Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.Gideon with two and thirty thousand men encamps against the Midianites; they, by God’s command and token, are lessened to three hundred, Judges 7:1-8. He is encouraged by a dream, and its interpretation, Judges 7:9-15; divideth; , his army companies; who all with one accord blow the trumpets, and break the pitchers, wherein the lamps were, in pieces, Judges 7:16-20. The Midianites are terrified, flee and destroy one another, Judges 7:21,22. The next adjoining Israelites pursue them to stop their passage over Jordan: two princes of the Midianites are taken by the Ephraimites, Judges 7:23-25.
No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.Too many for me, i.e. for my purpose; which is, so to deliver Israel, that it may appear to be my own miraculous act, that so I may have all the glory of it, and they may be more strongly obliged to love and serve me.
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.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.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.Unto the water; either that which ran from the well of Harod, mentioned Judges 7:1, or some other brook.
I will try them for thee; because thy proclamation hath not sufficiently tried them; for many who are fearful indeed will put on the face, and desire the opinion of being valiant persons; I will take another course.
So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.It is true, there may be natural reasons given why some did only lap of the water, when others bowed down to drink; from the temperance, or fortitude, or patience, or strength, or diligence of the one, and the intemperance, or cowardice, or impatience, or weakness, or slothfulness of the other; but these seem to be mere conjectures: the true reason and design of this course seems to be only this, that God would reduce them to a very small number, which was likely to be done by this means; for the season of the year being hot, and the generality of the soldiers weary, and thirsty, and faint, they would most probably bow down upon their knees, that they might more fully refresh themselves by a liberal draught, as indeed they did; and it could be expected that there would be but few, who either could or would deny themselves in this matter, especially when God concurred in the work, and so disposed of the minds and bodies of them, that all, except three hundred, should lie down to drink.
And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.Putting their hand to their mouth; taking up a little water in the palm of their hands to put into their mouths.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.i.e. To his own home, as Numbers 24:11.
So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.And their trumpets, i.e. the trumpets belonging to the whole army, even to those who were gone away, which he retained for the use here following. See Judges 7:16.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.The same night; after he had dismissed all but the three hundred.
That the Lord said unto him, in a dream or vision of the night.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:If thou fear to go down, to wit, without some further assurance of thy success, I will condescend so far to thee, as to give thee another sign.
And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.Afterward shall thine hands be strengthened; thou wilt be encouraged to proceed, notwithstanding the smallness of thy number, which may deter thee.
And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.A cake of barley bread; a weak and contemptible thing, and in itself as unable to overthrow a tent as to remove a mountain; but being thrown by a Divine hand, bore down all before it; which fitly resembled Gideon’s case, which was mean and despicable, as himself saith, Judges 6:15; yet he was mighty, through God, to destroy the Midianites.
And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.As there are many examples of. significant dreams given by God to heathens, as Ge 41 Da 2 Da 4, so some of them had the gift of interpreting dreams; which they sometimes did by study and art, and sometimes by Divine direction, as in this case.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.Gideon understood
the telling of the dream, though spoken in the Midianitish language; either because it was near akin to the Hebrew, being only a different dialect of it; or because the Israelites had now been accustomed to the Midianites’ company and discourse for seven years.
He worshipped; he praised God for this miraculous work and special encouragement, whereby he was confirmed in his enterprise.
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.Into three companies; to make a show of a vast army encompassing them.
Lamps, or, torches, made of such materials as would quickly take fire, and keep it for some time.
Within the pitchers; partly to preserve the flame from the violence of wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden and unexpected flashes of light.
And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.For though two hundred of his men were placed on other sides of the camp; yet they were so disposed, that some person or persons, set as watchmen, might see what was done, and give notice to the rest to follow the example.
When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.He mentions his own name, together with God’s, not out of vain ostentation or arrogance, as if he would equal himself with God; for he mentions God in the first and chief place, and himself only as his minister; but from prudent policy, because his name was grown formidable to them, and so was likely to further his design, and their flight, as it did.
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.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.
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 sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.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 they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.Every man in his place; as if they had only been torchbearers to the several companies.
And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.They slew one another, either because they suspected treachery, and so fell upon those they first met with; which they might more easily do, because they consisted of several nations, as may be gathered from Judges 6:3, and Josephus affirms; or because the darkness of the night made them unable to distinguish friends from foes; or because the suddenness of the thing struck them with horror and amazement; or because God infatuated them, as he hath done many others. Compare 1 Samuel 14:20 2 Chronicles 20:23.
Abel-meholah; of which see 1 Kings 4:12 19:16.
And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.Take before them the waters unto Beth-barah, i.e. the passes over those waters to which they are like to come.
And Jordan; the fords of Jordan, which river they must pass over into their own country.
And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.For Gideon in the pursuit had passed over Jordan, as we read, Judges 8:4, which, though mentioned after this, may seem to have been done before it, such transpositions being frequent in sacred story. Or, on this side Jordan, for the Hebrew word is indifferent to both sides: see Genesis 1:10. And so this is opposed to what follows of his passing over Jordan, Judges 8:4. And then there is no anticipation here.