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.
Verse 1. - Jerubbaal. The mention of this name seems intended to keep before our minds that it is emphatically the servant of the Lord who is going forth to victory. The well of Harod, i.e. of trembling, so called, no doubt, from the incident recorded in ver. 3, that every one who was afraid (Hebrew, hated) departed from Mount Gilead. The well of Harod is not mentioned elsewhere, though two of David's mighty men are called Harodites (2 Samuel 23:25); but it is thought to be identical with "the fountain which is in Jezreel" (1 Samuel 29:1), on the slope of Mount Gilboa, and now called Ain Jahlood, the spring of Goliah. On the north side, etc. Gideon and his Abi-ezrites were naturally on the south side of the plain, on the hill, apparently Mount Gilboa, which there shuts in the plain. The Midianitc host was encamped to the north of him (so it is in the Hebrew), in the valley, i.e. the plain of Jezreel (Judges 6:33, note). By the hill of Moreh. Nowhere else mentioned; probably only a hillock, of which there are many in that part of the plain.
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.
Verse 2. - And the Lord said, etc. It must be remembered that this whole movement was essentially a religious one. It began with prayer (Judges 6:6, 7), it was followed up by repentance (Judges 6:27, 28), and the great purpose of it was to turn the hearts of the nation back to the God of their fathers. The Lord himself, therefore, graciously forwarded this end by making it plain that the deliverance from their oppression was his work, and his only. For the general sentiment compare Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Psalm 44:3-8; Zechariah 3:6, etc.
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.
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
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.
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.
Verses 5, 6. - The water, viz., of the well or spring of Harod. That lappeth, etc. It showed a much more soldierly and self-controlled spirit just to quench the thirst by lapping the water out of the palm of the hand, than to kneel down and drink without stint out of the spring itself. The Lord saw the difference of character indicated by the two actions, and chose his instruments accordingly.
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.
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.
Verse 7. - By the three hundred, etc. Compare the saying of Jonathan, "There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). The same principles which run through the choice of God s instruments on other occasions appear here. The instruments are to be such in quality or in quantity as to make it quite manifest that the excellency of the power is God's, not man's; and yet the instruments themselves are to be conspicuous for their rare excellence. The shepherd boy who sat on the throne of Israel was manifestly made to sit on that throne by the appointment of God; but what a ruler, what a noble character David was! It has always been deemed one of the proofs of the Divine origin of Christianity that its apostles were men of such humble station, and yet were able to change the whole religion and morality of the world; and yet what noble stuff Peter and John and Paul were made of! And so here the overthrow of the hosts of Midian by three hundred Israelites was manifestly the effect of the power of God fighting on their behalf. But yet what marvellous heroism was there in those three hundred! what strength of purpose, what iron-firmness of nerve, to see above thirty thousand of their comrades leave them in the face of the myriads of their foes; to remain quietly at their post, and, when the time came, to leave their camp and pour down into the plain. Their self-possession and self-restraint and absence of self-indulgence in the matter of the water was a true index of the unequalled qualities which they displayed in the sequel. Ver 8. - So the people took, etc. It is almost certain that the passage ought to be rendered, "And they took the victuals of the people in their hands, and their trumpets," i.e. the three hundred took or borrowed what provisions they needed for a few days, and the trumpets, which were to play an important part in the stratagem, from the people who were about to return to their homes. And the host of Midian, etc. The writer repeats this to give a perfect picture of the situation. The whole army returned to their homes; the three hundred alone with Gideon in the camp; the Midianite host in the plain beneath.
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 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.
Verse 9. - Get thee down, etc., i.e. attack the camp at once with thy 300 men. But if thou art afraid to do so, go down first alone with Phurah thy servant, and hear what they are saying in the camp.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
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.
Verse 11. - The armed men. The exact meaning of the word here rendered armed men (chamushim), and which occurs Exodus 13:18; Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12, is a little uncertain, but it is generally thought to be synonymous with another word (calutsim), also rendered armed (Numbers 32:32; Deuteronomy 3:18), and to mean literally girded, i.e. prepared to fight. These fighting men, as distinguished from the numbers of the nomads who were with their camels and cattle scattered all along the plain, were all collected in the camp, to the edge of which Gideon and Phurah crept stealthily in the dark.
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.
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.
Verse 13. - A cake. The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else. Of barley bread. The commonest kind of bread, the food of only the poorer classes, indicating, therefore, the humble origin and station of Gideon. A tent. Rather, the tent; what in a Roman camp would be the pretorium, the general's tent. The words at the end of the verse are heaped up to indicate the total and entire upsetting and overthrow of the tent, symbolic of the rout and destruction of the Midianite host.
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.
Verse 14. - This is nothing else, etc. The dream and the interpretation are striking evidences of the terror which Gideon's name had already inspired among the Midianites. Because, although both the dream and the interpretation were of God, for the encouragement of Gideon in his great undertaking, yet they followed the course of nature and the laws of psychology. The presentiment that God had delivered Midian into Gideon's hand is exactly like the terror in the minds of the Canaanites which preceded the arrival of Joshua (Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 11:25; Joshua 2:9-11).
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.
Verse 15. - It was so, etc. The effect upon Gideon was like magic. He not only learnt the state of panic in which the Midianites were, but he had a further certainty that God was with him. His simple piety and adoring gratitude threw him at once upon his knees to thank God, and to cast himself anew upon his strength with un-doubting trust. His hands were indeed strengthened, and he lost not a moment in returning to his 300, relating in a few words the incident of the dream, and bidding them follow him. The Lord hath delivered, etc. Cf. 1 Samuel 14:20.
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.
Verse 16. - Trumpets, which had been collected from the whole army (ver. 8, note). Lamps. Rather, as in the margin, torches, within the pitchers, so as not to be seen till the pitchers were broken, when the torches would flare with a sudden blaze. The pitchers were vessels for drawing water, as appears from Genesis 24:14, 16, 18, 20. They were doubtless of earthenware, as they were so easily broken.
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.
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.
Verse 18. - The sword of the Lord, etc. The word sword is not in the original here, though it is in ver. 20. It has either dropped out of the text accidentally, or what we have here is the shorter form of the war-cry. It is observable how careful Gideon is to put the name of Jehovah first. It was his cause against Baal, and the battle was to be fought in his strength, and the glory of the victory was to be his. The cry, "The sword of Gideon," would be peculiarly terrible to the many who had heard of the dream, of which the fulfilment was come so quickly.
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.
Verse 19. - The middle watch. The ancient Israelites divided the night into three watches of four hours each, from sunset to sunrise, i.e. from six p.m. to six a.m. The first watch, from six to ten, is not mentioned in the Old Testament; but we have the middle watch mentioned here (from ten to two), and the morning watch (from two till six): Exodus 14:24 and 1 Samuel 11:11. According to this, Gideon's attack would have taken place soon after ten p.m., or towards eleven, the time when the sleep would be the deepest, the watchmen of the first watch having lately fallen into their first sleep. The later Israelites adopted the Roman division of the night into four watches (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; cf. Luke 12:38; Mark 13:35).
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.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
Verse 21. - They stood, etc. Gideon's men did not advance, but stood, each company in the place assigned to them, at different sides of the-camp. This had the effect of awakening the whole camp simultaneously, and they started to their feet and ran hither and thither in confusion, shouting as they went. Undisciplined troops, especially excitable Orientals, are very liable to be thus thrown into a panic. Fled. The Cethib has, caused to fly, i.e. either "put to flight," or "carried away," as in Judges 6:9; Exodus 9:20. In the former case the nominative must be the Israelites; in the latter, their tents, herds, stuff, etc., must be understood. Both are very awkward. The Keri, fled, is probably right, unless caused to fly has the sense of "bid them fly," in which case the preceding word, cried, might be taken in its common sense of they sounded an alarm. The whole clause would then run thus: And all the camp ran; and they sounded a retreat, and bid them flee.
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.
Verse 22. - Blew the trumpets, etc. Hearing the confusion, the three companies blew their trumpets, probably more loudly than before, to give the impression of a hot pursuit being at hand. The Midianites, thinking the enemy were upon them, and not being able in the dark to distinguish friend from foe, mistook their flying comrades for pursuing Israelites, and fell upon and slew one another. In like manner the Philistines had done when attacked by Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:20), and the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites when attacked by Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:23). Beth-shittah. House of acacias. The exact situation of it, and of Zererath and Tabbath, is unknown. They must have been villages lying on the route from the plain of Esdraelon to the banks of Jordan, probably between Little Hermon on the north and Mount Gilboa on the south, where there was a very ancient high road from Jezreel to the Jordan by Beth-sham Indeed it is highly probable that Shuta, a village mentioned by Robinson, marks the site, as it retains the name of Beth-shittah. For Zererath some read, with some of the old versions and manuscripts, Zeredath (r and d being scarcely distinguishable in Hebrew), and identify it with Zarthan near Succoth, mentioned Joshua 3:16 and 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46. Abel-meholah (the meadow of the dance) was the birthplace of Elisha (1 Kings 19:16), and is mentioned in conjunction with Beth-shan, Jezreel, and Zartana in 1 Kings 4:12. Eusebius tells us that in his time Abel-meholah was called Beth-maiela, and situated ten miles below Beth-shan, or Scy-thopolis. There was also, he says, close by an Abel-maiela.
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.
Verse 23. - The men of Israel, etc. Gideon's disbanded army got together again very quickly when they heard of the flight of the Midianites. Zebulun is not mentioned.
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.
Verse 24. - Mount Ephraim. Rather, the hill country, of Ephraim. For some reason Gideon had not invited the Ephraimites to join in the war before (Judges 8:1); but now, seeing the extreme importance of seizing the fords of Jordan, so as to stop the escape of the Midianites, he sent messengers in all haste to the men of Ephraim, who accordingly "took the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan." The waters seem to mean a number of streams running from the hill country of Ephraim into the Jordan, and which had to be crossed by the Midianites before they could reach the Jordan fords. The site of Beth-barah is unknown. It is not thought to be the same as Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptising (John 1:28). Beth-barah must have been on the west of Jordan.
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.
Verse 25. - Oreb, a raven, and Zeeb, a wolf. The rock known afterwards as the rock of Oreb (Isaiah 10:26), and the wine-press (see Judges 6:11) known as the wine-press of Zeeb, were so called from being the places where these two princes were taken and slain by the Eph-raimites. In like manner the well of Harod is called by the name it afterwards received (ver. 1), and the palm tree of Deborah in like manner (Judges 2:5), and Lehi (Judges 15:9). These are valuable indications (to which many more might be added) of a living tradition older than the written history. The capture of Oreb and Zeeb is celebrated in Psalm 83:11 and Isaiah 10:26. On the other side Jordan, i.e. the east side of the river, which Gideon had now crossed, as is related in Judges 8:4. The narrative runs on here to complete the history of the doings of the men of Ephraim, and goes back at Judges 8:4 to take up the thread of the history of Gideon (see Judges 2:1-6, note).