And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,
&c.] Both by marrying with Heathens, and worshipping their gods:
and forgot the Lord their God;
as if they had never heard of him, or known him, their Maker and Preserver, who had done so many great and good things for them:
and served Baalim, and the groves;
of Baalim, see ( Judges 2:11 ) ; the groves mean either idols worshipped in groves, as Jupiter was worshipped in a grove of oaks, hence the oak of Dodona; and Apollo in a grove of laurels in Daphne: there were usually groves where idol temples were built; and so in Phoenicia, or Canaan, Dido the Sidonian queen built a temple for Juno in the midst of the city, where was a grove of an agreeable shade F4: so Barthius F5 observes, that most of the ancient gods of the Heathens used to be worshipped in groves. And groves and trees themselves were worshipped; so Tacitus says F6 of the Germans, that they consecrated groves and forests, and called them by the names of gods. Groves are here put in the place of Ashtaroth, ( Judges 2:13 ) ; perhaps the goddesses of that name were worshipped in groves; and if Diana is meant by Astarte, Servius F7 says that every oak is sacred to Jupiter and every grove to Diana; and Ovid F8 speaks of a temple of Diana in a grove. But as they are joined with Baalim, the original of which were deified kings and heroes, the groves may be such as were consecrated to them; for, as the same writer observes F9, the souls of heroes were supposed to have their abode in groves; (See Gill on Exodus 34:13) and (See Gill on Deuteronomy 7:5). It was in this time of defection that the idolatry of Micah, and of the Danites, and the war of Benjamin about the Levite's concubine, happened, though related at the end of the book; so Josephus F11 places the account here.
F4 "Lucus in urbe fuit media" Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1.
F5 Animadv. ad Claudian. de raptu Proserp. l. 1. v. 205.
F6 De mor. German. c. 9. Vid. Plin. l. 12. 1.
F7 In Virgil. Georgic. l. 3. col. 295.
F8 "Est nemus et piceis" Ep. 12. v. 67. Vid. Metamorph. l. 11. Fab. 9. v. 560.
F9 In Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1. col. 481. & in l. 3. col. 721.
F11 Antiqu. l. 5. c. 2. & 3.