Judges 8:7
And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) And Gideon said.—Notice in this verse the mixture of heroic faith and barbarous severity. It was this courage and faith (Hebrews 11:32) which ennobled Gideon and made him an example for all time. The ruthlessness of the punishment which he threatened to inflict belongs to the wild times in which he lived, and the very partial spiritual enlightenment of an imperfect dispensation (Matthew 5:21; Matthew 19:8; Acts 17:30). It is no more to be held up for approval or imitation than his subsequent degeneracy; while, at the same time, Gideon must, of course, be only judged by such light as he had.

I will tear your flesh.—Rather, as in the margin, I will thresh (LXX., aloēso, which is better than the other reading, kataxano, “will card”; Vulg., conteram). It has usually been supposed that they were scourged with thorns, which would be terrible enough; but the verb here used is stronger, and seems to imply that they were “put under harrows” after thorns and briers had been scattered over them. That Gideon should inflict a retribution so awful cannot be surprising if we remember that David seems to have done the same (2Samuel 12:31; 1Chronicles 20:3; Amos 1:3). In this case, however, the torture was more terrible, because it was inflicted not on aliens, but on Israelites. It must be borne in mind that every man is largely influenced by the spirit of the age in which he lives, and that in the East to this day there is (1) far greater indifference than there is in Europe to the value of human life, and (2) far greater insensibility to the infliction of pain; so that the mere mention of punishments inflicted, even in this century, by such men as Djezzar and Mehemet Ali makes the blood run cold. It was only by slow degrees that (as we can trace in the writings of their prophets and historians) the Jews learnt that deeper sense of humanity which it was certainly the object of many precepts of the Mosaic Law to inspire. The defections of Succoth and Penuel were even worse than that indifference of Meroz which had called forth the bitter curse of Judges 5:23.

With the thorns of the wilderness.—These thorns (kotsim) are again mentioned in Hosea 10:8. Rabbi Tanchum could not explain what plant was meant. It is not impossible (as Kimchi suggests) that the form of the punishment was suggested by another wild play on words; for Succoth (סֻכּוֹת), though it means “booths,” suggests the idea of “thorns” (סכות),

Briers.—This word, barkanim, which the LXX. merely transliterate, occurs nowhere else. The Rabbis rightly understood it of thorny plants which grow among stones. Some modern Hebraists explain it to mean harrows formed of flints, deriving it from an obsolete word, barkan, “lightning” (see on Judges 4:6), and so meaning “pyrites.” In that case we must suppose that the elders were laid on some open area, and harrows set with flints driven over them.

Jdg 8:7; Jdg 8:9. With the thorns of the wilderness — The city was near a wilderness that abounded with thorns and briers. Penuel — Another city beyond Jordan; both were in the tribe of Gad. I will break down this tower — Some strong fort in which they greatly confided, and their confidence in which made them thus proud and presumptuous. Perhaps they pointed to it when they gave him their rude answer.8:4-12 Gideon's men were faint, yet pursuing; fatigued with what they had done, yet eager to do more against their enemies. It is many a time the true Christian's case, fainting, and yet pursuing. The world knows but little of the persevering and successful struggle the real believer maintains with his sinful heart. But he betakes himself to that Divine strength, in the faith of which he began his conflict, and by the supply of which alone he can finish it in triumph.The number of the followers of Zebah and Zalmunna was still so formidable, and Gideon's enterprise still so doubtful, that the men of Succoth (being on the same side of the Jordan) would not risk the vengeance of the Midianites by giving supplies to Gideon's men. 7. I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers—a cruel torture, to which captives were often subjected in ancient times, by having thorns and briers placed on their naked bodies and pressed down by sledges, or heavy implements of husbandry being dragged over them. With the thorns which grow abundantly in the neighbouring wilderness; I will chastise or beat your naked bodies with thorny rods, even unto death. Or, I will lay you down upon thorns on the ground, and bring the cartwheel upon you, which will both tear your flesh, and bruise you to death. And Gideon said,.... In answer to the princes of Succoth:

therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand; of which he made no doubt, having the promise of God that he would deliver the host of Midian into his hand, on which his faith rested; and having it in great part performed already, most firmly believed the full performance of it, see Judges 7:7.

then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness, and with briers; which grew in a wilderness near this city, and from whence as Kimchi thinks, it had its name; the word "Succoth" being used for thorns in Job 41:7 and the sense is, either that he would scourge them with thorns and briers; or, as the Targum thrust their flesh upon them; which Kimchi interprets of casting their naked bodies upon thorns and briers, and then treading on them with the feet; or draw a cart over them as they thus lay, in like manner as it was usual to do when corn was threshed out; see Isaiah 28:27.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 7. - I will tear your flesh, etc. These words breathe a fierce and vindictive spirit; such, however, as cannot surprise us m the age and country of which we arc reading (cf. vers. 9 and 21). The provocation, it must be allowed, was very great, but still the spirit was very different from that which dictated the prayer under far greater provocation, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Thorns of the wilderness. The nature of the punishment here threatened, and the execution of which is related in ver. 16, is uncertain. The word here rendered tear means literally to thresh,. Hence some suppose that the punishment here spoken of was a severe kind of capital punishment inflicted by threshing instruments with sharp iron points, called here "thorns of the wilderness," and "briers (though some again understand literally thorns and briers); and they compare 2 Samuel 12:31, where the word rendered harrows means threshing instruments, as also Isaiah 28:27; Isaiah 41:15. But others, as Bertheau, Keil, and Delitzsch, do not think it was a capital punishment at all, and take the word thresh figuratively in the sense of punishing severely, and think that literal thorns and thistles were the implements of punishment. When the Ephraimites met with Gideon, after they had smitten the Midianites at Oreb and Zeeb, and were pursuing them farther, they said to him, "What is the thing that thou hast done to us (i.e., what is the reason for your having done this to us), not to call us when thou wentest forth to make war upon Midian? And they did chide with him sharply," less from any dissatisfied longing for booty, than from injured pride or jealousy, because Gideon had made war upon the enemy and defeated them without the co-operation of this tribe, which was striving for the leadership. Gideon's reply especially suggests the idea of injured ambition: "What have I now done like you?" sc., as if I had done as great things as you. "Is not the gleaning of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?" The gleaning of Ephraim is the victory gained over the flying Midianites. Gideon declares this to be better than the vintage of Abiezer, i.e., the victory obtained by him the Abiezrite with his 300 men, because the Ephraimites had slain two Midianitish princes. The victory gained by the Ephraimites must indeed have been a very important one, as it is mentioned by Isaiah (Isaiah 10:26) as a great blow of the Lord upon Midian. "And what could I do like you?" i.e., could I accomplish such great deeds as you? "Then their anger turned away from him." רוּח, the breathing of the nose, snorting, hence "anger," as in Isaiah 25:4, etc.
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