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Judges 8:15-17: Gideon's Return in Vengeance against Succoth and Penuel

Verse 15:[1] And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did (Judg. 8:6) upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?

Verse 16:[2] (Judg. 8:7) And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught (Heb. made to know[3]) the men of Succoth.

[He tore, etc., וַיֹּ֣דַע בָּהֶ֔ם אֵ֖ת אַנְשֵׁ֥י סֻכּֽוֹת׃] [They render it variously.] And he caused to understand in them the men of Succoth (Montanus); he taught by them, etc. (Tigurinus, English); he made known, or, instructed with knowledge (Piscator). He made to know, that is, by whips and lashes; that is, he chastened, punished. Thus a teacher, showing rods to an unruly pupil, says, With these I will teach thee, that is, I will chasten (Lapide). And the Germans misuse to teach in the place of to chasten (Munster). And he taught by them, or, rather, he made known by them to the citizens of Succoth, understanding, their sin; that is, they, thus smitten, knew their sin (certain interpreters in Vatablus). He caused them to perceive, or to understand, namely, their iniquity (Munster out of Kimchi). He made an example of them to the men of Succoth (Junius and Tremellius), that is, by smiting those Elders, he informed the men of Succoth, so that they might understand for the future (Junius). Others translate it, he broke up, or tore, in, or with, them (Pagnine, Vatablus, Castalio, Jonathan). In the place of יֵדַע, he caused to understand, יָדוּשׁ, he threshed,[4] is to be understood (Castalio, Serarius). He tormented (Arabic); he ravaged with torments (Syriac); he wasted. Thus the word יָדַע, to know, is also taken in Proverbs 10:9;[5] 14:33;[6] Ezekiel 19:7[7] (Dieu). הוֹדַע here not only signifies to teach, but also to animadvert. Moreover, thorns are numbered among plants yielding nothing useful even among the Heathen: therefore, it is not strange if they be applied to punishments. But whether he actually killed them, or only chastened them, does not appear from the words of the history (Martyr).

With them he taught, etc.: By that severe punishment (of which verse 7) he made the men, that is, the elders of Succoth, to know their sin and folly, though it was too late for their good, but not for the instruction and warning of others.

Verse 17:[8] (Judg. 8:9) And he beat down the tower of (1 Kings 12:25) Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

[With the inhabitants killed] Because either they insulted more insolantly than the men of Succoth; or they, trusting to the greater fortification of the place, willed to resist Gideon; or we will concede that the men of Succoth also perished (Martyr).

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹא֙ אֶל־אַנְשֵׁ֣י סֻכּ֔וֹת וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הִנֵּ֖ה זֶ֣בַח וְצַלְמֻנָּ֑ע אֲשֶׁר֩ חֵרַפְתֶּ֙ם אוֹתִ֜י לֵאמֹ֗ר הֲ֠כַף זֶ֣בַח וְצַלְמֻנָּ֤ע עַתָּה֙ בְּיָדֶ֔ךָ כִּ֥י נִתֵּ֛ן לַאֲנָשֶׁ֥יךָ הַיְּעֵפִ֖ים לָֽחֶם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּקַּח֙ אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י הָעִ֔יר וְאֶת־קוֹצֵ֥י הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר וְאֶת־הַֽבַּרְקֳנִ֑ים וַיֹּ֣דַע בָּהֶ֔ם אֵ֖ת אַנְשֵׁ֥י סֻכּֽוֹת׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיֹּדַע.

[4] Judges 8:7: “And Gideon said, Therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear (וְדַשְׁתִּי) your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.”

[5] Proverbs 10:9: “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known (יִוָּדֵעַ).”

[6] Proverbs 14:33: “Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known (תִּוָּדֵעַ).”

[7] Ezekiel 19:7: “And he knew (וַיֵּדַע) their desolate palaces, and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.”

[8] Hebrew: וְאֶת־מִגְדַּ֥ל פְּנוּאֵ֖ל נָתָ֑ץ וַֽיַּהֲרֹ֖ג אֶת־אַנְשֵׁ֥י הָעִֽיר׃

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