Judges

F. W. Grant.

Division 2. (Judges 3:5 — 16.)

Bondage and Deliverances.

In the second division we have the history of the captivities and deliverances which fill the body of the book. In these we find the exemplification of the Lord's words that he that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin." (John 8:34, R.V.) In the shadows of spiritual things which are presented here, we shall find how truly it is the sins committed by them that lead men captive. We shall find, also, as we might be sure beforehand, the deliverance in each case to figure what is truly that — the deliverer being, in fact, the divine Judge, and acting in this character.

Subdivision 1. (Judges 3:5-11.)

The first step toward ruin — independence of God.

The first of these captivities gives us the root-principle of all, which is indeed but sin, and sin has but one definition in Scripture — "lawlessness" (1 John 3:4): rightly so given in the Revised Version, where the common one has "the transgression of the law." This the word does not mean; and the real thought is a much deeper one. Where law is, sin manifests itself in the transgression of it: of that there is, of course, no question; nay, it was the purpose of the law to manifest it, and "by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20.) "I had not known sin," says the apostle, "except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" — "lust;" "but sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of lust" (Rom. 7:7, 8). Sin therefore is deeper and more radical than even the "lust" which it works. Sin is the parent; lust is the child. "Lawlessness" is the unsubject spirit of self-will, which in the creature away from God shows itself as want, in cravings which find no satisfaction, and thus rule the man. "Their god is their belly," says the apostle, of such. (Phil. 3:19.) This is the misery of the creature out of the creature's place, of independence on the part of one who is necessarily dependent.

This is what is seen in the people here. They forget Jehovah their God, form alliances with the people round them after their own will, and end in bondage to false gods — the Baals and the Asherahs, or images of Ashtoreth. Jehovah sells them therefore into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, and they serve him for eight years.

This king of Mesopotamia, what does he represent? If it be indeed the chain of our own sins that holds us, then he should in some way be the reflection of the people's condition. His name is a remarkable one, meaning "blackness of double wickedness;" and the dual form here one can hardly avoid connecting with that of the country over which he rules, which is literally "Aram of the two rivers." Aram means "exalted," and is taken generally to refer to the "high land" of Syria, as contrasted with the Canaanitish "lowland;" but, whatever truth there may be in this, we may be sure it does not exclude that spiritual application for which we are in search all through, and which as such is necessarily of so much higher importance.

Aram was the fifth son of Shem, whose children taken together, and with his own, present a group of names of remarkable significance. Shem means "name," and his blessing is in his connection with Jehovah his God, who reveals Himself to him, makes him, that is, to know His Name. Shem is thus marked out as the vessel of divine revelation.

His sons' names seem to carry on this thought, the numerical order certifying it throughout. Here we have —

1. Elam, which, as a form of olam, is the ordinary Hebrew word for "everlasting." This is the first and simplest thought of God, the first word of revelation as to Him.

2. Asshur, "step," speaks of it as progressive. Only little by little has God, in fact, been able to declare Himself (Heb. 1:1); hindered, as is plain, by the needs of man himself; who had to be prepared to receive the revelation. Nay, when the dispensations were ready, man was not; and He in whom at length God spake to man face to face was taken by wicked hands, crucified, and slain. Yet this also was in the counsels of God for the meeting of man's deepest need, as we well know; and thus alone was accomplished the full manifestation of Himself.

3. Three is the number of manifestation, and if the names here speak as we credit them with doing, Arphaxad (properly Arphachshad) should give voice to this. It is confessedly a difficult word to interpret, and the meaning assigned by Ewald, "stronghold of the Chaldees," spite of its acceptance by some authorities, seems everyway strained and fanciful. "One that heals," or "releases," has been suggested with much more probability; but this in fact only accounts for the first two syllables of the name, to which the last would add the thought of pouring out, our own word "shed" being probably derived from it, and certainly its equivalent. But how clearly and appropriately would "remitting by shedding forth" speak of the great mystery of the Cross, the mystery in which God is truly manifest! How can it be accounted for, that every thing so perfectly fits together but by the truth of what is so consistently shown forth?

4. Then, in the fourth place, which we know to be that of the creature, we have what as fully agrees with it, yet how strangely in the revelation of God — Lud, "born"! Yet so must He be, who, being God, becomes the Saviour of men, to remit by shedding forth: and "without shedding of blood is no remission." Coming down, then, to man's estate, and as man dying for us, He rises up into the place of power — power acquired by suffering; and of this —

5. Aram, "exalted," under the number which speaks of reward, fittingly and finally speaks. Thus the series is evidently complete.

That we may adopt every safeguard against deception, however, let us, from the same genealogy in Genesis, consider in the same way the sons of Aram, who ought, one would say, to continue this line of thought, and speak of the fruits of this exaltation of the man Christ Jesus to the place where now we know Him. The sons of Aram are four: "Uz and Hul and Gether and Mash;" and this is as far as his line is continued in Scripture.

(1) Uz, from atzah, "made firm." This is numerically plain, and plain also in its application to the risen and glorified Saviour. The abiding place He has taken as Man, He has taken also for men, His people. Our position is the fruit of His position: we are one with Him — identified with Him — "accepted in the Beloved;" and this is evidently the fundamental blessing for us in connection with His exaltation. That is, Uz is, in spiritual order, as well as in the genealogical table, the first son of Aram.

(2) Hul is the second son. And Hui (chul), from chalal, would mean "opened, penetrated, entered into." This under the number of association, fellowship, and in the connection in which we find it here, cannot be for a moment doubtful as to its meaning. Christ exalted has entered the sanctuary for us the veil is rent, and God is in the light: our fellowship is with the Father and the Son. This too is in perfect spiritual order: Hul follows Uz at once, but could not precede him.

(3) We have Gether — a very difficult word. Gesenius, collating with the Syriac, gives it the meaning of "dregs, sediment" — every way an unlikely and unsuitable one. If Hebrew, it would seem to be a contraction from two words, which may be gahah and jether. The first of these means to "heal, restore"; the second we have had in its intensive form in Jattir (page 110, n), and means "excellence," or "exceedingly more." If Gether might thus speak of a restoration going beyond the original condition, it would suit the number, which is that of revival, recovery, and the line of thought as well. Yet this interpretation is, of course, conjectural only, to be held only as long as there is nothing better.

(4) Mash, from mush, is to "feel" — to "know by feeling"; and, in the fourth place, shows what the Lord as man has taken up with Him to His place of exaltation. Its appositeness in this series of names of the ascended Lord, none will deny. And thus the meaning of Aram, as we have taken it, seems confirmed on all sides.

Beautiful, however, as are these names thus joined together, we easily understand how in a world like this, and as connected with the human generations for which they staid, they soon scatter and fall away from one another, and thus lose their meaning and their beauty as united. The sentences become but broken words, capable of very different, even of opposite, suggestion. The Shemite families, as they scattered and multiplied into nations, lost almost entirely the promise of their origin. Their primitive worship became corrupted into a dark and debasing idolatry; and the Aram-naharaim of the book of Judges is ruled over by the ominous king whom we find now tyrannizing over Israel.

The resemblance of Mesopotamia to Egypt is striking enough. They are alike oases which interrupt a broad belt of desert land which stretches from West to East across Africa and Asia, "reaching from the Atlantic on the one hand nearly to the Yellow Sea on the other." It is a low level plain as far as the country we are speaking of, afterwards rising in high plateaus "having from 3,000 to near 10,000 feet of elevation." "Where the belt of sand is intersected by the valley of the Nile, no marked change of elevation occurs; and the continuous low desert is merely interrupted by a few miles of green and cultivable land, the whole of which is just as smooth and flat as the waste on either side of it." Egypt, as we know, is the product of its great river; and so also with the country with which we have now to do. "Known to the Jews as Aram-naharaim, or Syria of the two rivers; 'to the Greeks and Romans as Mesopotamia, or the between-river country'; to the Arabs as Al-Jezireh, or 'the island,' this district has always taken its name from the streams which constitute its most striking feature, and to which, in fact, it owes its existence. If it were not for the two great rivers — the Tigris and Euphrates — with their tributaries, the more northern part of the Mesopotamian lowland would in no respect differ from the Syro-Arabian desert on which it adjoins, and which in latitude, elevation, and general geological character, it exactly resembles. Toward the south the importance of the rivers is still greater; for of lower Mesopotamia it may be said, with more truth than of Egypt, that it is 'an acquired land,' the actual 'gift' of the two streams which wash it on either side; being, as it is, entirely a recent formation — a deposit which the streams have made in the shallow waters of a gulf, into which they have flowed for many ages." (Rawlinson.) Thus both Lower and Upper Egypt are represented in what is indeed Aram of the two rivers.

And to this we may add the name of the king as a further link. Chushan and Cush are radically the same, and the Cushite kingdom of Nimrod had long before been established on the Euphrates. But Cush was the brother of Mizraim, the founder of Egypt, and the Cushites derived from Egypt their religion. One branch of them were the Ethiopians of history, whose name with those of Cush and Ham speaks of their dark complexion.

This Hamite kingdom among the Shemites is itself an evidence of degradation, which the emphatic title of "doubly wicked" for the king confirms and intensifies. As already said, one can hardly help connecting it with the "double river" of the land over which he reigns, and this would be strictly according to the similitude of Egypt, whose river became their dependence, sustaining them in their independence of heaven. Man's blessings lead him thus (how often!) away from the Giver of them; and the greater the blessing, the farther from God: the greater the goodness He has shown, the worse the corruption of it. Now Aram, as we have seen, speaks of humanity exalted in Christ, man in the fullest blessing he can know, and thus in the typical application the intensity of evil connected with it here may be accounted for. Even the apostle, after being taken up to Paradise, needed a thorn in the flesh to prevent self-exaltation. And the professing Church, how soon did it become lifted up with pride, to fall into depths of unimaginable wickedness! Babylon stood in lower Mesopotamia, and thus we may see how consistent are the surroundings of the picture put before us here.

In its fruits, however multiform, evil is, in its essential principle, absolutely one. The creature leaving the creature place — setting itself up in independence of God: — this is its character at bottom ever. Thus the light is darkened with us, and the terrible slavery to a depraved will results. We need not, therefore, be at a loss as to what Chushan-rishathaim represents. The first step on the downward path to ruin is always the same.

Othniel is here the suited deliverer. No details of the warfare are recorded at all; our eyes are kept fixed upon the man himself. It is repeated for us that he is in close relation with Caleb, the "whole-hearted," and the son of Kenaz, "recipient of strength." His own name is more doubtful: from the Arabic it has been taken to be "lion of God"; Jerome gave it as "my time is of God"; others again give "God is power." In any case the consciousness of dependence is emphasized, and its relation to single-eyed obedience; and thus we have what is the key-note of victory over the king of A ram. Let us remember, although we shall not have the mere repetition of this in after-deliverances, that this is really fundamental to them all. Not till we get back to this is the path of departure retraced to its beginning, and the restoration of the soul effected. Notice the order here: "and he judged Israel, and went out to war." Thus he prevails.

Subdivision 2. (Judges 3:12-31.)

The Moabite and Philistine inroads: profession.

1. In the second captivity it is Moab into whose hands they fall; and now we begin to see the definite forms of evil that have afflicted the church. Moab, if we have interpreted rightly, stands for mere profession (Deut. 2:8 sq. n.); and it was not long before this condition, in fact, arose. The first parable of the kingdom (Matt. 3) prepares us for it. The epistles show us the increase of the false disciples, for which the epistle of John provides tests. The book of Revelation shows us the church at Sardis already dead, and others in various not far removed conditions. Church-history, outside of Scripture, too sadly confirms what such things imply: the church proper soon becomes what is sorrowfully known as the church invisible.

Eglon is king of Moab at this time. His name we have seen as that of one of the cities of Canaan taken by Joshua, and it should have the same significance. There we saw it as reminding us of the perpetual revolution of earthly things, like that of the earth itself, swinging in its yearly orbit. So with the changing seasons all things change and pass — everything fair in its season, and only for its season. Now the church, becoming characteristically profession merely, comes under this law of change and decay, under which the world is. Earthly conditions influence and give it shape. Providences — "bit and bridle" — rule it, and not Scripture. It becomes the creature of circumstances, exalted by the favor of man, depressed if this is withdrawn. The world, under its law of change and decay, was no such mystery to the wise man in Israel as the phases of the church are to the man who has been taught of God its principles and privileges. And the fundamental reason for this condition, next to and proceeding from the root of independence which we have already looked at, is to be found in a Moabite conquest — such as here the history of Israel so vividly depicts.

With the Moabite, Ammon and Amalek come into the land; and this is perfectly simple and intelligible. An unconverted profession gathers to itself all heresies and makes room for all the lusts of the flesh. Then they take the "city of palms" (Jericho, without the name — Deut. 34:3), and the world revives there under Moabite protection and the cover of practical righteousness, which the palm-tree, as we know, represents. This is always the strong point for the professor: "He can't be wrong whose life is in the right."

Moab's limit, however, as we find presently, is at Gilgal.* The memorials of death passed through and a resurrection standing will necessarily be outside of Moab's possession. All this is of quite simple interpretation to any who have learned the lessons of the book of Joshua.

{*The pesilim, which I have translated "[boundary] stones", are mostly translated either "quarries" or "graven images;" but Dr. Cassel, in Lange's Commentary, says: —

"Boundary-stones" "is evidently the sense in which pesilim is to be taken. Pesil is always a carved image, glupton. The entire number of instances in which this word is used by Scripture writers fails to suggest any reason for thinking here of 'stone-quarries,' a definition which, moreover, does not appear to harmonize with the locality. But as the connection implies that the borders of Eglon's territory, which he had wrenched from Israel, were at the pesilim, we must understand by them the posts, stelai, stones, Lapides sacri, which marked the line. In consequence of the honors everywhere paid them, these were considered pesilim, idol-images. This border-line was in the vicinity of Gilgal, which had not fallen into the hands of Moab. Ewald has rightly insisted that Gilgal must have lain north-east of Jericho."}

As to the deliverer, he is Ehud, the son of Gera, a Benjamite and it is Benjamin's territory upon which Eglon has obtained lodgment. This, again, is simple for a spiritual mind. For Benjamin, standing for Christ in us, it is here that we find what most of all the life of mere profession denies and sets aside. Thus, too, it must be with Benjamin that deliverance lies. Then he is Ehud, from the same root as Judah, which, as we have seen, speaks literally of confession, the opposite of mere profession. Ehud is the "confessor," and the son of Gera — that is, as it would seem, "rumination," that heart-meditation by which the things of Christ are appropriated and become the possession of the soul. Ehud is, then, the God-prepared deliverer for Israel in their present emergency.

The details of the deliverance, however, are less easy to understand. The dagger or sword (according to the root-idea, the "implement of destruction") would stand, according to Eph. 6 for the "word of God." Ehud, like many other Benjamites of his day, was "bound of his right hand," and uses it with his left. Does this speak of the infirmity in which the man in Christ glories, that the power of Christ may rest upon him? From Gilgal, with its inspiriting memories, Ehud turns back to Eglon, and escapes beyond it again to Seirah, "the rugged." Then he sounds a trumpet in Mount Ephraim, out of which the children of Israel hasten in response, and Jordan, which, by the power of God, Israel had passed over dry-shod, becomes the effectual doom of Moab, not a man of whom escapes their enemies' swords.

So much we may in some measure apprehend; but it is a meagre enough account of a great deliverance.

2. Next we hear of Shamgar, and a victory at great odds over the Philistines. Whether the Moabite inroad had encouraged their attack or not, it is given as something contemporaneous with or following upon it. And the spiritual connection is quite evident, if the Philistines represent the Judaistic development of the world-church, perfected in Rome. To this the Moabite condition of unconverted membership — impossible, of course, in the body of Christ — is a necessary preliminary. The Philistines, however, do but show themselves as yet: the time of the captivity to them is later, and ends the series. At present Shamgar's bold deed is decisive as deliverance.

Shamgar's name seems but the inversion of Gershom, and to have the same meaning — of a stranger (or sojourner) there. He is the son of Anath, which means "answer": here speaking, as it seems, of the response of heart to that deliverance call which invites us forth to pilgrimage. Such an one is surely the fit deliverer from the world-church, and for the present Shamgar's ox-goad avails.

Subdivision 3. (Judges 4, 5.)

The Canaanite revival: the spirit of gain.

1. The third subdivision is the history of a great Canaanite revival, in which appear once more a Jabin and a Hazor, the reproduction of the leader and city of the old northern confederacy against Joshua of one hundred and thirty years before. Some have even attempted to identify these two kings, and to make Barak a contemporary of Joshua himself — an attempt which even Farrar (Smith's Dictionary of the Bible) regards with no disfavor. But on the contrary the very pith of the lesson lies in this being a revival, with which the numerical place perfectly corresponds. It is the only section in which we find Israel's sin in sparing and allying themselves with the nations under ban from God, bringing forth its perfect fruit. It thus should have an exceptional importance.

How easy is such springing up again from a root not destroyed, we have been already reminded of in the case of Hormah and of Luz. The application in spiritual experience is most easy and abundant. The failure of Christian vigor permits once more the old besetments to appear again; and the new sins are but the old ones, though perhaps indeed with a certain disguise. The old character displays itself. The "Israel" of awhile ago is now again "Jacob." Indeed, deeper than all differences, and surely to be found amid all disguises, there is a moral unity in sin. "We have turned every one to his own way," shows at once both the unity and the diversity.

That it is Jabin, of all the Canaanite kings, that we find thus revived, must, of course, have its significance also. The revival of the Canaanite would naturally be shown in one who is, in some sense at least, the typical Canaanite. Nothing can be in Scripture which does not speak to the ear that is open. Jabin, too, is emphatically here, not merely, as in the book of Joshua, "king of Hazor," but, over and over again, "king of Canaan." The meaning of these names we already know. Jabin means "discerning"; Hazor, "enclosure." As the enemy of the people of God, it is the wisdom of the world with which we have here to do — a wisdom which reigns in its own "enclosure," shut up, as is the constant fashion, in cliques and parties and philosophies, by which it elevates itself over what is outside its boundary. The spirit of it is easily manifest as that of self: self-interest, self-assertion, self-satisfaction, the true "trader" or Canaanite spirit, that of gain. The inroad of this into the Church was early indeed. "All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ," was said, in the apostle's days, of those at Rome. (Phil. 2:21.) Of the Ephesian elders it was prophesied, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:30.) But already at Corinth the sects and parties produced by such attempts were being formed, as we know, and the true people of God were becoming subject to Jabin's rule; and this has developed much more widely since, even until the Church of God has been broken up into various denominations, to the dishonor of the One Name which is upon us all. This, then, is the true Canaanite revival shadowed here.

The captain of Jabin's host is Sisera, whose name means, according to Gesenius, "battle-array"; and who dwells in Harosheth ("carving, cutting, artificers' work") of the nations. Such names should not be difficult to read in such a connection. The strife of sects, the odium theologicum, is notorious; and how the sects themselves are thus maintained needs no insisting on. Sisera is still captain of the host. The very truths of God's word are often arrayed against one another, and, allied with errors of greater or less gravity, become but the battle-cries of partisans. And when we realize whom the Canaanite leaders represent — "the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places" — how serious becomes the aspect of evil here! The assault of Satan is most of all against the truth, the power of which he recognizes well enough, and which he can no more easily prevail against than by dividing it, so to speak, against itself, and allying it with some deceit of his own devising. Thus what is of God is prejudiced in the eyes of His people by the associations in which they find it; while, on the other hand, many, seeing it to be truth, are put off their guard as to these, and receive along with it some deadly error. How, for instance, has the truth of the Lord's coming been mixed up with the abominations of materialism, the denial of eternal punishment, and many another thing, until the very one whose heart would welcome it, if otherwise presented, looks upon it as a synonym for heresy of this kind! How important, therefore, here is God's word to Jeremiah, "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth." (Jer. 15:19.) But, in general, how little are we able to find the truth in the creed of another! in another sense than the true, what one sees in the Shulamite is indeed "but the company of two armies." On both sides the truth suffers, while it is made the power and preservative principle of error itself, which, if simply that, would soon find at the hands of every Christian its merited judgment.

Yet it is the truth that must come in for deliverance here, as is quite plain; and Deborah the prophetess stands, according to the meaning of her name, for the "Word" itself, prophetic as in its office it truly is, the word of God which brings the soul into the presence of Him before whom all the secrets of the heart are laid bare, and with whom we have to do. But for this the Word must be, as Deborah was, united to another. She is the wife of Lapidoth, which means "burning torches," and reminds us of the Pentecostal tongues of fire, the manifest type of the Spirit in His utterance among men. Deborah judges Israel under the palm-tree of Deborah, the palm-tree being the well-known symbol of the righteous, fruit, as this character is, of such judgment by the Word, "between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim," — an "exalted" Christ in heaven, and the "house of God" on earth.

There is fullness of meaning in such a picture: for here are the two things that give us the standard for self-judgment. Everything as to our position before God is implied in Christ's own position as exalted now. In the house of God we have implied the descent and indwelling of the Spirit, with the holiness that becomes that house. It is in view of these wondrous truths that the word. of God addresses itself now to the people of God, to maintain in them that practical righteousness of which the palm-tree speaks. Certainly here is no hap-hazard association of thought.

While in all the book of Judges the necessity of self-judgment is shown in order to deliverance, this, then, is now especially emphasized in Deborah, as is plain. As there is on the one side manifest a peculiar power of the enemy in the Canaanite uprising, so there is on the other a dwelling on that which is, above all things, necessary to take one out of his hand, the lowly, self-judged spirit of him who "trembleth at the Word."

We have now the captain on the side of Israel: "she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-Naphtali." Barak means "lightning," — light (and God is light) revealed in judgment. To bring God in is the exposure and overthrow of error. The day of manifestation is the day of judgment, when all falsehood expires forever, and no self-deception is any longer possible. Barak is "the son of Abinoam," that is, "father of pleasantness": for the destruction of error is that that which is pleasant may remain, the good and perfect and acceptable will of God. Love rejoices in this overthrow; and although where His creatures are in question, judgment is "His strange work," yet here also our comfort it is to know that, in its sternest and dreadest forms, the Lamb will execute it. Barak is still and ever the son of Abinoam.

Deborah calls Barak out of Kedesh-Naphtali, the "sanctuary of the struggler," which we have seen to speak of rest in self-abasement, and, as a city of refuge, of the work of Christ. Here is in fact that from which deliverance springs, and the condition also in which it can be made good to us.

Naphtali and Zebulon are the tribes used of God in the conflict, as their land is that in which the oppressor's power is found. What these speak of we already know. The enfeeblement of Zebulon, (the dwelling in that which is our own in the relationship which God has given us to Himself,) is a manifest result of the revival of that seeking of our own things which is, as we have seen, what is indicated by this Canaanite revival. It is no less true that Zebulon must have been enfeebled first, before Jabin could have got foothold there at all. These things are indeed an admonition for us. But Hazor itself is significantly in the territory of Naphtali, the struggler and the overcomer, being but the perversion of the true Naphtali spirit. How many are involved in the sectarian strife of tongues, supposing all the while that they are doing the Lord service! While, on the other hand, it is plain that Naphtali is thus prostrate where Jabin reigns. These things might be expanded largely and applied to the condition of things in the midst of which we are today; but we have not space for it. Those who desire to do so can without much difficulty trace them out: "the knowledge of the Holy is understanding."

Purpose of heart is required to be with Barak, who therefore is bidden to "draw toward Mount Tabor" — the "mount of purpose." It is here that one finds elevation to view the battlefield, and a place of strength against the adversary. Here God draws Sisera to the stream Kishon which is to sweep his host away. Sisera himself is reserved to fall by the hand of the woman. We shall look at all that is connected with this in the next section.

2. The conflict at once begins. The free and independent movement of the Spirit of God at once awakens alarm in the enemy, and Sisera summons all his forces together against Israel; but the battle is the Lord's, and the issue never doubtful. The host is discomfited and annihilated; and Sisera flees away by himself to the tent of Jael.

A second woman now becomes prominent in the story. From the Kenites, whom we have seen making their "nest" in Judah, one man had separated himself with his family, and traveling north as far as the portion of Naphtali, had pitched his tent by Elon-zaanannim, "the oak of ladings," which is by Kedesh. We must put these things together in order to read them aright. Realizing the character of these Kenites, as we have traced it in the first chapter, we cannot but take it as a sign for good in Heber that he has separated himself from them. His name, however, "companion, fellow," or else like Hebron, "company, fellowship," would intimate that separation, as shown in him, is not to be taken as in the spirit of independency, but the opposite. Typically, at least, we may find in him another Abraham, whose break with his kindred naturally is in order to walk with God. Accordingly we find him in the territory of Naphtali, the overcomer, and at the "oak of ladings," the place of strength acquired in daily taking up the burdens of the day (see ante, page 152); in close connection, also, with Kedesh.

Heber's wife is Jael, which, while it is the word for "wild goat," means, literally, the "climber" — "one who mounts, or ascends." The women of Scripture (as in Sarah, Hagar, etc.) often stand, as another has remarked, for fruitful principles embraced by the men who represent the individual state. Here Jael, as the "seeking things above," is in beautiful connection with Heber's stranger-ship and communion both. Nor need we wonder to find the tent-pin an effective weapon in her hands. Is it not a heart in heaven that destroys the spirit of sectarian strife, with that which secures the pilgrim's tent? Such things do not seem hard to translate into the spiritual; there is a self-consistency in the whole meaning as so given which ought to secure for it respectful consideration. Even the peace between the house of Heber and Jabin, and Jael's deception of Sisera, seem quite capable of consistent rendering; and may connect together thus, as in the history: for so, for the moment, through mere incompetency to understand the attitude of the Jaels and Hebers, peace may be kept on the side of the Church's bitterest oppressors toward those who are deemed but harmless and unpractical visionaries, with no weapon of power beyond a tent-pin, which in the end, however, breaks the peace, as did Jael's.

3. And now we come to the song, which, from the mouth of the prophetess, gives us the divine judgment, the manifestation of the spiritual condition as seen of God, and of God Himself in the whole matter. Those who feel it needful to apologize for the sentiments which it expresses, as well as those who view it simply as an interesting fragment of antique poetry, a relic of rough and barbarous days, forget surely the prophetic character ascribed to Deborah, as also the large place given to this song of hers in so brief a record. The place given in an inspired writing is an exact measure of the importance attaching.

(1) The song divides naturally into three parts, the first of which goes back to the beginning, to show the origin of the whole matter — a lesson, not for Israel alone, but for kings and counsellors amid the nations round, to ascribe glory to Jehovah even for the humbling of His people, as now for their deliverance.

(a) Certainly His power had been known when in the midst of Israel He came forth from Edom. Edom is specially noticed, because it was thence that the people emerged at the end of the wilderness career, to threaten the nations with their might — a might that was not their own: for the earth quaked, and the heavens dropped at the presence of Jehovah, Israel's God. Sinai, before this, had done so, where Israel had come into covenant with Him; and there the secret of their strength and the conditions of its continuance had been declared. Now, awakened afresh to the blessedness of obedience, they had devoted themselves to their Saviour-God; and He who had declared Himself as "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin," had interfered and delivered them.

(b) They had been brought low because of their departure from Him. They had chosen new gods, and thus war was in their gates: the land was stripped and desolate, the inhabitants, pent up within the walls of their cities, dared not venture forth into the open country, and travelers went to their destination by unused and circuitous paths. Up to the very gates swept the tide of war, for Israel was defenceless and unarmed.

And this was in the days of Shamgar, the deliverer of the south, whose victory had not shamed others into faith. It was in the days of Jael, by whom, though but a woman, God had now once more delivered them. It lasted until Deborah herself rose up to be a mother to those who had forsaken their Father-God. How pitifully low had this great people fallen!

(c) With return of heart comes return of blessing. Bless Jehovah now, for peace is in the land. The spoil of their enemies is being divided where in quietness they draw water for refreshment, none making afraid. The people come down to the gates, and the open villages are once more everywhere; they celebrate once more the righteous acts of Jehovah, their covenant-God.

All this, while picturesquely told, is simplicity itself; and while here in an Israelitish garb, is subsequently what in the history of Christendom has been many times repeated. The cause of Israel's desolation is never far to seek, for the Lord their God is a sun and a shield, and with Him no power could prevail against them. We, too, while we may lose ourselves among various second causes if we undertake as philosophers to trace an evil condition to its origin, may reach, without any doubt, its first great cause, if we will but be honest and confess the truth before God. In Ephesus, the first of the seven churches, the Lord Himself puts before them (and before us) the root of all bad fruit that ever grew: "Thou hast left thy first love." Yet they had zeal, and works, and what not; but His word to them is only, "Repent." And, alas, Christendom will not repent: it abides under the doom, "I will come unto thee, and take away thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent."

There were partial returns, however, in Israel, in which God graciously met and encouraged, as He could, such a return. These are types for us, not, indeed, historically fulfilled, as in the churches of Revelation, but enfolding principles which illumine the history, and are of perpetual application all the way through. How striking is the picture here of such a state of things as the endless strife of sects induces! The highways ceasing, the peaceful travelers having to walk through devious ways; no possibility of dwelling anywhere save behind a wall of defence; the mass of true Israel left without weapons; and those who would draw water from the wells of salvation exposed to the attacks of the ready archers! Well might we celebrate deliverance from all this! But such deliverances have been but few and partial.

(2) We have now the conflict, and the various relation of the tribes to it: for Israel is no longer one. But a remnant of the noble come down to take part in the deliverance; and those that are noted here seem to include all that from first to last enter into the struggle: for in the first battle at Tabor only Zebulon and Naphtali follow Barak, and are thus specially distinguished in the song itself (verse 18). But many take no part at all. Reuben makes great resolutions, and then wavers. Gilead allows the intervention of Jordan to be sufficient excuse. Dan is otherwise occupied, and stays in his ships. Asher, without occupation, tarries at the sea-coast, All these varieties of indifference are easy to be understood. Among those that, sooner or later, do take part the distinction is not so easy; and for the present at least it must be left.

Next we have the actual conflict and overthrow of the enemy. Heaven and earth unite against the oppressors of the people of God. The stars from their courses fought against them above; the Kishon swept them away with its stream below. The mighty ones showed themselves such by the stamping of their frightened horses. Such is the strength of those that are with God: the mightier the foes, the mightier only is the overthrow.

(3) We have now, most suitably filling the third place, a directly announced divine oracle. It is twofold — the one part in solemn contrast with the other. The curse upon Meroz — "[built] of cedars" — is an awful warning for those who in the day of needed help against the enemy withhold their help. As if to cut off the excuse so readily made for indifference, it is distinctly declared to be Jehovah who requires help: certainly not on His own account; that could hardly be supposed; but yet He looks for real and active sympathy and putting one's hand to work in what His heart is. The name of the city at least suggests the hindrances to this, of which the world is full — pride, luxury, all that makes the world look stable, and the things of God thus to be unreal because unseen — which refuses to accept His judgment. "Built of cedar" may well remind us how "Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria say in pride and in strength of heart, The bricks are fallen, but we will build with hewn stone: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars." (Isa. 9:9, 10.) Of such God says in Malachi, "They may build, but I will throw down."

In contrast with the curse upon Meroz, we have next the blessing upon Jael, in which the iron warrior is seen in utter collapse at the feet of a woman. Meroz had failed in the plain path of duty; but Jael, who might have been excused, forgets her womanhood and her alien birth, forgets the ordinary claims of hospitality and the pity accorded to distress, and strikes for the Lord and for His people. There are times when the voice of nature must not be listened to, as when Levi "knew not his own kindred." On the other side, the unwomanly woman's voice that follows with the anticipation of the victory that was not to be, and of the spoil that was never to be handled, shows the degradation of nature in a soul away from God, and the tyranny under which Israel lay prostrate. After all, in behalf of nature itself was Jael's blow struck: that which is for God is no less for the creature, because God Himself cannot but be, in all the reality of what He is, for him whom He has made for Himself. The cause of God is the cause of all.

Subdivision 4. (Judges 6 — 10:5.)

The Midianite Test: the Church in relation to the world.

The fourth subdivision gives us the Midianite oppression and the deliverance, with the failure of the deliverer himself, and its disastrous consequences, ending, however, in true and peaceful revival under Tola and Jair. The spiritual meaning, as we shall see, brings all this into a true unity. Israel sinks lower than ever before. Gideon also fails in the very hour of victory; and the reign of his son is a usurpation of Jehovah's rights, begun in fratricide and closed in Divine judgment. Even in this way, the numerical structure vindicates itself; but there is much more than this.

Midian, a son of Abraham by Keturah, is, as we have seen, in Gen. 25, in common with his other children, the witness and pledge of how the nations of the earth will find blessing at last in him. It is a picture of blessing, where Ishmael, as another son, comes in also as representing Israel themselves in the same millennial day. The history, however, both of Ishmael and Midian (as man's history everywhere) speaks something very different from God's grace. These two also are connected — in some sense, identified — in Scripture (Gen. 37:28; Judges 8:24), as we shall presently see. Midian in this way stands for the world, as its history has characterized it, and the name corresponds to this, meaning "strife." "The corruption that is in the world" is "through lust" (2 Peter 1:4); and "whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts which war in your members?" (James 4:1.) And especially do the lusts in the members war against Christ, and thus against the Church of Christ. These Midianites — "Midian" is supposed by some to have real connection with the modern word "Bedouin" — were Arab raiders, wandering pillagers, locust-like devouring what they had no will to produce, as the story here shows; and this is what the world is when admitted into the professing church: it has no community of interest in it, but the reverse; the effect is mere desolation. The Israelites were forced by the Midianites into dens and caves and fastnesses; and so, literally, have the true followers of the Lord in the times of the world-church, when rule was ravage merely, and when the "produce of the land" — the heavenly fruits of life, and the seed of the word from which they spring — were the special objects of the spoilers' pursuit.

Notice, too, the connection with the Philistines, whose name we have seen is "wanderers," and who are the type so near to this, of earthly men intruding into heavenly things. "Until thou come to Gaza" is no mere geographical limit. "Gaza formerly, as in later times, was the great bazaar of stolen wares, brought together there by the Bedouins from their expeditions." (Cassel, in Lange's Commentary.) Philistines would naturally league with Israel's enemies, and typically are but another phase or aspect of the world-church. Other connections of the history here we shall find later in the story of Philistine-named Abimelech.

With the Midianites Amalekites also throng into the land. Familiar as we are with what Amalek stands for (see Ex. 17, n), we have no difficulty in seeing that here we are plainly reminded how the world and the lusts of the flesh are found together. The children of the East — a general term for nameless marauders — represent, probably, the similarly nameless host of evils that follow in the train of those already named. No wonder Israel was "brought very low"; but they are brought thus to cry to God, and He comes in for them. A prophet is sent to put them in remembrance of what is indeed so plain and yet so easily forgotten — the secret of their present condition to be in their false gods. With us all, such desolation from the Lord's hand means but this very thing, though it be in various ways disguised.

(b) Thus brought to repentance, the deliverer is now found for them. This deliverer is Gideon, the son of Joash, a Manassite; and it is simple enough, though none the less needful to be insisted on, that in Manasseh, the spiritual pressing on after the heavenly goal, is to be found the rescue from the spirit of the world. Gideon is the son of Joash the Abiezrite; and Joash may most simply mean "the despairing one," though taken generally, from the alternation of the two names in the case of two kings of the after-history, to be simply a contraction for Jehoash, a name of very different meaning. But even in their case, is it so sure that one name is but the contraction for the other? True reverence for the Word would assure us that even there there must be a reason for the difference, and therefore a corresponding difference of meaning. The change, one familiar with the style of Scripture would say, is a paronomasia, or slight change in the name, given for the very purpose of conveying a different thought. Even here, though the double form does not occur, Joash, the "despairing" — meaning self-despair — might well become a Jehoash, whom "Jehovah supports." And this, indeed, seems conveyed here, only after another manner: for Joash is "the Abiezrite;" and Abiezer means, as commonly given, "father of help," or, more literally, "my father is help." Certain it is that the true Abiezrite, or he who is able to trust thus confidently in God as his support, will be one weaned from self-confidence — from the thought of self-help.

Gideon springs thus from Joash; and his name is almost identical with that of a Benjamite already interpreted (Num. 1:11), Gideoni, "the cutter down." The application made of it there is to the judgment of the flesh, which the more literal meaning, "my cutter down," may, indeed, more precisely indicate. This links Gideon and Joash in thought very closely together; but Gideon is more general: it is "the cutter down;" and if this imply in the first place the judgment of man as fallen, in the light of God, we can clearly understand that this is power over the world necessarily, and that Gideon is thus the proper name of the deliverer from the hand of Midian.

To Gideon the call is given in another mariner from that to any former judge. To him the angel of Jehovah appears — one who everywhere accepts the title, with all that belongs to it, of Jehovah Himself. Gideon the Manassite is thus shown the goal toward which the Christian Manassite runs. It is in the Lord's presence alone that things take their true shape, and find their proper judgment. The angel appears sitting under the terebinth that was in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Elah, whether terebinth or oak, which is disputed, means, literally, a strong tree; Ophrah is generally taken as meaning "vigorous, nimble," and so a "fawn"; but from another root may mean "crumbling," akin to aphar, "dust." The angel's position may be thus another intimation of how, out of human weakness, strength is developed and maintained.

This is what is clearly before us, all through Gideon's history. He is found beating out wheat in a wine-press, to keep it out of the hands of the Midianites, and the angel salutes him with the words, "Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valor." And when he objects their present condition as proof that Jehovah had abandoned them, the angel further bids him, "Go in this thy strength, and thou shalt deliver Israel out of the clutch of Midian." What is this "strength"? It is the apprehension of the Lord's presence as this, — the consciousness that without Him there is none. This realized, the spiritual vision clears: God is seen as the soul's one necessity, and clung to, whatever else must be given up; there comes real strength to stand in the face of a hostile world, or against the opposition of the people of God themselves; and to stand with God means victory. Then the glorious face of God is turned upon us, as is said here with regard to Gideon; and every one so energized finds his call in this to aid in the deliverance of His people from the enemy: "Go, and thou shalt deliver; have not I sent thee?"

But it is easier to learn to answer to our name Jacob than it is to appropriate in simple faith that of Israel which God has given us; and so Gideon, mighty man of valor as he is yet to prove, shrinks from the place to which the voice of the Lord has called him, and opposes the very littleness which makes him a fit instrument in God's hand, as an argument against this! "Ah, Lord," he says, "wherewith shall I save Israel?" Why, with an ox-goad, as Shamgar once; or with a smooth stone from the brook, as David afterward. But it is not an inquiry merely as to the Lord's will, although now he owns it to be the Lord that is thus speaking with him. Alas, little "I" can be great enough as an obstacle to faith, and assert itself how pertinaciously in the very presence of the grace of God! And so he goes on to talk about his family, and his own place in his father's house. And how many are thus hindered from taking the place that God would give them by that littleness of theirs, which, after all, is of so much account! When shall we really learn that God's great men are all little ones, only made great by His use of them? — and leave off this shameful idolatry of means which is so continually putting the creature into the place of God, to its own dishonor and the wreck of all that we can wreck?

The Lord keeps to His grace, and Gideon must rise up to this: "Nay, but I will be with thee," He says; and there is all that need be said.

But Gideon's doubts are not settled: is it, after all, Jehovah that talks with him? Yes; is there not, after all, such a thing as fanaticism? Can we not make mistakes? And how, then, shall we be sure, at any time, we are not making one? Dull enough, surely, we are, when that voice which there is not another like, can be heard with doubt in the soul that hears it! May we not learn by the connection, too, that it is just the making so much of man that makes God so little, and disables us from distinguishing the voice of God? His thoughts are not as our thoughts; yet we may refuse His thoughts because they are so unlike our own. And often, indeed, we do this.

Gideon would prove, then, his visitor with an offering, and significantly brings him Abraham's offering of an ephah — that is, three measures — of flour; but Abraham's gift is of fine flour; and instead of Abraham's calf he brings a kid. Though less full a type than that in Genesis, Gideon's offering still speaks of Christ. And on the angel's part here there is more reserve than there, but still acceptance. At his direction it is placed upon the rock; and the angel touching it with his staff, it goes up in fire as an accepted offering. Then the angel himself departs: there is not power for sustained communion, as in Abraham's case; yet Christ, as Representative of His people, accepted in sacrifice upon the cross, is declared the ground upon which God can be with them in delivering them. And this is the true assurance of competence for the Gideons of any generation.

He is assured now that he has seen the angel of Jehovah face to face, yet fears on that account, till quieted by His word, that he will not die. There is, indeed, for us ever in the apprehension of the Lord's presence the apprehension also of the sentence passed upon the flesh; and here is the ability for all right walk, and energy for the warfare to which we are called. "Now mine eye seeth Thee, therefore I abhor myself." And Christ crucified is the affirming of this sentence and for deliverance from ourselves, that "crucified with Christ" we may yet live, — no longer we, but Christ living in us.

(c) Gideon, therefore, builds an altar, and calls it Jehovah-shalom, — "Jehovah is peace." It is not merely that there is peace with God, nor would this be the expression for it, for Jehovah is already the covenant name. No; but Jehovah is peace: it is found in Him; He has produced and bestowed it: from all fear whatever the soul takes shelter in Himself. And this being so, the altar itself is now a challenge of the idols; Jehovah's altar cannot abide in company with Baal's, nor Israel's deliverance be accomplished with a divided faith. Thus it was on the same night, the night of the day in which Jehovah had appeared, that Jehovah bade him throw down Baal's altar, and cut down the asherah, — a pillar of wood, the symbol of the Ashtaroth worship with which that of Baal was conjoined, — and, building an altar to Himself on the top of the stronghold (to which they were accustomed to retire from the face of the Midianites), to offer upon it his father's second bullock with the wood of the asherah he had cut down. Not to be interrupted by the unbelief of those around, he did it by night, and the next morning the challenge to Baal was apparent. Thus "to faith" Gideon had to "add virtue," — the boldness needed by every good soldier of Christ; and this boldness is God's means to awaken and embolden others, so that Joash, his father, steps into the ranks. To the cry for his son to be put to death, he answers that the pleader for Baal deserves that: it is for Baal himself to avenge the insult, — a sarcasm which smites down at once the opposition, and leaves to Gideon the title of idol-challenger, "Let Baal contend!" In the strife that is beginning, the very existence of the man of faith is a sign of victory already achieved, a pledge of one to come.

(2) The enemy now appears, and we are called to see, in the present section, the steps toward deliverance. There has to be preparation on Israel's part, as is evident; and the separation of those whom God can use in the accomplishment of this. Gracious He is, but none the less careful as to the associations of those who are His instruments, to whom He incrusts the honor of His name.

(a) The Midianites and their confederates spread themselves in the valley of Jezreel. We have already seen who these are, and for what they stand in the divine vocabulary. The Spirit of Jehovah now endues Gideon; for no mere wisdom or might of man is sufficient in this contest, and only in dependence are we safe. He blows the trumpet, and first Abiezer, and then all Manasseh, are gathered after him. The fitness of Manasseh for this place is apparent in Gideon, himself a Manassite. The world can only be overcome by him whose goal is beyond it; and this we have abundantly seen is what Manasseh represents. Asher, the "happy," Zebulon, the "dweller in relationship," and Naphtali, the "struggler" who overcomes, follow after Manasseh, and the Israelites' army of victory is gathered.

(b) But Gideon is not yet fully prepared, and urges upon the Lord his desire for a sign. He puts a fleece of wool upon the threshing-floor, and finds it in the morning wet with dew when all the ground is dry around. And again, at his further request, these conditions are reversed, and while all the ground is wet with dew, the fleece is dry. The fleece of the shorn sheep is the figure of forlorn Israel, which is to be filled with the dew of God's blessing amid the drought upon the heathen around. But then this also may be of God, the while His mercies are refreshing the nations around, Israel for her sins may be left dry. This is, in either case, no mere natural occurrence: it is in His favor that there is life; He hideth His face, and we are troubled. To recognize His hand in all conditions, however opposite, — to own everywhere His power and sway: this is the secret of wisdom, and of strength no less. For the acts of His throne are not arbitrary. He is no mere personal fate, but righteous and holy in all His dealings, and desiring to be understood by His people, however men in their wanderings from Him may misconceive the One upon whom they have turned their back.

(c) With his faith refreshed, Jerubbaal, the challenger of the idols, who is thus Gideon, the "cutter-down," rises up early, with all the people with him, and encamps opposite the enemy by the spring of trembling (Harod). And there, right in the presence of the vast host of Midian he is made by God to dismiss more than two thirds of his small army (at its best not a fourth part of the number of their adversaries), and that in obedience to a law of Deuteronomy. And what a humiliation and distress that 22,000 Israelites, come out expressly to battle, should on the plea of fear turn their backs upon their leader and his diminished force! But the design was not merely to get rid of the faint-hearted: for God's hand to be manifest as He meant it to be, ten thousand men were still too many. At the word of the Lord they are brought down to the water, and tested there by their manner of drinking. Three hundred, instead of bowing down on their knees for a leisurely draught, merely, as in haste, lap the water from their hand. They are true Manassites, pressing on to what is before them; and "by the three hundred men that lapped will I save you," is the Lord's word to Gideon; "and let all the people go, every man to his place." They do not seem to be sent home, however, but to their tents, as not needed for the battle that was before them.

(d) The Lord recognizes, however, the strain of all this upon Gideon's faith, and Himself tenderly proposes now a means of encouragement. This the enemy themselves were to furnish. Going down with Phurah, his servant, to the outskirts of the camp, he arrives just in time to hear one of the men interpret to his comrade a dream. The dreamer had seen a round cake of common barley-bread roll against the tent and overthrow it; and his comrade interprets it of "the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel, into whose hand God has given Midian and all the camp." "Bread" and a "sword" seem most incongruous figures; and yet they are both figures of the word of God; and barley bread — bread of the poorest kind — may in this case either speak of it according to the estimation of its despisers, or more probably of even its simplest and lowest truths. For what more than these are needed as against Midian and Amalek; that is, the world and the lusts of the flesh, as here making inroad into the Church of God?

(3) (a) And now we come to realized deliverance, in which the hand of the Lord is most manifestly seen. The means of victory are so clearly interpreted for us by the apostle (2 Cor. 4:4-12) that it is hardly possible to go astray, while it is true, and nowise strange, that the type is transcended by the antitype. The light, the earthen vessel, and the shining forth of the light, are sufficient points of resemblance; and while in the New Testament these are not looked at in connection with the discomfiture of the Church's enemies, but in the building up of the Church itself, these things are not so far apart as to prevent very easy and, indeed, instructive comparison and connection with one another. To build up the Church aright is impossible without freeing it from the domination of the world: how could Israel be built up in the midst of Midianite devastation? Nor will the Church, if not built up, be long free from a foreign yoke. The demonic rulers of this world rule it by darkness (Eph. 6:12). The inheritance of the saints is in light (Col. 1:12), and their armor also is "the armor of light" (Rom. 13:12). But that armor is not a mere wholly outside thing: it is light that is in the face of Christ Jesus, — objective there, indeed, but which is received into the believer's heart, and received not simply for personal joy and blessing, but "for shining forth" (2 Cor. 4:6, Gk). "The glory of God that is in the face of Jesus Christ," has nothing to express it in the type here: we could scarcely expect it; but there is no other light for the Christian: there would not be even torchlight without this.

That the light is in an "earthen vessel" is abundantly plain. This treasure is enshrined in mere humanity with its manifest infirmity, liable to suffering and to death. But this, too, has its design, says the apostle: it is "that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of man." This is in the very line of truth that the story of the Lord's man of might enforces here. And yet the vessel, like the pitchers of the three hundred, tends indeed to shroud and bury the light so as to prevent its shining. What is needed, then, that the purpose of God may be fulfilled in this way? How plainly we see the spiritual requirement ruling here, for the vessel to be broken that the light may shine! And so the apostle dwells upon the afflictions of the Christian, always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body; for we who live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Thus it is light shining forth in life that is spoken of here; and this life not that of nature merely, but Christ our life, which, the more the outward man is consumed, becomes the more lustrous, the more convincingly of God.

When the world has invaded the Church, and Israel is scattered in dens and caves, this light may be little seen. Its display will always be the confusion of Midian and its overthrow, accomplished as it must and will be by the voice of the trumpet, once so effective in the destruction of Jericho. The light and the trumpet — the testimony of the Word and the testimony of the life this is the double testimony which is true, and so effective, and which is the destruction of the world-church. Face to face with it, the mere godless profession, self-condemned, dies by its own hand.

(b) Hardly is victory achieved, and the fruits of it remain yet largely to be gathered, when opposition shows itself on the part of Israel themselves. Ephraim is now called to take part in the contest, and they respond and gain a decisive battle, taking two princes of Midian — Oreb and Zeeb, the "Raven" and the "Wolf," — and bringing their heads to Gideon, on the other side of Jordan. There is, indeed, a place for Ephraim in such a contest as this, though it is not the first place. The spiritual meaning again illumines the history; and the names of the princes slain would seem to show them to represent only the ruder and lower of Israel's — or the Church's — enemies; indeed, according to the plain word, "princes," and not "kings."

But Ephraim is notorious also for pride, and it is that very first place that they fain would have. They contend vehemently with their deliverer, because they were not called when he went to fight Midian, and are only appeased by Gideon's unpretending humility, who refers all to God, if in his eyes, in fact, Ephraim's gleanings seem more than Abiezer's vintage.

Thence he goes on to meet scornful refusal of even necessary food for his famishing company from the Israelite towns of Succoth and Penuel. But he does not pause for the retribution with which he threatens them: "faint though pursuing," they press on.

(c) Of the completion of the deliverance from Midian little can be yet said. Much depends here upon the names, the meaning of some of which is hard to determine. Zebah means "sacrifice"; Zalmunna apparently "shadow [shelter?] withheld." Karkor, from a root "to dig," expresses deep, soft, level ground" (Fausset) — generally is given as "deep ground;" Jogbehah, "elevation," or, "it is exalted;" Nobah, "barking." The scoffers of Succoth and Penuel meet their threatened judgment after Midian.

(4) Gideon's career, so bright and prosperous hitherto, ends yet, alas, in sudden and disastrous failure. What worm has been at the root of all this beauteous development, that collapse should be so immediate upon success? There must surely be in it deep lessons of utter self-distrust, that we are called to learn, lessons that so to learn would save us from how much, perhaps, of painful experience, much like that of the elders of Succoth, taught as with the thorns and briars of the wilderness, the fruit of the curse which has come through sin.

One test, and that a severe one, Gideon successfully resists. The people bid him rule over them, and would establish royalty in his family among them; but he declines so promptly as effectually to prevent any repetition of the offer: "I will not rule over you," he says, "neither shall my son rule over you: Jehovah shall rule over you." There it is plain he speaks out of the depth of strong conviction and loving obedience. And though God Himself had spoken permissively of a king for Israel some time in the future, Gideon had known too much of his own weakness, too much of the people with whom he had to do, and too well the Lord's abundant care and interest in Israel, to entertain for a moment the thought of anticipating this.

Yet in the same breath, it would seem, in which he rejects the kingship, he stretches forth his hand to take the priesthood: for nothing short of this can be meant by the use to which he puts the gifts which he now solicits from them, being the rings of the spoil. They had, it is added, golden rings, because they were Ishmaelites. The identification of these with the Midianites has been before noticed: they were Ishmaelites as men of strife, according to their name not by descent, of course, but by habit. As warlike nomads it was natural for them to carry much of their wealth upon their persons. The use of all this gold shows clearly that it is a high priestly ephod that Gideon makes, not as intending to dispute the office with the high priest at Shiloh; and yet apparently claiming equal rank with his.

But what could lead a man like Gideon into such a course? That view is surely correct which finds this in a false interpretation of his past experience. He had actually offered sacrifice, as we remember, at Ophrah by the Lord's command; and there the altar he had raised still stood. It is simple that for this he was providing according to the Mosaic ritual, God having, as he might judge, already ordained him to this office: a plausible, and yet false, inference from a real experience. We need not wonder to hear that this became a snare to Gideon and his house, nor that all Israel went whoring after it. We can find in it what the generations of an after-dispensation have but too faithfully repeated, and thus types written for our admonition.

God had appointed but one high priest for Israel, and the ordinary priesthood was confined to the same line, the family of Aaron. The essence of this priesthood was that they were mediators for the people, and, by sacrifice, a special, peculiar link between the people and God: in this way alone could they draw near to God.

For us as Christians all this is changed. In Christianity people and priests are one, and on this account the special priesthood has passed away. We are no longer at a distance, but brought nigh: the effectual sacrifice has been offered once for all — as on the day of atonement, by the High Priest alone, who has thereupon, as for a moment Israel's high priest did, gone into the sanctuary, but a heavenly one, there to make intercession for us in the presence of God. The rent veil, the throned High Priest, the universal priesthood of the people of God, are essential characteristics of the period in which, through grace, we live.

But the Church has failed, and not proved able to retain for herself the apprehension of this grace. Mingled with and sunk into the world, the shadows of the past have been allowed to darken the light into which the goodness of God had introduced her. Distance has again come in between the people of God and God, the knowledge of the efficacy of the work of Christ has become obscured, and as a result the Jewish system, in the disguise of Christian names and forms, is found today firmly entrenched in the midst of Christendom. The old priesthood of a distinctive class, modified in various ways, is fully reinstated, and even exaggerated in the Romish and kindred ritualistic systems: an invasion of Christ's office in the direction of what Gideon's failure seems to point to typically in no uncertain way.

He had, indeed, been commanded to build an altar to Jehovah, and even to offer sacrifice upon it: and this was really putting him in a priestly place. But his sacrifice does not seem to have the mediatorial character which attached to the Aaronic priesthood, but to be rather eucharistic, or intended to vindicate the Lord's claim to the worship of Israel in opposition to Baal, whose altar had just been overthrown. Gideon's sacrifice, therefore, though in form such as that offered by the Aaronic priesthood, seems really different, and to approach in intent more truly to the "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" of the Christian man. But the ephod — clearly high-priestly — speaks far otherwise; the high-priest being manifestly the representative of the nation before God; and Israel going whoring after it, intimates how they understood it. Its being made with the spoils of victory — of which it would remain a perpetual trophy — may show how in Christendom, as faith lessened and grew rare, the very piety of individuals tended to put them into a place which, from being foremost, came to be official and representative. The ordinary Christians became the secular, the laity, dropped back into the old distance, needing a continually greater work to bring them nigh, until an official priesthood intruded upon the work of Christ without rebuke, and the process of Judaizing became as complete as may be seen in Romanism.

We need not wonder, then, to find this a snare to Gideon and his house, nor soon an Abimelech proceeding from the loins of Jerubbaal, the deliverer. This we are now called to consider.

2. Abimelech ("my hither [was] king") in his name, carries us back to the Philistines. It was that of their kings, and speaks, as we saw in Genesis, of that successional claim in the world-church, the falsehood of which he so plainly represents. His succession is from one who refused power when offered him, and he makes it good by treachery and murder of those who stood in his way. His typical connection with his father's ephod is easy to be seen, and confirms the application of the whole history here.

Israel had once again lapsed into idolatry, and taken Baal-berith to be their god. The words mean "lord of the covenant," which may be simply equivalent to "covenant-lord," and may go beyond this. The worship of Baal was at least a sign of covenant with the Canaanites, whose god he was, and the history here gives manifest proof of alliance with the heathen. The "men of Hamor, the father of Shechem," are known and in estimation among them (Judges 9:28); and the word for "lords" (baale), unusual in Hebrew, is "often found in the Phoenician dialect." It is applied, says Fausset, "to the men of Gibeah (Judges 20:5), and the Canaanite citizens of Jericho (Joshua 24:11), and to the men of Keilah (1 Sam. 23:11, 12). The continual recurrence of this word (ver. 2, 6, 7, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 39, 46, 47, 51) can hardly be accidental; it probably alludes to the majority of them being Canaanites, and connects with the Phoenician Baal-worship of Canaan" — Baalites, as it were. In this way, also, the name Jerubbaal is so often harped upon. Baal-worship and intermixture with the Canaanites are certainly found at their worst in the story of crime and bloodshed following here.

Idolatry and the reign of Abimelech are thus connected, as in the dispensational fulfillment; and Shechem, at the very spot where the law of Jehovah was proclaimed, is now the center of apostasy.

(1) The sources of his power are plainly that he is half Canaanite, half Israelite, son of Gideon on the one side, though son of the bondwoman on the other. He is, in this respect, another Ishmael; and with the same typical meaning that the apostle (Gal. 4) gives to the former one. How plainly we have in him, then, the Jewish-Christian-Pagan abomination that has arisen in the bosom of Christianity to lord it over the Israel of God. Naturally his way must be prepared by the extermination of Jerubbaal's true successors, although a remnant escapes into hiding at Beer, the "well," — a good place for God's refugees, — in the person of Jotham, who yet is able to make heard his testimony against the usurper.

Jotham ("Jehovah is perfect") bears in his name the character of a true witness. The Shechemites, with shameless audacity, gather at the stone set up by Joshua, to make the fratricide Abimelech king; and there Jotham appeals to them from Gerizim in the fable of the trees.

The tendency of man's heart is to make another king than God, to put leaders in His place, and thus to destroy the use and blessing for which the olive, the fig, the vine, the various gifts of God, are given. But just those who are really worthiest will most surely refuse to leave their spheres of happy service, their sweetness, and their fruit, to go to "wave over," — to flutter idly in the wind over the trees. Thus royalty comes naturally to the thorn-bush, which need give up nothing, but which has thus nothing in its gift but thorns, — such as, indeed, the men of Succoth were taught with. But worse would come than this, — the fire of God's wrath, which, from this side and from that, would destroy both king and people.

(2) The Jothams are seldom listened to; and the men of Shechem and Abimelech go on to the end of which they have been warned. Three years pass, and the prediction is fulfilled: the people of Shechem act treacherously toward Abimelech, and Abimelech wars against and destroys Shechem. This is all described with a fullness of detail which shows that there is much more in it than the concerns of a petty Israelitish city; yet as little more than this do the commentators treat it. Nor can we expect that full light upon it all should be acquired at once. But taking Abimelech as depicting in brief the growth and catastrophe of Romish power in Christendom, we may perhaps see in Gaal, the son of Ebed, the "loathing" bred of "servitude," which is but indeed the translation of his name, and which incites the nations to cast off their allegiance to him whom they first lifted into power. Well may the descendants of the "wild ass" (Hamor) rebel against so harsh a yoke as they had put their necks into! But it is another matter to escape from it; and Zebul (which looks like Zebulon, but a little clipped), whose character throughout is that of craft, and who is Abimelech's officer to retain the city in obedience, may easily represent the apparent sanctity wherewith a power like that of Rome so well knows how to enforce its claims. Look but a little closer, and the ambiguity begins to appear. Zebul is nearly allied to Jezebel, still more evidently to Beelzebul,* — being identical, indeed, with the last part of this name, and thus may be really "dung," as it is there.

{*The true reading, as is well known, of Matt. 10:25. Notice that Jezebel has also this sinister ambiguity: it may mean "chaste," her pretension, or "dung-heap," the reality. And this, too, is a symbol of Romanism!}

It is not the power that makes Abimelech that can unmake him. He prevails against Shechem, only to perish by a woman's hand at Thebez.* Here the millstone reminds us of Babylon's overthrow, where, in Rev. 18:21, the symbol of the Old Testament prophet is taken up by the New. In these Babylon herself is figured by the millstone, as the hard and merciless grinder of God's wheat. In the story in Judges, the millstone is the cause of Abimelech's destruction; yet these two things are almost one: it is character that brings destruction from God; and the woman's hand, what is it but the Church of God whose cries have gone up to God, and who in this way brings the punishment? The mill-stone and the woman's hand are thus really complementary thoughts that perfect the application.

{*Suggested by another: Thebez, "brightness," aiming at glory: in contrast with a glorified church, Rome meets her doom.}

3. Tola and Jair, following Abimelech, are in most marked and significant contrast with him. No warlike deeds are recorded of them: Israel seems to have enjoyed the most entire peace during the forty-five years of their united judgeship. Absolutely nothing is recorded of Tola except his descent, the place of his residence and burial, and the length of time during which he judged Israel. Of Jair personally even less is given; but the fact is noticed of his thirty sons who all attained to dignity in Israel. Out of these few and apparently not very important items we are to gather whatever spiritual lessons they can furnish.

That it is a flourishing period for the nation is quite consistent with there being but little history. Man's record is largely one of sorrows and crimes; and men whose names are written in large letters across the page get mostly their place there through either their own sins or those of others. Of these men their names are their sufficient witness, evidently because they answer to them: they are what they profess to be. Of each it is said that "he arose," and of Tola that he "arose to save Israel," — more, perhaps, by what he was than by what he did; but the words mark, evidently, a resurrection time in Israel; the words "there arose after Abimelech to save Israel," seem to connect also in some way the previous section with the present; in what manner we may shortly learn.

(1) The name of Tola has already been before us, as that of the head of a family in Issachar, to which tribe the present Tola also belongs. His name is that of the crimson "worm," the coccus of the oak, which yielded the "scarlet" or crimson employed in the tabernacle. The cry of the twenty-second psalm, "I am a worm, and no man," indicates the self-chosen humiliation of the blessed victim. The name Tola here, as that of the judge in Israel, shows at once the most striking contrast with Abimelech. It is lowly self-surrender, not self-exaltation, that marks this man of Issachar, a tribe which speaks to us also, as we have seen, of practical walk. He is the son of Puah, "utterance," who is himself the son of Dodo, "his beloved." Thus out of the consciousness of divine love in the soul comes the "utterance" which in the practical life becomes self-surrender to God. The Shamir in Mount Ephraim, in which he dwells, though different from that which we have before had,which was in Judah (Joshua 15:48), should speak as that does of unchangeableness; yet not in God as in the Judean city, but rather, as its place in Ephraim would imply, of human character. If such were, indeed, that of Tola, it is easy to understand the twenty-three years' revival under his judgeship.

But is not this a prophetic glance on to the time when not Israel only, but the whole world, shall know the blessing of the rule of the incorruptible judge, of whom we cannot but have been reminded in this picture, and of whom we know that He transcends it? The reign of the thorn-bush has been all that yet man has seen, and the result of his choice of rulers will be nothing else until the Abimelechs have received their judgment. Then, indeed, the time of revival shall come with the presence of the Risen One, once crowned with the thorn, and now with glory forever. If Tola be a type, of whom else can he be a type but this? He who has "learned obedience by the things that He hath suffered," shall yet bring to obedience, and thus to blessedness in the time to which we hasten. Who but He can do this?

(2) Jair, the Gileadite, seems now to confirm this witness. His name, "enlightener," is only to be applied in any full way to Him who is the One Light of men. And that he is the Gileadite may speak of the "heap of witness" (see Joshua 13 n.) which Jair's burial would seem to remind us of being buried in Camon (the place of resurrection) the grave that could not hold Him.

The thirty sons on thirty ass-colts, with their thirty cities, is in this case also plain. "They rode," says Cassel, not merely as men of quality, — the usual explanation, — but as chiefs, governors, and judges. It was peculiar to such persons especially, that they made use of the ass, as the animal of peace. Their very appearance on this animal was expressive of their calling — to reconcile and pacify. The sons of Jair judged their thirty cities." The Lord's own riding into Jerusalem, and His parable of the pounds (Luke 19) show us very simply the application here. Of the havvoth Jair, or "Jair's lives," we have spoken before (Joshua 13:11, n.).

Tola and Jair are thus the twofold witnesses of Him to whom yet the disorder of man's rule will give way, though it will be still and truly man's, the kingdom of the Sou of man. For the Son of man cometh in the clouds of heaven, and henceforth they "shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending [in attendance] on the Son of man."

Subdivision 5. (Judges 10:6 – 12.)

Sowing and reaping: the Ammonite raids.

The story of Jephthah and his successors comes in the fifth place among these captivities and deliverances; and where all show so strongly the divine government that is over all, it might seem little likely that this should specialize the lesson. Yet it seems really to do so when — and perhaps only when — we bring in the spiritual to interpret the literal. For if Ammon be typically what we have taken it to be, then we can see clearly how the Church, in its departure from God, sows in its own unbelief the seed of every heresy; or, to keep more strictly to the Lord's illustration, how when men sleep the enemy sows his tares. The Word neglected and despised, opens the way for every perversion of it. And this is righteous retribution.

But from first to last in this subdivision, the lesson seems especially enforced that as the sowing so is the reaping. Look at the Ephraimites in proof, where their own taunt is returned upon them to the full, as well as their harshness.

(1) Again the story is repeated of Israel's departure from God, and their chastening by the hand of those after whose gods they had gone. Indeed, the gods of every nation round had now their worship, and Jehovah alone is deprived of His. He sells them, therefore, again into the hands of the Philistines and of the Ammonites at once. The Ammonite scourge is spoken of in the section now before us; the Philistine bondage is not broken until we reach the book of Samuel, although Samson, as prophesied of him, begins the deliverance (Judges 13:5).

The Ammonites depict, as we have found reason to believe (Deut. 2:19, sq. n.), what the tares" do in the second parable of the thirteenth of Matthew, the fruit of the seed of Satan's sowing within the limits of the kingdom of heaven. The good seed is the word of God, and the product of it the children of the kingdom; but the word of God is not what Satan sows, but some corruption of the truth, and the fruit of this is in errorists of multiple forms. This interpretation is confirmed as to the Ammonites by the fact that we find them not content with the subjugation of Israel: they claim, on the ground of their own title to it, to take away the land. From Ammon to Jabbok, the kingdom of Sihon formerly, now the inheritance of Reuben and of Gad, they contend that Israel had robbed firm of all this when they came out of Egypt; and they ask plainly for its restoration. Thus it is plain would heresy take away the portion of the people of God. And it is noteworthy that it is the land east of the Jordan which they openly demand, though, in fact, making this a vantage-ground for their attack upon the tribes across the river.

Now Sihon's kingdom we have taken to be the dominion of reason, which faith (Reuben) is to reconstitute and hold; and here is commonly where error begins the attack. Even in its superstitious forms it will be found to have its root in rationalism": the word of God is displaced from its authority, as we see in Romanism. Hence we find Jephthah quoting the Word against the king of the Ammonites: much of what he says being simply a quotation from the book of Numbers. The word of God has, indeed, given faith secure title to the whole province of reason, which rationalistic error has ever proved itself incompetent to hold, soon losing it to the Amorites, the infidel "talkers" against God. This is Jephthah's plea, in fact, against Ammon, that they had so lost it to Sihon before Israel had gained possession, and that from Sihon, in fact, Israel had wrested it. Faith is ever and only the fullest reason and the word of God it is that is alone able to make the whole field of reason a fruitful and goodly portion. If we do not hold it, we expose Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, to the Ammonite attack, and open a way to the loss of all heavenly blessings. "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not," says the Son of God Himself, "how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?"

Of how much importance is it to insist upon this, today! Scripture is true and trustworthy every where, or it is to be trusted nowhere. Let us take our stand boldly there, if we would retain anything of what God has given to us. And away with the unbelieving thought that Scripture is not meant to teach us science! Let us rather say that it is meant to teach whatever it does teach. It is light, not darkness; truth, and only truth; the soul of reason; the illumination of all it touches.

And here the name of the deliverer seems to be most significant. Jephthah is a word we have had already: it is the Jiphtah of Joshua 15:43, and the Jiphtah-[el] of Joshua 19:14, 27. It means "he opens," and in the first place we have taken it as applying to Christ opening the heavenly places for us; in the others, to God's opening — El being added — whether of spiritual truth, or of the heart to receive it. How simply does this show us the deliverer from the children of Ammon, whether we may apply it to Scripture as opening truth, or Christ as the subject of Scripture, and the true light everywhere. These things are practically one, and in closest relation to what we have just been saying. "Scripture opens" — is truth, is science, puts Sihon's king into the hand of faith. To maintain it thus is true deliverance from Ammonite heresy; while thus our portion in the land is covered from attack — Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, are made secure from every inroad of this kind.

Jepththah, too, is a Gileadite, and thus a Manassite. His being made head of Gilead figures largely, as we see, in the deliverance. It is only he who goes on in the truth, making progress in the acquisition of the divine treasure, who can preserve from the Ammonite raider the treasure of the past. But as a Manassite also, let us remember, he enters into the things that are beyond, the heritage across Jordan also, and connects it with the inheritance on this side. He who in the spiritual reality can hold these things together is the true deliverer from the raids of the Ammonite.

(4) As to Jephthah's vow, there seem haste and failure in it, but surely not the human sacrifice that many have imagined. Most recent commentators agree in this, and believe that his daughter was simply consecrated to God, to live an unmarried life, as verses 37-39 seem plainly to show. There is not a word about death in her case, save what is supposed to be involved in the 31st verse, "I will offer it up a burnt-offering."* But Jephthah's words to the king of Ammon show him to be acquainted with the law; and by the law such an offering was forbidden as an abomination. (Lev. 18:21, etc.) No altar could have been found for it; no priest would have performed it; and the two months of mourning on the mountains would have given ample time for the news of the contemplated sacrifice to have spread far in Israel. To suppose that under the circumstances he could have been ignorant of the law, or that, knowing it, he could have had such a passion to sacrifice the daughter he loved, as in the face of it to persevere in offering to Jehovah an abomination that He hated, seems incredible enough. Everything is against the perpetration of such a crime; and the Hebrew certainly allows the translation of or "instead of" and I will offer it." "The great Jewish commentators of the Middle Ages," says Edersheim, "have, in opposition to the Talmud, pointed out that these two last clauses are not identical. It is never said of an animal burnt-offering that it should be to Jehovah, — for the simple reason that as a burnt-offering it is such. But where human beings are offered to Jehovah, there the expression is used, as in the case of the first-born among Israel and of Levi (Num. 3:12, 13). But in these cases it has never been suggested that there was actual human sacrifice." He urges, as do others: "If the loving daughter had devoted herself to death, it is next to incredible that she should have wished to have spent the two months of life conceded to her, not with her broken-hearted father, but in the mountains with her companions."

{*The same word as translated elsewhere "burnt-offering," but the idea of burning is not necessarily implied. Solomon's "ascent by which he went up to the house of Jehovah" (1 Kings 10:5) is the same word: it means "what ascends," and it seems well to avoid here the unnecessary difficulty connected with the use of the common English term. (See the Notes.)}

After all, the word does not actually mean, in Hebrew, "burnt-offering," but simply an "offering that ascends" — all ascends — to God. And this makes a great difference. Jephthah did not pledge himself that the offering should be burnt, though that were the way in which an animal sacrifice would "ascend." I have felt a necessity, therefore, of omitting this word from the translation. It is probably all that is really needed to avoid the difficulty.

In any case the history remains a witness to and against the terrible legality of the human heart which could thus shadow the joy of such a deliverance at the moment of its being granted. Such vowing is now expressly forbidden by our Lord: "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths; but I say unto you, Swear not at all." God's will needs not man's will to supplement, but only to obey, it. To undertake obedience all uncalled for is only to subject one's self to bondage to one's own infirmity.

As tested, however, by the consequences of his vow, Jephthah, though smitten to the heart, abides the test, and proves his loyalty to Jehovah, a loyalty shared to the full by his noble daughter. Not even her name is inscribed upon the record here, but she fully takes her place among the great historic women of Israel.

(5) We have still to speak of the Ephraimite outrage and its chastisement. It is a more violent repetition of their conduct toward Gideon, but which meets in this case a terrible retribution. The pride of Ephraim is typically an admonition for us, — a much-needed one. How readily does "fruitfulness" get spoiled by the blight of self-complacency! — and what sore rebukes does it necessitate for us, that we may be delivered from that which was the condemnation of the devil! (1 Tim. 3:6). Their taunting words as to the Gileadites became true to the letter as to themselves when they became, indeed, "fugitives of Ephraim among the Manassites," who, alas, do not spare them. The quarrels of brethren are, of all, the severest: in proportion to the closeness of the ties sundered is the bitterness aroused: civil strife is proverbially the most uncivil.

2. Very briefly indeed we have now the account of Jephthah's successors. As the quiet for twenty-five years after his death was doubtless the result of his victory, so also do they seem to represent, in their names and connection, the consequences spiritually. We have scarcely anything except names here; so that, if these are meaningless, the history as a whole can be little else. Any escape from such a conclusion — any light where otherwise all must be darkness cannot then but be welcome.

(1) There are three successors, the first two of whom are Zebulonites; the third apparently an Ephraimite. Of Ibzan himself we have only the fact of his being a Bethlehemite. This Bethlehem is not that of Judah, but the one named in Joshua (19:15) as belonging to Zebulon. Of course it has the same significance. Ibzan is said to mean "labor," "great labor." This is from the near-akin Chaldee. If from the Hebrew directly, then we must decide for "white," perhaps "shining." Taking the first, and remembering that Jephthah speaks of "opening" the truth, "labor" in the "place of bread" seems nearly and naturally connected as a consequence. On, the other hand, "white," the common symbol of purity, is no less natural; and more suitable, perhaps, in the place in which he stands here, first in succession. Sanctification is by the truth, and that satisfaction for the soul which "bread" — the "bread of life" — denotes, is a main element in sanctification. That he is a Zebulonite is quite in keeping; and the ties that we find spoken of as binding him with others may well imply the spiritual links that form where the word of God is felt in power and spread abroad. He is a fitting successor; then, to Jephthah.

(2) Elon, the "oak," comes next, implying strength as the product of life and growth. Growth by the truth fits well the second place, — Elon being again a Zebulonite. Nothing else is recorded of him but that he judged Israel ten years and was buried in Ajalon.

(3) The third judge is Abdon, "service," the son of Hillel, "praising," a Pirathonite, or dweller in "freedom," — thoughts which are too coherent and too easily understood in their connection by every Christian heart to need either expansion or insisting on. That Pirathon is in Ephraim connects again liberty with fruitfulness; and "in the mount of the Amalekites" may refer to some past victory over them, or at least to a possession of the land on their part which no longer existed. In the whole of this the spirit of consecration speaks, and that is doubtless the truth presented here. The free service which is the fruit of praise has succeeded to the old Amalekite misrule of "lusts that war in the members": and this, with what has been brought before us in the judges preceding Abdon, gives us well the fruit of such victories as those of Jephthah typify, — for us the victories of the Word of truth.

Subdivision 6. (Judges 13 — 16.)

Samson and the Philistines: victory, but not rest.

The story of Samson, the last of the judges in this book, is fittingly a sixth and not a seventh subdivision; nor have we a seventh. The number, we well know, to be significant of evil at its height, even though it speak also of limit set to and victory over it: and to this, in every particular, the history corresponds. It is one of strange contrasts and of apparent contradictions: one in which the grace and purpose of God, so manifest in it, seem so little fulfilled in the result; in which the consecration of the Nazarite to God has so little correspondence to any spiritual condition that all through, if we are confined to the letter, there seems scarce a gleam of comfort for the Christian heart. The failure of man is plain, whatever the circumstances in which he may be placed: the greater privileges bestowed on him, the deeper only is his fall. Samson, in this way, — by the strength of the Lord which he manifests, and his loss of it when false to his consecration, — is a lesson impossible to be mistaken as to Israel's condition,who were themselves. thus nationally separated to God, and untrue to their separation. The Church has failed more signally, inasmuch as she has been called to, and qualified for, a higher separation. Nor, though there have been, and may yet be, partial revivals, will there be for her any complete recovery. Her earthly history ends, as that of this book does, in Philistine captivity still in the main unbroken.

The reason is obvious as to Israel: we read of fresh departure, but of no return nor cry to Jehovah. He acts toward them, indeed, in goodness, and provides a deliverer; but the deliverance itself, being still conditioned upon their repentance, cannot be effected. Samson's victories bring about, at the most, but an alleviation of their distress; and he himself fails at the last, and dies, though slaying more of the Philistines at his death than in his life.

We have seen, abundantly, what these Philistines stand for. They are the ritualistic, traditional, element in Christendom, — the Judaism in the Church, — the earthly intrusion into what is spiritual and heavenly. We have seen them as hindrances in the path of Abraham and of Isaac, and traced them from the Egyptians by Casluhim and Caphtorim, the united people settling at last on the outward border of the land to which, — Palestine from Philistine, — though never possessing but a fraction, they have given their name. So has the world-church become the "catholic" or universal church.

From Philistine bondage the deliverer is a Nazarite; and thus Samuel, who completes Samson's work, is like him iii this respect. For the Nazarite is the type of separation from the world, such as belongs to the true church, — from the intoxication of its joys and from its legal claims, as well as from its pollutions; and let this separation be lost, all strength is lost, — the conqueror becomes the slave, the clear sight of the judge becomes but blindness: the history of Samson is repeated. How many times has it been, in fact, repeated!

1. With Samson we are made to see, from the outset, the sovereign grace which prepares the deliverance. His birth is announced by the angel of the Lord, apart from any apparent seeking upon man's part. He is the son of a woman naturally barren; and the preparation for his coming antedates his birth. In this last it is implied that there are still conditions to be conformed to in order to deliverance.

(1) The predicted deliverer is of the family of Dan. Dan speaks already of the service of rule, as we have seen, — a rule which must, for blessing, be first of all over one's self. Manoah is a man of Zorah, which reminds us of the sting of sin; while his name, "rest," nevertheless proclaims already victory over it. The victory is in subjection: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Here is the Danite spirit from which springs the helper.

It is to the woman, however, to whom the angel first appears, and her name we have not. She is reminded of her barrenness, that God's grace and power may the more appear. She is herself nothing, her very name without importance, and that of her husband unnoticed in the message of the angel: for all here is of God. And agreeing with this is the special emphasis laid upon the woman's long hair of the Nazarite, to the man a shame, and the renunciation of his glory as such (1 Cor. 11). Oh the blessing that results when all the glory is given to God, and man owns himself naturally to have forfeited all, that grace may be grace!

(2) In correspondence with all this, it is the woman who receives most readily the divine communication. Manoah, pious as he is, does not feel so sure of its character and meaning. But he looks to God, and is confirmed by the angel's second visit. This is still to the woman first, but who is permitted to call her husband, that he too may hear from the angel's lips. But Manoah as yet recognizes only a human messenger, even while recognizing the message. The angel insists simply upon obedience to the word already given; and when Manoah desires to entertain him, refuses to receive from him as man, but bids him offer a burnt-offering to Jehovah. Like Gideon, he is constituted thus a priest to the Lord: the unbelief of the believer is rebuked by his being brought into nearer intimacy; he is turned from man to God, and put into a place in which, in priestly fashion, he may approach God. But Manoah cannot yet understand, and would learn the name of the speaker, that when his word is fulfilled they may, as man, do him honor. Thus the angel's question, why he should ask after his name? — yet adding, what might well justify inquiry, that it was "Wonderful," — a name which Isaiah afterward gives us as Immanuel's" (Isa. 9:6); and here, indeed, God and man are brought together in one Person. But Manoah does not yet understand. Still, obedient, he brings his kid and the meal-offering which goes with it, the blessed type of Him in whom a perfect Man would be in due time the Substitute for man, and offers it upon the rock, — no unworthy altar. Then the angel of Jehovah acts according to His name, and ascends to heaven in the altar-flame. God in His holiness is indeed that which, while it consumes the sacrifice turns it to sweet savor, in which it ascends to Him. With this flame the angel, as it were; identifies Himself, and ascends up to heaven. Thus He is revealed to Manoah; thus in the truth of what is here He is made known to every believing sinner, and takes His true and heavenly place.

The woman still it is who enters into the mind of God, however; and her identification with the true Nazarite character, as in the Nazarite's long hair, is emphasized, as well as the connection of this preparatory part with the history that follows. Her reasoning is simplicity itself, and the truth of it a demonstration. Faith is indeed always simple; unbelief laborious and roundabout, for it is the effort of human will against God, and may well be labor.

3) And now the prophecy is fulfilled, and Samson is born. The name is variously explained. While that of "sun-like" would be etymologically the most simple, and have some support from the words of Deborah's song (Judges 5:31), yet that of Josephus, "strong," seems rather to point to the lesson of his story.* It is the secret of strength that is shown forth in him, both in his victories and in his failure and defeat; and thus it is very far from true that (as Cassel thinks) such an explanation appears to be without historical motive.

{*"Shimshon (LXX. Samson) does not mean 'sun-like,' 'hero of the sun,' from shemesh (the sun), but, as Josephus explains it (Ant. v., 8, 4), iskuros, the strong or daring one; from shimshom, from the intensive form shimshem of shamem, in its original sense of to be 'strong,' or 'daring,' not to 'devastate.'" — (Keil.)}

Samson grows, and the Spirit of Jehovah begins to urge him in the camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. It had been that of the six hundred men, whose history is given us further on (ch. 18), although the occurrence was much earlier than Samson's time, and who had gone forth, pressed by the narrow limits into which Amorites and Philistines had combined to crowd them, to found for themselves a new Dan in the north. Such a spot would naturally work upon the youthful mind of Samson, and be used of the Spirit to inspire him with eager patriotism, — a thing which in Israel had not alone nature to commend it. Israel were the people of God, the divine means of fore-ordained blessing for all the families of the earth, and to whom the revelation of God had been committed. The champion of Israel was, by this fact, and though he might have but little intelligence of the fact, the champion of the world's salvation.

2. As Keil rightly remarks, the story of Samson's deeds that follows is divided into two parts by the notice of his judgeship in Israel, which lasted twenty years. The first of these — the present section — gives evidently the heroic acts which win for him the place of acknowledged authority which he retains for the time; while the second shows his fall and ruin through being false to his Nazariteship, though in his death he is once more victorious. This descent and restoration, though but at the close of his career, mark the last as a true third section.

The present, as Keil again points out, "includes six distinct acts, which are grouped together in twos; namely (1 and 2), the killing of the lion on the way to Timnath, and the slaughter of the thirty Philistines for the purpose of paying for the solution of his riddle with the clothes that he took from them; (3 and 4), his revenge upon the Philistines by burning their crops, because his wife had been given to a Philistine, and also by the great slaughter with which he punished them for having burned his father-in-law and wife; (5 and 6), the bursting of the cords with which his countrymen had bound him for the purpose of delivering him up to the Philistines, and the slaying of a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass." Of course it does not follow that these six acts sufficiently characterize the portions with which they stand connected; while yet, in this simple way, a numerical structure is shown to exist. This, we may be sure, must have its significance. The number 6 is itself, as we have seen, characteristic of the whole history of Samson; and this, broken up into 3 x 2, becomes the witness of the divine in the midst of all the human failure and sorrow attendant.

(1) The story in all this part is a closely connected one, and all the events spring out of — what is sadly significant as to the final issue here — Samson's attempt to connect himself with the very people from whom he is to "begin to deliver" Israel. The alliance it is that is the occasion of the conflict: the Philistine and the Nazarite cannot really unite, and the attempt to do so only brings out the essential incompatibility. The Nazarite stands for separation from the world, over which death reigns. The Philistine shows us the world brought in into the holiest things. The women stand here, as they do in the case of Sarah and Hagar, for principles by the embracing of which fruit is sought: and alas, how often do we seek to gain over the world by concessions to the world! — by the adoption of principles which compromise the whole truth of God. Timnath speaks, as we have before seen, of "apportionment," which, if the town were Israelite, would be divine, — a lot measured out to us from God; but being Philistine, where Dagon, "increase," has usurped His place, we have a striking confirmation of what has already been indicated as the meaning here. When we measure things by results, these must be, of course, palpable results: those divinely ordained are apt to be too far off, too slow in development, not to say too purely spiritual also, to admit of present discernment and of right appraisal. Thus one Nazarite in desire may be led by an impetuous longing for gains capable of speedy realization, to take up with methods which are worldly and carnal (Philistine), but which, on that very account, yield present fruit. How many souls, in fact, and these often the strongest and most earnest, are thus seduced into Timnathite marriages! How good to remember here the "long patience" needed by the husbandman in order to garner the precious grain; and that duty is ours, results are to be left with God, as they may be safely left. A Timnathite woman may "please" even a Samson "well," and elder Israelites be overborne, if not deceived, into acquiescence, as were Manoah and his wife; none the less is she Philistine, — the whole thing, indeed, tending directly to the snare of Dagon-worship. Let those who would be helpers in the deliverance of Israel beware of this.

It is quite natural that the Timnathite vineyards should contain lions also. Satan is here in this among his many forms; and the seduction may lead into the ambush, and so the open assault. But here he is to be less feared than elsewhere. The soldier of Christ is more easily lulled to sleep than overcome in battle. The Spirit of Jehovah at once comes upon Samson, and he awakes to his strength, gaining thus a personal experience which is to be fruitful for him afterwards. He rends the lion without a weapon in his hand, and as easily as one would a kid. It is the power of God, but realized in the living energy of man, stripped and bare of all other assistance. With such help the mightiest foe is as easily vanquished as the feeblest. No need to measure difficulties, save only to assure one's self that the greatest opposition means the greatest triumph; and again, it is the glory of the earthen vessel that the excellency of the power should be of God and not of us.

Yet, after all, spite of this display of strength, Samson is not right with God; and his history is most sadly instructive in this respect. He slays the open foe, and is deceived into the Philistine alliance; and how many are like him today. People can quote the heroism, and use it to set off the Timnathite's son-in-law: God uses it in the end to break off the alliance. He is bringing the blind by a way he sees not.

But he comes to take the woman that pleases him, and a new experience awaits him on the road. A swarm of bees had hived in the sun-dried carcass of the lion. Death had made room for multitudinous life, and abundant and ordered* activities; and as the product of this there is the honey that, with milk, gave a special character to the land of Canaan. Thus "out of the eater had come forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness." Out of the power that was against us, met and subdued by the mightier power of God, comes ever sweetness and refreshment for the people of God: and this because of life that has come in in the place of death, and order that has arisen out of the hold of corruption. And this is true Nazarite experience of the transforming power of God, by which that which is contrary to us becomes ever for us. On the cross this was most gloriously manifest, where power was shown in weakness; and in the worst act of rebellion that the world has seen, grace came in to subdue and sanctify to God. So in measure it is in every defeat of the enemy, where the Spirit of God works in the living energy of the saint of God — the Nazarite. The battle-field becomes a banqueting-house; the table is furnished not only "in the presence of our enemies," but from that which they have provided. But this is the personal experience of faith, — a secret hidden from all but those who have the experience.

{*"The swarm of bees is significantly spoken of as the congregation of bees. Commonly edah designates the congregation of Israel, as regulated by the law. . . . Horapollo, in his work on Hieroglyphics (lib. 1. 62), informs us that when the Egyptians wished to picture the idea of a people of law, they did it by the figure of a bee." — (Cassel.)}

And this leads on to that which follows, in which the fundamental lack of fellowship between Nazarite and Philistine comes clearly out, and the inevitable strife begins. Samson goes on to accomplish his marriage; makes a feast, according to the custom; and receives thirty companions, all Philistines, to be with him. He who is contracting a life-union with a woman of this people cannot refuse a wider connection. Immediately we find the riddle proposed, — a thing common enough in those days, as a test of wisdom; and which, we have to remember, as in Scripture not simply what the world counts such, but what is such before God. The riddle, in its spiritual meaning, is a true test of this; and it is not to be imagined that a Philistine can explain it. Samson has no such thought: but if they can do this, then they shall have each one a change of garments: for he that can penetrate the secrets of a life with God must have "habits" changed in accordance with it. They could not penetrate it: by dishonest practicing on the Philistine wife they learn it, and are repaid with Philistine garments from Ashkelon, the "fire of infamy." Thus they are suitably arrayed, and with their own shame; and so the necessary strife commences. The marriage is broken off; and Samson goes up to his father's house.

(2) The second part of this story now begins, in which Samson is in open conflict with the Philistines all through. At first, indeed, he goes to visit his wife with a kid, ignorant of what has taken place, and finds she has been given to the one who had acted as his "friend," — the "friend of the bridegroom": a custom to which afterwards the Baptist makes well-known allusion (John 3:29). His wrath breaks out, not as private vengeance against the Timnathite, however, but against the Philistines as a whole. He catches three hundred jackals, and joining them in couples by the tails, with a lighted torch between the tails, he lets go the terrified animals into the cornfields and olive-yards, just at the time of harvest. The destruction must have been immense; and the terror of Samson had already become so great, that, instead of revenging it upon the Israelite enemy, they take cowardly vengeance upon those that had provoked his wrath, and burn the Timnathite and her father with fire. But this does the very opposite of appeasing him. He smites them hip and thigh with a great slaughter.

The spiritual meaning of all this is more difficult than in the last case. The jackal we have seen elsewhere (Joshua, p. 98) to be the type of a nature that burrows in the earth, and feeds upon corruption. The fire behind might well represent the terror of divine wrath when breaking in upon such natures, working upon them, not to conversion and blessing, — mere wrath never does, — but to madness: in which the desire to escape only spreads abroad in a general devastation what they would escape from. The torches, though here very differently used, remind us of those in the hands of Gideon's men, which wrought the destruction of the Midianites, and would show us this wrath as what is proclaimed in the testimony of living men. Times of widespread alarm in this way have been known in the history of the external church: panics which have been but disaster, and the anticipation of sure coming doom.

Something akin to this seems to be shadowed here, though it may be hard to follow it into details; nor can we speak with any distinctness of the slaughter which ensues. But we may notice that Samson in his proper position of hostility to the power to which Israel is captive is never defeated; nor does he need alliances, or subtlety, or human wisdom, in any way. Alone, and unassisted by human arm, he is ever victorious, as leaning upon almighty power. The lesson of divine sufficiency is complete in him; his very enemies have to recognize it. And this, in its principle, is not an exception to the ways of God. It is only the universal rule written large that we may the more plainly see it: to make an exception of it is to lose the lesson.

(3) The third stage of this strange history is that in which Samson sinks to the lowest, as rejected and bound by his own people; and then rises, through a wonderful victory, to be ruler amongst them. The Philistines, now thoroughly roused by the blows he has inflicted upon them, invade Judah with a host, and pitch in Lehi. The place is named, in anticipation, from the "jaw" which he uses to discomfit them; and it becomes to them a place of crushing defeat. But Judah is completely spiritless and cast down. Almost as much afraid of their God-sent deliverer as of the people under whom they are in bondage, they go down, to the number of three thousand, to the cleft of the rock of Etam, where he had withdrawn, as it would seem, just from such danger, to bind and deliver him into the enemy's hand. Things are thus with him at the lowest point, while, on the other hand, the grace on his part is beautiful. With the consciousness of divinely-given strength upon him, he cannot use it against the people whom he is called to deliver, but quietly submits to be bound in order to being handed over to the Philistines. It is Judah, the lion-tribe, which thus is seen in lowest humiliation.

When the Philistines shout in triumph, the Spirit of Jehovah once more comes upon Samson, and the new cords are but as flax in the fire: with one effort he is free. Once free, the jawbone of an ass arms him for the fight; and with this he slays a thousand men. He who had used before the mouth of a living ass to rebuke the madness of a prophet, uses now the jaw of a dead one as a weapon to defeat an army. The song of deliverance emphasizes this: —
"With the jaw of an ass I have made asses of them;*
With the jaw of an ass I have smitten a thousand men."

{*This seems the real force of the so-called paronomasia. The Hebrew, as now punctuated, — "billechi hachamor chamor chamorathaim," reads as in the margin of our common version, "a heap, two heaps," where the identity of words is altogether lost. The Septuagint, reading "chamor chamartim," translates ezaleipson ezeleipsa autous, "I have destroyed them," the Vulgate following this with delevi eos. It might be rendered "with the jaw of the turbulent I have troubled them," giving the ass its ideal character, and preserving the connection between noun and verb. It seems to me, however, that, taking advantage of this, Samson uses the verb as more strictly synonymous with the noun, as above. The expression has the disadvantage with us of seeming mere vulgar coarseness, which it is not.}

The ass is not, in Scripture, the expression of stupidity, as with us; but, generally, of intractability under the yoke: and so it seems here. The easy victory showed them to be rebellious to the yoke of divine sovereignty, — which, after all, it was bootless to resist. The mouth of the ass had rebuked the prophet, more stubborn than itself: his mouth had uttered rebellion, and by a beast's mouth was reproved. Here, where rebellion had been more open and utter, a beast's jawbone is used to smite it down. Here, indeed, is a folly that is made manifest to all.

He casts the instrument of destruction out of his hand, and calls the place the "Jawbone Height." The lesson is worthy of preservation in the name. But God, who cares for his poor servant, must make him realize his own need of the same lesson. The heat and fatigue of the encounter affect him with a mortal thirst; and he who had been dealing death to others realizes a danger from which his own hand is powerless to deliver him. He can only cry to Jehovah, and plead with Him His recent interposition on his behalf as argument for a new one. A good argument it is with the Unchangeable One, who is not a man that He should repent: yea, "with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning." The lesson, too, must be complete to be a lesson; and He who has just delivered Samson from the hands of the uncircumcised cannot possibly allow him now to fall into them. God, therefore, answers by cleaving the "Bruising place that is in Lehi," so that water conies out of it, and he revives. The likeness to the rock cleft in the wilderness can hardly — is surely not intended to — escape us. The cross and its results for us are needed to be held in constant remembrance; and the place of bruising — machtesh, the "mortar" — is not likely to make the reference here less plain. The connection with the scene that has just been before us is also evident: so plain that our common version speaks of it as the hollow place" — "socket" it might mean — "that was in the jaw." That this is not right, the fact of its being "in Lehi unto this day" is sufficient witness: but the connection is also clear. And the bruising-place that is in Lehi reminds us surely of the Philistine defeat. Yet the spring of water is in marked contrast. Not by "bruising," but by being "bruised for our iniquity," did the Lord of glory bring forth living water for our death-faint souls; and here the soldiers of the cross find continually their admonition and refreshment. Here, too, is the secret of how alone Satan is bruised, and every enemy succumbs in turn. How necessary a lesson for God's Nazarites, if they are to know and preserve the secret of strength! Samson is now ready for the judgeship; and he judges Israel twenty years.

3. We now come to the final section of the story, in which we find a rapid descent on Samson's part to utter destruction, as far as he can accomplish it. Indeed, although recovered by divine grace, it is only by death that he breaks the bonds by which he has bound himself. His life goes out in one last victory, in which he perishes with the Philistines, — the link that he had forged with them still prevailing even over his recovered strength. While, on their part, as it has been ever with the enemies of the people of God, the victory of the Philistines over him becomes their worst defeat at last.

In this last section, Gaza, the place of their "strength," is the witness of their double defeat. The strength of God, which alone Samson's is, measures itself with that of the enemy, and prevails, spite of the mortal weakness found in the vessel of it. It is only thus the more manifested as divine; and in holiness also against sin wherever found: the lust which is the lawlessness of a heart away from God, and the pride which would pervert His grace into a shelter for such license.

(1) In the first part of what we have here, — the divine gift of strength in Samson, so far from being recalled, is displayed in a way so signal as at first sight to obscure the evidence of the decline which has begun, and which is so soon to make itself disastrously apparent. For the moment he gains another brilliant triumph, as would appear, in the very presence of the enemy, appalled to utter inaction by the contemptuous daring of the Israelite. He walks into the place of strength, and breaks his way out of it again, leaving it dismantled, like a conquered city. He carries the gates in a direction pointing significantly enough toward Israelitish territory; and then drops them, with equal insult, where they can find them, — as if, after all, there were no need to deprive them of defenses so insignificant as they had proved. Even the moral decline which his presence there had demonstrated, and which (whatever their heathen manners might be), they could realize, no doubt, in a follower of Jehovah, seemed to have no effect in diminishing that wonderful strength which had long before carried shame and ruin into the midst of their broken ranks. All this, for them, was a warning they would have done well to listen to, and did not; and the last blow came upon them unawares.

But for Samson, also, there was a warning to which he listened no more than they. True, God had not left him to the consequences of his pride and lust, and the strength of the Nazarite had not deserted him. But while he had splendidly insulted the enemy, he had not harmed him; and the strength which should have delivered Israel had, in this case, been put forth only to deliver himself. He had been forced to flee, and not the Philistines. He had shown his strength, but gained no dignity. As between them and him God might still act for him, help him to escape by night even from the house of shame which he had entered, was there no warning for him as to that besetting sin of his which might yet make this gateless Gaza a steel trap to hold him? Oh, that he had heard! Oh, that men did hear!

From the first, the snare for the Nazarite had been a Philistine alliance. Then he had openly, and, in a sense, honorably, courted it. It was to be a marriage. The matured man seeks this no more; but alas, cannot restrain his lusts, though plainly unlawful. He can no more vindicate indulgence, but he can yield to it. How often is this, too, today the pit into which fall God's Nazarite strong men! Principles with which open alliance is refused are toyed with, and courted dishonorably, embraced and thrown off at will. Yet, for a while strength may still be shown and exploits done, the enemy's stronghold be dismantled, and the gates carried away to an indefinite somewhere, facing toward Hebron. This they never reach, nor do we find there Samson either.

(2) Grace resisted hardens the heart, and Samson, with his lesson all unlearned, is found now in the vale of Sorek, "entanglement?" No strong city is here to keep him in, — nothing but a weak woman's arms, and they are stronger than the gates of Gaza. Delilah means "exhausted, weak"; and it is by that which appears to us such we are often overcome: for in this respect, at least, we credit ourselves with strength, and do not find it. The blindness induced by sin is wonderful, and Samson here wonderfully illustrates it. He takes one step after another, drawing nearer and nearer to the precipice into which at last he plunges recklessly. Each step taken makes the next easier. With each his eyes are more completely sealed. Then,when his ruin is complete, he is unconscious of it until the consequences overtake him. The details are here exceptionally hard to translate into spiritual meaning, while we need not be less assured that such there is all through. On the other band, it scarcely needs to moralize where moralizing is so easy. Such is the fatal power, — the hardening through the deceitfulness of sin!

(3) The Philistines make it the triumph of their god that Samson is delivered into their hands, and thus it is needful that Jehovah manifest Himself. Samson also, blinded, begins to see more clearly than when the lust of his eyes enthralled him. His bonds set him free; his darkness enlightens him. The goodness of God it is that thus leaves His people to the consequences of their sins, that the bitter fruit may condemn the tree; and they may, by experience, however painfully, find fellowship with Him. How much better, indeed, to learn by His word through faith! And this should be our profit from these sad and shameful histories. Still, if the Father's chastenings are needed, it is what must not be denied us: "He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness."

The application made by some of this history of Samson to the Lord seems too partial, too much contradicted by other parts, too little in harmony with the character of the book, and with its place in the book, to be accepted with any satisfaction. Partial applications of this nature are easy to be made, but tend to confusion of all interpretation, and have been the reproach of the allegorical, especially. Even although we can put nothing better in their place, it becomes our duty to reject them in the interest of clear and consistent exposition of the word of God. The close of Samson's history is a most solemn one; and at the end of this series of declensions and revivals, comes in a most solemn place. We must leave it for the prayerful examination of the Lord's people, and as what calls for exercise of heart as well as for searching of Scripture. To introduce here a representation of the Lord's blessed work would seem to take the edge from the admonition it should convey to us, if at least this should be assumed to be the real object here of the Spirit of God. If it be simply meant as the suggestion by the history of the failed Nazarite of that true and perfect One who alone has never failed, this is no longer typical interpretation, and does not fall within the compass of these brief outline notes.