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Judges 8:4-21

Context
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. 1  8:5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give 2  some loaves of bread to the men 3  who are following me, 4  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 5  bread to your army?” 6  8:7 Gideon said, “Since you will not help, 7  after the Lord hands Zebah and Zalmunna over to me, I will thresh 8  your skin 9  with 10  desert thorns and briers.” 8:8 He went up from there to Penuel and made the same request. 11  The men of Penuel responded the same way the men of Succoth had. 12  8:9 He also threatened 13  the men of Penuel, warning, 14  “When I return victoriously, 15  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. 16  8:11 Gideon went up the road of the nomads 17  east of Nobah and Jogbehah and ambushed the surprised army. 18  8:12 When Zebah and Zalmunna ran away, Gideon 19  chased them and captured the two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. He had surprised 20  their entire army.

8:13 Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the pass 21  of Heres. 8:14 He captured a young man from Succoth 22  and interrogated him. The young man wrote down for him the names of Succoth’s officials and city leaders – seventy-seven men in all. 23  8:15 He approached the men of Succoth and said, “Look what I have! 24  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?’” 25  8:16 He seized the leaders 26  of the city, along with some desert thorns and briers; he then “threshed” the men of Succoth with them. 27  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 28  the men you killed at Tabor.” They said, “They were like you. Each one looked like a king’s son.” 29  8:19 He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. I swear, 30  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! 31  Kill them!” But Jether was too afraid to draw his sword, 32  because he was still young. 8:21 Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, 33  “Come on, 34  you strike us, for a man is judged by his strength.” 35  So Gideon killed 36  Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent-shaped ornaments which were on the necks of their camels.

1 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.)

2 tn Or perhaps, “sell.”

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

4 tn Heb “who are at my feet.”

5 tn Or perhaps, “sell.”

6 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.

7 tn Heb “Therefore.”

8 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.

9 tn Or “flesh.”

10 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.

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

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

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

14 tn Heb “saying.”

15 tn Or “safely.” Heb “in peace.”

16 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.”

17 tn Heb “the ones living in tents.”

18 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.

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

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

21 tn Or “ascent.”

22 tn Heb “from the men of Succoth.”

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

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

25 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.

26 tn Heb “elders.”

27 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.”

28 tn Heb “Where are?”

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

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

31 tn Or “Arise!”

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

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

34 tn Or “Arise.”

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

36 tn Heb “arose and killed.”



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