Judges 7:16
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
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(16) Into three companies.—See Judges 9:43. This division of the attacking force was a common stratagem. We find it in Job 1:17—“the Chaldæans made out three bands “—and it was adopted by Saul against the Ammonites (1Samuel 11:11), and by David against Absalom (2Samuel 18:2). (Comp. Genesis 14:15.)

A trumpet.—Hearing the sound of three hundred rams’ horns, the Midianites would naturally suppose that they were being attacked by three hundred companies.

Pitchers.—The Hebrew word is caddim, which is connected with our cask—the Greek, kados. They were of earthenware (Judges 7:19-20), (LXX., hydrias), and hence the Vulgate rendering (lagenas) is mistaken.

Lamps.—The LXX., perhaps, chose the word lampadas from its resemblance to lappîdîm—a principle by which they are often guided. Lampadas, however, here means not “lamps,” but (as the margin gives it) “firebrands,” or “torches.” The best illustration is furnished by a passage in Lane’s Modern Egyptians (I., Judges 4), where he tells us that the zabit or agha of the police in Cairo carries with him at night “a torch, which burns, soon after it is lighted, without a flame, excepting when it is waved through the air, when it suddenly blazes forth: it therefore answers the same purpose as our dark lantern. The burning end is sometimes concealed in a small pot or jar, or covered with something else when not required to give light.” These torches are simply of wood dipped in turpentine or pitch, which are not easily extinguished.

7:16-22 This method of defeating the Midianites may be alluded to, as exemplifying the destruction of the devil's kingdom in the world, by the preaching of the everlasting gospel, the sounding that trumpet, and the holding forth that light out of earthen vessels, for such are the ministers of the gospel, 2Co 4:6,7. God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, a barley-cake to overthrow the tents of Midian, that the excellency of the power might be of God only. The gospel is a sword, not in the hand, but in the mouth: the sword of the Lord and of Gideon; of God and Jesus Christ, of Him that sits on the throne and the Lamb. The wicked are often led to avenge the cause of God upon each other, under the power of their delusions, and the fury of their passions. See also how God often makes the enemies of the church instruments to destroy one another; it is a pity that the church's friends should ever act like them.Gideon himself took the command of one company, and sent the other two under their respective captains to different sides of the camp Judges 7:18, Judges 7:21. Jud 7:16-24. His Stratagem against Midian.

16-22. he divided the three hundred men into three companies—The object of dividing his forces was, that they might seem to be surrounding the enemy. The pitchers were empty to conceal the torches, and made of earthenware, so as to be easily broken; and the sudden blaze of the held-up lights—the loud echo of the trumpets, and the shouts of Israel, always terrifying (Nu 23:21), and now more terrible than ever by the use of such striking words, broke through the stillness of the midnight air. The sleepers started from their rest; not a blow was dealt by the Israelites; but the enemy ran tumultuously, uttering the wild, discordant cries peculiar to the Arab race. They fought indiscriminately, not knowing friend from foe. The panic being universal, they soon precipitately fled, directing their flight down to the Jordan, by the foot of the mountains of Ephraim, to places known as the "house of the acacia" [Beth-shittah], and "the meadow of the dance" [Abel-meholah].

Into three companies; to make a show of a vast army encompassing them.

Lamps, or, torches, made of such materials as would quickly take fire, and keep it for some time.

Within the pitchers; partly to preserve the flame from the violence of wind and weather; and partly to conceal it, and surprise their enemy with sudden and unexpected flashes of light. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies,.... One hundred in a company, partly to make the better figure, a show of an army, with a right and left wing, and partly that they might fall upon the camp of Midian in different parts:

and he put a trumpet in every man's hand; they that returned of the trumpeters having left their trumpets behind them, whereby there was a sufficient number for three hundred men; and these were put into their hands, that when they blew them together, the, noise would be very great; and it would seem as if they were an exceeding great army, and so very much terrify their enemies:

with empty pitchers, and lamps with the pitchers; the pitchers were of earth, and so easily broken, and would make a great noise when clashed against each other; and these were empty of water, or otherwise would not have been fit to put lamps into, and the lamps put in them were not of oil; for then, when the pitchers were broken, the oil would have run out; but were a kind of torches, made of rosin, wax, pitch, and such like things; and these were put into the pitcher, partly to preserve them from the wind, and chiefly to conceal them from the enemy, till just they came upon them, and then held them out; which in a dark night would make a terrible blaze, as before they served to give them light down the hill into the camp.

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps {h} within the pitchers.

(h) These weak means God used to signify that the whole victory came from him.

16. divided … into three companies] Cf. Jdg 9:43 ff., 1 Samuel 11:11; 1 Samuel 13:17 f., Job 1:17 for similar tactics. Gideon had to make up by wit and daring what he lacked in numbers.

trumpets] Hebr. shôphâr, the curved horn of a cow or ram, used to give signals in war (Jdg 3:27, 2 Samuel 2:28, etc.); to be distinguished from the long metal haṣôṣĕrâh, the trumpet proper, which was used for religious purposes (2 Kings 12:13, 1 Chronicles 13:8, etc.); see the illustrations in Driver’s Joel and Amos, p. 145. As a sacred instrument the shophar is mentioned chiefly by later writers, Leviticus 25:9, 2 Chronicles 15:14; cf. the rams’ horns Joshua 6:4 ff. (E). The horns were put into the hands, not hung on the shoulders, of Gideon’s men.

torches within the pitchers] The word generally, but not always (Jdg 15:4 f.), implies a lighted torch. If the torches were alight the pitchers were used to conceal them. The pitcher was a large earthenware vessel, cf. Genesis 24:14 ff., 1 Kings 17:12 ff. (‘barrel’).

16–22. The night attack

The account of Gideon’s bold and successful stratagem is perfectly intelligible as a whole, though there is some confusion in the details, chiefly due to the repetitions in Jdg 7:17 (Gideon’s order), Jdg 7:20 (the blowing of the trumpets), Jdg 7:22 (the direction of the flight). It is usually objected that one pair of hands (Jdg 7:16) could not have carried a trumpet and a pitcher with a lighted (?) torch inside; the objection is rather prosaic; such a difficulty would not, perhaps, have occurred to an ancient writer. But the fact remains that the text in Jdg 7:17; Jdg 7:20; Jdg 7:22 is clearly not in its original form; are we to explain the overloading as the work of subsequent editors, or as an attempt to combine two different narratives of the same event? The latter explanation is adopted by most recent commentators; it is supposed that in one narrative the trumpets played a leading part, in the other, the pitchers and torches. At any rate the trumpets cannot have been introduced by a later hand, for they form a prominent feature of the story; so perhaps we can only suppose that here, as elsewhere in the history of Gideon (cf. Jdg 6:11-32; Jdg 6:35 and Jdg 7:23), two versions have been harmonized with more or less success. But to separate them is difficult; none of the attempts at an analysis can be called satisfactory. The problem remains in much uncertainty.Verse 16. - Trumpets, which had been collected from the whole army (ver. 8, note). Lamps. Rather, as in the margin, torches, within the pitchers, so as not to be seen till the pitchers were broken, when the torches would flare with a sudden blaze. The pitchers were vessels for drawing water, as appears from Genesis 24:14, 16, 18, 20. They were doubtless of earthenware, as they were so easily broken. Gideon's Battle and Victory. - Judges 7:9-11. The following night the Lord commanded Gideon to go down to the camp of the enemy, as He had given it into his hand (the perfect is used to denote the purpose of God which had already been formed, as in Judges 4:14). But in order to fill him with confidence for such an enterprise, which to all human appearance was a very rash one, God added, "If thou art afraid to go down, go thou with thine attendant Purah down to the camp, and thou wilt hear what they say, and thy hands will thereby become strong." The meaning of the protasis is not, If thou art afraid to go down into the camp of the enemy alone, or to visit the enemy unarmed, take Purah thine armour-bearer with thee, to make sure that thou hast weapons to use (Bertheau); for, apart from the fact that the addition "unarmed" is perfectly arbitrary, the apodosis "thou wilt see," etc., by no means agrees with this explanation. The meaning is rather this: Go with thy 300 men into (בּ) the hostile camp to smite it, for I have given it into thy hand; but if thou art afraid to do this, go down with thine attendant to (אל) the camp, to ascertain the state and feeling of the foe, and thou wilt hear what they say, i.e., as we gather from what follows, how they are discouraged, have lost all hope of defeating you, and from that thou wilt gather courage and strength for the battle. On the expression "thine hands shall be strengthened," see 2 Samuel 2:7. The expression which follows, בּמּחנה וירדתּ, is not a mere repetition of the command to go down with his attendant to the hostile camp, but describes the result of the stimulus given to his courage: And then thou wilt go fearlessly into the hostile camp to attack the foe. בּמּחנה ירד (Judges 7:9, Judges 7:11) is to be distinguished from המּחנה ירד in Judges 7:10. The former signifies to go down into the camp to smite the foe; the latter, to go down to the camp to reconnoitre it, and is equivalent to the following clause: "he went to the outside of the camp."
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