Page:A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges.djvu/26

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xvi
INTRODUCTION

livered them from their foes.[1] But they persisted in the worship of other gods, or relapsed into it when the judge was dead; each generation was worse than those before it. Neither punishment nor deliverance wrought any lasting amendment. The history of each of the judges begins with a few sentences telling us how the Israelites offended Yahweh; how he gave them into the power of this or that hostile people for a number of years; and how he at last raised up a deliverer.[2] The introductions to the stories of Gideon (61–10) and Jephthah (106–16) are longer, and the moral is enforced in the words of a prophet, or of Yahweh himself, upbraiding the Israelites for their disobedience and ingratitude. The history of all these successive oppressions and deliverances thus exemplifies and confirms the representation of the whole period which is given in the introduction.[3] Temporibus … judicum, sicut se habebant et peccata populi et misericordia Dei, alternaverunt prospera et adversa bellorum.[4]

It is clear that in all this the author's purpose is not merely to interpret the history, and explain upon religious principles why such evils befell Israel in the days of the judges, but to impress upon his readers the lesson that unfaithfulness to Yahweh is always punished; that whenever Israel falls away from him, he withdraws his protection and leaves it defenceless before its foes. By historical examples he would warn his contemporaries against a like apostasy. His motive and aim are thus not historical, but religious.[5] In a different, but not less effective way, he inculcates the same truth which all the prophets preached; Yahweh is Israel's God, and the religion of Israel is to keep itself to him alone.[6]

The author's motive, the lesson he enforces, and the way in which he makes the history teach it, are almost the only data at our command to ascertain the age in which he lived. Indefinite

  1. Cf. 39, 15 43f. 57 1010ff; of the repentance of the people we read only in 1015f.
  2. See 312–15 37–11 41ff. 131; cf. p. 62f.
  3. For the evidence that the introductions to the stories of the judges are by the same author as 26–36, see esp. Kuenen, HCO2. i. p. 340f.
  4. Aug., de civ. Dei, xvi. 43; cf. xviii. 13.
  5. It is inaccurate to speak of his "philosophy of history"; nothing is further from his mind than a philosophical analysis of the causes of events.
  6. See Reuss, GAT. §275; Kitt., GdH. i. 2. p. 6f.