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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Judges 7



Verse 2

Too many for me, i.e. for my purpose; which is, so to deliver Israel, that it may appear to be my own miraculous act, that so I may have all the glory of it, and they may be more strongly obliged to love and serve me.

Verse 3

Mount Gilead; not that famous Mount Gilead which was beyond Jordan; for it is apparent that both the camps of the Israelites and of the Midianites were on this side Jordan: but another Mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh; which might be so called, either for some resemblance it had with the other Mount Gilead, or in remembrance of their father Gilead; or that this might be a memorial of their near relation to their brethren, notwithstanding their being divided one from another by Jordan; or for some other reason now unknown at this distance of time and place. Or, the words may be rendered towards Mount Gilead; for the Hebrew particle mid, or mere, is sometimes rendered towards, of which see Genesis 11:2 13:11 Deuteronomy 32:2 2 Samuel 6:2. And so it may be understood of the famous Mount Gilead beyond Jordan, which he may mention here, either,

1. Because many of his soldiers were of that half tribe of Manasseh which dwelt there, and so it was most proper for them to return thither; or,

2. Because that was their safest course, to get furthest from the danger which they feared; or,

3. Because though he would remove them from danger, yet he would not have them dispersed, but kept together in a body about Mount Gilead; knowing that they who had not courage enough to fight their enemies, might have valour enough to pursue them when they were beaten by others; and suspecting that the Midianites, if beaten, would probably flee that way.

Twenty and two thousand; who finding their whole army to be very small in comparison of their enemy’s, who were a hundred and thirty-live thousand, Jude 8:10, and they, no doubt, well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success; whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unfurnished with arms and provisions, lost the courage which in the beginning they seemed to have.

Verse 4

Unto the water; either that which ran from the well of Harod, mentioned Jude 7:1, or some other brook.

I will try them for thee; because thy proclamation hath not sufficiently tried them; for many who are fearful indeed will put on the face, and desire the opinion of being valiant persons; I will take another course.

Verse 5

It is true, there may be natural reasons given why some did only lap of the water, when others bowed down to drink; from the temperance, or fortitude, or patience, or strength, or diligence of the one, and the intemperance, or cowardice, or impatience, or weakness, or slothfulness of the other; but these seem to be mere conjectures: the true reason and design of this course seems to be only this, that God would reduce them to a very small number, which was likely to be done by this means; for the season of the year being hot, and the generality of the soldiers weary, and thirsty, and faint, they would most probably bow down upon their knees, that they might more fully refresh themselves by a liberal draught, as indeed they did; and it could be expected that there would be but few, who either could or would deny themselves in this matter, especially when God concurred in the work, and so disposed of the minds and bodies of them, that all, except three hundred, should lie down to drink.

Verse 6

Putting their hand to their mouth; taking up a little water in the palm of their hands to put into their mouths.

Verse 7

i.e. To his own home, as Numbers 24:11.

Verse 8

And their trumpets, i.e. the trumpets belonging to the whole army, even to those who were gone away, which he retained for the use here following. See Jude 7:16.

Verse 9

The same night; after he had dismissed all but the three hundred.

That the Lord said unto him, in a dream or vision of the night.

Verse 10

If thou fear to go down, to wit, without some further assurance of thy success, I will condescend so far to thee, as to give thee another sign.

Verse 11

Afterward shall thine hands be strengthened; thou wilt be encouraged to proceed, notwithstanding the smallness of thy number, which may deter thee.

Verse 13

A cake of barley bread; a weak and contemptible thing, and in itself as unable to overthrow a tent as to remove a mountain; but being thrown by a Divine hand, bore down all before it; which fitly resembled Gideon’s case, which was mean and despicable, as himself saith, Jude 6:15; yet he was mighty, through God, to destroy the Midianites.

Verse 14

As there are many examples of. significant dreams given by God to heathens, as Ge 41 Da 2 Da 4, so some of them had the gift of interpreting dreams; which they sometimes did by study and art, and sometimes by Divine direction, as in this case.

Verse 15

Gideon understood

the telling of the dream, though spoken in the Midianitish language; either because it was near akin to the Hebrew, being only a different dialect of it; or because the Israelites had now been accustomed to the Midianites’ company and discourse for seven years.

He worshipped; he praised God for this miraculous work and special encouragement, whereby he was confirmed in his enterprise.

Verse 16

Into three companies; to make a show of a vast army encompassing them.

Lamps, or, torches, made of such materials as would quickly take fire, and keep it for some time.

Within the pitchers; partly to preserve the flame from the violence of wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden and unexpected flashes of light.

Verse 17

For though two hundred of his men were placed on other sides of the camp; yet they were so disposed, that some person or persons, set as watchmen, might see what was done, and give notice to the rest to follow the example.

Verse 18

He mentions his own name, together with God’s, not out of vain ostentation or arrogance, as if he would equal himself with God; for he mentions God in the first and chief place, and himself only as his minister; but from prudent policy, because his name was grown formidable to them, and so was likely to further his design, and their flight, as it did.

Verse 19

Of the middle watch, i.e. of the second watch; for though afterwards the night was divided into four watches by the Romans, Matthew 14:25, yet in more ancient times, and in the eastern parts, it was divided into three. He chose the dark and dead of the night to increase their terror by the trumpets, whose sound would then be loudest and best heard, and the lamps, whose light would then shine most brightly, and seem biggest, to surprise them at disadvantage, and to conceal the smallness of their numbers.

Verse 20

Held the lamps and the trumpets, that they might be thought to be a mighty host, having as many troops or companies as there were trumpets and lights.

Verse 21

Every man in his place; as if they had only been torchbearers to the several companies.

Verse 22

They slew one another, either because they suspected treachery, and so fell upon those they first met with; which they might more easily do, because they consisted of several nations, as may be gathered from Jude 6:3, and Josephus affirms; or because the darkness of the night made them unable to distinguish friends from foes; or because the suddenness of the thing struck them with horror and amazement; or because God infatuated them, as he hath done many others. Compare 1 Samuel 14:20 2 Chronicles 20:23.

Abel-meholah; of which see 1 Kings 4:12 19:16.

Verse 24

Take before them the waters unto Beth-barah, i.e. the passes over those waters to which they are like to come.

And Jordan; the fords of Jordan, which river they must pass over into their own country.

Verse 25

For Gideon in the pursuit had passed over Jordan, as we read, Jude 8:4, which, though mentioned after this, may seem to have been done before it, such transpositions being frequent in sacred story. Or, on this side Jordan, for the Hebrew word is indifferent to both sides: see Genesis 1:10. And so this is opposed to what follows of his passing over Jordan, Jude 8:4. And then there is no anticipation here.


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Judges 7:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

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