And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking to the people that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Captains of the armies—i.e., special leaders for the campaigns, whose command would probably cease when it was over. We may suppose from mention of the “thousands” in the army—“the captain of their thousand” (1Samuel 17:18)—that the military divisions corresponded with the civil organization of the people so far as this, that the men of the same “thousand,” according to Jethro’s arrangement, would be brigaded together, and have one captain. If, as is also possible, the word “thousand” in military language signifies the contingent furnished by a “thousand” in Israel, irrespective of its number, it would remove many difficulties; for the whole thousand would very rarely be in the field together, and the contingent sent by a given “thousand” might consist of a very few men. If, therefore, the contingent of sixty “thousands” were to be described as 60,000, and the sixty companies were all cut up or annihilated, it might be reported as a slaughter of 60,000 men, while the lives actually lost would be nothing like so many.Deuteronomy 20:9. They shall make captains — Or rather, as the Hebrew is, they shall set or place the captains of the armies in the head or front of the people under their charge, that they may conduct them, and, by their example, encourage their soldiers. It is not likely they had their captain to make when they were just going to battle.they shall set or place the captains of the armies in the head or front of the people under their charge, that they may conduct and manage them, and by their example encourage their soldiers. But it is not likely they had their captains to make or choose when they were just going to battle.
that they shall make captains of armies to lead on the people; on to battle; that is, either the officers should do this, which may seem to confirm what has been hinted, that they might be generals of the army, who constituted captains under them, to lead the people on to battle: unless this is to be understood of the princes of Israel, or of the king when they had one, and his ministers; for it does not appear in any instance that the people chose their own officers over them, to go out before them, and lead them on to battle; or "to be at the head of them" (z); which the Jewish writers understand in a very different sense; not to head them, or be at the head of them, to direct and command them, but to keep them from deserting: their sense is, that the officers having dismissed persons in the circumstances before described, and set stout men before them, and others behind them (i.e. the army of the people), with iron hatchets in their hands, and every one that sought to return, they had power to cut off his legs; since flight is the beginning of falling before their enemies (a).And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. they shall appoint] They, not necessarily the officers of the previous clause, but indefinite: those whose duty it is to appoint, or the people as a whole. Cp. 1Ma 3:55 f.
captains of hosts] The chiefs of the main divisions, cp. 1 Kings 2:5. These are not appointed till the host has been sifted of all whom it was not proper to allow to accompany it, because the exemptions apply to all ranks. With these rules for sifting the host, cp. Cromwell’s measures with the recruits for his Ironsides.Verse 9. - The next thing the shoterim had to do was to appoint captains to head the people who were going to war. The army was divided into bands or companies, and over each of these a captain was placed, whose it was to command and lead (cf. Numbers 31:14, 48; 1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Samuel 22:7; 2 Samuel 18:1). Captains of the armies. The phrase, "captain of a host" (שַׂר צָבָא), usually designates the general or commander-in-chief of the entire army (Genesis 21:22; 2 Samuel 2:8; 1 Kings 16:16, etc.); but here the phrase is used in the plural of the chiefs of the companies or detachments of which the whole was composed. 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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