Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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JUDGES - Introduction

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This Book is called Judges, because it contains the history of what passed under the government of the judges, who ruled Israel before they had kings. The writer of it, according to the more general opinion, was the prophet Samuel. (Challoner) --- Some are of opinion, that the judges might have each left records of their respective administrations, (Menochius) which might be put in order by Samuel. The author of this book seems to have lived under the reign of Saul, before David had expelled the Jebusites, chap. xviii. 31. (Du Hamel) --- The captivity, which is mentioned [in] ver. 30, must be understood of that when the ark of God, as well as the idol Micha, and many of the people were taken by the Philistines. (Huet) --- Many passages of the Psalms, &c., are taken from this book, which shew its antiquity, Psalm lxvii. 8., and 2 Kings xi. 21. The divine Providence is here displayed in a very striking manner. (Du Hamel) --- The theocracy still subsisted and God generally chose these judges to be his ministers, and to deliver the people, on their repentance, from some dreadful calamity. (Haydock) --- They exercised a supreme power, yet without bearing the insignia of regal authority, or imposing taxes, or making any alteration in the established laws. The Suffetes, who were Carthaginian magistrates, seem to have taken their name from these Ssuptim. (Du Hamel) --- When God did not raise up judges, in an extraordinary manner, a kind of anarchy prevailed. (Haydock) --- Each of the tribes regarded only their own affairs, and the republic was dissolved. (Grotius) --- Prosperous and unfortunate days succeeded each other, in proportion as the people gave themselves up to repentance or to dissolution. Sicut se habebant peccata populi & misericordia Dei, alternaverunt prospera & adversa bellorum. (St. Augustine, City of God xviii. 23.) St. Jerome (ep. ad Eust. & ad Paulin.) exhorts us to penetrate the spiritual sense of the historical books, and he regards "the judges as so many figures" of the apostles, who established the church of Christ. Though some of them had been noted for their misconduct, they were reclaimed by the grace of God. Then all the judges, every one by name, whose heart was not corrupted, who turned not away from the Lord, that their memory might be blessed, &c., Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 13, 14. (Worthington) --- St. Paul mentions four of them, though the conduct of Jephte and of Samson might have been regarded as more exceptionable than that of Othoniel, who is said to have been filled with the spirit of the Lord, chap. iii. 10. Serarius doubts not but they are all in heaven. Salien (in the year of the world 2640,) supposes that the transactions recorded in the five last chapters, took place before this 40th year from the death of Josue, which was the last of Othoniel. With respect to the chronology of these times, there are many opinions. Houbigant endeavours to shew that the system of Usher is inadmissible, as well as that of Petau. Marsham maintains that many of the captivities, and of the Judges, related only to some tribes, so that the different years which are specified, must be referred to the same period of time. Thus while Jephte ruled over those on the east side of the Jordan, and fought against the Ammonites, other judges endeavoured to repel the armies of the Philistines on the west. See 3 Kings vi. 1., and Judges xi. 16. By this expedient, he finds no difficulty in shewing that 480 years elapsed from the departure out of Egypt till the building of the temple, and that the Israelites had occupied the country of the Ammonites during the space of 300 years. (Haydock) --- Houbigant seems to adopt this system in some respects, and he thinks that errors have crept into some of the numbers, so that Aod procured a peace of only 20 instead of 80 years, &c. He observes that the name of judge here designates, 1. A warrior, like Samson; 2. a person who passes sentence according to the law, which was the office of Heli; 3. one divinely commissioned to exercise the sovereign authority, as Samuel did, even after Saul had been elected king. (Proleg. Chronol.) Others have compared the power of these judges with that of the Roman Dictators, or the Archontes of Athens. (Serarius) --- They were properly God's lieutenants. Their revenue seems to have been very precarious, and their exterior deportment modest and unassuming. They were guided by the declarations of the high priests, when arrayed with the Urim and Thummim; and their business was to promote the observance of the true religion, and to defend the people of God. This book concludes with the history of Samson, describing the transactions of 317 years, (Calmet) according to the calculation of Usher, which has met with the approbation of many of the learned, and is therefore chiefly inserted in this edition, as it was in that which was published in 1791, at Dublin, by the care of the Rev. B. Mac Mahon, who seems to have made some alterations. It is not indeed free from many serious difficulties. But we have not leisure to examine them at present. See chap. iii. 11, 30. We shall only subjoin the chronological table of Houbigant, which is not very common, that the reader may perceive where they are chiefly at variance. Moses governed 40 years, Josue 20, the Ancients 20, king of Mesopotamia 8, Othoniel 40, Moabites 18, Aod 20, Samgar 0, the Chanaanites 20, Debora and Barac 40, Madianites 7, Gedeon 40, Abimelech 3, Thola 23, Ammonites 0, Jair 22, Jephte 6, Abesan 7, Ahialon 10, Abdon 8, Philistines 0, Samson 20, and with Heli 20, Heli and Samuel 25, Samuel and Saul 20, David 40, Solomon 3. In the 4th year of his reign the temple was begun, 480 years after the liberation from Egypt. Those to whom no years are assigned, lived at the same time with others whose years enter into the calculation. Thus Samgar gained a victory over the Philistines, while the Chanaanites held the Israelites in subjection, chap. iii. 31. For other particulars we must refer to the author. (Chron. sacra.) (Haydock)