Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Jerubbaal--This had now become Gideon's honorable surname, "the
enemy of Baal."
well--rather "spring of Harod," that is, "fear, trembling"; probably
the same as the fountain in Jezreel
It was situated not far from Gilboa, on the confines of Manasseh, and
the name "Harod" was bestowed on it with evident reference to the panic
which seized the majority of Gideon's troops. The host of the
Midianites were on the northern side of the valley, seemingly deeper
down in the descent towards the Jordan, near a little eminence.
2. the Lord said unto Gideon, The people . . . are too many--Although
the Israelitish army mustered only thirty-two thousand (or one-sixth of
the Midianitish host), the number was too great, for it was the Lord's
purpose to teach Israel a memorable lesson of dependence on Him.
3. Now therefore . . ., proclaim in the ears of the people, saying,
Whosoever is fearful . . . let him return--This proclamation was in
terms of an established law
4. too many--Two reductions were ordered, the last by the application
of a test which was made known to Gideon alone.
5. bring them down unto the water--When the wandering people in Asia,
on a journey or in haste, come to water, they do not stoop down with
deliberation on their knees, but only bend forward as much as is
necessary to bring their hand in contact with the stream, and throw it
up with rapidity, and at the same time such address, that they do not
drop a particle. The Israelites, it seems, were acquainted with the
practice; and those who adopted it on this occasion were selected as
fit for a work that required expedition. The rest were dismissed
according to the divine direction.
7. the Lord said, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save
you--It is scarcely possible to conceive a more severe trial than
the command to attack the overwhelming forces of the enemy with such a
handful of followers. But Gideon's faith in the divine assurance of
victory was steadfast, and it is for this he is so highly commended
8. the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley--Attention to
the relative position of the parties is of the greatest importance to
an understanding of what follows.
ENCOURAGED BY THE
DREAM AND THE
INTERPRETATION OF THE
9, 10. Arise, get thee down unto the host . . . But if thou fear to go
down, go thou with Phurah thy servant--In ancient times it was reckoned
no degradation for persons of the highest rank and character to act as
spies on an enemy's camp; and so Gideon did on this occasion. But the
secret errand was directed by God, who intended that he should hear
something which might animate his own valor and that of his troops.
11. the outside of the armed men that were in the host--"Armed,"
means embodied under the five officers established by the ordinary laws
and usages of encampments. The camp seems to have been unprotected by
any rampart, since Gideon had no difficulty in reaching and overhearing
a conversation, so important to him.
12. the Midianites and the Amalekites . . . lay along in the valley
like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without
number--a most graphic description of an Arab encampment. They lay
wrapt in sleep, or resting from their day's plunder, while their
innumerable camels were stretched round about them.
13. I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the
host of Midian--This was a characteristic and very expressive dream for
an Arab in the circumstances. The rolling down the hill, striking
against the tents, and overturning them, naturally enough connected it
in his mind with the position and meditated attack of the Israelitish
leader. The circumstance of the cake, too, was very significant. Barley
was usually the food of the poor, and of beasts; but most probably,
from the widespread destruction of the crops by the invaders,
multitudes must have been reduced to poor and scanty fare.
15. when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation
. . . he worshipped--The incident originated in the secret overruling
providence of God, and Gideon, from his expression of pious gratitude,
regarded it as such. On his mind, as well as that of his followers, it
produced the intended effect--that of imparting new animation and
impulse to their patriotism.
16-22. he divided the three hundred men into three companies--The
object of dividing his forces was, that they might seem to be
surrounding the enemy. The pitchers were empty to conceal the torches,
and made of earthenware, so as to be easily broken; and the sudden
blaze of the held-up lights--the loud echo of the trumpets, and the
shouts of Israel, always terrifying
and now more terrible than ever by the use of such striking words,
broke through the stillness of the midnight air. The sleepers started
from their rest; not a blow was dealt by the Israelites; but the enemy
ran tumultuously, uttering the wild, discordant cries peculiar to the
Arab race. They fought indiscriminately, not knowing friend from foe.
The panic being universal, they soon precipitately fled, directing
their flight down to the Jordan, by the foot of the mountains of
Ephraim, to places known as the "house of the acacia" [Beth-shittah],
and "the meadow of the dance" [Abel-meholah].
23. the men of Israel gathered themselves together--These were
evidently the parties dismissed, who having lingered at a little
distance from the scene of contest, now eagerly joined in the pursuit
southwestward through the valley.
24, 25. Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim--The
Ephraimites lay on the south and could render seasonable aid.
Come . . . take before them the waters unto
These were the northern fords of the Jordan, to the east-northeast of
the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together . . . unto
Beth-barah--A new conflict ensued, in which two secondary chiefs were
seized and slain on the spots where they were respectively taken. The
spots were named after these chiefs, Oreb, "the Raven," and Zeeb, "the
Wolf"--appropriate designations of Arab leaders.