One of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years War, Crecy saw the creation of the legend of both King Edward III and his then sixteen year old son Prince Edward, centuries later called “the Black Prince”. Some 9000 English soldiers, including a large contingent of archers with dismounted men at arms inflicted some 10,000 casualities on a French army of 30,000 mounted men at arms and crossbowmen. It was one of the battles that signaled the end of the dominance of knightly cavalry in favor of strategically placed archery and infantry. Prince Edward was put in charge of the English vanguard and with his senior advisers and men repeatedly held off French attacks, thus, as the story goes, “winning his spurs” by King Edward’s reckoning.
Month: August 2012
Rth_3:10. Blessed be thou of Jehovah, my daughter! Thou hast made thy latter kindness even more beautiful than the former. This answer also opens to our view the simple, unassuming soul of Boaz, whose modesty and sincere heartiness are truly admirable. He makes no complaint of being disturbed in the night, nor of the too great importunateness, as another might have deemed it, with which the request is made. On the one hand, he entertains no thought of abusing the confidence of the woman, nor on the other does he play the modern conserver of virtue, who loudly blames another because he distrusts himself. He has only words of divine benediction for the blameless woman, so attractive in her naive humility. He knows how to value her act in its purely objective character, apart from every consideration of its relation to himself, as only a heart trained by the word of God could do. He blesses Ruth, whom like a father he addresses as “my daughter,” because he found her present kindness yet nobler and more beautiful than the former. But how is that to be understood? Ruth’s former kindness approved itself, when, after the death of her husband, she left parents and home in order to console and take care of her mother-in-law, unmoved by the certainty of misery and humiliation in a foreign land. What does she now? Young, comely, and favorably known, she might before this have looked out a husband according to her wish, rich or poor, from among the young men of Israel. Did she do it? By no means; she subordinates every such possibility to her mother-in-law and the usages of Israel. Instead of preferring the love of a young man, as were natural,—says Boaz,—thou comest to assert thy right with one more advanced in life, solely because he is a goel. Thou askest him for the protection of his wings, in order that a blood-relative may again raise up a name for thy husband and mother-in-law in Israel. In this, also, thou offerest thine own heart and happiness as a sacrifice of love to thy family! It is indeed possible that as Boaz intimates, Ruth’s present act of kindness was even a severer test of her love than the earlier. For those, done in the time of sorrow and mourning, were for that very reason easier than this, rendered at a time when perhaps a new life and fresh joy had been offered her. But the modesty of Boaz was too great. It is doubtless correct to think of him as a contemporary of Elimelech, and consequently no longer young. But in ancient as in modern times, a woman like Ruth will find a more engaging “rest” with a man like Boaz than she would find among thousands of young men.
And he said, Blessed be thou of Yahveh, my daughter; thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former, in not going after any young man, whether poor or rich. This verse is full of satisfactory evidence that Naomi was perfectly right in conjecturing that Boas, deep in love, was restrained only by diffidence from formally declaring himself. It shows us too that the chief ground of his diffidence was his age. He had been an acquaintance, and the equal in years, of Ruth’s father-in-law, Elimelech, and the impression had got hold on him that the handsome young widow might feel repugnance to his suit. Hence, instead of being in the least degree offended by the steps she had taken, he was relieved, and felt full of gratification on the one hand, and of gratitude on the other. Blessed be thou by Yahveh. Literally, “to Yahveh,” i.e. “in relation to Yahveh” (see Rth_2:20). My daughter. His relative elderliness was in his mind. Thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former. Michaelis has seized the true meaning of these words: “The kindness which thou art showing to thy husband, now that he is gone, is still greater than what thou didst show to him while he lived.” Her employment of the word “kinsman,” or goel, was evidence to Boas that she was thinking of the respect which she owed to her husband’s memory. Her concern in discharging that duty of ‘piety’ struck the heart of Boaz; and all the more as, in his opinion, she might easily have found open doors, had she wished for them, in quarters where there was no connection of kinship with her deceased husband. “She did not go after any young man, whether poor or rich.” She preferred, above all such, her first husband’s elderly “kinsman.” In the original the construction is peculiar—”in not going after the young men, whether a poor one or a rich one.” He does not simply mean that she was free from vagrant courses and desires. Her character lay, to his eye, on a far higher level His meaning is that she deliberately refrained from “thinking of any young man. The plural “young men” is to be accounted for on the principle that when an alternate is assumed or postulated, there is, in actual contemplation, a plurality of individuals.
Rth_3:11. And now, my daughter, fear not. Trembling with excitement, Ruth had done as she had been directed; and in the darkness of the night, the tremulous tones of her voice had informed Boaz of her anxiety. What he had hitherto said, contained no decision, but only praise. She, however, trembles for the answer to her prayer, on which so much depended. Hence, he says, again addressing her by the kindly name of daughter, “fear not.” As above he invoked on her, in Jehovah’s name, a full reward, because, led by love to Israel, she had trustfully come to take refuge under the wings of Israel’s God, so he will not deny her who has come to himself to ask for the protection of his “resting-place.” Her Moabitish nationality can offer no obstacle, since he has already commended her to the blessing of Jehovah. She has shown no Moabitish morals. There exists no ground whatever for denying her the rights of Israel. For the whole gate of my people knows that thou art a brave woman. In the words “my people,” he hints at the sole reason on which a refusal could base itself. But there is no Israelite among us in Bethlehem, who does not know how good thou art.20 Whatever thou hast a right to claim, can be unhesitatingly done for thee, for thou art loved by all.
And now, my daughter, fear not: all that thou sayest I shall do to thee, for it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that thou art a truly capable woman. The word חָיִל in the expression אֵשֶׁת חֱיִל is of many-sided import, and has no synonym in English, German, Latin, or Greek. But every side of its import brings into view one or other or more of such affiliated ideas as strength, force, forces, capability—whether mental and moral only, or also financial; competency, substantiality, ability, bravery. All who had taken notice of Ruth perceived that she was mentally and morally, as well as physically, a substantial and capable woman. She was possessed of force, both of mind and character. She was, in the New England sense, of the expression, a woman of “faculty. She was full of resources, and thus adequate to the position which, as Boaz’s wife, she would be required to fill. There was no levity about her, “no nonsense.” She was earnest, industrious, virtuous, strenuous, brave. There was much of the heroine in her character, and thus the expression connects itself with the masculine application of the distinctive and many-sided word, “a mighty man of valor.” The expression אֵשֶׁת חֲיִל occurs in Pro_12:4, where, in King James’s version, it is, as here and in Pro_31:10, translated ‘Ca virtuous woman”—”a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” But it is not so much to moral virtue that there is a reference as to that general capacity which consists in “large discourse, looking before and after” (‘Hamlet, ‘ Pro_4:4). Compare the masculine expression אַנְשֵׁי־חֲיִל in Exo_18:21, Exo_18:25, rendered, in King-James’s version, “able men,” and meaning capable or substantial men, who, however, as we learn from the additional characteristics that are specified, were to be likewise conspicuous for high moral worth. In Pro_31:10 there is the same reference to general capacity, as is evidenced by the graphic representation that follows—a representation that by no means exhausts itself in the idea of moral virtue. Ibn Ezra takes the whole soul out of the expression when he interprets it, both here and in Proverbs, as meaning “a woman possessed of riches.” When Boaz says, “All that thou sayest I will do to thee,” he means, “All that thou hast so winsomely and yet so modestly referred to in what thou didst say, I am prepared to do to thee. There was only one obstacle in the way, and that of a somewhat technical description. If that should be honorably surmounted, nothing would be more agreeable to Boaz s heart than to get nearer to Ruth “For,” said he, “it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that,” etc. Literally the phrase is, “for all the gate of my people know,” a strange inverted but picturesque mode of expression. It was not “the gate of the people,” but the people of the gate,” that knew.
Rth_3:12. But yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. These words teach us that what Ruth demanded was an actual objective right, which belonged to her. Although Boaz perhaps surmised that, apart from the consideration of her right, she applied with special confidence to himself for the boon desired, he modestly and considerately decides only on the question of her formal right. Her proceeding receives its unimpeachable justification only when putting aside every personal inclination, it simply regards the matter of right. Thy claim, he says, cannot be gainsaid; but I am not the one to whom it is to be directed in the first instance. There is another, who is more nearly related to Elimelech. But he does not leave her a moment in doubt, whether this be not an excuse for refusing her petition. If that other person prove not able to fulfill his duty, then he himself will do it. This he confirms with an oath by the living God. Nor will she be required to repeat the proceeding of this night. A noble, womanly heart—this is what his tenderness implies—does not dare to undertake such a mission more than once. He himself will prosecute the matter. The symbolic act with which she came to him, addressed itself not so much to him, individually, as through him to the whole family. Perhaps he knew very well that Naomi had for good reasons sent Ruth to his threshing-floor,—that the other relative would not be able to act as redeemer; but it is best for both Ruth and himself that due regard be had to formal right.
And now it is the case of a truth that while I am a kinsman, there is yet a kinsman nearer than I. Or the rendering might with greater brevity be given thus: And now of a truth I am a kinsman; and yet there is a kinsman nearer than I. The survivals of a very ancient style of elaborately-detailed composition are here preserved. The archaism, however, was not quite appreciated by the Mazorites, who, in accordance with the spirit of the age in which they flourished, took but little note of the philological development, historical and prehistorical, of the language they were handling. Hence they suppressed the אִם in K’ri, though faithfully preserving it in C’tib. The particles, standing up and semi-isolated, palaeolithic-wise, might be accounted for in some such way as is shown in the following paraphrase: “And now ‘that’ of a truth (it is the case) ‘that if’ I (am) a kinsman, and also there is a kinsman nearer than I.” Boas was of that strictly honorable cast of mind that he could not for a moment entertain any project that might amount to a disregard of the rights of others, even although these rights should fly violently in the teeth own personal desires.
Rth_3:13 ff. Abide here to-night; lie down until the morning. He repeats the same injunction twice. He cannot send her away in the darkness of night; nor is he afraid to let her remain. She, for her part, hears his words, and obeys, with equal confidence. But she is only to remain till earliest dawn. Before it was possible to recognize each other clearly, both were up; that it might not be known that the woman came into the floor. By an early departure, he hopes that Ruth may escape meeting with any one, who might put injurious suspicions into circulation. He undoubtedly speaks of “the woman,” with special emphasis. It would have been very unpleasant to Boaz to have people connect himself with any woman in a suspicious way; but scandalous rumors of this kind, with Ruth for their object, would have been exceedingly injurious. To say nothing of the fact that an undeserved stain would have been fixed on the good name of Ruth, it would have rendered it very difficult for him to prosecute her claims in Bethlehem.
Keil and Delitzsch
Boaz praised her conduct: “Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter (see Rth_2:20); thou hast made thy later love better than the earlier, that thou hast not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. ” Ruth’s earlier or first love was the love she had shown to her deceased husband and her mother-in-law (comp. Rth_2:11, where Boaz praises this love); the later love she had shown in the fact, that as a young widow she had not sought to win the affections of young men, as young women generally do, that she might have a youthful husband, but had turned trustfully to the older man, that he might find a successor to her deceased husband, through a marriage with him, in accordance with family custom (vid., Rth_4:10). “And now,” added Boaz (Rth_3:11), “my daughter, fear not; for all that thou sayest I will do to thee: for the whole gate of my people (i.e., all my city, the whole population of Bethlehem, who go in and out at the gate: see Gen_34:24; Deu_17:2) knoweth that thou art a virtuous woman.” Consequently Boaz saw nothing wrong in the fact that Ruth had come to him, but regarded her request that he would marry her as redeemer as perfectly natural and right, and was ready to carry out her wish as soon as the circumstances would legally allow it. He promised her this (vv. 12, 13), saying, “And now truly I am a redeemer; but there is a nearer redeemer than I. Stay here this night (or as it reads at the end of v. 13, ‘lie till the morning’), and in the morning, if he will redeem thee, well, let him redeem; but if it does not please him to redeem thee, I will redeem thee, as truly as Jehovah liveth.” אִם כִּי (Kethibh, v. 12), after a strong assurance, as after the formula used in an oath, “God do so to me,” etc., 2Sa_3:35; 2Sa_15:21 (Kethibh), and 2Ki_5:20, is to be explained from the use of this particle in the sense of nisi, except that, = only: “only I am redeemer,” equivalent to, assuredly I am redeemer (cf. Ewald, §356, b.). Consequently there is no reason whatever for removing the אִם from the text, as the Masorites have done (in the Keri).
(Note: What the ל maju sc., in לִינִי signifies, is uncertain. According to the smaller Masora, it was only found among the eastern (i.e., Palestinian) Jews. Consequently Hiller (in his Arcanum Keri et Ctibh, p. 163) conjectures that they used it to point out a various reading, viz., that לַנִּי should be the reading here. But this is hardly correct.)
Ruth was to lie till morning, because she could not easily return to the city in the dark at midnight; but, as is shown in Rth_3:14, she did not stay till actual daybreak, but “before one could know another, she rose up, and he said (i.e., as Boaz had said), It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.” For this would have injured the reputation not only of Ruth, but also of Boaz himself.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Boaz had gone up to the gate, and had sat down there.” This circumstantial clause introduces the account of the further development of the affair. The gate, i.e., the open space before the city gate, was the forum of the city, the place where the public affairs of the city were discussed. The expression “went up” is not to be understood as signifying that Boaz went up from the threshing-floor where he had slept tot the city, which was situated upon higher ground, for, according to Rth_3:15, he had already gone to the city before he went up to the gate; but it is to be explained as referring to the place of justice as an ideal eminence to which a man went up (vid., Deu_17:8). The redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken – that is to say, the nearer relation of Elimelech – then went past, and Boaz requested him to come near and sit down. סוּר as in Gen_19:2, etc.: “Sit down here, such a one.” אַלְמֹנִי פְּלֹנִי, any one, a certain person, whose name is either unknown or not thought worth mentioning (cf. 1Sa_21:3; 2Ki_6:8). Boaz would certainly call him by his name; but the historian had either not heard the name, or did not think it necessary to give it.
Rth_4:1. And Boaz went up to the gate, and seated himself there. Very early, even before Ruth with her burden of barley had yet started for home (Rth_3:15), Boaz, energetic in deed as he was kind in word, took the way to Bethlehem. It was necessary to set out so early, in order to be sure of reaching the gate before the person with whom he wished to speak, and who like himself was probably in the habit of coming to the city from the country. The gate, it is well known, was the place where judicial business was transacted and markets were held (Deu_21:19 ff.; cf. Psa_127:5). This is still the case in the East. In Zec_8:16, the prophet says: “Judge truth and the judgment of peace in your gates;” on which Jerome (ed. Migne, vi. p. 1474) remarks: “It is asked, why among the Jews the gate was the place for administering justice. The judges sat in the gates that the country-people might not be compelled to enter the cities and suffer detriment. Sitting there, they could hear the townsmen and country-people as they left or entered the city; and each man, his business finished, could return at once to his own house.” At the gate was the proper forum; and it is certainly more satisfactory than all other explanations of the Latin word, to derive it, notwithstanding the later central situation of the place to which it was applied, from the archaic fora, gate, whence foras, cf. biforis, septiforis.
He took ten men – Probably it required this number to constitute a court. How simple and how rational was this proceeding!
1. The man who had a suit went to the city gates.
2. Here he stopped till the person with whom he had the suit came to the gate on his way to his work.
3. He called him by name, and he stopped and sat down.
4. Then ten elders were called, and they came and sat down.
5. When all this was done, the appellant preferred his suit.
6. Then the appellee returned his answer.
7. When the elders heard the case, and the response of the appellee, they pronounced judgment, which judgment was always according to the custom of the place.
8. When this was done, the people who happened to be present witnessed the issue.
And thus the business was settled without lawyers or legal casuistry. A question of this kind, in one of our courts of justice, in these enlightened times, would require many days’ previous preparation of the attorney, and several hours’ arguing between counsellor Botherum and counsellor Borum, till even an enlightened and conscientious judge would find it extremely difficult to decide whether Naomi might sell her own land, and whether Boaz or Peloni might buy it! O, glorious uncertainty of modern law!
Rth_4:2. He took ten men of the elders of the city. That the number of elders in any city was not necessarily limited to ten, may be inferred from Jdg_8:14; but ten were sufficient to form a college of witnesses. In post-biblical times it was a maxim that an assembly for religious worship (עֵדָה, “congregation”), must consist of ten persons (cf. the Jerus. Targum on Exo_12:4); but the attempt of the Mishna (Sanhedrin, 1:6) to ground this biblically on the supposed fact that the ten faithless spies are spoken of as a congregation (Num_14:27), can hardly be deemed satisfactory. The custom, however, of selecting exactly ten men for such service as was here required, was so old and well-established among the Jews, that the term מִנְיָן, “number,” by itself, meant ten persons. Others, it is true, as we learn further on, had assembled about the two relatives; but the ten elders formed, so to speak, the necessary official witnesses.
Every city was governed by elders (see Deu_19:12; Jdg_8:14). For the number “ten,” compare Exo_18:25. Probably the presence of, at least, ten elders was necessary to make a lawful public assembly, as among modern Jews ten (a minyon) are necessary to constitute a synagogue.
Rth_4:3. The inheritance of our brother Elimelech, Naomi has sold. The expositors, with one consent, demand by what right Naomi could sell the inheritance of Elimelech, since the Mosaic law contains nothing to indicate that it considered the widow as the rightful heir of her deceased husband. But this view of the law is incorrect. The whole system of leviratical marriage presupposes that the title of the deceased husband’s property vests in the widow. When a man dies childless, leaving a widow, the brother of the deceased is to marry her, in order “that the first-born may enter upon the name of the dead,” i.e. that the name of the dead may continue to be connected with the inheritance which he has left behind, for in no other sense can the expression “to raise up the name of one” have any meaning in Israel; and, accordingly, in Rth_4:5 the words of the law, “to raise up the name of the dead,” are supplemented by the addition, “upon his inheritance.” But in case the brother-in-law refused to marry the widow, and consequently refused to raise up the name of his brother, he thereby also gave up all right to enter on the inheritance of his brother. The duty and the right were indissolubly connected. The law would have been illusory, if the brother, notwithstanding his refusal to marry the widow, had obtained the inheritance. In that case, possession remained with the widow, who, albeit childless, carried within herself, so to speak, the embryonic right of the heir. Of the symbolical act of drawing off the shoe, we shall speak farther on. But it is to be noted here that when the widow drew off the shoe of the recusant brother-in-law, she thereby declared that he must withdraw his foot from the possessions of his brother.
Naomi was a widow. But although she herself says (Rth_1:12) that she is too old to become a wife, even this fact gives no right to her property to any blood-relative, without marriage. Undoubtedly, the name of her husband would vanish from his estate as soon as she died; but until then it remained upon it, and Naomi had the same right and power to dispose of the property as the law gave to the husband himself. Now, in Lev_25:25, we read: “If thy brother become impoverished and sell his possession, let his nearest blood-relative (גֹאֲלוֹ הַקָּרֹב) come to him, and redeem that which his brother sold.” This contingency was here actually come to pass. Naomi had become impoverished,—she had sold. The name of Elimelech was still on the property: consequently the law demanded its redemption, and directed this demand to the nearest blood-relative. It is on the basis of this prescription, that Boaz begins his negotiation with the unnamed kinsman, in the interest of Naomi.
The sale of the land had hitherto not been mentioned. Nothing was said about it in the conversation between Ruth and Boaz on the threshing-floor. The fact that Boaz knew of it, confirms the surmise that before Ruth came to him with her great request, he and Naomi had already had some communication with each other.
These communications, having reference to the sale of the land, and the necessity of its redemption according to law, may be regarded as having ultimately led to the proposition made by Naomi in Rth_3:1. Naomi advanced from the redemption of the land to that of the widow, just as Boaz does here in his negotiation with the nearer kinsman.
And he said to the kinsman, Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, has resolved to sell the portion of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. Boaz, it is evident, had talked over with Ruth the entire details of Naomi’s plans, and could thus speak authoritatively. Naomi, we must suppose, had previously taken Ruth into full confidence, so that Boaz could learn at second- hand what in other circumstances he would have learned from Naomi herself. The verb which we have rendered “has resolved to sell,” is literally “has sold,” and has been so rendered by many expositors, inclusive of Riegler and Wright. The Syriac translator gives the expression thus, “has sold to me.” The subsequent context, however, makes it evident that the property had not been sold to any one, and consequently not to Boaz. The perfect verb is to be accounted for on the principle explained by Driver when he says, “The perfect is employed to indicate actions, the accomplishment of which lies indeed in the future, but is regarded as dependent upon such an unalterable determination of the will that it may be spoken of as having actually taken place: thus a resolution, promise, or decree, especially a Divine one, is very frequently announced in the perfect tense. A striking instance is afforded by Ruth (Rth_4:3) when Boaz, speaking of Naomi’s determination to sell her land, says מָכְרָה נָ’עמִי, literally, ‘has sold’ (has resolved to sell. The English idiom would be ‘is selling’)”. In King James’s English version the verb is thus freely rendered “selleth.” Luther’s version is equivalent—beut feil, “offers for sale;” or, as Coverdale renders it, “offereth to sell.” Vatable freely renders it as we have done, “has determined to sell” so Drusius (vendere instituit). The kind family feeling of Boaz, shining out m the expression, “our brother Ehmelech,” is noteworthy. “Brother” was to him a homely and gracious term for “near kinsman.”
According to the law Lev_25:25-28, if any Israelite, through poverty, would sell his possession, the next of kin (the גאל gā’al) had a right to redeem it by paying the value of the number of years remaining until the jubilee (see the marginal reference). This right Boaz advertises the גאל gā’al of, so as to give him the option which the law secured to him of redeeming “our brother Elimelech’s” land, i. e. our kinsman’s, according to the common use of the term brother, for near relation (see Gen_13:8; Gen_24:27; Lev_25:25; Num_27:4; Jdg_9:1).
Keil and Delitzsch
Boaz then called ten of the elders of the city as witnesses of the business to be taken in hand, and said to the redeemer in their presence, “The piece of field which belonged to our brother (i.e., our relative) Elimelech (as an hereditary family possession), Naomi has sold, and I have thought (lit. ‘I said,’ sc., to myself; cf. Gen_17:17; Gen_27:41), I will open thine ear (i.e., make it known, disclose it): get it before those who sit here, and (indeed) before the elders of my people.” As the field had been sold to another, getting it (קָנָה) could only be accomplished by virtue of the right of redemption. Boaz therefore proceeded to say, “If thou wilt redeem, redeem; but if thou wilt not redeem, tell me, that I may know it: for there is not beside thee (any one more nearly entitled) to redeem, and I am (the next) after thee.” הַיּשְׁבִים is rendered by many, those dwelling, and supposed to refer to the inhabitants of Bethlehem. But we could hardly think of the inhabitants generally as present, as the word “before” would require, even if, according to Rth_4:9, there were a number of persons present besides the elders. Moreover they would not have been mentioned first, but, like “all the people” in Rth_4:9, would have been placed after the elders as the principal witnesses. On these grounds, the word must be taken in the sense of sitting, and, like the verb in Rth_4:2, be understood as referring to the elders present; and the words “before the elders of my people” must be regarded as explanatory. The expression יִגְאַל (third pers.) is striking, as we should expect the second person, which is not only found in the Septuagint, but also in several codices, and is apparently required by the context. It is true that the third person may be defended, as it has been by Seb. Schmidt and others, on the assumption that Boaz turned towards the elders and uttered the words as addressed to them, and therefore spoke of the redeemer as a third person: “But if he, the redeemer there, will not redeem.” But as the direct appeal to the redeemer himself is resumed immediately afterwards, the supposition, to our mind at least, is a very harsh one. The person addressed said, “I will redeem.” Boaz then gave him this further explanation (Rth_4:5): “On the day that thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou buyest it of the hand of Ruth the Moabitess, of the wife of the deceased (Mahlon, the rightful heir of the field), to set up (that thou mayest set up) the name of the deceased upon his inheritance.” From the meaning and context, the form קניתי must be the second pers. masc.; the yod at the end no doubt crept in through an error of the pen, or else from a ו, so that the word is either to be read קָנִיתָ (according to the Keri) or קְנִיתֹו, “thou buyest it.” So far as the fact itself was concerned, the field, which Naomi had sold from want, was the hereditary property of her deceased husband, and ought therefore to descend to her sons according to the standing rule of right; and in this respect, therefore, it was Ruth’s property quite as much as Naomi’s. From the negotiation between Boaz and the nearer redeemer, it is very evident that Naomi had sold the field which was the hereditary property of her husband, and was lawfully entitled to sell it. But as landed property did not descend to wives according to the Israelitish law, but only to children, and when there were no children, to the nearest relatives of the husband (Num_27:8-11), when Elimelech died his field properly descended to his sons; and when they died without children, it ought to have passed to his nearest relations. Hence the question arises, what right had Naomi to sell her husband’s field as her own property? The Rabbins suppose that the field had been presented to Naomi and Ruth by their husbands (vid., Selden, de success. in bona def. c. 15). But Elimelech could not lawfully give his hereditary property to his wife, as he left sons behind him when he died, and they were the lawful heirs; and Mahlon also had no more right than his father to make such a gift. There is still less foundation for the opinion that Naomi was an heiress, since even if this were the case, it would be altogether inapplicable to the present affair, where the property in question was not a field which Naomi had inherited form her father, but the field of Elimelech and his sons. The true explanation is no doubt the following: The law relating to the inheritance of the landed property of Israelites who died childless did not determine the time when such a possession should pass to the relatives of the deceased, whether immediately after the death of the owner, or not till after the death of the widow who was left behind (vid., Num_27:9.). No doubt the latter was the rule established by custom, so that the widow remained in possession of the property as long as she lived; and for that length of time she had the right to sell the property in case of need, since the sale of a field was not an actual sale of the field itself, but simply of the yearly produce until the year of jubilee.
Consequently the field of the deceased Elimelech would, strictly speaking, have belonged to his sons, and after their death to Mahlon’s widow, since Chilion’s widow had remained behind in her own country Moab. But as Elimelech had not only emigrated with his wife and children and died abroad, but his sons had also been with him in the foreign land, and had married and died there, the landed property of their father had not descended to them, but had remained the property of Naomi, Elimelech’s widow, in which Ruth, as the widow of the deceased Mahlon, also had a share. Now, in case a widow sold the field of her deceased husband for the time that it was in her possession, on account of poverty, and a relation of her husband redeemed it, it was evidently his duty not only to care for the maintenance of the impoverished widow, but if she were still young, to marry her, and to let the first son born of such a marriage enter into the family of the deceased husband of his wife, so as to inherit the redeemed property, and perpetuate the name and possession of the deceased in Israel. Upon this right, which was founded upon traditional custom, Boaz based this condition, which he set before the nearer redeemer, that if he redeemed the field of Naomi he must also take Ruth, with the obligation to marry her, and through this marriage to set up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance.
Rth_4:9 f. And Boaz said, Ye are witnesses this day that I have acquired (do acquire), etc. The kinsman having drawn off his shoe, in token of his renunciation of his rights as nearest goel, Boaz arose, and declared, fully and formally, that he acquires everything that belonged to Elimelech, and (as is now expressed at full length) everything that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. He acquires it from Naomi; but as he cannot acquire it without also marrying the wife of Mahlon, as Ruth is here for the first time called,—for which reason he made special mention of the possession of the sons,—he adds that he takes her “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, in order that his name be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” In these words, he thoroughly, albeit indirectly, refuted the motive by which the anonymous kinsman was actuated in his refusal. When the name of a brother is to be rescued from oblivion among his own people, all scruples vanish. The fulfillment of a duty so pious, lifts a man up beyond the reach of fear. Boaz apprehends no damage to his own inheritance; but hopes rather, while taking Ruth under his wings, to repair the evil which the migration to Moab has inflicted upon the house of Elimelech. This pious magnanimity, this humble acceptance of duty, this readiness to act where the nearer kinsman hesitates, and this true insight of faith, which looked not at the birthplace of Ruth, but at what she had done for Israel and now was in Israel, and thus dissolved all superstitious fear in the divine wisdom of love, win for him also the approbation of all present. The public voice spoke well of Ruth; all knew how loving, virtuous, and self-sacrificing she was (cf. Rth_2:11; Rth_3:11). Hence, not only the elders who had been summoned as witnesses, but also all the people, unitedly invoked the blessing of God upon him.
Keil and Delitzsch
After the nearest redeemer had thus renounced the right of redemption with all legal formality, Boaz said to the elders and all the (rest of the) people, “Ye are witnesses this day, that I have acquired this day all that belonged to Elimelech, and to Mahlon and Chilion (i.e., the field of Elimelech, which was the rightful inheritance of his sons Mahlon and Chilion), at the hand of Naomi; and also Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to raise up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, that the name of the deceased may not be cut off among his brethren and from the gate of his people” (i.e., from his native town Bethlehem; cf. Rth_3:11). On the fact itself, see the introduction to Ruth 3; also the remarks on the Levirate marriages at Deu_25:5.
And likewise Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Machlon, have I acquired to myself to wife, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his Brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. This, to Boaz, would be by far the most delightful part of the day’s proceedings. His heart would swell with manly pride and devout gratitude when he realized, amid all the cumbrous technicalities of old Hebrew law, that Ruth was his. And he would rejoice all the more, as, in virtue of her connection with Machlon and Elimelech, both of their names would still be encircled with honor, and might, by the blessing of Yahveh, be linked on distinguishingly and lovingly to future generations. Note the expression, “that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” The people who assembled at the gate might on some future day be able to say, “This boy is the heir of Machlon and Elimelech, who once migrated to Moab.”
Keil and Delitzsch
And the neighbours said, “A son is born to Naomi,” and gave him the name of Obed. This name was given to the boy (the context suggests this) evidently with reference to what he was to become to his grandmother. Obed, therefore, does not mean “servant of Jehovah” (Targum), but “the serving one,” as one who lived entirely for his grandmother, and would take care of her, and rejoice her heat (O. v. Gerlach, after Josephus, Ant. v. 9, 4). The last words of Rth_4:17, “he is the father of Jesse, the father of David,” show the object which the author kept in view in writing down these events, or composing the book itself. This conjecture is raised into a certainty by the genealogy which follows, and with which the book closes.
Rth_4:17. They called his name, Obed. There are several noteworthy points connected with this. The female neighbors, in order to give pleasure to Naomi, give the child a name. But beside this, he doubtless received a name from his parents, probably one that belonged to the family. But that given by the women continued to be his usual name, and by it he was inserted into the family genealogy. Consequently, the idea enunciated in it must have been specially characteristic. The text says: “They gave him a name, namely, a son is born to Naomi;” and hence they called him Obed. Now, whether the name Obed be explained as servant of God or servant of Naomi, the sense in either case remains insipid. What the women mean is, not that the child is the servant of Naomi, but that he is to her as a son. If the words of Rth_4:17 are to have a plain sense; nay, if the preservation of just that name which the female neighbors gave him is to have an explanation, the name Obed must in some way express the idea of the word “son.” For in this name “son,” given with reference to Naomi, there is contained the idea that the sin which lay at the base of her evil fortune had been atoned for. She who lost the children of her own body, had now a son in the spirit of true love. It is true, that from the philological stores extant in the Bible, the explanation of Obed in the sense of “son” is not possible; but it may be done by the assistance of other languages. It is sufficiently clear that Obed is to be connected with the Greek παιδίον (παῖς, παιδός), Latin putus, Sanskrit pôta, putra, Persian puser.
The circumstance that Obed was used in the sense of “son,” justifies the conjecture that in the Hebrew of that day there were various foreign words in use, probably introduced through Aramaic influences, without postulating a closer contact of the so-called Semitic with the Indo-germanic tongues than is usually assumed.
He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. In these words the doctrine of the whole Book reaches its point of culmination. They point out the completion of the blessing pronounced on Ruth by Boaz. The name of the superstitious kinsman, who thought that marriage with the Moabitess would endanger his inheritance, is forgotten; but from Boaz descends the Hero (גִּבּוֹר חַיִל), the King of Poets, David, the Prophet, and type of the Messiah. Prom him Christ comes through the promise, even as Obed was the son of Naomi through the love of Ruth. The doctrine of the whole narrative is expressed in the words of the Apostle, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”
And Naomi said, Turn back, my daughters. To what purpose should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that might be husbands to you? According to the old Levirate law—a survival of rude and barbarous times—Orpah and Ruth, having had husbands who died without issue, would have been entitled to claim marriage with their husbands’ brothers, if such surviving brothers there had been (see Deu_25:5-9; Mat_22:24-28). And if the surviving brothers were too young to be married, the widows, if they chose, might wait on till they reached maturity (see Gen_38:1-30.). It is in the light of these customs that we are to read Naomi’s remonstrance’s. The phraseology in the second interrogation is very primitive, and primitively ‘ agglutinative.’ “Are there yet to be sons in my womb, and they shall be to you for husbands?” (see on verse 1).
Are there yet any more sons – This was spoken in allusion to the custom, that when a married brother died without leaving posterity, his brother should take his widow; and the children of such a marriage were accounted the children of the deceased brother. There is something very persuasive and affecting in the address of Naomi to her daughters-in-law. Let us observe the particulars: –
1. She intimates that she had no other sons to give them.
2. That she was not with child; so there could be no expectation.
3. That she was too old to have a husband.
4. That though she should marry that night, and have children, yet they could not wait till such sons were marriageable; she therefore begs them to return to their own country where they might be comfortably settled among their own kindred.
Turn back, my daughters, go; for I am too old to have a husband. But even if I could say, I have hope; yea, even if I had a husband this very night; yea, even if I had already given birth to sons; (Rth_1:13) would ye therefore wait till they grew up? would ye therefore shut yourselves up so as not to have husbands? nay, my daughters; for my lot is exceedingly bitter, more than even yours, for the hand of Yahveh has gone out against me. Most pathetic pleading, and not easily reproduced on lines of literal rendering. “Go, for I am too old to have a husband.” A euphemistic rendering; but the original is euphemistic too, though under another phraseological phase. “But even if I could say, I have hope.” The poverty of the Hebrew verb, in respect of provision to express “moods, ‘ is conspicuous: “that,” i.e. “suppose that I said, I have hope.” Mark the climactic representation. Firstly, Naomi makes, for argument’s sake, the supposition that she might yet have sons; then, secondly, she carries her supposition much higher, namely, that she might that very night have a husband; and then, thirdly, she carries the supposition a great deal higher still, namely, that even already her sons were brought forth: “Would you therefore wait?” Note the therefore. Ibn Ezra, the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and King James’s version assume that לָהֵן means for them. The feminine pronoun, however, as applied to Naomi’s sons, is, on that supposition, all but inexplicable. It is much better to assume, with the majority of modern critics, that it is equivalent to לָכֵן, whether we call it a Chaldaism or not. Certainly it was current in Chaldee (see Dan_2:6, Dan_2:9). But it may have floated in circles of Semitic society that were never included within Chaldaea proper. Indeed, there were no precise limits bounding off the Chaldee language from the kindred dialects, just as there are no such limits in English or in German, or in any member of a linguistic group. Idioms often overlap. In the two interrogative clauses, “Would ye for that purpose wait till they grew up. Would ye for that purpose seclude, yourselves, so as not to have husbands? there is a parallelism; only, in the second clause, the representation rises. “For my lot is exceedingly bitter, more than even yours;” literally, “for it is bitter to me exceedingly, beyond you.” The verb is used impersonally. Naomi means that her case was even more lamentable than theirs, so that she could not encourage them to hang their dependence on her help, or to hope for a retrieval of their circumstances in becoming partakers of her fortunes. The translation of King James’s version, “for your sakes,” though decidedly supported by the Septuagint, is unnatural. Pagnin and Drusius both give the correct rendering, “more than you.” So do Michaelis and Wright, But Bertheau and Gesenius agree with King James s version. The Syriac Peshito, strange to say, gives both translations, “I feel very bitterly for you, and to me it is more bitter than to you.”
Keil and Delitzsch
Naomi endeavoured to dissuade them from this resolution, by setting before them the fact, that if they went with her, there would be no hope of their being married again, and enjoying the pleasures of life once more. “Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?” Her meaning is: I am not pregnant with sons, upon whom, as the younger brothers of Mahlon and Chilion, there would rest the obligation of marrying you, according to the Levitate law (Deu_25:5; Gen_38:8). And not only have I no such hope as this, but, continues Naomi, in Rth_1:12, Rth_1:13, I have no prospect of having a husband and being blessed with children: “for I am too old to have a husband;” year, even if I could think of this altogether improbable thing as taking place, and assume the impossible as possible; “If I should say, I have hope (of having a husband), yea, if I should have a husband to-night, and should even bear sons, would ye then wait till they were grown, would ye then abstain from having husbands?” The כִּי (if) before אָמַרְתִּי refers to both the perfects which follow. לָהֵן is the third pers. plur. neuter suffix הֵן with the prefix לְ, as in Job_30:24, where הֵן is pointed with seghol, on account of the toned syllable which follows, as here in pause in Rth_1:9 : lit. in these things, in that case, and hence in the sense of therefore = לָכֵן, as in Chaldee (e.g., Dan_2:6, Dan_2:9,Dan_2:24, etc.). תֵּעָגֵנָה (vid., Isa_60:4, and Ewald, §195, a.), from עָגַן ἁπ. λεγ. in Hebrew, which signifies in Aramaean to hold back, shut in; hence in the Talmud עֲגוּנָה, a woman who lived retired in her own house without a husband. Naomi supposes three cases in Rth_1:12, of which each is more improbable, or rather more impossible, than the one before; and even if the impossible circumstance should be possible, that she should bear sons that very night, she could not in that case expect or advise her daughters-in-law to wait till these sons were grown up and could marry them, according to the Levirate law. In this there was involved the strongest persuasion to her daughters-in-law to give up their intention of going with her into the land of Judah, and a most urgent appeal to return to their mothers’ houses, where, as young widows without children, they would not be altogether without the prospect of marrying again.
One possible case Naomi left without notice, namely, that her daughters-in-law might be able to obtain other husbands in Judah itself. She did not hint at this, in the first place, and perhaps chiefly, from delicacy on account of the Moabitish descent of her daughters-in-law, in which she saw that there would be an obstacle to their being married in the land of Judah; and secondly, because Naomi could not do anything herself to bring about such a connection, and wished to confine herself therefore to the one point of making it clear to her daughters that in her present state it was altogether out of her power to provide connubial and domestic happiness for them in the land of Judah. She therefore merely fixed her mind upon the different possibilities of a Levirate marriage.
(Note: The objections raised by J. B. Carpzov against explaining Rth_1:12 and Rth_1:13 as referring to a Levirate marriage, – namely, that this is not to be thought of, because a Levirate marriage was simply binding upon brothers of the deceased by the same father and mother, and upon brothers who were living when he died, and not upon those born afterwards-have been overthrown by Bertheau as being partly without foundation, and partly beside the mark. In the first place, the law relating to the Levirate marriage speaks only of brothers of the deceased, by which, according to the design of this institution, we must certainly think of sons by one father, but not necessarily the sons by the same mother. Secondly, the law does indeed expressly require marriage with the sister-in-law only of a brother who should be in existence when her husband died, but it does not distinctly exclude a brother born afterwards; and this is the more evident from the fact that, according to the account in Gen_38:11, this duty was binding upon brothers who were not grown up at the time, as soon as they should be old enough to marry. Lastly, Naomi merely says, in Rth_1:12, that she was not with child by her deceased husband; and when she does take into consideration, in Rth_1:12 and Rth_1:13, the possibility of a future pregnancy, she might even then be simply thinking of an alliance with some brother of her deceased husband, and therefore of sons who would legally be regarded as sons of Elimelech. When Carpzov therefore defines the meaning of her words in this manner, “I have indeed no more children to hope for, to whom I could marry you in time, and I have no command over others,” the first thought does not exhaust the meaning of the words, and the last is altogether foreign to the text.)
בְּנֹתַי אַל, “not my daughters,” i.e., do not go with me; “for it has gone much more bitterly with me than with you.” מָרַר relates to her mournful lot. מִכֶּם is comparative, “before you;” not “it grieveth me much on your account,” for which עֲלֵיכֶם would be used, as in 2Sa_1:26. Moreover, this thought would not be in harmony with the following clause: “for the hand of the Lord has gone out against me,” i.e., the Lord has sorely smitten me, namely by taking away not only my husband, but also my two sons.
Gone back – unto her gods – They were probably both idolaters, their having been proselytes is an unfounded conjecture. Chemosh was the grand idol of the Moabites. The conversion of Ruth probably commenced at this time.
And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back to her people, and to her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. The expression that stands in King James’s version thus, “and to her gods,” is rendered by Dr. Cassel “and to her God.” The same interpretation, it is noteworthy, is given in the Targum of Jonathan, who renders the expression, “and to her Fear” (וּלְוַת דְּחַלְרָּהּ). Such a translation assumes that the Moabites were not only theists, but monotheists. And yet in the mythology, or primitive theology, of Moab, we read both of Baal-Peor and of Chemosh. As to the former, see Num_25:8, Num_25:5; Deu_4:3; Psa_106:28; Hos_9:10. As to the latter, see Jdg_11:24; 1Ki_11:7, 1Ki_11:33; Jer_48:7, Jer_48:13. In Numbers, moreover, Num_21:29, and in Jer_48:46, the Moabites are called the people of Chemosh, and frequently is their national god called Chemosh in the inscription of King Mesha on the Moabitish Stone, so recently discovered and deciphered. It is supposed, not without reason, that the two names belonged to one deity, Chemosh being the old native name. Nevertheless, the translation “to her god” is an interpretation, not a literal rendering, and, on the other hand, the translation “to her gods” would, on the hypothesis of the monotheism of the Moabites, be unidiomatic. The original expression, “to her Elohim,” does not tell anything, and was not intended by Naomi to tell anything, or to hint anything, of a numerical character concerning the object or objects of the Moabitish worship. It was an expression equally appropriate whether there was, or was not, a plurality of objects worshipped. It might be liberally rendered, and to her own forms of religious worship. The word elohim was a survival of ancient polytheistic theology and worship, when a plurality of powers were held in awe. “For,” says Fuller, “the heathen, supposing that the whole world, with all the creatures therein, was too great a diocese to be daily visited by one and the same deity, they therefore assigned sundry gods to several creatures.” The time arrived, however, when the great idea flashed into the Hebrew mind, The Powers are One and hence the plural noun, with its subtended conception of unity, became construed with verbs and adjectives in the singular number. It was so construed when applied to the one living God; but it readily retained its original applicability to a plurality of deifies, and hence, in such a passage as the one before us, where there is neither adjective nor verb to indicate the number, the word is quite incapable of exact rendering into English. Orpah had returned to her people and her Elohim. Return thou after thy sister-in-law. Are we then to suppose that Naomi desired Ruth to return to her Moabitish faith? Is it with a slight degree of criticism that she referred to Orpah’s palinode? Would she desire that Ruth should, in this matter, follow in her sister-in-law’s wake? We touch on tender topics. Not unlikely she had all along suspected or seen that Orpah would not have insuperable religious scruples. And not unlikely, too, she would herself be free from narrow religious bigotry, at least to the extent of dimly admitting that the true worship of the heart could reach the true God, even when offensive names, and forms, and symbolisms were present in the outer courts of the creed. Nevertheless, when she said to Ruth, “Return thou after thy sister-in-law,” she no doubt was rather putting her daughter-in-law to a final test, and leading her to thorough self-sifting, than encouraging her to go back to her ancestral forms of worship. “God,” says Fuller, “wrestled with Jacob with desire to be conquered; so Naomi no doubt opposed Ruth, hoping and wishing that she herself might be foiled.”
And Ruth said – A more perfect surrender was never made of friendly feelings to a friend: I will not leave thee – I will follow thee: I will lodge where thou lodgest – take the same fare with which thou meetest; thy people shall be my people – I most cheerfully abandon my own country, and determine to end my days in thine. I will also henceforth have no god but thy God, and be joined with thee in worship, as I am in affection and consanguinity. I will cleave unto thee even unto death; die where thou diest; and be buried, if possible, in the same grave. This was a most extraordinary attachment, and evidently without any secular motive.
The Targum adds several things to this conversation between Naomi and Ruth. I shall subjoin them: “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee,” for I desire to become a proselyte. And Naomi said, We are commanded to keep the Sabbath and other holy days; and on it not to travel more than two thousand cubits. And Ruth said, “Whither thou goest, I will go.” And Naomi said, We are commanded not to lodge with the Gentiles. Ruth answered, “Where thou lodgest, I will lodge.” And Naomi said, We are commanded to observe the one hundred and thirteen precepts. Ruth answered, What thy people observe, that will I observe; as if they had been my people of old. And Naomi said, We are commanded not to worship with any strange worship. Ruth answered, “Thy God shall be my God.” Naomi said, We have four kinds of capital punishment for criminals; stoning, burning, beheading, and hanging. Ruth answered, “In whatsoever manner thou diest, I will die.” Naomi said, We have a house of burial. Ruth answered, “And there will I be buried.”
It is very likely that some such conversation as this took place between the elders and those who were becoming proselytes. This verse is famous among those who strive to divine by the Bible. I should relate the particulars, but am afraid they might lead to a continuance of the practice. In my youth I have seen it done, and was then terrified.
Keil and Delitzsch
To the repeated entreaty of Naomi that she would follow her sister-in-law and return to her people and her God, Ruth replied: “Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return away behind thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou stayest, I will stay; thy people is my people, and thy God my God! where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. Jehovah do so to me, and more also (lit. and so may He add to do)! Death alone shall divide between me and thee.” The words יֹסִיף … יַעֲשֶׂה י כֹּה are a frequently recurring formula in connection with an oath (cf. 1Sa_3:17; 1Sa_14:44; 1Sa_20:13, etc.), by which the person searing called down upon himself a severe punishment in case he should not keep his word or carry out his resolution. The following כִּי is not a particle used in swearing instead of אִם in the sense of “if,” equivalent to “surely not,” as in 1Sa_20:12, in the oath which precedes the formula, but answer to ὅτι in the sense of quod introducing the declaration, as in Gen_22:16; 1Sa_20:13; 1Ki_2:23; 2Ki_3:14, etc., signifying, I swear that death, and nothing else than death, shall separate us.
Naomi was certainly serious in her intentions, and sincere in the advice which she gave to Ruth, and did not speak in this way merely to try her and put the state of her heart to the proof, “that it might be made manifest whether she would adhere stedfastly to the God of Israel and to herself, despising temporal things and the hope of temporal possessions’ (Seb. Schmidt). She had simply the earthly prosperity of her daughter-in-law in her mind, as she herself had been shaken in her faith in the wonderful ways and gracious guidance of the faithful covenant God by the bitter experience of her own life.
(Note: “She thought of earthly things alone; and as at that time the Jews almost universally were growing lax in the worship of God, so she, having spent ten years among the Moabites, though it of little consequence whether they adhered to the religion of their fathers, to which they had been accustomed from their infancy or went over to the Jewish religion.” – Carpzov.)
With Ruth, however, it was evidently not merely strong affection and attachment by which she felt herself so drawn to her mother-in-law that she wished to live and die with her, but a leaning of her heart towards the God of Israel and His laws, of which she herself was probably not yet fully conscious, but which she had acquired so strongly in her conjugal relation and her intercourse with her Israelitish connections, that it was her earnest wish never to be separated from this people and its God (cf. Rth_2:11).
Rth_1:18. And when she saw that she was firmly resolved. Older expositors have imagined that Naomi’s efforts to persuade her daughters-in-law to return homeward, were not altogether seriously meant. She only wished to test them. They take this view in order to free Naomi from the reproach of being too little anxious to introduce her daughters into Israel and the true faith (Rambach: Quœrunt hic interpretes an recte fecerit Noomia, etc.). But this whole exposition is a dogmatic anachronism. Naomi could entertain no thoughts of missionary work as understood in modern times, and for that she is not to be reproached. The great love on which the blessing of the whole narrative rests, shows itself precisely in this, that Naomi and her daughters-in-law were persons of different nationality and religion. This contrast—which a marriage of ten years has only affectionately covered up—it is, that also engenders the conflict of separation. During more then ten years the marriage of Naomi’s sons to Moabitesses was and continued to be wrong in principle, although, in the happy issue of their choice, its unlawfulness was lost sight of. What she had not done then in the spring-tide of their happiness, Naomi could not think of doing now. Her generous love shows itself now rather in dissuading her daughters-in-law from going with her to Israel. For they surely would have gone along, if their deceased husbands, instead of remaining in Moab, had returned to Israel. But their death had in reality dissolved every external bond with Naomi. No doubt, Naomi now feels the grief which the unlawful actions of her husband and sons have entailed. Had her daughters-in-law been of Israel, there would naturally be no necessity of her returning solitary and forsaken. She feels that “the hand of Jehovah is against her.” How indelicate would it be now, nay how unbecoming the sacredness of the relations involved, if Naomi, at this moment, when she is herself poor, and with no prospect in the future, were to propose to her daughters-in-law to leave not merely the land but also the god of Moab, that thus they might accompany her. If she had ever wished, at this moment she would scarcely dare, to do it. It is one of the symptoms of the conflict, that she could not do it. The appearance of self interest would have cast a blot on the purity of their mutual love. Naomi might now feel or believe what she had never before thought of,—she could do nothing but dissuade. Anything else would have rudely destroyed the grace and elevation of the whole beautiful scene. The great difference between Orpah and Ruth shows itself in the very fact that the one yields to the dissuasion, the other withstands. Ruth had the tenderly sensitive heart to understand that Naomi must dissuade; and to all Naomi’s unuttered reasons for feeling obliged to dissuade, she answers with her vow. Naomi dissuades on the ground that she is poor,—“where thou abidest, I will abide,” is the answer; that she is about to live among another people,—“thy people is my people;” that she worships another God,—“thy God is my God;” that she has no husband for her,—“only death shall part me from thee.” Under no other circumstances could the conflict have found an end so beautiful. Naomi must dissuade in order that Ruth might freely, under no pressure but that of her own love, accept Israel’s God and people. Only after this is done, and she holds firmly to her decision, does Naomi consent and “cease to dissuade her.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Ruth … said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean — The right of gleaning was conferred by a positive law on the widow, the poor, and the stranger (see on Lev_19:9 and Deu_24:19). But liberty to glean behind the reapers [Rth_2:3] was not a right that could be claimed; it was a privilege granted or refused according to the good will or favor of the owner.
And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, Let me go, I pray thee, to the cornfields, that I may glean among the ears after whosoever shall show me favor. In modern style one would not, in referring, at this stage of the narrative, to Ruth, deem it in the least degree necessary or advantageous to repeat the designation “the Moabitess.” The repetition is antique, and calls to mind the redundant particularization of legal phraseology—”the aforesaid Ruth, the Moabitess.” She was willing and wishful to avail herself of an Israelitish privilege accorded to the poor, the privilege of gleaning after the reapers in the harvest-fields (see Le 19:9; 23:22: Deu_24:19). Such gleaning was a humiliation to those who had been accustomed to give rather than to get. But Ruth saw, in the pinched features of her mother-in-law, that there was now a serious difficulty in keeping the wolf outside the door. And hence, although there would be temptation in the step, as well as humiliation, she resolved to avail herself of the harvest season to gather as large a store as possible of those nutritious cereals which form the staff of life, and which they would grind for themselves in their little handmill or quern. She said, with beautiful courtesy. “Let me go I, pray, thee;” or, “I wish to go, if you will please to allow me.” Such is the force of the peculiar Hebrew idiom. “There is no place,” says Lawson, “where our tongues ought to be better governed than in our own houses.” To the cornfields. Very literally, “to the field.” It is the language of townspeople, when referring to the land round about the town that was kept under tillage. It was not customary to separate cornfield from cornfield by means of walls and hedges. A simple furrow, with perhaps a stone here and there, or a small collection of stones, sufficed, as in Switzerland at the present day, to distinguish the patches or portions that belonged to different proprietors. Hence the singular word field, as comprehending the sum-total of the adjoining unenclosed ground that had been laid down in grain. “Though the gardens and vineyards,” says Horatio B. Hackett, “are usually surrounded by a stone wall or hedge of prickly pear, the grain-fields, on the contrary, though they belong to different proprietors, are not separated by any enclosure from each other. The boundary between them is indicated by heaps of small stones, or sometimes by single upright stones, placed at intervals of a rod or more from each other. This is the ancient landmark of which we read in the Old Testament”. The word field in Hebrew, שָׂדֶה, denotes radically, not so much plain, as ploughed land (see Raabe’s ‘Glosser’). In English there is a slightly varied though corresponding idiom lying at the base of the Teutonic term in use. A field (German Fold) is a clearance, a place where the trees of the original forest have been felled. The expression, that I may glean ‘among’ the ears, proceeds on the assumption that Ruth did not expect that she would “make a clean sweep” of all the straggled ears. There might likely be other gleaners besides herself, and even though there should not, she could not expect to gather all. After whosoever shall show me favor. A peculiarly antique kind of structure in the original: “after whom I shall find favor in his eyes.” Ruth speaks as if she thought only of one reaper, and he the proprietor. She, as it were, instinctively conceives of the laborers as “hands.” And she said to her, Go, my daughter. Naomi yielded; no doubt at first reluctantly, yet no doubt also in a spirit of grateful admiration of her daughter-in-law, who, when she could hot lift up her circumstances to her mind, brought down her mind to her circumstances
Ruth, having obtained the consent of her mother-in-law, went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers. That is, she “went forth,” viz; from the city, “and came to the cornfields, and gleaned.” “There are some,” says Lawson, “whose virtue and industry lie only in their tongues. They say, and do not. But Ruth was no less diligent in business than wise in resolution.” The later Jews had a set of fantastic bylaws concerning gleaning, detailed by Maimonides. One of them was, that if only one or two stalks fell from the sickle or hand of the reaper, these should be left lying for the gleaners; but if three stalks fell, then the whole of them belonged to the proprietor. Happily for Ruth, her steps were so ordered that the field which she entered as a gleaner belonged to Elimelech’s kinsman, Boaz. And it so happened, runs the story, that it was the portion of the fields that belonged to Boas, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.
Boaz’s interest and admiration grew. And Boaz answered and said to her, It has been fully showed to me, all that thou hast done toward thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband: and that thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and hast come to a people whom heretofore thou knewest not. When Boaz says, “It has been fully showed to me,” he probably refers to the information which he had received from his overseer. The expression rendered “fully showed” is a fine specimen of a very antique idiom, showed-showed (הֻגֵּד הֻגַּד). “Toward thy mother-in-law.” The preposition which we render “toward” is literally “with,” which, indeed, when laid side by side with the Hebrew preposition, looks as if it were organically identical. (אֵת = eth. Compare the old Hebrew etha with the Sanscrit itah. See Raabe’s ‘Glossar’). The expression which we render “heretofore” is literally “yesterday and the day before,” a very primitive way of representing time past. It must have been like balm to the anxious heart of Ruth to hear from the lips of such a man as Boaz so hearty a “well-done.” “Ruth,” says the venerable Lawson, “showed no disposition to praise herself. She did not claim a right to glean from what she had done for Naomi, but wondered that such kindness should be showed by Boaz to her who was a stranger, and she hears the voice of praise from the mouth of one whoso commendations were a very great honor. No saying was oftener in the mouth of Jesus than this, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
May Yahveh requite thy work, arid may thy recompense be complete from Yahveh God of Israel, to trust under whose wings thou art come. Already there were streaks of light shooting athwart Boaz s horizon. His very phraseology is getting tipped with unwonted beauty. He sees Ruth cowering trustfully under the outstretched wings of Him who is “good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works” in all lands (see Psa_91:1-4). The metaphor, says Fuller, “is borrowed from a hen, which, with her clucking, summons together her straggling chickens, and then outstretcheth the fan of her wings to cover them.” “Who would not,” says Topsell, “forsake the shadow of all the trees in the world to be covered under ‘such’ wings?”
mı̄´ka (מיכה, mı̄khāh, contracted from מיכיהוּ, mı̄khāyāhū, “who is like Yah?”; Codex Vaticanus, Μειχαίας, Meichaı́as; Codex Alexandrinus, Μιχά, Michá; sometimes in the King James Version spelled Michah):
(1) The chief character of an episode given as an appendix to the Book of Judges (Jdg_17:1-13; 18). Micah, a dweller in Mt. Ephraim, was the founder and owner of a small private sanctuary with accessories for worship (Mat_17:1-5), for which he hired as priest a Judean Levite (Mat_17:7-13). Five men sent in quest of new territory by the Danites, who had failed to secure a settlement upon their own tribal allotment, visited Micah’s shrine, and obtained from his priest an oracle favoring their quest (Jdg_18:1-6). They then went on until they reached the town of Laish in the extreme North, and deeming it suitable for the purpose, they returned to report to their fellow-tribesmen. These at once dispatched thither 600 armed men, accompanied by their families (Jdg_18:7-12). Passing Micah’s abode, they appropriated his idols and his priest, and when their owner pursued, he was insulted and threatened (Jdg_18:13-26). They took Laish, destroyed it with its inhabitants and rebuilt it under the name of Dan. There they established the stolen images, and appointed Micah’s Levite, Jonathan, a grandson of Moses (the King James Version “Manasseh”), priest of the new sanctuary, which was long famous in Israel (Jdg_18:27-31).
The purpose of the narrative is evidently to set forth the origin of the Danite shrine and priesthood. A few peculiarities in the story have led some critics – e.g., Moore, “Judges,” in ICC and “Judges” in SBOT; Budde, Richter – to regard it as composite. Wellhausen, however, considers that the peculiarities are editorial and have been introduced for the purpose of smoothing or explaining the ancient record. Most authorities are agreed that the story is nearly contemporary with the events which it narrates, and that it is of the highest value for the study of the history of Israelite worship.
Judges 17:1 Now there was a man from the mountain of Ephraim Although the following two episodes are written at the end of this book; the one of Micah and the other about the concubine of Gibeah, they, nevertheless, occurred at the beginning of the period of the Judges. This was during the days of Othniel the son of Kenaz (and Cushan, above 3:8 11) as it says, (below 18:31) “And they accepted for themselves the graven image of Micah which he had made, throughout the period that the house of God was in Shiloh,” so we can derive that for the duration of Shiloh (Fourteen years after Israel’s crossing the Jordan, the Tabernacle was erected in Shiloh and remained there for three hundred sixty-nine years.) the image of Micah remained. Also, by the concubine of Gibeah it is said concerning the Jebusites of Jerusalem, (below 19:12) “We will not turn into (this) city of heathens,” so we can derive that they had not yet captured Jerusalem (which was captured by Judah, see above 1:8).
We here light upon quite a different kind of history from that which has preceded. We no longer have to do with judges and their mighty deeds in delivering Israel from his oppressors, but with two detached histories, which fill up the rest of the book, relating to the internal affairs of Israel. There is no note of time, except that they happened before the time of Saul the king (Jdg_17:6; Jdg_18:1), and. that Phinehas the son of Eleazar was alive at the time of the occurrence of the second (Jdg_20:28). Both, no doubt, are long prior to Samson. The only apparent connection of the history of Micah with that of Samson is that both relate to the tribe of Dan, and it may be presumed were contained in the annals of that tribe. Compare the opening of the Books of Samuel (1Sa_1:1). Mount Ephraim; i.e. the hill country of Ephraim, as in Jdg_3:27; Jdg_7:24, etc.
About which thou cursedst – Houbigant and others understand this of putting the young man to his oath. It is likely that when the mother of Micah missed the money, she poured imprecations on the thief; and that Micah, who had secreted it, hearing this, was alarmed, and restored the money lest the curses should fall on him.
Keil and Delitzsch
A man of the mountains of Ephraim named Micah (מִיכָיְהוּ, Jdg_17:1, Jdg_17:4, when contracted into מִיכָה, Jdg_17:5, Jdg_17:8, etc.), who set up this worship for himself, and “respecting whom the Scriptures do not think it worth while to add the name of his father, or to mention the family from which he sprang” (Berleb. Bible), had stolen 1100 shekels of silver (about £135) from his mother. This is very apparent from the words which he spoke to his mother (v. 2): “The thousand and hundred shekels of silver which were taken from thee (the singular לֻקַּח refers to the silver), about which thou cursedst and spakest of also in mine ears (i.e., didst so utter the curse that among others I also heard it), behold, this silver is with me; I have taken it.” אָלָה, to swear, used to denote a malediction or curse (cf. אָלָה קֹול, Lev_5:1). He seems to have been impelled to make this confession by the fear of his mother’s curse. But his mother praised him for it, – “Blessed be my son of Jehovah,” – partly because she saw in it a proof that there still existed a germ of the fear of God, but in all probability chiefly because she was about to dedicate the silver to Jehovah; for, when her son had given it back to her, she said (v. 3), “I have sanctified the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make an image and molten work.” The perfect הִקְדַּשְׁתִּי is not to be taken in the sense of the pluperfect, “I had sanctified it,” but is expressive of an act just performed: I have sanctified it, I declare herewith that I do sanctify it. “And now I give it back to thee,” namely, to appropriate to thy house of God.
I had wholly dedicated. It is not clear whether the words are to be rendered as in the A.V; had dedicated, expressing the dedication of them before they were stolen, or whether they merely express her present purpose so to dedicate them. But the A.V. makes very good sense. Her former purpose had been that the money should be given for her son’s benefit to make his house an house of gods. Now that he had confessed, she resumed her purpose. Now therefore I restore it unto thee—that is, in the shape of the graven and molten images, as it follows in the next verse. The narrative gives a curious example of the semi-idolatry of the times. A graven image and a molten image. There is a good deal of difficulty in assigning the exact meaning of the two words here used, and their relation to one another in the worship to which they belong. The molten image (massechah), however, seems to be pretty certainly the metal, here the silver, image of a calf, the form which the corrupt worship of Jehovah took from the time when Aaron made the molten calf (Exo_32:4, called there ‘egel massechah, a molten calf) to the time when Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1Ki_12:28, 1Ki_12:29). And that massechah means something molten is certain both from its etymology (nasach, to pour) and from what Aaron said in Exo_32:24 : “I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” Here too Micah’s mother gives the silver to the founder, i.e. to the fuser of metals. The pesel, or graven image, on the other hand, is something hewn or graven, whether in wood or stone, and sometimes overlaid with gold and silver (Deu_7:25). One might have thought, from the language of verse 4, and from the mention of the pesel alone in Jdg_18:30, Jdg_18:31, that only one image is here intended, which was graven with the chisel after it was cast, as Aaron’s calf seems to have been. But in Jdg_18:17, Jdg_18:18 they are mentioned separately, with the ephod and teraphim named between them, so that they must be distinct. From the above passages the pesel or graven image would seem to have been the most important object, and the difficulty is to assign the true relation of the massechah or molten image to it. Hengstenberg thinks the massechah was a pedestal on which the pesel stood, and that the ephod was the robe with which the pesel was clothed, and that the teraphim were certain tokens or emblems attached to the ephod which gave oracular answers. But this is not much more than guess-work. Berthean considers the ephod, here as elsewhere, to be the priest’s garment, put on when performing the most solemn services, and specially when seeking an answer from God. And he thinks that the massechah formed a part of the ornament of the ephod, because in Jdg_18:18 the Hebrew has “the pesel of the ephod.” The teraphin he thinks are idols, a kind of Dii minores associated with the worship of Jehovah in this impure worship. But there does not seem to be any means at present of arriving at any certainty. The massechah might be a rich gold or silver overlaying of the wooden image, possibly movable, or it might be the separate image of a calf supposed to belong, as it were, to the pesel, and to symbolise the attributes of the Godhead.
Keil and Delitzsch
Hereupon-namely, when her son had given her back the silver (“he restored the silver unto his mother” is only a repetition of Jdg_17:3, introduced as a link with which to connect the appropriation of the silver)-the mother took 200 shekels and gave them to the goldsmith, who made an image and molten work of them, which were henceforth in Micah’s house. The 200 shekels were not quite the fifth part of the whole. What she did with the rest is not stated; but from the fact that she dedicated the silver generally, i.e., the whole amount, to Jehovah, according to Jdg_17:3, we may infer that she applied the remainder to the maintenance of the image-worship.
(Note: There is no foundation for Bertheau’s opinion, that the 200 shekels were no part of the 1100, but the trespass-money paid by the son when he gave his mother back the money that he had purloined, since, according to Lev_6:5, when a thief restored to the owner any stolen property, he was to add the fifth of its value. There is no ground for applying this law to the case before us, simply because the taking of the money by the son is not even described as a theft, whilst the mother really praises her son for his open confession.)
Pesel and massecah (image and molten work) are joined together, as in Deu_27:15. The difference between the two words in this instance is very difficult to determine. Pesel signifies an idolatrous image, whether made of wood or metal. Massecah, on the other hand, signifies a cast, something poured; and when used in the singular, is almost exclusively restricted to the calf cast by Aaron or Jeroboam. It is generally connected with עֵגֶל, but it is used in the same sense without this definition (e.g., Deu_9:12). This makes the conjecture a very natural one, that the two words together might simply denote a likeness of Jehovah, and, judging from the occurrence at Sinai, a representation of Jehovah in the form of a molten calf. But there is one obstacle in the way of such a conjecture, namely, that in Jdg_18:17-18, massecah is separated from pesel, so as necessarily to suggest the idea of two distinct objects. But as we can hardly suppose that Micah’s mother had two images of Jehovah made, and that Micah had both of them set up in his house of God, no other explanation seems possible than that the massecah was something belonging to the pesel, or image of Jehovah, but yet distinct from it-in other words, that it was the pedestal upon which it stood. The pesel was at any rate the principal thing, as we may clearly infer from the fact that it is placed in the front rank among the four objects of Micah’s sanctuary, which the Danites took with them (Jdg_18:17-18), and that in Jdg_18:30-31, the pesel alone is mentioned in connection with the setting up of the image-worship in Dan. Moreover, there can hardly be any doubt that pesel, as a representation of Jehovah, was an image of a bull, like the golden calf which Aaron had made at Sinai (Exo_32:4), and the golden calves which Jeroboam set up in the kingdom of Israel, and one of which was set up in Dan (1Ki_12:29).
Jdg_17:4. And his mother took two hundred shekels of silver. Micah had once more refused the money. He still fears the curse that it may bring with it. Thereupon the mother causes the “image and cast-work” to be made; applying, however, not 1,100 shekels, but only 200. This shows that it was only avarice, and not the fact that she had dedicated the money to religious purposes, that had inspired her curse. For even now she cannot part with more than 200 shekels out of the 1,100. On the other hand, it becomes evident that the purpose for which Micah took the money was the manufacture of the image; for it is set up “in his house,” and he combines with it still other operations.
Jdg_17:5. And he set up an ephod and teraphim. These words give the key to the whole transaction, and even afford a clew to the time in which it took place. The paternal house of Micah, it appears, had not openly broken with the service of Jehovah. This is clear from both his and his mother’s words (Jdg_17:2-3; Jdg_17:13). But their hearts were not wholly with God. This is evident from her avarice and malediction. Theirs was not a house in which the Canaanitish Baal was sacrificed to; but neither was it one in which there was more of true religion than the form and name. In the house of Joash there stood, before Gideon destroyed it, an altar of Baal and an Asherah. That was not the case here. But selfishness and superstitious egoism are idolatrous in their nature and consequences, even when Jehovah, that is, the God of Israel, is still spoken of.
What R. Juda Hallevi says of Micah and others, applies especially to him: “He resembles a man who, while incestuously marrying his sister, should strictly observe the customary laws of marriage.” He makes use of the name of God, but for that which is vanity (לַשָּׁוְא, Exo_20:7). “He made an ephod.” The sin of which he was thus guilty, lay not in the ephod, but in the fact that he set it up. The ephod was designed for the lawful priesthood. The Urim and Thummim were intended for Israel’s high-priests (Exo_28:30), in order that by means of them they might be the constant organ of objective divine wisdom for the whole people, at the place where they served before God. Hence, they neither could nor ought to serve the subjective interests of individual men or tribes, or be inquired of anywhere else than where the priest was who bore them on his heart. This fact also renders the meaning of Jdg_8:27 clear, where it is related that after Gideon had set up an ephod with the golden booty obtained from the Midianites, all Israel went a-whoring after it, and found a snare in it. Gideon, it is true, served Jehovah sincerely and truly, and meant only that his ephod should serve as a reminder to the people of the wonderful deeds of God; but in setting it up, he nevertheless introduced a precedent which subjective superstition misused to its own hurt. For, inasmuch as he set it up in his own house, he gave occasion for others to think that they also might do the same in their houses. The deeds in consequence of which he instituted the ephod were soon lost sight of; and the eye was directed only to the money out of which it proceeded. It may be assumed that precisely for Micah Gideon’s example proved a source of danger,—for which, however, the blame falls not on the hero, but on Micah. We thus obtain a clew to the time in which the event here related occurred. Micah was a man of Ephraim who lived not long after the days of Gideon. There was pride enough in Ephraim to arrogate to itself the right of doing what was done, however grandly and nobly, in the smaller tribe of Manasseh. It is at all times the practice of paltry selfishness to dishonor the extraordinary actions of great men, by using them as cloaks for their own mean ends. Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal secretly, and for this purpose made use of his father’s people and means without his father’s knowledge. Micah probably excused himself by this example, when he secretly took his mother’s money, in order to set up that which in his own interest he destined for God.
The anarchy of arbitrary individualism exhibits itself very strikingly here, in the fact that a mere common man (וַיְהִי אִיש, Jdg_17:1), without name or merit, has the presumption to do the same thing which Gideon, the Judge and Deliverer of Israel, had undertaken to do; and that he does it on the same mountains of Ephraim on which, at no great distance, in Shiloh, the ark of God and the lawful ephod were to be found. R. Nathan7 thinks that the places were so near to each other, that the smoke from both sanctuaries might commingle, as it rose upward. A mere common man, who had nothing but money, presumed to found a sanctuary, with an ephod and a priest, and to pass this off as an oracle of Jehovah. The object he had in view can hardly have been any other than to ensnare the people who, in the pressure of their religious needs, sought for instruction, and brought votive offerings and gifts. For this purpose, the house which he founded must have been assimilated to the tabernacle; yet not so completely as to be attractive only to the thoroughly pious worshippers of Jehovah. For as these would not under any circumstances visit any sanctuary but that at Shiloh, Micah’s house would then have failed of its purpose. It could be made attractive only by making it minister to the superstition of sensual worship, and by vesting this ministry in the forms of the service of Jehovah. Hence he speaks of consecration to Jehovah, but at the same time represents the latter by means of פֶּסֶל וּמַסֵּכָה (an image and cast-work). He set up an ephod, and supplemented it with teraphim. He needed a priest; and in the absence of a Levite, he himself selects one of his sons for the office. Every part of his proceeding is thus marked by subjective arbitrariness, which under pious names concealed self-interest and superstition. The narrator strikingly points out this his sin, by means of a few delicate strokes. Hitherto the man had always been called Micayehu, distinctly bearing the name of Jehovah. But from Jdg_17:5, where he sets up his sanctuary, onward, he is only spoken of as Micah. The name of God was not to be desecrated in him. And although Micah speaks of “Jehovah” (Jdg_5:13), his house is only called a Beth Elohim,—a name also given to the temples of heathen deities,—not Beth Jehovah, house of Jehovah. No description is given of what the goldsmith shaped out of the mother’s two hundred pieces of money; but it is called פֶּסֶל וּמַסֵּכָה, an image and cast-work. These words at the same time pronounce judgment against the sin that had been committed, for they are the technical expressions under which the law forbids the making of every kind of image-work for idolatrous purposes. The narrator has his eye doubtless on Deu_27:15 : “Cursed (אָרוּר) is the man that maketh פֶּסֶל וּמסֵּכָה, an abomination unto Jehovah, the work of the hands of the artificer.” He intimates, assuredly, that the same man who stood in such dread of his mother’s curse on the thief of her money, rendered himself obnoxious to the more awful curse of the divine law, when he desired, or at any rate accepted, such image-work. The form of the image cannot, however, be determined with certainty. The opinion that it represented a calf, is certainly not tenable. It is not true that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was ever or anywhere represented under the figure of a bull or calf. On the contrary, this figure was symbolical of a contrast, a national and historical contrast, with Jehovah. This appears both from the golden calf of the desert and from the history of Jeroboam.8 To infer from the analogy of the latter, that Micah also cast a calf, would likewise be erroneous. For Micah’s act has no national, but only a religious significance. He does not intend to set up a contrast to Jehovah, but only a superstitious syncretism with other sanctuaries. Had the image been a calf, the narrator would have taken occasion to say so; for that of itself, in its relation to the idolatry of the desert, would have indicated the nature of Micah’s sin. Since it must be assumed that Micah intended to establish a sort of tabernacle, it is to be supposed that in his image-work also he carried out this imitation to the extreme of superstition. In the tabernacle, on the כַּפֹּרֶת [“mercy-seat”] there were two cherubim, with outspread wings; and in Exo_25:22, God says: “I will speak with thee from upon the kapporeth [mercy-seat], from between the two cherubim.” Now, if Micah, while in general imitating this arrangement, transformed the cherubim into sphinx-like figures, such as were found in Egyptian temples, and symbolyzed (as Clem. Alex., Strom, lib. v. Judges 5, well explains,) the mysterious problems concerning the Deity, which received their solution at the hands of the priests, he would at the same time minister to the superstition of the time. And it was especially the establishment of an oracle that Micah had in view. The verb פָּסַל means to cut, to chisel, especially in wood, to carve; for the image, פֶּסֶל, can be burnt (Deu_7:5; Deu_7:25), or sawed in pieces (Deu_12:3). מַסֵּכָה is the coating of gold with which the image was covered (cf. Ewald, Alterthümer, p. 256, 2d edit.), and is therefore oftenest mentioned in connection with pesel, but frequently also without it. Such wooden images (called ξόανα, by the Greeks), says K. O. Müller (Archäologie, § 69), were adorned with chaplets and diadems, neck-chains, and ear-pendants. To this the lawgiver refers, when he says (Deu_7:25): “The images of their gods ye shall burn with fire; thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them.” Beside the ephod Micah also made teraphim. This addition shows that he designed the ephod for divining purposes. The subject of the teraphim has hitherto remained enveloped in a great deal of obscurity. From Eze_21:26 (21), 2Ki_23:24, and Hos_3:4, (cf. also 1Sa_15:23), it is certain that they were consulted, like oracles. They were shaped like human beings, see 1Sa_19:13; and they were small, otherwise Rachel could not have concealed them (Gen_31:34). Antiquity conceived of every thing connected with divination as wrapped in darkness and mystery. The heathen oracle issued out of the depth and darkness in enigmatic language. At Megara, there was an oracle of the goddess Night, represented as a high and closely veiled figure. The little teraphim also must have borne about them tokens of their mysterious nature. We may venture to recognize them in the little shapes of Greek art, enveloped in a thick mantle and hat, who constantly accompany the figures of Æsculapius, the divining god of the healing art (where also the tablets usually appear, symbolic of the responses of the god. Müller, Archäol., § 394, 1). Among the various names given to these attendant figures by the Greeks, is that of Telesphoros, end-bringing.9 It is well known that oracles were most frequently consulted with reference to physical ailments. In Israel, also, in days of apostacy, idols were applied to for healing (2Ki_1:2). The teraphim, accordingly, appear to represent oracles of healing. Their name, at all events, teraphim (trophim), approximates closely to that of Trophonius,10 for which also the Greek language affords no suitable etymology. Trophonius is the healing oracle, who delivered his responses in a dark chasm, and who, like Æsculapius, is represented with a serpent, from which he probably derived his name (cf. שָׂרָף). The relationship of teraphim and “seraphim” is plain enough. The serpent-divination of Greece is manifestly of Asiatic origin. That the Israelites offered incense to the healing serpent erected by Moses, we learn from the history of Hezekiah, who destroyed it (2Ki_18:4). The teraphim, then, explain themselves and some other matters, when we regard them as Telesphoroi, possessed of oracular healing attributes. Every passage in which they appear is in this way fully explained.
And the man Micah, etc. It is impossible to say for certain whether the state of things here described in respect of Micah preceded the events narrated in the preceding verses, or was consequent upon them. If it preceded, then we have the reason of his mother’s vow: she wished to make her son’s “house of God” complete by the addition of a graven and molten image. If it was consequent upon his mother’s vow, then we have in the opening verses of this chapter a history of the circumstances of the foundation of Micah’s “house of God,” which was to play an important part in the colony of Danites, whose proceedings arc related in the following chapter, and for the sake of which this domestic history of Micah is introduced. House of gods. Rather, of God (Elohim); for the worship was of Jehovah, only with a corrupt and semi-idolatrous ceremonial. An ephod. See Jdg_8:26, Jdg_8:27, note. Teraphim. See Gen_31:19 (images, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 1Sa_15:23 (idolatry, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 1Sa_19:13 (an image, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); Hos_3:4,to etc. They seem to have been a kind of Penates, or household gods, and were used for divination (Eze_21:21; Zec_10:2). Became his priest. One function of the priest, and for which it is likely he was much resorted to, was to inquire of God by the ephod (Jdg_18:5, Jdg_18:6). What his other duties might be does not appear.
Of the family of Judah. These words are difficult to explain. If the man was a Levite he could not be of the family or tribe of Judah. Some explain the words to be merely a more accurate definition of Bethlehem-judah, as if he would say, I mean Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah. Others explain them to mean that he was one of a family of Levites who had settled in Bethlehem, and so came to be reckoned in civil matters as belonging to Judah. Others, that he was of the family of Judah on his mother s side, which might be the cause of his settling at Bethlehem. But many commentators think them spurious, as they are not found in the Septuagint (Cod. Vat.), nor in the Peschito, nor in No. 440 of De Rossi’s MSS. The Septuagint has Bethlehem of the family of Judah.
Of the family of Judah – The word family may be taken here for tribe; or the young man might have been of the tribe of Judah by his mother, and of the tribe of Levi by his father, for he is called here a Levite; and it is probable that he might have officiated at Shiloh, in the Levitical office. A Levite might marry into any other tribe, providing the woman was not an heiress.
Keil and Delitzsch
Appointment of a Levite as Priest. – Jdg_17:7. In the absence of a Levitical priest, Micah had first of all appointed one of his sons as priest at his sanctuary. He afterwards found a Levite for this service. A young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who, being a Levite, stayed (גָּר) there (in Bethlehem) as a stranger, left this town to sojourn “at the place which he should find,” sc., as a place that would afford him shelter and support, and came up to the mountains of Ephraim to Micah’s house, “making his journey,” i.e., upon his journey. (On the use of the inf. constr. with לְ in the sense of the Latin gerund in do, see Ewald, §280, d.) Bethlehem was not a Levitical town. The young Levite from Bethlehem was neither born there nor made a citizen of the place, but simply “sojourned there,” i.e., dwelt there temporarily as a stranger. The further statement as to his descent (mishpachath Judah) is not to be understood as signifying that he was a descendant of some family in the tribe of Judah, but simply that he belonged to the Levites who dwelt in the tribe of Judah, and were reckoned in all civil matters as belonging to that tribe. On the division of the land, it is true that it was only to the priests that dwelling-places were allotted in the inheritance of this tribe (Jos_21:9-19), whilst the rest of the Levites, even the non-priestly members of the family of Kohath, received their dwelling-places among the other tribes (Jos_21:20.). At the same time, as many of the towns which were allotted to the different tribes remained for a long time in the possession of the Canaanites, and the Israelites did not enter at once into the full and undisputed possession of their inheritance, it might easily so happen that different towns which were allotted to the Levites remained in possession of the Canaanites, and consequently that the Levites were compelled to seek a settlement in other places. It might also happen that individuals among the Levites themselves, who were disinclined to perform the service assigned them by the law, would remove from the Levitical towns and seek some other occupation elsewhere (see also at Jdg_18:30).
(Note: There is no reason, therefore, for pronouncing the words יְהוּדָה מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת (of the family of Judah) a gloss, and erasing them from the text, as Houbigant proposes. The omission of them from the Cod. Vat. of the lxx, and from the Syriac, is not enough to warrant this, as they occur in the Cod. Al. of the lxx, and their absence from the authorities mentioned may easily be accounted for from the difficulty which was felt in explaining their meaning. On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine any reason for the interpolation of such a gloss into the text.)
Jdg_17:7-12. And there was a Levite. Micah probably found that his sanctuary lacked consideration, because it had no priest. There were priests enough in Ephraim, to be sure; but it would seem that none of them were willing to serve him—which redounds to their honor. Assistance came to him, however, from another quarter. A young man, who according to rule was settled in Judah (מִמִּשְׁפּחַת יְהוּדָה, cf. Jos_21:4), became discontented at home, and took to travelling about, after the manner of a scholar in the Middle Ages. He stopped some time in Bethlehem, but left that place also; and on his way over the mountains of Ephraim, he came to Micah. The position of Micah’s sanctuary must have been a favorable one, near the highways from south to north; for the Danites, who came from Eshtaol and Zorah, and the young Levite, who came from Bethlehem, passed by it. Micah, hearing that the Levite was unengaged, proposed to him to take service with himself. The proposition was made sufficiently inviting. The young man was to be honored as “a father” (אָב, pater), become a priest, and be placed in good circumstances. Vanity, and the offer of a good place led the young Levite astray,—and he was not the last who fell thus. He forgot who he was (see at Jdg_18:30), and whom as Levite he ought to serve, and consented (וַיּוֹאֶל, cf. on Jdg_1:27). Micah took him in with great joy; so that, even beyond his promises, he received him as “one of his sons,”—an expression which stands in suggestive contrast with Micah’s promise to regard him “as a father.” For the sake of money, the Levite submitted to be “consecrated, ordained,” by an Ephraimite. (The words וַיְמַלֵּא אֶת־יַד וגי are a standing expression for to induct, to ordain The expression is derived (as Exo_29:33 compared with 17:24 clearly shows), from the ceremony of laying the offerings required at the consecration of a priest upon his hands, עַל כַּפֵּי, Exo_29:24). At all events, Micah valued the Levitical dignity more highly than the Levite himself did.
Keil and Delitzsch
Micah made this proposal to the Levite: “Dwell with me, and become my father and priest; I will give thee ten shekels of silver yearly, and fitting out with clothes and maintenance.” אָב, father, is an honourable title give to a priest as a paternal friend and spiritual adviser, and is also used with reference to prophets in 2Ki_6:21 and 2Ki_13:14, and applied to Joseph in Gen_45:8. לַיָּמִים, for the days, sc., for which a person was engaged, i.e., for the year (cf. 1Sa_27:7, and Lev_25:29). “And the Levite went,” i.e., went to Micah’s house. This meaning is evident from the context. The repetition of the subject, “the Levite,” precludes our connecting it with the following verb וַיֹּואֶל. – In Jdg_17:11-13 the result is summed up. The Levite resolved (see at Deu_1:5) to dwell with Micah, who treated him as one of his sons, and entrusted him with the priesthood at his house of God. And Micah rejoiced that he had got a Levite as priest, and said, “Now I know that Jehovah will prosper me.” This belief, or, to speak more correctly, superstition, for which Micah was very speedily to atone, proves that at that time the tribe of Levi held the position assigned it in the law of Moses; that is to say, that it was regarded as the tribe elected by God for the performance of divine worship.
Jdg_17:13. Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing the Levite, has become my priest. These words indicate most strikingly, the thorough self-deception of the man. He looks for blessings to Jehovah, against whom he has committed the mortal sin of image-worship. He expects these blessings on account of a Levite, who did wrong when he allowed himself to be hired. He who sets up ephod and teraphim for the enlightenment of others, has himself so little insight into the spirit of truth as not to perceive that in the falsehood of his entire establishment its downfall is already assured. Perhaps, he also found pleasure in the descent of his Levite (Jdg_18:30), although it ought rather to have frightened him. But self-love blinds him, and his soiled conscience builds hopes on the name of a Levite, whose doings in his house challenged the judgments of God. “Now know I,” he exclaims. He will soon learn how deceptive this knowing is.
The children of Dan set up the graven image – They erected a chapel, or temple, among themselves, as Micah had done before; having the same implements and the same priest.
And Jonathan the son of Gershom – Either this was the name of the young Levite; or they had turned him off, and got this Jonathan in his place.
The son Manasseh – Who this Manasseh was, none can tell; nor does the reading appear to be genuine. He could not be Manasseh the son of Joseph, for he had no son called Gershom nor could it be Manasseh king of Israel, for he lived eight hundred years afterwards. Instead of מנשה Manasseh, the word should be read משה Mosheh, Moses, as it is found in some MSS., in the Vulgate, and in the concessions of the most intelligent Jews. The Jews, as R. D. Kimchi acknowledges, have suspended the letter: נ nun, over the word משה, thus,
which, by the addition of the points, they have changed into Manasseh, because they think it would be a great reproach to their legislator to have had a grandson who was an idolater. That Gershom the son of Moses is here intended, is very probable. See the arguments urged by Dr. Kennicott, Dissertation I., p. 55, etc.; and see the Var. Lect. of De Rossi on this place.
Until the day of the captivity of the land – Calmet observes, “The posterity of this Jonathan executed the office of priest in the city of Dan, all the time that the idol of Micah (the teraphim, ephod, etc). was there. But this was only while the house of the Lord was at Shiloh; and, consequently, the sons of Jonathan were priests at Dan only till the time in which the ark was taken by the Philistines, which was the last year of Eli, the high priest; for after that the ark no more returned to Shiloh.” This is evident; and on this very ground Houbigant contends that, instead of הארץ haarets, the Land, we should read הארן haaron, the Ark; for nothing is easier than the ו vau and final nun to be mistaken for the ץ final tsade, which is the only difference between the captivity of the Land and the captivity of the Ark. And this conjecture is the more likely, because the next verse tells us that Micah’s graven image, etc., continued at Dan all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh; which was, till the ark was taken by the Philistines. Those who wish to see more on this subject may consult Calmet, and the writers in Pool’s Synopsis. This chapter is an important supplement to the conclusion of the 19th chapter of Joshua, on which it casts considerable light.
The Danites were properly the first dissenters from the public established worship of the Jews; but they seem to have departed as little as possible from the Jewish forms, their worship being conducted in the same way, but not in the same place. Surely it was better to have had this, allowing it to be unconstitutional worship, than to have been wholly destitute of the ordinances of God. I think we have not sufficient ground from the text to call these persons idolaters; I believe they worshipped the true God according to their light and circumstances, from a conviction that they could not prosper without his approbation, and that they could not expect that approbation if they did not offer to him a religious worship. They endeavored to please him, though the means they adopted were not the most proper.
Keil and Delitzsch
Establishment of the Image-worship in Dan. – After the rebuilding of Laish under the name of Dan, the Danites set up the pesel or image of Jehovah, which they had taken with them out of Micah’s house of God. “And Jehonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites till the day of the captivity of the land.” As the Danites had taken the Levite whom Micah had engaged for his private worship with them to Dan, and had promised him the priesthood (Jdg_18:19 and Jdg_18:27), Jehonathan can hardly be any other than this Levite. He was a son of Gershom, the son of Moses (Exo_2:22; Exo_18:3; 1Ch_23:14-15). Instead of בֶּן־מֹשֶׁה, our Masoretic text has בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה with a hanging נ. With regard to this reading, the Talmud (Baba bathr.f. 109b) observes: “Was he a son of Gershom, or was he not rather a son of Moses? as it is written, the sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer (1Ch_23:14), but because he did the deeds of Manasseh (the idolatrous son of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 21) the Scripture assigns him to the family of Manasseh.” On this Rabbabar bar Channa observes, that “the prophet (i.e., the author of our book) studiously avoided calling Gershom the son of Moses, because it would have been ignominious to Moses to have had an ungodly son; but he calls him the son of Manasseh, raising the n, however, above the line, to show that it might either be inserted or omitted, and that he was the son of either מְנַשֶּׁה (Manasseh) or מֹשֶׁה (Moses), – of Manasseh through imitating his impiety, of Moses by descent” (cf. Buxtorfi Tiber. p. 171). Later Rabbins say just the same. R. Tanchum calls the writing Menasseh, with a hanging nun, a סֹופְרִים תִקּוּן, and speaks of ben Mosheh as Kethibh, and ben Menasseh as Keri. Ben Mosheh is therefore unquestionably the original reading, although the other reading ben Menasseh is also very old, as it is to be found in the Targums and the Syriac and Sept. versions, although some Codd. of the lxx have the reading uhiou’ Moou’see’ (vid., Kennic. dissert. gener. in V. T. §21).
(Note: These two readings of the lxx seem to be fused together in the text given by Theodoret (quaest. xxvi.): Ἰωνάθαν γάρ φησίν υἱὸς Μανασσῆ, υἱοῦ Γερσὼμ υἱοῦ Μωσῆ)
Jerome also has filii Moysi. At the same time, it does not follow with certainty from the reading ben Gershom that Jehonathan was actually a son of Gershom, as ben frequently denotes a grandson in such genealogical accounts, unknown fathers being passed over in the genealogies. There is very little probability of his having been a son, for the simple reason, that if Jehonathan was the same person as Micah’s high priest – and there is no ground for doubting this – he is described as נַעַר in Jdg_17:7; Jdg_18:3, Jdg_18:15, and therefore was at any rate a young man, whereas the son of Gershom and grandson of Moses would certainly have passed the age of youth by a few years after the death of Joshua. This Jehonathan and his sons performed the duties of the priesthood at Dan הָאָרֶץ גְּלֹות עַד־יֹום. This statement is obscure. הָאָרֶץ .eru גְּלֹות can hardly mean anything else than the carrying away of the people of the land into exile, that is to say, of the inhabitants of Dan and the neighbourhood at least, since גָּלָה is the standing expression for this. Most of the commentators suppose the allusion to be to the Assyrian captivity, or primarily to the carrying away by Tiglath-Pileser of the northern tribes of Israel, viz., the population of Gilead, Galilee, and the tribe of Naphtali, in the midst of which Laish-Dan was situated (2Ki_15:29). But the statement in Jdg_18:31, “And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh,” is by no means reconcilable with such a conclusion. We find the house of God, i.e., the Mosaic tabernacle, which the congregation had erected at Shiloh in the days of Joshua (Jos_18:1), still standing there in the time of Eli and Samuel (1Sa_1:3., Jdg_3:21; Jdg_4:3); but in the time of Saul it was at Nob (1Sa_21:1-15), and during the reign of David at Gibeon (1Ch_16:39; 1Ch_21:29). Consequently “the house of God” only stood in Shiloh till the reign of Saul, and was never taken there again. If therefore Micah’s image, which the Danites set up in Dan, remained there as long as the house of God was at Shiloh, Jonathan’s sons can only have been there till Saul’s time at the longest, and certainly cannot have been priests at this sanctuary in Dan till the time of the Assyrian captivity.
(Note: The impossibility of reconciling the statement as to time in Jdg_18:31 with the idea that “the captivity of the land” refers to the Assyrian captivity, is admitted even by Bleek (Einl. p. 349), who adopts Houbigant’s conjecture, viz., הָאָרֹון גְּלֹות, “the carrying away of the ark.”)
There are also other historical facts to be considered, which render the continuance of this Danite image-worship until the Assyrian captivity extremely improbable, or rather preclude it altogether. Even if we should not lay any stress upon the fact that the Israelites under Samuel put away the Baalim and Astartes in consequence of his appeal to them to turn to the Lord (1Sa_7:4), it is hardly credible that in the time of David the image-worship should have continued at Dan by the side of the lawful worship of Jehovah which he restored and organized, and should not have been observed and suppressed by this king, who carried on repeated wars in the northern part of his kingdom. Still more incredible would the continuance of this image-worship appear after the erection of Solomon’s temple, when all the men of Israel, and all the elders and heads of tribes, came to Jerusalem, at the summons of Solomon, to celebrate the consecration of this splendid national sanctuary (1 Kings 5-7). Lastly, the supposition that the image-worship established by the Danites at Dan still continued to exist, is thoroughly irreconcilable with the fact, that when Jeroboam established the kingdom of the ten tribes he had two golden calves made as images of Jehovah for the subjects of his kingdom, and set up one of them at Dan, and appointed priests out of the whole nation who were not of the sons of Levi. If an image-worship of Jehovah had been still in existence in Dan, and conducted by Levitical priests. Jeroboam would certainly not have established a second worship of the same kind under priests who were not Levitical. All these difficulties preclude our explaining the expression, “the day of the captivity of the land,” as referring to either the Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. It can only refer to some event which took place in the last years of Samuel, or the first part of the reign of Saul. David Kimchi and many others have interpreted the expression as relating to the carrying away of the ark by the Philistines, for which the words מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל כָבֹוד גָּלָה are used in 1Sa_4:21-22 (e.g., Hengstenberg, Beitr. vol. ii. pp. 153ff.; Hävernick, Einl. ii. 1, p. 109; O. v. Gerlach, and others). With the carrying away of the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle lost its significance as a sanctuary of Jehovah. We learn from Psa_78:59-64 how the godly in Israel regarded that event. They not only looked upon it as a casting away of the dwelling-lace of God at Shiloh; but in the fact that Jehovah gave up His might and glory (i.e., the ark) into captivity, they discerned a surrender of the nation into the full power of its foes which resembled a carrying away into captivity. For, apart altogether form the description in Psa_78:62-64, we may infer with certainty from the account of the tyranny which these foes still exercised over the Israelites in the time of Saul (1Sa_13:19-23), that, after this victory, the Philistines may have completely subjugated the Israelites, and treated them as their prisoners. We may therefore affirm with Hengstenberg, that “the author looked upon the whole land as carried away into captivity in its sanctuary, which formed as it were its kernel and essence.” If, however, this figurative explanation of הָאָרֶץ גְּלֹות should not be accepted, there is no valid objection to our concluding that the words refer to some event with which we have no further acquaintance, in which the city of Dan was conquered by the neighbouring Syrians, and the inhabitants carried away into captivity. For it is evident enough from the fact of the kings of Zoba being mentioned, in 1Sa_14:47, among the different enemies of Israel against whom Saul carried on war, that the Syrians also invaded Israel in the tie of the Philistine supremacy, and carried Israelites away out of the conquered towns and districts. The Danite image-worship, however, was probably suppressed and abolished when Samuel purified the land and people from idolatry, after the ark had been brought back by the Philistines (1 Sam. 2 ff.).
And the children of Dan, etc. It was probably the long existence of this semi-idolatrous worship of the graven image at Dan that induced King Jeroboam to set up one of his golden calves at Dan, as we read 1Ki_12:28-30. And Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh. The Hebrew text really has the son of Moses. But a little n is written above the line between the M and the S of Moses (Mosheh), so as to be read Manasseh, as thus: MSH; so that they avoided the pain of reading aloud that the grandson or descendant of Moses was an idolatrous priest, without actually altering the written text. It is indeed most sad that it should have been so, though like examples are not wanting, as, e.g; the sons of Eli and of Samuel. For Gershom the son of Moses see Exo_2:22; Exo_18:3; 1Ch_23:14-16. It does not follow that Jonathan, the priest of the Danites, was literally the son of Gershom. It may merely mean that he was of the family of which Gershom was the head. Until the day of the captivity of the land. There is great diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this phrase. Many understand it, as is the obvious meaning of the words, of the Assyrian captivity (2Ki_15:29; 2Ki_17:6). But some of the best commentators, as Kimchi among the Jews, and many moderns, think it refers to the taking captive of the ark by the Philistines in the days of Eli, because this is the time indicated in the next verse by the mention of the house of God in Shiloh. The ark of God never returned to Shiloh after it was taken thence (1Sa_4:3, 1Sa_4:4) and captured by the Philistines (ibid. 1Ch_23:11). It is also noticed that the expression, The ark of God is gone into captivity (is taken, A.V.), occurs in 1Sa_4:21, 1Sa_4:22. It certainly would be strange that one verse (30) should speak of the worship of the graven image lasting till the Assyrian conquest of the land, and the next verse (31) limit it to the time that the house of God was in Shiloh, some 300 years earlier. At the same time it should be noticed that verse 30 speaks of the time that Jonathan’s sons were priests to the tribe of Dan, and verse 31 of the worship of Micah’s image. It is quite possible that the descendants of Jonathan may have been appointed priests at Dan to Jeroboam’s golden-calf worship, though the original graven image of Micah may have been destroyed by Saul or David; and in the interval between such destruction of Micah’s image and the setting up of Jeroboam’s calves they may have been the priests of an irregular worship on a high place at Tell-el-Kady. And this would enable us to give what is certainly its natural meaning to the words, “the captivity of the land.” But no certainty can be arrived at without more actual knowledge. Many commentators adopt Houbigant’s conjecture to read ark for land at the end of verse 30 (aron for aretz). Others think that some deportation of the Danites by the Syrians or other neighbouring people not recorded in history is here spoken of. All the time the house of God, etc. This must have been written not earlier than the time of Samuel, and possibly much later. The house of God, i.e. the tabernacle, was in Shiloh from the days of Joshua (Jos_18:1) till the days of Eli (1Sa_1:3), after which we have no account of where the house of God was till the ark was brought up to Jerusalem by King David from the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (2Sa_6:12), and placed in the tabernacle that David had pitched for it (2Sa_6:17); but whether this was the tabernacle that had been pitched at Shiloh or a new one does not appear. It is not improbable that Samuel may have moved the tabernacle from Shiloh to Ramah (1Sa_7:17). The ark had rested in the house of Abinadab at Baaleh or Kirjath-jearim for twenty years (1Sa_7:2) previous to its removal by David.
In a little celebration for good medical news, I bought two more medieval warfare/history books, this time with emphasis on religious war:
Victory in the East is the definitive military history of the First (and only really succesful) Middle East crusade, while Warrior of God is one of the few things in English about genius Hussite general Jan Zizka, who was so successful in battle larger Catholic armies avoided battle with the Hussites. And he was completely blind in several military campaigns!
May dig into these in my last vacation.