Judges 7:20
And the three companies blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow with: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) The trumpets in their right hands . . .—Thus they were comparatively defenceless, though, if they had any armour at all, doubtless they could still hold the shield on the left arm, while the sword was girded on the thigh. The effect of the sudden crash and glare and shout upon the vast unwieldy host of the Bedouins may be imagined. Startled from sleep in a camp which, like Oriental camps, must have been most imperfectly protected and disciplined, they would see on every side blazing torches, and hear on every side the rams’ horns and the terrible shout of the Israelites. (Comp. Tac. Ann. i. 68.) The instant result was a wild panic, such as that which seized the camp of the Persians at Platæe. The first thought which would rise in their minds would be that there was some treachery at work among the motley elements of the camp itself. Even a well-disciplined camp is liable to these outbursts of panic. One such occurred among the Greeks in the camp of the Ten Thousand during their retreat. To shame these groundless alarms, Klearchus next morning caused a reward to be proclaimed for any one who would give information “who had let the ass loose;” and this seems to have been a standing joke to shame Greek soldiers from such panics (Xen. Anab. ii. 2, 20). Several stratagems similar to that of Gideon are recorded in history. Polyænus, in his book on the “Art of War,” tells us that Diœtas, when attacking Heræa, “ordered the trumpeters to stand apart, and sound a charge opposite to many quarters of the city; and that the Heræans, hearing the blasts of many trumpets from many directions, thinking that the whole region was crowded with enemies, abandoned the city.” Frontinus also tells us that the Tarquinians and Faliscans tried to frighten the Romans with torches, and Minucius Rufus terrified the Scordisci by trumpets blown among the rocks (Strateg. ii. 3). Hannibal on one occasion escaped from Fabius Maximus by tying torches to the heads of cattle, and having them driven about the hills. The Druids waved torches to repel the attack of Suetonius Paulinus on the island of Mona (Tac. Ann. xiv. 30). An Arab chief (Bel-Arab) in the eighteenth century used trumpets in exactly the same manner as Gideon did on this occasion, and with the same success (Niebuhr, Beschr. von Arabien, p. 304). Ewald alludes to similar stratagems in Neapolitan and Hungarian wars, the latter so recently as 1849 (Gesch. ii. 503).

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.The middle watch - The old Jewish division of the night was three watches of four hours each. They are alluded to in 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.

"The beginning" of the watch would be about eleven o'clock at night.

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].

Held the lamps and the trumpets, that they might be thought to be a mighty host, having as many troops or companies as there were trumpets and lights. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers,.... The other two, observing what Gideon and his company did, followed their example, and at the same time blew their trumpets, and broke their pitchers; for that there were four companies, three besides Gideon's, as Kimchi and Ben Melech suggest, there is no reason to believe:

and held the lamps in their left hands; which they took out of the pitchers when they broke them, and holding them up in their left hands, gave a great blaze of light, which must be very surprising to the host of Midian, just awaked out of their sleep:

and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal; and which they continued blowing, the sound of which must be very dreadful, since it might be concluded, from such a number of trumpets, that there must be a vast army:

and they cried, the sword of the Lord and of Gideon; signifying that was drawn against the Midianites, and they must expect to be cut in pieces by it, since the sword was Jehovah's, sent and commissioned by him, and was put into the hand of Gideon as an instrument, with which execution would be done, the Lord helping him. The Targum is,"the sword of the Lord, and victory by the hand of Gideon''which victory was to be ascribed to the sword and power of God. This was an emblem of the efficacy of the word of God, accompanied with his power, to the destruction of the kingdom of Satan; the blowing of the trumpets may denote the ministration of the Gospel, the great trumpet to be blown by the apostles and ministers of the word; the holding forth the lamps may signify the same, the light of the divine word in the ministers of it, and the holding forth of it to others; and which is carried in earthen vessels, frail mortal men; and done that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God, and not of men; and the sword of the Lord is the word of God in the mouths of ministers, accompanied by the power of God; for it can only be through God that such weapons of warfare can become mighty to do the execution that is done by them; see 2 Corinthians 4:7 blowing of trumpets, and then a cry or shout of the soldiers to terrify the enemy, were used in later times (k).

(k) "At tuba terribilem sonitum", &c. Virgil Aeneid. 9.

And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The {k} sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.

(k) Shall destroy the enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. Gideon’s company having given the signal (Jdg 7:19), the two others reply, and all three together (Jdg 7:20) carry out the preconcerted plan.

The sentence ‘and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal’ seems to be, either in whole or in part, an addition, possibly from the ‘trumpet-story’; but the original form of the verse is past recovery.

The sword etc.] A sword for Jehovah and Gideon! The battle-cry as agreed was simply ‘For Jehovah and Gideon,’ Jdg 7:18; a sword has been added.But 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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