« PreviousContinue »
- Lamps? — Instead of lamps furnished with wicks It was an almost universal custom to take off the heads of and fed with oil, we are probably to understand torches or opposing chiefs and bring them to the victorious general. flambeaux, which the original will equally signify, mada It is a sort of trophy, and as such has been regarded at one of tow and grease, or of resinous billets of wood, which time or other in nearly all nations. David cut off the would afford a flame much stronger and better suited to head of Goliath, probably intending to bring it to Saul; the open air when exposed.
and the lisad of Saul himself was cut off by the Philistincs 20. Blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held and sent by them to their own country. Such was also the lamps in their left hands . . . . and they cried, The the custom among the Romans: thus Pompey's head was sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.'-As the Midianites brought to Cæsar, and that of Cicero to Marc Antony, not could not imagine that every man had a trumpet and a to mention other instances. Barbarous oriental conquerors light, the noise of so many trumpets, the blaze of so many have built monuments with the heads of their conquered lights, with the crash of the broken pitchers from different enemies; and, at present,
the heads of conquered chiefs quarters, must have conveyed to their minds the most ex- and commanders are transnuitted to Constantinople from aggerated ideas of the numbers of the assailants by whom the most distant parts of the T'urkish empire, to be laid at they seemed to be beset. Gideon's army would have been the feet of the sultan, and then to decorate his palace great indeed, if, as the Midianites must have supposed, the gates. Herodotus relates that the Scythians cut off the number of the fighting men had been in proportion to that heads of all their enemies whom they slew in battle. To of the trumpeters. This measure offers altogether one of bring a head to the king constituted ihe right to a share in the most curious stratagems to be met with in the history the spoils of war, which could not be obtained without it. of military operations, and was well calculated to confuse, The sculls of distinguished enemies were made into drinkand excite a panic in an encampment of undisciplined ing cups; and the scalps were in all cases tanned, and nomades, whose confusion was probably increased by the carried by the warrior, tied to his bridle, as a trophy of alarm and fright of their numerous cattle. The Lord military honour; the valour of a Scythian being estimated gave effect to this stratagem ; so that the host of Midian by the number of scalps in his possession (Melpomene, was discomfited without the Hebrews striking a blow. 64, 65.) This is like the custom among the North AmeTheir position was very singular, standing about the camp rican Indians, whose war-song concludes with expressing blowing their trumpets and holding their torches, as if to the intention to tear off the scalps of their enemies, and encourage and give light to the fighting men whom the make cups of their sculls. Midianites believed to have entered their camp—while But Oreb and Zeeb were taken captive, and their heads they really gave light sufficient to enable their enemies to afterwards cut off. This was an ancient and is also a moslay each other, but not enough to enable them to distin- dern practice. It was so in Egypt, where the sculptured guish that those whom they slew were not enemies, but battle-scenes, which still exist, exhibit the captives as friends. The war-cry was taken from the interpretation treated with great severity; and those that seem of disof the dream, • The sword of Gideon,' to which Gideon, tinction are often represented as being decapitated by the with his usual modesty, prefixed the name of the Lord hero himself: and this has from the most ancient times • The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.'
remained the custom in most parts of Asia, where the cap, 24. • Take before them the waters.'—The fords of the tured chief or general is either sent to the capital and Jordan to prevent the escape of the enemy across the river. there decapitated, or is else beheaded on the spot by the This had been done before in the case of the Moabites; captor, and his head sent to the king, if the later does not and was the usual practice when the enemy belonged to happen himself to be the captor. See the notes on Josh. the country east of the river.
x. 46; Judg. i. 7. 25. · Brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon.'
and Jogbehah, and smote the host : for the
host was secure. 1 Gideon pacifieth the Ephraimites. 6 Succoth and 12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled,
Penuel refuse relief to Gideon's army. 12 Zebuh and Zalmunna are taken. 16, 17 Succoth and Penuel | he pursued after them, and took the two kings are destroyed. 21 Gideon revengeth his brethren's
of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and disdeath on Zebah and Zalmunna. 23 He refuseth comfited all the host. government. 27 His ephod the cause of idolatry. 13 | And Gideon the son of Joash re28 Midian subdued. 30, 32 Gideon's children, and
turned from battle before the sun was up, death. 33 The Israelites' idolatry and ingratitude.
14 And caught a young man of the men And the men of Ephraim said unto him, of Succoth, and enquired of him : and he 'Why hast thou served us thus, that thou 'described unto him the princes of Succoth, calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight and the elders thereof, even threescore and with the Midianites? And they did chide seventeen men. with him 'sharply.
15 And he came unto the men of Succoth, 2 And he said unto them, What have I and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with done now in comparison of you? Is not the whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine the vintage of Abi-ezer ?
hand, that we should give bread unto thy men 3 God hath delivered into your hands the that are weary? princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what 16 And he took the elders of the city, and was I able to do in comparison of you? Then thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with their 'anger was abated toward him, when he them he taught the men of Succoth. had said that.
17 And he beat down the tower of 'Pe4 | And Gideon came to Jordan, and nuel, and slew the men of the city. passed over, he, and the three hundred men 18 9 Then said he unto Zebah and Zalthat were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. munna, What manner of men were they whom
5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, ye slew at Tabor ? And they answered, As Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the thou art, so were they ; each one ''resembled people that follow me; for they be faint, and the children of a king. I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, 19 And he said, They were my brethren, kings of Midian.
even the sons of my mother : as the LORD 6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in not slay you. thine hand, that we should give bread unto 20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, thine army?
Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not 7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the his sword : for he feared, because he was yet LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna a youth. into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise with the thorns of the wilderness and with thou, and fall upon us : for as the man is, briers.
so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and 8 And he went up thence to Penuel, slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away
the and spake unto them likewise : and the men 'ornaments that were on their camels' necks. of Penuel answered him as the men of Suc- 22 | Then the men of Israel said unto coth had answered him.
Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and 9 And he spake also unto the men of thy son, and thy son's son also : for thou hast Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace,
delivered us from the hand of Midian. I will break down this tower.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not 10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in rule over you, neither shall my son rule over Karkor, and their hosts with them, about you : the Lord shall rule over you. fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all 24 And Gideon said unto them, I would the hosts of the children of the east: for there desire a request
desire a request of you, that ye would give fell 'an hundred and twenty thousand men me every man the earrings of his prey. (For that drew sword.
they had golden earrings, because they were 11 And Gideon went up by the way of Ishmaelites.) them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah 25 And they answered, We will willingly ! Heb. What thing is this thou hast done unto us ?
9 Heb, strongly.
3 Heb. spirit. 5 Or, an hundred and twenty thousand, every one drawing a sword,
6 Heb. terrified. 10 Heb, according to the form, &c.
11 Or, ornaments like the moon.
4 Heb. thresh. 8 Heb, made to know.
7 Heb. rorit.
9 1 Kings 12. 25.
give them. And they spread a garment, and sons 'Pof his body begotten: for he had many did cast therein every man the earrings of his wives. prey.
31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, 26 And the weight of the golden earrings she also bare him a son, whose name he that he requested was a thousand and seven *called Abimelech. hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died and "collars, and purple raiment that was on in a good old age, and was buried in the the kings of Midian, and beside the chains sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of that were about their camels' necks.
the Abi-ezrites. 27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, 33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon and put it in his city, even in Ophrah : and was dead, that the children of Israel turned all Israel went thither a whoring after it: again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and made Baal-berith their god. to his house.
34 And the children of Israei remembered 28 | Thus was Midian subdued before not the LORD their God, who had delivered the children of Israel, so that they lifted up them out of the hands of all their enemies on their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. 35 Neither shewed they kindness to the
29 | And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, acand dwelt in his own house.
cording to all the goodness which he had 30 And Gideon had threescore and ten shewed unto Israel.
Verse 2. * Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abi-ezer *'-Abi-ezer was the chief of the family from which Gideon descended. This fine metaphor, which conveys the most favourable idea of Gideon's mildness and humility, insinuates that their services at the end had been incomparably greater than his at the beginning. The resentment of the Ephraimites evaporated in the warmth of this compliment; and we can hardly find a better illustration of Solomon's proverb: * A soft answer turneth away wrath' (Prov. xv. 1.)
9. • I will break down this tower.'--The people of this place had probably, in giving their answer, pointed insultingly to a tower in which their chief defence lay, intimating thereby that he might do his worst, for that they were well able to defend themselves.
11. • Went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents.'— The route which Gideon took from Penuel seems to have been across the mountains of Gilead to the north-east of the Jabbok, through a tract of country occupied only by pomade tribes, thus coming unexpectedly upon the camp of the Midianites, who expected no attack in that quarter. If Jogbehah be the same with Ramoth Gilead, as the Chaldee paraphrast supposes, the Midianites were probably encamped somewhere about Abela, called in xi. 33, Abel Cheranim, the plain of the vineyards.' Gideon appears to have returned to Succoth by another shorter way, namely, by the heights of Hares,' or the Sun-hills (rendered in v. 13. before the sun was up'); probably so called, as Geddes conjectures, because, over them, the rising sun was first seen by the inhabitants of the low country about the Jordan, and indeed by all the Israelites who dwelt on the western side of that river.
16. · He took .... thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.'— It is probable he put them to death in this way, their offence being the same as that of the men of Penuel, whom he certainly did put to death. It is doubtful whether they were merely scourged with thorns and briers till they died (supposing they did die), or that thorns and briers were laid on their naked bodies, and then threshing sledges or other heavy implements of husbandry drawn over them, according to a sort of punishment which was well known in ancient times. In northern nations, where the body is completely covered, the idea of such punishments, with thorns on the naked
person, seems a far-fetched device; but in the East, where the clothing leaves much more of the person exposed, and where, in consequence, men are continually lacerating their skins in passing through thickets, etc., the idea of such laceration is always kept present, either by the experience of actual suffering, or by the presence of those who have recently suffered. Hence tearing the flesh with thorns comes to be a familiar idea of penal infliction; and, as such, is popularly mentioned as among the punishments which misdoers deserve, or will obtain, not only in this life, but in the life to come.
18. • Each one resembled the children of a king.'-— This is an Orientalism still in use. Iu the measures of comparison, the king and that which belongs to him forms the superlative; and to say that a person or a thing is kingly, or like that which belongs to a king, is to say that it is the most excellent of its kind. Thus when a young person is distinguished for beauty or dignity of appearance, to say he is like the son of a king,' is understood as the highest compliment which can be bestowed upon him. It happens, in some way or other, that in the East the royal families are usually remarkable for the beauty and majesty of their persons; so that the comparison is something more than a mere phrase for expressing the superlative. The present royal family of Persia might be quoted as an instance. It would have been difficult, even by picking a nation, to obtain a finer set of men than appeared, when the late king of Persia was seen sitting on his throne, with his numerous sons standing around him.
19. ' My brethren, even the sons of my mother.'— In coun. tries where polygamy is tolerated, the ties of brotherhood are, as might be expected, much more close and tender between those who are born of the same mother than those who are connected only as children of the same father. Of this we have had and shall have ample evidence in the sacred history. This explains whyóson of my mother' was among the Hebrews, as now among the Arabs and others, a far more endearing expression than that of • my brother, in the general sense.
20. • He said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them.'-The Hebrews had no executioner. When a man was guilty of homicide, the execution devolved on the next of kin, by right of blood-revenge: in other cases criminals were stoned by the people, the witnesses setting the example: and when a king or chief ordered a person to be were, in his time, accustomed to wear some sorts of ornapat to death, the office was performed by the person to ment which women only now display. One of his prohiwhom the command was giveu. And this was generally bitions affords a striking illustration of the present enumea person whose consideration in life bore some proportion ration of the Midianite ornaments. · Whosoever likes to put to that of the person to be slain. Thus Solomon gave the into the nose or ear of his friend a ring of hell-fire, tell him commission to kill Joab, the commander-in-chief, to to put on a gold ring; and he who wishes to put on the neck of Benaiah, a person of so much distinction as to be hiinself his friend a chain of hell-fire, tell him to put on a chain of immediately promoted to the command which the death of gold; and he who wishes to put on rings to his friend's Joab left vacant. In fact, the office even of a regular wrists of hell-fire, tell him to put on golden ones; wherefore executioner is not by any means dishonourable in the East. be it on to you to make your ornaments of silver.' (MischatThe post of chief executioner is in most Oriental courts one ul- Masabih, i. 355.) This rigid and repeated law made of honour and distinction. When thus there was no considerable alteration in the ancient ornaments of men. regular executioner, it came to be considered a sort of The smaller ones appear to have been generally given honour to put a distinguished person to death; and, on the up, as a small quantity of silver is not of much value; but other hand, the death itself was honourable in proportion the larger and more massive ornaments, being valuable to the rank of the person by whom the blow was inflicted. even in silver, were retained. It was the greatest dishonour to perish by the hands of a 26. • A thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold.' woman or a slave. We see this feeling distinctly in the This quantity of gold would at the present time be worth present narrative, where the two princes much prefer to die 31131. by Gideon's own hand than by that of a youth who had • Ornaments.”—The word is the same as that applied obtained to personal distinction. As to the hero's com- to the ornaments' of the camels (v. 21), and they seem to missioning his son to perform this office, it was perhaps liave been of the same form and material. partly to honour that son with the distinction of having • Collars.'—This has been variously understood. The slain two chief enemies of Israel; as well as because the Targum thinks they were “crowns;' some make them to rules of blood-revenge made it necessary that the execution have been golden smelling-bottles, not to mention other of those who had slain their own brethren should cither be renderings. The original word (nia'o?) literally means performed by himself, or by a member of his own family. drops, and is with considerable probability thought to It seenis very probable, from all that transpires, that Oreb
denote 'ear-pendants,' called .drops' from the form which and Zeeb had put the brethren of Gideon to death after they
they bore. Some think that these ear-pendants were of had taken them captive, in the same way that they were pearls. themselves now slain. Verse 19, however, contains an in- • Purple.'—See the note on Exod. xxxv. 35. The preteresting indication that there were exceptions to the sent is the first indication of purple as a royal colour. general practice; else Gideon would hardly have expected • Chains .... about their camels' necks. Also v. 21, that the Midianites might have spared their brethren, or • Ornaments ....on their camels' necks.'—The Jewish comhave said that, had they done so, he would have spared them. mentators and others think that they were in the form of a
22. "Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's crescent, and were worn in honour of the moon (see Isa. iii. son also.'—That is, they wanted him to be their king: and 18), which was a great object of worship among the here it is that the Hebrews first indicate their desire to esta- Arabian tribes. We believe, indeed, that the semi-religious blish an hereditary kingdom, forgetting the peculiar cha- use of this figure by Mohammedans, the Arabs among the racter of their government, and the high distinction which
rest, is merely a relic of ancient idolatrous usage, the object they enjoyed in having Jehovah for their sovereign. But of which Mohammed had the address to change. Whatthe pious hero himself was mindful of it, replying in the ever these ornaments' were, they were doubtless of gold, true spirit of theocracy, “I will not rule over you, neither like the chains afterwards mentioned. The ancient nations shall my son rule over you : the Lord shall rule over you.' were fond of ornamenting their more spirited riding All his sons were not, however, of his mind, and did not animals, whether camels or horses, with gold. forget this offer—as we shall see in the next chapter.
At present in Persia a golden bridle, and a golden chain 24. • They had golden earrings, because they were Ishmael- to hang over the horse's nose, form part of the furniture of ites.'-The Midianites were not properly Ishmaelites, being the horse, which, with a dress of honour, kings and descended from another son of Abraham; but having the princes send as a present of state to ambassadors and other same manner of life, and being much mixed with them, persons of high distinction. In Turkey and Egypt, also, they might well be called so. The terms · Ishmaelites' chains of gold are used, on state occasions, by persons of and · Midianites' are used indifferently, even so early as high official station, in their horse furniture, connecting the the time of Jacob (Gen. xxxvii. 25, 28). Probably all the bridle with the breastplate of the animal. kindred tribes which followed the same mode of life, and 27. 'Gideon made an ephod,' etc.-He had, when called were much mixed with the Arabians, were called Ishmael.
to his high mission, been instructed to build an altar at the ites in the general sense. It is also probable that large same place as this, which perhaps induced him to think numbers of real Ishmaelites acted with the Midianites the himself authorized to have a sacerdotal establishment there, present occasion, and some would restrict the present text where sacrifices might be regularly performed; for this to these. The present text might indeed le translated :- seems to be the meaning of the text, although some think • Those slain, who were Ishmaelites, wore golden pendants.' that the ephod was merely a trophy commemorative of The cut and note under Ex. xxxii. 2, shew that foreigners Israel's deliverance: if so, it was a very strange one. If are represented in the sculptures as adorned with ear-rings. the former be the right conjecture, the worship performed So in those of Persepolis, the Persians themselves are not there was doubtless in honour of the true God, but was still represented with rings, but there is one group represented improper and unauthorized. Even in his life-time it must with large circular rings. From the difference of dress have had the effect of withdrawing the attention of the they are evidently not Persians, and, as the camel is asso- people east of Jordan from the tabernacle of Shiloh, and so ciated with this group only, we may conclude them to be far tended to facilitate the step into positive idolatry which Arabians, and as such furnished with ear-rings. The the people took after the death of Gideon. The probability Arabians certainly used them in the time of Mohammed ; that a sacerdotal establishment was formed is the more but they are not now commonly worn by men. Perhaps the strong when we recollect that others were formed by Micah reason may be, that Mohammed prohibited rings of gold; in Mount Ephraim (ch. xvii. 5-13), and by the Danites at which gradually made them careless whether they had any. Laish (ch. xviii. 29-31). (See note at ch. xvii. in APPENDIX.) Mohammed, indeed, forbade all but silver ornaments to 32. Gideon died.' ---Gideon seems to have been a man both sexes; but in the end allowed women to wear gold or eminently qualified for the high and difficult station to silver. This accounts for the fact that the modern Arabs which he was called. Firm even to sternness, where the do not exhibit such costly ornaments as the ancient Ishmael- exhibition of the stronger qualities seemed necessary, and ites. It seems, from what Mohammed says, that the men in war «a mighty man of valour,' we are called upon in his case, more frequently than in any other which has 33. • Baal-berith.'—This idol is named only here and occurred, to admire his truly courteous and self-retreating in ix. 4, 46. The name means Covenant Lord, and with character, and that nice and difficult tact-difficult if reference to this signification Baal-berith has been comnot spontaneously natural-in the management of men, pared to the Zeus "Opkios of the Greeks and the Deus which is a rarer and finer species of judgment, and by Fidius of the Latins. Bochart and Creuzer suppose the which he was intuitively taught to say the properest word, name to mean “God of Berytus ; but there is no evidence and do the properest deed, at the most proper time. This that Berith does mean Berytus, which seems rather to be is the true secret of his ultimate popularity and influence, denoted by the name Berothah in Ezek. xlvii. 16. which much exceeded that enjoyed by any judge before him.
I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they | Abimelech by conspiracy with the Shechemites, and honour God and man, and go to be pro
murder of his brethren, is made king. 7 Jotham by moted over the trees? a parable rebuketh them, and foretelleth their ruin. 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, 26 Gaal conspireth with the Shechemites against him.
Come thou, and reign over us. 30 Zebul revealeth it. 45 Abimelech overcometh them, and soweth the city with salt. 49 He burneth
11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should the hold of the god Berith. 53 At Thebez he is I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, slain by a piece of a millstone. 57 Jotham's curse and go to be promoted over the trees? is fulfilled.
12 Then said the trees unto the vine, And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went Come thou, and reign over us. to Shechem unto his mother's brethren, and 13 And the vine said unto them, Should I communed with them, and with all the family leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, of the house of his mother's father, saying, and go to be promoted over the trees?
2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the 14 Then said all the trees unto the 'brammen of Shechem, 'Whether is better for you, ble, Come thou, and reign over us. either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which 15 And the bramble said unto the trees, threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then that one reign over you ? remember also that come and put your trust in my shadow: and I am your bone and your flesh.
if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and 3 And his mother's brethren spake of him devour the cedars of Lebanon. in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these 16 Now therefore, if ye have done truly words: and their hearts inclined to follow
and sincerely, in that ye have made AbimeAbimelech ; for they said, He is our brother. lech king, and if ye have dealt well with
4 And they gave him threescore and ten Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, him according to the deserving of his hands; wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light 17 (For my father fought for you, and persons, which followed him.
adventured his life far, and delivered you out 5 And he went unto his father's house at of the hand of Midian : Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of 18 And ye are risen up against my father's Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, house this day and have slain his sons, threeupon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham
score and ten persons, upon one stone, and the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for have made Abimelech, the son of his maidhe hid himself.
servant, king over the men of Shechem, be6 And all the men of Shechem gathered cause he is your brother ;) together, and all the house of Millo, and went, 19 If ye then have dealt truly and sinand made Abimelech king, 'by the plain of cerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this the pillar that was in Shechem.
day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let 79 And when they told it to Jotham, he him also rejoice in
you: went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abiand lifted up his voice, and cried, and said melech, and devour the men of Shechem, and unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of the house of Millo; and let fire come out Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. from the men of Shechem, and from the house
8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint of Millo, and devour Abimelech. a king over them; and they said unto the 21 And Jotham ran away, and fled, and olive tree, Reign thou over us.
went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of 9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should Abimelech his brother.
1 Heb. IV huit is good? whether, &c.
2 lleb, aner. + lleb. go up and down for other trees.
3 Or, by the oak of the pillar. See Josh. 24. 26. 3 Or, thistle.
6 Heb. cast his life.