Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Instruct. The original is translated try, ver. 4, and chap. ii. 22. — And all. Hebrew, “as many of Israel as had not,” &c. (Haydock) — Those who had served under Josue, were so strongly impressed with a sense of the divine power and severity, that they never forgot them: but there was danger lest their children should grow careless, if they were suffered to enjoy a constant state of prosperity. Virtue or power is made perfect in infirmity, 2 Corinthians xii. 9. (Calmet) — He that hath been experienced in many things, multiplieth prudence, Ecclesiasticus xxxiv. 10.
Ver. 2. And be. Hebrew, “at least, such as before knew nothing thereof.” Though war be in itself an evil, the passions of men render it necessary, and God makes use of it as a scourge, to punish the wicked, and at the same time to keep all under due restraint. (Haydock) — Too long a peace has proved sometimes fatal to states and to the virtue of individuals. In adversity we call upon God, and adhere to him with greater fervour and constancy. The Jews were so prone to evil, that, if they were permitted to enjoy tranquility for a few years, they presently forgot themselves and the author of all their good, and even turned their backs upon the only true God. Their enemies forced them to have recourse to Him. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Princes, (satrapas) a Persian word. (Menochius) — These heads of the five great cities of the Philistines, are called Seranim, (Haydock) but never kings, whether they were governors of so many petty states, united in the same form of republican or aristocratical government, or independent of each other. See Josue xiii. Three of these cities are said to have been take by Juda, (chap. i. 18,) unless the Septuagint be more accurate, as this passage would seem to insinuate. (Calmet) — They might have thrown off the yoke in a short time, as we before observed. These five cities were Gaza, Geth, Ascalon, Azotus, and Accaron. (Haydock) — All but Geth were on the Mediterranean sea. (Calmet) — All the Chanaanites, &c., who dwelt in Libanus, with some others, who were dispersed through the country, ver. 5. (Haydock) — These chiefly inhabited the environs of Sidon. — Baal Hermon. The idol of Baal might probably be adored on this mountain. (Menochius) — We find Baal-gad in the same neighbourhood, and both may mean the same city. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Not. Various reasons are assigned, on the part of God, for not exterminating these nations at once. But their being spared so long, must be imputed to the disobedience of the Israelites, otherwise they would surely never have been tolerated with their idol-worship in the land of promise, to contaminate, by their wicked example, the manners of God’s people. If they would have redeemed their lives, they must at least have given up the land and their idols. As the Israelites proved so little zealous in destroying the latter, they were justly punished by God, in being deprived of what would have contributed to make them richer and more comfortable in this world. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Gods. This was the fatal consequence which God had foretold, Deuteronomy vii. 4. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Astaroth. Hebrew Asheroth, Septuagint, “the groves,” (Menochius) of which Astaroth was the goddess, (Calmet) like Diana, chap. ii. 11. Various trees were sacred to idols. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Chusan. This name leads us to conclude that this prince was of Scythian extraction, a descendant of Chus: (Calmet) it signifies “black, or an Ethiopian.” (Menochius) — Rasathaim was perhaps the place of his nativity. As it means “of two sorts of malice,” Arias thinks that the Syrian kings took this title to shew that they would punish or repress all crimes against the civil or criminal law, (Menochius) those which affected the property as well as the lives of their subjects. (Haydock) — Mesopotamia. In Hebrew Aram naharayim. Syria of the two rivers; so called because it lies between the Euphrates and the Tigris. It is absolutely called Syria, ver. 10. (Challoner) — Eight years, by manual labour and presents, testifying their submission to their oppressor, who might not perhaps live among them. (Calmet) — Moir’s edition, by mistake, reads eighty years. The Hebrews were equally fallible, chap. iii. 30. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Saviour. “We must remark, that the man by whom God grants us safety, is styled a saviour,” (St. Augustine, q. 18,) though Christ is the proper and principal Saviour. (Worthington) — Caleb. Septuagint, “the younger son of Cenez, who was the brother of Caleb.” (Haydock) — Othoniel was one of the ancients. If he could not prevent the people from falling into idolatry, he rescued them from it. (Calmet)
Ver. 10. In him, to instruct and enable him both to rout the enemy, and to govern the people with prudence. (Haydock) — Chaldean, “the spirit of prophecy.” The oracle excited him to attack Chusan. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] v. 3.) He was entrusted with an extraordinary authority, in a wonderful manner, and God gave him all those virtues which were requisite for his exalted station. (Calmet) — Him. Hebrew, “his hand was strong upon Chusan Rasathaim.” He gained a complete victory over him, (Haydock) the particulars of which are not mentioned, though they must have been very interesting and extraordinary, as the power of Chusan was so extensive. (Calmet)
Ver. 11. Died, “forty years after Josue, according to the chronology of Usher, which we follow,” (Calmet) or rather Usher translates the land began to rest “in the fortieth year” from the peace of Josue. He places the death to that leader in the year of the world 2570, and the end of Chusan’s dominion 2599; so that, if we deduct 40 years from this last date, we shall come to the year 2559, the sixth of Josue’s administration, when he began to divide the conquered lands. He supposes that the peace of Othoniel lasted about 62 years, when Eglon disturbed it for eighteen years. “Aod delivered Israel. After him Samgar appeared, and the land rested till the 80th year from the peace of Othoniel.” Houbigant censures this indiscriminate use of cardinal and of ordinal numbers, and the blending the times of servitude with those of peace; (Haydock) and “surely this method of reckoning is very harsh, and contrary to the usual acceptation of words.” (Calmet) — Yet it is adopted by many. (Worthington) — It may suit to form a system, but can have no solid foundation. (Haydock) — The epoch from which Usher dates is no where so distinctly specified, as that we should suppose that the author of the Book of Judges had it in view. Moreover, by this method, we are left to guess how long each of the judges reigned, or how long the peace which they had procured, subsisted. Usher admits that the years of servitude are specified; and, why not also the years of peace, since they are expressed exactly in the same manner? If the ordinal numbers 40th, 80th, &c., were intended, b would be prefixed, as [in] Deuteronomy i. 3.; and this grammatical observation alone, suffices to overturn the calculation of Usher. (Houbigant, Proleg.) — Salien dates from the death of Josue in 2600, and allows that 40 years elapsed from that period till the decease of Othoniel; including the years which some attribute to the ancients, and to the anarchy; (chap. xvii., &c., to the end,) and also the eight years of servitude; so that instead of a rest of 40 years, we shall find that all was in confusion the greatest part of the time. The idolatry of Israel, which shortly brought on the servitude under Eglon, commenced immediately after the conclusion of these 40 years, when Salien begins to enumerate the years of Aod’s government. Thus he does from one judge to another. This system does not indeed make the text bend to uphold it, but it supposes that the sacred writer includes anarchy and servitude under the name of rest. In these matters much is to be supplied by conjecture, and hence the chronological difficulties which infidels propose, to invalidate the authority of the Scripture, can have but little weight, till the learned shall have discovered the exact disposition of former times. The first judge of Israel was of the tribe of Juda. The second was chosen from the almost ruined tribe of Benjamin, as the learned commonly place the dreadful catastrophe which befel that tribe during the anarchy which ensued, and the death of Josue and of the ancients. Aod had no share in the crime. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Eglon, signifies “a calf.” (Calmet) — God made use of this prince to scourge his people, with the assistance of the neighbouring nations. He took Engaddi, in the plains of Jericho, and was thus enabled to keep an eye both upon his own subjects and the conquered Israelites. (Calmet) — Here he probably met with his untimely end. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Aod, signifies “praise,” whence perhaps Josephus calls him Judes which has the same import. (Menochius) — He was a descendant of Jemini or Benjamin, by his son Gera, Genesis xlvi. 1. — Right. Septuagint and many interpreters agree, that Aod was “Ambidexter,” a quality which Plato exhorted those who were designed for war, to strive to acquire. Several of the heroes before Troy are praised on this account; and the Scripture takes particular notice of 700 citizens of Gabaa, who could use both hands alike, and could hit even a hair with a stone, chap. xx. 16. The Jews explain itter, very absurdly; Aod “had his right hand maimed or tied:” (Calmet) and Protestants render “a man left-handed.” (Haydock) — This would be a very awkward recommendation for a warrior, though it is pretended that such are more resolute, and more difficult to encounter than others. The number of the men at Gabaa who are praised for their skill, as well as the brave men of David, (1 Paralipomenon xii. 2,) shews sufficiently that the term does not mean left-handed. But the Scripture here takes notice that Aod could use his left hand so well, because he placed his dagger, contrary to custom, on his right side, and the motions of his left hand would not be so narrowly watched. Rufin does not agree with the present text of Josephus, which indeed seems very confused, saying, “that all the strength of Aod lay in his left hand.” Gelenius also translates, utraque manu ex æquo promptus; (Antiquities v. 5,) so that perhaps the Greek of Josephus may have been altered. — Presents; that is, tribute; an odious expression, instead of which the Scripture often puts presents, 1 Kings x. 27., and 1 Paralipomenon xviii. 2. No tribute was imposed in Persia till the reign of Darius Hystaspes; the subjects had to make presents to the king. (Herodotus iii. 89.) (Calmet)
Ver. 16. He made, or procured, though it was formerly honourable for a person to do such things himself. (Calmet) — Hand. Hebrew gomed, is translated by the Protestants, “of a cubit length,” (Haydock) though the term is never used elsewhere for that measure. Septuagint have spithame, a measure of 12 fingers. — Garment. The sagum, as well as the Septuagint mandua, from the Hebrew mad, denote a military garment. But such a dress might have rendered Aod suspected, (Calmet) unless an uniform might then be deemed a suitable dress for an ambassador. (Haydock) — Thigh. The Jews wore the sword there; (Psalm xliv. 4,) and it would be more convenient on the left thigh, as the nations of Gaul and Germany had it, while the Roman cavalry wore the sword on the right; and the infantry had two swords, the long one on the left, and a shorter, about an hand’s length, on the right. (Josephus, Jewish Wars iii. 3.) (Lipsius)
Ver. 17. Fat. The ancient version used by St. Augustine had, “lean,” which he justly took in an ironical sense. Septuagint asteios, signifies “beautiful and genteel.” (Calmet) — Serarius explains it in the same sense as the Vulgate. (Menochius)
Ver. 18. Him; or according to the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Chaldean, “he sent away the men who had brought the presents.” (Calmet) — But it seems he followed after them as far as Galgal, (Haydock) whence he returned, as if he had been consulting the oracle, and had orders to communicate something of importance to the king, unless we translate, “He dismissed, &c., (19.) and as he was returned from the idols at Galgal, he said,” &c., at the same interview. (Calmet) He would not expose his companions to danger. (Menochius)
Ver. 19. Idols. Hebrew pesilim. Some take these to be only heaps of stones. Protestants, “quarries.” (Haydock) — But the Septuagint, &c., represent them as “carved” idols. The same expression is used [in] Exodus xx. 4., &c. The Moabites had probably placed idols here, to profane that sacred place, which was resorted to out of devotion by the Israelites, Osee iv. 14., and Amos iv. 5. Here also the prophets inform us that the ten tribes adored and consulted idols; resembling perhaps that of Michas, chap. xvii. 4. — Silence to Aod, (Calmet) that none of the people might be able to divulge the secret. Hebrew, “be thou silent.” (Menochius)
Ver. 20. Alone. Hebrew, “Aod approached unto him, and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself, alone.” It seems to have been a private closet, to which he retired for greater secrecy, as his officers concluded that he was there only to ease nature. (Haydock) — It might be rendered, “a hall of audience.” (Calmet) — But the place where Aod presented the tribute, was more probably of this description, and Eglon retired thence into a back parlour, and was followed by Aod, alone, ver. 24. (Haydock) — A word. What Aod, who was judge and chief magistrate of Israel, did on this occasion, was by a special inspiration of God: but such things are not to be imitated by private men. (Challoner; St. Augustine, q. 20.; Numbers xxv. Worthington) — Hebrew, “a thing (message, &c.) from God, (Aleim) or the gods.” Probably the king would imagine that he was speaking of the idols at Galgal, and being full of awe for them, would be off his guard, and rise up out of respect. See Numbers xxiii. 18., and Exodus iii. 5. (Calmet) — But as the word Elohim was only abusively applied to idols and to great men, Aod might say with truth, that he had a word or an errand from Elohim to the king, without minding in what sense Eglon would take the expression. See St. Augustine, q. 20., and Origen, hom. 4. Though God permitted this king to attack his people, and to scourge them for a time, he did not approve of his injustice, and now authorized the chief magistrate of Israel to revenge their wrongs. (Haydock) — God is the arbiter of our lives, and may order whomsoever he pleases to put us to death. But the doctrine of J. Huss, who preached, “It is lawful for every subject to kill any tyrant,” was condemned in the Council of Constance. David severely punished the man who pretended that he had slain Saul. The first Christians never entered into any revolt against those cruel and impious emperors who oppressed them, and whose title to the throne was evidently unjust. See Romans xiii. 1. Under what government are all satisfied, or of the same religion with the sovereign? Even if any should pretend that they have an order from God to kill a tyrant, they must give proof of their commission to the lawful superiors, or them must expect to be treated as fanatical impostors. (Calmet) — Throne; or Hebrew, “seat.” The throne of state would not probably be placed in a retired chamber. (Haydock) — The king rose up out of respect to the deity; (Menochius) and at the same moment, Aod plunged the dagger into his bowels. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. With, &c. Hebrew [and] Protestants, “And the haft also went in after the blade, and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly, and the dirt came out.” By the word belly, the Jews mean all the vital parts. (Calmet) —- The wound was so deep, that Aod did not think proper to strive long to extract his sword; and indeed, being all bloody, it would have only tended to excite suspicion. (Haydock) — The Chaldean agrees with the Vulgate in rendering parshedona “excrements,” though it seem to be rather irregularly in construction with a masculine , &c. If we should read peristana, “a porch,” the difficulty would be avoided. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “(23) and Aod went out into the porch, (prostada) and he shut the doors of the upper chamber….(24) and he himself went out.” (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Door. Lyranus would prefer porticum, “the porch,” as the Chaldean explains the Hebrew by exedra, a portico highly ornamented with pillars and seats, where the princes formerly used to administer justice. Homer give a grand description of the portico of Alcinous. (Odessey) (Haydock) — See that of Solomon described, 3 Kings vii. 6. (Calmet) — The Roman Septuagint adds after prostada, what may perhaps be a second version, “and he went through those who were drawn up,” or the guards. He shewed no signs of fear. (Haydock) — It was not necessary for him to take the key with him, as a common one was used for several chambers, and was necessary only to unloose some bands, with which the doors were fastened. The keys in the East are very large, and of a very different construction from ours. (Calmet) — Nature. Hebrew, “he covereth his feet.” The ancients did not wear breeches: they covered themselves with great care. (Calmet) See Deuteronomy xxiii. 13. (Haydock) — Parlour. Hebrew, “chamber.” Septuagint, “bed-chamber.”
Ver. 25. Ashamed, perceiving that their hopes had been vain, (Calmet) and not knowing what to do, (Menochius) they began to fear the worst. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. Confusion. Hebrew, “tarrying,” as they waited a long time before they ventured to open the door.
Ver. 27. Seirath seems to have been on the road from Galgal to Mount Ephraim. Some conjecture that Josephus speaks of it under the name of Syriad, (Calmet) where he saw the inscriptions, which he asserts were left by the children of Seth before the deluge. (Haydock) — They might perhaps be the idols which are mentioned here.
Ver. 28. Fords. That none, from the other side, might come to the assistance of the Moabites, (Menochius) who were at their prince’s court, in the territory of Jericho, and that none of these might make their escape. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Strong. Hebrew literally, “the fatness,” denoting what is most excellent, Psalm xxi. 30., and lxxvii. 31. (Calmet) — Eglon would have his chief nobility and most valiant soldiers round his person. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Eighty. The Hebrews use the letter p to express this number; and, as it is very like their c, which stands for 20, Houbigant suspects that he first number is a mistake of the transcribers. Usher confesses that it is “extremely improbable” that Aod should have governed so long, after he had slain Eglon, as he must have been at that time, about 40 years old; and the Israelites were not often so constant for such a length of time. (Houbigant, Proleg.) — But this difficulty does not affect Usher, as he brings Aod forward only in the 80th year from the peace of Othoniel; and instead of allowing him 80 years of peaceful sway, he says Samgar appeared after him; but, it seems, both together did not reign a year, since in that 80th year, he commences the servitude, which Jabin brought upon Israel, from the year of the world 2679 till 2699, and peace was not restored by Barac for other 20 years! (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Samgar. His reign seems to have been short, and only perhaps extended over the tribes of Juda, Simeon, and Dan, while Debbora governed in another part. Some exclude him from the list of judges. But Josephus, Origen, &c., allow his title, with most of the moderns. (Calmet) — The Alex.[Alexandrian?] Chronicle gives his reign of 24 years, which Salien would understand, as if he had acted under the orders of Aod, when the latter was grown too old, if the author had not said that “after the death of Aod, Samgar, his son, judged Israel 24 years,” which he subtracts from the 80 years allotted to Aod. He makes Bocci succeed Abisue in the pontificate, at the same time, which Salien admits, in the year of the world 2696. — Hundred. Septuagint, “as far as 600,” which might be at different times, when the Philistines were dispersed through the country in order to plunder. — Plough-share. Septuagint aratropodi. (Haydock) — Some translate the Hebrew, “an ox-goad.” Maundrell describes those, which are used in Palestine, as eight feet long; and, at the thick end, 10 inches round, with a kind of spade, to clean the plough, while the other end is very sharp. Samgar might probably use such an instrument. From its being mentioned, we may gather that he did not engage the enemy in a pitched battle, (Calmet) but as he could find an opportunity. Thus Samson slew 1000 of the same nation with the jaw-bone of an ass, chap xv. (Haydock) — Defended. Hebrew and Septuagint, “saved,” which shews that he was a proper judge. (Menochius) — It is true, he did not rescue the Israelites entirely, but he stood up in their defence. (Calmet) — The duration of his government is not specified, nor is it said that the land rested, because he ruled for a short time only: Josephus says not quite a year; and the roads were continually infested with the incursions of the Philistines on the south, and of the Chanaanites on the North, chap. v. 6. Samgar seems to have been a ploughman, and he seized the first weapon that came to hand. The Hungarians and Spaniards formerly defended themselves against the attacks of the Turks and Moors with their plough-shares, in memory of which the Spaniards long after went armed to plough. The most valiant Roman generals, Camillus, Curius, Cincinnatus, and Fabricius, were called from the plough to the Dictatorship; and Pliny ([Natural History?] xviii.) observes, that “countrymen make the best soldiers.”
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The people falling into idolatry, are oppressed by their enemies; but repenting, are delivered by Othoniel, Aod, and Samgar.
1 These are the nations which the Lord left, that by them he might instruct Israel, and all that had not known the wars of the Chanaanites:
2 That afterwards their children might learn to fight with their enemies, and to be trained up to war:
3 The five princes of the Philistines, and all the Chanaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hevites that dwelt in Mount Libanus, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entering into Emath.
4 And he left them, that he might try Israel by them, whether they would hear the commandments of the Lord, which he had commanded their fathers, by the hand of Moses, or not.
5 So the children of Israel dwelt in the midst of the Chanaanite, and the Hethite, and the Amorrhite, and the Pherezite, and the Hevite, and the Jebusite:
6 And they took their daughters to wives, and they gave their own daughters to their sons, and they served their gods.
7 And they did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they forgot their God, and served Baalim and Astaroth.
8 And the Lord being angry with Israel, delivered them into the hands of Chusan Rasathaim, king of Mesopotamia, and they served him eight years.
9 And they cried to the Lord, who raised them up a saviour, and delivered them; to wit, Othoniel, the son of Cenez, the younger brother of Caleb:
10 And the spirit of the Lord was in him, and he judged Israel. And he went out to fight, and the Lord delivered Chusan Rasathaim, king of Syria, and he overthrew him:
11 And the land rested forty years, and Othoniel, the son of Cenez, died.
12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: who strengthened against them Eglon, king of Moab: because they did evil in his sight.
13 And he joined to him the children of Ammon, and Amalec: and he went and overthrew Israel, and possessed the city of palm-trees.
14 And the children of Israel served Eglon, king of Moab, eighteen years.
15 And afterwards they cried to the Lord, who raised them up a saviour, called Aod, the son of Gera, the son of Jemini, who used the left hand as well as the right. And the children of Israel sent presents to Eglon, king of Moab, by him.
16 And he made himself a two-edged sword, with a haft in the midst, of the length of the palm of the hand, and was girded therewith, under his garment, on the right thigh.
17 And he presented the gifts to Eglon, king of Moab. Now Eglon was exceeding fat.
18 And when he had presented the gifts unto him, he followed his companions that came along with him.
19 Then returning from Galgal, where the idols were, he said to the king: I have a secret message to thee, O king. And he commanded silence: and all being gone out that were about him,
20 Aod went in to him: now he was sitting in a summer parlour alone, and he said: I have a word from God to thee. And he forthwith rose up from his throne.
21 And Aod put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly,
22 With such force that the haft went in after the blade into the wound, and was closed up with the abundance of fat. So that he did not draw out the dagger, but left it in the body as he had struck it in: and forthwith, by the secret parts of nature, the excrements of the belly came out.
23 But Aod carefully shutting the doors of the parlour, and locking them,
24 Went out by a postern door. And the king’s servants going in, saw the doors of the parlour shut, and they said: Perhaps he is easing nature in his summer parlour.
25 And waiting a long time, till they were ashamed, and seeing that no man opened the door, they took a key: and opening, they found their lord lying dead on the ground.
26 But Aod, while they were in confusion, escaped, and passed by the place of the idols, from whence he had returned. And he came to Seirath:
27 And forthwith he sounded the trumpet in Mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel went down with him, he himself going in the front.
28 And he said to them: Follow me: for the Lord hath delivered our enemies, the Moabites, into our hands. And they went down after him, and seized upon the fords of the Jordan, which are in the way to Moab: and they suffered no man to pass over:
29 But they slew of the Moabites at that time, about ten thousand, all strong and valiant men: none of them could escape.
30 And Moab was humbled that day under the hand of Israel: and the land rested eighty years.
31 After him was Samgar, the son of Anath, who slew of the Philistines six hundred men with a ploughshare: and he also defended Israel.