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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Judges 8

Verse 1

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.

Verse 2

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.

Verse 5

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.

Verse 6

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.

Verse 8

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.

Verse 10

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 32:34-4.32.35. 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.

Verse 13

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.

Verse 14

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.

Verse 16

He taught - Thought to be a false reading, for “he threshed,” as in Judges 8:7 margin.

Verse 17

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.

Verse 18

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.

Verse 19

The sons of my mother - A much closer relation than that of brothers by the father only. (Compare Genesis 43:29; Deuteronomy 13:6; Psalms 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.

Verse 20

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 15:32-9.15.33), and in Gideon’s attempt to initiate his youthful son Jether in the stern work of slaying his country’s enemies.

Verse 21

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.

Verse 24

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 14:21-1.14.23, and of Elisha 2Ki 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.

Verse 25

They spread ... - The Septuagint reads “He spread his garment.”

Verse 26

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.”

Verse 27

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.

Verse 31

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 11:1-7.11.2).

Verse 33

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Judges 8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/judges-8.html. 1870.