Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE HEROES

FOLLOWING the account of the conquest and division of the land under Joshua we have in our Hebrew Canon a book which we call traditionally Judges. In the form in which we now read it, it is a work of edification like the others we have considered. This form, however, is reached by a redactional process, and we are able to distinguish between the material which the editor found ready to hand, and the additions which he made. The substance of the book is a series of stories about Israel's deliver. ers. They are fitted into a framework which makes them teach the uniform lesson that backsliding from Yahweh is followed by punishment, in the form of war and defeat, while repentance is rewarded by deliverance and victory. The stories often show their reluctance to teach this lesson by the very imperfect manner in which they meet the views of the compiler. In themselves they are of the utmost value as illustrating the early age of Israel's conflicts.1

In this book we find the Israelites settled in the midst of the Canaanites, and in a chronic state of warfare. The central highlands (Ephraim) are in their possession, but they may be called at any time to defend themselves either against the older inhabitants or against fresh invaders from the desert. It is evident that the stream of migration is still pushing on from the East. The next wave is as willing to overwhelm Israel as Israel has been willing to submerge the Canaanites. The strongholds in the plains are still

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1
The structure of the Book of Judges has been carefully investigated by recent scholars, including Budde ( Richter und Samuel, 1890; Das Buch der Richter, 1897), Moore ( International Critical Commentary, 1895; The Book of Judges in Haupt's Sacred Books of the Old Testament, 1898; critical edition of the Hebrew text in Haupt's series, 1900), and Nowack ( RichterRuth in the Handkommentar, 1900). The stories which form the groundwork of the book are sometimes composite, and there seems to have been a double redaction. The artificial scheme of the final editor made the number of "Judges" twelve. This was secured by inserting the minor Judges, of which the names only are known.

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