Judges 8:18, 19: Gideon's Examination of Zebah and Zalmunna

Verse 18:[1] Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at (Judg. 4:6; Ps. 89:12) Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled (Heb. according to the form,[2] etc.) the children of a king.


[Of what sort were the men, etc.? אֵיפֹה֙ הָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וגו״] Where are the men, etc.? (Montanus, Septuagint, Jonathan). Of what sort were they? (Syriac, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Pagnine, Drusius). He asks about their form and quality (Drusius). How, that is, with what sort of countenance, with what express of mouth and form of body, were they? (Vatablus).


What manner of men, that is, for outward shape and quality?


[Whom ye killed on Tabor] For to that place these had withdrawn, while the Hebrews were lurking in mountains and caves:[3] Therefore, those Kings killed these, after they had been discovered in that hiding place of Tabor (Menochius). Gideon had heard both that his brethren, with the Midianites threatening, fled to Tabor, and that some were slain there; therefore, he suspected that his brethren were killed, and suspected rightly, as it is evident from verse 19 (Lapide).


At Tabor; whither he understood they fled for shelter, upon the approach of the Midianites; and where he learnt that some were slain, which he suspected might be they.


[And one of them as the son of a king (similarly Jonathan, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Castalio, Vatablus), אֶחָ֕ד כְּתֹ֖אַר בְּנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃] One of them was similar in form to the sons of a king (Vatablus). But against this translation the accents, or Hebrew punctuation, appear to stand (Piscator). The same they were (I would prefer, one and the same was the form, that is, with thee; the Hebrew, אֶחָד/one, understanding תֺאַר/form [Piscator]) in such a form in which sort are the sons of a king (Junius and Tremellius). They were of an excellent form and dignity, which would suit a Prince (Menochius). One or the same appearance was to them, etc., that is, They were exceedingly fair (Vatablus).


Each one resembled the children of a king; not for their garb, or outward splendour, for the family was but mean; but for the majesty of their looks; by which commendation they thought to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror.


Verse 19:[4] And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.


[The sons of my mother] Uterine brethren, from the mother’s side (Vatablus, Bonfrerius).


[If ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you,ל֚וּ הַחֲיִתֶ֣ם אוֹתָ֔ם ] Would that ye had caused them to live (Montanus). Others: if ye had caused them to live, or, ye had preserved them alive (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus).


[I would not slay you] But I would redeem my brethren by your life (Junius). He was able to offer this to them. For, 1. they were not Canaanites, to whom it was commanded there should be no sparing (Martyr). 2. He was not bound to kill them by the force of that precept in Numbers 31:17. For that was temporary, for vengeance of that sin in Numbers 25 (Menochius out of Serarius). But now, he, as as a near relation of his killed brethren, is bound to kill their murderer, Numbers 35 (Lyra, Martyr).


I would not slay you: For being not Canaanites he was not obliged to kill them; but they having killed his brethren, and that in cool blood, he was by law the avenger of their blood.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אֶל־זֶ֙בַח֙ וְאֶל־צַלְמֻנָּ֔ע אֵיפֹה֙ הָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֲרַגְתֶּ֖ם בְּתָב֑וֹר וַֽיֹּאמְרוּ֙ כָּמ֣וֹךָ כְמוֹהֶ֔ם אֶחָ֕ד כְּתֹ֖אַר בְּנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃


[2] Hebrew: כְּתֹאַר.


[3] See Judges 6:2.


[4] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אַחַ֥י בְּנֵֽי־אִמִּ֖י הֵ֑ם חַי־יְהוָ֗ה ל֚וּ הַחֲיִתֶ֣ם אוֹתָ֔ם לֹ֥א הָרַ֖גְתִּי אֶתְכֶֽם׃

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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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