The Period Of The Judges

    

Chapter 31
Gideon Honorably Slays the two Kings of Midean [Judges 8.18-8.21]


Scripture

18 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.
19 And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.
20 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.
21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.


Introduction

When Gideon arrived back home at Ophrah, leading Zebah and Zalmunna captive, the procession must have been as exciting as a ticker-tape parade. Gideon was a true hero, with only 300 men, he had routed the enemy camp and then pursued the fleeing soldiers across the Jordan River and as far south as Karkor. He had brought his royal prisoners back, plus whatever spoils the men had gathered along the way. Gideon had a personal matter to settle with these two kings because they were guilty of killing his brothers at Tabor.

According to Mosaic Law, the family was to avenge crimes like this by killing those responsible for the murders. There was no police system in the land, and each family was expected to track down and punish those who had murdered their relatives, provided the culprit was guilty (see Numbers 35.9-34). In the case of Zebah and Zalmunna, the culprets were not only murderers but also enemies of Israel.


Commentary

 
18 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. (Judges 8.18; KJV)

18 He asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?” They answered, “They were like you. Each one looked like a king's son.” (Judges 8:18-21; GW)
 
Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna (see Article 8.1; below)…Not at Penuel or Succoth, but when he had brought them, as his prisoners, into the land of Canaan, and perhaps to his own city Ophrah.

Judgment began with the house of God, with the just correction of the men of Succoth and Penuel, who were Israelites, but it did not end there. The kings of Midian, when they had served to demonstrate Gideon’s victories, and grace his triumphs, must now be reckoned with.

What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor (See Article 8.2; below)? We have no basis for this question; and are obliged to speculate what led Gideon to ask it. When the children of Israel, for fear of the Midianites, made themselves [1]dens  in the mountains [2](see Judges 6:2) , those young men, it is likely, took shelter in that mountain, where they were found by these two kings, and most dishonorably and barbarously slain in cold blood while Gideon was absent on this expedition. Gideon had heard some confused account of the event which identified the site as Tabor (actually, Mount Tabor or the city next to it), and he almost immediately noticed that some of his [3]brethren  were missing, and he suspected they were among those that were killed, and therefore he asked this question: what manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor?  The RSV renders this: "Where are the men whom ye slew at Tabor?" This was only one of the countless atrocities which the Midianite chiefs had perpetrated during their seven years' of lawless occupancy. They boldly acknowledge it, and describe the persons whom they slew, from which he found they were his own brethren. This creates in Gideon a resolve to avenge their death by slaying the Midianitish kings, whom he otherwise was inclined to save.

When he asks them what manner of men they were, it is not because he was uncertain of the character of the men, or because he wanted proof of their identity; he was concerned for his brethren and the news of their death, and especially the cruel manner of it pained him. To top-it-off, these proud tyrants were eager to admit to the atrocity. But he puts that question to them so that by their acknowledgment of the more than ordinary good looks and charm of those they killed, they might make their crime appear even more heinous, and consequently their punishment the more righteous.

Gideon no doubt knew that his brethren had been killed by Zebah and Zalmunna, and the desire to avenge their death was one motive for his hasty pursuit and attack. His question was rather a taunt, a bitter rebuke to his captives, preparing them for their fate

And they answered, as thou art, so were they; they were like him, their facial features were similar to his and they had a similar physique; stout, able bodied men with a graceful and stately appearance. Abarbinel believes it to mean, “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. Zebah and Zalmunna, in their answer, did not give evidence against themselves. Their hope was by a flattering answer to soothe Gideon's wrath.

Each one resembled the children of a king; they were brought up to have a refined and sensitive taste; but, they were well-known to possess great beauty, majesty of appearance, uncommon strength, and grandeur of form. According to Jarchi and Kimchi, the idea is, they were like him, and had his demeanor, resembling a kings’ children. They acknowledged that, though they were found in a poor and wretched condition, yet they had an unusual greatness and majesty in their faces, not unlike Gideon himself at this time: they resembled the children of a king, born for something great. But their kingly likeness was not due to their garb, or outward splendor, but to the majesty of their looks: and by commending them for their good looks and grace they hoped to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror. But, according to Ben Gersom they were in general very much like Gideon and one of them may have been his child. We know at least one of his children were present that day, because Judges 8:20 says, “And he said unto Jether his firstborn...” It is said in the [4]Misnah  that all the Israelites are the children of kings.

 

Article 8.1: ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA
ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA - ze'-ba ("victim"), zal-mun'-a ("protection refused"): Two Midianite kings or chiefs whom Gideon slew (Jdg 8:4-21; Ps 83:11).
The passage tells of a daring raid made by Gideon upon the Midianites. Some of his own kin had been slain by Midianite hordes at Ophrah (Jdg 8:18), and, stirred by this, Gideon went in hot pursuit with 300 men (Jdg 8:4). He requested provisions for his men from the people of Succoth and Penuel, but was refused this. He then went on and caught the Midianites unawares at Karkor (Jdg 8:10) and captured their two chiefs. He then had his revenge on the two towns, and returned probably to his home with the two notable prisoners. These he determined to slay to avenge the death of his own kinsmen, and called upon his eldest son to perform this solemn public duty that he owed to the dead. His son, apparently only a boy, hesitated, and Gideon did the deed himself.
The narrative reminds one of David's romantic life in 1 Sam 25; 27; 30. It is throughout a characteristic picture of the life of the early Hebrews in Palestine, for whom it was a sacred duty to avenge the dead.

 

Article 8.2 Mount Tabor
Mount Tabor is a mountain in lower Galilee which rises 1,529 feet above the plain which is already 400 feet above sea level and located about six miles E of Nazareth. Shaped like an inverted bowl, this symmetrical mound of limestone on the northeastern part of the plain of Esdraelon was a place of special attention in ancient times. It lay at the boundaries of the territories of Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali. (Josh 19:23). The tribes of Israel gathered here for battle against the Canaanites during the period of the Judges. Barak, at the command of Deborah, gathered his forces on Tabor and descended thence with "ten thousand men" into the plain, conquering Sisera on the banks of the Kishon (Judg 4:6-15). Here also the brothers of Gideon were slain by Zebah and Zalmunna (Judg 8:18-19).
The northern slope is covered with oak trees and syringa. Usually people would ascend it on the West side, near the ctiy of Debaritta.
During the early Hellenistic period the Ptolemies built a royal fortress here. Later it was conquered by the Hasmonean Alexander Jannaeus. In the time of Christ the summit is said to have been crowned by a fortified town, and the ruins still exist there today.
Some believe this to be the place of the transfiguration of Jesus. Churches have been built on this location commemorating the event since the times of the early Church. It is difficult to see how such a scene as that of Christ's transfiguration could have taken place there, and the New Testament certainly points to some part of Mount Hermon as the place.

                    ________________________________verse 18 notes____________________________________

[1]Dens—A wild animal’s lair; the hidden home of a wild animal. Imagine for a moment men fighting wild animals for their home.
[2](Judges 6:2; ASV) And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel; and because of Midian the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds.” Nothing can give a more distressing description of the state of the Israelites than what is here related. They durst not reside in the plain country, but were obliged to betake themselves to dens and caves of the mountains, and live like wild beasts, and were hunted like them by their adversaries.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[3]Brethren—has a broad meaning— a male number among the same kinship group, nationality, race, profession, etc.; an associate; a fellow member, fellow countryman, fellow man, etc. Note: Bruce (p. 246) assumes that Gideon’s brothers were slain in 6:33 when the Midianites invaded Jezreel. Ecclesiastical... a male numbered among the lay members of a religious organization that has a priesthood.
[4]Misnah—the derivative of the verb "shanah," means: (1) "instruction," the teaching and learning of tradition, and (2) in a concrete sense, the content of that instruction, the traditional doctrine as it was developed down to the beginning of the third century of the common era. "Mishnah" is frequently used, therefore, to designate the law which was transmitted orally, in contrast to "Miḳra," the law which is written and read. In this wider sense the word was known to the Church Fathers, who, however, regarded it as the feminine form of "mishneh," analogous to "miḳneh" and "miḳnah," and supposed that it signified "second teaching."


19 And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you. (Judges 7:22; GW)
19 Gideon replied, “They were my brothers, my mother's sons. I solemnly swear, as the LORD lives, if you had let them live, I would not have to kill you now.” (Judges 7:22; GW)

And he said, they were my brethren, even the sons of my mother…His brethren on his mother's side, but not on his father's side; or the phrase the sons of my mother is added, to show that he did not mean brethren in a large sense, which declares that all the Israelites were brethren; but, in a strict sense, he was closely related to his mother’s children. Gideon’s reply that they were my brethren, even the sons of my mother indicates that his full brothers had been killed at some time earlier by these Midianites. It is possible that Bruce is correct and that they were killed much earlier by these Midianites. This would explain why Gideon, the youngest son, was hiding in the winepress threshing grain in the first place. In any event, we cannot say exactly when the slaughter of Gideon's brethren on Mount Tabor took place, whether before the outbreak of the war [5](Judges 6:33), or in the retreat and flight of the Midianites [6](Judges 7:22). Uterine brothers were supposed to be closer to each other than those who were the sons of a common father by different mothers. Jacob and Esau were glaring exceptions to that general rule. The sons of my mother is a much closer relationship than that of brothers by the father only.(Compare Genesis 43:29; Deuteronomy 13:6; Psalm 69:8).

• Genesis 43:29(NLT): “Then Joseph looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother. “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” Joseph asked. “May God be gracious to you, my son.” He lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin—they were probably introduced to him successively; and as Benjamin was the youngest, he would of course be introduced last. God be gracious unto thee, my son!—A usual salutation in the east from the aged and superiors to the younger and inferiors, which, though very emphatic and expressive in ancient times, in the present day means no more than "I am your humble servant," or "I am exceedingly glad to see you;" words which among us mean-just nothing. Even in David's time they seem to have been, not only devoid of meaning, but to be used as a cloak for the basest and most treacherous designs: They bless with their mouths, but they curse inwardly. Hence Joab salutes Amasa, kisses him with apparent affection, and stabs him in the same moment! The case of Judas, betraying the Son of man with a kiss, will not be forgotten.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

• Deuteronomy 13:6 (KJV): “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;” If thy brother—or thy son—The teacher of idolatry was to be put to death; and so strict was this order that a man must neither spare nor conceal his brother, son, daughter, wife, nor friend, because this was the highest offense that could be committed against God, and the most destructive to society; hence the severest laws were enacted against it.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

• Psalm 69:8 (KJV): “I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother's children;” Exposition: I am become a stranger unto my brethren. The Jews his brethren in race rejected him, his family his brethren by blood were offended at him, his disciples his brethren in spirit forsook him and fled; one of them sold him, and another denied him with oaths and cursings. Alas, my Lord, what pangs must have smitten thy loving heart to be thus forsaken by those who should have loved thee, defended thee, and, if need be, died for thee.

And an alien unto my mother's children. These were the nearest of relatives, the children of a father with many wives felt the tie of kindredship but loosely, but children of the same mother owned the band of love; yet our Lord found his nearest and dearest ones ashamed to own him. As David's brethren envied him, and spake evil of him, so our Lord's relatives by birth were jealous of him, and his best beloved followers in the hour of his agony were afraid to be known as having any connection with him. These were sharp arrows of the mighty in the soul of Jesus, the most tender of friends. May none of us ever act as if we were strangers to him; never may we treat him as if he were an alien to us: rather let us resolve to be crucified with him, and may grace turn the resolve into fact.

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings: A stranger unto my brethren. Unless this aversion of his brethren had pained him, he would not have complained of it. It would not have pained him unless he had felt a special affection for them. In the east where polygamy prevails, the husband is a stern and unfeeling despot; his harem a group of trembling slaves; and the children, while they regard their common father with indifference or terror, cling to their own mother with the fondest affection, as the only part, as the only parent, in whom they feel an interest. Hence it greatly aggravated the affliction of David that he had become an alien unto his mother's children: the enmity of the other children of his father, the children of his father's other wives, gave him less concern. W. Greenfield, in Comprehensive Bible.—Treasury of David, The

As the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you. Although Gideon could have put them to death as Israel’s judge for the injuries they had done to the Israelis in general, as was the fate of Oreb and Zeeb [7](ch. 7:25). These two kings confessed that they were guilty of murdering a group of Israelites at Tabor. Since they were not Canaanites, he was not obliged by the law of God to put them to death; and by the law of nations, and because they had surrendered themselves, and were made prisoners of war, they ought to have been set free. But, seeing that they appeared to be murderers, and had slain the Israelites in cold blood, they deserved to die; and since the persons they had slain were Gideon's brethren, he was the avenger of blood as their next of kin, and it obligated him to put them to death; therefore, he swore to those who had done the deed, i.e., to the two kings, "As truly as Jehovah liveth, if ye had let them live I should not have put you to death;"

Their other crimes might have been forgiven, at least Gideon would not have slain them himself, instead he might have let the people decide their future; but the voice of his brethren’s blood cries, cries to him, now it is in the power of his hand to avenge it, and therefore there is no answer but death—by him must their blood be shed, though they were kings. Friends, murder seldom goes unpunished even in this life.

_________________________________verse 19 notes_________________________________________

[5](Judges 6:33) “Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and crossing the Jordan they encamped in the Valley of Jezreel.”
[6](Judges 7:22) “When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.”

[7](Judges 7.25; YLT) “and they capture two of the heads of Midian, Oreb, and Zeeb, and slay Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they have slain at the wine-vat of Zeeb, and they pursue unto Midian; and the heads of Oreb and Zeeb they have brought in unto Gideon beyond the Jordan.”

 

20 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. (Judges 7:23; GW)
20 Then he told Jether, his firstborn son, “Get up and kill them!” But Jether didn't draw his sword. He was afraid because he was only a young man. (Judges 7:23; GW)


And he said unto [8]Jether , his firstborn, up, and slay them. "It is likely that Gideon led his prisoner’s home in triumph, and that they were put to death at Ophrah." This opinion seems justified because we could hardly suppose that Gideon's young son had been among the "three hundred" who went with Gideon beyond the Jordan.

Because Jether was a near kinsman of his father's brethren, whom these kings had slain, he was qualified to be a [9]blood-avenger; he was a proper person to avenge their blood on them; he was the fittest, of those that were there that day to be his father’s substitute and representative. Perhaps Gideon believed that this act would be a good way to train him in acts of justice and boldness, and that executing two famous kings would be a great way to start a military career, but the lad was too immature to carry it out. We wonder if Gideon remembered his own fears and God’s patience with him.

Gideon had the right to order him to do it, and there may have been some other reasons behind Gideon’s command: First, it would be a greater humiliation of the kings, to die by the hand of a youth; Second; honor would come to his son for being the slayer of two kings; Third, it would condition him to draw his sword against the enemies of Israel, and embolden him to do such exploits.

but the youth drew not his sword, for he feared, because he was yet a youth; his refusal to draw his sword was not out of disobedience to his father, but out of fear of the kings; not that they could do him any harm, since they were bound; but there was perhaps a ferocity, as well as dignity in their countenances, which made the young man apprehensive and fearful.

The writer, being led by the Holy Spirit, mentions twice in this clause that Jether was a youth, so that is important for us to know and consider.  The boy did not draw his sword, because he was still a boy. This is easily understood; consider what happened to a young man when he went deer hunting for the first time. As luck would have it, a large buck walked right in front of him only a few yards up wind away, but the young man froze with the gun in his hand; he simply could not pull the trigger! Slaying a fellow human being of course, would present an even greater shock to one who had never killed a man. Gideon’s son seems as fearful as his father once was: courage does not always run in the blood. With his son’s refusal, the duty of blood revenge rested upon Gideon [10](Deut 19:6). It was Gideon's place to act the part of the "avenger of blood" [11](Numbers 35:12 ; [10]Deuteronomy 19:6). The fierce behavior of the age is seen in the slaying of the captives (compare [12]1 Samuel 15:32-33)

_________________________________verse 20 notes____________________________________

[8]Jether: jēˈthər, in the Bible is the eldest of Gideon's sons. He was killed by his brother Abimelech.
[9]blood-avenger: the person selected was always of a rank equal or proportioned to that of the party doomed to suffer. “And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him (kill him)” (1 Kings 2.29).
[10](Deut 19:6; GW) “Otherwise, in a rage the relative who has the authority to avenge the death will pursue him. If the place is too far away, the relative may catch up with him and take his life even though he didn't deserve the death penalty, because in the past he never hated the person he killed.” The meaning is that if the kinsman of a person inadvertently killed should, under the impulse of sudden excitement and without inquiring into the circumstances, inflict summary vengeance on the supposed killer, however guiltless, the law tolerated such an act; it was to pass with impunity. But to prevent such impulsive measures, the cities of refuge were established for the reception of the alleged guilty party, that "innocent blood might not be shed in thy land" (De 19:10). In the case of premeditated murder (De 19:11, 12), they afforded no immunity; but, if it were only manslaughter, the moment the fugitive was within the gates, he found himself in a safe asylum (Nu 35:26-28; Jos 20:6).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[11](Numbers 35:12; GW) “These cities will be places of refuge from any relative who can avenge the death. So anyone accused of murder will not have to die until he has had a trial in front of the community.” So one of these cities was not a perpetual asylum; It was only a pro tempore refuge, till the case could be fairly examined by the magistrates in the presence of the people, or the elders their representatives; and this was done in the city or place where he had done the murder, Joshua 20:4, 6. If he was found worthy of death, they delivered him to the avenger that he might be slain, Deuteronomy 19:12; if not, they sent him back to the city of refuge, where he remained till the death of the high priest, verse 25. Before the cities of refuge were appointed, the altar appears to have been a sanctuary for those who had killed a person unwittingly; see on Exodus 21:13 (note), and Exodus 21:14 (note).—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[12](1 Samuel 15:32-33;GW) “Bring me King Agag of Amalek,” Samuel said. Agag came to him trembling. “Surely, the bitterness of death is past,” Agag said. But Samuel said, “As your sword made women childless, so your mother will be made childless among women.” And Samuel cut Agag in pieces in the presence of the LORD at Gilgal.”
Verse 32. Agag came unto him delicately -- or cheerfully, since he had gained the favor and protection of the king.
Verse 33. Samuel hewed Agag -- This cruel tyrant met the retribution of a righteous Providence. Never has it been unusual for great or official personages in the East to perform executions with their own hands. Samuel did it "before the Lord" in Gilgal, appointing that same mode of punishment (hitherto unknown in Israel) to be used towards him, he had formerly used towards others.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary


21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.  (Judges 7:24; GW)
21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Get up and do it yourself! It's a man's job!” So Gideon got up and killed them. Then he took the half-moon ornaments that were on their camels' necks. (Judges 7:24; GW)

Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, rise thou and fall upon us…Since they must die, they chose rather to die by the hand of so great a man and valiant a commander as Gideon, which was more honorable than to die by the hand of a youth. The prisoners now knew they must die, and for that reason, they begged him to “Rise thou and stab us"; they would rather die by his own hand, which would be somewhat more honorable to them, and more easy; for by his great strength they would die quicker and be rid of their pain sooner. As is the man, so is his strength. Either they were referring to themselves (they were men of great strength, hence it would take someone stronger than this youth to overpower them quickly); or they mean Gideon, “Thou art at thy full strength; he has not yet come to it; therefore, be thou the executioner;” or they are taking one last shot at escaping death by challenging Gideon to prove that he was not a coward like his son.  It is expected that those that have grown up to maturity will do any service with more strength than a young man could muster.

It was disgraceful to fall by the hands of a child; and the death caused by the blows of such a person must be much more drawn out and agonizing. It has happened before; some have employed children to kill captives. Civilis, a Roman knight, headed a revolt of the Gauls against Rome, in the year of the city 824. Of him Tacitus says, Hist. lib. iv., c. 61: Ferebatur parvulo filio quosdam captivorum sagittis jaculisque puerilibus figendos obtulisse: "He is said to have given to his little son some prisoners, as butts to be shot at with little darts and arrows." This was for the purpose of creating greater torment and dishonor; and to accustom his child to blood! Could anything like this have been conceived by Gideon to harden his son?

for as the man is, so is his strength; signifying, that since he was a strong able man, he had enough strength to dispatch them at once, which his son did not have, and therefore they would have died a slow and painful death: there was also the desire they had to retain their honor (there was more honor in dying at the hand of a valiant man), so they expressed their desire to die by the hand of Gideon:

And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna; it was not unusual in those early times for distinguished persons, such as judges and generals, to be executioners, as were Samuel [13](1 Samuel 15:33),  and Benaiah [14](1 Kings 2:25, 34). Saul ordered his guards to slay the priests who had contributed to the escape of David [15](1 Samuel 22:17); and David caused one of his attendants to slay the Amalekite who pretended to have slain Saul [16](2 Samuel 1:15).

By the ancient laws of war, prisoners taken in battle might be slain, sold, or kept for slaves. A captive enemy could be put to death without using an executioner. Gideon slays Zebah and Zalmunna with his own hand.

There is hardly another passage in the Bible where our disagreement with some of the commentators is any more pronounced than it is in this incident. Robert Boling, writing in Anchor Bible (Judges) says of this passage: "Thus Gideon rides roughshod over a basic covenant stipulation ([17]Exo. 20:7 ; [18]Deut. 5:11, "Thou shalt not kill"), inasmuch as the vengeance being executed here is strictly personal. He has usurped Jehovah's executive prerogative (Rom. 12:19, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord") ... an enormous act of private vengeance."

There is no greater error among present-day scholars than this outburst against Gideon's faithful obedience to the commandment of God who commanded, "Whosoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image" (Genesis 9:6). "This is not merely a matter of legalizing capital punishment, but an essential command requiring capital punishment for murderers." "When God commands man to execute murderers, He delegates this task to him, and it becomes his God-given responsibility to do it."

In Gideon's case, God's Word specifically commanded him to execute vengeance upon the murderers of his brothers. The institution of the "cities of refuge" was not for the purpose of protecting willful murderers from their just punishment, but in order to protect the unintentional manslayer from the avenger of blood. It was the duty of the nearest relative to execute vengeance upon the murderer of his kin. In this light, Gideon's execution of his brothers' murderer is exactly what God had commanded him to do.

The efforts of our current society to abolish capital punishment are not merely a mistake; it is a violation of the law of God! The shameful leniency of the judiciary in our own day is having exactly the same effect that God's leniency with Cain produced, i.e., filling the entire world with bloody violence. Any human society that wishes to bring about the universal bloodshed and violence which precipitated the Great Flood could not possibly choose any quicker way to do so than to reject the commandment of God that orders human societies to execute murderers.

Gideon, as the "de facto" head of state, was the appropriate center of authority for the execution of all murderers. In this connection, it is of interest that some scholars apparently do not know the difference between "Thou shalt do no murder," which is the proper translation of Exo. 7 and, "The man shall surely be put to death" (Numbers 15:35), which was also the Word of God concerning certain violators of Divine law, including murderers.

Therefore, Gideon arose and slew them immediately. Having killed them, he also {and} took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks; the Targum calls them chains, as in [19](Judges 8:26)  and no doubt they were made of gold; so the horses of King Latinus had golden collars hanging down their chests. They were, according to Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Gersom, in the form of the moon; see [20](Isaiah 3:18),  some have thought that these were worn in honor of Astarte, or the moon, the goddess of the Phoenicians, from whom these people had borrowed that idolatry. Of course, Gideon took the camels also, which Zebah and Zalmunna had evidently been permitted to ride to Ophrah. The crescents are evidently mentioned here, because those gold ornaments became a snare and a temptation to Gideon.

And took the little moons upon the necks of their camels as booty. "The little moons" were crescent-shaped ornaments of silver or gold, similar to what men and women wore upon their necks [19](see Judges 8:26, and [20]Isaiah 3:18), and which they also hung upon the necks of camels—a custom still prevalent in Arabia. The heads, necks, bodies, and legs of camels, horses, and elephants, are highly ornamented in the eastern countries, and indeed this was common, from the remotest antiquity, in all countries. These were amulets to bring good luck in battle and may indicate that the Midianites were moon worshipers. The worship of the moon was very ancient; and, with that of the sun, constituted the earliest idolatry of mankind. We learn from [21]Judges 8:24  that the Ishmaelites, or Arabs, as they are termed by the Targum, Syriac, and Arabic, had golden ear-rings, and probably a crescent in each; for it is well known that the Ishmaelites, and the Arabs who descended from them, were addicted very early to the worship of the moon; and so attached were they to this superstition, that although Mohammed destroyed the idolatrous use of the crescent, yet it was universally borne in their ensigns, and on the tops of their mosques, as well as in various ornaments.

It appears from verse [19]8.26 that he took all their other ornaments, but we find that he did not put them to as good a use as one would have wished. The destruction of these two kings, and that of the two princes [7](ch. 7:25) has long served as a precedent in prayer for the ruin of others who are the church’s enemies; Ps. 83:11, “Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and all their princes as Zebah and Zalmunna,” let them all be cut down in like manner.

The number, variety and weight of the ornaments ordinarily worn upon the person form one of the characteristic features of Oriental attire, in both ancient and modem times. The monuments of ancient Egypt exhibit the persons of ladies loaded with rings, earrings of vary great size, anklets, armlets, bracelets of the most varied forms, richly-ornamented necklaces, and chains of various kinds. There is sufficient evidence in the Bible that the inhabitants of Palestine were equally devoted to finery. In the Old Testament, Isaiah, [22](Isaiah 3:18-23)  supplies us with a detailed description of the articles with which the luxurious women of his day were decorated. Eliezer decorated Rebekah with "a golden nose-ring of half a shekel (1/4 oz.) weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels (4 1/2 oz.) weight of gold." (Genesis 23:22) Earrings were worn by Jacob’s wives. [23](Genesis 35:4)  The number of personal ornaments worn by the Egyptians, particularly by the females, 19 incidentally noticed in [24](Exodus 3:22) 

________________________________verse 21 notes_______________________________________

[13](1 Samuel 15:33; ASV) “And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before Jehovah in Gilgal.” As thy sword hath made women childless—it appears that Agag had forfeited his life by his own personal transgressions, and that his death now was the retribution of his cruelties. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces
1.  What Samuel did here he did in his magisterial capacity; and,
2.  It is likely that he did it with his own sword, since we are told that he took action—“And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna”; but it may be that an executioner did it. What kings, magistrates, and generals do, in an official way, through their subjects, servants, or soldiers, they are said to do themselves.—Adam Clarke's Commentary 
[14](1 Kings 2:25, 34; ASV) “So King Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada to execute him, and Adonijah was put to death... So Benaiah son of Jehoiada returned to the sacred tent and killed Joab, and he was buried at his home in the wilderness.”
Verse 25:
Benaiah seems to have been the public state executioner, and yet he was generalissimo of all the forces. I suppose him to have been such another general as Suwarrow, butcher-general of the Turks and Poles to the late Empress Catharine of Russia: like mistress, like man. But they have long since been called to an impartial tribunal. That this was an act of cruelty towards Adonijah, needs no proof. He is suspected, condemned, and slain, without a hearing.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
Verse 34. According to the terms of the statute (Ex 21:14), and the practice in similar cases (2Ki 11:15), the criminal was to be dragged from the altar and slain elsewhere. But the truth is, that the sanctity of the altar was violated as much by the violence used in forcing the criminal from the place as in shedding his blood there; the express command of God authorized the former and therefore by implication permitted the latter.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[15](1 Samuel 22:17) “And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.” But they chose rather to disobey the king than to offend God by imbruing their hands in the blood of his ministering servants. A foreigner alone (Ps 52:1-3) could be found willing to be the executioner of this bloody and sacrilegious sentence.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[16](2 Samuel 1:15; GW) “Then David called one of {his} young men and told him, “Come here and attack him.” David's young man executed him.”
[17](Exodus 20.7) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Taking the name of the LORD thy God in vain has to do with using God’s holy name for purposes other than worship. Also, Christians ought to shun minced oaths such as the use of Gee, Gosh, and Golly.  
[18](Deut 5.11) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
[19](Judges 8:26) “And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.” Taking the shekel at half an ounce weight, the sum of the gold collected in ear-rings was seventy pounds ten ounces; and worth, as gold now rates, $1,130,000.00. This computation of the weight of the golden ear-rings, taken from the slaughtered Ishmaelites, will bring to the reader's mind the slaughter of the Roman knights by the Carthaginians at the battle of Cannae, from whose spoils Hannibal sent three bushels of gold rings to the city of Carthage!—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[20](Isaiah 3:18; BBE) “In that day the Lord will take away the glory of their foot-rings, and their sun-jewels, and their moon-ornaments.”
[21](Judges 8.24) “And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you; give me every man of you the earrings of his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)”
[22](Isaiah 3:18-23;DT) “In that day the Lord will take away the ornament of anklets, and the little suns and crescents, the pearl-drops, and the bracelets, and the veils, the head-dresses, and the stepping chains, and the girdles, and the scent-boxes, and the amulets; the finger-rings, and the nose-rings; the festival-robes, and the tunics, and the mantles, and the wallets; the mirrors, and the fine linen bodices, and the turbans, and the flowing veils.” 
[23](Genesis 35:4;KJV) “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.”
[24](Exodus 3:22; KJV)  “But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”

 

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