King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Judges 8

Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites. (1-3) Succoth and Penuel refuse to relieve Gideon. (4-12) Succoth and Penuel punished. (13-17) Gideon avenges his brethren. (18-21) Gideon declines the government, but given occasion for idolatry. (22-28) Gideon’s death, Israel’s ingratitude. (29-35)

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Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites

1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.

2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?

3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

Succoth and Penuel refuse to relieve Gideon

4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.

5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.

6 And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.

8 And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.

9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.

11 And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host; for the host was secure.

12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.

Succoth and Penuel punished

13 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,

14 And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.

15 And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did 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?

16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.

17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

Gideon avenges his brethren

18 Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.

19 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.

20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.

21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.

Gideon declines the government, but given occasion for idolatry

22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.

23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.

26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks.

27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

28 Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

Gideon’s death, Israel’s ingratitude

29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.

30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.

31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.

32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.

34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:

35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Ephraim. The valour and insolence of these men are placed together. Afterwards we have an account of the transactions of Gedeon in the pursuit, v. 4. H. — The tribe of Ephraim seems to have had some grounds for being displeased at not being summoned at first, as well as the tribes of Aser, &c. which were farther off; particularly as they sprang from Joseph, no less than Manasses, and had their portion in common. The general answers them with great respect, as otherwise their displeasure might have had very pernicious consequences. C.

Ver. 2. What could I, &c. A meek and humble answer appeased them; who otherwise might have come to extremities. So great is the power of humility both with God and man. Ch. Prov. xv. 1. — Could. Heb. and Sept. “What have I yet done like you? M. — Is not the gleaning?” &c. I only commenced the war; you have brought it to a happy termination, by killing the princes of the enemy. Debrio adag. 157. At the first siege of Troy, Telamon having entered the city before Hercules, the latter was on the point of killing him, when Telamon, collecting a heap of stones, which he said he intended for an altar in honour of “the victorious Hercules,” the hero’s fury was appeased. Apol. Bib. ii. 6.

Ver. 4. Jordan. Notwithstanding the precautions of Gedeon, some had got over the river, whom he resolves to follow at Bethsan. This city was about 15 miles from Mount Thabor. His men had been in motion a great part of the night, and had not taken provisions (C.) for so long a journey; so that he was obliged to apply for some when he had crossed the Jordan. H.

Ver. 5. Soccoth. “The tents,” where Jacob had encamped. Gen. xxxiii. It belonged to the tribe of Dan. M. — The people of this town, as well as the ancients of Phanuel, returned an insolent reply to the just request of Gedeon. In cases of such extremity, all are bound to assist the defenders of their country; and the refusal is punished as a sort of rebellion, 2 K. xxv. 10. C.

Ver. 6. Hand. Perhaps thou makest sure of taking these kings. H. — We apprehend that they will return with greater forces, and punish our compliance. M.

Ver. 7. Desert. An usual mode of punishment, (2 K. xii. 1 Par. xx. 3. C.) which the cruel irrision of Gedeon and his army, who were fighting in the cause of God and of the nation, richly called for.

Ver. 9. Tower; on the strength of which they ventured to treat him with insolence. Phanuel, “the face of God,” (Gen. xxxii. 33,) was near the Jaboc. M.

Ver. 10. Resting, as the Heb. word Korkor, signifies. Bochart. — Prot. have, in Karor,” as if it were the name of a place. H.

Ver. 11. Tents. The Scenitæ, (M.) who inhabited part of the desert Arabia. C. — Hurt. They had probably been mounted on camels, &c. (H.) and did not suspect that Gedeon would be so soon after them across the Jordan. M.

Ver. 13. Sun-rising. It would seem as if all these exploits had been performed between midnight and sun-rising, in the month of May, which is quite incredible; and hence many translate, “the sun being up.” Sept. and Theodotion, “from the height or ascent of Hares,” (the situation of which we know not,) or “of the mountains,” (Aquila) or “woods,” (Symmachus) or perhaps “from the eastward.” C. — The Scripture does not, however, specify that all this took place in the space of six or seven hours, or of one night, but only that Gedeon came to Soccoth so early, as to take the magistrates unawares, being informed by a young man where they lived. This might probably happen on the second morning, after he had surprised the camp of the Madianites, at Jezrael. Prot. and Chal. agree with the Vulg. “before the sun was up.” The other translations explain chares, as if it denoted the place or situation from which Gedeon was returning. H. — Described. The text may signify either that the boy marked them out, or that Gedeon took down a memorandum of their names. C. — He would not punish the innocent with the guilty. M.

Ver. 16. Tore. Heb. seems to be corrupted in this place. “And he shewed (instructed or chastised) with these thorns.” The Sept. and Vulg. read the same word as v. 7. He crushed the people with such instruments as are used to beat out corn. It is probable that he only treated the magistrates of Soccoth and of Phanuel in this manner. C.

Ver. 18. Thabor. Some of the relations or brothers of Gedeon had retired thither, as to a place of safety; and the latter wished to know what was become of them, that he might redeem them, if alive. C. — King. They answer with flattery, insinuating that Gedeon had the air of a king. M.

Ver. 19. Kill you. They were not included in the number of the seven devoted nations, (W.) and the precept for destroying the Madianites no longer subsisted. Num. xxxi. 17. M. — The laws of war permitted the Hebrews to kill their prisoners, if they thought proper. No public executioner was necessary. Samuel killed Agag, 1 K. xv. 32. See 3 K. ii. 25. 2 K. i. 15. C. — Gedeon had a mind to make his son partake in the victory, and punish these kings for an unjust murder of his relations. He would also inure him to fight against the enemies of God, &c. M.

Ver. 21. Age. They beg that they may die in a more speedy and noble manner. Tacitus (Hist. iv.) observes, “it was reported that Civilis exposed some of the Roman captives to his little son, in order that he might fix his arrows and javelins in their bodies.” — Ornaments. Most interpreters understand “crescents.” The veneration of the Arabs for the moon, the celestial Venus, or Alilat, is well known. The Turks still make use of this sign, as Christians employ the cross on their standards, temples, &c. Men and women anciently wore on their necks or forehead ornaments of the same nature, as these camels did. Isai. iii. 18. Latinus adorned his horses in the most splendid manner. Virg. Æn. vii: Aurea pectoribus demissa monilia pendent. Caligula decorated with extravagance his famous horse Incitatus, on which he designed to confer the consulate. Sueton. — In Egypt the camels are sometimes painted yellow, and hung with a variety of little bells. Vaneb.

Ver. 22. Israel, who were in his army, and of whom he receives the earlets for his share of the spoil. C. — But as those who staid at home received a share of the booty, and no doubt would come to congratulate Gedeon on his victory, it seems equally probable that this offer of the regal dignity was made to him in a full assembly of the people, (H.) which is greatly to the honour of this valiant man. M. — Rule them. They wished to confer upon him a dignity which he did not now possess, and which he absolutely refused, being, as he thought, incompatible with the theocracy. This shews that it was not the dignity of judge, which he retained till his death, but that of king, which was so displeasing to God, when the Israelites resolved to establish it among them. 1 K. viii. 7. M. T. Grot. C. — Josephus (v. 8.) thinks that Gedeon wished to resign the former dignity, but was forced to retain it forty years. The judges were chosen by God, and acted as his lieutenants, so that the people having no part in their election, the Lord alone was considered as the king of Israel. Some are of opinion that the people wished, on this occasion, to make the dignity hereditary. C. — Serarius thinks that they made an offer of the regal power to Gedeon, to his son, and grandson, only. But it seems rather that they meant to make the sovereign authority over entirely to his family, (M.) so great a sense had they of his courage, moderation, and just severity, of which he had given such striking proofs. H.

Ver. 24. Request. It was not then thought dishonourable to ask nor to receive presents. The most precious part of the booty had been already presented to the general, according to the custom of the heroic times. But, as the people wished to make Gedeon king, he consents to receive the earlets, as a memorial of their affection. — Earlets. Heb. and Sept. (M.) may also signify, “each an earlet,” as if he would only accept one from each soldier. The original signifies also, the rings which women put under their noses; but, as men never did, it has not that meaning here, (C.) though there might be women in the camp of the Madianites. H. — Ismaelites. By this title various nations are designated. It seems almost as general as the word Arab among us. These nations were no more distinguished by these ornaments than the Hebrews themselves. Ex. xxxii. 2. and xxxv. 12. The Persians, Africans, Lybians, &c. wore ear-rings. C.

Ver. 26. And jewels. Some translate, “crescents (Sept. “little moons,”) and boxes” (netiphoth, M.) of perfumes, such as Alexander found among the spoils of Darius, and reserved to put his Homer in. These ornaments were also used by women. Isai. iii. 18. C. — The eastern nations delight in perfumes. M. — The ear-rings alone would amount to 3102l. 10s. sterling. H.

Ver. 27. An ephod. A priestly garment; which Gedeon made with a good design: but the Israelites, after his death, abused it by making it an instrument of their idolatrous worship, (Ch.) and perhaps consulting their idols with it. No law forbad the making of such a garment. M. — It was not peculiar to the high priest, since we find that Samuel and David occasionally wore the ephod, (2 K. vi. 14,) and probably Gedeon would, on public occasions, do the like with this most costly one, which would serve to remind the people of the victory which they had gained over Madian. The chief judge in Egypt wore a great golden chain and collar, adorned with curious figures, as a mark of his dignity. Diod. ii. 3. This monument of the victory, and of the dignity of Gedeon, became, after his death, an occasion of superstition to the people, who foolishly imagined that they might consult the Lord, wherever an ephod was found. See C. xvii. 5. Ex. xxv. 7. The began to neglect the tabernacle, and to form a religion of their own choice. Many think that Gedeon was guilty of indiscretion in making it. S. Aug. q. xli. Lyran. E. — But the thing was in itself indifferent. He did not intend to arrogate to himself the privileges of the Levitical tribe. The Scripture nowhere condemns him, but speaks of his faith and of his death with honour, v. 32. Heb. xi. 3. — With it. Heb. “after it or him,” which may either signify that this superstition took place after the death of Gedeon, (Sept. Pagnin. M.) or in consequence of the making of the ephod. Jonath. Drus. Prot. &c. versions. C. — And to. This explains how it affected Gedeon, who was probably dead. He suffered in the ruin of his family, (H.) as it is explained in the following chapter. M.

Ver. 31. His concubine. She was his servant, but not his harlot; and is called his concubine, as wives of an inferior degree are commonly called in the Old Testament, though otherwise lawfully married. Ch. — They had not all the privileges of wives; (Gen. xxv. 6,) and their children could not claim the inheritance. C. — Abimelech means, “my (H.) father king;” alluding to the dignity of Gedeon; or perhaps the mother imposed this name, hoping that her son would obtain the highest honours. Josephus calls her Druma. She dwelt at Sichem, to which place the judge of Israel often resorted, though his usual residence was at Ephra. This son of theirs is included among the 70.

Ver. 32. Good. He left an excellent reputation, and died in God’s friendship. M.

Ver. 33. After. This is the most solid proof of Gedeon’s piety, since he kept the people in awe, and faithful to the Lord during his life. — God. Heb. “and appointed Baal Berith their god,” or goddess; for Berith, “of the covenant,” is feminine. In the temple of this idol, the citizens of Sichem kept money. C. ix. 4. The pagans had many gods who presided over treaties; and the parties were, it seems, at liberty to choose whom they thought proper. They commonly pitched upon Jupiter, who is, therefore, styled Zeus orkios, or Dius fidius, or Fistius Jupiter. Laert. in Pythag. Halicar. iv. A statue “of Jupiter for oaths,” was seen at Olympus, holding the thunderbolts in his hands, ready to hurl against those who proved faithless. Pausan. Eliac. Philo of Byblos speaks of the Phœnician god Eliun, “the High,” and (C.) of the goddess “Beruth,” which last has a visible connection with Berith. The former title is sometimes given to the true God in Scripture. The city of Berytus was so called, probably in honour of the latter. Nonnus seems to have styled her Beroe. Bochart. Chanaan ii. 17. — Pliny (xxxi. 1.) mentions the god Briaze, at the foot of whose temple runs the river Olachas, the waters of which are said to burn those who are guilty of perjury. The Chaldee reads, “they chose Beel-kiam for their error.” Amos (v. 26.) speaks of the images of Chiun. May he not be the same as Berith or Kiam? Spencer says, that Chiun was Saturn: but Vossius thinks it was the moon. Idol. ii. 23. C.

Ver. 35. Mercy is here put for many virtues: gratitude, justice, kindness, &c. M. — The Israelites did not take care to provide for (C.) the family of one who had rendered them such essential services. H.