Judges 7:11
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.
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(11)And thou shalt hear what they say.—This was the kind of omen known by the Jews as the Bath Kol, or “Daughter of a Voice.” For a similar instance see 1Samuel 14:6 (Jonathan and his armour-bearer). The word is used in slightly different senses. Sometimes it means a voice from heaven (Matthew 3:17, &c): such voices from heaven are described in the Talmud; sometimes it means the first chance words which a man hears after being bidden to look out for them as a Divine intimation; sometimes it means an actual echo (see Hamburger’s Talmud. Wörterb., s.5).

It was one of the four recognised modes of Divine direction (viz., prophets, dreams, Urim, and the Bath Kol, 1Samuel 28:6-15), but stood lowest of the four. It was also known to the Greeks, among whom the oracle sometimes bade a man to take as his answer the first casual words which he heard spoken on leaving the Temple.

The armed men.—Literally, ranks by, five, the word (chamooshim) rendered “harnessed” in Exodus 13:18, “armed” in Joshua 1:14. Probably here the word means “foreposts,” or “sentries”; and the Vulgate renders it “vigiliae.” The LXX. curiously render it “to the beginning,” (or in other MSS.) “to part of the fifty,” following a wrong punctuation.

That were in the host.—Probably “the host” was in some respects more like a temporary nomad migration, such as is so common among all wandering tribes. If so, it would not be by any means entirely composed of “armed men,” but would, like the Persians under Xerxes, trail with it a vast mass of camp followers, &c., who would probably be encamped in the centre with the baggage.

7:9-15 The dream seemed to have little meaning in it; but the interpretation evidently proved the whole to be from the Lord, and discovered that the name of Gideon had filled the Midianites with terror. Gideon took this as a sure pledge of success; without delay he worshipped and praised God, and returned with confidence to his three hundred men. Wherever we are, we may speak to God, and worship him. God must have the praise of that which encourages our faith. And his providence must be acknowledged in events, though small and seemingly accidental.The armed men - The word is rendered harnessed in Exodus 13:18 (see the note). The most probable meaning of the word is arrayed in divisions or ranks. 11. the outside of the armed men that were in the host—"Armed," means embodied under the five officers established by the ordinary laws and usages of encampments. The camp seems to have been unprotected by any rampart, since Gideon had no difficulty in reaching and overhearing a conversation, so important to him. Afterward shall thine hands be strengthened; thou wilt be encouraged to proceed, notwithstanding the smallness of thy number, which may deter thee.

And thou shalt hear what they shall say,.... The Midianites, or what shall be said by any of them; for though it was the night season, and so not a time for much conversation, as it may be supposed to be the dead of the night; yet something would be said and heard, which is a clear proof of the prescience of God respecting future contingent events:

and afterwards shall thine hands be strengthened; and his heart encouraged by what he should hear:

to go down into the camp; in an hostile manner, with his three hundred men, after his return to them:

then went he down with Phurah his servant; first privately, only they two, leaving his little army on the hill: and came

unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host; the sentinels, who were without side the camp, and stood complete in armour to guard it; and they came as near to them, in as still and private manner as they could, without being discovered. The Septuagint version is,"to the beginning of the fifty that were in the host;''and the Syriac and Arabic versions,"to the captain of the fifty;''these might be a party of the outer guards, consisting of fifty men, with one at the head of them, placed for the safety of the army in the night season, and to give notice of any approach to them, or attempt on them.

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.

Verse 11. - The armed men. The exact meaning of the word here rendered armed men (chamushim), and which occurs Exodus 13:18; Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12, is a little uncertain, but it is generally thought to be synonymous with another word (calutsim), also rendered armed (Numbers 32:32; Deuteronomy 3:18), and to mean literally girded, i.e. prepared to fight. These fighting men, as distinguished from the numbers of the nomads who were with their camels and cattle scattered all along the plain, were all collected in the camp, to the edge of which Gideon and Phurah crept stealthily in the dark. Judges 7:11But when Gideon came with his attendant to the end of the armed men (chamushim, as in Joshua 1:14; Exodus 13:18) in the hostile camp, and the enemy were lying spread out with their camels in the valley, an innumerable multitude, he heard one (of the fighting men) relate to his fellow (i.e., to another) a dream which he had had: "Behold a cake of barley bread was rolling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and smote it, so that it fell and turned upwards, and let the tent lay along." Then the other replied, "This is nothing else than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash the Israelite: God hath given Midian and all the camp into his hand." "The end of fighting men" signifies the outermost or foremost of the outposts in the enemy's camp, which contained not only fighting men, but the whole of the baggage of the enemy, who had invaded the land as nomads, with their wives, their children, and their flocks. In Judges 7:12, the innumerable multitude of the enemy is described once more in the form of a circumstantial clause, as in Judges 6:5, not so much to distinguish the fighting men from the camp generally, as to bring out more vividly the contents and meaning of the following dream. The comparison of the enemy to the sand by the sea-side recalls Joshua 11:4, and is frequently met with (see Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:13; 1 Samuel 13:5). With the word ויּבא in Judges 7:13, the thread of the narrative, which was broken off by the circumstantial clause in Judges 7:12, is resumed and carried further. The ἁπ. λεγ. צלוּל (Keri, צליל) is rendered cake, placenta, by the early translators: see Ges. Thes. p. 1170. The derivation of the word has been disputed, and is by no means certain, as צלל does not give any suitable meaning, either in the sense of to ring or to be overshadowed, and the meaning to roll (Ges. l.c.) cannot be philologically sustained; whilst צלה, to roast, can hardly be thought of, since this is merely used to denote the roasting of flesh, and קלה was the word commonly applied to the roasting of grains, and even "the roasted of barley bread" would hardly be equivalent to subcinericeus panis ex hordeo (Vulgate). "The tent," with the definite article, is probably the principal tent in the camp, i.e., the tent of the general. למעלה, upwards, so that the bottom came to the top. "The tent lay along," or the tent fell, lay in ruins, is added to give emphasis to the words. "This is nothing if not," i.e., nothing but. The cake of bread which had rolled into the Midianitish camp and overturned the tent, signifies nothing else than the sword of Gideon, i.e., Gideon, who is bursting into the camp with his sword, and utterly destroying it.

This interpretation of the dream was certainly a natural one under the circumstances. Gideon is especially mentioned simply as the leader of the Israelites; whilst the loaf of barley bread, which was the food of the poorer classes, is to be regarded as strictly speaking the symbol of Israel, which was so despised among the nations. The rising of the Israelites under Gideon had not remained a secret to the Midianites, and no doubt filled them with fear; so that in a dream this fear might easily assume the form of the defeat or desolation and destruction of their camp by Gideon. And the peculiar form of the dream is also psychologically conceivable. As the tent is everything to a nomad, he might very naturally picture the cultivator of the soil as a man whose life is all spent in cultivating and baking bread. In this way bread would become almost involuntarily a symbol of the cultivator of the soil, whilst in his own tent he would see a symbol not only of his mode of life, but of his freedom, greatness, and power. If we add to this, that the free pastoral tribes, particularly the Bedouins of Arabia, look down with pride not only upon the poor tillers of the soil, but even upon the inhabitants of towns, and that in Palestine, the land of wheat, none but the poorer classes feed upon barley bread, we have here all the elements out of which the dream of the Midianitish warrior was formed. The Israelites had really been crushed by the Midianites into a poor nation of slaves. But whilst the dream itself admits of being explained in this manner in a perfectly natural way, it acquires the higher supernatural character of a divine inspiration, from the fact that God not only foreknew it, but really caused the Midianite to dream, and to relate the dream to his comrade, just at the time when Gideon had secretly entered the camp, so that he should hear it, and discover therefrom, as God had foretold him, the despondency of the foe. Under these circumstances, Gideon could not fail to regard the dream as a divine inspiration, and to draw the assurance from it, that God had certainly given the Midianites into his hands.

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