And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Put themselves in array at Baal-tamar.—This is either a detail added out of place (so that we might almost suppose that there has been some accidental transposition of clauses), or it means that when the Israelites in their pretended rout had got as far as Baal-tamar (“Lord of the Palm”) they saw the appointed smoke-signal of the ambuscade, and at that point rallied against their pursuers. What makes this probable is that Baal-tamar can only have derived its name from some famous, and therefore isolated, palm-tree. Now there was exactly such a palm tree—the well known “Palm of Deborah” (see Note on Judges 4:5)—“between Ramah and Bethel,” and therefore at a little distance from the spot where the roads branch. The place was still called Bathamar in the days of Eusebius and Jerome. The Chaldee rendering, “in the plains of Jericho” (“the palm city,” Judges 1:16), is singularly erroneous.
Out of the meadows of Gibeah.—The word maareh, rendered “meadows,” occurs nowhere else. Some derive it from arah, “to strip.” The LXX., not understanding it, render it as a name, Maraagabe, and in Cod. A (following a different reading), “from the west of Gibeah,” as also does the Vulg. Rashi renders it, “because of the stripping of Gibeah,” and Buxtorf, “after the stripping of Gibeah.” It is, however, clear that the words are in apposition to and in explanation of “out of their places:” The Syriac and Arabic understand maareh to mean “a cave” or “caves,” printing it maarah instead of maareh. Similarly the reading “from the west” only involves the change of a single letter (maarab). If the text be left unaltered, the “meadows” may have been concealed from the town by intervening rocks. In Isaiah 19:7 aroth mean “pastures.”Judges 4:5, the exact locality here indicated, since "the highway" Judges 20:31 along which the Israelites enticed the Benjamites to pursue them, leads straight to Ramah, which lay only a mile beyond the point where the two ways branch off.
The meadows of Gibeah - The word rendered "meadow" is only found here. According to its etymology, it ought to mean a "bare open place", which is particularly unsuitable for an ambush. However, by a change in the vowel-points, without any alteration in the letters, it becomes the common word for "a cavern".
out of the meadows of Gibeah—Hebrew, "the caves of Gibeah"; a hill in which the ambuscades lay hid.Out of their place; where they had disposed themselves, that they might fall upon the Benjamites, when they were drawn forth to a sufficient distance from their city, and when they were pursuing that party, mentioned Judges 20:30.
Came forth out of their places, to execute what was agreed upon, even to take Gibeah, and burn it, as they actually did, Judges 20:37.
and put themselves in array at Baaltamar; drew up in a line of battle at that place, facing their enemies, in order to engage with them: this place the Targum calls the plains of Jericho, that being the city of palm trees, which Tamar signifies; and so Jarchi interprets it; but these are too far off; it must be some place near Gibeah. Jerom (w) speaks of a little village in his time in those parts, called Bethamari, and may be thought to be this same place; perhaps in the times of the old Canaanites here was a grove of palm trees, in which Baal was worshipped, from whence it had its name:
and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah; or plain of Gibeah, as the Targum; for as the city was built on a hill, at the bottom of it were a plain and fine meadows of grass, and here an ambush was placed at some little distance from the city; and when the army of the Benjaminites were drawn off from it, in pursuit of Israel, these came forth and placed themselves between them and the city.And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)33. rose up … set themselves in array] The Israelites had taken up their position opposite Gibeah and then retired northwards (Jdg 20:30-32); now, apparently, after the feigned retreat they take up a second position at a further distance from Gibeah. But this is hardly the natural meaning of the words; rose up implies a new action (e.g. Jdg 20:19) rather than the repetition of a movement which had already begun. It is in fact difficult to fit Jdg 20:33 a into the context. May it then come from the A narrative, and form the sequel of Jdg 20:29? This would give us an allusion to the battle, which otherwise is missing from A: after the ambush was set round Gibeah (Jdg 20:29), the main army of Israel took up its position in Baal-tamar (Jdg 20:33 a). But the language of the verse does not inspire confidence in its originality (lit. the men of Israel rose up from his place!); on the other hand the mention of Baal-tamar may well be ancient. Perhaps we may describe this half-verse as an early addition. See further below.
Baal-tamar] Site unknown, but not far from Gibeah; Eusebius (OS 238, 75) declares that the name was surviving in the locality as Beth-tamar. Baal-tamar = B. of the palm-tree, a rare instance of the god Baal being associated with a tree; cf. Jeremiah 2:27. The palm was a symbol of Ashtoreth rather than of Baal.
 See Baudissin, Adonis u. Esmun (1911), p. 176. Winckler interprets differently, Baal is Tamar, i.e. Ishtar-Ashtoreth, the local deity possessing the attributes of god and goddess: Gesch. Israels ii. 98 ff.
brake forth] Elsewhere of the sea or a river, Job 38:8; Job 40:23, Ezekiel 32:2; from the same root comes the name of the fountain at Jerusalem, Gihon the gusher. So here, of the Hers in wait bursting forth from ambush; as applied in this way to warfare the word is used in Aramaic. Cf. the parallel account from A in Jdg 20:37.
Maareh-geba] Supposed to mean the bare or open space of G., but probably a mistake for maarâb legeba, i.e. west of Geba, LXX. cod. A and mss., Vulgate; a late usage, 2 Chronicles 32:30; 2 Chronicles 33:14. Geba is either a mistake for Gibeah (as in Jdg 20:10), or more probably = Jeba‘, N.E. of Gibeah.Verse 33. - Rose up out of their place. The narrative is singularly obscure and broken, and difficult to follow. But the meaning seems to be, that when the Israelite army had reached Baal-tamar in their flight, they suddenly stopped and formed to give battle to the pursuing Benjamites. And at the same time the liers in wait came out from their ambushment and placed themselves in the rear of the Benjamites on the direct road to Gibeah. Baal-tamar, a place of palm trees. The site has not been identified, but may possibly, or probably, be the same as the palm tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel (Judges 4:5). The meadows of Gibeah, Hebrew, Maareh-Geba, may very likely have been, as the Septuagint takes it, a proper name, denoting some locality outside Gibeah (here called Geba) where the ambush was concealed. The meaning of the word maareh is thought to be a bare tract of ground without trees - something like a heath or common. It may have had pits, or deep depressions, where the ambush would be hid both from the city itself and from the high road, or other facilities for concealment.
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