And the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return to his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Deuteronomy 20:7 and which the officers repeated after him to the people aloud, as before observed; and then after that an officer speaks of himself, or in his own words, and not in those of the priest, as follows:
what man that is fearful, &c. and then another officer causes all the people to hear it:
and they shall say, what man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? that has not courage to face his enemies, to whom the terrors of war, and especially of death, are dreadful; the Targum of Jonathan adds,"because of his sin;''whose sins stare him in the face, and lie heavy on his conscience; so that he is afraid he shall die in battle, and in his sins, and suffer divine vengeance; both these senses are observed in the Misnah (y). According to R. Akiba, a fearful and fainthearted man is one"that cannot stand in battle array, or behold a drawn sword; but R. Jose the Galilean says, he is one that is afraid of the transgressions he has committed; and therefore the law joins to this all those things for which a man may return;''as having built a new house, planted a vineyard, and betrothed a wife; that so it might be thought it was on account of one or other of these that he returned, and not through faintheartedness, either because of the terrors of war, or of his own conscience for his sins:
let him go and return to his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart; lest, by his pale looks and trembling joints, his fainting fits and swoons, he discourage the rest in the same company with him, and by his example make them unfit for war also.And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. shall speak further] The change in the formula is no proof that this is a later addition to the law (as Steuern. avers).
fearful and fainthearted] It is true that such were also supposed to be possessed by evil spirits (Schwally). For a Celtic analogy see Scott’s Fair Maid of Perth, in which Conacher’s timidity is attributed by his foster-father to possession. But there is no evidence of such a superstition here. The rule is rather in sympathy with this Book’s constant insistence upon whole-hearted devotion in the service of God. In no direction of life is He content with less. Cp. Jdg 7:3.
lest his brethren’s heart, etc.] ‘Fear is catching.’ (M. Henry.)Verse 8. - The shoterim were also to allow any that were naturally timid and fainthearted to return to their homes, lest, if they remained with the host, others, infected by them, should lose courage and become unfit for service. His brethren's heart faint; literally, flow down or melt (cf. Joshua 7:5). In Deuteronomy 1:28, this verb is rendered by "discouraged." Numbers 31:6; cf. 1 Samuel 4:4, 1 Samuel 4:11; 2 Chronicles 13:12), whom the Rabbins call המלחמה משׁיח (the anointed of the battle), and raise to the highest dignity next to the high priest, no doubt simply upon the ground of Numbers 31:6 (see Lundius, jd. Heiligth. p. 523).
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