So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came to the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers that were in their hands.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The middle watch.—The Jews anciently divided the night, from 6 P.M. to 6 A.M., into three watches (Exodus 14:24; 1Samuel 11:11). The subsequent division into four watches of three hours each was borrowed from the Romans (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48). At the beginning of the middle watch—i.e., soon after 10 at night—would be the time at which the host would be buried in their first sleep.
They had but newly set the watch.—Literally, scarcely—or. “just in rousing they roused the watch.” The attack took place at the moment of confusion caused by changing the watch.Jdg 7:19. Middle watch — That is, of the second watch; for though afterward the night was divided into four watches by the Romans, (Matthew 14:25,) yet in more ancient times, and in the eastern parts, it was divided into three: he chose the dark and dead of the night, to increase their terror by the trumpets, whose sound would then be loudest, and the lamps, whose light would then shine most brightly, to surprise them, and conceal the smallness of their numbers.Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11; Psalm 63:6; Psalm 90:4; Psalm 119:148; Psalm 130:6; Lamentations 2:19. After the Jews fell under the power of the Romans, they used the Roman division of four watches of three hours each Matthew 14:25; Mark 13:35.
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].Of the middle watch, i.e. of the second watch; for though afterwards the night was divided into four watches by the Romans, Matthew 14:25, yet in more ancient times, and in the eastern parts, it was divided into three. He chose the dark and dead of the night to increase their terror by the trumpets, whose sound would then be loudest and best heard, and the lamps, whose light would then shine most brightly, and seem biggest, to surprise them at disadvantage, and to conceal the smallness of their numbers.
came unto the outside of the camp, in the beginning of the middle watch; the second watch, for the night was divided into three watches; for though in later times there were four watches, among the Romans (h), and which the Jews received from them; hence in the New Testament we read of the fourth watch; yet in earlier times, with the Jews and other eastern nations, there were but three watches, as affirmed by Jarchi and Kimchi on the place: and very wisely did Gideon fix on this watch for the time of his coming; for had he come at the first watch, many as yet might not have been in bed, or at least not fallen asleep; and had he come in the third watch, many might have been awake out of their sleep, and others up; but he took this time, a little after midnight, in the dead of the night, when the whole army was fast asleep:
and they had but newly set the watch; the first watch were just gone off, and the second were placed in their room; but since such an observation seems in a good measure unnecessary, for as Gideon came in the beginning of the watch it must in course be newly set; rather the words may be rendered, "in raising they raised up the watch" (i); that is, Gideon and his men did it by their approach; and they might call to them on purpose to give the alarm to the army, who upon that would at once hear the sound of the trumpets, and the clattering of the pitchers, and see the torches burning, to their great surprise:
and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands; as soon as they came up to the watch and had raised them; this did Gideon and his hundred men.So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. the middle watch] The night was therefore divided into three watches: cf. ‘the morning watch’ Exodus 14:24, 1 Samuel 11:11. The beginning of the middle watch would be about midnight. In later times the Jews adopted the Roman custom of dividing the night into four watches, St Mark 13:35, St Matthew 14:25, St Luke 12:38.Verse 19. - The middle watch. The ancient Israelites divided the night into three watches of four hours each, from sunset to sunrise, i.e. from six p.m. to six a.m. The first watch, from six to ten, is not mentioned in the Old Testament; but we have the middle watch mentioned here (from ten to two), and the morning watch (from two till six): Exodus 14:24 and 1 Samuel 11:11. According to this, Gideon's attack would have taken place soon after ten p.m., or towards eleven, the time when the sleep would be the deepest, the watchmen of the first watch having lately fallen into their first sleep. The later Israelites adopted the Roman division of the night into four watches (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; cf. Luke 12:38; Mark 13:35). 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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