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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–3
Verses 1–3

Here is, I. Israel backsliding from God: They again did evil in his sight, forsook his service, and worshipped idols; for this was the sin which now most easily beset them, Jdg. 4:1. See in this, 1. The strange strength of corruption, which hurries men into sin notwithstanding the most frequent experience of its fatal consequences. The bent to backslide is with great difficulty restrained. 2. The common ill effects of a long peace. The land had rest eighty years, which should have confirmed them in their religion; but, on the contrary, it made them secure and wanton, and indulgent of those lusts which the worship of the false gods was calculated for the gratification of. Thus the prosperity of fools destroys them. Jeshurun waxeth fat and kicketh. 3. The great loss which a people sustains by the death of good governors. The did evil, because Ehud was dead. So it may be read. He kept a strict eye upon them, restrained and punished every thing that looked towards idolatry, and kept them close to God’s service. But, when he was gone, they revolted, fearing him more than God.

II. Israel oppressed by their enemies. When they forsook God, he forsook them; and then they became an easy prey to every spoiler. They alienated themselves from God as if he were none of theirs; and then God alienated them as none of his. Those that threw themselves out of God’s service threw themselves out of his protection. What has my beloved to do in my house when she has thus played the harlot? Jer. 11:15. He sold them into the hand of Jabin, Jdg. 4:2. This Jabin reigned in Hazor, as another of the same name, and perhaps his ancestor, had done before him, whom Joshua routed and slew, and burnt his city, Josh. 11:1, 10. But it seems, in process of time, the city was rebuilt, the power regained, the loss retrieved, and, by degrees, the king of Hazor becomes able to tyrannize over Israel, who by sin had lost all their advantage against the Canaanites. This servitude was longer than either of the former, and much more grievous. Jabin, and his general Sisera, did mightily oppress Israel. That which aggravated the oppression was, 1. That this enemy was nearer to them than any of the former, in their borders, in their bowels, and by this means had the more opportunity to do them a mischief. 2. That they were the natives of the country, who bore an implacable enmity to them, for invading and dispossessing them, and when they had them in their power would be so much the more cruel and mischievous towards them in revenge of the old quarrel. 3. That these Canaanites had formerly been conquered and subdued by Israel, were of old sentenced to be their servants (Gen. 9:25), and might now have been under their feet, and utterly incapable of giving them any disturbance, if their own slothfulness, cowardice, and unbelief, had not suffered them thus to get head. To be oppressed by those whom their fathers had conquered, and whom they themselves had foolishly spared, could not but be very grievous.

III. Israel returning to their God: They cried unto the Lord, when distress drove them to him, and they saw no other way of relief. Those that slight God in their prosperity will find themselves under a necessity of seeking him when they are in trouble.