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Judges 7:1--8:35

Gideon Reduces the Ranks

7:1 Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and his men 1  got up the next morning and camped near the spring of Harod. 2  The Midianites 3  were camped north of them near the hill of Moreh in the valley. 7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to hand Midian over to you. 4  Israel might brag, 5  ‘Our own strength has delivered us.’ 6  7:3 Now, announce to the men, 7  ‘Whoever is shaking with fear 8  may turn around and leave Mount Gilead.’” 9  Twenty-two thousand men 10  went home; 11  ten thousand remained. 7:4 The Lord spoke to Gideon again, “There are still too many men. 12  Bring them down to the water and I will thin the ranks some more. 13  When I say, ‘This one should go with you,’ pick him to go; 14  when I say, 15  ‘This one should not go with you,’ do not take him.” 16  7:5 So he brought the men 17  down to the water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “Separate those who lap the water as a dog laps from those who kneel to drink.” 18  7:6 Three hundred men lapped; 19  the rest of the men 20  kneeled to drink water. 7:7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men who lapped I will deliver the whole army 21  and I will hand Midian over to you. 22  The rest of the men should go home.” 23  7:8 The men 24  who were chosen 25  took supplies 26  and their trumpets. Gideon 27  sent all the men of Israel back to their homes; 28  he kept only three hundred men. Now the Midianites 29  were camped down below 30  in the valley.

Gideon Reassured of Victory

7:9 That night the Lord said to Gideon, 31  “Get up! Attack 32  the camp, for I am handing it over to you. 33  7:10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with Purah your servant 7:11 and listen to what they are saying. Then you will be brave 34  and attack the camp.” So he went down with Purah his servant to where the sentries were guarding the camp. 35  7:12 Now the Midianites, Amalekites, and the people from the east covered the valley like a swarm of locusts. 36  Their camels could not be counted; they were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore. 7:13 When Gideon arrived, he heard a man telling another man about a dream he had. 37  The man 38  said, “Look! I had a dream. I saw 39  a stale cake of barley bread rolling into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent so hard it knocked it over and turned it upside down. The tent just collapsed.” 40  7:14 The other man said, 41  “Without a doubt this symbolizes 42  the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God is handing Midian and all the army over to him.”

Gideon Routs the Enemy

7:15 When Gideon heard the report of the dream and its interpretation, he praised God. 43  Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up, for the Lord is handing the Midianite army over to you!” 7:16 He divided the three hundred men into three units. 44  He gave them all trumpets and empty jars with torches inside them. 45  7:17 He said to them, “Watch me and do as I do. Watch closely! 46  I am going to the edge of the camp. Do as I do! 7:18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, you also blow your trumpets all around the camp. Then say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”

7:19 Gideon took a hundred men to the edge of the camp 47  at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guards. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars they were carrying. 48  7:20 All three units blew their trumpets and broke their jars. They held the torches in their left hand and the trumpets in their right. 49  Then they yelled, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 7:21 They stood in order 50  all around the camp. The whole army ran away; they shouted as they scrambled away. 51  7:22 When the three hundred men blew their trumpets, the Lord caused the Midianites to attack one another with their swords 52  throughout 53  the camp. The army fled to Beth Shittah on the way to Zererah. They went 54  to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 7:23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh answered the call and chased the Midianites. 55 

Gideon Appeases the Ephraimites

7:24 Now Gideon sent messengers throughout the Ephraimite hill country who announced, “Go down and head off the Midianites. 56  Take control of the fords of the streams 57  all the way to Beth Barah and the Jordan River.” 58  When all the Ephraimites had assembled, 59  they took control of the fords 60  all the way to Beth Barah and the Jordan River. 7:25 They captured the two Midianite generals, Oreb and Zeeb. 61  They executed Oreb on the rock of Oreb and Zeeb 62  in the winepress of Zeeb. They chased the Midianites 63  and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was now on the other side of the Jordan River. 64 

8:1 The Ephraimites said to him, “Why have you done such a thing to us? You did not summon us 65  when you went to fight the Midianites!” They argued vehemently with him. 8:2 He said to them, “Now what have I accomplished compared to you? Even Ephraim’s leftover grapes 66  are better quality than Abiezer’s harvest! 67  8:3 It was to you that God handed over the Midianite generals, Oreb and Zeeb! What did I accomplish to rival that?” 68  When he said this, they calmed down. 69 

Gideon Tracks Down the Midianite Kings

8:4 Now Gideon and his three hundred men had crossed over the Jordan River, and even though they were exhausted, they were still chasing the Midianites. 70  8:5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give 71  some loaves of bread to the men 72  who are following me, 73  because they are exhausted. I am chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 8:6 The officials of Succoth said, “You have not yet overpowered Zebah and Zalmunna. So why should we give 74  bread to your army?” 75  8:7 Gideon said, “Since you will not help, 76  after the Lord hands Zebah and Zalmunna over to me, I will thresh 77  your skin 78  with 79  desert thorns and briers.” 8:8 He went up from there to Penuel and made the same request. 80  The men of Penuel responded the same way the men of Succoth had. 81  8:9 He also threatened 82  the men of Penuel, warning, 83  “When I return victoriously, 84  I will tear down this tower.”

8:10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their armies. There were about fifteen thousand survivors from the army of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand sword-wielding soldiers had been killed. 85  8:11 Gideon went up the road of the nomads 86  east of Nobah and Jogbehah and ambushed the surprised army. 87  8:12 When Zebah and Zalmunna ran away, Gideon 88  chased them and captured the two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. He had surprised 89  their entire army.

8:13 Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the pass 90  of Heres. 8:14 He captured a young man from Succoth 91  and interrogated him. The young man wrote down for him the names of Succoth’s officials and city leaders – seventy-seven men in all. 92  8:15 He approached the men of Succoth and said, “Look what I have! 93  Zebah and Zalmunna! You insulted me, saying, ‘You have not yet overpowered Zebah and Zalmunna. So why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” 94  8:16 He seized the leaders 95  of the city, along with some desert thorns and briers; he then “threshed” the men of Succoth with them. 96  8:17 He also tore down the tower of Penuel and executed the city’s men.

8:18 He said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Describe for me 97  the men you killed at Tabor.” They said, “They were like you. Each one looked like a king’s son.” 98  8:19 He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. I swear, 99  as surely as the Lord is alive, if you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 8:20 He ordered Jether his firstborn son, “Come on! 100  Kill them!” But Jether was too afraid to draw his sword, 101  because he was still young. 8:21 Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, 102  “Come on, 103  you strike us, for a man is judged by his strength.” 104  So Gideon killed 105  Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent-shaped ornaments which were on the necks of their camels.

Gideon Rejects a Crown but Makes an Ephod

8:22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son, and your grandson. For you have delivered us from Midian’s power.” 106  8:23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 8:24 Gideon continued, 107  “I would like to make one request. Each of you give me an earring from the plunder you have taken.” 108  (The Midianites 109  had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites.) 8:25 They said, “We are happy to give you earrings.” 110  So they 111  spread out a garment, and each one threw an earring from his plunder onto it. 8:26 The total weight of the gold earrings he requested came to seventeen hundred gold shekels. 112  This was in addition to the crescent-shaped ornaments, jewelry, 113  purple clothing worn by the Midianite kings, and the necklaces on the camels. 114  8:27 Gideon used all this to make 115  an ephod, 116  which he put in his hometown of Ophrah. All the Israelites 117  prostituted themselves to it by worshiping it 118  there. It became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Gideon’s Story Ends

8:28 The Israelites humiliated Midian; the Midianites’ fighting spirit was broken. 119  The land had rest for forty years during Gideon’s time. 120  8:29 Then Jerub-Baal son of Joash went home and settled down. 121  8:30 Gideon fathered seventy sons through his many wives. 122  8:31 His concubine, 123  who lived in Shechem, also gave him a son, whom he named Abimelech. 124  8:32 Gideon son of Joash died at a very 125  old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash located in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Israel Returns to Baal-Worship

8:33 After Gideon died, the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They made Baal-Berith 126  their god. 8:34 The Israelites did not remain true 127  to the Lord their God, who had delivered them from all the enemies who lived around them. 8:35 They did not treat 128  the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) fairly in return for all the good he had done for Israel.

1 tn Heb “and all the people who were with him.”

2 sn The name Harod means, ironically, “trembling.”

3 tn Heb “Midian.” The LXX reads “and Amalek” (cf. v. 12; 6:33).

4 tn Heb “the people who are with you are too numerous for me to give Midian into their hand.”

5 tn Heb “might glorify itself against me.”

6 tn Heb “my hand has delivered me.”

7 tn Heb “call into the ears of the people.”

8 tn Heb “afraid and shaking.”

9 tc Many interpreters reject the MT reading “and leave Mount Gilead” for geographical reasons. A possible alternative, involving rather radical emendation of the Hebrew text, would be, “So Gideon tested them” (i.e., thinned the ranks in this manner).

10 tn Heb “people.” The translation uses “men” because warriors are in view, and in ancient Israelite culture these would be only males. (This is also the case in vv. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.)

11 tn Or “turned around, back.”

12 tn Heb “too many people.”

13 tn Heb “test them for you there.”

14 tn Heb “he should go with you.”

15 tn Heb also has “to you.”

16 tn Heb “he should not go.”

17 tn Heb “the people.”

18 tn Heb “Everyone who laps with his tongue from the water, as a dog laps, put him by himself, as well as the one who gets down on his knees to drink.”

19 tc The Hebrew text adds, “with their hands to their mouths,” This makes no sense in light of v. 5, which distinguishes between dog-like lappers (who would not use their hands to drink) and those who kneel (who would use their hands). It seems likely that the words “with their hands to their mouths” have been misplaced from v. 6. They fit better at the end of v. 5 or v. 6. Perhaps these words were originally a marginal scribal note which was later accidentally inserted into the text in the wrong place.

20 tn Heb “the people.”

21 tn Heb “you.” The Hebrew pronoun is masculine plural, probably referring to the entire army.

22 tn The Hebrew pronoun here is singular.

23 tn Heb “All the people should go, each to his place.”

24 tn Heb “The people.”

25 tn The words “who were chosen” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

26 tn The Hebrew text has “in their hands.”

27 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Gideon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

28 tn Heb “tents.”

29 tn Heb “Midian.”

30 tn The Hebrew text adds “him” (i.e., Gideon).

31 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Gideon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

32 tn Heb “Go down against.”

33 tn The Hebrew verbal form is a perfect, emphasizing the certainty of the promise.

34 tn Heb “your hands will be strengthened.”

35 tn Heb “to the edge of the ones in battle array who were in the camp.”

36 tn Heb “Midian, Amalek, and the sons of the east were falling in the valley like locusts in great number.”

37 tn Heb “And Gideon came, and, look, a man was relating to his friend a dream.”

38 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the man mentioned in the previous clause) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

39 tn Heb “Look!” The repetition of this interjection, while emphatic in Hebrew, would be redundant in the English translation.

40 tn Heb “It came to the tent and struck it and it fell. It turned it upside down and the tent fell.”

41 tn Heb “answered and said.”

42 tn Heb “This can be nothing but.”

43 tn Heb “he bowed down” or “worshiped.”

44 tn Heb “heads.”

45 tn Heb “the jars.” The noun has been replaced by the pronoun (“them”) in the translation for stylistic reasons.

sn They hid the torches inside the earthenware jars to disguise their approach and to keep the torches from being extinguished by the breeze.

46 tn Or “look.”

47 tn Heb “Gideon went, along with the hundred men who were with him, to the edge of the camp.”

48 tn Heb “that were in their hands.”

49 tn The Hebrew text adds, “in order to blow [them].” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

50 tn Heb “each in his place.”

51 tn Or “fled.”

52 tn Heb “the Lord set the sword of each one against his friend.”

53 tc MT has “and throughout the camp,” but the conjunction (“and”) is due to dittography and should be dropped. Compare the ancient versions, which lack the conjunction here.

54 tn The words “they went” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

55 tn Heb “Midian.”

56 tn Heb “to meet Midian.”

57 tn Heb “capture before them the waters.”

58 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarification (also later in this verse).

59 tn Heb “And all the men of Ephraim were summoned.”

60 tn Heb “they captured the waters.”

61 sn The names Oreb and Zeeb, which mean “Raven” and “Wolf” respectively, are appropriate because the Midianites had been like scavengers and predators to Israel.

62 tn The Hebrew text repeats the verb “executed.” This has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons.

63 tn Heb “Midian.”

64 tn Heb “beyond the Jordan.” The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text but has been supplied in the translation for clarity (also in 8:4).

65 tn Heb “by not summoning us.”

66 tn Heb “gleanings.”

67 sn Ephraim’s leftover grapes are better quality than Abiezer’s harvest. Gideon employs an agricultural metaphor. He argues that Ephraim’s mopping up operations, though seemingly like the inferior grapes which are missed initially by the harvesters or left for the poor, are actually more noteworthy than the military efforts of Gideon’s family.

68 tn Heb “What was I able to do compared to you?”

69 tn Heb “Then their spirits relaxed from against him, when he spoke this word.”

70 tn Heb “And Gideon arrived at the Jordan, crossing over, he and the three hundred men who were with him, exhausted and chasing.” The English past perfect (“had crossed”) is used because this verse flashes back chronologically to an event that preceded the hostile encounter described in vv. 1-3. (Note that 7:25 assumes Gideon had already crossed the Jordan.)

71 tn Or perhaps, “sell.”

72 tn Heb “people.” The translation uses “men” because these were warriors and in ancient Israelite culture would have been exclusively males.

73 tn Heb “who are at my feet.”

74 tn Or perhaps, “sell.”

75 tn Heb “Are the palms of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give to your army bread?” Perhaps the reference to the kings’ “palms” should be taken literally. The officials of Succoth may be alluding to the practice of mutilating prisoners or enemy corpses (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 155).

sn The officials of Succoth are hesitant to give (or sell) food to Gideon’s forces because they are not sure of the outcome of the battle. Perhaps they had made an alliance with the Midianites which demanded their loyalty.

76 tn Heb “Therefore.”

77 sn I will thresh. The metaphor is agricultural. Threshing was usually done on a hard threshing floor. As farm animals walked over the stalks, pulling behind them a board embedded with sharp stones, the stalks and grain would be separated. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 63-65. Gideon threatens to use thorns and briers on his sledge.

78 tn Or “flesh.”

79 tn This is apparently a rare instrumental use of the Hebrew preposition אֵת (’et, note the use of ב [bet] in v. 16). Some, however, argue that אֵת more naturally indicates accompaniment (“together with”). In this case Gideon envisions threshing their skin along with thorns and briers, just as the stalks and grain are intermingled on the threshing floor. See C. F. Burney, Judges, 229-30.

80 tn Heb “and spoke to them in the same way.”

81 tn Heb “The men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth answered.”

82 tn Heb “said to.” The translation “threatened” is interpretive, but is clearly indicated by the context.

83 tn Heb “saying.”

84 tn Or “safely.” Heb “in peace.”

85 tn Heb “About fifteen thousand [in number] were all the ones remaining from the army of the sons of the east. The fallen ones were a hundred and twenty thousand [in number], men drawing the sword.”

86 tn Heb “the ones living in tents.”

87 tn Heb “and attacked the army, while the army was secure.” The Hebrew term בֶטַח (vetakh, “secure”) probably means the army was undefended (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 156), not suspecting an attack at that time and place.

88 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Gideon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

89 tn Or “routed”; Heb “caused to panic.”

90 tn Or “ascent.”

91 tn Heb “from the men of Succoth.”

92 tn Heb “wrote down for him the officials of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.”

93 tn Heb “Look!” The words “what I have” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

94 tn Heb “Are the palms of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give to your exhausted men bread?”

sn Gideon changes their actual statement (see v. 6) by saying exhausted men rather than “army.” In this way he emphasizes the crisis his men were facing and highlights the insensitivity of the men of Succoth.

95 tn Heb “elders.”

96 tc The translation follows the reading of several ancient versions (LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and Vulgate) in assuming the form וַיָּדָשׁ (vayyadash) from the verb דּוֹשׁ (dosh, “thresh”) as in v. 7. The MT reads instead the form וַיֹּדַע (vayyoda’, “make known”), a Hiphil form of יָדַע (yadah). In this case one could translate, “he used them [i.e., the thorns and briers] to teach the men of Succoth a lesson.”

97 tn Heb “Where are?”

98 tn Heb “each one like the appearance of sons of the king.”

99 tn The words “I swear” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

100 tn Or “Arise!”

101 tn Heb “did not draw his sword for he was afraid.”

102 tn The words “to Gideon” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

103 tn Or “Arise.”

104 tn Heb “for as the man is his strength.”

105 tn Heb “arose and killed.”

106 tn Heb “hand.”

107 tn Heb “said to them.”

108 tn Heb “Give to me, each one, an earring from his plunder.”

109 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Midianites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

110 tn Heb “We will indeed give.”

111 tc In the LXX the subject of this verb is singular, referring to Gideon rather than to the Israelites.

112 sn Seventeen hundred gold shekels would be about 42.7 pounds (19.4 kilograms) of gold.

113 tn Or “pendants.”

114 tn Heb “the ornaments which were on the necks of their camels.”

115 tn Heb “made it into.”

116 sn In Exod 28:4-6 and several other texts an ephod is described as a priestly or cultic garment. In some cases an ephod is used to obtain a divine oracle (1 Sam 23:9; 30:7). Here the ephod is made of gold and is described as being quite heavy (70-75 lbs?). Some identify it as an idol, but it was more likely a cultic object fashioned in the form of a garment which was used for oracular purposes. For discussion of the ephod in the OT, see C. F. Burney, Judges, 236-43, and R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 349-52.

117 tn Heb “Israel” (a collective singular).

118 tn The words “by worshiping it” are supplied in the translation for clarity.

119 tn Heb “Midian was humbled before the Israelites, and they no longer lifted their heads.”

120 tn Heb “in the days of Gideon.”

121 tn Heb “went and lived in his house.”

122 tn Heb “Gideon had seventy sons who went out from his thigh, for he had many wives.” The Hebrew word יָרֵךְ (yarekh, “thigh”) is a euphemism here for the penis.

123 sn A concubine was a slave woman in ancient Near Eastern societies who was the legal property of her master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with her master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife. The children of a concubine could, in some instances, become equal heirs with the children of the free wife. After the period of the Judges concubines may have become more of a royal prerogative (2 Sam 21:10-14; 1 Kgs 11:3).

124 sn The name Abimelech means “my father is king.”

125 tn Heb “good.”

126 sn Baal-Berith was a local manifestation of the Canaanite storm god. The name means, ironically, “Baal of the covenant.” Israel’s covenant allegiance had indeed shifted.

127 tn Heb “remember.”

128 tn Heb “did not do loyalty with,” or “did not act faithfully toward.”

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