And he said to Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And he said unto Jether.—By the jus talionis. as well as by every other consideration of that time, Gideon, as the last survivor of all his kingly brothers, would hold himself justified in putting his captives to death. Jether also would inherit the duties of goel (Numbers 35:12; 2Samuel 2:22, &c), and Gideon desired both to train the boy to fearlessness against the enemies of Israel (Joshua 10:24-25). to give him prestige, and to add to the disgrace of the Midianite kings. Again. Gideon must only be judged by the standard and the customs of his own day. (Comp. 1Samuel 15:33, Samuel and Agag; 2Samuel 1:15, David and the Amalekite.) The name Jether is another form of Jethro and means “pre-eminence.”Jdg 8:20. He said unto Jether, Up, and slay them — Some think he said this to animate his son to the use of arms for his God and country, and that he might have a share in the honour of the victory. It must be observed, that it was not unusual or disgraceful for great persons to do execution upon offenders in ancient times; no more than it was to sentence them to death: and therefore they had not, as now, public executioners; but Saul commanded such as waited on him to kill the priests; and Doeg, one of his great officers, performed that office, 1 Samuel 22:17-18. And Samuel himself is said to have hewed Agag to pieces in Gilgal; and Benaiah, the general of the army, to have fallen upon Joab at the horns of the altar. But the youth feared — The two kings were men, it is likely, of good stature, and of a fierce and stern countenance.Numbers 35:12; Deuteronomy 19:6. The fierce manners of the age break out in the slaying of the captives (compare 1 Samuel 15:32-33), and in Gideon's attempt to initiate his youthful son Jether in the stern work of slaying his country's enemies. Up and slay them; partly, that he might animate him to the use of arms for his God and country against their enemies, and to the exercise of justice; partly, that the death of those mischievous persons might be more shameful and painful; and partly, that he might have some share in the honour of the victory.
but the youth drew not his sword, for he feared, because he was yet a youth; his not drawing is sword was not out of disobedience to his father, but through fear of the kings; not of their doing him any harm, being bound; but there was perhaps a ferocity, as well as majesty in their countenances, which made the young man timorous and fearful.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.
Verse 20. - He said unto Jether, etc. These marks of savage life are painful to contemplate in such a man as Gideon. But it is well for us to be made aware how the best and greatest men cannot rise above the manners and received maxims of their age; and it teaches us to make due allowance for the faults of uncivilised men with whom we have to do, whether Afghans, or Zulus, or others.
Gideon returned victorious from the war, החרס מלמעלה, "from by the ascent (or mountain road) of Hecheres," a place in front of the town of Succoth, with which we are not acquainted. This is the rendering adopted by the lxx, the Peshito, and the Arabic; but the rest of the early translators have merely guessed at the meaning. The Chaldee, which has been followed by the Rabbins and Luther, has rendered it "before sunset," in utter opposition to the rules of the language; for although cheres is a word used poetically to denote the sun, מעלה cannot mean the setting of the sun. Aquila and Symmachus, on the other hand, confound חרס with הרים. - Gideon laid hold of a young man of the people of Succoth, and got him to write down for him the princes and elders (magistrates and rulers) of the city, - in all seventy-seven men. ויּכתּב ויּשׁאלהוּ is a short expression for "he asked him the names of the princes and elders of the city, and the boy wrote them down." אליו, lit. to him, i.e., for him.
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