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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Judges 7

Verse 1


Gideon, by the command of God, selects a small number out of his army to go against the Midianites; who are put to flight, and destroy each other. Their two princes, Oreb and Zeeb, are taken and slain.

Before Christ 1267.

Verse 2

Judges 7:2. The people—with thee are too many for me It is equal to Omnipotence to save by many or few; but, designing in this case to make it alike conspicuous to the Israelites and the neighbouring nations, that the victory was wholly owing to his interposition, God was pleased to order it in such a manner, as to prove, beyond doubt, that he alone was the author of it.

REFLECTIONS.—Gideon, now fully convinced of his mission, is in haste to execute it. At early dawn he rises, his army is drawn out, and his camp fixed near the well of Harod. Diligence in duty must follow faith in the promise. The disproportion was very great, indeed, between the hosts of Midian and Israel; but, instead of lessening, God will have it increased, that they may see it was not their own arm which saved them. For this purpose, God commands,

1. Proclamation to be made through the camp, for the fearful and faint-hearted to depart before the next morning. Gideon obeys, and more than two-thirds of this little army shamefully turn their backs, and embrace the offer. Probably they had run together in haste at first; but when they saw the numerous host of Midian, wished themselves safe at home again. Note; (1.) Many take up with the profession of Christ's service, who have never weighed the consequence, and therefore quickly start aside like a broken bow. (2.) They who are enslaved by the fear of man, are better out of God's camp than in it, as their fearfulness is apt to be contagious, and to discourage the faithful.

2. Ten thousand remained, and these were yet too many: they might think their valour made up for the want of numbers, and ascribe the victory to themselves; therefore, another separation is made, by bringing them to the water to drink, and selecting those who lapped out of their hands from those who kneeled down to drink, which reduced their numbers to 300 men, and all the rest were dismissed. Thus Gideon's faith was eminently displayed, and his readiness to trust the matter entirely with God appeared. Note; (1.) God's ways are often mysterious, and he reduces his people to the greater straits, that his own glory may the more be magnified in their preservation. (2.) When faith is in exercise, no difficulties will make us stagger at the promise.

3. The 300 that remain when their brethren have been dismissed, are also in no wise accoutred as combatants. They are armed with trumpets instead of swords, and carry their victuals in their hands, as if God had designed that they should spend the day with music and feasting, instead of meeting their enemies in a field of battle. Note; (1.) God's work is often accomplished by the most unlikely means. (2.) When God commands to arms, and appoints our weapons, we may safely advance against our most formidable enemies, though armed only with a trumpet, or five smooth stones.

Verse 13

Judges 7:13. And when Gideon was come, behold, &c.— However extraordinary this dream, and the interpretation of it, may appear; we must remember, that it was immediately inspired by God himself, to encourage Gideon, who was sent to the Midianitish host by the Lord, on purpose to hear it; and, in this view, we can find no difficulty in the interpretation given of it by the Midianitish soldier.

Verse 18

Judges 7:18. The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon Though the word sword is not in the Hebrew in this place, yet, as it is read in the 20th verse, our translators have very properly added it. It is evident, says Houbigant, that in these words Gideon alludes to the interpretation of the dream given in the 14th verse. As the three hundred men were divided into three companies, detached to different parts of the Midianitish camp, Gideon, as appears from the next verse, was attended only by one hundred men.

Verse 21

Judges 7:21. They stood every man in his place round about the camp Not one of the three hundred men stirred a foot from his place, but stood still without striking a blow, as if they had been only torch-bearers to give light to the army to see their way to the camp, and to do execution. The work was the Lord's; the stratagem had been in vain without his concurrence. He can make the meanest and most unlikely instruments subservient to the welfare of his people, and productive of the desolation of their enemies.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here an account,

1. Of the manner in which Gideon made the attack upon the Midianites. His little army is divided into three companies, each of an hundred men, armed not with sword or bow, but with a trumpet in one hand, and lamps concealed in pitchers, in the other. A little past midnight they advanced, just as the watch was set, to give the speedier alarm; and the order is, to follow Gideon's example: when lo! in an instant, the trumpets are blown, the pitchers broken, the lights blazing on every side, and they shout aloud, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon! Note; (1.) By the trumpet of the everlasting gospel, and the light held forth from the earthen vessels of faithful ministers, the powers of Satan's kingdom are shaken. (2.) Though the work be of men, the excellency of power is of God; if Gideon has the honour to wield the sword, it is God who tempers its edge, and directs its point. (3.) If these pitchers, trumpets, and shoutings, thus dismayed the hosts of Midian, how much greater terrors will overwhelm the sleeping sinner, when startled with the midnight cry, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, he shall, astonished, behold the sword of justice drawn, and stand unable to escape amidst the flames of dissolving elements, before the dread tribunal of an offended God.

2. The Midianites awake affrighted, apprehending, no doubt, the army of Israel in their camp, and seized with panic fears, they cry out, and run they know not whither; but in their haste to fly, counting every one they meet a foe, each man's sword is set against his fellow, and Gideon and his army have only to stand still, and see the great salvation of God; the few who escape, hurry on to a place of safety, as if the sword of Gideon was at their heels. Note; (1.) The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth. (2.) In violent frights the exercise of reason is, for a time, suspended, and men act in direct opposition to their own preservation. (3.) God often sets his people's enemies at variance, and punishes them by their own hands. (4.) Though now there is hope to escape from the sword of the Lord, if we fly to Jesus, our true city of refuge; yet if the present moment be lost, in the next it may be too late.

Verse 24

Judges 7:24. And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim He was desirous, as Bishop Patrick observes, that others should have some share with him in finishing this work, though he alone, with some few, began it, and was exposed to all the danger. "Would to God," says Peter Martyr on this occasion, "that we were of this spirit in the church of Christ! that when any noble work is begun, we would call in all to help to perfect it! but Gideons are rare; and it is but too common to see the best undertakings defeated by a base jealousy."

Verse 25

Judges 7:25. They took two princes of the Midianites Two of their princes or generals, for the Hebrew word may signify either. Oreb, in the Hebrew, signifies a crow, and Zeeb, a wolf. It was anciently the custom for great men to take the names of their families from the animal world. So we find the Gracchi, Corvini, and Aquilini, among the Romans; names, which were either used as fortunate omens, or as monuments of their courage and dexterity in military atchievements. The rock and the vine-press, no doubt, had their names from these princes. Their heads were carried to Gideon, as was usually done in after times. Thus Pompey's head was brought to Caesar, and Cicero's to Mark Antony.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.