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Judges 7:2, 3: Gideon's Dismissal of the Fearful

Verse 2:[1] And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel (Deut. 8:17; Is. 10:13; 1 Cor. 1:29; 2 Cor. 4:7) vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

[The people is many, and he shall not be delivered, מִתִּתִּי] For me to give (Montanus); than that I might deliver (Tirinus, Munster).

Too many for me, that is, for my purpose; which is, so to deliver Israel, that it may appear to be my own miraculous act, that so I may have all the glory of it, and they may be more strongly obliged to love and serve me.

Verse 3:[2] Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, (Deut. 20:8; 1 Mac. 3:56[3]) Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.

[Let him return. And they returned from mount Gilead, וְיִצְפֹּ֖ר מֵהַ֣ר הַגִּלְעָ֑ד] Let him return, and depart (or withdraw) from mount Gilead (Montanus, Tigurinus, Dutch, Drusius, Pagnine). [But the most grievous difficulties occur here.] For Gilead was on the other side of Jordan, but Gideon was his companions was on the near side of Jordan: how then should these return from mount Gilead? Here, many are at a complete loss (Bonfrerius). Response 1: There were two mountains of the same name, one on the far side, the other on the near side, of Jordan (Lyra, Tostatus, Serarius, Menochius). I should think that mount Gilboa might be called mount Gilead, perhaps because of some similitude either of place, or of matters conducted (Serarius); or, for some other reason unknown to us (Menochius). But concerning the proper name of the mountain I have good reason to hesitate. I might prefer Gilead to be the name of the man, namely, the grandson of Manasseh,[4] and this to be called mount Gilead (just as that one was called mount Ephraim, which was in the tribe of Ephraim), that is, as if one might call it mount Manasseh, or, which was in the tribe of Manasseh on the near side of Jordan: seeing that all Gileadites were Manassites, and all Manassites were Gileadites (see on Joshua 17:1), since they were all of one Gilead, the son of Machir, the only son of Manasseh. The sense is, therefore, these returned home from that place, or mountain, which was in the tribe of Manasseh (Bonfrerius). Response 2: That, from mount Gildea, is to be referred to the origin of those that were departing, which is to say, that those were to be dismissed that were originating from mount Gildead (certain interpreters in Martyr). That is to say, Whoever is afraid, even if from the tribe of Manasseh, to which Gideon himself belonged, and dwells beyond Jordan in Gilead, even if, I say, from mount Gilead, let him withdraw (Cajetan in Serarius). Response 3: [The passage is to be translated differently;] Returning, he shall fly towards (or, on this side of [Vatablus in Gataker], or, beyond [Piscator in Gataker]) mount Gilead (Junius and Tremellius). They translate the מ as unto, or towards; as in Deuteronomy 33:2, The Lord from (that is, unto) Sinai came[5] (Malvenda). מִקֶּדֶם, from the east, is used in Joshua[6] for קְדֵמָה/eastward (Drusius). Thus מִן/from is rendered in Genesis 13:11;[7] 2 Samuel 6:2[8] (Gataker’s Cinnus 359). [See what things were noted by us on Genesis 11:2.[9]] I would prefer, beyond Gildead; for מִן/from is used like à or ab by the Latins, when they say, à meridie, afternoon, à somno, after sleeping, à prandio, after lunch; thus in Hosea 6:2, מִיֹּמָיִם, after two days. Beyond mount Gilead let him carry himself; that is, in that way that begins from mount Gilead (Gataker’s Cinnus 359). Now, mount Gilead was situated on the other side of Jordan (whence the Manassites had come to him; see Judges 6:35), opposite to the army of Gideon (Dutch). The speech appears elliptical; that is to say, Let him depart swiftly by the way that begins from mount Gilead. Now, this was properly said to the Manassites, members of Gideon’s tribe, since they had come from that region together with him: But by synecdoche it signifies that all the fearful ought to return home (Piscator). Response 4: The loosing of this not easier, if, with the points changed, in the place of מֵהַר, from the mount, we should read מַהֵר/promptly/swiftly; Let him return, and hurry promptly, swiftly (or, let him flee swiftly) to Gilead, or, unto Gildead (Malvenda). The צָפַר either signifies to arise at dawn, or to depart (Drusius, thus Jairus and Rabbi Levi and the Greeks in Gataker) (so that it might be from צְפַר and צַפְרָא, which denotes the dawn [Drusius], from הַצְּפִרָה, the morning, in Ezekiel 7:10, and צַפְרָא in the Syriac, which signifies the morning time [Gataker]): or to fly away, from צִפּוֹר/bird (Drusius): or to compass (Drusius, certain interpreters in Munster, Kimchi in Gataker); let him compass the mountain, that is, Gilead, and thus let him return to his own; so that it might be צָפַר, to surround, to go around, to compass, whence צְפִירָה/diadem/crown, in Isaiah 28:5, because it surrounds the head (Gataker’s Cinnus 359). Moreover, the Lord had commanded this to be proclaimed before battles, Deuteronomy 20:8, if anyone is fearful, etc. But, if the Lord had not reminded, perhaps that law would not have been kept, either, because of the hurry; or, because it appeared likely that all that had rush together so quickly and so eagerly to the common danger were brave men, and not at all timorous (Menochius).

Mount Gilead; not that famous Mount Gilead which was beyond Jordan; for it is apparent that both the camps of the Israelites and of the Midianites were on this side Jordan: but another Mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh; which might be so called, either for some resemblance it had with the other Mount Gilead, or in remembrance of their father Gilead; or that this might be a memorial of their near relation to their brethren, notwithstanding their being divided one from another by Jordan; or for some other reason now unknown at this distance of time and place. Or, the words may be rendered towards Mount Gilead; for the Hebrew particle מִן/min, or מ/mem, is sometimes rendered towards, of which see Genesis 11:2; 13:11; Deuteronomy 33:2; 2 Samuel 6:2. And so it may be understood of the famous Mount Gilead beyond Jordan, which he may mention here, either, 1. Because many of his soldiers were of that half tribe of Manasseh which dwelt there, and so it was most proper for them to return thither; or, 2. Because that was their safest course, to get furthest from the danger which they feared; or, 3. Because though he would remove them from danger, yet he would not have them dispersed, but kept together in a body about Mount Gilead; knowing that they who had not courage enough to fight their enemies, might have valour enough to pursue them when they were beaten by others; and suspecting that the Midianites, if beaten, would probably flee that way.

[Twenty-two thousand returned, etc.] For, although most approached with great courage; yet, as they came within sight of the enemies camps, they became frightened and departed (Menochius).

Twenty and two thousand; who finding their whole army to be very small in comparison of their enemy's, who were a hundred and thirty-five thousand, Judges 8:10, and they, no doubt, well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success; whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unfurnished with arms and provisions, lost the courage which in the beginning they seemed to have.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־גִּדְע֔וֹן רַ֗ב הָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתָּ֔ךְ מִתִּתִּ֥י אֶת־מִדְיָ֖ן בְּיָדָ֑ם פֶּן־יִתְפָּאֵ֙ר עָלַ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר יָדִ֖י הוֹשִׁ֥יעָה לִּֽי׃

[2] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֗ה קְרָ֙א נָ֜א בְּאָזְנֵ֤י הָעָם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר מִֽי־יָרֵ֣א וְחָרֵ֔ד יָשֹׁ֥ב וְיִצְפֹּ֖ר מֵהַ֣ר הַגִּלְעָ֑ד וַיָּ֣שָׁב מִן־הָעָ֗ם עֶשְׂרִ֤ים וּשְׁנַ֙יִם֙ אֶ֔לֶף וַעֲשֶׂ֥רֶת אֲלָפִ֖ים נִשְׁאָֽרוּ׃

[3] 1 Maccabees 3:56: “But as for such as were building houses, or had betrothed wives, or were planting vineyards, or were fearful, those he commanded that they should return, every man to his own house, according to the law.”

[4] See Numbers 26:29.

[5] Deuteronomy 33:2: “And he said, The Lord came from Sinai (מִסִּינַי), and rose up from Seir (מִשֵּׂעִיר) unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran (מֵהַ֣ר פָּארָ֔ן), and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”

[6] Joshua 7:2: “And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el (מִקֶּ֣דֶם לְבֵֽית־אֵ֔ל), and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.”

[7] Genesis 13:11: “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east (מִקֶּדֶם): and they separated themselves the one from the other.”

[8] 2 Samuel 6:2: “And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah (מִֽבַּעֲלֵ֖י יְהוּדָ֑ה), to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.”

[9] Genesis 11:2: “And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east (מִקֶּדֶם), that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.”

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