Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE EARLY MONARCHY

IN the first flush of invasion Israel had carried the highlands. But the Canaanites pertinaciously maintained themselves in the plains. The Philistines were seasoned warriors and were able not only to master the maritime plain but also to push their conquests into the hill country. Their relations to Dan we have already discussed. In Benjamin they claimed the supremacy, and their Resident, perhaps supported by a garrison, was established at Gibeah as an instrument for the collection of tribute and a sign of the subjection of Israel. To make common cause against such a foe would seem to be the part of common prudence. And yet the tribes were quarrelling among themselves.

The incoherence of the people who called themselves Benê Israel (Sons of Israel) is strikingly brought out by the concluding narrative of the Book of Judges, to which a brief allusion has already been made. Unfortunately the story has been worked over by a later hand so as to teach the very opposite lesson. What we may reasonably suppose to be the original story is something as follows:1

A man who dwelt in Mount Ephraim had a wife from Bethlehem. In a fit of anger the woman left him and returned to her father's house. After a time her husband sought her and they were reconciled. The hospitality of the father made it difficult for them to get away, but finally, one afternoon, they made a start. The day was far gone when they reached Jerusalem, and the servant who was with them proposed they should lodge in that city. The master, however, did not trust the hospitality

____________________
1
The story in Judges 19-21 shows more marks of late date than any other portion of the book. As it stands, it pictures Israel as a theocratic community, moving as one man under the lead of the priestly oracle, purging out iniquity from its midst, exterminating men, women, and children in the way of duty, yet mourning over the loss of one of the twelve tribes and taking measures to restore it. All this is evidently late. But the kernel and the story seems to be old and this I venture to use.

-106-

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