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distance from their towns, in order to obtain water at the wells and springs. Certainly they were in some way of other molested by their oppressors at the places from which they obtained their water, whether we understand it of the villagers and towns-people, or of the shepherds who were abroad with the flocks. In the open, unprotected lands of the East, the watering places are at this day the scenes of continual conflict and oppression. To such places the necessity for water conducts different people, who cannot any where meet in peace. There parties of hostile tribes fall in with each other, and quarrel and fight; and thither the natives of the wilds resort to plunder the parties of travellers and merchants who come in search of water. In the deserts of Syria and Arabia, natives and strangers are thus equally annoyed near the wells. The former, in the seasons when water is easily procured, are continually on the move, and their enemies scarcely know where they are: but in summer, the yare obliged to encamp near the wells for a considerable time, and it soon becomes known where they are encamped ("near such and such a well," is a sufficient indication of locality), and their enemies hasten to attack them. This therefore is the principal reason of war,-the neighbourhoods of wells being the principal seats of war and depredation in those countries. Travellers also, knowing that such tribes are encamped near, or are likely to visit the wells, often dread to approach them, in the fear of being plundered, if not also killed. For this reason, we have known parties of travellers, that were reduced to almost the last extremity from want of water in the parched deserts, obliged to avoid the places where their wants might be satisfied, from having heard that parties of Arabs were encamped in the neighbourhood; and we have heard of others who, from the same cause, were obliged to go one or two days' journey out of their way, to one watering place, in preference to another that lay directly in their road. No travellers, unless in great force, dare encamp near a well, however pleasant and desirable it might be, from the fear of disagreeable visiters. They water their cattle and replenish their water-skins in all haste, and then go and encamp at a distance from any roads leading to the well. Dr. Shaw mentions a beautiful rill in Barbary, which is received into a large basin, called Shrub we krub; that is, Drink and away, from the great danger of meeting there with robbers and assassins. With equal propriety, and for the same reason, almost every oriental watering-place might be called “Shrub we krub.”
14. "They that handle the pen of the writer."—A common interpretation of this is, that Zebulun being a commercial tribe, of course there were a great number of clerks, whose patriotism led them on this occasion to lay aside the pen for the sword. To this there are several objections. One is, that there is no evidence that Zebulun was a commercial tribe. Another is, that , shebet, here rendered "pen," never has that meaning any where else, and is not likely to have it here. It has the meanings of a rod; the staff of a ruler-a sceptre: in 2 Sam. xviii. 4, a dart; and elsewhere a measuring rod. Any one of these senses is better than that of our version. But having rendered the following word, sopher, by "writer," it became necessary to make shebet a pen. Sopher means "scribe,” certainly, in a general sense; but scribes had many functions besides handling the pen. One of these was-or rather the officer was called a sopher, who had charge of the muster rolls, and selected from the mass of the adult males, the number required to be levied for particular service. This appears to have been done by means of a rod, in the same way that cattle were tithed, as described in the note to Levit. xxvii. 32. That is to say, it being ascertained that one out of such and such a number would be required, the sopher counted them as they passed, and touched out for the service with his rod, the men on whom the proportioned number recurred. This process excluded partiality in the sopher. It might be well therefore to read "the rod of the musterer," and the sense would be that the men on whom the duty devolved, in the tribe of Zebulun, came forward readily, on this important occasion, to raise the required levy. If this be a doubtful interpretation, we may take the rod simply to be an ensign of office, which office we cannot doubt was connected importantly with the discipline and efficiency of the army. In the kingly period, there is much mention of such personages, who seem to have held a most dignified station, being, perhaps, to the whole kingdom, what the inferior sopherim were in their respective tribes. See, for instance, 2 Kings xxv. 19, "The principal scribe (sopher) of the host which mustered the people of the land."
21. "The river Kishon."-It is not easy to determine to which of the streams, whose confluence forms the Kishon, we should assign the distinction of forming the principal source of that river. It commonly is given to a stream which flows from Mount Tabor; and although we do not know that we should have chosen to fix on that as the originating source, yet, being already fixed, it is not worth while to contend for an alteration. Thus understood, the river takes first a westerly course, and then turns to the north-west, running parallel to the range of Mount Carmel, till it discharges its waters into the bay of Acre. Its course is very winding, and its length may be estimated at about thirty miles. In its progress from Tabor towards Carmel it receives other brooks, as large as itself, which greatly increase the volume of the confluent stream. The Kishon, however, like most of the other rivers of the country, is an inconsiderable brook during the greater part of the year; but in the rainy months, the greater part of the waters which are collected in the range of Carmel are discharged by a variety of small torrents into this channel; which being insufficient for such augmentation, the current overflows its banks, and carries away every thing within its reach. This was probably the sort of inundation which came unexpectedly, perhaps unseasonably, and swept away the host of Sisera, in attempting to force a passage. Mr. Carne, who travelled here when the stream was full from recent rains, was led considerably out of the way in order to find a ford, where only this stream, usually so inconsiderable, could then be crossed on horseback. See 'Letters from the East,' p. 250; Joliffe, i. 25; and Buckingham's 'Palestine,' i. 178. 8vo.
1 The Israelites for their sin are oppressed by Midian. 8 A prophet rebuketh them. 11 An angel sendeth Gideon for their deliverance. 17 Gideon's present is consumed with fire. 24 Gideon destroyeth Baal's altar, and offereth a sacrifice upon the altar Jehovah-shalom. 28 Joash defendeth his son, and calleth him Jerubbaal. 33 Gideon's army.
36 Gideon's signs. AND the children of Israel did evil in the
sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
2 And the hand of Midian 'prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Ama
1 Heb. was strong.
Or, goat. 3 Heb. a man a prophet. 42 Kings 17. 35, 38, Jerem. 10. 2. Heb. 11. 32, called Gedeon,
Heb, to cause it to flee.
14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
15 And he said unto him, O my LORD, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, 'my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my "present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. 19¶ And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.
20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! 10for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it "Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites.
25 ¶ And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, "even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, "in the ordered place, and take the second bullock,
7 Heb. my thousand is the meanest. 11 That is, The LORD send peace.
and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him and so it was, because he feared his father's houshold, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.
29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
8 Or, meat-offering. 12 Or, and. 13 Heb. 16 Num. 10. 3. Chap. 3, 27.
33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.
34 But the Spirit of the LORD "came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer "was gathered after him.
35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.
36¶And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
39 And Gideon said unto God, 18 Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece,
and upon all the ground let there be dew.
40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
18 Gen. 18. 32.
Verse 2, "Dens which are in the mountains, and caves.”—See the note on Gen. xix. 30.
3. "When Israel had sown."—It will be recollected that the Midianites were chiefly wandering herdsmen-that is, just such a people as the Bedouin Arabs are at the present day. The oppression to which the Israelites were at this time subject was, therefore, of a very different nature from those which they had previously experienced; and from the minute and expressive details which are given, we discover, without difficulty, that the Israelites had never before experienced any thing so grievous. Under this view let us illustrate these details, by the present conduct of the Be
douins towards cultivators.
4. "Encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth...and left no sustenance for Israel."-It may be stated as a maxim, that whenever the nomade is the master of the cultivator, the impoverishment and ultimate ruin of the latter are inevitable. The Bedouin Arabs come up from their deserts in the spring, and perhaps remain through the summer, in the territories of those cultivators who are so unfortunate as to lie at their mercy. If there is not an established understanding between the nomades and the cultivators, as to the proportion which the latter are to pay for exemption, the Bedouins encamp and pasture their cattle in the cultivated grounds, after securing such corn and other vegetable products as they may happen to require for their own use during the remainder of the year. Thus the "increase of the earth is destroyed," and "no sustenance" remains to reward the cultivator for the labour and patience he has spent on its production.
"Neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.”—The Bedouins, when thus oppressing the cultivator, seize all the cattle that are brought abroad, and add them to their own flocks and herds; and as it is impossible and useless to keep them continually in confinement, the inhabitants soon become deprived of all their cattle, like the Israelites. Even their persons are not safe; as the Bedouins will not scruple to rob of his clothes and property any person whom they can find beyond the protection which the walls of the towns and villages afford,-if they do not kill him, or detain him as a prisoner till his friends have been induced to pay heavily for his ransom. We do not know whether the Midianites entered the towns. It is possible that they did not, as their visits were annual, and they do not appear to have taken or occupied any towns. This aggravation was not necessary, to reduce the people to ruin, and oblige them to relinquish their paternal fields and pleasant homes, to retire to "the dens which are in the mountains." Then doubtless the Midianites could enter the towns, and destroy and plunder at pleasure such property as the fugitives had left behind. It is possible that the Israelites returned to their homes for the season after the invaders had withdrawn for the year. The nomades usually come towards the end of April or beginning of May, and remain till September. In the period of their absence, some useful products might be raised, to eke out a subsistance during the period of their stay, and perhaps part of the barley harvest might in a favourable season be got in and carried off to the mountains before the Midianites arrived. This miserable state of things could not long be borne; and accordingly we find that the period in which the Israelites were subject to this urgent oppression of the Midianites was shorter than that in which any other of their oppressors tyrannized over them.
In Western Asia, those cultivators who are subject to such annual incursions, generally make a compromise with the invaders, agreeing to pay them a heavy tribute, on the condition that the harvests shall not be touched or the cattle driven off. Even powerful communities, which might be able to cope with the Bedouins, often enter into a compromise of this sort, to prevent the necessity for continual warfare and watchfulness. With these, the arrangement is a matter of convenience; but miserable is the condition of those with whom it is a matter of necessity, and to whom it is the only alternative on which they can secure a scanty subsistence from their own fields. The tribute, usually paid in produce, is generally very heavy; besides which the chiefs expect extraordinary presents, and what is received in one year as a present, is certain to be exacted in the next year as a right. Thus the pressure accumulates, till it can no longer be borne; cultivation is then relinquished, and whole settlements are abandoned by their inhabitants, who disperse themselves into other villages or towns, or form a settlement where they hope to be more at ease. not perhaps often happen; but individual families are continually changing one village for another, in the hope of that relief which they can no where find. In the Haouran, for instance, as described by Burckhardt, very few individuals die in the villages in which they were born. "This continued wandering," says that traveller, "is one of the principal reasons why no village in the Haouran has either orchards, or fruit trees, or gardens for the growth of vegetables. 'Shall we sow for strangers? was the answer of a Fellah, to whom I once spoke on the subject, and who by the word 'strangers' meant both the succeeding inhabitants and the Arabs who visit the Haouran in the spring and summer." Even in the pashalic of Bagdad, the pasha of which is enabled in ordinary circumstances to keep the Arabian tribes of his territory in some degree of order, no persons dare undertake the cultivation of the soil at any considerable distance from the city, except the Seids, who claim to be descended from Mohammed, and the supposed sanctity of whose character renders them comparatively secure from depredation. Yet even they are often obliged to erect a fort on their grounds, in which a strong guard is stationed at the time of harvest, These details will help to show the distressing situation of cultivators, when exposed to the oppression of pastoral tribes.
5. "Grasshoppers."-Locusts-a most expressive comparison.
11. "Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites."-This is a most expressive illustration of the preceding remarks. Gideon was obliged to thresh his wheat in a small quantity, and in an unusual place, to conceal it from the Midianites. This shows that the oppression of the Hebrews from the Midianites was in the severest form, seeing that they could not retain any part of their own produce except by stealth. The smallness of the quantity is shown by the manner in which it was threshed, which was not with cattle, as usual with large quantities, but by means of the flail, which was seldom employed but in threshing small quantities. And then the threshing was near the winepress, that is, in ground appropriated to another purpose. The flail also falling on corn placed on the dead ground, not on a boarded floor as with us, made but little noise, whereas the bellowing of the oxen might, in the other case, have led to detection. It will be observed that this threshing-ground was in the open air, else Gideon could not have expected dew to fall on the ground, or on the fleece which he spread out there (verses 37—40).
19. "The flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot."-The circumstances of this entertainment are, to a considerable extent, illustrated by the notes to Gen. xviii. The broth is the most peculiar circumstance of this hastily prepared meal. The word is p (marak), which Dr. Boothroyd is for rendering "pure wine," after the Syriac and Arabic versions. We, however, prefer the current version; for the word unquestionably must mean "broth" in Isa. lxv. 4, and is there so rendered by Boothroyd himself. We are therefore to infer, either that Gideon boiled or stewed the kid, and served up the meat and soup separately; or else that he stewed one part of the kid, and roasted or broiled the other. Both methods are consonant to Oriental usages; and perhaps the latter is the best hypothesis, as the animal thus divided might be the more speedily dressed. In this case, the roasted part was probably prepared in the most usual way of preparing a hasty dish, that is, by cutting the meat into small pieces, several of which are strung upon a skewer, like larks, and so roasted, or rather broiled; as several of these skewers of meat can be dressed together, a meal may in this way be very soon prepared. This dish is called kaboob, and is very common in Western Asia. When meat is thus dressed in two ways, the stew is generally intended for immediate use, and the kaboob for a future meal, or for the traveller to carry with him for his refreshment on the way. As Gideon brought the meat, as distinguished from the "broth." in a basket, it was probably intended by him that the stranger should take it away with him in that basket for his future use. This was a proper mark of careful hospitality and attention. The basket was probably a small hand-basket made of palm-leaves or rushes.
25. "The second bullock."-Commentators are perplexed about the description of this bullock as the "second." We would hazard a conjecture, that as the Midianites took away all the cattle of the Hebrews that they could lay hands on, Gideon's father had very few cattle, the second of which, in point of age, he is directed to offer as the fittest for sacrifice. It is singular that one of seven years old should be selected, three years being the usual age. Was it with reference to the seven years which the oppression of the Midianites had lasted? or, was it that this bullock, although seven years old, was the youngest above three years of age, and therefore the most proper for sacrifice? This alone would imply how slender the herd of Joash had become. Perhaps he had but two bullocks above three years of age, this being the second of the two.
38. "A bowl full of water."-See the note on Gen. xxvii. 28, which will partly explain what seems to us extraordinary in this abundant dew. It will be observed, that we are to look for the miracle in its having fallen one time upon the fleece, without any on the floor, and that, another time, the fleece remained dry, while the ground was wet with dew. The quantity also may have been more than usually abundant; but less so than would seem to us in regions where dews fall lightly. We remember, while travelling in Western Asia, to have found all the baggage, which had been left in the open air, so wet, when we came forth from the tent in the morning, that it seemed to have been exposed to heavy rain, and we could with difficulty believe that no rain had fallen. So also, when sleeping in the open air, the sheep-skin cloak which served for a covering has been found in the morning scarcely less wet than if it had been immersed in water.
1 Gideon's army of two and thirty thousand is brought to three hundred. 9 He is encouraged by the dream and interpretation of the barley cake. 16 His stratagem of trumpets and lamps in pitchers. 24 The Ephraimites take Oreb and Zeeb. THEN Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down. unto the water, and I will try them for thee there and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same
shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
8 So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
9 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
1 Deut, 20. 8. 1 Mac. 3. 56.