Judges 7:4-7: Gideon's Dismissal of Those Kneeling

Verse 4:[1] And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.


Unto the water; either that which ran from the well of Harod, mentioned Judges 7:1, or some other brook.


[And there I will prove them, וְאֶצְרְפֶנּוּ] And I will prove, or will examine, it (Pagnine, Munster, Drusius). I will refine; transferred from metals to men (Junius, Drusius, Bonfrerius). I will purge, just as a smith purges silver by separating the dross from it. Here, the fearful are compared to dross (Piscator). I will prove, that is, I will select the approved (Vatablus). I will separate it to thee (Junius and Tremellius). As previously by public proclamation he separated the fearful, he does the same name by a secret sign: For many of the fearful had not withdranw, because they wanted to be esteemed as brave (Estius).


I will try them for thee; because thy proclamation hath not sufficiently tried them; for many who are fearful indeed will put on the face, and desire the opinion of being valiant persons; I will take another course.


Verse 5:[2] So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.

[Those that will have lapped the waters with the tongue (similarly all interpreters)] Waters, that is, drawn by the hollow of the hand, out of the following verse (Piscator).

[Just as dogs are wont] There is an Egyptian Proverb, A dog drinks, and flees: Macrobius makes mention of it in Saturnalia 2:2 (Grotius). Dogs, fearing the crocodiles in the Nile, drink by rushing down in detached units and then fleeing. See Ælian’s[3] History of Animals[4] 6:53 (Bonfrerius). A dog does not drink by taking a full draught, but only by lapping; which is common to them with other animals καρχαροδοῦσι, that is, that have serrated teeth, as the Philosopher teaches in his History of Animals 8:6:9:48 (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:55:672). They were drinking in the manner of dogs, not in this, that they were drinking with the water brought by hand to the mouth, for this is not the manner of dogs; but rather in this, that in drinking they were not plunging their mouths in the water, but from the hollow they gently drew with the hand, not with the mouth immersed in the water, in a manner more like unto those lapping than drinking. For dogs are wont to drink with their tongue stretched forth, with no part of their mouth immersed in the waters (Bonfrerius). Now, horses and oxen apply their mouth to the water, so that they might suck up the water (Lapide). It is likely that at evening time Gideon arrived at the fount Harod, verse 1, with the whole army (with the fearful previously dismissed) fatigued and thirsty from the labor of the journey, and there in the midst of the drinking observed the posture of his soldiers (Bonfrerius). Question: What is the reason for this distinction? And why are those that were drinking with bended knees dismissed? Responses: 1. So that thus might remain the fewest possible, because in such heat and at meal-time almost all would be thirsty, and so drink on bended knee (Tostatus). 2. Others maintain that it was an indication of vice, that three hundred men drank with their hand brought to their mouth: either of idleness, as if it were irksome to undertake the labor of bowing themselves; thus Theodoret: or of fear, as if nervously and with alarm they drank in fear of the enemy, after the likeness of Egyptian dogs, as already mentioned; thus Josephus. And they maintain that this was down, so that victory might be ascribed to God, not to human strength; since He had chosen for this the ignoble and fearful (Bonfrerius). But this comment is quite disconnected from the history, since God commanded the fearful to be sent away (Martyr, similarly Serarius, Bonfrerius). 3. To drink prone was showing that they both thirsted with great vehemence, and succumbed to fatigue; to lap the waters standing was indicating the contrary (Estius after Lyra). 4. Others refer it