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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Judges 8

 

 

Verse 1

And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.

The men of Ephraim said ... Why hast thou served us thus? Where this complaint was made-whether before or after the crossing of the Jordan-cannot be determined. By the overthrow of the national enemy the Ephraimites were benefited as largely as any of the other neighbouring tribes. But, piqued at not having been sharers in the glory of the victory, their leading men could not repress their wounded pride; and the occasion only served to bring out an old and deeply-seated feeling of jealous rivalry that subsisted between the tribes (Isaiah 9:21). The discontent was groundless, because Gideon acted according to divine directions; and besides, as their tribe was conterminous with that of Gideon, they might, had they been really fired with the flame of patriotic zeal, have volunteered their services in a movement against the common enemy.


Verse 2

And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abi-ezer?

He said ... What have I done now in comparison of you? His mild and truly modest answer breathes the spirit of a great as well as good man, who was calm, collected, and self-possessed in the midst of most exciting scenes. It succeeded in throwing oil on the troubled waters (Proverbs 16:1); and no wonder, because in the height of generous self-denial it ascribes to his querulous brethren a greater share of merit and glory than belonged to himself (1 Corinthians 13:4; Philippians 2:3).


Verse 3

God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 4

And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.

Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over - much exhausted, but eager to continue the pursuit until the victory was consummated.


Verse 5

And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.

He said unto the men of Succoth - i:e., a place of tents or booths. The name seems to have been applied to the whole part of the Jordan valley on the west, as well as the east side of the river, all belonging to the tribe of Gad (cf. Genesis 33:17; 1 Kings 7:46, with Joshua 13:27). Being engaged in the common cause of all Israel, he had a right to expect support and encouragement from his countrymen everywhere.


Verse 6

And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

The princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand - an insolent as well as a time-serving reply. It was insolent, because it implied a bitter taunt that Gideon was counting with confidence on a victory which they believed he would not gain; and it was time-serving, because, living in the near neighbourhood of the Midianite sheikhs, they dreaded the future vengeance of those roving chiefs. This contumelious manner of acting was heartless and disgraceful in people who were of Israelite blood.


Verse 7

And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.

I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness, and with briers - a cruel torture, to which captives were often subjected in ancient times, by having thorns and briers placed on their naked bodies, and pressed down by sledges, or heavy implements of husbandry being dragged over them.


Verse 8

And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.

He went ... to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise - a neighbouring city, situated also in the territory of Gad, near the Jabbok, and honoured with this name by Jacob (Genesis 32:30-31).


Verse 9

And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

He spake ... When I come again ... I will break down this tower. Intent on the pursuit, and afraid of losing time, he postponed the merited vengeance until his return. His confident anticipation of a triumphant return evinces the strength of his faith, and his specific threat was probably provoked by some proud and presumptuous boast, that in their lofty watchtower the Penuelites would set him at defiance.


Verse 10

Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.

Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor - a town on the eastern confines of Gad. The wreck of the Midianite army halted there.


Verse 11

And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.

Gideon went up by the way of them that dwell in tents on the east He tracked the fugitives across the Gideon went up by the way of them that dwell in tents on the east. He tracked the fugitives across the mountain range of Gilead to the northeast of the Jabbok, and there came upon them unexpectedly, while they were resting secure among their own nomadic tribes. Jogbehah is supposed to be Ramoth-gilead; and therefore the Midianites must have found refuge at or near Abela, 'Abel-cheramim,' the plain of the vineyards.


Verse 12

And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.

When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them. A third conflict took place. He arrived at their last quarters, which was by an unwonted path, took the fugitives by surprise, and the conquest was there completed of the Midianite horde.


Verse 13

And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,

Gideon ... returned from battle before the sun was up. He seems to have returned by a nearer route to Succoth; because what is rendered in our version "before the sun was up," means 'the heights of Heres, the sunhills.'


Verse 14

And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.

He described - wrote the names of the seventy princes and elders. (It is curious to find the primitive institution of the eldership in such a place.) It was from them he had received so inhospitable a treatment.


Verse 15

And he came unto the men of Succoth and said Behold Zebah and Zalmunna with whom ye did upbraid And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 16

And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.

With them he taught the men of Succoth , [ wayoda` (Hebrew #3045) baahem (H871a) 'eet (Hebrew #853) 'ansheey (Hebrew #376) Cukowt (Hebrew #5523), and with them made the men of Succoth know - i:e., punished, probably crushing, them with sledges upon a layer of thorns. The Septuagint has: eeloeesen, bruised]. By refusing his soldiers refreshment, they had committed a public crime, as well as an act of inhumanity, and were subjected to a horrible punishment, which the great abundance and remarkable size of the thorn-bushes, together with the thinness of clothing in the East, had probably suggested.


Verse 17

And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 18

Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.

Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? This was one of the countless atrocities which the Midianite chiefs had perpetrated during their seven years' lawless occupancy. It is noticed now for the first time, when their fate was about to be determined. Each one resembled the children of a king - an orientalism for great beauty, majesty of appearance, uncommon strength, and grandeur of form.


Verse 19

And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.

They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother - that is, uterine brothers; but, in all countries where polygamy prevails, 'the son of my mother' implies a closeness of relationship and a warmth of affection never awakened by the looser term, 'brother.'


Verse 20

And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.

He said unto Jether his first-born, Up, and slay them. The nearest of kin was the go'el - i:e., blood avenger; and Jether, though but little more than a boy, was the go'el of his kin, and as such the protector even of his aged father. He was his father's first-born; and that Gideon could not be a go'el is clear from Judges 4:15, where he says, "I am the least" - literally, the small one, or youngest, in my father's house. But a magistrate might order any one to do the work of the executioner; and the person selected was always of a rank equal or proportioned to that of the party doomed to suffer (1 Kings 2:29). Gideon intended, then, by the order to Jether as the proper go'e of the family, to put an honour on his son, by employing him to slay two enemies of his country and murderers of his uncles; and on the youth declining, performed the bloody deed himself.


Verse 21

Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 22

Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.

Rule thou over us ...


Verse 23

And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

The Lord shall rule over you. Their unbounded admiration and gratitude prompted them, in the enthusiasm of the moment, to raise their deliverer to a throne, and to establish a royal dynasty in his house. But Gideon knew too well, and revered too piously, the principles of the theocracy to entertain the proposal for a moment. Personal and family ambition was cheerfully sacrificed to a sense of duty, and every worldly motive was kept in check by a supreme regard to the divine honour. He would willingly act as judge; but the Lord alone was King of Israel. He saw, not by their wish to transmit the supreme power to his posterity, but even by their proposal to reserve it to himself during life, that they had forgotten God's sovereign right of nominating, and also of setting aside one whom he had pleased to employ for a time. Therefore, he said, "the Lord shall rule over you," 'I will not even take the name of a ruler. If He who has called me to His service please to continue me as His deputy, I am satisfied. If not, let Him set me aside, and appoint whomsoever He will in my stead' (Jamieson's 'Sacred History,' 1:, p. 311).


Verse 24

And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

Gideon said ... I would desire a request of you. This was the contribution of [ nezem (Hebrew #5141), singular] an earring; for, as the ancient Arabians (Ishmaelites and Midianites being synonymous terms, see the note at Judges 4:11; Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:28; for, as both people inhabited the same "east" country, the two names would quite naturally have become convertible, just as we speak of Englishmen and Britons-of Frenchmen and Gauls. 'Jewish Chronicle') were gorgeously adorned with barbaric pearl and gold, an immense amount of such valuable booty had fallen into the bands of the Israelite soldiers. The contribution was liberally made; and the quantity of gold given to him is estimated at 3,113 British pounds sterling.


Verse 25

And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 26

And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.

Ornaments - crescent-like plates of gold suspended from the necks, or placed on the breasts, of the camels.

Collars - necklaces of gold or pearl.

Purple - a royal colour. The ancient as well as modern Arabs adorned the necks, breasts, and legs of their riding animals with sumptuous housing. See description of a similar dress in the ancient Persian (Xenophon, 'Cyrus,' lib. 1:, 100: 3; Quintus Curtius, lib. 3:, 100: 3), and in Assyrian kings (Layard, 'Nineveh and its Remains,'

ii., p. 322).


Verse 27

And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city ... Ophrah. That no idolatrous use was in view, nor any divisive course from Shiloh contemplated, is manifest from Judges 8:33. Gideon proposed with the gold he received to make an ephod for his use only as a civil magistrate or ruler, as David did (1 Chronicles 15:27), and a magnificent pectoral or breastplate also. It would seem, from the history, that he was not blameable in making this ephod. etc., as a civil robe or ornament merely, but that it afterward became an object to which religious ideas were attached; whereby it proved a snare, and consequently an evil, by perversion, to Gideon and his ideas were attached; whereby it proved a snare, and consequently an evil, by perversion, to Gideon and his house (Taylor's 'Fragments').


Verse 28

Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

Thus was Midian subdued. This invasion of the Arab hordes into Canaan was as alarming and desolating as the irruption of the Huns into Europe. It was the severest scourge ever inflicted upon Israel; and both it and the deliverance under Gideon lived for centuries in the minds of the people (Psalms 83:11).


Verse 29

And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.

Jerubbaal ... went and dwelt in his own house. Bochart conjectures that Gideon is the person meant by Sanchoniathon, the Phoenician historian, under the name of Jerombaal, priest of the god Jao, not only from the close resemblance of this name to that of Jerubbaal, but from the circumstance that, consequent upon the death of Gideon, the Israelites adopted the worship of Baal berith, which he takes to have been the idol of Berith (Berytus, now Beyrout) where Sanchoniathon resided.


Verses 30-32

And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 33

And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.

The children of Israel ... made Baal-berith their god - i:e., Baal, or lord of the covenant. It was a marked feature in the political organization of ancient Canaan that several contiguous cities were leagued for their mutual interests in a bond of confederacy, their center of union being a temple of Baal-called from that circumstance Baal-berith, lord of the league, as Jupiter Federalis among the Greeks and Romans. This, and not a reference to a particular phrase, was the origin of the name. Monsieur Jurieu says ('Hist. des Dogmes,' p.

619) that under this name was worshipped Des Syra (Lucian), the Cybele of the Greeks and Romans, the goddess of the Phoenicians.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 8:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/judges-8.html. 1871-8.

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