Benjamin, as the learned commonly place the dreadful catastrophe which befel that tribe during the anarchy which ensued, and the death of Josue and of the ancients. Aod had no share in the crime. H.

Ver. 12. Eglon, signifies “a calf.” C. — God made use of this prince to scourge his people, with the assistance of the neighbouring nations. He took Engaddi, in the plains of Jericho, and was thus enabled to keep an eye both upon his own subjects and the conquered Israelites. C. — Here he probably met with his untimely end. H.

Ver. 15. Aod, signifies “praise,” whence perhaps Josephus calls him Judes which has the same import. M. — He was a descendant of Jemini or Benjamin, by his son Gera. Gen. xlvi. 1. — Right. Sept. and many interpreters agree, that Aod was “Ambidexter,” a quality which Plato exhorted those who were designed for war, to strive to acquire. Several of the heroes before Troy are praised on this account; and the Scripture takes particular notice of 700 citizens of Gabaa, who could use both hands alike, and could hit even a hair with a stone. C. xx. 16. The Jews explain itter, very absurdly; Aod “had his right hand maimed or tied:” (C.) and Prot. render “a man left-handed.” H. — This would be a very awkward recommendation for a warrior, though it is pretended that such are more resolute, and more difficult to encounter than others. The number of the men at Gabaa who are praised for their skill, as well as the brave men of David, (1 Par. xii. 2,) shews sufficiently that the term does not mean left-handed. But the Scripture here takes notice that Aod could use his left hand so well, because he placed his dagger, contrary to custom, on his right side, and the motions of his left hand would not be so narrowly watched. Rufin does not agree with the present text of Josephus, which indeed seems very confused saying, “that all the strength of Aod lay in his left hand.” Gelenius also translates, utraque manu ex √¶quo promptus; (Ant. v. 5,) so that perhaps the Greek of Josephus may have been altered. — Presents; that is, tribute; an odious expression, instead of which the Scripture often puts presents, 1 K. x. 27. 1 Par. xviii. 2. No tribute was imposed in Persia till the reign of Darius Hystaspes; the subject had to make presents to the king. Herod. iii. 89. C.

Ver. 16. He made, or procured, though it was formerly honourable for a person to do such things himself. C. — Hand. Heb. gomed, is translated by the Prot. “of a cubit length,” (H.) though the term is never used elsewhere for that measure. Sept. have spitham√©, measure of 12 fingers. — Garment. The sagum, as well as the Sept. mandua, from the Heb. mad, denote a military garment. But such a dress might have rendered Aod suspected, (C.) unless an uniform might then be deemed a suitable dress for an ambassador. H. — Thigh. The Jews wore the sword there; (Ps. xliv. 4,) and it would be more convenient on the left thigh, as the nations of Gaul and Germany had it, while the Roman cavalry wore the sword on the right; and the infantry had two swords, the long one on the left, and a shorter, about an hand’s length, on the right. Joseph. Bel. iii. 3. Lipsius.

Ver. 17. Fat. The ancient version used by S. Aug. had , “lean,” which he justly took in an ironical sense. Sept. asteios, signifies “beautiful and genteel.” C. — Serarius explains it in the same sense as the Vulgate. M.

Ver. 18. Him; or according to the Heb. Sept. and Chal. “he sent away the men who had brought the presents.” C. — But is seems he followed after them as far as Galgal, (H.) whence he returned, as if he had been consulting the oracle, and had orders to communicate something of importance to the king, unless we translate, “He dismissed, &c. (19.) and as he was returned from the idols at Galgal, he said,” &c. at the same interview. C. — He would not expose his companions to danger. M.

Ver. 19. Idols. Heb. pesilim. Some take these to be only heaps of stones. Prot. “quarries.” H. — But the Sept. &c. represent them as “carved” idols. The same expression is used Ex. xx. 4, &c. The Moabites had probably placed idols here, to profane that sacred place, which was resorted to out of devotion by the Israelites. Osee iv. 14. Amos iv. 5. Here also the prophets inform us that the ten tribes adored and consulted idols; resembling perhaps that of Michas, C. xvii. 4. — Silence to Aod, (C.) that none of the people might be able to divulge the secret. Heb. “be thou silent.” M.

Ver. 20. Alone. Heb. “Aod approached unto him, and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself, alone.” It seems to have been a private closet, to which he retired for greater secrecy, as his officers concluded that he was there only to ease nature. H. — It might be rendered, “a hall of audience.” C. — But the place where Aod presented the tribute, was more probably of this description, and Eglon retired thence into a back parlour, and was followed by Aod, alone, v. 24. H. — A word. What Aod, who was judge and chief magistrate of Israel, did on this occasion, was by a special inspiration of God: but such things are not to be imitated by private men. Ch. S. Aug. q. 20. Num. xxv. W. — Heb. “a thing (message, &c.) from God, (Aleim) or the gods.” Probably the king would imagine that he was speaking of the idols at Galgal, and being full of awe for them, would be off his guard, and rise up out of respect. See Num. xxiii. 18. Ex. iii. 5. C. — But as the word Elohim was only abusively applied to idols and to great men, Aod might say with truth, that he had a word or an errand from Elohim to the king, without minding in what sense Eglon would take the expression. See S. Aug. q. 20. Orig. hom. 4. Though God permitted this king to attack his people, and to scourge them for a time, he did not approve of his injustice, and now authorized the chief magistrate of Israel to revenge their wrongs. H. — God is the arbiter of our lives, and may order whatsoever he pleases to put us to death. But the doctrine of J. Huss, who preached, “It is lawful for every subject to kill any tyrant,” was condemned in the C. of Constance. David severely punished the man wo pretended that he had slain Saul. The first Christians never entered into any revolt against those cruel and impious emperors who oppressed them, and whose title to the throne was evidently unjust. See Rom. xiii. 1. Under what government are all satisfied, or of the same religion with the sovereign? Even if any should pretend that they have an order from God to kill a tyrant, they must give proof of their commission to the lawful superiors, or them must expect to be treated as fanatical impostors. C. — Throne; or Heb. “seat.” The throne of state would not probably be placed in a retired chamber. H. — The king rose up out of respect to the deity; (M.) and at the same moment, Aod plunged the dagger into his bowels. H.

Ver. 22. With, &c. Heb. Prot. “And the haft also went in after the blade, and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly, and the dirt came out.” By the word belly, the Jews mean all the vital parts. C. —- The wound was so deep, that Aod did not think proper to strive long to extract his sword; and indeed, being all bloody, it would have only tended to excite suspicion. H. — The Chal. agrees with the Vulg. in rendering parshedona “excrements,” though it seem to be rather irregularly in construction with a masc. [], &c. If we should read peristana, “a porch,” the difficulty would be avoided. C. — Sept. “(23) and Aod went out into the porch, (prostada) and he shut the doors of the upper chamber…(24) and he himself went out.” H.

Ver. 24. Door. Lyranus would prefer porticum, “the porch,” as the Chal. explains the Heb. by exedra, a portico highly ornamented with pillars and seats, where the princes formerly used to administer justice. Homer give a grand description of the portico of Alcinous. Odys. H. — See that of Solomon described, 3 K. vii. 6. C. — The Rom. Sept. adds after prostada, what may perhaps be a second version, “and he went through those who were drawn up,” of the guards. He shewed no signs of fear. H. — It was not necessary for him to take the key with him, as a common one was used for several chambers, and was necessary only to unloose some bands, with which the doors were fastened. The keys in the East are very large, and of a very different construction from ours. C. — Nature. Heb. “he covereth his feet.” The ancients did not wear breeches: they covered themselves with great care. C. See Deut. xxiii. 13. H. — Parlour. Heb. “chamber.” Sept. “bed-chamber.”

Ver. 25. Ashamed, perceiving that their hopes had been vain, (C.) and not knowing what to do, (M.) they began to fear the worst. H.

Ver. 26. Confusion. Heb. “tarrying,” as they waited a long time before they ventured to open the door.

Ver. 27. Seirath seems to have been on the road from Galgal to Mount Ephraim. Some conjecture that Josephus speaks of it under the name of Syriad, (C). where he saw the inscriptions, which he asserts were left by the children of Seth before the deluge. H. — They might perhaps be the idols which are mentioned here.

Ver. 28. Fords. That none, from the other side, might come to the assistance of the Moabites, (M.) who were at their prince’s court, in the territory of Jericho, and that none of these might make their escape. H.

Ver. 29. Strong. Heb. lit. “the fatness,” denoting what is most excellent. Ps. xxi. 30. and lxxvii. 31. C. — Eglon would have his chief nobility and most valiant soldiers round his person. H.

Ver. 30. Eighty. The Hebrews use the letter p to express this number; and, as it is very like their c, which stands for 20, Houbigant suspects that he first number is a mistake of the transcribers. Usher confesses that it is “extremely improbable” that Aod should have governed so long, after he had slain Eglon, as he must have been at that time, about 40 years old; and the Israelites were not often so constant for such a length of time. Houbig. Proleg. — But this difficulty does not affect Usher, as he brings Aod forward only in the 80th year from the peace of Othoniel; and instead of allowing him 80 years of peaceful sway, he says Samgar appeared after him; but, it seems, both together did not reign a year, since in that 80th year, he commences the servitude, which Jabin brought upon Israel, from A. 2679 till 2699, and peace was not restored by Barac for about 20 years! H.

Ver. 31. Samgar. His reign seems to have been short, and only perhaps extended over the tribes of Juda, Simeon, and Dan, while Debbora governed in another part. Some exclude him from the list of judges. But Josephus, Origen, &c. allow his title, with most of the moderns. C. — The Alex. Chronicle gives his reign of 24 years, which Salien would understand, as if he had acted under the orders of Aod, when the latter was grown too old, if the author had not said that “after the death of Aod, Samgar, his son, judged Israel 24 years,” which he subtracts from the 80 years allotted to Aod. He makes Bocci succeed Abisue in the pontificate, at the same time, which Salien admits, A. 2696. — Hundred. Sept. “as far as 600,” which might be at different times, when the Philistines were dispersed through the country in order to plunder. — Plough-share. Sept. aratropodi. H. — Some translate the Heb. “an ox-goad.” Maundrell describes those, which are used in Palestine, as eight feet long; and, at the thick end, 10 inches round, with a kind of spade, to clean the plough, while the other end is very sharp. Samgar might probably use such an instrument. From its being mentioned, we may gather that he did not engage the enemy in a pitched battle, (C.) but as he could find an opportunity. Thus Samson slew 1000 of the same nation with the jaw-bone of an ass. C. xv. H. — Defended. Heb. and Sept. “saved,” which shews that he was a proper judge. M. — It is true, he did not rescue the Israelites entirely, but he stood up in their defence. C. — The duration of his government is not specified, nor is it said that the land rested, because he ruled for a short time only: Josephus says not quite a year; and the roads were continually infested with the incursions of the Philistines on the south, and of the Chanaanites on the North. C. v. 6. Samgar seems to have been a ploughman, and he seized the first weapon that came to hand. The Hungarians and Spaniards formerly defended themselves against the attacks of the Turks and Moors with their plough-shares, in memory of which the Spaniards long after went armed to plough. The most valiant Roman generals, Camillus, Curius, Cincinnatus, and Fabricius, were called from the plough to the Dictatorship; and Pliny (xviii.) observes, that “countrymen make the best soldiers.”