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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 7

 

 

Verse 1

GIDEON’S ARMY REDUCED TO THREE HUNDRED, Judges 7:1-8.

1. The well of Harod — Or, fountain of trembling. See on Judges 7:3. Probably the large fountain Ain Jalud, at the northern base of Mount Gilboa. It is a large pool forty or fifty feet in diameter, and from it flows, down the valley, eastward, a stream strong enough to turn a mill. By this same spring the Israelitish army encamped at a later day, before their disastrous battle with the Philistines. in which Saul was slain. See note on 1 Samuel 29:1.

By the hill of Moreh, in the valley — This hill of Moreh is not to be confounded with the oak or oaks of Moreh, (wrongly rendered plain in English versions.) near Shechem, (Genesis 12:6; Deuteronomy 11:30,) but was the Little Hermon, lying directly north of the Ain Jalud; and the valley was the broad plain situated between this mountain and Mount Gilboa on the south. This valley is really the eastern arm of the great Plain of Jezreel, and runs quite down to the Jordan. It was doubtless the great highway by which the Midianites came from the Jordan and pitched in the Valley of Jezreel. Judges 6:33. Between Mount Gilboa and the Little Hermon the valley is about two and a half miles wide, and all along in it lay the children of the East, like grasshoppers for multitude. Judges 7:12.


Verse 2

2. Lest Israel vaunt themselves — As human nature is ever prone to do. Compare marginal reference.


Verse 3

3. Whosoever is fearful and afraid — The word rendered afraid is identical with the name Harod, given to the fountain in Judges 7:1, and hence some have supposed that the fountain took its name — fount of trembling — from the fears and tremblings of the people on this occasion. The same word is used of Saul’s trembling on the same battlefield. 1 Samuel 28:5.

From Mount Gilead — This expression it is difficult to understand, since Mount Gilead is beyond the Jordan, and the Israelites were now at Mount Gilboa. The most natural supposition is, that the word Gilead is an error in the text, and we should read Gilboa. Le Clerc, Houbigant, Geddes, and others, adopt this conjectural reading. But as there is no authority for such a change of the text, some have supposed that there was a mountain by the fountain of Harod called Gilead, of which no other trace remains. Ewald suggests that the phrase “Mount Gilead” had become a synonym for the tribe of Manasseh, and is here used as a sort of war-cry for the tribe. This bidding the cowardly depart lest they should intimidate the rest was commanded even in the law. Deuteronomy 20:8.


Verse 4

4. Down unto the water — That is, the fountain Harod, and the stream that flowed from it.


Verse 5

5. Lappeth of the water with his tongue — The Hebrew word for lapping ( ילק, yalok) is onomatopoetic, and sounds in its pronunciation like the noise of a dog when drinking. It appears from the next verse that the three hundred that lapped took up the water from the fountain in the hollow of their hands, and thence licked it into their mouths. This manner of drinking was no evidence of fear and cowardice, as Josephus imagines, but rather a commendable qualification in a soldier. For in the heat of battle it might often give a warrior great advantage over his foe, if, coming to a stream, he could thus easily refresh himself with drink without being obliged, if he drank at all, to fall down on his knees, and thereby expose himself to almost certain death from his enemy. “Those only are the true warriors of Jehovah, who, when an enjoyment is offered, as for instance, refreshment at a living well, taste it only in passing, and while standing on the alert; not seeking enjoyment, and crouching down to it in indolent comfort, but, mindful every minute of the business in hand and the desired victory, only lapping the water like dogs upon their way.” — Ewald.


Verse 8

8. The people took victuals — Rather, They took the victuals of the people, and their trumpets. That is, the three hundred chosen men took the provisions of the people, the provisions and trumpets with which the people supplied them, after which the rest of the ten thousand (namely, nine thousand seven hundred) went to their homes.


Verse 9

THE PRESAGEFUL DREAM, Judges 7:9-14.

9. The same night — It was probably night, or late in the afternoon, when the rest of the people were sent away.


Verse 10

10. But if thou fear — The meaning of this verse and the preceding is thus well paraphrased by Keil: “Go with thy three hundred men into ( ב ) the hostile camp to smite it, for I have given it into thy hand; but if thou art afraid to do this, go down first with thine attendant to ( אל ) the camp, to ascertain the state and feeling of the foe, and thou wilt hear,” etc. He who would give to a wicked and adulterous generation no sign but that of Jonah (Matthew 12:39) multiplied his signs to the simple minded and humble Gideon.


Verse 11

11. The outside of the armed men — On the word חמשׁים, rendered armed men, see at Exodus 13:18, and Joshua 1:14 . It does not mean that every individual in this host of Midian was armed, any more than Exodus 13:18, means that every Israelite that went out of Egypt was armed with weapons of war.


Verse 12

12. Like grasshoppers… as the sand by the sea side — Examples of oriental hyperbole, as common among the modern Arabs as among the ancient Hebrews.


Verse 13

13. I dreamed a dream — Dreaming has ever been the subject of curious speculations, and the Scriptures afford us various and some wonderful specimens of dreams. Compare Genesis 20:3; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 31:24; Genesis 37:6-11; 1 Kings 3:5. They were one medium of divine revelation.

Numbers 12:6. The dream of this Midianite was a noticeable interposition of Divine Providence, and was designed to encourage Gideon. There may have been, and probably was, a natural psychological basis for the dream in the fears and suspicions of this Midianite, for the assembling of over thirty thousand Israelites at the call of Gideon could hardly be kept a secret from the entire host of Midianites.

A cake of barley bread — Apt symbol, in the conceptions of a nomad, for a cultivator of the soil, whose life would seem to be all occupied in raising grain and baking bread.

Tumbled — Rolled down the mountain like a wheel.

Unto a tent — The tent of some Midianitish chieftain, which, in the mind of the dreamer, would be associated with nomadic habits of life, and therefore a symbol of his people’s freedom, greatness, and power.

The tent lay along — The different expressions which describe the overthrow of the tent are noticeable. The barley cake smites it so as to knock it down; it falls, then is turned over upwards ( למעלה ) from having the tent pins torn out of the ground, and, rolling over and over, finally falls out flat upon the earth. This was a significant image of the complete overthrow of the Midianitish power.


Verse 14

14. This is nothing else, save the sword of Gideon — This ready interpretation of the dream shows that Gideon’s mustering of the thousands of Israel had already filled many of the Midianites with alarm and terror. So often, when the masses of a nation recognize no danger, the dark presentiment of approaching calamity throws its grim shadow over some anxious and restless spirits, which, though comparatively unknown, still yearn for the public weal.

Into his hand hath God delivered Midian — “If Gideon had heard the dream only, and he and his servant had been left to interpret it themselves, it might have done him little service; but having the interpretation from the mouth of an enemy, it not only appeared to come from God, who has all men’s hearts and tongues in his hand, but it was likewise an evidence that the enemy was quite dispirited, and that the name of Gideon was become so formidable to them that it disturbed their sleep.” — Henry.


Verse 15

DEFEAT OF THE MIDIANITES, Judges 7:15-25.

15. He worshipped — Lifted up his heart in devout thanksgiving for the signal favour.

Hath delivered — So confident is he of victory that he speaks of the enemy as already defeated.


Verse 16

16. Three companies — So as to form three attacking columns, and thereby give them the semblance of a mighty host.

Empty pitchers — Earthen jars, which served to hide the lamps or torches as they approached the enemy’s camp, and by their noise when broken served to confuse and terrify the Midianites.


Verse 19

19. The beginning of the middle watch — At midnight. Anciently the Israelites seem to have divided the night into three watches — evening, midnight, and morning watches. Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11. Later they adopted from the Roman’s the custom of four watches. Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48.


Verse 20

20. Sword of the Lord — In Judges 7:18 the word sword is supplied from this passage. The battle cry as there given is, literally, For Jehovah and for Gideon. This cry, ringing out from the three companies on different sides of the camp, together with the sound of the trumpets and the crashing of the pitchers, and the sudden glare of three hundred torches in the midnight darkness, might well bewilder and confound an army just waking out of sleep.


Verse 21

21. They stood — They did not rush in among the Midianites, but kept their station on the outside of the camp, blowing their trumpets and leaving the enemy to fight in confusion among themselves.


Verse 22

22. Every man’s sword against his fellow — Midianite slaughtered Midianite, so that the sword of the enemy did service for the Lord and for Gideon.

Beth-shittah — Possibly the modern Shutta, between Jezreel and the Jordan. Near this the Midianites must have passed in their flight towards the Jordan.

Zererath — Identical with Zarthan, (1 Kings 7:46,) and Zereda-thah. 2 Chronicles 4:17. It was situated in the Jordan valley, and not far from Beth-shean, but its exact locality has not been found. The same must be said of Abel-meholah and Tabbath.


Verse 23

23. Gathered… out of Naphtali… Asher… Manasseh — Men out of these tribes might have been quickly summoned to the pursuit of the flying foe. Many of them, if not all, were probably the same as those whom Gideon had so recently sent to their homes. Judges 7:8. “The cities given to Manasseh, on the west of the Jordan, were along the southern margin of Esdraelon, and on the hills above. Asher came up to Carmel, at the bottom of this plain, and a swift runner could reach them in an hour. A portion of Naphtali occupied the western shore of the lake of Tiberias, and could be reached in the same way and about the same time. It was possible, therefore, for them to receive the summons and respond to it.” — Thomson.


Verse 24

24. Sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim — The Ephraimites had not been summoned to the war, (compare Judges 8:1,) but are now called upon to intercept the flight of the foe.

The waters unto Beth-barah — The various mountain torrents and water-courses which the Midianites would have to cross in order to reach Beth-barah and the fords of the Jordan. Others understand the waters of the Jordan at Beth-barah. The site of Beth-barah is unknown.


Verse 25

25. Oreb and Zeeb — These names mean respectively the raven and the wolf, and were, perhaps, descriptive of the fierce character of these Midianitish chieftains. They remind us of names common among chiefs of the American Indians.

Rock Oreb… winepress of Zeeb — These places, now unknown, received their names from the slaughter of these two princes. The historian, writing some time after the places had received these names, very naturally speaks of them in this way.

Pursued Midian — After beheading Oreb and Zeeb, the Ephraimites continued their pursuit and followed the Midianites. who had, in spite of them, forced their way to the other side of the Jordan.

Brought the heads… to Gideon on the other side Jordan — That is, after Gideon had also crossed over to the other, or east, side of Jordan, they brought to him the heads of the slaughtered chiefs. Thus, as Bertheau and Keil show, the writer anticipates Gideon’s crossing of the Jordan in order to say what was done with the heads, and to mention in the same connexion the anger of the Ephraimites. Accordingly, Gideon’s crossing the Jordan, which is mentioned Judges 8:4, took place before these heads were brought to him, and before that war of words occurred which the writer next proceeds to record. Judges 8:1-3.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Judges 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/judges-7.html. 1874-1909.

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