Failure of Judah Part 4 of 8 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Threescore and ten kings
Kings here means Chieftains, heads of tribes, or military officers in addition to a monarch. So great a number will not appear strange when it is considered that in ancient times every ruler of a city or large town was called a king. It is not improbable that in that southern region of Canaan, there might, in earlier times, have been even more till a turbulent chief like Adoni-bezek devoured them in his insatiable ambition.
Having their thumbs and their great toes cut off.
That this was an ancient mode of treating enemies we learn from Aelian, who tells us that "the Athenians, at the instigation of Cleon, son of Cleaenetus, made a decree that all the inhabitants of the island of Aegina should have the thumb cut off from the right hand, so that they might forever be disabled from holding a spear, yet they might be able to handle an oar." This is considered by Aelian an act of great cruelty; and he wishes to Minerva, the guardian of the city, to Jupiter Eleutherius, and all the gods of Greece, that the Athenians had never done such things. It was a custom among those Romans who did not like a military life, to cut off their own thumbs, with the intention that they might not be capable of serving in the army. Sometimes the parents cut off the thumbs of their children, so that they might not be called into the army. According to Suetonius, a Roman knight, who had cut off the thumbs of his two sons to prevent them from being called to a military life was, by the order of Augustus, publicly sold, both he and his property. Calmet remarks that the Italian language has preserved a term, poltrone, which signifies one whose thumb is cut off, to designate a soldier destitute of courage and valor. We use poltroon to signify a dishonorable fellow. There have been found frequent instances of persons maiming themselves, so that they might be incapacitated for military duty. I have heard of an instance in which a desperate soldier discharged his gun through his hand, so that he might be discharged from his regiment. The cutting off of the thumbs was probably designed for a double purpose:
1. To incapacitate them for war; and,
2. To brand them as cowards.
Gathered their meat under my table
I think this was a well-known mode of expression, to signify reducing a person to the lowest servitude; for it is not at all likely that seventy kings, many of whom must have been contemporaries, were placed under the table of the king of Bezek, and fed there; as in the houses of poor persons the dogs are fed with crumbs and offal, under the table of their owners.
So God hath 25requited me
The king of Bezek seems to have had the knowledge of the true God, and a proper notion of a Divine providence. He now feels himself reduced to that state to which he had cruelly reduced others. Those acts by him were acts of terrible cruelty; the act towards him was an act of retribution and justice.
And there he died
His own people took him to the important Canaanite city of Jerusalem. He continued at Jerusalem in a submissive and degraded condition until the day of his death. We do not know how long he lived after his disgrace.
8 Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.
Here we have the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem, but it is spoken of as if it was done in earlier times; in Joshua’s time, and only repeated on the occasion of Adoni-bezek’s dying there, and therefore we emphasize the past tense, "they HAD fought against Jerusalem,” and put this expression in quotes; but the original speaks of it as a thing done at the present, and this seems to be the most probable because it is said to be done by the children of Judah in particular, not by all Israel in general, whom Joshua commanded. Joshua indeed conquered and slew Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem (Jos. 10), but there is no mention of his taking the city; probably, while he was pursing his conquests elsewhere, this Adoni-bezek, a neighbouring prince, got possession of it; however, after Israel conquered the forces of Adoni-bezek in the field, the city fell into their hands, and they slew the inhabitants, except those Jebusites (see Article 1.2) who retreated into the castle (strong hold or fortress on Mount Zion) and held out there until David’s time 26(2 Sam. 5:6, 7 ). Joshua ordered them to set the city on fire, as a token of how deeply they detested the idolatry that infected it. Yet they probably did not completely destroy it, but left enough of the city to provide convenient habitations for those they left to take possession of it. The reality is that only the lower city was taken, but the citadel remained in Jebusite hands; the city was captured but not occupied. The capture
of this important city ranks among the early successes in the war of invasion 27
(Jos 15:63 ). The body of Adoni-bezek was put on display in Jerusalem, in order to inspire terror far and wide in the people who remained in the land God had given to the tribes of Israel.
Article 1.2: JEBUSITES JEBB you sites
(descendants of Jebus)
JEBUSITES JEBB you sites
(descendants of Jebus) — the name of the original inhabitants of the city of JEBUS, their name for ancient Jerusalem (Judg. 19:10–11; 1 Chr. 11:4–6). They were descended from the third son of Canaan. Gen. 10:16; 1 Chron. 1:14. The actual people first appear in the invaluable report of the spies. Num. 13:29. When Jabin organized his rising against Joshua, the Jebusites joined him. Josh. 11:3. “Jebus, which is Jerusalem,” lost its king in the slaughter of Beth-horn, Josh. 10:1, 5, 26; was sacked and burned by the men of Judah, Judges 1:21, and its citadel finally scaled and occupied by David. 2 Sam. 5:6. After this, they emerge from the darkness but once, in the person of Araunah the Jebusite, “Araunah the king,” who appears before us in true kingly dignity in his well-known transaction with David. 2 Sam. 24:23; 1 Chron. 21:24, 25. When the Israelites invaded Palestine under the leadership of Joshua, the Jebusites were ruled by Adoni-Zedek (Josh. 10:1, 3), one of five Amorite kings who resisted the Hebrew conquest. These five kings were defeated and slain by Joshua (Josh. 10:16–27). But the Jebusites were not driven out of Jebus (Jerusalem).
After David was anointed king, he led his army against the Jebusites. His military commander, Joab, apparently entered the city through an underground water shaft and led the conquest (2 Sam. 5:6–9; 1 Chr. 11:4–8). David then made this former Jebusite stronghold, now called the “City of David,” the capital of his kingdom.
9 And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the 28
10 And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.
11 And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:
12 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
14 And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou?
15 And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the 29
God had given the Israelites Palestine, but the land was already occupied, therefore, they must remove the current inhabitants; actually, God told them to kill everyone who lived there. And so there is a new war with the Canaanites under the direction of Caleb. We have here (vv. 9-15) a further account of that glorious and successful campaign which Judah and Simeon made. The place allotted to Judah was pretty well cleared of the Canaanites, yet not entirely. Those that dwelt in the mountain (the mountains that were round about Jerusalem) were driven out (v. 9). The territories of the tribe of Judah lay in the most 30
southern part of the Promised Land, which was very mountainous, though towards the west it had many fine plains. In some of the cities of the plains the Canaanites had fought and were prepared to fight against Judah; but the expedition headed there was for the purpose of finally expelling them. But probably this is a recap of what is related in 31
Joshua 10:36 ; 32
11:21 ; 33
15: 13. Israel first took the hill country and held it the longest. The foothills, lying between the hill country and the coast were the scene of constant fighting between Israel and the Canaanites.
When the children of Israel settled in the Promised Land, they were subject to the influence and temptations of the Canaanite religion. It was a degrading religion, and they soon lapsed into idolatry and apostasy. Religious prostitution and the sacrifice of infants to Molech were among the degrading practices that confronted them in their new home. They often forgot their covenant with God at Mount Sinai. When they lapsed into idolatry, God chastened them by delivering them over to their enemies. When in a spirit of repentance, they prayed for mercy, help came in the person of a ‘Judge’ who was raised up by God to save His people from their oppressors. The periods of Israel’s faithfulness to God were of short duration, however. The pattern of 34
apostasy, defeat, repentance, prayer for deliverance, and victory through a Spirit-endowed Judge is frequently repeated. A series of such episodes form the major portion of the book of Judges.