Judges 6:2-6: The Midianite Swarm

Verse 2:[1] And the hand of Midian prevailed (Heb. was strong[2]) against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them (1 Sam. 13:6; Heb. 11:38) the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.


[The dens (thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Montanus, Vatablus, Druius), הַמִּנְהָרוֹת] They are so called from נָהַר, to beam, because they were having a opening at the top through which light was entering (Drusius): or, by antiphrasis, as not at all bright (Malvenda). Hollows (Junius and Tremellius), caves (Vatablus), homes (Syriac, Arabic).


[Caves (thus Montanus, Junius and Tremellius), הַמְּעָרוֹת] Caverns (Arabic). Subterranean pits for hiding their crops (certain interpreters in Malvenda). Moreover, that מִפְּנֵ֙י מִדְיָ֜ן they translate, from the face of Midian, because of the Midianites, or for fear of the Midianites (Vatablus).


The dens, etc.: In which they might secure their persons and provisions from the hands of the Midianites.


Verse 3:[3] And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and (Judg. 3:13) the Amalekites, (Gen. 29:1; Judg. 7:12; 8:10; 1 Kings 4:30; Job 1:3) and the children of the east, even they came up against them…


[And when he had sown, וְהָיָ֖ה אִם־זָרַ֣ע] And it was, if he was sowing (Montanus, Drusius), that is, when he had sown. And if it shall be the Jubilee, etc.[4] If he went in unto the wife, etc.[5] The אִם/if means כַּאֲשֶׁר/when. To this refer, If God be with us, who can be against us?[6] (Drusius).


[And the rest of the eastern nations[7]] The Arabs (Josephus[8] and Procopius in Bonfrerius). But this appellation is broad, and agrees with many peoples (Bonfrerius). Rather, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Ishmaelites, etc. (Lapide, Bonfrerius). The translate עָלָיו, upon him (Montanus), against him, or them (Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius), understanding, Israel (Tigurinus). They were going up with them (Septuagint).


The children of the east, that is, the Arabians, who are commonly called the children of the east, as Genesis 29:1; Judges 8:10, 11; Job 1:3; Ezekiel 25:4. Not all the Arabians, for in that were many and divers people; but in the eastern part of Arabia.


Verse 4:[9] And they encamped against them, and (Lev. 26:16; Deut. 28:30, 33, 51; Mic. 6:15) destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep (or, goat[10]), nor ox, nor ass.


[Those pitching tents] After the manner of the Arabs, who are generally pastors, 2 Chronicles 17:11; Ezekiel 27:12. Hence the tents of Kedar in Song of Solomon 1:5, and those belonging to the Arabs in Isaiah 13:20 (Bonfrerius).


[Among the herbs] They were not allowing what was sown to crow and mature unto seed and harvest, so that thus the Israelites might perish through starvation (Lapide).


[Unto the entrance of Gaza] Which was on the border of the land Westward toward Egypt: but from the East and Jordan they were beginning this devastation. Thus he indicates that nothing remained untouched by this devastation. And this devastation lasted seven years. Now, through the Autumn they were giving the Israelites leisure for sowing those things that they were afterwards devouring (Bonfrerius). Alyattes, King of the Lydians, made use of a similar artifice against the Milesians,[11] concerning which see Herodotus in “Clio” 1:17 (Malvenda, Grotius).


Till thou come unto Gaza, that is, from the east, on which side they entered, to the west, where Gaza was near the sea; so they destroyed the whole land.


Verse 5:[12] For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came (Judg. 7:12) as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.


[After the likeness of locusts] Both with respect to abundance, and with respect to their appetite to eat and devour (Lapide).


Without number, that is, so many that it was not easy to number them. It is an hyperbole.


Verse 6:[13] And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel (Judg. 3:15; Hos. 5:15) cried unto the LORD.


[He was humbled, וַיִּדַּל[14]] He was diminished (Montanus, Pagnine); that is, Hence the strength of the children of Israel was greatly weakened (Vatablus). He was impoverished (Junius and Tremellius), drained (Piscator).

[1] Hebrew: וַתָּ֥עָז יַד־מִדְיָ֖ן עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל מִפְּנֵ֙י מִדְיָ֜ן עָשֽׂוּ לָהֶ֣ם׀ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֶת־הַמִּנְהָרוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בֶּֽהָרִ֔ים וְאֶת־הַמְּעָר֖וֹת וְאֶת־הַמְּצָדֽוֹת׃


[2] Hebrew: וַתָּעָז.


[3] Hebrew: וְהָיָ֖ה אִם־זָרַ֣ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְעָלָ֙ה מִדְיָ֧ן וַֽעֲמָלֵ֛ק וּבְנֵי־קֶ֖דֶם וְעָל֥וּ עָלָֽיו׃


[4] Numbers 36:4a: “And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be (וְאִם־יִהְיֶ֣ה הַיֹּבֵל֮ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒), then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received…”


[5] Genesis 38:9: “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife (וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־בָּ֙א אֶל־אֵ֤שֶׁת אָחִיו֙), that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.”


[6] Romans 8:31: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us (εἰ ὁ Θεὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, τίς καθ᾽ ἡμῶν)?”


[7] Judges 6:3: “And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them (וּבְנֵי־קֶ֖דֶם וְעָל֥וּ עָלָֽיו׃)…”


[8] Antiquities 5:6.


[9] Hebrew: וַיַּחֲנ֣וּ עֲלֵיהֶ֗ם וַיַּשְׁחִ֙יתוּ֙ אֶת־יְב֣וּל הָאָ֔רֶץ עַד־בּוֹאֲךָ֖ עַזָּ֑ה וְלֹֽא־יַשְׁאִ֤ירוּ מִֽחְיָה֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְשֶׂ֥ה וָשׁ֖וֹר וַחֲמֽוֹר׃


[10] Hebrew: וְשֶׂה.


[11] Alyattes was King of Lydia from roughly 610 to 560 BC. During the early part of his reign, he made war on the Greek colony of Miletus, but was forced to turn his attention to the rising Babylonian power in the East.


[12] Hebrew: כִּ֡י הֵם֩ וּמִקְנֵיהֶ֙ם יַעֲל֜וּ וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם יָבֹ֤אוּ כְדֵֽי־אַרְבֶּה֙ לָרֹ֔ב וְלָהֶ֥ם וְלִגְמַלֵּיהֶ֖ם אֵ֣ין מִסְפָּ֑ר וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ בָאָ֖רֶץ לְשַׁחֲתָֽהּ׃


[13] Hebrew: וַיִּדַּ֧ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מְאֹ֖ד מִפְּנֵ֣י מִדְיָ֑ן וַיִּזְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃


[14] דָּלַל signifies to be low.

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ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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