Judges 9:37
And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(37) By the middle of the land.—Literally, by the navel of the land. Probably the expression means some gently-swelling hill, but it perplexed the translators. The Chaldee renders it “the strength,” and the Svriac “the fortification of the land.” In Ezekiel 38:12 it is rendered “in the midst of the land.” The LXX. here have the strangely blundering addition, “by sea.”

Another company.—Literally, one head (Vulg., cuneus unus).

By the plain of Meonenim.—Rather, from the way to the Enchanters’ Terebinth (LXX., “of the oak of those that look away;” Vulg., “which looks toward the oak;” Luther, more correctly, “zur Zaubereiche”). Meonen in Leviticus 19:28 is rendered “enchantment,” and means especially the kind of “enchantment” which affects the eye (the “evil eye,” &c.), and therefore implies the use of amulets, &c. Hence, though the terebinth is nowhere else mentioned by this particular name, it is at least a probable conjecture that it may be the ancient tree under which Jacob’s family had buried their idolatrous amulets (Genesis 35:4).

9:30-49 Abimelech intended to punish the Schechemites for slighting him now, but God punished them for their serving him formerly in the murder of Gideon's sons. When God uses men as instruments in his hand to do his work, he means one thing, and they another. That, which they hoped would have been for their welfare, proved a snare and a trap, as those will certainly find, who run to idols for shelter; such will prove a refuge of lies.The plain of Meonenim - Translate "the oak of the soothsayers" (see the margin). Some well-known oak, so called, but which is not mentioned elsewhere. 28-45. would to God this people were under my hand—He seems to have been a boastful, impudent, and cowardly person, totally unfit to be a leader in a revolutionary crisis. The consequence was that he allowed himself to be drawn into an ambush, was defeated, the city of Shechem destroyed and strewn with salt. The people took refuge in the stronghold, which was set on fire, and all in it perished. By the middle of the land, Heb. by the navel of the land. So he calls either, first, The middle of it, as the middle part of Greece and of Sicily are called the navel of them by the Roman writers, because the navel is in the midst of man’s body; or, secondly, The higher part of it, called the mountains, Judges 9:36, and here the navel, because it was raised above the other ground, as the navel is above the rest of the body.

And Gaal spake again, and said,.... Looking towards the mountains, and taking another view of what he before saw, for further satisfaction:

see, there come people down by the middle of the land; either in the valley between the two mountains; or rather those he first saw on the top of the mountains were now come down about the middle of them, called in the Hebrew text the navel, from the prominence of the mountains thereabout, or because the navel is in the middle of the body, as this part of them was the middle on which he saw them. R. Isaiah interprets it, between the two cities:

and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim; of which we read nowhere else. Montanus renders it, "the oak of Meonenim"; or of the soothsayers; oaks being had in great esteem with idolaters for their oracles and divinations; and perhaps this was a place, whether an oak or, a plain, where such persons used to meet to make their divinations.

And Gaal spake again, and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
37. the middle of the land] the Navel of the land; this is the traditional meaning of the word, Talm., LXX ὀμφαλός, Vulgate umbilicus. The word only occurs again in Ezekiel 38:12 of the mountains of Israel, apparently as central and prominent in the earth. Some hill near Shechem was called the Navel, perhaps because it was supposed to be midway between the sea and the Jordan (cf. the navel of Italy, Sicily, Greece, in Latin authors).

the oak of Meonenim] the augurs’ terebinth (marg.), the seat of a Canaanite tree-oracle, administered by priests here called augurs or soothsayers, cf. Deuteronomy 18:10, Micah 5:12; the omens were taken, it seems, from the rustling leaves or waving boughs (2 Samuel 5:24), or by the “ordinary processes of divination performed in the presence of the sacred object” (R. Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 178). The allusions to a sacred terebinth at or near Shechem (Jdg 9:6, Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4, Deuteronomy 11:30, Joshua 24:26) need not all refer to the same tree. See further on Jdg 9:6 and Jdg 6:11.

Verse 37. - Gaal spake again, etc. Of course, as the men got nearer, it was impossible to mistake them for anything but men. Gaal could see two bands distinctly, one coming down the hill-side, the other marching by the road of the soothsayers' oak. The middle of the land. The word rendered middle only occurs again in Ezekiel 38:12, "the midst of the land," A.V. It is so rendered from the notion of the old interpreters that it was connected with a word meaning "the navel." It is usually explained now to mean the height. There may have been some particular height in the ridge called Tabbur ha-aretz. The plain of Meonenim. Rather, the oak (or terebinth tree) of the soothsayers, some large terebinth or turpentine tree under which the soothsayers used to take their auguries. Dean Stanley would identify it with the oak of the pillar in ver. 6, where see note. Judges 9:37But Gaal said again, "Behold, people come down from the navel of the land," i.e., from the highest point of the surrounding country, "and a crowd comes by the way of the wizard's terebinths," - a place in the neighbourhood of Shechem that is not mentioned anywhere else, and therefore is not more precisely known.
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