Judges 7:21
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
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(21) Ran, and cried, and fled.—They ran about to discover the meaning of the trumpet-blast. Their “cries” were either the wail of despair (Vulg., ululantes), or a number of confused shouts and words of command (LXX., esêmainan); their flight would be a natural result of the hopeless terror and confusion which prevailed. The word, however, in the Kethibh, or written text, is yanîsoo, which means “caused to fly”—i.e., “carried off their tents,” &c.

Jdg 7:21-22. They stood — As if they had been torch-bearers to the several companies. Every man’s sword against his fellow — They slew one another, because they suspected treachery, and so fell upon those they first met with; which they might more easily do, because they consisted of several nations, because the darkness of the night made them unable to distinguish friends from foes, because the suddenness of the thing struck them with horror and amazement, and because God had infatuated them, as he had done many others.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.The effect to the Midianites would be, that they were surrounded by a mighty host. Their own camp being in darkness, as soon as the confusion of flight began they would mistake friends for foes, and fleers for pursuers. When once fighting had begun by the first casual mistake, the clashing of swords and the shouts of the combatants in the camp, accompanied by the continuous blowing of Gideon's trumpets outside, would make it appear that the whole of the enemy was in the camp. Suspicion of treachery on the part of their allies would also be likely to arise in the minds of Midianites, Amalekites, and Arabs. Compare a similar scene in marginal references. 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].

Every man in his place; as if they had only been torchbearers to the several companies. And they stood every man in his place around the camp,.... To see the salvation of God, and that it might most clearly appear to be his own doing; and indeed, had they gone into it, they could have done nothing; they had no weapons in their hands, a trumpet in one hand, and a lamp in the other; though this their position served to increase the terror of the enemy, who might suppose that they stood either to light and introduce a large army at the back of them; or to light the forces already in the midst of them, while they destroyed them; which latter seems rather to be the thing their imaginations were possessed with, since they fell to slaying their fellows, supposing them to be enemies, as in the following verse:

and all the host ran, and cried, and fled; or "were broken" (l); as some render the first word, their lines were broken; they could not put themselves in rank and file, but were thrown into the utmost confusion; and cried as being in the utmost danger of their lives, and fled for their safety as fast, as they could; see Isaiah 27:13.

(l) "confracta", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus.

And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
21. The three bands of Israelites stood still while the Midianites were thrown into a panic by the startling noises and the sudden lights.

ran] The expression is somewhat weak. A slight correction, proposed by Moore and generally accepted, greatly improves the narrative, woke up.

and they shouted, and fled] So Verss.; the subject of both verbs is the host. They shouted means sounded the alarm; see Hosea 5:8, Joel 2:1, cf. Isaiah 15:4.Verse 21. - They stood, etc. Gideon's men did not advance, but stood, each company in the place assigned to them, at different sides of the-camp. This had the effect of awakening the whole camp simultaneously, and they started to their feet and ran hither and thither in confusion, shouting as they went. Undisciplined troops, especially excitable Orientals, are very liable to be thus thrown into a panic. Fled. The Cethib has, caused to fly, i.e. either "put to flight," or "carried away," as in Judges 6:9; Exodus 9:20. In the former case the nominative must be the Israelites; in the latter, their tents, herds, stuff, etc., must be understood. Both are very awkward. The Keri, fled, is probably right, unless caused to fly has the sense of "bid them fly," in which case the preceding word, cried, might be taken in its common sense of they sounded an alarm. The whole clause would then run thus: And all the camp ran; and they sounded a retreat, and bid them flee. When therefore he had heard the dream related and interpreted, he worshipped, praising the Lord with joy, and returned to the camp to attack the enemy without delay. He then divided the 300 men into three companies, i.e., three attacking columns, and gave them all trumpets and empty pitchers, with torches in the pitchers in their hands. The pitchers were taken that they might hide the burning torches in them during their advance to surround the enemy's camp, and then increase the noise at the time of the attack, by dashing the pitchers to pieces (Judges 7:20), and thus through the noise, as well as the sudden lighting up of the burning torches, deceive the enemy as to the strength of the army. At the same time he commanded them, "See from me, and do likewise," - a short expression for, As ye see me do, so do ye also (כּן, without the previous כּ, or כּאשׁר as in Judges 5:15; see Ewald, 260, a.), - "I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me; ye also blow the trumpets round about the entire camp," which the 300 men divided into three companies were to surround, "and say, To the Lord and Gideon." According to Judges 7:20, this war-cry ran fully thus: "Sword to (for) the Lord and Gideon." This addition in Judges 7:20, however, does not warrant us in inserting "chereb" (sword) in the text here, as some of the early translators and MSS have done.

(Note: Similar stratagems to the one adopted by Gideon here are recorded by Polyaenus (Strateg. ii. c. 37) of Dicetas, at the taking of Heraea, and by Plutarch (Fabius Max. c. 6) of Hannibal, when he was surrounded and completely shut in by Fabius Maximus. An example from modern history is given by Niebuhr (Beschr. von Arabien, p. 304). About the middle of the eighteenth century two Arabian chiefs were fighting for the Imamate of Oman. One of them, Bel-Arab, besieged the other, Achmed ben Said, with four or five thousand men, in a small castle on the mountain. But the latter slipped out of the castle, collected together several hundred men, gave every soldier a sign upon his head, that they might be able to distinguish friends from foes, and sent small companies to all the passes. Every one had a trumpet to blow at a given signal, and thus create a noise at the same time on every side. The whole of the opposing army was thrown in this way into disorder, since they found all the passes occupied, and imagined the hostile army to be as great as the noise.)

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