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Judges 8:11, 12: Gideon's Victory over Midian

Verse 11:[1] And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of (Num. 32:35, 42) Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was (Judg. 18:27; 1 Thess. 5:3) secure.

[And they went up by the way of those that staying in tabernacles,דֶּ֚רֶךְ הַשְּׁכוּנֵ֣י בָֽאֳהָלִ֔ים] By the way of those dwelling in tents (Montanus, similarly the Septuagint, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius), that is, of the Scenite[2] Arabians (Vatablus, Junius, Piscator, Lapide, Bonfrerius). Thus they were called, because they do not have fixed houses, but they, wandering from one region, which they have eaten up, pass over with they tents unto another nearby, and similarly devour it (Lapide). By the way of the desert, in which the Arabians were pitching their tents (Vatablus). Which is to say, he did not ascend in a direct way (Vatablus, Lapide, Bonfrerius), but from behind (Lapide), and was following byways, so that he might attack them unexpectedly (Bonfrerius, Lapide): in which matter he shows himself to be admirably skilled in military affairs and stratagems (Bonfrerius). Note that here הַשְּׁכוּנֵי, those dwelling,[3] is read with a ב/in following, because prepositions do not hinder construction. Thus, Thou shalt say לִנְבִיאֵ֣י מִלִּבָּ֔ם,[4] to those prophesying out of their own hearts, Ezekiel 13:2 (Drusius). Moreover, הַשְּׁכוּנֵי is in the place of הַשּׁוֹכְנֵי; for in the case of participles it happens that a passive is sometimes used in the place of the active: thus below in Song of Solomon 3:8, all those אֲחֻזֵי/holding[5] swords, in the place of אֺחֲזֵי[6] (Drusius).

Of them that dwelt in tents, that is, of the Arabians; so fetching a compass, and falling upon them where they least expected it.

[Nobah and Jogbehah] There was a Jogbehah in the tribe of Gad, as it is evident from Numbers 32:35. Nobah must, therefore, be in the same tribe; and so a twofold Nobah must be located on the other side of Jordan, one in Gad, the other in the tribe of Manasseh on the other side of Jordan (concerning which it is evident from Numbers 32:42 and elsewhere): although I prefer it to have been singular, and in the tribe of Manasseh, but on the border of the Tribe of Gad. Moreover, this Nobah is different from that in 1 Samuel 21 and 22, where the Tabernacle stood, and which was a priestly city. But there was no priestly city on the other side of Judah, but all were in Judah or Benjamin (Bonfrerius).

Nobah and Jogbehah; of which cities see Numbers 32:35, 42.

[Who were secure, וְהַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה הָ֥יָה בֶֽטַח׃] Now, the camp was (understanding, pitched [Jonathan]) with confidence (Pagnine, Piscator); while the army was at rest (Syriac), or, was passing the time securely (Junius and Tremellius), was acting securely (Vatablus). בֶטַח/security is in the place of לַבֶּטַח, in security; then, was is in the place of was passing the time, as in Ruth 1:2, they were there,[7] that is, they dwelt and continued (Drusius). They were resting, having been wearied by the lengthy flight (Bonfrerius). Because the battle had been waged at night, they were not thinking that it was going to happen that Gideon would grant no share of rest to himself and his men, but would cross the Jordan on the same night and pursue (Serarius, Menochius). Gideon’s victory appears to have been accomplished on the following night, for on account of this the Midianites were indulging in rest, and in verse 13 he is said to have returned before the sun’s rising. And it was truly of the Divine providence, that that small company of Gideon, and the same exhausted with labor and hunger, pursued the Midianites only at the next nightfall, lest, if it had pursed by day, the Midianites, having caught sight of them, might prepare themselves for the contest (Bonfrerius on verse 10).

The host was secure; being now got safe over Jordan, and a great way from the place of battle; and, probably, supposing Gideon’s men, to be so tired with their hard service, and the great slaughter which they had made, that they would have neither strength nor will to pursue them so far.

Verse 12:[8] And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and (Ps. 83:11) took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited (Heb. terrified[9]) all the host.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֣עַל גִּדְע֗וֹן דֶּ֚רֶךְ הַשְּׁכוּנֵ֣י בָֽאֳהָלִ֔ים מִקֶּ֥דֶם לְנֹ֖בַח וְיָגְבֳּהָ֑ה וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וְהַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה הָ֥יָה בֶֽטַח׃

[2] That is, tent-dwelling.

[3] In the construct state.

[4] לִנְבִיאֵי is in construct state, and is followed by the preposition מ.

[5] A passive participle.

[6] An active participle.

[7] Ruth 1:2: “And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there (וַיִּֽהְיוּ־שָֽׁם׃).”

[8] Hebrew: וַיָּנ֗וּסוּ זֶ֚בַח וְצַלְמֻנָּ֔ע וַיִּרְדֹּ֖ף אַחֲרֵיהֶ֑ם וַיִּלְכֹּ֞ד אֶת־שְׁנֵ֣י׀ מַלְכֵ֣י מִדְיָ֗ן אֶת־זֶ֙בַח֙ וְאֶת־צַלְמֻנָּ֔ע וְכָל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה הֶחֱרִֽיד׃

[9] Hebrew: הֶחֱרִיד.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jun 01, 2018

Thomas Brooks' An Ark for All God's Noahs: 'Earthly riches commonly cast men into a deep sleep of security. Thus they served David in that Psalm 30:6, 7, and thus they served the fool in the Gospel, Luke 12:16-22, and thus they served the old world; and so they did Sodom and Gomorrah afterwards, and so they did the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and their hosts, Judges 8:11, 12, and so did the people of Laish, in that Judges 18:6-28; and so the peace, plenty, and prosperity of the Bohemians cast them into so great a security, that they began to grow very loose and base in their lives, and very cold and careless in the thing…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jun 01, 2018

Matthew Henry: 'His firmness was very exemplary.... He made a very long march by the way of those that dwelt in tents (Judges 8:11), either because he hoped to find them kinder to him than the men of Succoth and Penuel, that dwelt in walled towns (sometimes there is more generosity and charity found in country tents than in city palaces), or because that was a road in which he would be least expected, and therefore that way it would be the greater surprise to them. It is evident he spared no pains to complete his victory. Now he found it an advantage to have his 300 men such as could bear hunger, and thirst, and toil. It should seem…

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