Judges 7:16
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
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(16) Into three companies.—See Judges 9:43. This division of the attacking force was a common stratagem. We find it in Job 1:17—“the Chaldæans made out three bands “—and it was adopted by Saul against the Ammonites (1Samuel 11:11), and by David against Absalom (2Samuel 18:2). (Comp. Genesis 14:15.)

A trumpet.—Hearing the sound of three hundred rams’ horns, the Midianites would naturally suppose that they were being attacked by three hundred companies.

Pitchers.—The Hebrew word is caddim, which is connected with our cask—the Greek, kados. They were of earthenware (Judges 7:19-20), (LXX., hydrias), and hence the Vulgate rendering (lagenas) is mistaken.

Lamps.—The LXX., perhaps, chose the word lampadas from its resemblance to lappîdîm—a principle by which they are often guided. Lampadas, however, here means not “lamps,” but (as the margin gives it) “firebrands,” or “torches.” The best illustration is furnished by a passage in Lane’s Modern Egyptians (I., Judges 4), where he tells us that the zabit or agha of the police in Cairo carries with him at night “a torch, which burns, soon after it is lighted, without a flame, excepting when it is waved through the air, when it suddenly blazes forth: it therefore answers the same purpose as our dark lantern. The burning end is sometimes concealed in a small pot or jar, or covered with something else when not required to give light.” These torches are simply of wood dipped in turpentine or pitch, which are not easily extinguished.

7:16-22 This method of defeating the Midianites may be alluded to, as exemplifying the destruction of the devil's kingdom in the world, by the preaching of the everlasting gospel, the sounding that trumpet, and the holding forth that light out of earthen vessels, for such are the ministers of the gospel, 2Co 4:6,7. God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, a barley-cake to overthrow the tents of Midian, that the excellency of the power might be of God only. The gospel is a sword, not in the hand, but in the mouth: the sword of the Lord and of Gideon; of God and Jesus Christ, of Him that sits on the throne and the Lamb. The wicked are often led to avenge the cause of God upon each other, under the power of their delusions, and the fury of their passions. See also how God often makes the enemies of the church instruments to destroy one another; it is a pity that the church's friends should ever act like them.Gideon himself took the command of one company, and sent the other two under their respective captains to different sides of the camp Judges 7:18, Judges 7:21. Jud 7:16-24. His Stratagem against Midian.

16-22. he divided the three hundred men into three companies—The object of dividing his forces was, that they might seem to be surrounding the enemy. The pitchers were empty to conceal the torches, and made of earthenware, so as to be easily broken; and the sudden blaze of the held-up lights—the loud echo of the trumpets, and the shouts of Israel, always terrifying (Nu 23:21), and now more terrible than ever by the use of such striking words, broke through the stillness of the midnight air. The sleepers started from their rest; not a blow was dealt by the Israelites; but the enemy ran tumultuously, uttering the wild, discordant cries peculiar to the Arab race. They fought indiscriminately, not knowing friend from foe. The panic being universal, they soon precipitately fled, directing their flight down to the Jordan, by the foot of the mountains of Ephraim, to places known as the "house of the acacia" [Beth-shittah], and "the meadow of the dance" [Abel-meholah].

Into three companies; to make a show of a vast army encompassing them.

Lamps, or, torches, made of such materials as would quickly take fire, and keep it for some time.

Within the pitchers; partly to preserve the flame from the violence of wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden and unexpected flashes of light.

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies,.... One hundred in a company, partly to make the better figure, a show of an army, with a right and left wing, and partly that they might fall upon the camp of Midian in different parts:

and he put a trumpet in every man's hand; they that returned of the trumpeters having left their trumpets behind them, whereby there was a sufficient number for three hundred men; and these were put into their hands, that when they blew them together, the, noise would be very great; and it would seem as if they were an exceeding great army, and so very much terrify their enemies:

with empty pitchers, and lamps with the pitchers; the pitchers were of earth, and so easily broken, and would make a great noise when clashed against each other; and these were empty of water, or otherwise would not have been fit to put lamps into, and the lamps put in them were not of oil; for then, when the pitchers were broken, the oil would have run out; but were a kind of torches, made of rosin, wax, pitch, and such like things; and these were put into the pitcher, partly to preserve them from the wind, and chiefly to conceal them from the enemy, till just they came upon them, and then held them out; which in a dark night would make a terrible blaze, as before they served to give them light down the hill into the camp.

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps {h} within the pitchers.

(h) These weak means God used to signify that the whole victory came from him.

16. divided … into three companies] Cf. Jdg 9:43 ff., 1 Samuel 11:11; 1 Samuel 13:17 f., Job 1:17 for similar tactics. Gideon had to make up by wit and daring what he lacked in numbers.

trumpets] Hebr. shôphâr, the curved horn of a cow or ram, used to give signals in war (Jdg 3:27, 2 Samuel 2:28, etc.); to be distinguished from the long metal haṣôṣĕrâh, the trumpet proper, which was used for religious purposes (2 Kings 12:13, 1 Chronicles 13:8, etc.); see the illustrations in Driver’s Joel and Amos, p. 145. As a sacred instrument the shophar is mentioned chiefly by later writers, Leviticus 25:9, 2 Chronicles 15:14; cf. the rams’ horns Joshua 6:4 ff. (E). The horns were put into the hands, not hung on the shoulders, of Gideon’s men.

torches within the pitchers] The word generally, but not always (Jdg 15:4 f.), implies a lighted torch. If the torches were alight the pitchers were used to conceal them. The pitcher was a large earthenware vessel, cf. Genesis 24:14 ff., 1 Kings 17:12 ff. (‘barrel’).

16–22. The night attack

The account of Gideon’s bold and successful stratagem is perfectly intelligible as a whole, though there is some confusion in the details, chiefly due to the repetitions in Jdg 7:17 (Gideon’s order), Jdg 7:20 (the blowing of the trumpets), Jdg 7:22 (the direction of the flight). It is usually objected that one pair of hands (Jdg 7:16) could not have carried a trumpet and a pitcher with a lighted (?) torch inside; the objection is rather prosaic; such a difficulty would not, perhaps, have occurred to an ancient writer. But the fact remains that the text in Jdg 7:17; Jdg 7:20; Jdg 7:22 is clearly not in its original form; are we to explain the overloading as the work of subsequent editors, or as an attempt to combine two different narratives of the same event? The latter explanation is adopted by most recent commentators; it is supposed that in one narrative the trumpets played a leading part, in the other, the pitchers and torches. At any rate the trumpets cannot have been introduced by a later hand, for they form a prominent feature of the story; so perhaps we can only suppose that here, as elsewhere in the history of Gideon (cf. Jdg 6:11-32; Jdg 6:35 and Jdg 7:23), two versions have been harmonized with more or less success. But to separate them is difficult; none of the attempts at an analysis can be called satisfactory. The problem remains in much uncertainty.

Verse 16. - Trumpets, which had been collected from the whole army (ver. 8, note). Lamps. Rather, as in the margin, torches, within the pitchers, so as not to be seen till the pitchers were broken, when the torches would flare with a sudden blaze. The pitchers were vessels for drawing water, as appears from Genesis 24:14, 16, 18, 20. They were doubtless of earthenware, as they were so easily broken. Judges 7:16When therefore he had heard the dream related and interpreted, he worshipped, praising the Lord with joy, and returned to the camp to attack the enemy without delay. He then divided the 300 men into three companies, i.e., three attacking columns, and gave them all trumpets and empty pitchers, with torches in the pitchers in their hands. The pitchers were taken that they might hide the burning torches in them during their advance to surround the enemy's camp, and then increase the noise at the time of the attack, by dashing the pitchers to pieces (Judges 7:20), and thus through the noise, as well as the sudden lighting up of the burning torches, deceive the enemy as to the strength of the army. At the same time he commanded them, "See from me, and do likewise," - a short expression for, As ye see me do, so do ye also (כּן, without the previous כּ, or כּאשׁר as in Judges 5:15; see Ewald, 260, a.), - "I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me; ye also blow the trumpets round about the entire camp," which the 300 men divided into three companies were to surround, "and say, To the Lord and Gideon." According to Judges 7:20, this war-cry ran fully thus: "Sword to (for) the Lord and Gideon." This addition in Judges 7:20, however, does not warrant us in inserting "chereb" (sword) in the text here, as some of the early translators and MSS have done.

(Note: Similar stratagems to the one adopted by Gideon here are recorded by Polyaenus (Strateg. ii. c. 37) of Dicetas, at the taking of Heraea, and by Plutarch (Fabius Max. c. 6) of Hannibal, when he was surrounded and completely shut in by Fabius Maximus. An example from modern history is given by Niebuhr (Beschr. von Arabien, p. 304). About the middle of the eighteenth century two Arabian chiefs were fighting for the Imamate of Oman. One of them, Bel-Arab, besieged the other, Achmed ben Said, with four or five thousand men, in a small castle on the mountain. But the latter slipped out of the castle, collected together several hundred men, gave every soldier a sign upon his head, that they might be able to distinguish friends from foes, and sent small companies to all the passes. Every one had a trumpet to blow at a given signal, and thus create a noise at the same time on every side. The whole of the opposing army was thrown in this way into disorder, since they found all the passes occupied, and imagined the hostile army to be as great as the noise.)

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