Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Ephraim. The valour and insolence of these men are placed together. Afterwards we have an account of the transactions of Gedeon in the pursuit, ver. 4. (Haydock) — The tribe of Ephraim seems to have had some grounds for being displeased at not being summoned at first, as well as the tribes of Aser, &c., which were farther off; particularly as they sprang from Joseph, no less than Manasses, and had their portion in common. The general answers them with great respect, as otherwise their displeasure might have had very pernicious consequences. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. What could I, &c. A meek and humble answer appeased them; who otherwise might have come to extremities. So great is the power of humility both with God and man. (Challoner) (Proverbs xv. 1.) — Could. Hebrew and Septuagint, “What have I yet done like you? (Menochius) — Is not the gleaning?” &c. I only commenced the war; you have brought it to a happy termination, by killing the princes of the enemy. (Debrio adag. 157.) At the first siege of Troy, Telamon having entered the city before Hercules, the latter was on the point of killing him, when Telamon, collecting a heap of stones, which he said he intended for an altar in honour of “the victorious Hercules,” the hero’s fury was appeased. (Apol. Bibl. ii. 6.)
Ver. 4. Jordan. Notwithstanding the precautions of Gedeon, some had got over the river, whom he resolves to follow at Bethsan. This city was about 15 miles from Mount Thabor. His men had been in motion a great part of the night, and had not taken provisions (Calmet) for so long a journey; so that he was obliged to apply for some when he had crossed the Jordan. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Soccoth. “The tents,” where Jacob had encamped, Genesis xxxiii. It belonged to the tribe of Dan. (Menochius) — The people of this town, as well as the ancients of Phanuel, return an insolent reply to the just request of Gedeon. In cases of such extremity, all are bound to assist the defenders of their country; and the refusal is punished as a sort of rebellion, 2 Kings xxv. 10. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Hand. Perhaps thou makest sure of taking these kings. (Haydock) We apprehend that they will return with greater forces, and punish our compliance. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Desert. An usual mode of punishment, (2 Kings xii., and 1 Paralipomenon xx. 3.; Calmet) which the cruel irrision of Gedeon and his army, who were fighting in the cause of God and of the nation, richly called for.
Ver. 9. Tower; on the strength of which they ventured to treat him with insolence. Phanuel, “the face of God,” (Genesis xxxii. 33,) was near the Jaboc. (Menochius)
Ver. 10. Resting, as the Hebrew word Korkor, signifies. (Bochart) — Protestants have, “in Karkor,” as if it were the name of a place. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Tents. The Scenitæ, (Menochius) who inhabited part of the desert Arabia. (Calmet) — Hurt. They had probably been mounted on camels, &c., (Haydock) and did not suspect that Gedeon would be so soon after them across the Jordan. (Menochius)
Ver. 13. Sun-rising. It would seem as if all these exploits had been performed between midnight and sun-rising, in the month of May, which is quite incredible; and hence many translate, “the sun being up.” Septuagint and Theodotion, “from the height or ascent of Hares,” (the situation of which we know not,) or “of the mountains,” (Aquila) or “woods,” (Symmachus) or perhaps “from the eastward.” (Calmet) — The Scripture does not, however, specify that all this took place in the space of six or seven hours, or of one night, but only that Gedeon came to Soccoth so early, as to take the magistrates unawares, being informed by a young man where they lived. This might probably happen on the second morning, after he had surprised the camp of the Madianites, at Jezrael. Protestants and Chaldean agree with the Vulgate, “before the sun was up.” The other translations explain chares, as if it denoted the place or situation from which Gedeon was returning. (Haydock) — Described. The text may signify either that the boy marked them out, or that Gedeon took down a memorandum of their names. (Calmet) — He would not punish the innocent with the guilty. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Tore. Hebrew seems to be corrupted in this place. “And he shewed (instructed or chastised) with these thorns.” The Septuagint and Vulgate read the same word as ver. 7. He crushed the people with such instruments as are used to beat out corn. It is probable that he only treated the magistrates of Soccoth and of Phanuel in this manner. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Thabor. Some of the relations or brothers of Gedeon had retired thither, as to a place of safety; and the latter wished to know what was become of them, that he might redeem them, if alive. (Calmet) — King. They answer with flattery, insinuating that Gedeon had the air of a king. (Menochius)
Ver. 19. Kill you. They were not included in the number of the seven devoted nations, (Worthington) and the precept for destroying the Madianites no longer subsisted, Numbers xxxi. 17. (Menochius) — The laws of war permitted the Hebrews to kill their prisoners, if they thought proper. No public executioner was necessary. Samuel killed Agag, 1 Kings xv. 32. See 3 Kings ii. 25., and 2 Kings i. 15. (Calmet) — Gedeon had a mind to make his son partake in the victory, and punish these kings for an unjust murder of his relations. He would also inure him to fight against the enemies of God, &c. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Age. They beg that they may die in a more speedy and noble manner. Tacitus (Hist. iv.) observes, “it was reported that Civilis exposed some of the Roman captives to his little son, in order that he might fix his arrows and javelins in their bodies.” — Ornaments. Most interpreters understand “crescents.” The veneration of the Arabs for the moon, the celestial Venus, or Alilat, is well known. The Turks still make use of this sign, as Christians employ the cross on their standards, temples, &c. Men and women anciently wore on their necks or forehead ornaments of the same nature, as these camels did, Isaias iii. 18. Latinus adorned his horses in the most splendid manner. Virgil, Æneid vii: Aurea pectoribus demissa monilia pendent. Caligula decorated with extravagance his famous horse Incitatus, on which he designed to confer the consulate. (Suetonius) — In Egypt the camels are sometimes painted yellow, and hung with a variety of little bells. (Vaneb.)
Ver. 22. Israel, who were in his army, and of whom he receives the earlets for his share of the spoil. (Calmet) — But as those who staid at home received a share of the booty, and no doubt would come to congratulate Gedeon on his victory, it seems equally probable that this offer of the regal dignity was made to him in a full assembly of the people, (Haydock) which is greatly to the honour of this valiant man. (Menochius) — Rule thou. They wish to confer upon him a dignity which he did not now possess, and which he absolutely refused, being, as he thought, incompatible with the theocracy. This shews that it was not the dignity of judge, which he retained till his death, but that of king, which was so displeasing to God, when the Israelites resolved to establish it among them, 1 Kings viii. 7. (Menochius; Tirinus; Grotius; Calmet) — Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 8.) thinks that Gedeon wished to resign the former dignity, but was forced to retain it forty years. The judges were chosen by God, and acted as his lieutenants, so that the people having no part in their election, the Lord alone was considered as the king of Israel. Some are of opinion that the people wished, on this occasion, to make the dignity hereditary. (Calmet) — Serarius thinks that they made an offer of the regal power to Gedeon, to his son, and grandson, only. But it seems rather that they meant to make the sovereign authority over entirely to his family, (Menochius) so great a sense had they of his courage, moderation, and just severity, of which he had given such striking proofs. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Request. It was not then thought dishonourable to ask nor to receive presents. The most precious part of the booty had been already presented to the general, according to the custom of the heroic times. But, as the people wished to make Gedeon king, he consents to receive the earlets, as a memorial of their affection. — Earlets. Hebrew and Septuagint (Menochius) may also signify, “each an earlet,” as if he would only accept one from each soldier. The original signifies also, the rings which women put under their noses; but, as men never did, it has not that meaning here, (Calmet) though there might be women in the camp of the Madianites. (Haydock) — Ismaelites. By this title various nations are designated. It seems almost as general as the word Arab among us. These nations were no more distinguished by these ornaments than the Hebrews themselves, Exodus xxxii. 2., and xxxv. 12. The Persians, Africans, Lybians, &c., wore ear-rings. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. And jewels. Some translate, “crescents (Septuagint, “little moons,”) and boxes” (netiphoth, Menochius) of perfumes, such as Alexander found among the spoils of Darius, and reserved to put his Homer in. These ornaments were also used by women, Isaias iii. 18. (Calmet) — The eastern nations delight in perfumes. (Menochius) — The ear-rings alone would amount to 3102l. 10s. sterling. (Haydock)
Ver. 27. An ephod. A priestly garment; which Gedeon made with a good design: but the Israelites, after his death, abused it by making it an instrument of their idolatrous worship, (Challoner) and perhaps consulting their idols with it. No law forbad the making of such a garment. (Menochius) — It was not peculiar to the high priest, since we find that Samuel and David occasionally wore the ephod, (2 Kings vi. 14,) and probably Gedeon would, on public occasions, do the like with this most costly one, which would serve to remind the people of the victory which they had gained over Madian. The chief judge in Egypt wore a great golden chain and collar, adorned with curious figures, as a mark of his dignity. (Diod. ii. 3.) This monument of the victory, and of the dignity of Gedeon, became, after his death, an occasion of superstition to the people, who foolishly imagined that they might consult the Lord, wherever an ephod was found. See chap. xvii. 5., and Exodus xxv. 7. The began to neglect the tabernacle, and to form a religion of their own choice. Many think that Gedeon was guilty of indiscretion in making it. (St. Augustine, q. xli.; Lyranus; Estius) — But the thing was in itself indifferent. He did not intend to arrogate to himself the privileges of the Levitical tribe. The Scripture nowhere condemns him, but speaks of his faith and of his death with honour, ver. 32., and Hebrews xi. 3. — With it. Hebrew, “after it or him,” which may either signify that this superstition took place after the death of Gedeon, (Septuagint; Pagnin; Menochius) or in consequence of the making of the ephod. (Jonathan; Drusius; Protestants; &c. versions; Calmet) — And to. This explains how it affected Gedeon, who was probably dead. He suffered in the ruin of his family, (Haydock) as it is explained in the following chapter. (Menochius)
Ver. 31. His concubine. She was his servant, but not his harlot; and is called his concubine, as wives of an inferior degree are commonly called in the Old Testament, though otherwise lawfully married. (Challoner) — They had not all the privileges of wives; (Genesis xxv. 6,) and their children could not claim the inheritance. (Calmet) — Abimelech means, “my (Haydock) father king;” alluding to the dignity of Gedeon; or perhaps the mother imposed this name, hoping that her son would obtain the highest honours. Josephus calls her Druma. She dwelt at Sichem, to which place the judge of Israel often resorted, though his usual residence was at Ephra. This son of theirs is included among the 70.
Ver. 32. Good. He left an excellent reputation, and died in God’s friendship. (Menochius)
Ver. 33. After. This is the most solid proof of Gedeon’s piety, since he kept the people in awe, and faithful to the Lord during his life. — God. Hebrew, “and appointed Baal Berith their god,” or goddess; for Berith, “of the covenant,” is feminine. In the temple of this idol, the citizens of Sichem kept money, chap ix. 4. The pagans had many gods who presided over treaties; and the parties were, it seems, at liberty to choose whom they thought proper. They commonly pitched upon Jupiter, who is, therefore, styled Zeus orkios, or Dius fidius, or Fistius Jupiter. (Laert. in Pythag.; Halicar. iv.) A statue “of Jupiter for oaths,” was seen at Olympus, holding the thunderbolts in his hands, ready to hurl against those who proved faithless. (Pausan. Eliac.) Philo of Byblos speaks of the Phœnician god Eliun, “the High,” and (Calmet) of the goddess “Beruth,” which last has a visible connection with Berith. The former title is sometimes given to the true God in Scripture. The city of Berytus was so called, probably in honour of the latter. Nonnus seems to have styled her Beroe. (Bochart; Chanaan ii. 17.) — Pliny ([Natural History?] xxxi. 1.) mentions the god Briaze, at the foot of whose temple runs the river Olachas, the waters of which are said to burn those who are guilty of perjury. The Chaldean reads, “they chose Beel-kiam for their error.” Amos (v. 26.) speaks of the images of Chiun. May he not be the same as Berith or Kiam? Spencer says, that Chiun was Saturn: but Vossius thinks it was the moon. (Idol. ii. 23.) (Calmet)
Ver. 35. Mercy is here put for many virtues: gratitude, justice, kindness, &c. (Menochius) — The Israelites did not take care to provide for (Calmet) the family of one who had rendered them such essential services. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Gedeon appeaseth the Ephraimites. Taketh Zebee and Salmana. Destroyeth Soccoth and Phanuel. Refuseth to be king. Maketh an ephod of the gold of the prey, and dieth in a good old age. The people return to idolatry.
1 And* the men of Ephraim said to him: What is this that thou meanest to do, that thou wouldst not call us, when thou wentest to fight against Madian? And they chid him sharply, and almost offered violence.
2 And he answered them: What could I have done like to that which you have done? Is not one bunch of grapes of Ephraim better than the vintages of Abiezer?
3 The Lord hath delivered into your hands the princes of Madian, Oreb and Zeb: what could I have done like to what you have done? And when he had said this, their spirit was appeased, with which they swelled against him.
4 And when Gedeon was come to the Jordan, he passed over it with the three hundred men that were with him: who were so weary that they could not pursue after them that fled.
5 And he said to the men of Soccoth: Give, I beseech you, bread to the people that is with me, for they are faint: that we may pursue Zebee, and Salmana, the kings of Madian.
6 The princes of Soccoth answered: Peradventure the palms of the hands of Zebee and Salmana are in thy hand, and therefore thou demandest that we should give bread to thy army.
7 And he said to them: When the Lord therefore shall have delivered Zebee and Salmana into my hands, I will thresh your flesh with the thorns and briers of the desert.
8 And going up from thence, he came to Phanuel: and he spoke the like things to the men of that place. And they also answered him, as the men of Soccoth had answered.
9 He said, therefore, to them also: When I shall return a conqueror in peace, I will destroy this tower.
10 But Zebee and Salmana were resting with all their army. For fifteen thousand men were left of all the troops of the eastern people, and one hundred and twenty thousand warriors that drew the sword were slain.
11 *And Gedeon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents, on the east of Nobe, and Jegbaa, and smote the camp of the enemies, who were secure, and suspected no hurt.
12 And Zebee and Salmana fled, and Gedeon pursued and took them, all their host being put in confusion.
13 And returning from the battle before the sun-rising,
14 He took a boy of the men of Soccoth: and he asked him the names of the princes and ancients of Soccoth, and he described unto him seventy-seven men.
15 And he came to Soccoth, and said to them: Behold Zebee, and Salmana, concerning whom you upbraided me, saying: Peradventure the hands of Zebee and Salmana are in thy hands, and therefore thou demandest that we should give bread to the men that are weary and faint.
16 So he took the ancients of the city, and thorns and briers of the desert, and tore them with the same, and cut in pieces the men of Soccoth.
17 And he demolished the tower of Phanuel, and slew the men of the city.
18 And he said to Zebee and Salmana: What manner of men were they, whom you slew in Thabor? They answered: They were like thee, and one of them as the son of a king.
19 He answered them: They were my brethren, the sons of my mother. As the Lord liveth, if you had saved them, I would not kill you.
20 And he said to Jether, his eldest son: Arise, and slay them. But he drew not his sword: for he was afraid, being but yet a boy.
21 And Zebee and Salmana said: Do thou rise, and run upon us: because the strength of a man is according to his age: *Gedeon rose up and slew Zebee and Salmana: and he took the ornaments and bosses, with which the necks of the camels of kings are wont to be adorned.
22 And all the men of Israel said to Gedeon: Rule thou over us, and thy son, and thy son’s son: because thou hast delivered us from the hand of Madian.
23 And he said to them: I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, but the Lord shall rule over you.
24 And he said to them: I desire one request of you: Give me the earlets of your spoils. For the Ismaelites were accustomed to wear golden earlets.
25 They answered: We will give them most willingly. And spreading a mantle on the ground, they cast upon it the earlets of the spoils.
26 And the weight of the earlets that he requested, was a thousand seven hundred sicles of gold, besides the ornaments, and jewels, and purple raiment, which the kings of Madian were wont to use, and besides the golden chains that were about the camels’ necks.
27 And Gedeon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city Ephra. And all Israel committed fornication with it, and it became a ruin to Gedeon, and to all his house.
28 But Madian was humbled before the children of Israel, neither could they any more lift up their heads: but the land rested for forty years, while Gedeon presided.
29 So Jerobaal, the son of Joas, went and dwelt in his own house:
30 And he had seventy sons, who came out of his thigh, for he had many wives.
31 And his concubine, that he had in Sichem, bore him a son, whose name was Abimelech.
32 And Gedeon, the son of Joas, died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father, in Ephra, of the family of Ezri.
33 But after Gedeon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and committed fornication with Baalim. And they made a covenant with Baal, that he should be their god:
34 And they remembered not the Lord their God, who delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies round about:
35 Neither did they shew mercy to the house of Jerobaal Gedeon, according to all the good things he had done to Israel.
1: Year of the World 2759.
11: Osee x. 14.
21: Psalm lxxxii. 12.