Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Angel of the Lord at Bochim. - To the cursory survey of the attitude which the tribes of Israel assumed towards the Canaanites who still remained in their inheritances, there is appended an account of the appearance of the angel of the Lord, who announced to the people the punishment of God for their breach of the covenant, of which they had been guilty through their failure to exterminate the Canaanites. This theophany is most intimately connected with the facts grouped together in Judg 1, since the design and significance of the historical survey given there are only to be learned from the reproof of the angel; and since both of them have the same aphoristic character, being restricted to the essential facts without entering minutely into any of the attendant details, very much is left in obscurity. This applies more particularly to the statement in Jdg 2:1, "Then the angel of Jehovah came up from Gilgal to Bochim." The "angel of Jehovah" is not a prophet, or some other earthly messenger of Jehovah, either Phinehas or Joshua, as the Targums, the Rabbins, Bertheau, and others assume, but the angel of the Lord who is of one essence with God. In the simple historical narrative a prophet is never called Maleach Jehovah. The prophets are always called either נביא or נביא אישׁ, as in Jdg 6:8, or else "man of God," as in Kg1 12:22; Kg1 13:1, etc.; and Hag 1:13 and Mal 3:1 cannot be adduced as proofs to the contrary, because in both these passages the purely appellative meaning of the word Maleach is established beyond all question by the context itself. Moreover, no prophet ever identifies himself so entirely with God as the angel of Jehovah does here. The prophets always distinguish between themselves and Jehovah, by introducing their words with the declaration "thus saith Jehovah," as the prophet mentioned in Jdg 6:8 is said to have done. On the other hand, it is affirmed that no angel mentioned in the historical books is ever said to have addressed the whole nation, or to have passed from one place to another. But even if it had been a prophet who was speaking, we could not possibly understand his speaking to the whole nation, or "to all the children of Israel," as signifying that he spoke directly to the 600,000 men of Israel, but simply as an address delivered to the whole nation in the persons of its heads or representatives. Thus Joshua spoke to "all the people" (Jos 24:2), though only the elders of Israel and its heads were assembled round him (Jos 24:1). And so an angel, or "the angel of the Lord," might also speak to the heads of the nation, when his message had reference to all the people. And there was nothing in the fact of his coming up from Gilgal to Bochim that was at all at variance with the nature of the angel. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, it is stated in Jdg 6:11 that he came and sat under the terebinth at Ophra; and in the same way the appearance of the angel of the Lord at Bochim might just as naturally be described as coming up to Bochim. The only thing that strikes us as peculiar is his coming up "from Gilgal." This statement must be intimately connected with the mission of the angel, and therefore must contain something more than a simply literal notice concerning his travelling from one place to another. We are not to conclude, however, that the angel of the Lord came from Gilgal, because this town was the gathering-place of the congregation in Joshua's time. Apart altogether from the question discussed in Jos 8:34 as to the situation of Gilgal in the different passages of the book of Joshua, such a view as this is overthrown by the circumstance that after the erection of the tabernacle at Shiloh, and during the division of the land, it was not Gilgal but Shiloh which formed the gathering-place of the congregation when the casting of the lots was finished (Jos 18:1, Jos 18:10).
We cannot agree with H. Witsius, therefore, who says in his Miscell. ss. (i. p. 170, ed. 1736) that "he came from that place, where he had remained for a long time to guard the camp, and where he was thought to be tarrying still;" but must rather assume that his coming up from Gilgal is closely connected with the appearance of the angel-prince, as described in Jos 5:13, to announce to Joshua the fall of Jericho after the circumcision of the people at Gilgal. Just as on that occasion, when Israel had just entered into the true covenant relation to the Lord by circumcision, and was preparing for the conquest of Canaan, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua as the prince of the army of Jehovah, to ensure him of the taking of Jericho; so here after the entrance of the tribes of Israel into their inheritances, when they were beginning to make peace with the remaining Canaanites, and instead of rooting them out were content to make them tributary, the angel of the Lord appeared to the people, to make known to all the children of Israel that by such intercourse with the Canaanites they had broken the covenant of the Lord, and to foretell the punishment which would follow this transgression of the covenant. By the fact, therefore, that he came up from Gilgal, it is distinctly shown that the same angel who gave the whole of Canaan into the hands of the Israelites when Jericho fell, had appeared to them again at Bochim, to make known to them the purposes of God in consequence of their disobedience to the commands of the Lord. How very far it was from being the author's intention to give simply a geographical notice, is also evident from the fact that he merely describes the place where this appearance occurred by the name which was given to it in consequence of the event, viz., Bochim, i.e., weepers. The situation of this place is altogether unknown. The rendering of the lxx, ἐπὶ τὸν Κλαυθμῶνα καὶ ἐπὶ Βαιθὴλ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰσραήλ, gives no clue whatever; for τὸν Κλαυθμῶνα merely arises from a confusion of בּכים with בּכאים in Sa2 5:23, which the lxx have also rendered Κλαυθμών, and ἐπὶ τὸν Βαιθήλ κ.τ.λ. is an arbitrary interpolation of the translators themselves, who supposed Bochim to be in the neighbourhood of Bethel, "in all probability merely because they though of Allon-bachuth, the oak of weeping, at Bethel, which is mentioned in Gen 35:8" (Bertheau). With regard to the piska in the middle of the verse, see the remarks on Jos 4:1. In his address the angel of the Lord identifies himself with Jehovah (as in Jos 5:14 compared with Jos 6:2), by describing himself as having made them to go up out of Egypt and brought them into the land which He sware unto their fathers. There is something very striking in the use of the imperfect אעלה in the place of the perfect (cf. Jdg 6:8), as the substance of the address and the continuation of it in the historical tense ואביא and ואמר require the preterite. The imperfect is only to be explained on the supposition that it is occasioned by the imperf. consec. which follows immediately afterwards and reacts through its proximity. "I will not break my covenant for ever," i.e., will keep what I promised when making the covenant, viz., that I would endow Israel with blessings and salvation, if they for their part would observe the covenant duties into which they had entered (see Exo 19:5.), and obey the commandments of the Lord. Among these was the commandment to enter into no alliance with the inhabitants of that land, viz., the Canaanites (see Exo 23:32-33; Exo 34:12-13, Exo 34:15-16; Deu 7:2.; Jos 23:12). "Destroy their altars:" taken verbatim from Exo 34:13; Deu 7:5. The words "and ye have not hearkened to my voice" recall to mind Exo 19:5. "What have ye done" (מה־זּאת, literally "what is this that ye have done") sc., in sparing the Canaanites and tolerating their altars?
"And I also have said to you:" these words point to the threat already expressed in Num 33:55; Jos 23:13, in the event of their not fulfilling the command of God, which threat the Lord would now fulfil. From the passages mentioned, we may also explain the expression לצדּים לכם והיוּ, they shall be in your sides, i.e., thorns in your sides. לצדּים is an abbreviated expression for בּצדּיכם לצנינים in Num 33:55, so that there is no necessity for the conjecture that it stands for לצרים. The last clause of Jdg 2:3 is formed after Exo 23:33.
The people broke out into loud weeping on account of this reproof. And since the weeping, from which the place received the name of Bochim, was a sign of their grief on account of their sin, this grief led on to such repentance that "they sacrificed there unto the Lord," no doubt presenting sin-offerings and burnt-offerings, that they might obtain mercy and the forgiveness of their sins. It does not follow from this sacrifice, however, that the tabernacle or the ark of the covenant was to be found at Bochim. In any place where the Lord appeared to His people, sacrifices might be offered to Him (see Jdg 6:20, Jdg 6:26, Jdg 6:28; Jdg 13:16.; Sa2 24:25, and the commentary of Deu 12:5). On the other hand, it does follow from the sacrifice at Bochim, where there was no sanctuary of Jehovah, that the person who appeared to the people was not a prophet, nor even an ordinary angel, but the angel of the Lord, who is essentially one with Jehovah.
The account of this development of the covenant nation, which commenced after the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, is attached to the book of Joshua by a simple repetition of the closing verses of that book (Jos 24:28-31) in Jdg 2:6-10, with a few unimportant differences, not only to form a link between Josha and Jdg 2:11, and to resume the thread of the history which was broken off by the summary just given of the results of the wars between the Israelites and Canaanites (Bertheau), but rather to bring out sharply and clearly the contrast between the age that was past and the period of the Israelitish history that was just about to commence. The vav consec. attached to וישׁלּח expresses the order of thought and not of time. The apostasy of the new generation from the Lord (Jdg 2:10.) was a necessary consequence of the attitude of Israel to the Canaanites who were left in the land, as described in Judg 1:1-2:5. This thought is indicated by the vav consec. in וישׁלּח; so that the meaning of Jdg 2:6. as expressed in our ordinary phraseology would be as follows: Now when Joshua had dismissed the people, and the children of Israel had gone every one to his own inheritance to take possession of the land, the people served the Lord as long as Joshua and the elders who survived him were alive; but when Joshua was dead, and that generation (which was contemporaneous with him) had been gathered to its fathers, there rose up another generation after them which knew not the Lord, and also (knew not) the work which He had done to Israel. On the death and burial of Joshua, see at Jos 24:29-30. "Gathered unto their fathers" corresponds to "gathered to his people" in the Pentateuch (Gen 25:8, Gen 25:17; Gen 35:29; Gen 49:29, Gen 49:33, etc.: see at Gen 25:8). They "knew not the Lord," sc., from seeing or experiencing His wonderful deeds, which the contemporaries of Joshua and Moses had seen and experienced.
In the general survey of the times of the judges, commencing at Jdg 2:11, the falling away of the Israelites from the Lord is mentioned first of all, and at the same time it is distinctly shown how neither the chastisements inflicted upon them by God at the hands of hostile nations, nor the sending of judges to set them free from the hostile oppression, availed to turn them from their idolatry (Jdg 2:11-19). This is followed by the determination of God to tempt and chastise the sinful nation by not driving away the remaining Canaanites (Jdg 2:20-23); and lastly, the account concludes with an enumeration of the tribes that still remained, and the attitude of Israel towards them (Jdg 3:1-6).
Repeated Falling Away of the People from the Lord. - Jdg 2:11-13. The Israelites did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord (what was displeasing to the Lord); they served Baalim. The plural Baalim is a general term employed to denote all false deities, and is synonymous with the expression "other gods" in the clause "other gods of the gods of the nations round about them" (the Israelites). This use of the term Baalim arose from the fact that Baal was the chief male deity of the Canaanites and all the nations of Hither Asia, and was simply worshipped by the different nations with peculiar modifications, and therefore designated by various distinctive epithets. In Jdg 2:12 this apostasy is more minutely described as forsaking Jehovah the God of their fathers, to whom they were indebted for the greatest blessing, viz., their deliverance out of Egypt, and following other gods of the heathen nations that were round about them (taken verbatim from Deu 6:14, and Deu 13:7-8), and worshipping them. In this way they provoked the Lord to anger (cf. Deu 4:25; Deu 9:18, etc.).
Thus they forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and the Asthartes. In this case the singular Baal is connected with the plural Ashtaroth, because the male deities of all the Canaanitish nations, and those that bordered upon Canaan, were in their nature one and the same deity, viz., Baal, a sun-god, and as such the vehicle and source of physical life, and of the generative and reproductive power of nature, which was regarded as an effluence from its own being (see Movers, Relig. der Phnizier, pp. 184ff., and J. G. Mller in Herzog's Cyclopaedia). "Ashtaroth, from the singular Ashtoreth, which only occurs again in Kg1 11:5, Kg1 11:33, and Kg2 23:13, in connection with the Sidonian Astharte, was the general name used to denote the leading female deity of the Canaanitish tribes, a moon-goddess, who was worshipped as the feminine principle of nature embodied in the pure moon-light, and its influence upon terrestrial life. It corresponded to the Greek Aphrodite, whose celebrated temple at Askalon is described in Herod. i. 105. In Jdg 3:7, Asheroth is used as equivalent to Ashtaroth, which is used here, Jdg 10:6; Sa1 7:4; Sa1 12:10. The name Asheroth
(Note: Rendered groves in the English version. - Tr.)
was transferred to the deity itself from the idols of this goddess, which generally consisted of wooden columns, and are called Asherim in Exo 34:13; Deu 7:5; Deu 12:3; Deu 16:21. On the other hand, the word Ashtoreth is without any traceable etymology in the Semitic dialects, and was probably derived from Upper Asia, being connected with a Persian word signifying a star, and synonymous with Ἀστροάρχη, the star-queen of Sabaeism (see Ges. Thes. pp. 1083-4; Movers, p. 606; and Mller, ut sup.).
With regard to the nature of the Baal and Astharte worship, into which the Israelites fell not long after the death of Joshua, and in which they continued henceforth to sink deeper and deeper, it is evident form the more precise allusions contained in the history of Gideon, that it did not consist of direct opposition to the worship of Jehovah, or involve any formal rejection of Jehovah, but that it was simply an admixture of the worship of Jehovah with the heathen or Canaanitish nature-worship. Not only was the ephod which Gideon caused to be made in his native town of Ophrah, and after which all Israel went a whoring (Jdg 8:27), an imitation of the high priest's ephod in the worship of Jehovah; but the worship of Baal-berith at Shechem, after which the Israelites went a whoring again when Gideon was dead (Jdg 8:33), was simply a corruption of the worship of Jehovah, in which Baal was put in the place of Jehovah and worshipped in a similar way, as we may clearly see from Jdg 9:27. The worship of Jehovah could even be outwardly continued in connection with this idolatrous worship. Just as in the case of these nations in the midst of which the Israelites lived, the mutual recognition of their different deities and religions was manifested in the fact that they all called their supreme deity by the same name, Baal, and simply adopted some other epithet by which to define the distinctive peculiarities of each; so the Israelites also imagined that they could worship the Baals of the powerful nations round about them along with Jehovah their covenant God, especially if they worshipped them in the same manner as their covenant God. This will serve to explain the rapid and constantly repeated falling away of the Israelites from Jehovah into Baal-worship, at the very time when the worship of Jehovah was stedfastly continued at the tabernacle in accordance with the commands of the law. The Israelites simply followed the lead and example of their heathen neighbours. Just as the heathen were tolerant with regard to the recognition of the deities of other nations, and did not refuse to extend this recognition even to Jehovah the God of Israel, so the Israelites were also tolerant towards the Baals of the neighbouring nations, whose sensuous nature-worship was more grateful to the corrupt heart of man than the spiritual Jehovah-religion, with its solemn demands for sanctification of life. But this syncretism, which was not only reconcilable with polytheism, but actually rooted in its very nature, was altogether irreconcilable with the nature of true religion. For if Jehovah is the only true God, and there are no other gods besides or beside Him, then the purity and holiness of His nature is not only disturbed, but altogether distorted, by any admixture of His worship with the worship of idols or of the objects of nature, the true God being turned into an idol, and Jehovah degraded into Baal. Looking closely into the matter, therefore, the mixture of the Canaanitish worship of Baal with the worship of Jehovah was actually forsaking Jehovah and serving other gods, as the prophetic author of this book pronounces it. It was just the same with the worship of Baal in the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was condemned by the prophets Hosea and Amos (see Hengstenberg, Christology, i. pp. 168ff., Eng. trans.).
On account of this idolatrous worship, the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, so that He gave them up into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and sold them into the hands of their enemies. שׁסים from שׁסה, alternated with שׁסס in ישׁסּוּ, to plunder. This word is not met with in the Pentateuch, whereas מכר, to sell, occurs in Deu 32:30, in the sense of giving helplessly up to the foe. "They could no longer stand before their enemies," as they had done under Joshua, and in fact as long as Israel continued faithful to the Lord; so that now, instead of the promise contained in Lev 26:7-8, being fulfilled, the threat contained in Lev 26:17 was carried into execution. "Whithersoever they went out," i.e., in every expedition, every attack that they made upon their enemies, "the hand of Jehovah was against them for evil, as He had said" (Lev 26:17, Lev 26:36; Deu 28:25), and "had sworn unto them." There is no express oath mentioned either in Lev 26 or Deut 28; it is implied therefore in the nature of the case, or in virtute verborum, as Seb. Schmidt affirms, inasmuch as the threats themselves were words of the true and holy God. מאד להם ויּצר, "and it became to them very narrow," i.e., they came into great straits.
But the Lord did not rest content with this. He did still more. "He raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of their plunderers," to excite them to love in return by this manifestation of His love and mercy, and to induce them to repent. But "they did not hearken even to their judges," namely, so as not to fall back again into idolatry, which the judge had endeavoured to suppress. This limitation of the words is supported by the context, viz., by a comparison of Jdg 2:18, Jdg 2:19. - "But (כּי after a negative clause) they went a whoring after other gods (for the application of this expression to the spiritual adultery of idolatrous worship, see Exo 34:15), and turned quickly away (vid., Exo 32:8) from the way which their fathers walked in, to hearken to the commandments of the Lord," i.e., from the way of obedience to the divine commands. "They did not so" (or what was right) sc., as their fathers under Joshua had done (cf. Jdg 2:7).
"And when the Lord raised them up judges, and was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge (i.e., as long as the judge was living), because the Lord had compassion upon their sighing, by reason of them that oppressed them, and vexed them (דּחק only occurs again as a verb in Joe 2:8): it came to pass when the judge was dead, that they returned and acted more corruptly than their fathers," i.e., they turned again to idolatry even more grievously than their fathers had done under the previous judges. "They did not let fall from their deeds," i.e., they did not cease from their evil deeds, and "from their stiff-necked way." קשׁה, hard, is to be understood as in Exo 32:9 and Exo 33:3, where Israel is called a hard-necked people which did not bend under obedience to the commandments of God.
Chastisement of the Rebellious Nation. - Jdg 2:20, Jdg 2:21. On account of this idolatry, which was not only constantly repeated, but continued to grow worse and worse, the anger of the Lord burned so fiercely against Israel, that He determined to destroy no more of the nations which Joshua had left when he died, before the people that had broken His covenant. In order to set forth this divine purpose most distinctly, it is thrown into the form of a sentence uttered by God through the expression וגו ויּאמר. The Lord said, "Because this people has transgressed my covenant, ... I also will no longer keep my covenant promise (Exo 23:23, Exo 23:27., Exo 34:10.), and will no more drive out any of the remaining Canaanites before them" (see Jos 23:13).
The purpose of God in this resolution was "to prove Israel through them (the tribes that were not exterminated), whether they (the Israelites) would keep the way of the Lord to walk therein (cf. Deu 8:2), as their fathers did keep it, or not." נסּות למען is not dependent upon the verb עזב, as Studer supposes, which yields no fitting sense; nor can the clause be separated from the preceding one, as Bertheau suggests, and connected as a protasis with Jdg 2:23 (this would be a thoroughly unnatural construction, for which Isa 45:4 does not furnish any true parallel); but the clause is attached in the simplest possible manner to the main thought in Jdg 2:20, Jdg 2:21, that is to say, to the words "and He said" in Jdg 2:20 : Jehovah said, i.e., resolved, that He would not exterminate the remaining nations any further, to tempt Israel through them. The plural בּם, in the place of the singular בּהּ, which the foregoing דּרך requires, is to be regarded as a constructio ad sensum, i.e., to be attributed to the fact, that keeping the way of God really consists in observing the commandments of God, and that this was the thought which floated before the writer's mind. The thought expressed in this verse, that Jehovah would not exterminate the Canaanites before Israel any more, to try them whether they would keep His commandments, just as He had previously caused the people whom He brought out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness for forty years with the very same intention (Deu 8:2), is not at variance with the design of God, expressed in Exo 23:29-30, and Deu 7:22, not to exterminate the Canaanites all at once, lest the land should become waste, and the wild beasts multiply therein, nor yet with the motive assigned in Jdg 3:1-2. For the determination not to exterminate the Canaanite sin one single year, was a different thing from the purpose of God to suspend their gradual extermination altogether. The former purpose had immediate regard to the well-being of Israel; the latter, on the contrary, was primarily intended as a chastisement for its transgression of the covenants, although even this chastisement was intended to lead the rebellious nation to repentance, and promote its prosperity by a true conversion to the Lord. And the motive assigned in Jdg 2:2 is in perfect harmony with this intention, as our explanation of this passage will clearly show.
In consequence of this resolution, the Lord let these tribes (those mentioned in Jdg 3:3) remain at rest, i.e., quietly, in the land, without exterminating them rapidly. The expression מהר, hastily, quickly, i.e., according to the distinct words of the following clause, through and under Joshua, appears strange after what has gone before. For what is threatened in Jdg 2:21 is not the suspension of rapid extermination, but of any further extermination. This threat, therefore, is so far limited by the word "hastily," as to signify that the Lord would not exterminate any more of these nations so long as Israel persisted in its idolatry. But as soon as and whenever Israel returned to the Lord its God in true repentance, to keep His covenant, the Lord would recall His threat, and let the promised extermination of the Canaanites go forward again. Had Israel not forsaken the Lord its God so soon after Joshua's death, the Lord would have exterminated the Canaanites who were left in the land much sooner than He did, or have carried out their gradual extermination in a much shorter time than was actually the case, in consequence of the continual idolatry of the people.