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Bible Commentaries
Judges 8

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And 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.

Why hast thou served us thus? — Nay, why have you served me thus? might Gideon for better cause have said: and how is it that you came no sooner to mine assistance in so common a cause? But none are so ready to except and exclaim, as the most faulty.

And they did chide with him sharply. — Heb., Strongly. They should rather have cried him up for his valour, and blessed God for his victory. But this is merces mundi, the world’s wages: and these Ephraimitcs, pricked on by pride and envy thus to brawl and lay about them, had they not met with a man of a milder temper than themselves, had occasioned a far worse war than the former. If two fires meet, it must needs be a great combustion: it proved so in Jephtha’s days, Judges 12:1-6 and these proud Ephraimites met with their match.

Verse 2

And 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?

What have I done now in comparison of you? — By a soft answer he pacifieth their wrath. Proverbs 17:1 ; Proverbs 25:15 Milk quencheth wildfire: oil, saith Luther, quenches lime, which water kindles. Hard to hard, will never do well: but you may break a flint upon a cushion; a bullet if it light upon a wool sack, dieth there. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath." Romans 12:19 Howbeit some men are as nettles: handle them gently, they sting you; handle them hard, and they will do you no hurt.

Verse 3

God 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.

And what was I able to do in comparison of you? — He knew them to be ambitious, and therefore he doth little less than ascribe the victory to them. Yet he saith not, You have done all, and I little or nothing: for then they would have thought he had jeered them. Only he immindeth them of entitling God to all their achievements, when he saith here "God hath delivered into your hands," … This, these proud persons perhaps thought not of.

Then their anger was abated. — As it might well enough: for, like the waters of Shiloah at the foot of Zion, Isaiah 8:6 which run softly, he made but small noise, though he heard great words.

Verse 4

And Gideon came to Jordan, [and] passed over, he, and the three hundred men that [were] with him, faint, yet pursuing [them].

And Gideon came to Jordan. — This was before that bickering he had with the Ephraimites, though set down after it.

Faint, yet pursuing. — So Daniel, though sick, did the king’s business. "Continue instant in prayer." Romans 12:12

Verse 5

And 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.

Loaves of bread. — Or, Morsels, or cakes that may be soon baked, and we not hindered in our pursuit. Thus Gideon performed all the parts of a good general: he not only knew how to overcome an enemy, but also how to use the victory.

Verse 6

And the princes of Succoth said, [Are] the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

And the princes of Succoth said. — They not only deny him so reasonable a request, but deride and scornfully treat him, in like sort as afterwards Nabal the churl did David; which vexed him not a little.

Verse 7

And 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.

Then I will tear your flesh. — Heb., I will thresh your flesh with the thorns. The Chaldee hath it, upon thorns; q.d., will whip you to death repetitis ictibus, by stroke upon stroke with thorns or thistles of very sharp prickles. And this he threateneth to do, not out of passion, but on premeditation, as a just severity towards such treacherous wretches.

Verse 8

And 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].

And the men of Penuel answered him. — Not the rulers only, as at Succoth: but the common people also.

Verse 9

And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

I will break down this tower. — Whereon you bear yourselves so bold as if there were no coming at you; as if you were out of the reach of God’s rod and man’s revenge.

Verse 10

Now 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.

Were in Karkor. — A city beyond Jordan, where they thought themselves safe, and feared not a pursuer: but vengeance would not suffer them to live. Acts 28:4

Verse 11

And 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.

And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents. — The Arabian Nomades or Scenites, who dwelt not in houses or cities, but in movable tents, feeding their cattle, Jeremiah 49:29 taking up wheresoever night took them. So the Hamaxobii among the Scythians. They had their scouts abroad, doubtless; but he fetched a compass about and came upon the east side, where they never feared any enemy.

For the host was secure. — Security ushereth in destruction; as it did at Tyre, at Babylon, those Amalakites in 1 Samuel 30:16-17 , the Pompeians at the Pharsalian field, Caes. Comment. the French at the battle of Agincourt, Speed’s Chron.

Verse 12

And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.

He pursued after them. — Now was his time, and he took it, to complete his victory: -

Nil actum credens dum quid superesset agendum. ” - Lucan. De J. Caes.

Verse 13

And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun [was up],

Before the sun was up. — Still he set upon them in the night, because of the weakness of his army, which by night appeared not. Julius Caesar, indeed, held the night unfit for battle, Lucem enim pudorem oculis militum afferre. But I cannot think with Vatablus and others, that this war here was begun and ended in one night. Hoc bellum una nocte fuit incaeptum et confectum: quod refertur ad laudem Dei. - Vat.

Verse 14

And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, [even] threescore and seventeen men.

And he described unto him the princes. — Who had denied him refreshing in his pursuit of the enemy, and were therefore to be punished; though it is seldom seen that princes fall alone, since their sins do much harm, (I.) By imitation; (2.) By imputation: for pleotuntur Achivi, as 2 Samuel 24:1-25

Verse 15

And 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?

Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me. — Men may utter such words in the pride of their spirits, as may afterwards be driven down their throats. Cave ne lingua feriat guttur, saith the Arabian, Take heed thy tongue cut not thy throat.

Verse 16

And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.

And he took the elders of the city, and thorns, … — Wherewith he tore them, as well as taught them what it was to be so barbarous, and that he had not threatened them in terrorem only. God also chastiseth his children, and thereby "teacheth them," but after another manner, "out of his law, that he may give them rest from the day of adversity." Psalms 94:12-13 He whippeth them, but it is with sweetbrier. But let scorners of God and his people, deriders and discouragers of the good, look for a Gideon to torture them, with briers and thorns, with scourges and scorpions.

Verse 17

And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

And he beat down the tower of Penuel. — Which Jeroboam rebuilt and made it a garrison. 1 Kings 12:25

Verse 18

Then 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.

Whom ye slew at Tabor. — The sword spareth neither lord nor ragamuffin.

Each one resembled the children of a king. — They were goodly and lovely personages: this they spake to ingratiate. But why were they so cruel as to kill such as whose beauty, that flower of virtue, bespake more lenity?

Verse 19

And 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.

I would not slay you. — As now I must, both as an avenger of blood Numbers 25:7-8 and as a magistrate; for Bonis nocet qui malis parcit, to restrain justice is to support sin: and not to correct, is to consent to the crime.

Verse 20

And 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.

And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them.

Adeo a teneris assuescere magnum est.

Gideon would inure his son to manlike actions from his youth, and make him share with him in the honour of his victory.

Verse 21

Then 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.

Rise thou, and fall upon us. — For thou wilt quickly despatch us; and we will die with honour.

Hoc tamen infaelix miseram solabere mortem,

Aeneae magni dextra cadis. ” - Virg. Aeneid., lib. x.

For as the man is, so is his strength. — This they speak with an undaunted spirit, as it may seem, which is not always a sign of a good cause, but sometimes of a dedolent and desperate disposition, as we may see in many of Satan’s martyrs.

Verse 22

Then 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.

Rule thou over us, — viz, As king of the land. A fair offer, and such as few men would have refused. But he knew that to accept of it, were to trench upon God’s prerogative royal, who had used all means to have the glory of this victory ascribed to himself only. See Isaiah 42:8 .

For thou hast delivered us. — We should for this cause set up Christ, since servati sumus ut serviamus Luke 1:74

Verse 23

And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

I will not rule over you. — Since I cannot without manifest wrong done to God. This modesty of his in refusing such an offer was very commendable; as it was afterwards in Alphonsus, King of Arragon, and Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, who might have been chosen emperors of Germany, but would not. Rodolphus, Duke of Suevia, was too forward to accept of the empire offered him by Pope Hildebrand; and all too late repented it. So was Silvester II, who for seven years’ enjoyment of the popedom, gave his soul to the devil.

Verse 24

And 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.)

For they had golden earrings. — But an obedient ear Proverbs 20:12 ; Proverbs 25:12 had been a far better ornament. These inaures aureae were ill bestowed upon such uncircumcised ears as Ishmaelites had.

Verse 25

And they answered, We will willingly give [them]. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.

We will willingly give them. — Giving we will give.

Dat bene, dat multum, qui dat cum munere vultum.

Verse 26

And 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.

And collars. — Or golden cabinets; wherein they carried balsam to pour into their wounds. Vatab.

Verse 27

And 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.

And Gideon made an ephod thereof. — Of a good intention likely; but without a good warrant from God. A good aim doth not make a good action: but men nmst "come to the light, that their deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." John 3:21

And all Israel went thither a whoring after it,sc., After Gideon’s death. So they did also after the brazen serpent. 2 Kings 18:4

Which thing became a snare. — The cause of all those tragic accidents that befell his house after his death. Good, therefore, is the wise man’s counsel, Proverbs 3:4-6 .

Verse 28

Thus 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.

Forty years. — Beginning the computation at those forty years mentioned in Judges 5:31 .

Verse 29

And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.

Went and dwelt in his own house. — As finding by experience, that high seats are never but uneasy; and that many a care attendeth greatness. Vacia, the Roman, having been praetor in the time of Tiberius, withdrew himself to his country house. In any public storm, therefore, the people would commonly cry out, O Vacia, solus scis vivere. O Vacia, thou hast the only life of it.

Verse 30

And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.

Of his body begotten. — Heb., Going out of his thigh, in which there are veins, say anatomists, that go along to the genitals, and convey thither the matter for the seed of generation. Hence that expression of Abraham to his servant, Genesis 24:2 "Put thine hand under my thigh," out of which is to come the Messiah, "and swear," … So Genesis 47:29 ; Genesis 46:26 .

Verse 31

And his concubine that [was] in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.

And his concubine, — i.e., His wife though in an inferior degree: Dio. as having been before his maid servant. Judges 9:18

Whose name he called Abimelech, — i.e., My father is king. This name, probably, he gave him at the motion of his concubine, who might say of her son as afterwards Nero’s mother did of him, Occidar, modo imperet; let him reign upon any terms: and possibly this name of his might stir him up to aspire to the kingdom, taking omen ex nomine, and being told that his father was offered the sovereign and supreme power for him and his posterity.

Verse 32

And 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.

In a good old age. — Heb., With a good hoar head, notwithstanding his last evil act which God overlooked, though it were some spot to his white head.

Verse 33

And 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.

As soon as Gideon was dead. — So great a mischief, many times, is the death of a good governor.

And made Baalberith their god. — To whom they become professed covenanters, as the name importeth. The Greeks called him Jupiter ορκιος , to whom they had sworn themselves.

Verse 34

And 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:

Remembered not the Lord. — Their idolamania had obliterated the memory of the true God, whom it is as necessary to remember, as to draw breath.

Verse 35

Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, [namely], Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.

Neither showed they kindness. — No wonder that apostates from God prove unkind and unthankful to men.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Judges 8". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/judges-8.html. 1865-1868.
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