Then said he to Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom you slew at Tabor? And they answered, As you are, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna.—They had been kept alive in order to answer the cowardly taunt of the elders of Succoth. There is nothing to show whether they were put to death at Succoth, as Josephus says, or taken to Ophrah (Antt. iv. 7, § 5). Perhaps Gideon reserved their death for the place where he had once lived with his brothers, whom they had slain.
What manner of men were they.—Literally, where (are) the men? Evidently this colloquy is only related in a shortened form, and Gideon’s enquiry is rather a taunt or an expression of grief (Job 17:15), to show them that he now meant to act as the goel, or blood-avenger of his brothers. Up till this time these great chiefs seem to have been led in triumph on their camels, in all their splendid apparel and golden ornaments; and they may have thought, with Agag, that the bitterness of death was passed.
Whom ye slew at Tabor?—We are left completely in the dark as to the circumstances of this battle, or massacre. In the complete uncertainty as to all the details of the chronology, it is not impossible that Gideon’s brothers—at least three or four in number—may have perished in Barak’s “battle of Mount Tabor,” or in some early struggle of this Midianite invasion, or in the first night battle (Judges 7:22).
As thou . . . so they.—A similar phrase occurs in 1Kings 22:4.
Resembled the children of a king.—We learn from this reference that Gideon added to his other gifts that tall, commanding presence which always carried weight in early days (1Samuel 10:24; 1Samuel 16:6-7). In Iliad, iii. 170, Priam says: “One so fair I never saw with my eyes, nor so stately, for he is like a king” (βασιλῆἰ γἀρ άνδρὶ ἔоικεν).Jdg 8:18. What manner of men were they, &c. — In outward shape and quality. Whom ye slew at Tabor? — Whither he understood his brethren had fled for shelter upon the approach of the Midianites, and where he learned that some Israelites had been slain, whom he suspected to be them. We have no mention of this slaughter before, and here the account of it is so short, that we can only form conjectures. It is evident, however, that these kings had slain Gideon’s brethren; but in what manner, and for what reason, we are not informed. They answered, As thou art, so were they, &c. — By this it appears that Gideon was of a goodly presence, carrying greatness and majesty in his aspect; and that kings in those days were wont to match only with graceful persons, by whom they might hope to have children like themselves. Each one resembled the children of a king — Not for their garb or outward splendour, but for the majesty of their looks. By which commendation they doubtless thought to have ingratiated themselves with their conqueror.
each one resembled the children of a king—An Orientalism for great beauty, majesty of appearance, uncommon strength, and grandeur of form.What manner of men, i.e. for outward shape and quality?
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.
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.
what manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? Mount Tabor, to which these men had betaken and hid themselves, in some caves and dens there: see Judges 6:2 and these kings some little time before the battle had taken them, and slew them, of which it seems Gideon had notice; and some of his brethren being not to be found, he suspected they were the persons, and therefore asked this question:
and they answered, as thou art, so were they; very much like him in countenance and stature, stout, able bodied men, of a graceful and majestic appearance. Abarbinel takes it to be a curse on Gideon, be thou, or thou shalt be, as they are; as they died by the hand of the Midianites, so shalt thou; but the former sense seems best, and agrees with what follows:
each one resembled the children of a king; being brought up in a delicate manner, as these persons seemed to have been: according to Jarchi and Kimchi, the sense is, they were like him, and had all one and the same form and lovely aspect, resembling kings' children; but according to Ben Gersom they were in general very much like Gideon, and one of them was like his children, who were then present, particularly his eldest son, as appears from Judges 8:20. It is said in the Misnah (a) all the Israelites are the children of kings.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verse 18. - What manner of men, etc. An incident not before related is here brought to light, viz., that on some unknown occasion, possibly as soon as the rising of the Israelites under Gideon became known, or when, as related in Judges 6:2, they had sought to hide themselves in Mount Tabor, but had been caught, Zebah and Zalmunna had put to death Gideon's brothers. We may observe in passing how characteristic this is of a true narrative in which every. thing that happened cannot possibly be related (see Judges 10:11, 12, note). The word here rendered what manner of, i.e. of what sort, means, in every other place in which it occurs, where? and the sense of what sort is only inferred from the answer, As thou art, so were they. But it is not safe thus to change the universal meaning of a common word. It is better to take the words of Gideon, Where are the men whom ye slew at Tabor? as an upbraiding of them for the murder of his brethren, and a threat that where they were their murderers would soon be. The answer of Zebah and Zalmunna, which is not given in its entirety, was no doubt intended to be soothing and deprecatory of Gideon's wrath. They pleaded the necessity they were under in self-defence to slay them; they were men of such royal stature and prowess that their own lives would have been in danger had they spared them. But Gideon turned a deaf ear to their plea. He must avenge the death of his own brothers, his own mother's sons. He would have spared them as prisoners of war (2 Kings 6:22), but he must do his part as goel or avenger (Numbers 35:12). Observe the stress laid on their being not merely his father's sons by another wife, but his own mother's sons, a much more tender relation (cf. Psalm 50:0). Numbers 21:31). Now, as Burckhardt (Syr. p. 612) also mentions a ruin in the neighbourhood, called Karkagheisch, on the left of the road from Szalt to Ammn, and at the most an hour and a half to the north-west of Ammn, Knobel (on Numbers 32:42) is inclined to regard this ruin as Karkor. If this supposition could be proved to be correct, Gideon would have fallen upon the camp of the enemy from the north-east. For "the way of the dwellers in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbeha" cannot well be any other than the way which ran to the east of Nobah and Jogbeha, past the most easterly frontier city of the Gadites, to the nomads who dwelt in the desert. באללים השּׁכוּני has the article attached to the governing noun, which may easily be explained in this instance from the intervening preposition. The passive participle שׁכוּן has an intransitive force (see Ewald, 149, a.). The verb החריד in the circumstantial clause acquires the force of the pluperfect from the context. When he had startled the camp out of its security, having alarmed it by his unexpected attack, he succeeded in taking the two kings prisoners.
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