Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 6–8. Gideon delivers Israel from the Midianites
For some years the Midianites had been the terror of Central Palestine. These nomad Arabs from the S.E. desert used to pour into the country during harvest time, and devastate the fertile neighbourhood of Shechem and the plain of Jezreel. At last Gideon, a Manassite belonging to the clan of Abiezer, contrived with a small band of fellow clansmen to rid the land of this intolerable scourge: he inflicted a severe defeat upon the invaders, and put their chiefs to death. As a trophy of the victory he made out of the spoils an ephod, which he set up in the sanctuary of Jehovah at Ophrah, his native village, where he spent the rest of his days with much dignity and influence. The ‘day of Midian’ was long remembered as a notable instance of. Jehovah’s intervention on behalf of Israel: see Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26, Psalm 83:9-12.
The main outlines of the story are clear, but the details raise problems which have not yet been solved. Different traditions have been pieced together; these again have received later additions; and the various elements are interwoven in a manner which renders the literary analysis of these chapters unusually difficult and uncertain. (a) It will be noticed at once that Jdg 8:4-21 is not the sequel of the preceding narrative. In Jdg 8:4-21 Gideon with 300 men pursues the Midianite kings Zeba and Zalmunna on the E. of the Jordan as far as the edge of the desert, captures them, and slays them with his own hand; on one of their forays they had murdered his brothers at Tabor; the motive of Gideon’s pursuit is to satisfy his personal revenge. In Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3 Gideon is called by God to deliver Israel from the repeated incursions of the Midianites; he attacks their camp near Mt Gilboa and creates a disastrous panic; the men of Ephraim are summoned to his aid, and they cut off the fugitives at the fords of Jordan; they capture and kill the two princes Oreb and Zeeb. Here the whole action, like the deliverance, is national. In Jdg 7:25 b and Jdg 8:10 b an editor has tried to harmonize the two accounts. They do not necessarily contradict one another. It is quite likely that private motives spurred Gideon to place himself at the head of a united resistance, when God called him, and that he took the opportunity to wipe off a score of his own against the common enemy, (b) But Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3 itself is not a consistent whole. Thus the call of Gideon is described in Jdg 6:11-24 and again, altogether differently, in Jdg 6:25-32; the summons to the neighbouring tribes is sent out before the battle in Jdg 6:35, and after it in Jdg 7:23; two traditions seem to be mingled in the account of the attack, Jdg 7:15-21, in one of them the trumpets were remembered as a feature of the story, in the other the torches and pitchers.
It is difficult to decide whether the antecedents of Jdg 8:4-21 can or cannot be traced in the composite narrative, Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3. Some critics regard Jdg 8:4-21 as an excerpt from a third source and unrelated to what precedes; others attempt to connect it with one of the two accounts of Gideon’s call and his attack upon the camp near Mt Gilboa. On the one hand Jdg 8:4-21 does not suggest that a disastrous battle and a desperate flight had just occurred; the Midianite kings are encamped on the edge of the E. desert in careless security; apparently they have returned from a foray in the West, most likely the one in which they killed Gideon’s brothers; they do not suspect any pursuit. But, on the other hand, this episode does imply some previous account of Gideon and of a Midianite invasion; possibly too (but this is more questionable), some tradition of a recent attack upon the Midianites on the W. of Jordan (cf. Jdg 8:5). We may therefore connect Jdg 6:2-6 (in part), Jdg 6:11-24; Jdg 6:34, Jdg 7:1; Jdg 7:16-21 (in part) with Jdg 8:4-21, remembering, however, that the connexion with Jdg 7:1; Jdg 7:16-21 (in part) is less evident. The other narrative, generally allowed to be the later of the two, will then consist of Jdg 6:7-10; Jdg 6:25-33; Jdg 6:35 a, Jdg 6:36-40, Jdg 7:9-21 (in part), Jdg 7:22 to Jdg 8:3.
It will be seen that both in the older (Jdg 8:4) and in the later narrative (Jdg 8:2 f.) Gideon’s force was composed of his own Abiezrites; the number 300 seems to have been a fixed element in the general tradition. The description of the way in which the immense host of volunteers was reduced to this figure, Jdg 6:35 f., Jdg 7:2-8, must have been added later to the two main narratives.
The closing verses, Jdg 8:22-35, contain the loose ends of the fragmentary traditions which have been pieced together in the preceding history. The ephod belongs to the archaic stage of religion; Jdg 8:24-27 a (to Ophrah) fit in very well as the conclusion of the early narrative, Jdg 8:4-21. As it stands, Jdg 8:29 is obviously out of place after Jdg 8:27, but it would form a suitable sequel to Jdg 8:3. The offer and refusal of the kingship, Jdg 8:22-23, betray the theocratic bias of a later age. Jdg 8:30-32 furnish the transition to the story of Abimelech, and shew signs of a late editorial hand. In Jdg 8:27 b, Jdg 8:28; Jdg 8:33-35, as in Jdg 6:1 and here and there in Jdg 6:2-6, we recognize the familiar handiwork of the Deuteronomic redactor, who, in his customary manner, provided the whole story with introduction and conclusion, and interpreted it on his own religious principles.
The preceding analysis is merely an attempt to account for the way in which the narrative has been put together. The text as we have it contains inconsistent and duplicate versions, which to a certain extent can be distinguished, but it is impossible to trace them apart all the way through.
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.1. This verse is the continuation of Jdg 6:34; the thread of the narrative is taken up again in Jdg 7:8 b. The intervening Jdg 7:2-8 a are dependent upon Jdg 6:35.
who is Gideon] A gloss, as in Jdg 8:35. The wording suggests that the earliest form of the narrative used the name Jerub-baal, for which Gideon has been substituted in almost every instance. In ch. 9, which is comparatively free from editorial changes, the name is always Jerub-baal.
the spring of Harod] Traditionally identified with ‘Ain Jâlûd, about 1¾ miles E.S.E. of Zer‘în (Jezreel). The spring issues from a cave at the foot of a hill which belongs to the Gilboa range, now called Jebel Fuḳû‘a; a large shallow pool spreads out in front of the cave, and the water flows away in a small stream towards the east. Thus Gideon, posted on the hill of Gilboa, was able to command the valuable water-supply at the foot; the Midianite camp lay opposite to him in the valley below (Jdg 7:8 b); the stream would afford an outer line of defence. See G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr., 397 ff. There are two other springs in the neighbourhood, but neither of them suits the requirements so well as ‘Ain Jâlûd; the identification, however, cannot be called certain.
by the hill of Moreh] The marg. is more accurate, from the hill of Moreh onwards in the valley; the prep. from is awkward and obscures the sense. A slight correction (beth for min) clears the situation; on the hill of Moreh in the valley. Other corrections are: ‘was below him, on the north of the hill of M.’ (Budde); ‘was on the north of the hill of M.’ (Moore). The hill of Moreh was probably the hill of Shunem, the ‘Little Hermon’ of St Jerome, now called Nebî Dạḥî; it was here that the Philistines took up their position before the fatal battle of Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4). The hill of the môreh means the hill of the teacher; it was the seat of a holy place where divine teaching was given. En-dor (now ‘En-dûr), the home of the woman that had a familiar spirit, lay on the northern spur of the hill; cf. Psalm 83:10.
in the valley] i.e. the valley of Jezreel, Jdg 6:33.
Ch. Jdg 7:1-8. Gideon’s army is reduced
It seems to have been a fixed element in the tradition that 300 was the number of Gideon’s force (Jdg 7:6-8; Jdg 7:16; Jdg 7:19-21, Jdg 8:4); but Jdg 6:35 has just declared that four tribes responded to his call; accordingly we are here told how this army of volunteers, numbering 32,000, was cut down to 300. The story, however, rests upon an insecure foundation, for Jdg 7:23 says that the tribes were gathered together after the battle, and not before it, as stated in Jdg 6:35. Most critics consider that Jdg 7:2-8 a do not belong to either of the two main narratives, but there is no agreement as to the source from which they come. In Jdg 7:3 especially the allusion to Deuteronomy 20:8, and the incredibly large figures, betray a late origin; on the other hand, the test at the spring has the picturesque character of an ancient tradition. The whole passage has been much worked over by editorial hands.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.2. The people that are with thee] Whatever is to be understood by these words in Jdg 7:1, here they must refer to the host mentioned in Jdg 6:35.
lest Israel vaunt themselves against me] For the thought cf. Deuteronomy 8:11-17; Deuteronomy 9:4 f.; the same word vaunt occurs in Isaiah 10:15. The army is to be reduced in order that Jehovah’s intervention on behalf of Israel may be the more striking and all the glory His; cf. 1 Samuel 14:6, Psalm 44:3, 1 Corinthians 1:25-27.
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.3. trembling] Hebr. ḥârçd, with pointed reference to the name of the spring Ḥărôd. The sentence ‘whosoever is fearful … let him return’ closely resembles Deuteronomy 20:8, and may allude to the ordinance there laid down.
and depart from mount Gilead] The verb (ṣafar) occurs only here, and its meaning must be guessed from the context; the renderings ‘depart early’ (AV. following Kimchi, from Aram. ṣafra ‘morning’), or ‘go round,’ or ‘spring away from’ (Arab. ḍafara ‘leap’) are impossible or very doubtful. Moore’s emendation ‘And Gideon tried (ṣaraf) them’ is adopted by many, but the ‘testing,’ appropriate in Jdg 7:4, is not suitable here. Mount Gilead is probably a mistake for mount Gilboa, for Gilead was a district on the east of the Jordan.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.4. I will try them] So elsewhere of Jehovah’s testing the people, Jeremiah 9:7, Isaiah 48:10, Psalm 66:10, a figurative expression taken from the smelting of metals to get rid of impure properties.
So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.5. At the end of the verse LXX. cod. A and Luc. adds ‘him shalt thou set by himself,’ completing the parallel with the foregoing sentence. The words have probably fallen out by accident.
And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.6. putting their hand to their mouth] These words do not agree with Jdg 7:5, where ‘lappeth’ is explained ‘with his tongue, as a dog lappeth’; they belong to those who ‘bowed down upon their knees to drink water,’ and should be transferred to the end of the verse. LXX. cod. A and Luc. after ‘lapped’ reads with their tongue, and leaves out ‘to their mouth.’
It is difficult to see the point of the test. Was it that the majority who knelt down to drink shewed that they were thinking only of their thirst, heedless of the risk of being taken by surprise; while ‘the three hundred’ were able, while they lapped, to keep their faces towards the enemy and their hands upon their weapons? ‘The test in fact was a test of attitude, which, after all, both in physical and moral warfare, has proved of far greater value than strength or skill,’ G. A. Smith, Hist. Geogr., p. 399; perhaps this is as much as we can say.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.8. So the people took victuals in their hand] Not a strict transl. of the original, which must mean So they took the provisions of the people in their hand (LXX, marg.), though the text requires correction to yield this meaning. But is it likely that Gideon would burden his 300 men with the provisions of 10,000 (Jdg 7:3)? Moore, followed by Budde, Nowack, Lagrange, conjectures so he took the pitchers of the people from their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent, in preparation for Jdg 7:16 ff. This gives an excellent sense, and removes the harshness of the change of subjects (they took … he sent).
every man unto his tent] A conventional expression surviving from the days when the Israelites were nomads; cf. 1 Samuel 13:2, 1 Kings 12:16, etc.
and the camp of Midian] Continuation of Jdg 7:1.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.9–15. Gideon visits the Midianite camp
9. the same night] Probably the night of the day which began in Jdg 7:1.
get thee down] Here and in Jdg 7:11 a against the camp, to attack it; in Jdg 7:10 unto the camp, to visit it.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:10. thy servant] A warrior of rank Had an attendant who acted as armour-bearer, cf. Jdg 9:54, 1 Samuel 14:1; 1 Samuel 14:6. With a companion danger is more easily faced; cf. the words of Diomedes when he offers to explore the Trojan camp:
ἀλλʼ εἴ τίς μοι ἀνὴρ ἅμʼ ἕποιτο καὶ ἄλλος,
Μᾶλλον θαλπωρὴ, καὶ θαρσαλεώτερον ἔσται. Iliad X. 222 f.
And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.11. shall thine hands be strengthened] for a bold stroke. Hebrew speaks of the hands where we should speak of the heart; cf. 2 Samuel 2:7; 2 Samuel 16:21.
the armed men] Elsewhere of the Israelite hosts at the period of the Wandering and the Occupation; Exodus 13:18 E, Numbers 32:17 JE, Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12 D; the exact meaning of the word is not known. The LXX renders fifty by a mistaken etymology.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.12. and the Amalekites etc.] See on Jdg 6:3, and cf. Jdg 6:5.
lay along] lay settled, like locusts: the vast numbers explain both Gideon’s fear and the ease with which he escaped observation. But the verse is made up of standing expressions, and may be an editorial insertion; it rather interrupts the connexion between Jdg 7:11; Jdg 7:13.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.13. Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo] The phraseology recalls Genesis 37:6 f., Genesis 40:9 E. No doubt the two Midianites were lying in their tent: Gideon could listen without being seen.
a cake of barley bread] The word rendered cake occurs only here, and is of doubtful meaning; the context suggests a flat circular cake. Barley bread, the coarse food of the poor, was a symbol of the peasantry; the tent a symbol of the nomad.
tumbled] This same form of the verb is used of the flaming sword which turned in every direction, Genesis 3:24. So the cake turned over and over, this way and that, until it smote the tent which the man saw in his dream, not the tent, i.e. of the king, as Josephus takes it, misunderstanding the idiomatic use of the article; Ant. Jdg 7:6; Jdg 7:4.
and it fell] The words are out of place; the text as it stands makes the tent fall, then be turned upside down, and then fall. At the end of the verse, that the tent lay along ought probably to be rendered and the tent remained fallen. Perhaps some reader wrote the normal form and it fell in the margin, whence it crept into the text after and smote it.
And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.14. of Gideon the son of Joash] The phrase which follows means the men of Israel, as in Jdg 7:8; Jdg 7:23, Jdg 8:22, Jdg 9:55, Jdg 20:20, the sing, being used in a collective sense; and this rendering agrees with the symbol of the barley cake, which suggests the peasantry in general, not any particular individual. If, in accordance with usage, we translate the men of Israel, then it seems likely that the names of Gideon and his father were inserted to make the application more distinct. Some scholars would include the sword among the inserted words (cf. Jdg 7:20), but this is hardly necessary.
into their hand God hath delivered] A foreigner uses the name Elohim: Jehovah is for Israelites; cf. Jdg 3:20.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.16. divided … into three companies] Cf. Jdg 9:43 ff., 1 Samuel 11:11; 1 Samuel 13:17 f., Job 1:17 for similar tactics. Gideon had to make up by wit and daring what he lacked in numbers.
trumpets] Hebr. shôphâr, the curved horn of a cow or ram, used to give signals in war (Jdg 3:27, 2 Samuel 2:28, etc.); to be distinguished from the long metal haṣôṣĕrâh, the trumpet proper, which was used for religious purposes (2 Kings 12:13, 1 Chronicles 13:8, etc.); see the illustrations in Driver’s Joel and Amos, p. 145. As a sacred instrument the shophar is mentioned chiefly by later writers, Leviticus 25:9, 2 Chronicles 15:14; cf. the rams’ horns Joshua 6:4 ff. (E). The horns were put into the hands, not hung on the shoulders, of Gideon’s men.
torches within the pitchers] The word generally, but not always (Jdg 15:4 f.), implies a lighted torch. If the torches were alight the pitchers were used to conceal them. The pitcher was a large earthenware vessel, cf. Genesis 24:14 ff., 1 Kings 17:12 ff. (‘barrel’).
16–22. The night attack
The account of Gideon’s bold and successful stratagem is perfectly intelligible as a whole, though there is some confusion in the details, chiefly due to the repetitions in Jdg 7:17 (Gideon’s order), Jdg 7:20 (the blowing of the trumpets), Jdg 7:22 (the direction of the flight). It is usually objected that one pair of hands (Jdg 7:16) could not have carried a trumpet and a pitcher with a lighted (?) torch inside; the objection is rather prosaic; such a difficulty would not, perhaps, have occurred to an ancient writer. But the fact remains that the text in Jdg 7:17; Jdg 7:20; Jdg 7:22 is clearly not in its original form; are we to explain the overloading as the work of subsequent editors, or as an attempt to combine two different narratives of the same event? The latter explanation is adopted by most recent commentators; it is supposed that in one narrative the trumpets played a leading part, in the other, the pitchers and torches. At any rate the trumpets cannot have been introduced by a later hand, for they form a prominent feature of the story; so perhaps we can only suppose that here, as elsewhere in the history of Gideon (cf. Jdg 6:11-32; Jdg 6:35 and Jdg 7:23), two versions have been harmonized with more or less success. But to separate them is difficult; none of the attempts at an analysis can be called satisfactory. The problem remains in much uncertainty.
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.17. it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do] This repetition of the first half of the verse is perhaps due to an attempt to harmonize a double narrative. Omit the words and the connexion with Jdg 7:18 is improved: ‘when I come … and blow the trumpet (Jdg 7:18) … then blow ye.’
When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.19. the middle watch] The night was therefore divided into three watches: cf. ‘the morning watch’ Exodus 14:24, 1 Samuel 11:11. The beginning of the middle watch would be about midnight. In later times the Jews adopted the Roman custom of dividing the night into four watches, St Mark 13:35, St Matthew 14:25, St Luke 12:38.
And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.20. Gideon’s company having given the signal (Jdg 7:19), the two others reply, and all three together (Jdg 7:20) carry out the preconcerted plan.
The sentence ‘and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal’ seems to be, either in whole or in part, an addition, possibly from the ‘trumpet-story’; but the original form of the verse is past recovery.
The sword etc.] A sword for Jehovah and Gideon! The battle-cry as agreed was simply ‘For Jehovah and Gideon,’ Jdg 7:18; a sword has been added.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.21. The three bands of Israelites stood still while the Midianites were thrown into a panic by the startling noises and the sudden lights.
ran] The expression is somewhat weak. A slight correction, proposed by Moore and generally accepted, greatly improves the narrative, woke up.
and they shouted, and fled] So Verss.; the subject of both verbs is the host. They shouted means sounded the alarm; see Hosea 5:8, Joel 2:1, cf. Isaiah 15:4.
And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.22. The Midianites, roused suddenly from sleep, gave the alarm and tried to fly (Jdg 7:21); now, believing themselves to be completely surrounded, and cumbered by their tents and cattle, they turn their swords against one another (cf. 1 Samuel 14:20, 2 Kings 3:23), and the flight becomes general. For and against all the host read in all the host, LXX, Peshitto
The Midianites no doubt fled down the valley eastwards, and made for the Jordan fords, but the places named as marking the course of the flight cannot be identified with certainty. The accumulation of names (note the double as far as) is perhaps due to the fusion of two narratives. Beth-shittah (‘house of the acacia’) has been identified with the present Shiṭṭâh, 6 m. E. of Zer‘în (Jezreel), but this is too near the site of the camp. Zerçrah is perhaps to be read Zerçdah (with many MSS.) 1 Kings 11:26, which is generally identified with Zarĕthan, 2 Chronicles 4:17 compared with 1 Kings 7:46; this will bring the place considerably to the south, near to Adam (Joshua 3:16) = the ford Dâmiyeh. But the identification is not certain, for in 1 Kings 4:12 Zarĕthan is beside Beth-shean, the modern Bçsân, and below Jezreel; the two names are perhaps confused, possibly the northern was Zerçdah, the southern Zarĕthan. Abel-meholah (1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 19:16) is identified by Eusebius, Onom. Sacr., 227, 35 with Bethmaiĕla, a village in the Jordan valley, 10 Roman miles from Scythopolis (= Beth-shean). The lip of Abel-meholah (see marg.) was no doubt the cliff where the valley ended in a steep descent to the river. Tabbath is quite unknown.
And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.23–25. The pursuit
23. out of Naphtali etc.] The same tribes, with the addition of Zebulun, were summoned before the battle, Jdg 6:35; they must have formed the bulk of the host dismissed in Jdg 7:3-8. They returned to their homes; but now hearing of Midian’s disaster, they assemble again, this time independently of Gideon, and pursue the enemy. Such must be the general sense intended by this verse, which, however, can hardly have belonged to the narrative originally.
And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.24. Gideon sends a message (cf. Jdg 6:35) to the Ephraimites in the country S. of the battlefield, urging them to seize the fords, and so to meet the Midianites as they come flying down the Jordan valley. Cf. Jdg 3:27 f., Jdg 12:5 f.
the waters, as far as Beth-barah, and also Jordan (marg.)] As the text stands, the waters are distinguished from Jordan; hence Moore suggests that the waters refer to the Wadi Fâr‘a, a perennial stream which empties itself into the Jordan near the ford of Dâmiyeh; but the stream is not large enough to offer any serious obstacle, it would not be worth holding: the waters most naturally mean those of the Jordan; and also Jordan will then be either a gloss added to explain the waters, or a mistake for upon the Jordan, as the Peshitto reads; ‘upon’ = ‘on the bank of,’ as in Jdg 5:19, Numbers 22:5, Deuteronomy 3:12, etc. Beth-barah has not been discovered; the context implies that it lay S. of the Ephraimite country near the Jordan. The Verss. give the pronunciation Beth-bçrah, as if meaning ‘house of the well.’
And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.25. Oreb and Zeeb] The Midianite princes bear Hebrew (or Hebraized) names = ‘Raven’ and ‘Wolf.’ The sheikh of the powerful tribe of the Banû ‘Adwân, who range the country S.E. of the Jordan, still receives the hereditary title of Dhi’âb, i.e. Zeeb. Animal names of this kind were borne both by clans and individuals, more frequently by the former, as the O.T. shews; they may be explained as survivals from a totem stage of society. See Gray, Hebr. Pr. Names, 112–114. Instead of the two princes Oreb and Zeeb, the other narrative, Jdg 8:4-21, mentions the two kings Zebah and Zalmunna. Cf. Psalm 83:11.
the rock of Oreb … the winepress of Zeeb] It is implied that the spots were named after the chiefs who fell there. Possibly the names of two conical hills N. and N.W. of Jericho, ‘Uðð el ghurâb (‘raven’s nest’) Ṭuwçl edh-dhi’âb (‘ridge of the wolf’), have preserved a memory of the event; Buhl, Geogr., p. 115. Isaiah 10:16 interprets this episode in a wider sense; cf. also Isaiah 9:4.
and pursued Midian … beyond Jordan] The present narrative, Jdg 7:22 to Jdg 8:3, tells how Gideon chased the Midianites down to the Jordan fords and into the arms of the Ephraimites, who brought to him the heads of the two chieftains. Nothing is said of Gideon having crossed the Jordan. These words were probably added by a later editor who wished to bring Jdg 7:22 to Jdg 8:3 into harmony with Jdg 8:4 ff.