Judges 7:3
Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
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(3) Whosoever is fearful and afraid.—This proclamation is in exact accordance with Deuteronomy 20:8 (and the other general directions in that chapter). It is there founded on the psychological observation that cowardice is exceedingly contagious, so that the presence of timid men in an army is a source of direct danger. The same rule was rigidly observed by the faithful Judas Maccabæus (1 Maccabees 3:56). Epaminondas, for the same reason, made the same proclamation before the battle of Leuctra. In this instance there was the further reason given in the previous verse. “The ancients had observed that even when there are many legions it is always the few that win the battle” (Tac. Ann. xiv. 36).

Depart early.—The Hebrew word tsaphar occurs here only. The Chaldee explains it by tsiphra, “in the morning;” and Abarband says that this injunction was given in order that they might not incur shame when they retired. The rendering “hastily” is explained to mean “like a bird” (tsippor). Keil, connecting it with an Arabic root, makes it mean “slink away by bye-paths.” It seems to involve a shade of contempt—“Let him take himself off.” (Trolle sich: Cassel.)

From mount Gilead.—This expression has caused great difficulty, but the Hebrew cannot mean “to mount Gilead,” nor yet “beyond mount Gilead.” The only tenable solution of the difficulty is, (1) to alter the text into “mount Gilboa” (Clericus), or from meehar, “from mount,” to maheer, “speedily” (Michaelis); or (2) to suppose that “mount Gilead” was a rallying-cry of the Manassites in general, for Gilead was a son of Abiezer (Numbers 26:30, where Jeezer is merely an error); and hence was derived the name “Gilead” of the trans-Jordanic district which fell to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:5-6). If this be a true conjecture, the phrase “let him depart from mount Gilead” means “let him leave the camp of Manasseh.” One more conjecture is that Gilead is an ancient name for Gilboa (Schwarz).

There returned of the people twenty and two thousand.—No detail could more decisively show the terror struck into them by the sight of the Midianite host. They looked on them with the same alarm with which the Greeks, before Marathon, used to gaze on the Persian dress. It must not, however, be supposed that all the defaulters went straight to their homes. Doubtless many of them took part in the pursuit which made the victory decisive.

Jdg 7:3. From mount Gilead — Not that mount Gilead which was on the east side of Jordan, for the camps, both of the Israelites and Midianites, were on the west side of that river, in the land of Canaan; but another mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh. There returned of the people twenty and two thousand — These, finding their whole army very small, in comparison of that of their enemies, who were a hundred and thirty-five thousand, (Jdg 8:10,) and all, no doubt, well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success, whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unarmed, lost the courage which they had at first, and therefore returned.

7:1-8. God provides that the praise of victory may be wholly to himself, by appointing only three hundred men to be employed. Activity and prudence go with dependence upon God for help in our lawful undertakings. When the Lord sees that men would overlook him, and through unbelief, would shrink from perilous services, or that through pride they would vaunt themselves against him, he will set them aside, and do his work by other instruments. Pretences will be found by many, for deserting the cause and escaping the cross. But though a religious society may thus be made fewer in numbers, yet it will gain as to purity, and may expect an increased blessing from the Lord. God chooses to employ such as are not only well affected, but zealously affected in a good thing. They grudged not at the liberty of the others who were dismissed. In doing the duties required by God, we must not regard the forwardness or backwardness of others, nor what they do, but what God looks for at our hands. He is a rare person who can endure that others should excel him in gifts or blessings, or in liberty; so that we may say, it is by the special grace of God that we regard what God says to us, and not look to men what they do.The proclamation was in accordance with the Law (see the marginal reference). No mountain of the name of Gilead is known in this locality, and it has been conjectured that the right reading is Gilboa. Others think that this may be a form of proclamation customary in Manasseh. 3. Now therefore …, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful … let him return—This proclamation was in terms of an established law (De 20:8). Mount Gilead; not that famous Mount Gilead which was beyond Jordan; for it is apparent that both the camps of the Israelites and of the Midianites were on this side Jordan: but another Mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh; which might be so called, either for some resemblance it had with the other Mount Gilead, or in remembrance of their father Gilead; or that this might be a memorial of their near relation to their brethren, notwithstanding their being divided one from another by Jordan; or for some other reason now unknown at this distance of time and place. Or, the words may be rendered towards Mount Gilead; for the Hebrew particle mid, or mere, is sometimes rendered towards, of which see Genesis 11:2 13:11 Deu 32:2 2 Samuel 6:2. And so it may be understood of the famous Mount Gilead beyond Jordan, which he may mention here, either,

1. Because many of his soldiers were of that half tribe of Manasseh which dwelt there, and so it was most proper for them to return thither; or,

2. Because that was their safest course, to get furthest from the danger which they feared; or,

3. Because though he would remove them from danger, yet he would not have them dispersed, but kept together in a body about Mount Gilead; knowing that they who had not courage enough to fight their enemies, might have valour enough to pursue them when they were beaten by others; and suspecting that the Midianites, if beaten, would probably flee that way.

Twenty and two thousand; who finding their whole army to be very small in comparison of their enemy’s, who were a hundred and thirty-live thousand, Judges 8:10, and they, no doubt, well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success; whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unfurnished with arms and provisions, lost the courage which in the beginning they seemed to have.

Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people,.... Such a proclamation as follows, was, according to the law of God, to be made when Israel went out to battle against their enemies, Deuteronomy 20:8; though it looks as if Gideon would not have made such proclamation, had he not been directed to it by the Lord, his army being so small in comparison of the enemy; and perhaps Gideon might understand that law to have respect only to war made for the enlargement of their country, and not for defence against invaders:

saying, whosoever is fearful and afraid; to, engage in battle, because of the number of the enemy:

let him return, and depart early from Mount Gilead; where it seems they now were, being the same with the hill of Moreh, or adjoining to it; a mountain in the tribe of Manasseh, so called either from its likeness to Mount Gilead on the other side Jordan; or rather in memory of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from whence the half tribe sprung, which was on this side, as well as that on the other; and perhaps this name might be given to the mount, to show that they were of the same tribe, though separated by Jordan: now the fearful and faint hearted had leave given them by this proclamation to return home directly; and as both armies lay so near, and it might reasonably be expected the battle would be the next day, they are directed to get away in the morning, as early as they could, that they might not be seen, and so be filled with shame themselves, and discourage others. Though some think Mount Gilead, on the other side Jordan, is meant, from whence it is supposed many came to Gideon, Judges 6:35 and now are ordered to return back, as many as were fearful; and instead of "from", they render the word "to", or "towards", or "beyond" Gilead. Kimchi thinks the word we render "depart early" has the signification of surrounding, a diadem being expressed by a word from hence, which encompasses the head, Isaiah 28:5 and so the sense is, that they were ordered to go round about Mount Gilead, and so return home; but it rather may signify their hasty departure and speedy flight, like that of a bird, Psalm 11:1 and there returned of the people 22,000, and there remained 10,000; so that they were in all 32,000: now though these of their own accord came and joined Gideon with an intention and resolution to stand by him, and fight the enemy, yet when they came and saw what a large host they had to engage with, and how small the army was with Gideon, their hearts failed them, and they were glad to take the advantage of the proclamation.

Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
3. trembling] Hebr. ḥârçd, with pointed reference to the name of the spring Ḥărôd. The sentence ‘whosoever is fearful … let him return’ closely resembles Deuteronomy 20:8, and may allude to the ordinance there laid down.

and depart from mount Gilead] The verb (ṣafar) occurs only here, and its meaning must be guessed from the context; the renderings ‘depart early’ (AV. following Kimchi, from Aram. ṣafra ‘morning’), or ‘go round,’ or ‘spring away from’ (Arab. ḍafara ‘leap’) are impossible or very doubtful. Moore’s emendation ‘And Gideon tried (ṣaraf) them’ is adopted by many, but the ‘testing,’ appropriate in Jdg 7:4, is not suitable here. Mount Gilead is probably a mistake for mount Gilboa, for Gilead was a district on the east of the Jordan.

Verse 3.- Depart early. The Hebrew word so rendered only occurs here. Its exact meaning is uncertain, but the old versions generally give the meaning of "depart," "go back." Some, with much probability, connect the word with the HebrJudges 7:3The army of the Israelites amounted to 32,000 men (Judges 7:4), but that of the Midianites and their allies was about 135,000 (Judges 8:10), so that they were greatly superior to the Israelites in numbers. Nevertheless the Lord said to Gideon, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, My hand hath helped me." רב followed by מן is to be understood as a comparative. Gideon was therefore to have a proclamation made before all the people: "Whosoever is fearful and despondent, let him turn and go back from Mount Gilead." The ἁπ. λεγ. צפר, judging from the Arabic, which signifies to plait, viz., hair, ropes, etc., and the noun צפירה, a circle or circuitous orbit, probably signifies to twist one's self round; hence in this instance to return in windings, to slink away in bypaths. The expression "from Mount Gilead," however, is very obscure. The mountain (or the mountains) of Gilead was on the eastern side of the Jordan; but the Israelitish army was encamped in or near the plain of Jezreel, in the country to the west of the Jordan, and had been gathered from the western tribes alone; so that even the inadmissible rendering, Let him turn and go home to the mountains of Gilead, would not give any appropriate sense. The only course left therefore is either to pronounce it an error of the text, as Clericus and Bertheau have done, and to regard "Gilead" as a mistake for "Gilboa," or to conclude that there was also a mountain or mountain range named Gilead by the plain of Jezreel in western Palestine, just as, according to Joshua 15:10, there was a mountain, or range of mountains, called Seir, in the territory of Judah, of which nothing further is known. The appeal which Gideon is here directed to make to the army was prescribed in the law (Deuteronomy 20:8) for every war in which the Israelites should be engaged, and its general object was to fortify the spirit of the army be removing the cowardly and desponding. But in the case before us the intention of the Lord was to deprive His people of all ground for self-glorification. Hence the result of the appeal was one which Gideon himself certainly did not expect, - namely, that more than two-thirds of the soldiers gathered round him - 22,000 men of the people - turned back, and only 10,000 remained.
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