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Without any visible head, and forgetting Him who is invisible, “ each man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Whereupon, God (as He had threatened to do in such a case) gave them up into the power of the Canaanites; yet not so entirely, but that, as often as they repented of their sins, he raised up for them prophets and warriors who lifted them out of bondage and misery, and reinstated them again in supremacy over Canaan, and in communion with God.
These men thus raised up were called “Judges;" and though they are spoken of as delivering Israel, it is sometimes probably only meant that they delivered their own tribe, and perhaps the tribe or tribes next to it, from the oppression of some neighbouring enemies. For, on looking into the history, we find that; for the most part, each judge was chosen or raised from his own tribe, to defend it from some enemy who lay nearest to it. At other times Israel's shame and degradation was more general, and so in proportion was her deliverance.
The chronology, too, of these times is rather perplexed; some persons imagining that these judges ruled in succession; but perhaps more than one ruled at a time, as more than one tribe needed deliverance. However these things may be, it is certain that Israel kept falling away from God, and being conquered by her enemies, in part or wholly ; and that she was, after due humiliation, proportionably reinstated in grace and dominion by means of these judges for more than three hundred years.
The first judge we read of was Othniel, the son of Kenaz, of the tribe of Judah, in the south; he had shown himself a strong warrior during Joshua's life; and now the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he “judged Israel," and went to war against the powers of Mesopotamia; and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, into his hands. 6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord;" a servitude of eighteen years to Eglon, king of Moab, was their reward. Eglon
gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek," and took Jericho, the city of palm trees. This was in the tribe of Benjamin, and we find a deliverer raised up from that tribe.
This was Ehud, a Benjamite, a man left-handed, who was intrusted by Israel to take “ a present' to the conqueror; probably this present was the tribute which they had to pay him yearly. Ehud took it; and, when he was alone with the king, suddenly drew forth a great dagger which he had concealed under his raiment, and stabbed him. Then, rushing forth, he made his way up to the mountains of Ephraim, and blew a trumpet; and, calling upon that tribe to join him, pursued the Moabites unto the fords of Jordan, where he slew about ten thousand men, and suffered not one to pass over. This deliverance was followed by eighty years of peace.
Only one exploit is recorded of Shamgar, the next judge; it is, that he slew six hundred Philis. tines with an ox-goad. He was probably an husbandman in the field, with his plough and oxen, when he thus fought these southern invaders of Israel, with the weapon he had in his hand.
In the next instance, the perversion and consequent bondage of Israel seem to have been
very widely extended, and they were oppressed by Jabin, a Canaanitish king, for twenty years. His bondage was very grievous, and they besought the Lord to deliver them. And Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel at that time. dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim : and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment." She sent to Barak, who dwelt at Kedesh-Naphtali, in the north, and commanded him to take ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulon, and draw towards Mount Tabor, where she promised to deliver Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots, and all his men into his hand. Nevertheless, she told him beforehand that the enterprise should not be entirely to his honour, for that the Lord would " sell Sisera into the hand of a woman !”
Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, as well as the northern tribes, obeyed the call of Deborah. Barak took up his position on Mount Tabor, and the army of Sisera with its nine hundred chariots lay in the plain below. At the bidding of Deborah, Barak went down from the mountain with his ten thousand men; and the Lord discomfited the host of the Canaanites.
“ Sisera lighted down off his chariot and fled away on his feet.” Barak pursued after the chariot, and Sisera took refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber, the Kenite (who was one of the family of Hobab, Moses's brother-inlaw). Jael received him with seeming kindness, gave him milk to drink, and covered him over with a mantle in her tent. He adjured her not to betray him to his enemies, should they pass
and so fell asleep, for he was weary, “ Then Jael took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground; so he died.”
Then sang Deborah and Barak, the son of A binoam, on that day, “ So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might !” This Hebrew song of triumph contains very marked allusions to the evil condition of the Israelites during their bondage: it tells of “s
“highways unoccupied," and of travellers walking “through by-ways"-to escape from the lawless violence that was abroad. “ The inhabitants of the villages ceased,” she says, (that is, they fled for security to walled towns and fortified places,)
they ceased in Israel, until that I, Deborah, arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.” Now they would be “ delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water;" now the inhabitants of the villages might meet without dread at these places of public resort, and rehearse there “ the righteous acts of the Lord.” Those loyal tribes who “ offered themselves willingly” to fight the foe, are spoken of with praise ; and bitter reproaches are poured upon those " who came not to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
After this deliverance, “ the land had rest forty years."
“ I WILL BLESS THEM THAT BLESS THEE."
(Continued from page 57.) IN Jeremiah xxxviii. we read, 6. Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon, he went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is, for there is no more bread in the city.'” In consequence of this representation of the benevolent Ethiopian, Jeremiah was raised from his loathsome dungeon, and was permitted to remain in the court of the prison.
Now see how this kind deed to a poor Israelitish prisoner was rewarded. In the 39th chapt we read, “ Now the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good ; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord ; and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee, because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.” Here, again, we have an illustration of the promise, “ I will bless them that bless thee.”