Judges 8:18 MEANING

Judges 8:18
(18) 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 1 Kings 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 (1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 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" (??????? ??? ????? ??????).

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).

8:18-21 The kings of Midian must be reckoned with. As they confessed themselves guilty of murder, Gideon acted as the avenger of blood, being the next of kin to the persons slain. Little did they think to have heard of this so long after; but murder seldom goes unpunished in this life. Sins long forgotten by man, must be accounted for to God. What poor consolation in death from the hope of suffering less pain, and of dying with less disgrace than some others! yet many are more anxious on these accounts, than concerning the future judgment, and what will follow.Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna,.... Not at Penuel or Succoth, but when he had brought them into the land of Canaan, and perhaps to his own city Ophrah:

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.

(a) Sabbat, c. 14. sect. 4.

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