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HEREIN IS DECLARED WHAT BEFELL THE SONS OF ELI, THE ARK, AND THE PEOPLE AND HOW ELI HIMSELF DIED MISERABLY.
1. ABOUT this time it was that the Philistines made war against the Israelites, and pitched their camp at the city Aphek. Now when the Israelites had expected them a little while, the very next day they joined battle, and the Philistines were conquerors, and slew above four thousand of the Hebrews, and pursued the rest of their multitude to their camp.
2. So the Hebrews being afraid of the worst, sent to the senate, and to the high priest, and desired that they would bring the ark of God, that by putting themselves in array, when it was present with them, they might be too hard for their enemies, as not reflecting that he who had condemned them to endure these calamities was greater than the ark, and for whose sake it was that this ark came to be honored. So the ark came, and the sons of the high priest with it, having received a charge from their father, that if they pretended to survive the taking of the ark, they should come no more into his presence, for Phineas officiated already as high priest, his father having resigned his office to him, by reason of his great age. So the Hebrews were full of courage, as supposing that, by the coming of the ark, they should be too hard for their enemies: their enemies also were greatly concerned, and were afraid of the ark's coming to the Israelites: however, the upshot did not prove agreeable to the expectation of both sides, but when the battle was joined, that victory which the Hebrews expected was gained by the Philistines, and that defeat the Philistines were afraid of fell to the lot of the Israelites, and thereby they found that they had put their trust in the ark in vain, for they were presently beaten as soon as they came to a close fight with their enemies, and lost about thirty thousand men, among whom were the sons of the high priest; but the ark was carried away by the enemies.
3. When the news of this defeat came to Shiloh, with that of the captivity of the ark, (for a certain young man, a Benjamite, who was in the action, came as a messenger thither,) the whole city was full of lamentations. And Eli, the high priest, who sat upon a high throne at one of the gates, heard their mournful cries, and supposed that some strange thing had befallen his family. So he sent for the young man; and when he understood what had happened in the battle, he was not much uneasy as to his sons, or what was told him with about the army, as having beforehand known by Divine revelation that those things would happen, and having himself declared them beforehand, - for what sad things come unexpectedly they distress men the most; but as soon as [he heard] the ark was carried captive by their enemies, he was very much grieved at it, because it fell out quite differently from what he expected; so he fell down from his throne and died, having in all lived ninety-eight years, and of them retained the government forty.
4. On the same day his son Phineas's wife died also, as not able to survive the misfortune of her husband; for they told her of her husband's death as she was in labor. However, she bare a son at seven months, who lived, and to whom they gave the name of Icabod, which name signifies disgrace, - and this because the army received a disgrace at this thee.
5. Now Eli was the first of the family of Ithamar, the other son of Aaron, that had the government; for the family of Eleazar officiated as high priest at first, the son still receiving that honor from the father which Eleazar bequeathed to his son Phineas; after whom Abiezer his son took the honor, and delivered it to his son, whose name was Bukki, from whom his son Ozi received it; after whom Eli, of whom we have been speaking, had the priesthood, and so he and his posterity until the thee of Solomon's reign; but then the posterity of Eleazar reassumed it.
(1) The Amorites were one of the seven nations of Canaan. Hence Reland is willing to suppose that Josephus did not here mean that their land beyond Jordan was a seventh part of the whole land of Canaan, but meant the Arnorites as a seventh nation. His reason is, that Josephus, as well as our Bible, generally distinguish the land beyond Jordan from the land of Canaan; nor can it be denied, that in strictness they were all fercot: yet after two tribes and a half of the twelve tribes came to inherit it, it might in a general way altogether be well included under the land of Canaan, or Palestine, or Judea, of which we have a clear example here before us in Josephus, whose words evidently imply, that taking the whole land of Canaan, or that inhabited by all the twelve tribes together, and parting it into seven parts, the part beyond Jordan was in quantity of ground one seventh part of the whole. And this well enough agrees to Reland's own map of that country, although this land beyond Jordan was so peculiarly fruitful, and good for pasturage, as the two tribes and a half took notice, Numbers 32:1, 4, 16, that it maintained about a fifth part of the whole people. (2) It plainly appears by the history of these spies, and the innkeeper Rahab's deception of the king of Jericho's messengers, by telling them what was false in order to save the lives of the spies, and yet the great commendation of her faith and good works in the New Testament, Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25, as well as by many other parallel examples, both in the Old Testament and in Josephus, that the best men did not then scruple to deceive those public enemies who might justly be destroyed; as also might deceive ill men in order to save life, and deliver themselves from the tyranny of their unjust oppressors, and this by telling direct falsehoods; I mean, all this where no oath was demanded of them, otherwise they never dare venture on such a procedure. Nor was Josephus himself of any other opinion or practice, as I shall remark in the note on Antiq. B. IX. ch. 4. sect. 3. And observe, that I still call this woman Rahab, an innkeeper, not a harlot, the whole history, both in our copies, and especially in Josephus, implying no more. It was indeed so frequent a thing, that women who were innkeepers were also harlots, or maintainers of harlots, that the word commonly used for real harlots was usually given them. See Dr. Bernard's note here, and Judges 11:1, and Antiq. B. V. ch. 7. sect. 8. (3) Upon occasion of this devoting of Jericho to destruction, and the exemplary punishment of Achar, who broke that duerein or anathema, and of the punishment of the future breaker of it, Hiel, 1 Kings 16:34, as also of the punishment of Saul, for breaking the like chefera or anathema, against the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15., we may observe what was the true meaning of that law, Leviticus 27:28: "None devoted which shall be devoted of shall be redeemed; but shall be put to death;" i.e. whenever any of the Jews' public enemies had been, for their wickedness, solemnly devoted to destruction, according to the Divine command, as were generally the seven wicked nations of Canaan, and those sinners the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15:18, it was utterly unlawful to permit those enemies to be redeemed; but they were to be all utterly destroyed. See also Numbers 23:2, 3. (4) That the name of this chief was not Achan, as in the common copies, but Achar, as here in Josephus, and in the Apostolical Constit. B. VII. ch. 2., and elsewhere, is evident by the allusion to that name in the curse of Joshua, "Why hast thou troubled us? - the Lord shall trouble thee;" where the Hebrew word alludes only to the name Achar, but not to Achan. Accordingly, this Valley of Achar, or Achor, was and is a known place, a little north of Gilgal, so called from the days of Joshua till this day. See Joshua 7:26; Isaiah 65:10; Hosea 2:15; and Dr. Bernard's notes here. (5) Here Dr. Bernard very justly observes, that a few words are dropped out of Josephus's copies, on account of the repetition of the word shekels, and that it ought to be read thus: - "A piece of gold that weighed fifty shekels, and one of silver that weighed two hundred shekels," as in our other copies, Joshua 7:21. (6) I agree here with Dr. Bernard, and approve of Josephus's interpretation of Gilgal for liberty. See Joshua 5:9. (7) Whether this lengthening of the day, by the standing still of the sun and moon, were physical and real, by the miraculous stoppage of the diurnal motion of the earth for about half a revolution, or whether only apparent, by aerial phosphori imitating the sun and moon as stationary so long, while clouds and the night hid the real ones, and this parhelion or mock sun affording sufficient light for Joshua's pursuit and complete victory, (which aerial phosphori in other shapes have been more than ordinarily common of late years,) cannot now be determined: philosophers and astronomers will naturally incline to this latter hypothesis. In the mean thee, the fact itself was mentioned in the book of Jasher, now lost, Joshua 10:13, and is confirmed by Isaiah, 28:21, Habakkuk, 3:11, and by the son of Sirach, Ecclus. 46:4. In the 18th Psalm of Solomon, yet. it is also said of the luminaries, with relation, no doubt, to this and the other miraculous standing still and going back, in the days of Joshua and Hezekiah, "They have not wandered, from the day that he created them; they have not forsaken their way, from ancient generations, unless it were when God enjoined them [so to do] by the command of his servants." See Authent. Rec. part i. p. 154. (8) Of the books laid up in the temple, see the note on Antiq. B. III. ch. 1. sect. 7. (9) Since not only Procopius and Suidas, but an earlier author, Moses Chorenensis, p. 52, 53, and perhaps from his original author Mariba Carina, one as old as Alexander the Great, sets down the famous inscription at Tangier concerning the old Canaanites driven out of Palestine by Joshua, take it here in that author's own words: "We are those exiles that were governors of the Canaanites, but have been driven away by Joshua the robber, and are come to inhabit here." See the note there. Nor is it unworthy of our notice what Moses Chorenensis adds, p. 53, and this upon a diligent examination, viz. that "one of those eminent men among the Canaanites came at the same thee into Armenia, and founded the Genthuniaa family, or tribe; and that this was confirmed by the manners of the same family or tribe, as being like those of the Canaanites." (10) By prophesying, when spoken of a high priest, Josephus, both here and frequently elsewhere, means no more than consulting God by Urim, which the reader is still to bear in mind upon all occasions. And if St. John, who was contemporary with Josephus, and of the same country, made use of this style, when he says that "Caiaphas being high priest that year, prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad," chap. 11;51, 52, he may possibly mean, that this was revealed to the high priest by an extraordinary voice from between the cherubims, when he had his breastplate, or Urim and Thummim, on before; or the most holy place of the temple, which was no other than the oracle of Urim and Thummim. Of which above, in the note on Antiq. B. III. ch. 8. sect. 9. (11) This great number of seventy-two reguli, or small kings, over whom Adonibezek had tyrannized, and for which he was punished according to the lex talionis, as well as the thirty-one kings of Canaan subdued by Joshua, and named in one chapter, Joshua 12., and thirty-two kings, or royal auxiliaries to Benhadad king of Syria, 1 Kings 20:1; Antiq. B. VIII. ch. 14. sect. 1, intimate to us what was the ancient form of government among several nations before the monarchies began, viz. that every city or large town, with its neighboring villages, was a distinct government by itself; which is the more remarkable, because this was certainly the form of ecclesiastical government that was settled by the apostles, and preserved throughout the Christian church in the first ages of Christianity. Mr. Addison is of opinion, that "it would certainly be for the good of mankind to have all the mighty empires and monarchies of the world cantoned out into petty states and principalities, which, like so many large families, might lie under the observation of their proper governors, so that the care of the prince might extend itself to every individual person under his protection; though he despairs of such a scheme being brought about, and thinks that if it were, it would quickly be destroyed." Remarks on Italy, 4to, p. 151. Nor is it unfit to be observed here, that the Armenian records, though they give us the history of thirty-nine of their ancientest heroes or governors after the Flood, before the days of Sardanapalus, had no proper king till the fortieth, Parerus. See Moses Chorehensis, p. 55. And that Almighty God does not approve of such absolute and tyrannical monarchies, any one may learn that reads Deuteronomy 17:14-20, and 1 Samuel 8:1-22; although, if such kings are set up as own him for their supreme King, and aim to govern according to his laws, he hath admitted of them, and protected them and their subjects in all generations. (12) Josephus's early date of this history before the beginning of the Judges, or when there was no king in Israel, Judges 19;1, is strongly confirmed by the large number of Benjamites, both in the days of Asa and Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 14:8, and 16:17, who yet were here reduced to six hundred men; nor can those numbers be at all supposed genuine, if they were reduced so late as the end of the Judges, where our other copies place this reduction. (13) Josephus seems here to have made a small mistake, when he took the Hebrew word Bethel, which denotes the house of God, or the tabernacle, Judges 20:18, for the proper name of a place, Bethel, it no way appearing that the tabernacle was ever at Bethel; only so far it is true, that Shiloh, the place of the tabernacle in the days of the Judges, was not far from Bethel. (14) It appears by the sacred history, Judges 1:16; 3:13, that Eglon's pavilion or palace was at the City of Palm-Trees, as the place where Jericho had stood is called after its destruction by Joshua, that is, at or near the demolished city. Accordingly, Josephus says it was at Jericho, or rather in that fine country of palm-trees, upon, or near to, the same spot of ground on which Jericho had formerly stood, and on which it was rebuilt by Hiel, 1 Kings 16:31. Our other copies that avoid its proper name Jericho, and call it the City of Palm-Trees only, speak here more accurately than Josephus. (15) These eighty years for the government of Ehud are necessary to Josephus's usual large numbers between the exodus and the building of the temple, of five hundred and ninety-two or six hundred and twelve years, but not to the smallest number of four hundred and eighty years, 1 Kings 6:1; which lesser number Josephus seems sometimes to have followed. And since in the beginning of the next chapter it is said by Josephus, that there was hardly a breathing time for the Israelites before Jabin came and enslaved them, it is highly probable that some of the copies in his time had here only eight years instead of eighty; as had that of Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolye. 1. iii., and this most probably from his copy of Josephus. (16) Our present copies of Josephus all omit Tola among the judges, though the other copies have him next after Abimelech, and allot twenty-three years to his administration, Judges 10:1, 2; yet do all Josephus's commentators conclude, that in Josephus's sum of the years of the judges, his twenty-three years are included; hence we are to confess, that somewhat has been here lost out of his copies. (17) Josephus justly condemns Jephtha, as do the Apostolical Constitutions, B. VII. ch. 37., for his rash vow, whether it were for sacrificing his daughter, as Josephus thought, or for dedicating her, who was his only child, to perpetual virginity, at the tabernacle or elsewhere, which I rather suppose. If he had vowed her for a sacrifice, she ought to have been redeemed, Leviticus 27:1-8; but of the sense of ver. 28, 29, as relating not to things vowed to. God, but devoted to destruction, see the note on Antiq. B. V. ch. 1. sect. 8. (18) I can discover no reason why Manoah and his wife came so constantly into these suburbs to pray for children, but because there was a synagogue or place of devotion in those suburbs. (19) Here, by a prophet, Josephus seems only to mean one that was born by a particular providence, lived after the manner of a Nazarite devoted to God, and was to have an extraordinary commission and strength from God for the judging and avenging his people Israel, without any proper prophetic revelations at all. (20) This fountain, called Lehi, or the Jaw-bone, is still in being, as travelers assure us, and was known by this very name in the days of Josephus, and has been known by the same name in all those past ages. See Antiq. B. VII. ch. 12. sect. 4. (21) See this justly observed in the Apostolical Constitutions, B. VII. ch. 37., that Samson's prayer was heard, but that it was before this his transgression. (22) Although there had been a few occasional prophets before, yet was this Samuel the first of a constant succession of prophets in the Jewish nation, as is implied in St. Peter's words, Acts 3:24 "Yea, and all the prophets, from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of those days." See also Acts 13:20. The others were rather sometime called righteous men, Matthew 10:41; 13:17.