Judges 7:16: Gideon's Unlikely Plan of Attack, Part 1

Verse 16:[1] And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand (Heb. trumpets in the hand of all of them[2]), with empty pitchers, and lamps (or, firebrands, or, torches[3]) within the pitchers.


[And he divided into three companies (thus Munster, Drusius),שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה רָאשִׁ֑ים] Three heads (Montanus, Syriac, Drusius, Pagnine); three orders (Tigurinus); three streams (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator). A metaphorical Synecdoche of member; for, when several streams advance together, easch has its own head, as it were, that is, beginning (Piscator). Thus the Septuagint has ἀρχὰς, that is, beginnings, says Drusius (principates, or prefectures, says Bonfrerius), that is, parts. Thus in Genesis 2, the river was into four heads, that is, parts, as Kimchi explains (Drusius).


Into three companies; to make a show of a vast army encompassing them.


[And empty pitchers] That is, empty of liquid; but in them were lamps. Now, he took empty ones, both so that lamps might be able to be hidden in them; and so that the greater noise might be made in the breaking of them, as it is wont to happen in the case of empty things (Bonfrerius).


[Lamps] Firebrands (Montanus, Vatablus), or torches (Vatablus). Understand not lamps made of oil or other damp material (Bonfrerius, Serarius), but of hard and concrete material; otherwise, with the pots broken, the oil would have spilled out, the flame extinguished (Serarius). The firebrands were wooden, made from some oily tree, which would be able to receive and keep fire for a longer time, a fire to be excited and increased, rather than extinguished, by the blowing wind: but those were also able to be helped by art from pitch, oil, wax, or other bitumen applied (Montanus’ Commentary). The firebrands were more powerful as a result of wax, pitch, resin (Bonfrerius).


Lamps, or, torches, made of such materials as would quickly take fire, and keep it for some time. Within the pitchers; partly to preserve the flame from the violence of wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden and unexpected flashes of light.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֛חַץ אֶת־שְׁלֹשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת הָאִ֖ישׁ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה רָאשִׁ֑ים וַיִּתֵּ֙ן שׁוֹפָר֤וֹת בְּיַד־כֻּלָּם֙ וְכַדִּ֣ים רֵקִ֔ים וְלַפִּדִ֖ים בְּת֥וֹךְ הַכַּדִּֽים׃


[2] Hebrew: שׁוֹפָר֤וֹת בְּיַד־כֻּלָּם֙.


[3] Hebrew: וְלַפִּדִים.

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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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