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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Zebah

(Heb. Ze'bach, זֵבִה sacrifice, as often; Sept. Ζεβεέ; Josephus, Ζεβή; Vulg. Zebee), first named of the two "kings" of Midian who appear to have commanded the great invasion of Palestine, and who finally fell by the hand of Gideon himself. B.C. 1361. He is always coupled with Zalmunna, and is mentioned in Judges 8:5-21; Psalms 83:11). (See ZALMUNNA). It is a remarkable instance of the unconscious artlessness of the narrative contained in Judges 6:33 to Judges 8:28 that no mention is made of any of the chiefs of the Midianites during the early part of the story or indeed until Gideon actually comes into contact with them. We then discover (Judges 8:18) that while the Bedawin were ravaging the crops in the valley of Jezreel, before Gideon's attack, three or more of his brothers had been captured by the Arabs and put to death by the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna themselves. But this material fact is only incidentally mentioned, and is of a piece with the later references by prophets and psalmists to other events in the same struggle, the interest and value of which have been alluded to under OREB (q.v.).

Psalms 83:12 purports to have preserved the very words of the cry with which Zebah and Zalmunna rushed up at the head of their hordes from the Jordan into the l'axurianit growth of the great plain "Seize these goodly pastures!"

While Oreb and Zeeb, two of the inferior leaders of the incursion, had been slain, with a vast number of their people, by the Ephraimites at the central fords of the Jordan (not improbably those near Jisr Damieh), the two kings had succeeded in making their escape by a passage farther to the north (probably the ford near Bethshean), and thence by the Wady Yabis, through Gilead, to Karkor, a place which is not fixed, but which lay doubtless high up on the Hauran. Here they were reposing with 15,000 men, a mere remnant of their huge horde, when Gideon overtook them. Had they resisted, there is little doubt that they might have easily overcome the little band of "fainting" heroes who had toiled after them up the tremendous passes of the mountains; but the name of Gideon was still full of terror, and the Bedawin were entirely unprepared for his attack: they fled in dismay, and the two kings were taken. (See GIDEON).

Then came the return down the long defiles leading to the Jordan. We see the cavalcade of camels, jingling the golden chains and the crescent-shaped collars or trappings hung round their necks. High aloft rode the captive chiefs clad in their brilliant kefiyehs and embroidered abbayehs, and with their "collars" or "jewels" in nose and ear, on neck and arm. Gideon probably strode on foot by the side of his captives. They passed Penuel, where Jacob had seen the vision of the face of God; they passed Succoth; they crossed the rapid stream of the Jordan; they ascended the highlands west of the river, and at length reached Ophrah, the native village of their captor (Josephus, Ant. 5, 6, 5). Then, at last, the question which must have been on Gideon's tongue during the whole of the return, found a vent. There is no appearance of its having been alluded to before, but it gives, as nothing else could, the key to the whole pursuit. It was the death of his brothers, "the children of his mother," that had supplied the personal motive for that steady perseverance, and had led Gideon on to his goal against hunger, faintness, and obstacles of all kinds. "What manner of men were they which ye slew at Tabor?" Up to this time the sheiks may have believed that they were reserved for ransom; but these words, once spoken, there can have been no doubt what their fate was to be. They met it like noble children of the desert without fear or weakness. One request alone they make that they may die by the sure blow of the hero himself "and Gideon arose and slew them;" and not till he had revenged his brothers did any thought of plunder enter his heart then, and not till then, did he lay hands on the treasures which ornamented their camels. (See MIDIANITE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zebah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/z/zebah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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