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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
The success of Gideon's enterprise mortified the pride of Ephraim, as the chief tribe, seeing that they had played a subordinate part. Compare Judges 12:1.
2And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
A civil war with the great tribe of Ephraim would soon have turned Israel's victory into mourning. Gideon therefore soothes their wounded pride by confessing that Ephraim had done more, though they had joined him so late in the day, than he had been able to effect in the whole campaign. The grape-gleaning of Ephraim was better than the whole vintage of Abi-ezer.
3God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
4And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
5And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.
Succoth was in the tribe of Gad which was entirely trans-Jordanic Joshua 13:27; and the ruins are at Sukkot, on the east of Jordan, a little south of Bethshan.
Give, I pray you etc. - Gideon might fairly expect so much aid from the trans-Jordanic tribes, and from so considerable a town as Succoth Judges 8:14.
6And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?
The number of the followers of Zebah and Zalmunna was still so formidable, and Gideon's enterprise still so doubtful, that the men of Succoth (being on the same side of the Jordan) would not risk the vengeance of the Midianites by giving supplies to Gideon's men.
7And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
8And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.
Succoth was in the valley or Ghor of the Jordan Judges 8:5, and Penuel apparently in the mountain. No identification of Penuel has taken place. It was south of the Brook Jabbok, and on Jacob's way to Succoth. Gideon, journeying in the opposite direction to Jacob, comes from Succoth to Penuel.
9And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.
Zebah and Zalmunna seem to have fled nearly due east to Karkor, which was probably an enclosure of some kind (perhaps a walled sheepfold, compare Numbers 31:32 note). Its site is unknown; but it was near Nobah, in the half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead Numbers 32:40, and Jogbehah was in the tribe of Gad Numbers 32:34-35. Gideon, perhaps taking a circuit so as to come upon them from the east, fell suddenly upon them, apparently at night, surprised them, and smote them.
11And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.
12And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
13And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,
Before the sun was up - The translation of the words is doubtful, because of the rarity of the word rendered "sun" (חרס cheres). Many suppose it to be the name of a mountain pass, and render it from the ascent of Heres.
14And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.
The written (see the margin) list would enable Gideon to punish the guilty and spare the innocent people. Succoth was governed by a sanhedrim or council of seventy elders (compare Numbers 11:16), with perhaps seven others of superior rank called princes.
15And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?
16And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
He taught - Thought to be a false reading, for "he threshed," as in Judges 8:7 margin.
17And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
The men of the city - Perhaps the rulers; who, it is likely, had possession of the tower or citadel, and so could tyrannize over the people. Gideon killed the great men, and beat down their towers, but did not injure the inhabitants.
18Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.
What manner of men - literally, "Where are the men?" The sense, "what manner of men", is merely gathered from the tenor of the answer. Gideon doubtless knew that his brethren had been killed by Zebah and Zalmunna, and the desire of avenging their death was one motive for his impetuous pursuit and attack. His question was rather a taunt, a bitter reproach to his captives, preparing them for their fate. Zebah and Zalmunna, in their answer, did not give evidence against themselves. Their hope was by a flattering answer to soothe Gideon's wrath.
19And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.
The sons of my mother - A much closer relation than that of brothers by the father only. (Compare Genesis 43:29; Deuteronomy 13:6; Psalm 69:8). This is the only hint preserved of the transaction. We cannot say exactly when the slaughter of Gideon's brethren on Mount Tabor took place, whether before the outbreak of the war Judges 6:33, or in the retreat and flight of the Midianites Judges 7:22.
20And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.
It was Gideon's place to act the part of the "avenger of blood" Numbers 35:12; Deuteronomy 19:6. The fierce manners of the age break out in the slaying of the captives (compare 1 Samuel 15:32-33), and in Gideon's attempt to initiate his youthful son Jether in the stern work of slaying his country's enemies.
21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.
The ornaments - See marg. and compare Isaiah 3:18. The custom of adorning the necks of their camels with gold chains and ornaments prevailed among the Arabs so late as the time of Mahomet.
22Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
24And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
In this desire for gold Gideon falls to the level of ordinary men, and we may see in it the first decline of his glory, leading to a sad tarnishing of the luster of his bright name. The idolatrous honor paid to Gideon's ephod was probably a source of revenue to his house. Contrast the conduct of Abraham Genesis 14:21-23, and of Elisha 2 Kings 5:16, 2 Kings 5:26.
The "ear-ring" here mentioned is properly a "nose-ring" (compare Genesis 24:22 note). The custom of wearing nose-rings prevails in Eastern countries to the present day. The circumstance of Job's friends each contributing a nose-ring of gold (Job 42:11 note) is a remarkable parallel to the incident in Gideon's history. Rings of gold were also used as money in Egypt, as appears on several early monuments, and by the Celts.
25And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
They spread ... - The Septuagint reads "He spread his garment."
26And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.
If the Ishmaelite nose-rings were half a shekel in weight, then 1,700 shekels weight of gold implied that 3,400 persons wearing, gold rings had been slain. The "collars" were rather "ear-drops."
27And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
The ephod was that particular part of the high priest's dress which was necessary to be worst when he inquired of God by Urim and Thummim. It seems that Gideon being now the civil ruler, desired to have an ephod of his own, kept in his own city, to he worn by the priest whenever Gideon might summon him to inquire of the Lord for him. His relations with the tribe of Ephraim probably made him unwilling to resort to Shiloh. Compare the act of Jeroboam 1 Kings 12:28.
28Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
29And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
Abimelech's mother was not reckoned among the wives, being, probably, one of the Canaanite population in Shechem Judges 9:28 : neither was Abimelech himself reckoned with the 70 other sons of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:24. Compare Judges 11:1-2).
32And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
Turned again - Doubtless Gideon himself had no doubt prepared the way for this apostacy by his unauthorized ephod. The Law of Moses, with its strict unity of priesthood and altar, was the divinely-appointed and only effectual preservative from idolatry.
Baal-bereth - The god of covenants or sworn treaties, corresponding to the Zeus Orkius of the Greeks. The center of this fresh apostacy was at Shechem.
34And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.