Judges

(From the Second Pentateuch of the Old Testament in volume 2 of the Numerical Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Scope and Divisions of Judges.

Judges gives us the history of the people now brought into the land, but under the legal covenant which they have assumed to themselves — a covenant under which no man may stand. Joshua's day past, a breach with God is soon apparent, the effects of which show themselves more and more. The nation disintegrates. The tribes fall asunder, or are only one in bondage to a common enemy; and though God raises up judges and is with the judges for the work of deliverance, even these fail increasingly and their work becomes correspondingly partial and ineffective, Samson at the close even leaving them in captivity, which lasts to Samuel's day.

For us the typical application is but too plain. If Joshua has shown us the portion and blessing of a heavenly people, Judges gives us without any doubt the history of that people. The Church visible is here seen in its decline and corruption, its broken condition and captivity for its sins to different forms of error and evil, along with God's way of deliverance from these exemplified in many partial deliverances. The coming of the Lord, the only complete and final deliverance, could not, of course, be pictured here.

The divisions of the book are three only: —
Division 1. (Judges 1 — 3:4.) The Rebellion of the Chosen People.
Division 2. (Judges 3:5 — 16.) Bondage and Deliverances.
Division 3. (Judges 17 — 21.) The Corruption at Heart manifest.

Notes.

Division 1. (Judges 1 — 3:4.)

The Rebellion of the Chosen People.

The first division of the book, as introductory to the history of captivity and deliverances which fills the body of it, has evidently two parts. Israel had been warned that, if they mingled themselves with the nations, they would be led to serve their gods. The fulfillment of this is what is now shown: in the first part the mingling, in the second the open breach with the Lord and fall into idolatry. The truth of God abides amid the untruth of the people. He is justified in His sayings, and clear when He is judged.

Subdivision 1. (Judges 1 — 2:5.)

Mingling with the Nations to be Dispossessed.

1. There are here five sections, in which the grading of the lessons is evident, and the commencing decline apparent even from the first. Judah, the leader in the wilderness, the leader, too, in the settlement of the land, the lion-tribe of Jacob's prophecy, comes before us as the leader now, and that by divine appointment; and yet to illustrate this. At the same time, the sovereignty and sufficiency of God are illustrated also in the most striking way, that we may see there is no failure upon His part. With the people it begins, indeed, at the highest, — not, as we might suppose,with the lowest: and this is noteworthy, — a thing of which we have many examples in Scripture; for high and low are alike dependent upon divine grace, and in the littleness of humanity not far removed from one another.

(1) Israel are at first one; and in that subjection to God, which is true unity: "Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first," they ask, "to fight against them?" And the Lord not only names the champion, but assures success: "Judah shall go up; behold, I have delivered the land into his hand." We have before seen what is the reason, spiritually, of Judah being thus in the front; and that the spirit of "praise" is the spirit of power. Necessarily: for it puts God first, and implies devotedness to Him, — a joy in obedience which gives courage and enthusiasm. The cause is God's, and it must prosper. If Judah be weak, Israel as a whole must languish.

But Judah is, in fact, weak already. The land is pledged to him by God, and to him alone. The word is precise, and none may add to it any more than diminish from it: to add to it is really to diminish from it. Yet Judah turns to Simeon, his brother, for help, as if the promise of God were not enough. "Come with me," he says, "into my lot, and let us fight against the Canaanites; and I will go with thee into thy lot."

A little thing this will seem even to most, in a day when men supplement God's word after their own pleasure. But is it not, in fact, unbelief in God's truth or power, that is at work in it? Simeon, Judah's brother in a special way, may be for him the most suited of all companions, and God even has linked their inheritance, in a special way, together: but all this is no argument, if God's word is to be followed, and be the perfect word that indeed it is. Simeon, "hearing," stands, as we have seen, for communion, which all right "hearing" surely is; and communion, can it not aid worship against the Canaanites, — in the spiritual warfare to which God's Israel is called? Yes, in its place, but not out of it; wherever the word of God is given its place also, for what communion can there be apart from this? And do we not need the reminder that communion and the authority of the Word must go together, and that what purports to be communion can never really be made to eke out a worship which has lost the simplicity of obedience which certifies it to be truly that. We shall find, accordingly, in due time, the loss of power which is the result.

Such things are not, however, always at once discovered. Judah and Simeon go together, and the Canaanites and Perizzites are delivered into their hand: they smite in Bezek a host ten thousand strong. In Bezek they find, also, Adoni-bezek, whom they pursue and maim, inflicting the judgment of God upon him for cruelties of this kind inflicted upon others. He himself owns it as this, — a remarkable witness to Israel of how and why God was against the Canaanites; and that He whose judgments they were executing was over all. His name goes with the lesson: Bezek* means "fettered," and so were these hosts that they destroyed; Adonibezek, "lord of Bezek," it being doubtless his chief city, but thus also and literally, "a lord in fetters." So it is with the freest, when in opposition to God, and with the mightiest, in His hand.

{* Bezeq, literally "in a fetter."}

He is brought to Jerusalem, only to die there; and the city itself is smitten with the sword and burnt; for the "foundation of peace" must be righteousness, and the Jebusite city is only an hypocrisy, though few may believe this now.

(2) Judah proceeds to other victories; and here we have the repetition of a story familiar to us, mostly in the words in which it has been given us before. The taking of Hebron and the destruction of the Anakim, which had been before ascribed to Caleb, are here ascribed to Judah, the tribe to which Caleb belongs; but Caleb himself appears in the next incident, in which Othniel and Achsah also are found as before. Scripture is not afraid of a repetition which emphasizes God's delight in the achievements of His people, among which Achsah's request for the water-springs figures alongside of Othniel's capture of Debir. How little should we, perhaps, think of putting these things together! And, indeed, the spiritual interpretation must be found in order rightly to understand it. Then Othniel, the "lion of God," is the type of the heroism of faith, which, like the son of Kenaz, finds strength in Another, and its helpmeet in that simplicity which claims and receives the fullness of the Spirit for making good its portion in the land. These two must come together in the Canaan-dweller even now; and where they are found, a "book of remembrance" will not be wanting. And still the rule is, "Conquer, and work the land"; but it must be said today, there are few Othniels, fewer Achsahs, fewest of all those in whom the two are united. The Lord increase their race!

Thus, as we have had in the first part of this section the sovereignty and sufficiency of God for His people, we have in the second part the relationships of faith in those who apprehend it. And let us remember that Caleb, Othniel, Achsah, are Judeans — worshipers. Worship has to do intimately with the things here spoken of, which test and manifest it. With Caleb, the "whole-hearted," this is easily seen; but we have found, also, before, how Judah shines in the battlefield, and the quiet activity which Achsah implies Achsah, or "anklet," she of the decorated foot? — is not less really intelligible. Altogether we have, on the whole, a bright picture to begin Judges with. Even in the next section, however, the clouds are gathering.

(3) We find here notice of the Kenite settling among the children of Judah in the South. They are the Midianite tribe out of which Moses' wife had come, thus descendants of Abraham by Keturah, linked in this double way with Israel, and who, upon Moses' invitation, had accompanied them into the land. But they never unite themselves with the people of God, though settling among them, and are viewed in Balaam's prophecy as separate to the last. The play upon the name there — "thou puttest thy nest (ken) in the rock" — shows, evidently, the meaning of it. They are Midianites, men of the world, but not at strife with Israel, as others of their race. Nay, they make a nest for themselves among them, and it is for the nest they are there. They come now and dwell on the southern border of Judah in the wilderness, their natural home, south of Arad, the place of the "wild ass." They keep their wilderness manners in the land, — are not at home there, though they may like the security it affords. All this describes but too well the condition of many who attach themselves, in every dispensation, to the people of God, yet are not of them. The victories of the children of Judah invite them and make way for them; but their presence is no strength, and no sign for good.

(4) Next we find Judah with Simeon in his lot. Hormah here had been so named before, being in the territory of Arad when the children of Israel overthrew its king and executed the ban upon his cities (Num. 21:3). There we looked at it as the representation of the power of the world in Satan's hand to hinder the progress of the people of God. In the time that had elapsed it had revived again, — how easily the world recovers power! — and now is called Zephath, overlaying." This is what the world is, indeed, — an overlaying, bright and glittering enough, of what is devoted to destruction, a crust over the curse. It is the part of Simeon (communion) to take off the false show and reveal the evil, — to make Zephath Hormah, as it really is.

(5) Judah goes on to conquest; and now three of the Philistine cities fall, — Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron. Jehovah is with him: but then most strangely as it would seem, we hear of a limit to the power which he displays. "Jehovah was with Judah, and he obtained possession of the mountains, but the inhabitants of the valley were not to be driven out, because they had chariots of iron"! What a collocation that seems! Omnipotence was stopped, as it would seem, by chariots of iron; and so often it does seem, — nay, in a sense, even it is true; for the removal of difficulties is often conditioned upon the simplicity of a faith which (alas!) is so little simple. Had not God said that He had delivered the land into Judah's hand? Yes; and Judah had turned round to Simeon, his brother, for help, as if no promise had been given. Judah has measured the might of Jehovah; and Jehovah measures the strength put forth for him. Thus the divine ways are equal; and Judah loses the fullness of a blessing he cannot grasp. May we give heed to this!

On the other hand, it is in contrast, yet in conformity with this, that we are here reminded of Caleb's complete success against the terrible sons of Anak. Faith shall not suffer defeat, be men at large — be the people of God, even — unbelieving as they may.

2. Benjamin now follows Judah and Simeon, but has only one verse devoted to him here. And in it we find him — little as Judah may show us the ideal of faith — in contrast even with Judah. This is marked: for Judah has already taken Jerusalem and burned it with fire, as we have seen; while Benjamin, without an effort that we read of, permits the Jebusites to dwell there with themselves.* This, too, while Benjamin was the warrior tribe, as is plain in all the notices of it. The failure is thus mere indifference; and the breach of the Lord's express command is as plain as can be.

{*Jerusalem lay on the border, between these two tribes, the main part of the city, with the citadel, lying in Benjamin. It may have been only what lay within their boundary that Judah burned. The citadel was strong, as we see, in David's time.}

No need for many words about it: yet how important that it should be here — that we should see the true condition of things as we open the book. That this failure is in Benjamin also, when we realize the spiritual significance of Benjamin as Joshua has declared it to us, deepens the meaning. Benjamin is the apprehension of Christ, as having our place in Him — being identified with Him; the knowledge of the new man, as expressed in Colossians, "where there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all." Benjamin in alliance with Canaanites is the utter contradiction and opposite of all this. The forgetfulness of our place in Christ is the core of all unfaithfulness to God, of refusal of His judgment upon the world, of toleration of what is evil in His sight, of false associations and inconsistency of walk. Thus the relation of this to the long tale of evil that follows in the book is unmistakably plain.

3. The third section seems to continue this assurance of Benjamin's weakness. Bethel belongs to Benjamin, as we know; yet it is the house of Joseph that takes it out of the enemy's hand. Lying upon Ephraim's border, there is, of course, a reason for this: but the spiritual reason always underlies the natural. Bethel, we are reminded, was, in Canaanitish hands, Luz; and the capture of the city was, of course, its transformation. "Separation," which Luz means, has many Canaanite forms. The selfishness of the natural heart makes necessarily for disintegration in the world; and while it may seek alliance for its own ends, this is in itself but a form of division. This is only the effect of being away from God: one must then, because without faith in Him, toil in self-service. But because the world is away from God, "separation" is necessary; "be not unequally yoked together" results from "touch not the unclean thing." The line must be indeed drawn, but so drawn that God shall be owned and honored, and then Luz becomes Bethel, as we have elsewhere seen, the relationship of God's house is capable of being realized (2 Cor. 6:14-18). It is simple enough how Joseph may help Benjamin in this — Joseph, not simply Ephraim: Manasseh's earnest pressing on is needed to give the full Joseph-character. Seeking to win Christ, all alien things drop off; and in that path we shall find none but those who seek Him. Bethel with all its blessedness is thus surely attained.

But there is another lesson in this place also. One Canaanite is spared out of the city; and there is no similarity here to Rahab's case, no faith resembling hers. He does not take his place henceforth with Israel, but goes away into the land of the Hittites, and among these "sons of terror" a new Luz springs up. The tree, though cut down to the root, may revive from the root; and the old error, left as no longer formidable, may even go afar to sojourn, yet survive and have to be met once more. Indeed, with how many of these Canaanitish cities do we find it so!

4. What follows is a dismal story of failure. In part a repetition from the book of Joshua, it brings together the items of God's bill of account against the people, as divided among the tribes, six of which are here named. It does not follow that the rest were guiltless, however; indeed, Benjamin has been already spoken of; nor does it follow that all the failure even of the tribes mentioned is reported here. That Tyre is not among the cities named as remaining in the hands of the Canaanites, seems a proof against this, hardly to be doubted; Endor is found also in Joshua (17:11), and not here. Those enumerated are given as representative, and with a higher meaning running through all: and this we think can be established, although some of the names are difficult to interpret.

(1) Manasseh heads the tribes on this accusing list; significantly enough if we remember that Manasseh stands for progress, the forgetting what is behind and pressing on. Yet he has a record of five cities left to the Canaanite with depending villages, and that when he had the power also to drive them out. How could the loss of energy be more plainly shown?

The names are, of course, significant: first, Bethshean, "the house of quiet," which as connected with Manasseh and with Issachar (Joshua 17:11), would speak of that practical rest of heart which a right walk furnishes to the one who presses on. There is nothing to draw such an one back from the pursuit of what is before him: no entanglement with the world around, no alarm of conscience, or need of self-occupation. The loss of Bethshean is thus a most serious one; and yet how may, in fact, a failed Manasseh consent to such a loss, bribed by some dishonorable bargain with the Canaanite!

In the second place we have Taanach, "sandy soil," whose import may be seen in its connection with Gath-rimmon among the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:25). Taanach's lesson, as that of the wilderness, is the weaning from other dependency than upon God alone — a thing again of first importance for a Manassite. But Taanach must be retained or Bethshean cannot be: dependence and rest are linked inseparably together.

We have next Dor, the most obvious meaning of which is "generation." In its application it may naturally speak of that limiting of human life which it implies: "One generation goeth and another cometh." The word means in its first significance a "circle," and a collection of tents in a Bedouin encampment (generally circular) is called a dowar; from which Parkhurst supposes the application to contemporaries. Coming as it does, after a memorial of the wilderness, in which under the ban of God a whole Israelitish generation perished, it cannot but impress one the more, as intended to convey such meaning. And the brevity of human life may well impress deeply a Manassite: "So teach us to number our days," says the Psalmist, "that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." The loss of Dor implies the slipping back into the world's error, gross as it is, of ignoring what none can deny, and this is followed naturally by the loss of —

Ibleam, "it consumes the people," which in the fourth place and in connection with the last word, one cannot be at a loss to interpret. Sin is indeed the devourer of the people, mightier than the Balaam whose name here it bears, and alas, prevailing how much, against the people of God themselves. Can a child of Manasseh forget this also? Surely even too much. None of these cities were wholly gone from them, but a rabble of Canaanites had practical possession.

Megiddo is the last of these names, meaning, I believe, "the manifestation of it": and this, under the number that speaks of responsibility and recompense, carries us on, of necessity, to the day of account and manifestation. The realization of this must be lost, if the things of which the last names remind us have been. Megiddo must go with Dor and Ibleam. Plainly these names, the whole of them, are a series in close relation with one another: a meaning runs through them which must have guided in some way the hand of the writer. Was the wisdom in himself, or beyond himself then? Can these simple histories be, after all, prophetic? The Jews in fact speak of them as "the former prophets;" and we have proof that in them "holy men that were of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

Ephraim's failure naturally follows Manasseh's, inasmuch as in the order of attainment, as we have seen long since (Gen. 48 n), Ephraim is dependent on Manasseh. Gad on the other side of Jordan stands in similar dependence upon Reuben, and indeed approaches Ephraim very nearly in this place. Ephraim loses but one place to the Canaanites, or at least there is but one loss recorded — that of Gezer. It is a most important place, however, being a Levitical city, and for what we have found it typify as that. Gezer means "isolation," "a place cut off;" as belonging to the Canaanites it is but the expression of natural independence, as away from God. But as Israelite and Levitical it speaks of that land cut off" into which Christ has borne the sins of His people, and in which the independence of man is seen in its awful reality of isolation from God.* How the awful reality, if it be indeed entered into by the soul, will produce in it a horror of the liberty man loves away from God; and how this will turn to fruitfulness in joyful dependence upon Him who has brought us out of that darkness into His marvelous light, needs little telling. Alas for us, when the Canaanite hold upon Gezer has not been loosed! Ephraim's one city lost is no light loss!

{*Will the reader note here a partial return to a former thought, disclaimed in the first line of the notes (Vol. i., page 342.), but which is not really inconsistent with the fact that atonement is not made or figured by the scapegoat. That it is not is plain from the passage in Leviticus; and yet it is not unsuitable, that where deliverance from the burden of sin is most fully proclaimed, there should be the tender and solemn reminder of the place in which this was borne and put away; — a thought which is needed to make the liberty derived from this a holy liberty, a deep and inward deliverance. Yet it Is not in fact "death" — this "land cut off" — but a deeper thought.}

(3) Zebulon loses two cities, Kitron and Nahalol; the first of which is nearly the same word as Keturoth, which in Ezek. 46:22 is rendered by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, "small," and thus taken to represent Kattath, which in Joshua 19:15 stands immediately before Nahalol. Keturoth is, however, generally taken, as in our common version, to mean "joined": which Hengstenberg (on Ezekiel) refuses again, for "fuming, smoking," undoubtedly the common, if not exclusive, sense in scriptural Hebrew. In the Chaldee (Dan. 5:6), however, the noun means "joints"; and the Talmudists use the verb in the same form as "joining."

On the whole, the Hebrew certainly favors the meaning of "fuming," either in the sense of perfuming or of using incense; above all, the latter. The identification with Kattath is very uncertain, and in the word of God every change in a name must have significance. In connection with Zebulon, where "dwelling in relationship" to God is plainly the thought, the lack of incense would have sad significance indeed — the lack of prayer and praise, along with that also of which Nahalol speaks — "pasture." These things do indeed go largely together, are enjoyed or lost together.

(4) Asher, under the number of experience, follows with a long list of cities; and here we find, for the first time, an expression which reveals at once a still lower state of things. "The Asherites," it is said, "dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land" — not simply, bad enough as that would be, the Canaanites among the Asherites. It is easy to understand it, inasmuch as the Phoenician sea-board was in the inheritance of Asher, and the prosperous, mercantile cities were never, even in the days of David and Solomon, brought into even modified subjection to Israel. They were then friends and allies, but not servants, although of the race of which it had been long before said, "A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."

Three of the seven names that are found here are absent from the list in Joshua, and this, with the doubt attaching to the meaning of two of these, makes the first three difficult of interpretation. Of these Accho, the first, is given by some from the Arabic as "hot sand," or "sand heated by the sun;" but if taken as Hebrew, it would be, rather, "straitened." Zidon means "taking the prey." Ahlab is said to mean "fatness," the meaning given also (and rightly) to Helbah. It might be a compound word and signify "brother in heart;" but of none of these can I speak with any assurance.

The last four are plainer, and connect more simply together, three of them occurring in similar connection in the list ill Joshua. Of these Achzib, "a flow indeed," has been already taken as applying to the Spirit. With this Helbah, "fatness," Aphik, "a channel," and Rehob, "room," are easily associated, and the last two have been already considered in this way (page 151). Together, the loss of these cities implies much spiritual loss to the failing Asherite: the experience (Achzib is in the fourth place) of the Spirit's energy; the "fatness" which speaks of plenteous nourishment; the ability to convey to others the blessing we have received; and lastly, liberty and enlargement of heart. How necessary these things are to true Christian happiness needs little to be affirmed.

(5) Naphtali comes in the next place with two cities, Bethshemesh and Bethanath, names which are simple enough as "house of the sun" and "house of response." They require not much interpretation either: for if still "there be many that say, Who will show us any good?" every believing soul will with the psalmist be able for himself to find it in the light of God's countenance. This is alone our sun, and "a pleasant thing" indeed "it is to behold" it. Bethanath, the "house of response," speaks of what surely goes with this, — the answer of God to the soul that seeks Him; the answer, too, again, of the soul to God: that sweet and tender intimacy of fellowship which is strength for all the way.

The "Beths" in both cases imply what is settled and abiding. The "house" is, as we say, the home, the place of relationship and of the interchange of affection.

The greater the blessing here, the greater the loss, of course. Naphtali, the struggler, needs this sanctuary home that he may be the overcomer that he is called to be. Alas, like the other tribes here, he is losing character; and the precious things which God has made his own are but witnesses of a glory which is now departed from him.

(6) Dan closes the tale of ruin with worse sorrow. He recedes from the seventh place in the Joshua list to the sixth in this; and the history shows the significance of the change. For the Danites are forced by the Amorites out of the valley, the low level so necessary for true spiritual judgment; and they dwelt, besides, in Mount Heres, the "mountain of the sun," in Ajalon and in Shaalbim. The last two speak, as we have elsewhere seen, of the judgment of the world, in its apprehensiveness of God, and in its hollowness at heart; if Mount Heres be in the same line with these, it would naturally speak of the world's self-glorification. The Danite would thus lose with these the ability for true judgment; and it is striking that it is to the Amorite (the "talker"?) that he loses them. The Amorite, we are told, had occupied all this land from its southern border.

5. And now we find the pronounced judgment of God upon this wide-spread departure from His plain command. The angel of Jehovah who had in Joshua's day taken His place with them at Gilgal as Captain of the Lord's host, now comes from Gilgal to Bochim ("weepers") to announce to them His acceptance in righteous government of their own decision. They would not drive out the nations, and so He would not; and the consequences of this, again and again predicted, would come upon them. The people weep and sacrifice to Jehovah; but there is no real repentance: and this first step downward is soon followed by another in which the breach between them and Him is consummated.

Subdivision 2. (Judges 2:6 – 3:4.)

The Breach with Jehovah.

1. Idolatry had evidently never really been quite rooted out from among the children of Israel. Long afterward God reminds them by Amos how in the wilderness they had borne the tabernacle of Moloch, and Chinn their images, the star of their god which they had made for themselves (Amos 5:26); and Joshua's exhortation at the close of his life to "put away the strange gods that were among" them, shows that even when they entered into the land, they had not fully cleansed themselves, nor turned to God with a perfect heart. True, externally no foreign worship was tolerated in Joshua's time, and in his days and those of the elders that outlived him, Israel generally served the Lord. But with the next generation decline became manifest. They had not seen the great works of the Lord, and the brief space that had elapsed was ample for forgetfulness. "Out of sight" was speedily "out of mind."

The Christian Church, in the same way, scarcely stood in any integrity during the lifetime of the apostles. Early in Paul's day he told the Thessalonians, "the mystery of iniquity doth already work;" and this, when John wrote his first epistle, had ripened into "many antichrists." The Church of uninspired history already retains but little semblance of its first condition. "As in water face answereth to face, so does the heart of man to man." And so in its general features does the Israelite history to that of the present dispensation. This is what makes the book of Judges so exceedingly important for us. We have here as in a glass, our own faces spiritually: a photograph of divine light that will not flatter.

There is a significant change in this connection of the name of Joshua's inheritance, from Timnath-serah to Timnath-heres. The one word is simply the reversal of the letters of the other, but the change of meaning is striking, if with Fuerst and others we take the latter to mean, not "sun," but "clay." An "abundant portion" becomes thus a "portion of Clay." How striking if we think of the spiritual meaning! How indeed thus does the abundant heavenly portion into which Christ has entered vanish from sight, leaving Him only a portion of clay" — an earthly one, expressed in its grossest form! And has not the Church in its decline lost sight of the heavenly portion and changed it, as it were, into mere earthliness? Or in its loss of the Lord as the Heavenly Man at the right hand of God, has it not, so to speak, left Him in the grave? All the more does this meaning come out in the position of this portion as given both in Joshua and here, on the north of the hill Gaash," the mystery side of the "quaking" earth out of which the Lord rose! It is as we realize or not that of which this speaks, that we shall give our answer here. That quaking of the earth has its significance: that which is shaken can be removed. The "yet once more I shake, not the earth only, but also heaven," signifies, according to the apostle (Heb. 12:26, 27), the "removal of those things that are shaken." For faith this was now taking place, and out of a judged world there was already beginning the call of a heavenly people.

2. Man must worship something. He has a religious instinct, an apprehension of some Power or Powers to which he is related, out of which he may perhaps reason himself, but which requires reason, however perverted, to accomplish this. Hence atheism is a disease of cultivation, and where it exists has still in general to do homage to what it denies, as in the Comtean worship of humanity itself. Hence fulfilling the well-known saying that if there were no God, it would be still necessary to invent one.

The Comtean worship reveals more than this (for in truth it is humanity that man, fallen away from God, everywhere worships. He may invest this with more or less of the attributes of deity: because he is not a being groping his way out of native darkness, as so many would persuade us; the inspired version of heathenism is more honoring to God, if more condemnatory of the creature, that "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." They had not to invent God, but rather to invent the god that they desired; and the god that they desired was one like themselves, a being who could sympathize with the lusts and passions of a corrupt nature. Hence "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the image of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man."

Higher they could not go; but they could go lower. In the creatures below man they could find represented the lower instincts, cravings, appetites of man, with no check of conscience or morality. In the beast there is an unmoral nature, which may appear to sanction what in man is immoral. Thus came in the bestial gods of Egypt and elsewhere: "birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:23), became to them the images of the divine glory; and the infinite degradation degraded more and more the worshipers: they were assimilated to what they worshiped, and received back in divine government "that recompense of their error that was meet." The imagination of man was employed to throw a halo around what was utterly abominable. Taught by the sacred lips of parents, maintained by law, becoming more venerable continually with the passing of generations, conscience itself lost almost the power of protest against whatever enormities, and even came to confirm and enforce the putting of good for evil and evil for good, of darkness for light and of light for darkness.

Such was the devilish system to which Israel, with their back on God, now turned. "The children of Israel did the evil thing" — what was emphatically that — "in Jehovah's eyes, and served the Baals." "They forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and the Ashtoreths."

Their gods, being the product of their own minds, were necessarily many as their minds were. The plural in both cases, it is allowed, stands not for the multiplicity of images, but for different modifications of the deity himself. Baal was in no wise one, as Jehovah was; nor was even Ashtoreth the same goddess everywhere, although the general idea was one. Baal means "husband" and "lord," with the primary idea of ownership. A bird even is a "baal of wing"; and a hairy man a "baal of hair." It does not stand so much for the idea of one who rules therefore, which is rather adon, from din, to "discern," to "judge." Yet it has no necessary bad sense either: in that of "husband," God uses it of His own relation to the people: "thy Maker is thy baal;" "though I was a baal unto them." (Isa. 54:5; Jer.31:32.) Nevertheless, God finally repudiates the word. By Hosea He says, "Thou shalt call me Ishi [my husband], and thou shalt no more call me Baali: for I will take away the names of the Baals out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name." (Hosea 2:16, 17.)

The difference here is not hard to be made out. Ishi is, literally, "my man"; woman being Ishah, as "taken out of man." (Gen. 2:23.) Ishi speaks, therefore, of one who fills the due place implied by the relationship, man being divinely fitted to woman, and woman to man. The baal might be in the relationship, and not rightly fill it. When God says, "I was a baal to them," or "Thy Maker is thy baal," it is the fact of who it is that is in this relation which assures us of the blessing implied. But baal thus being at the best indifferent, it is at last disclaimed, with all the abhorrence due to the false gods that had usurped Jehovah's place.

Baal stands thus for the power implied in possession, apart from any thought of how it may be used, as Ashtoreth speaks (comp. Joshua 21:27) of fruitfulness here in the nature-sense. Both might be used (and were) in the vilest applications and unitedly they reveal the mystery of iniquity that is native in the heart of man. Power he seeks, — to have things in his hand: that, without question of how he will use it, — irresponsible power; while, underneath, the lusts that war in his members" hold him as a poor slave to their will. Baal and Ashtoreth are twin worships, the natural complements of each other: both meaning independence of God, and together self-bondage; in which is found the awful tyranny of a more malignant despotism, that of the adversary of God and man alike, the "spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience." (Eph. 2:2.)

Satan is thus the "prince of this world," and, spite of Christianity, — man, alas, not accepting the deliverance, — "the god" also "of this age." (2 Cor. 4:4, Greek.) This he will be until the Lord comes, and he is cast into the "bottomless pit." (Rev. 20:2.) This makes the effort at world-reform so hopeless, and is the only thing that can account for the history of Christendom. The Baals and the Ashtoreths have no more been kept out of the Christian than out of the Jewish enclosure: "while men slept, the enemy came" has repeated itself in the history of every spiritual movement. And as surely as in Israel's history here the Lord's chastening hand has had to be upon His people. Spoilers had spoiled them, and they could no longer stand before their enemies; and this for us also is, "as Jehovah has said — yea, as Jehovah has sworn": nor is He "man, that He should lie; nor the son of man, that He should repent."

3. The means of deliverance was by the Lord's raising up judges — a remedy as plain as can be, though effectual only to a limited extent, the obstinate return to the old sins being consequent upon the passing away of the judge, if not before. Yet the remedy showed plainly the disease: deliverance could be only by revival, and this would be in self-judgment as to their condition, and return to Him from whom they had departed. The "judge" plainly was not merely such between man and man, but above all was the leader in the people's repentance and return to God — the representative of Jehovah's law and sway in Israel.

4. Spite of all this, the course of things all through — apart from such interruptions — is ever downward: "when the judge died they returned and corrupted themselves beyond their fathers." Correspondingly, even the deliverances become less and less full, and the character of the deliverers deteriorates (although this not continuously), until they reach together their lowest point in Samson, whose death still leaves the people in captivity. In view of this God declares that He will not drive out the nations that remain, but will leave them for a trial to Israel, and that they may know war by experience, the war of conquest not having had its due effect. The very trial thus which comes in through sin, He makes a means of practising faith, for those who have faith. Since by the history of their fathers they had not learnt the need of obedience and reliance upon the living God, they should learn these by practically meeting these enemies that their fathers met. Their discipline should be a school of faith. This, it is evident, applies to many more than Israel in the book of Judges, or than to such wars as these of Canaan. All the long series of evils that have afflicted the Church as the result of multiplied departure from God and from His word, have furnished for faith the exercise by which it is made to overcome. The history in all alike becomes, however, thus largely individual. The people disappear as a whole from sight, or furnish a background in the front of which a few figures walk apart. There are men of God, indeed, but where are the people of God? Yet divine love cannot forget these, nor can the hearts therefore of those in whom this love has stirred.