Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whoever 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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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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.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. 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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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 Hebr
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