Pisidian Antioch, Paul's Sermon & the Reaction, Part 1, Section E
by John Lowe
“In the wilderness”—the desert through which they passed in going from Egypt to Canaan. Forty years is invariably the time assigned to the wandering in the wilderness (See Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:33, 34; Numbers 32:13; Numbers 33:38; Deuteronomy 1:3; Psalm 95:10, etc.). This was to be remembered and admired through all ages; that God was so patient, and a people could be so disobedient; and yet, all that while, God was providing for this people; carrying them as if they were in His bosom; like a mother bears the sucking child (Numbers 11:12; Deuteronomy 1:31); or as an eagle beareth her young ones on her wings (Deuteronomy 32:11,12). But it seems God did not bear with their fathers forever, but destroyed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5). First, God bears with those that perished for a long time. Secondly, The succeeding generation did not take that warning which God gave them, but chose instead to follow in their fathers’ footsteps; and while one generation was wearing away, and another coming on, the space of forty years passed, because of the abundant compassion of God towards them, who did not consume them in a moment, as they tempted Him to do.
19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
The whole land was called by the name of one of the principal nations, the Canaanites—thus, the land of Canaan. This was the Promised Land; the holy land, etc.
“And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan (Canaan)”—in Jewish writings these nations are called the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Girgashites; and though they were not entirely destroyed; nor was every one of them put to death, or driven out, because the Israelites did not abide by the warning God had given them—“When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you” (Deuteronomy 7:1). These nations had lived in Canaan for many generations; they erected many kingdoms, defended by fortifications of great strength, as well as by numerous forces with many horses and chariots; but, God allowed some of them to remain in the land to be thorns in the sides of the Israelites; but they were so ravaged and conquered, that they could never recover.
“He divided their land to them by lot”—this refers to the command given in Numbers 26:55-56—“Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe. Each inheritance is to be distributed by lot among the larger and smaller groups;" which according to Joshua 14-19, it was carried out and put into effect. Every tribe had its portion assigned to it, by lot (see Joshua 14:1). The whole country was divided up and doled out by lot, for an inheritance, and God supported them in it for many generations. The lot was often used among the Jews to determine important questions. Matthias was chosen by lot to replace Judas—“And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). It was only reasonable that God, having miraculously acquired this land, (for the Israelites took possession of it, rather than having to fight for it), and assumed a special right to it, that he should give it to whom he pleased, and in what proportions he thought best.
20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
And after that he gave unto them judges
Some of Israel’s judges were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, and Eli; Samuel, according to some commentators is considered both a prophet and judge. “He gave unto them judges”—men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, and to defend it from enemies—“Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them” (Judges 2:16).These judges were persons appointed by God to govern and deliver Israel; their authority, power, and position were usually confirmed by some extraordinary thing they had done, and their power (which came immediately from God) was absolute.
About the space of four hundred and fifty years
The statement in the text assigns 450 years to the period of the judges, but the computation of years has been very controversial. I will not attempt to discuss all the theories, but there are two, which seem to be the most probable. Taking the words as they stand in the Greek—"after that, by the space of four hundred fifty years, He gave judges," the meaning may be, that about four hundred fifty years elapsed from the time of the covenant with Abraham until the period of the judges; which is historically correct, the word "about" showing that chronological exactness was not intended. But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five hundred ninety-two years; deduct forty years in the wilderness; twenty-five years of Joshua's rule; forty years of Saul's reign (Ac 13:2); forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 6:1), there remains just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, "about four hundred fifty years. But this passage by Paul may not intend to show how long the judges ruled, but when it was, or about what time they ruled; or he may have wanted to show what a long time it took for the Israelites to gain peaceful possession of that promised inheritance, their sins were still keeping good things from them.
Until Samuel the prophet
“Until Samuel the prophet,” who was also the last of the judges, was frequently given the title “prophet” by Jewish writers. The Apostle Peter called him a “prophet” in Acts 3:24—“Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”In the previous verse (22) Moses was mentioned as the first in order. The next in order was Samuel. The same mention of Moses and Samuel occurs in Psalm 99:6. The reason why Samuel is mentioned here is probably that he was the first prophet after Moses who recorded a prediction with regard to the times of the Messiah. The Jews, in their divisions of the books of the Old Testament, reckoned the book of Joshua as the first of the prophets. But in Joshua and Judges, there does not occur any distinct prediction of the Messiah. The prophecy in Samuel, to which Peter probably had reference, is in 2 Samuel 7:16. From the time of Moses to Samuel, also, it is probable that no prophet arose. God was consulted by Urim, and Thummim Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21, and consequently no extraordinary messenger was sent to instruct the nation.
21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
And afterward they desired a king
“And afterward they desired a king,” which the Jews say, was in the tenth year of Samuel’s rule over Israel, or of his judging them—“They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have" (1 Samuel 8:5). It was predicted early in the history of Israel that they would have a king—“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite” (Deuteronomy 17:14-15). They were foolish for wanting to be like their neighboring nations in that respect, and insensitive to God’s act of kindness in assuming the character and relation of a king to them. Their great sin in desiring a king was that by that desire they rejected God, who had at that very time a prophet (Samuel) by whom He governed them. Compare:
• 1 Samuel 8:7—“And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
• 1 Samuel 10:19—“But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, 'No, appoint a king over us.' So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans."
They had been under a theocracy ever since they came out of Egypt, their laws and their leaders being appointed by God. If their condition had been like that of other nations, their desire would not have been so insulting to God.
And God gave unto them Saul
Paul had two things in common with this Saul; they had the same name and belonged to the same tribe: Benjamin. This would have been on the apostle’s mind while he spoke on that Sabbath morning in the synagogue.