Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chs. 6–8. Gideon delivers Israel from the Midianites
For some years the Midianites had been the terror of Central Palestine. These nomad Arabs from the S.E. desert used to pour into the country during harvest time, and devastate the fertile neighbourhood of Shechem and the plain of Jezreel. At last Gideon, a Manassite belonging to the clan of Abiezer, contrived with a small band of fellow clansmen to rid the land of this intolerable scourge: he inflicted a severe defeat upon the invaders, and put their chiefs to death. As a trophy of the victory he made out of the spoils an ephod, which he set up in the sanctuary of Jehovah at Ophrah, his native village, where he spent the rest of his days with much dignity and influence. The ‘day of Midian’ was long remembered as a notable instance of. Jehovah’s intervention on behalf of Israel: see Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26, Psalm 83:9-12.
The main outlines of the story are clear, but the details raise problems which have not yet been solved. Different traditions have been pieced together; these again have received later additions; and the various elements are interwoven in a manner which renders the literary analysis of these chapters unusually difficult and uncertain. (a) It will be noticed at once that Jdg 8:4-21 is not the sequel of the preceding narrative. In Jdg 8:4-21 Gideon with 300 men pursues the Midianite kings Zeba and Zalmunna on the E. of the Jordan as far as the edge of the desert, captures them, and slays them with his own hand; on one of their forays they had murdered his brothers at Tabor; the motive of Gideon’s pursuit is to satisfy his personal revenge. In Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3 Gideon is called by God to deliver Israel from the repeated incursions of the Midianites; he attacks their camp near Mt Gilboa and creates a disastrous panic; the men of Ephraim are summoned to his aid, and they cut off the fugitives at the fords of Jordan; they capture and kill the two princes Oreb and Zeeb. Here the whole action, like the deliverance, is national. In Jdg 7:25 b and Jdg 8:10 b an editor has tried to harmonize the two accounts. They do not necessarily contradict one another. It is quite likely that private motives spurred Gideon to place himself at the head of a united resistance, when God called him, and that he took the opportunity to wipe off a score of his own against the common enemy, (b) But Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3 itself is not a consistent whole. Thus the call of Gideon is described in Jdg 6:11-24 and again, altogether differently, in Jdg 6:25-32; the summons to the neighbouring tribes is sent out before the battle in Jdg 6:35, and after it in Jdg 7:23; two traditions seem to be mingled in the account of the attack, Jdg 7:15-21, in one of them the trumpets were remembered as a feature of the story, in the other the torches and pitchers.
It is difficult to decide whether the antecedents of Jdg 8:4-21 can or cannot be traced in the composite narrative, Jdg 6:1 to Jdg 8:3. Some critics regard Jdg 8:4-21 as an excerpt from a third source and unrelated to what precedes; others attempt to connect it with one of the two accounts of Gideon’s call and his attack upon the camp near Mt Gilboa. On the one hand Jdg 8:4-21 does not suggest that a disastrous battle and a desperate flight had just occurred; the Midianite kings are encamped on the edge of the E. desert in careless security; apparently they have returned from a foray in the West, most likely the one in which they killed Gideon’s brothers; they do not suspect any pursuit. But, on the other hand, this episode does imply some previous account of Gideon and of a Midianite invasion; possibly too (but this is more questionable), some tradition of a recent attack upon the Midianites on the W. of Jordan (cf. Jdg 8:5). We may therefore connect Jdg 6:2-6 (in part), Jdg 6:11-24; Jdg 6:34, Jdg 7:1; Jdg 7:16-21 (in part) with Jdg 8:4-21, remembering, however, that the connexion with Jdg 7:1; Jdg 7:16-21 (in part) is less evident. The other narrative, generally allowed to be the later of the two, will then consist of Jdg 6:7-10; Jdg 6:25-33; Jdg 6:35 a, Jdg 6:36-40, Jdg 7:9-21 (in part), Jdg 7:22 to Jdg 8:3.
It will be seen that both in the older (Jdg 8:4) and in the later narrative (Jdg 8:2 f.) Gideon’s force was composed of his own Abiezrites; the number 300 seems to have been a fixed element in the general tradition. The description of the way in which the immense host of volunteers was reduced to this figure, Jdg 6:35 f., Jdg 7:2-8, must have been added later to the two main narratives.
The closing verses, Jdg 8:22-35, contain the loose ends of the fragmentary traditions which have been pieced together in the preceding history. The ephod belongs to the archaic stage of religion; Jdg 8:24-27 a (to Ophrah) fit in very well as the conclusion of the early narrative, Jdg 8:4-21. As it stands, Jdg 8:29 is obviously out of place after Jdg 8:27, but it would form a suitable sequel to Jdg 8:3. The offer and refusal of the kingship, Jdg 8:22-23, betray the theocratic bias of a later age. Jdg 8:30-32 furnish the transition to the story of Abimelech, and shew signs of a late editorial hand. In Jdg 8:27 b, Jdg 8:28; Jdg 8:33-35, as in Jdg 6:1 and here and there in Jdg 6:2-6, we recognize the familiar handiwork of the Deuteronomic redactor, who, in his customary manner, provided the whole story with introduction and conclusion, and interpreted it on his own religious principles.
The preceding analysis is merely an attempt to account for the way in which the narrative has been put together. The text as we have it contains inconsistent and duplicate versions, which to a certain extent can be distinguished, but it is impossible to trace them apart all the way through.
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.Ch. Jdg 8:1-3. Gideon appeases the men of Ephraim
1. the men of Ephraim … did chide with him sharply] A similar outburst of jealousy is recorded in Jdg 12:1 f., and in much the same language; but it need not follow that the one passage is merely a reproduction of the other; probably there were plenty of tales about the notorious temper of the great tribe. Thus early in the history Ephraim begins to assert itself. The want of unity among the tribes at this period is evident.
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?2. Gideon, like his father (Jdg 6:31), had the ready wit to extricate himself from an awkward situation. For the gleaning of the grapes see Isaiah 17:6, Micah 7:1; the word is used of fruit, not of corn. Ephraim indeed arrived late upon the scene, but they had the glory of capturing the chiefs. Gideon speaks only of Abiezer, his own clansmen; the 300 warriors chosen from different tribes, Jdg 7:2-8, belong to another version of the story. Probably Jdg 8:3 was followed by Jdg 8:29 in the original narrative.
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.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.4. and passed over] To obtain this sense the text, which lit. = passing over, must be altered; the marg. may be disregarded.
the three hundred] So in the other document Jdg 7:2-8; the number was evidently a fixed element in the tradition.
faint and pursuing] LXX. A and Luc. faint and hungry, perhaps a correction in view of the demand for bread in Jdg 8:5.
4–21. The pursuit on the east of Jordan
This section is clearly not the continuation of the verses which immediately precede (see p. 68); if its antecedents are to be found in the foregoing narrative at all, we may suppose that after the panic and flight described in Jdg 7:16-22, the main body of the Midianites escaped across the Jordan, and with their camels (Jdg 8:21; Jdg 8:26) easily outstripped their pursuers, insomuch that the men of Succoth and Penuel (Jdg 8:6; Jdg 8:8), and they themselves (Jdg 8:11), believed that they were safely out of Gideon’s reach. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the section itself presupposes a raid into Gideon’s own district, where his brothers were murdered (Jdg 8:18), rather than the panic and flight described in Jdg 7:16-22; possibly, therefore, we have here a fragment from some independent source. In Jdg 8:10 b there seems to be an attempt made to harmonize the narrative with what has gone before.
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.5. Succoth] On the E. of Jordan, in the territory of Gad (Joshua 13:27), near Penuel (cf. Genesis 33:17), and below it (went up Jdg 8:8); and Penuel, as we learn from Genesis 32:22; Genesis 32:30 f., lay not far from the ford of Jabbok (Nahr ez-Zerḳâ). The question is, were Succoth and Penuel north or south of the Jabbok? On the whole, a position S. of the river satisfies the conditions of the narratives: Penuel near the point where the road coming E. from es-Salṭ crosses the road which comes down the Jordan valley from the north (the Ghôr route), i.e. 3 miles due E. of the ford ed-Dâmiyeh; and Succoth to the W. of Penuel, and lower down in the Jordan valley, cf. Psalm 60:6. See Driver, Expos. Times xiii. 457 ff., Genesis, 300 ff. In the Jerus. Talmud Succoth is identified with Tar‘çla (now Deir ‘Allâ), N. of the Jabbok (Shebi‘ith ix. 38 d); the identification probably rests only on a guess.
Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian] Contrast Jdg 7:25, and cf. Psalm 83:11. The Hebr. pronunciation of these Midianite names is intended to convey a contemptuous meaning, ‘Sacrifice,’ ‘Shadow (i.e. protection, Numbers 14:9) withheld,’ which of course was not the real one. Zalmunna, strictly perhaps Ṣalm-na‘, appears to contain the name of the god Ṣalm, who is mentioned in the Aramaic inscriptions (fifth century b.c.) from Tçma in N. Arabia; in Assyrian also Ṣalmu, i.e. ‘the dark’ (a name of the planet Saturn) or ‘the image,’ seems to be used of a divinity1.
 See NSI., p. 196 f.; KAT.3, p. 475 f.
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?6. the princes of Succoth] i.e. the executive officials of the community, responsible for its government, e.g. Jdg 9:30 (‘ruler,’ lit. ‘prince’), or for the conduct of its wars, e.g. Jdg 7:25, Jdg 8:3. See further on Jdg 8:14.
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.7. I will tear] thresh as marg. In the East threshing is done by treading (e.g. Isaiah 28:28), which is what the verb here means; Gideon promises to trample their flesh together with thorns of the desert and briers, i.e. to lay them naked on a bed of thorns and tread them down; so Targ. But the text reads awkwardly; for together with the LXX has a different preposition, with as in Jdg 8:16 (‘with them’); this somewhat alters the meaning of Gideon’s threat, see on Jdg 8:16. The word rendered briers (so Verss.) occurs only here, and its exact sense is unknown; a plant like the teasel may be intended. Thorny bushes abound in the sub-tropical Ghôr where Succoth lay.
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.8. Penuel] See on Jdg 8:5. A place of some importance, for it was fortified by Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:25; its tower may have commanded the Jabbok ford. An explanation of the name is given in Genesis 32:30. A different explanation is suggested by the name of the promontory S. of Tripolis, on the Syrian coast, which Strabo (p. 642 ed. Müller) calls Θεοῦ πρόσωπον ‘face of God’; some cliff or boulder near the spot looked like a huge face.
When I come again in peace] A similar threat of retaliation for an insult is still used by the Arabs in the same district: ‘By God, when I come again in peace, nowhere but in the breast!’ Schumacher, Mittheil. u. Nachr. D.P.V. 1904, 76.
And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
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.10. Karkor] Site unknown, probably near the edge of the Syrian desert.
all that were left … drew sword] These words have the appearance of an attempt to bring the present narrative into harmony with the account of the panic and flight in Jdg 7:22-25. The exaggerated numbers recall those of Numbers 31 (overthrow of Midian); that drew sword is an expression which often goes with large figures, e.g. Jdg 20:2; Jdg 20:15; Jdg 20:17; Jdg 20:46; 2 Samuel 24:9 etc.
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.11. Describes Gideon’s route going E. from Penuel. by the way of them that dwelt in tents is a doubtful rendering of a doubtful text. With slight corrections we may transl. towards the way of the tent-dwellers, i.e. the Bedouin route, such, for instance, as the present Haj road from Damascus to Mecca. The Targ. paraphrases, ‘by the way to the camp of the Arabs who encamp in tents in the desert east of Nobah.’ Strictly by the way of ought to be by the way to a place; hence Moore supposes that the tent-dwellers is a corruption of some place-name.
Nobah] has been identified, on the strength of Numbers 32:42 (Nobah = Kenath), with Ḳanawât on the west of the Ḥaurân mountains; but this is much too far north. Jogbehah (belonging to Gad, Numbers 32:35) has survived in the modern ‘Ajbçhât, a ruined site 6 m. N.N.W. of ‘Ammân.
secure] Not expecting an attack; cf. Jdg 18:7; Genesis 34:25; Micah 2:8.
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.12. discomfited] Marg. terrified; the combination of careless security and terror occurs again in Ezekiel 30:9. The LXX. A and Lucian suggests a stronger word, such as destroyed, cf. Jos., Ant. Jdg 8:6; Jdg 8:5; but it is hardly necessary to alter the text. The two kings were the first to fly; Gideon contented himself with capturing them, and letting the rest break away in panic. He did not kill the kings at once; he had promised to shew them to Succoth and Penuel.
And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,13. from the ascent of Heres] So LXX. A and Luc., with a slight correction of the text; or upwards to Heres, with further corrections. The word Ḥeres = ‘the sun’ lends itself to various experiments, which are to be seen in the Versions. The general sense of the verse seems to be that Gideon returned from the battle by some different way.
And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.14. he described for him] he wrote down (and gave) unto him. The knowledge of writing must have been widely spread even at this early period. Cf. the similar incidents in Jdg 1:24 f.; 1 Samuel 30:11-16.
the elders] Cf. Jdg 8:16; the leading inhabitants and representatives of a district or city, e.g. Jdg 11:5-11; they constituted the local authority and transacted public business, e. g. 1 Kings 21:8; 1 Kings 21:11. Elders and princes—the latter perhaps the executive of the local authority—are mentioned together in 2 Kings 10:1; Psalm 105:22; Ezra 10:8; Ezra 10:14.
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?
And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.16. and with them he taught] Read, changing one letter, threshed as in Jdg 8:7, with LXX. B ἠλόησεν, A κατέξανεν. The Vulgate gives a double rendering: et contrivit cum eis, atque comminuit viros Soccoth. Peshitto and Targ. paraphrase. The meaning seems to be that Gideon dragged thorns and teasels over their prostrate bodies, i.e. carded them; a form of torture well known in antiquity. For ‘threshing’ in this metaphorical sense cf. Amos 1:3, Micah 4:13, Isaiah 41:15.
And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.17. Gideon’s revenge strikes us as vindictive. In return for some jeering words he treated these towns, which no doubt contained many of his own countrymen, with a barbarity which is altogether absent from his execution of the Midianite kings, who had murdered his brothers and plundered his home. We must allow for the rough and passionate temper of the age, and for the exasperating lack of patriotism in the two towns; cf. Jdg 5:23.
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.18. at Tabor] Mt Tabor is too far north if, as seems probable, Gideon’s clan was settled near Shechem; see on Jdg 6:11. There may have been another Tabor near Ophrah.
As thou art, so were they] powerful men, cf. Jdg 6:12. The chiefs do not hesitate to boast of victims so distinguished.
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.19. the sons of my mother] and not only of the same father; they were therefore specially dear, cf. Genesis 43:29. On Gideon as next of kin fell the duty of avenging his brothers’ blood; cf. 2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 3:30; 2 Samuel 14:7; 2 Samuel 21:5-6. The execution was a judicial act, even an act of religious obligation.
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.20. Jether his firstborn] Did Gideon wish to bestow an honour upon his son, and humiliate these famous warriors? Or was the youth chosen for ceremonial reasons? Robertson Smith compares the choice of young men as sacrificers in Exodus 24:5, and illustrates from the custom of the Saracens who charged lads with the slaying of their captives; Rel. of Semites, p. 396 n.
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.21. The chiefs reply with undaunted spirit like true sons of the desert: as the man is, so is his strength, i.e. a man has a man’s strength (Moore); but the word so is not expressed in the terse Hebrew.
crescents] lit. moons, metal ornaments worn not only by the kings but by their camels, Jdg 8:26, and by the women of Jerusalem, Isaiah 3:18. The name is not Israelite, nor is it the ordinary word for ‘moon’; it is related to the old Aramaic name of the moon-god (sahar).
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.22–28. Gideon refuses the kingship: he sets up an ephod: conclusion
22. the men of Israel] Not the 300 of Jdg 8:4-21, but the men who formed the army Jdg 7:14, Jdg 9:55, the Israelites drawn from Ephraim, Manasseh, and the neighbouring tribes Jdg 7:23. Thus Jdg 8:22-23 are probably not the sequel of Jdg 7:4-21, nor of Jdg 7:1-3, for the Ephraimites shewed anything but a disposition to make Gideon king; so these verses appear to come from a source secondary to the two main documents (see p. 69). The offer of the kingship shews that Gideon’s exploit was more than the avenging of a private wrong (Jdg 7:4-21); he had saved his countrymen; as king it would be his duty to save them still.
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.23. I will not rule over you] But ch. 9 implies that Gideon did exercise some kind of supremacy, at any rate in his own district, and his sons claimed to inherit his position, Jdg 9:2. These words, then, either mean that Gideon seized the power, but rejected the title, of king; or they represent the view, which apparently came to the front in the closing years of the Northern Kingdom, that earthly kingship was inconsistent with the sovereignty of Jehovah; cf. 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Samuel 12:17; 1 Samuel 12:19 (E source), Hosea 13:10 f. The latter is the explanation most generally accepted.
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.)24. The making of the ephod and the manner in which it is spoken of belong to an early stage of religious thought; Jdg 8:24-27 a may, therefore, belong to the early narrative Jdg 8:4-21; they have been skilfully connected with Jdg 8:22-23. The request shewed Gideon’s disinterestedness and piety. As chief he would have the right to choose some gift for himself before the spoil was divided among his followers; cf. Jdg 5:30, 1 Samuel 30:20. The custom prevailed in ancient Arabia; see Robertson Smith, Rel. of Sem., p. 440.
earrings] So when worn by men, LXX here, Genesis 35:4, Job 42:11; but nose-rings when worn by women, Genesis 24:47, Isaiah 3:21. Pliny mentions the wearing of earrings by men in the East, Hist. Nat. xi. 50.
Ishmaelites] i.e. in a general sense, Bedouin. Strictly, according to Genesis 25:2, Ishmael was the half-brother of Midian; cf. the interchange of the names in Genesis 37:25-36.
And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
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.26. And the weight etc.] 1700 shekels of gold by the heavy standard = nearly 75 lbs. Troy = £3485, or by the light standard = nearly 37½ lbs. Troy = 742 10s. A single ring might weigh half a shekel, Genesis 24:22.
beside the crescents … necks] The sentence interrupts the account of the ephod, and looks like a later addition. Pendants (Heb. neṭîfôth from naṭaf ‘to drop’) were perhaps single beads or gems attached to the lobe of the ear, cf. Arab. naṭafat ‘a small clear pearl’; the Verss. understood some kind of necklace, so AV. collars; some Jewish interpreters think of small boxes containing fragrant gum (nâṭâf ‘stacte,’ Exodus 30:34), hence AVm. sweet jewels. For chains render necklaces, Song of Solomon 4:9, Proverbs 1:9, contrast the crescents in Jdg 8:21.
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.27. made an ephod thereof] i.e. out of a large amount of precious metal—the gold of the earrings 26a, not of the ornaments in 26b. Gideon dedicated his spoil to Jehovah, cf. 2 Samuel 8:11, Micah 4:13, Moabite St. ll. 12 f., 17 f. (Mesha‘ dedicates his spoil from Israel to Kĕmôsh).
The ephod we find associated with terâphim in Jdg 17:5, Jdg 18:14 ff., Hosea 3:4, and in connexion with the Urim and Thummim or sacred lots, 1 Samuel 14:18 cf. 1 Samuel 14:41 LXX; it was carried, not ‘worn,’ by the priest, 1 Samuel 2:28; 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 14:18 LXX (see RVm., but render carried), 1 Samuel 22:18 (omit linen with LXX. cod. B, and render carry), 1 Samuel 23:6, 1 Samuel 30:7; we gather, therefore, that it was used in consulting Jehovah to obtain an oracle. But what the ephod was itself is not so clear. It may have been a rich vestment or embroidered loin-cloth, such as we see in Egyptian paintings, which the priest put on when he consulted Jehovah; this may explain the amount of gold which Gideon devoted to its making. In the sanctuary at Nob the ephod stood or hung near the wall, but free from it; and here Gideon set or placed his ephod in the sanctuary at Ophrah. The root apparently means ‘to sheathe,’ and a derivative is used in Isaiah 30:22 for ‘the plating of thy molten images of gold’; hence many suppose that it must have been an image, but it is very doubtful whether the plating of the image could come to mean the image itself. Different in some way from the oracular ephod was the ephod of linen with which Samuel and David were girt when performing religious functions: a closely fitting garment is what the meaning of the root implies. A richer development of this was the ephod of the High-Priest described in Exodus 28:6-12 P, shaped like a kind of waistcoat, over which he wore the jewelled pouch or breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim; in its latest development the ephod thus maintained its association with the divine oracle. See esp. Sellin, Orient. Studien Theodor Nöldeke … gewidmet 1906, ii. 701 f. and Benzinger, Hebr. Arch.2, 347 f., 359; Driver, Exodus, p. 312.
went a whoring after it] Cf. Jdg 8:33 and Jdg 2:17 n. In Gideon’s day there was no wide-spread objection to an image in Jehovah’s sanctuary; the prohibition in Exodus 20:4, though it may have been laid down by Moses, was not observed by the people generally. A later age, however, trained in more spiritual conceptions, took offence at Gideon’s action and saw in it the cause of the disaster which befell his family.
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.28. The Deuteronomic editor’s conclusion of the story; cf. Jdg 3:30 n. and Jdg 3:11 n.
And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.29. Originally this verse closed the narrative in Jdg 8:1-3, or that in Jdg 8:4-21. Jdg 8:30-32 form an introduction to the story of Abimelech in ch. 9; some such earlier mention of Abimelech is presupposed by Jdg 9:1.
And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.30. of his body begotten] Only again in Genesis 46:26 (‘which came out of his loins’) and Exodus 1:5 P, cf. Genesis 35:11 P. The more sons a man had, the greater his importance, cf. Jdg 10:4, Jdg 12:9.
And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.31. his concubine that was in Shechem] A connexion of this kind is illustrated by early Arabian custom: the woman, or ‘female friend’ (ṣadâḳa), did not leave her home, the union was of a temporary character (hence the term, mot‘a marriage) and required no consent from parents or guardians, the children remained with their mother and belonged to her tribe; cf. Jdg 9:1; Jdg 9:14. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in early Arabia, p. 69 ff. The narrative seems to imply that the woman was a Canaanite.
and he called his name Abimelech] lit. set, an idiom found only in late writings 2 Kings 17:34, Nehemiah 9:7, Daniel 1:7. Abimelech does not mean ‘my father (Gideon) is king,’ but probably ‘Melech (i.e. the divine king) is father.’ See Gray, Hebr. Pr. Names, pp. 75–86.
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.32. in a good old age] Again in Genesis 15:15 JE, Genesis 25:8 P, 1 Chronicles 29:28.
Jdg 8:33-35 originally followed Jdg 8:28, according to the usual scheme. These verses are made up of the customary phrases of the Dtc. editor, with the addition of particulars derived from ch. 9; cf. Jdg 2:14; Jdg 2:18 f., Jdg 3:7; Jdg 3:12, Jdg 4:1, Jdg 6:9 and Jdg 9:4; Jdg 9:16; Jdg 9:19. Most probably, then, these verses were intended to form not an introduction to ch. 9, but a substitute for it. Ch. 9 did not fit into Rd’s scheme, so he laid it aside, and wrote Jdg 8:33-35 to take its place. A later editor, however, thought fit to incorporate the discarded chapter, and by way of an introduction he wrote Jdg 8:30-32, which, as noticed above, contain several expressions found elsewhere in writings later than the Dtc. age. Budde was the first to propose this explanation, and it has been generally accepted; Richt. u. Sam. (1890), p. 119 ff.
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.33. made Baal-berith their god] Baal-bĕrîth (Jdg 9:4; Jdg 9:46) was the Covenant-Baal, the god of the league between himself and his worshippers, or the god who presided over the league between the original Canaanite inhabitants of Shechem and the Israelite new-comers; see Genesis 34 The Dtc. editor generalizes the worship of a half-Canaanite city into a defection of all Israel; similarly in Jdg 8:35 he blames Israelites for the ingratitude of the men of Shechem.
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:
Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.