Judges 6:2
And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
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(2) The hand of Midian prevailed.—See Judges 3:10. This oppression is wholly different from that with which we have been dealing in the last chapter. That was the last great attempt of the old inhabitants to recover their lost country; this is a foreign invasion.

The dens which are in the mountains.—The word mineharoth, rendered dens (LXX., mandrai), occurs here only. Rashi and Kimchi render it, “caves lighted from above,” deriving it from neharah, “light” (Job 3:4). They were probably thinking of the subterranean galleries like those found by Wetzstein in the Hauran (p. 45). R. Tanchum and others take it to mean fire-signals. But the more probable derivation is nahar, “a river,” and then the meaning is “torrent-gullies,” which they easily converted into places of concealment, since the limestone hills of Palestine abound in caves. Josephus understood it to mean mines and caverns (Antt. v. 6. § 1). (Comp. 1Samuel 13:6 : “When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.” Hebrews 11:38 : “in dens and caves of the earth.”) Three places of hiding are mentioned: (1) The mineharoth, perhaps catacombs and galleries in the rocks, which, as the article shows, were pointed out long afterwards. (2) Craggy peaks, like Rimmon, Magada, &c. (3) “Limestone caves, here first mentioned, and afterwards often used, like the Corycian cave in Greece during the Persian invasion, and the caves of the Asturias in Spain during the occupation of the Moors. It was returning to the old troglodyte habits of the Horites and Phoenicians” (Stanley, i. 340). These caves were used, long afterwards, by the brigands whom Herod and the Romans found it so hard to extirpate.

6:1-6 Israel's sin was renewed, and Israel's troubles were repeated. Let all that sin expect to suffer. The Israelites hid themselves in dens and caves; such was the effect of a guilty conscience. Sin dispirits men. The invaders left no food for Israel, except what was taken into the caves. They prepared that for Baal with which God should have been served, now God justly sends an enemy to take it away in the season thereof.The word rendered "dens" is only found in this passage. It is best explained of ravines hollowed out by torrents, which the Israelites made into hiding-places. 2. made … dens … in the mountains and caves—not, of course, excavating them, for they were already, but making them fit for habitation. In which they might secure their persons and provisions from the hands of the Midianites.

And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel,.... They were too strong for them, and overcame them, and brought them into subjection to them, and no wonder, when the Lord delivered them into their hand:

and because of the Midianites; because of their usage of them, their manner of coming upon them yearly, and pillaging and plundering their substance, as after related:

the children of Israel made them dens which are in the mountains; the word for "dens" has the signification of light in it, and are so called either by an antiphrasis, because they were dark, or, as Kimchi thinks, because they had a window at the top of them, which let in the light (a) but Ben Gersom conjectures they were torches, which gave a great light, and when they that held them saw from the mountains the Midianites, by these torches they made a signal to the Israelites to take care and hide themselves and their substance:

and caves, and strong holds; the caves were for the poorer sort, and the strong holds for the richer to retire to with their goods; though, according to Jarchi, the latter were no other than fences they made in woods, by cutting down trees, and setting them round about them, perhaps much the same as the thickets, 1 Samuel 13:6.

(a) So David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 90. 3. or "because men flowed and flocked to them for safety"; so Buxtorf.

And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: {a} and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.

(a) For fear of the Midianites, they fled into the dens of the mountains.

2. the hand … prevailed] A formula of Rd; cf. Jdg 3:10.

dens] This translation is a guess from the context. The mention of caves prepares the way for 11b; for strong holds cf. 1 Samuel 23:14; 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:29 etc. Under pressure from the Philistines at a later time similar refuges were used, 1 Samuel 13:6.

Verse 2. - The dens... and caves. In the writer's time certain hiding-places called by the above names were traditionally known as the places where the Israelites took refuge during the terrible Midianite invasion. The limestone hills of Palestine abounded in such caves. Judges 6:2The Oppression of Israel by Midian and Its Allies. Their power pressed so severely upon the Israelites, that before (or because of) them the latter "made them the ravines which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds," sc., which were to be met with all over the land in after times (viz., at the time when our book was written), and were safe places of refuge in time of war. This is implied in the definite article before מנהרות and the following substantives. The words "they made them" are not at variance with the fact that there are many natural caves to be found in the limestone mountains of Palestine. For, on the one hand, they do not affirm that all the caves to be found in the land were made by the Israelites at that time; and, on the other hand, עשׂה does not preclude the use of natural caves as places of refuge, since it not only denotes the digging and making of caves, but also the adaptation of natural caves to the purpose referred to, i.e., the enlargement of them, or whatever was required to make them habitable. The ἁπ. λεγ. מנהרות does not mean "light holes" (Bertheau), or "holes with openings to the light," from נהר, in the sense of to stream, to enlighten (Rashi, Kimchi, etc.), but is to be taken in the sense of "mountain ravines," hollowed out by torrents (from נהר, to pour), which the Israelites made into hiding-places. מצדות, fortresses, mountain strongholds. These ravines, caves, and fortresses were not merely to serve as hiding-places for the Israelitish fugitives, but much more as places of concealment for their possessions, and necessary supplies. For the Midianites, like genuine Bedouins, thought far more of robbing and plundering and laying waste the land of the Israelites, than of exterminating the people themselves. Herodotus (i. 17) says just the same respecting the war of the Lydian king Alyattes wit the Milesians.
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