(“a hewer”), i.e. warrior, or the hewer down of Baal (Isa_10:33). Of Manasseh; youngest son of Joash, of the Abiezrite family at Ophrah (Jdg_6:11; Jdg_6:15). Fifth of the judges of Israel, called by the angel of the Lord to deliver Israel from the seven years’ yoke of the Midianite hosts, which like swarming locusts consumed all their produce except what they could hide in caves and holes (Jdg_6:2; Jdg_6:5-6; Jdg_6:11). There they fled, and “made” artificial caves besides enlarging natural caves for their purpose, God permitting them to be brought so low that their extremity might be His opportunity. Midian had long before with Moab besought Balaam to curse Israel, and through his counsel, by tempting Israel to whoredom with their and the Moabite women, had brought a plague on Israel, and had then by God’s command been smitten sorely by Israel (Num_25:17-18; Num_31:1-16, etc.).
But now after 200 years, in renewed strength, with the Amalekite and other plundering children of the E. they were used as God’s instrument to chastise His apostate people. Crossing Jordan from the E. they spread themselves from the plain of Jezreel to the sea coast of Gaza. Affliction led Israel to crying in prayer. Prayer brought first a prophet from Jehovah to awaken them to a sense of God’s grace in their former deliverances and of their own apostasy. Next the Angel of Jehovah came. i.e. Jehovah the Second Person Himself. Former judges, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, had been moved by the Spirit of God to their work; but to Gideon alone under a terebinth in Ophrah, a town belonging to Joash, Jehovah appeared in person to show that the God who had made theophanies to the patriarchs was the same Jehovah, ready to save their descendants if they would return to the covenants.
His second revelation was in a dream, commanding him to overthrow his father’s altar to Baal and to erect an altar to Jehovah and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the Asherah (“grove”) or idol goddess of nature, probably a wooden pillar (Deu_16:21). In the first revelation Jehovah acknowledged Gideon, in the second He commanded Gideon to acknowledge Him. As God alone, Jehovah will not be worshipped along with Baal (1Ki_18:21; Eze_20:39). Gideon at the first revelation was knocking out (habat) with a stick wheat in the winepress, sunk in the ground or hewn in the rock to make it safe from the Midianites; for he did not dare to thresh upon an open floor or hardened area in the open field, but like poor gleaners (Rth_2:17) knocked out the little grain with a stick. The address, “Jehovah is with thee thou mighty man,” seemed to Gideon, ruminating on the Midianite oppression which his occupation was a proof of, in ironical and sad contrast with facts.
“If Jehovah be with us why is all this befallen us?” alluding to Deu_31:17. But God’s words guarantee their own accomplishment. JEHOVAH (no longer under His character. “Angel of Jehovah,” but manifested as JEHOVAH) replied, “Go in this thy might (the might now given thee by ME, Isa_40:29), and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites; have not I sent thee?” Then followed the requested “sign,” the Angel of the Lord with the end of the staff in His hand consuming with fire Gideon’s “offering” (minchah), not a strict sacrifice but a sacrificial gift), the kid and unleavened cakes (compare Genesis 18, the theophany to Abraham very similar). Compare and contrast the conduct of the angel and the acceptance of Manoah’s sacrifice in Jdg_13:20. Gideon in gratitude built an altar and called it “Jehovah Shalom,” a pledge of “Jehovah” being now at “peace” with Israel again (Jer_29:11; Jer_33:16).
The “second” in age of Joash’s bullocks, “seven years old,” was appointed in the dream for an offering to Jehovah, to correspond to Midian’s seven years’ oppression because of Israel’s apostasy. Gideon with ten servants overthrew Baal’s altar and Asherah in the night, for he durst not do it in the day through fear of his family and townsmen. Joash, when required to bring out his son to die for the sacrilege, replied, “Will ye plead for Baal? …. he that will plead for him shall be put, to death himself, let us wait until the morning (not ‘shall be put to death while it is yet morning’) and see whether Baal, if he be a god, will plead for himself.” So Gideon got the surname “Jerubbaal,” “Let Baal fight,” i.e. vindicate his own cause on the destroyer of his altar; and as the Jews in contempt changed Baal in compounds to besheth, “Jerubbesheth,” “Let the shameful idol light.” Then the Spirit of God “clothed” Gideon as his coat of mail (1Ch_12:18; 2Ch_24:20; Luk_24:49; Isa_61:10).
His own clan the Abiezrites, Manasseh W. of Jordan, Zebulun, and Naphtali followed him. At his prayer the sign followed, the woolen fleece becoming saturated with dew while the earth around was dry, then the ground around being wet while the fleece was dry. Dew symbolizes God’s reviving grace: Israel was heretofore the dry fleece, while the nations around were flourishing; now she is to become filled with the Lord’s vigor, while the nations around lose it. The fleece becoming afterward dry while the ground around was wet symbolizes Israel’s rejection of the gospel while the Gentile world is receiving the gracious dew. Afterward Israel in its turn shall be the dew to the Gentile world (Mic_5:7). Gideon pitched on a height at the foot of which the fountain Harod (“the spring of trembling,” now perhaps Ain Jahlood) sprang (2Sa_23:25). Midian pitched in the valley of Jezreel (Jdg_6:33).
The timid were first thinned out of Gideon’s army (Deu_20:8). In Jdg_7:3, “whosoever is fearful let him return from mount Gilead,” as they were then W. of Jordan, the mount in eastern Palestine cannot be meant; but the phrase was a familiar designation of the Manassites. To take away still further all attribution of the victory to man not God, the army was reduced to 300 by retaining those alone whose energy was shown by their drinking what water they lifted with their hands, not delaying to kneel and drink (compare as to Messiah Psa_110:7). Then followed Gideon’s going with Phurah his servant into the Midianite host, and hearing the Midianite’s dream of a barley cake overturning the tent, that being poor men’s food, so symbolizing despised Israel, the “tent” symbolizing Midian’s nomadic life of freedom and power. The Moabite stone shows how similar to Hebrew was the language of Moab, and the same similarity to the Midianite tongue appears from Gideon understanding them.
Dividing his 300 into three attacking columns, Gideon desired them in the beginning of the middle watch, i.e. at midnight (this and the morning watch dividing the night into three watches in the Old Testament), after him to blow the trumpets, break the pitchers, and let the lamps in their left hand previously covered with. the pitchers (a type of the gospel light in earthen vessels, 2Co_4:6-7), suddenly flash on the foe, and to cry “the sword of Jehovah and of Gideon,” and to stand without moving round about the Midianite camp. A mutual slaughter arose from panic among the Midianites (a type of Christ’s final overthrow of antichrist, Isa_9:4-7), each trumpet holder seeming to have a company at his back. The remnant fled to the bank of the Jordan at Abelmeholah, etc.
Then the men of Asher, Naphtali, and all Manasseh, who had been dismissed, returned to join in the pursuit. Gideon requested Ephraim to intercept the fleeing Midianites at the waters of Bethbarah and Jordan, namely, at the tributary streams which they would have to cross to reach the Jordan. A second fight ensued there, and they slew Oreb (the raven) and Zeeb (the wolf). Conder (Palestine Exploration, July, 1874, p. 182) observes that the nomadic hordes of Midian, like the modern Beni Suggar and Ghazawiyeh Arabs, come up the broad and fertile valley of Jezreel; their encampment lay, as the black Arab tents do now in spring, at the foot of the hill March (Nebi Dahy) opposite to the limestone knoll on which Jezreel (Zer’ain) stands. The well Harod, where occurred the trial which separated 300 men of endurance from the worthless rabble, was the Ain Jalud, a fine spring at the foot of mount Gilboa, issuing blue and clear from a cavern, and forming a pool with rushy banks and a pebbly bottom, 100 yards long.
The water is sweet, though slightly tasting of sulphur, and there is ample space for gathering a great number of men. Concealed by the folds of the rolling ground the 300 crept down to Midian’s camp in the valley. The Midianite host fled to Bethshittah (the modern village Shatta), in Zererath (a district connected with Zerthan or Zeretan, a name still appearing in Ain Zahrah, three miles W. of Beisan), and to the border of Beth Meholah (wady Maleh), a course directly down the main road to Jordan and Beisan. Thus, Midian fled ten or fifteen miles toward the Jordan. A systematic advance followed. Messengers went S. two days’ journey to Ephraim; the lower fords of Jordan at Bethbarah were taken (Bethabara of the New Testament). Meantime Gideon, having cleared the Bethshan valley of Midianites, crossed at the southern end of Succoth (now Makhathet Abu Sus), and continued the pursuit along the eastern bank.
The Midianites followed the right bank S. toward Midian, intending to cross near Jericho. Here the men of Ephraim met them and executed Oreb and Zeeb, and sent their heads to Gideon “on the other side.” Thus, “the Raven’s Peak” and “the Wolf’s Den” seem identical with Ash el Ghorab and Tuweil el Dhiab. Gideon’s victory over self was still greater than that over Midian; by a soft answer he turned aside Ephraim’s proud and unreasonable wrath at his not summoning them at the first: “is not the gleaning of grapes of Ephraim (their subsequent victory over the fleeing Midianites) better than the vintage of Abiezer?” than my first victory over them (Isa_10:26; Pro_15:1; Pro_16:32). Contrast the unyielding temper of Jephthah (Jdg_12:1, etc.). Then followed the churlish unpatriotic cowardice of Succoth and Penuel, in answer to his request for provisions, through fear of Midian and disbelief of God’s power to make victorious so small and so “faint” a force as Gideon’s 300.
Coming unexpectedly on the host which thought itself “secure” amidst their Bedouin countrymen at Karkor, in a third battle he defeated them and slew Zebah and Zalmunnah the two kings (emirs) after battle, in just retribution for their having slain his kingly brothers in cold blood at Tabor; then he taught by corporal punishment with thorns the elders of Succoth to know their error, and beat down the tower of Penuel. Of 120,000 Midianites only 15,000 survived. Declining the proffered kingdom because Jehovah was their king, Gideon yet made a gorgeous jeweled ephod with the golden rings the Israelites had got as booty, besides the ornaments (verse 21, golden crescents or little moons), and collars (ear pendants), and purple raiment, and collars about their camels’ necks.
The ephod had the breast-plate (choshen) and Urim and Thummim. Gideon “kept” it in his city Ophrah; wearing the breast-plate, he made it and the holy ‘lot his means of obtaining revelations from Jehovah whom he worshipped at the altar. His sin which became a “snare” (means of ruin) to him and his house was his usurping the Aaronic priesthood, and drawing off the people from the one lawful sanctuary, the center of theocratic unity, and so preparing the way for the relapse to Baal warship at his death.
But his unambitious spirit is praiseworthy; he, the great Baal fighter, “Jerubbaal,” instead of ambitiously accepting the crown, “went and dwelt in his own house” quietly, and died “in a good old age,” having secured for his country “quietness” for 40 years, leaving, besides 70 sons by wives, a son by a concubine, Abimelech, doomed to be by ambition as great a curse to his country as his father was in the main a blessing.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Jdg_6:11-16. An angel sends Gideon to deliver them.
there came an angel of the Lord — He appeared in the character and equipments of a traveler (Jdg_6:21), who sat down in the shade to enjoy a little refreshment and repose. Entering into conversation on the engrossing topic of the times, the grievous oppression of the Midianites, he began urging Gideon to exert his well-known prowess on behalf of his country. Gideon, in replying, addresses him at first in a style equivalent (in Hebrew) to “sir,” but afterwards gives to him the name usually applied to God.
an oak — Hebrew, “the oak” – as famous in after-times.
Ophrah — a city in the tribe of Manasseh, about sixteen miles north of Jericho, in the district belonging to the family of Abiezer (Jos_17:2).
his son Gideon threshed wheat by the wine-press — This incident tells emphatically the tale of public distress. The small quantity of grain he was threshing, indicated by his using a flail instead of the customary treading of cattle – the unusual place, near a wine-press, under a tree, and on the bare ground, not a wooden floor, for the prevention of noise – all these circumstances reveal the extreme dread in which the people were living.
Keil and Delitzsch
Call of Gideon to Be the Deliverer of Israel. – As the reproof of the prophet was intended to turn the hearts of the people once more to the Lord their God and deliverer, so that manner in which God called Gideon to be their deliverer, and rescued Israel from its oppressors through his instrumentality, as intended to furnish the most evident proof that the help and salvation of Israel were not to be found in man, but solely in their God. God had also sent their former judges. The Spirit of Jehovah had come upon Othniel, so that he smote the enemy in the power of God (Jdg_3:10). Ehud had put to death the hostile king by stratagem, and then destroyed his army; and Barak had received the command of the Lord, through the prophetess Deborah, to deliver His people from the dominion of their foes, and had carried out the command with her assistance. But Gideon was called to be the deliverer of Israel through an appearance of the angel of the Lord, to show to him and to all Israel, that Jehovah, the God of the fathers, was still near at hand to His people, and could work miracles as in the days of old, if Israel would only adhere to Him and keep His covenant. The call of Gideon took place in two revelations from God. First of all the Lord appeared to him in the visible form of an angel, in which He had already made himself known to the patriarchs, and summoned him in the strength of God to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Midianites (Jdg_6:11-24). He then commanded him, in a dream of the night, to throw down his father’s altar of Baal, and to offer a burnt-offering to Jehovah his God upon an altar erected for the purpose (Jdg_6:25-32). In the first revelation the Lord acknowledged Gideon; in the second He summoned Gideon to acknowledge Him as his God.
Appearance of the Angel of the Lord. – Jdg_6:11. The angel of the Lord, i.e., Jehovah, in a visible self-revelation in human form (see Pentateuch, pp. 106ff.), appeared this time in the form of a traveller with a staff in his hand (Jdg_6:21), and sat down “under the terebinth which (was) in Ophrah, that (belonged) to Joash the Abi-ezrite.” It was not the oak, but Ophrah, that belonged to Joash, as we may see from Jdg_6:24, where the expression “Ophrah of the Abi-ezrite” occurs. According to Joash Jdg_17:2 and 1Ch_7:18, Abiezer was a family in the tribe of Manasseh, and according to Jdg_6:15 it was a small family of that tribe. Joash was probably the head of the family at that time, and as such was the lord or owner of Ophrah, a town (Jdg_8:27; cf. Jdg_9:5) which was called “Ophrah of the Abi-ezrite,” to distinguish it from Ophrah in the tribe of Benjamin (Jos_18:23). The situation of the town has not yet been determined with certainty. Josephus (Ant. v. 6, 5) calls it Ephran. Van de Velde conjectures that it is to be found in the ruins of Erfai, opposite to Akrabeh, towards the S.E., near the Mohammedan Wely of Abu Kharib, on the S.W. of Janun (Me. pp. 337-8), close to the northern boundary of the tribe-territory of Ephraim, if not actually within it. By this terebinth tree was Gideon the son of Joash “knocking out wheat in the wine-press.” חָבַט does not mean to thresh, but to knock with a stick. The wheat was threshed upon open floors, or in places in the open field that were rolled hard for the purpose, with threshing carriages or threshing shoes, or else with oxen, which they drove about over the scattered sheaves to tread out the grains with their hoofs. Only poor people knocked out the little corn that they had gleaned with a stick (Rth_2:17), and Gideon did it in the existing times of distress, namely in the pressing-tub, which, like all wine-presses, was sunk in the ground, in a hole that had been dug out or hewn in the rock (for a description of cisterns of this kind, see Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 135-6), “to make the wheat fly” (i.e., to make it safe) “from the Midianites” (הָנִים as in Exo_9:20).
Keil and Dekitzsch
But Gideon, who did not recognise the angel of the Lord in the man who was sitting before him, replied doubtingly, “Pray, sir, if Jehovah is with us, why has all this befallen us?” – words which naturally recall to mind the words of Deu_31:17, “Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” “And where,” continued Gideon, “are all His miracles, of which our fathers have told us? … But now Jehovah hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Gideon may have been reflecting, while knocking the wheat, upon the misery of his people, and the best means of delivering them from the oppression of the enemy, but without being able to think of any possibility of rescuing them. For this reason he could not understand the address of the unknown traveller, and met his promise with the actual state of things with which it was so directly at variance, namely, the crushing oppression of his people by their enemies, from which he concluded that the Lord had forsaken them and given them up to their foes.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Then Jehovah turned to him and said, Go in this thy strength, and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have not I sent thee?” The writer very appropriately uses the name Jehovah here, instead of the angel of Jehovah; for by his reply the angel distinctly manifested himself as Jehovah, more especially in the closing words, “Have not I sent thee?” (הֲלֹא, in the sense of lively assurance), which are so suggestive of the call of Moses to be the deliverer of Israel (Exo_3:12). “In this thy strength,” i.e., the strength which thou now hast, since Jehovah is with thee-Jehovah, who can still perform miracles as in the days of the fathers. The demonstrative “this” points to the strength which had just been given to him through the promise of God.
The Lord looked upon him – That gracious look conferred immediate strength (compare Eph_6:10; 2Co_12:9; Joh_20:22; Act_3:6) The change of phrase from “the angel of the Lord” to “the Lord” is remarkable. When messages are delivered by the Angel of the Lord, the form of the message is as if God Himself were speaking (compare Jdg_2:1).
The sending implied a valid commission and sufficient powers. Compare Exo_3:10; Isa_44:26; Eze_2:3; Zec_2:11; Mal_3:1; Luk_10:3; Joh_20:21; and the term APOSTLE, as applied to our Lord Heb_3:1 and to the Twelve.
Keil and Delitzsch
Gideon perceived from these words that it was not a mere man who was speaking to him. He therefore said in reply, not “pray sir” (אֲדֹנִי), but “pray, Lord” (אֲדֹנָי, i.e., Lord God), and no longer speaks of deliverance as impossible, but simply inquires, with a consciousness of his own personal weakness and the weakness of his family, “Whereby (with what) shall I save Israel? Behold, my family (lit., ‘thousand,’ equivalent to mishpachah: see at Num_1:16) is the humblest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (my family).”
Wherewith shall I save Israel? etc. Compare the unwillingness of Moses (Exo_3:11; Exo_4:10, Exo_4:13), of Saul (1Sa_10:21, 1Sa_10:22), of Jeremiah (Jer_1:6), of Amos (Amo_7:14, Amo_7:15), and of St. Peter (Luk_5:8). Also in ecclesiastical history that of Ambrose, Gregory the Great, and others. The least fit are usually the most forward, the most fit the most backward, to undertake great offices (Jdg_9:8-15). True humility is the usual companion of true greatness (see 2Co_2:16; 2Co_3:5).
Keil and Delitzsch
Gideon’s Battle and Victory. – Jdg_7:9-11. The following night the Lord commanded Gideon to go down to the camp of the enemy, as He had given it into his hand (the perfect is used to denote the purpose of God which had already been formed, as in Jdg_4:14). But in order to fill him with confidence for such an enterprise, which to all human appearance was a very rash one, God added, “If thou art afraid to go down, go thou with thine attendant Purah down to the camp, and thou wilt hear what they say, and thy hands will thereby become strong.” The meaning of the protasis is not, If thou art afraid to go down into the camp of the enemy alone, or to visit the enemy unarmed, take Purah thine armour-bearer with thee, to make sure that thou hast weapons to use (Bertheau); for, apart from the fact that the addition “unarmed” is perfectly arbitrary, the apodosis “thou wilt see,” etc., by no means agrees with this explanation. The meaning is rather this: Go with thy 300 men into (בְּ) the hostile camp to smite it, for I have given it into thy hand; but if thou art afraid to do this, go down with thine attendant to (אֶל) the camp, to ascertain the state and feeling of the foe, and thou wilt hear what they say, i.e., as we gather from what follows, how they are discouraged, have lost all hope of defeating you, and from that thou wilt gather courage and strength for the battle. On the expression “thine hands shall be strengthened,” see 2Sa_2:7. The expression which follows, בַּמַּחֲנֶה וְיָרַדְתָּ, is not a mere repetition of the command to go down with his attendant to the hostile camp, but describes the result of the stimulus given to his courage: And then thou wilt go fearlessly into the hostile camp to attack the foe. בַּמַּחֲנֶה יָרַד (Jdg_7:9, Jdg_7:11) is to be distinguished from הַמַּחֲנֶה יָרַד in Jdg_7:10. The former signifies to go down into the camp to smite the foe; the latter, to go down to the camp to reconnoitre it, and is equivalent to the following clause: “he went to the outside of the camp.”
The armed men. The exact meaning of the word here rendered armed men (chamushim), and which occurs Exo_13:18; Jos_1:14; Jos_4:12, is a little uncertain, but it is generally thought to be synonymous with another word (calutsim), also rendered armed (Num_32:32; Deu_3:18), and to mean literally girded, i.e. prepared to fight. These fighting men, as distinguished from the numbers of the nomads who were with their camels and cattle scattered all along the plain, were all collected in the camp, to the edge of which Gideon and Phurah crept stealthily in the dark.
Keil and Delitzsch
But when Gideon came with his attendant to the end of the armed men (chamushim, as in Jos_1:14; Exo_13:18) in the hostile camp, and the enemy were lying spread out with their camels in the valley, an innumerable multitude, he heard one (of the fighting men) relate to his fellow (i.e., to another) a dream which he had had: “Behold a cake of barley bread was rolling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and smote it, so that it fell and turned upwards, and let the tent lay along.” Then the other replied, “This is nothing else than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash the Israelite: God hath given Midian and all the camp into his hand.” “The end of fighting men” signifies the outermost or foremost of the outposts in the enemy’s camp, which contained not only fighting men, but the whole of the baggage of the enemy, who had invaded the land as nomads, with their wives, their children, and their flocks. In Jdg_7:12, the innumerable multitude of the enemy is described once more in the form of a circumstantial clause, as in Jdg_6:5, not so much to distinguish the fighting men from the camp generally, as to bring out more vividly the contents and meaning of the following dream. The comparison of the enemy to the sand by the sea-side recalls Jos_11:4, and is frequently met with (see Gen_22:17; Gen_32:13; 1Sa_13:5). With the word וַיָּבֹא in Jdg_7:13, the thread of the narrative, which was broken off by the circumstantial clause in Jdg_7:12, is resumed and carried further. The ἁπ. λεγ. צְלוּל (Keri, צְלִיל) is rendered cake, placenta, by the early translators: see Ges. Thes. p. 1170. The derivation of the word has been disputed, and is by no means certain, as צָלַל does not give any suitable meaning, either in the sense of to ring or to be overshadowed, and the meaning to roll (Ges. l.c.) cannot be philologically sustained; whilst צָלָה, to roast, can hardly be thought of, since this is merely used to denote the roasting of flesh, and קָלָה was the word commonly applied to the roasting of grains, and even “the roasted of barley bread” would hardly be equivalent to subcinericeus panis ex hordeo (Vulgate). “The tent,” with the definite article, is probably the principal tent in the camp, i.e., the tent of the general. לְמַעְלָה, upwards, so that the bottom came to the top. “The tent lay along,” or the tent fell, lay in ruins, is added to give emphasis to the words. “This is nothing if not,” i.e., nothing but. The cake of bread which had rolled into the Midianitish camp and overturned the tent, signifies nothing else than the sword of Gideon, i.e., Gideon, who is bursting into the camp with his sword, and utterly destroying it.
This interpretation of the dream was certainly a natural one under the circumstances. Gideon is especially mentioned simply as the leader of the Israelites; whilst the loaf of barley bread, which was the food of the poorer classes, is to be regarded as strictly speaking the symbol of Israel, which was so despised among the nations. The rising of the Israelites under Gideon had not remained a secret to the Midianites, and no doubt filled them with fear; so that in a dream this fear might easily assume the form of the defeat or desolation and destruction of their camp by Gideon. And the peculiar form of the dream is also psychologically conceivable. As the tent is everything to a nomad, he might very naturally picture the cultivator of the soil as a man whose life is all spent in cultivating and baking bread. In this way bread would become almost involuntarily a symbol of the cultivator of the soil, whilst in his own tent he would see a symbol not only of his mode of life, but of his freedom, greatness, and power. If we add to this, that the free pastoral tribes, particularly the Bedouins of Arabia, look down with pride not only upon the poor tillers of the soil, but even upon the inhabitants of towns, and that in Palestine, the land of wheat, none but the poorer classes feed upon barley bread, we have here all the elements out of which the dream of the Midianitish warrior was formed. The Israelites had really been crushed by the Midianites into a poor nation of slaves. But whilst the dream itself admits of being explained in this manner in a perfectly natural way, it acquires the higher supernatural character of a divine inspiration, from the fact that God not only foreknew it, but really caused the Midianite to dream, and to relate the dream to his comrade, just at the time when Gideon had secretly entered the camp, so that he should hear it, and discover therefrom, as God had foretold him, the despondency of the foe. Under these circumstances, Gideon could not fail to regard the dream as a divine inspiration, and to draw the assurance from it, that God had certainly given the Midianites into his hands.
A cake. The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else. Of barley bread. The commonest kind of bread, the food of only the poorer classes, indicating, therefore, the humble origin and station of Gideon. A tent. Rather, the tent; what in a Roman camp would be the pretorium, the general’s tent. The words at the end of the verse are heaped up to indicate the total and entire upsetting and overthrow of the tent, symbolic of the rout and destruction of the Midianite host.
A cake of barley bread – i. e. such a cake as could hardly be eaten by men, it was so vile: a term expressive of the contempt of the Midianites for the people of Israel.
A tent – The tent, meaning, probably, the tent of the king of Midian, or of the captain of the host.
This is nothing else, etc. The dream and the interpretation are striking evidences of the terror which Gideon’s name had already inspired among the Midianites. Because, although both the dream and the interpretation were of God, for the encouragement of Gideon in his great undertaking, yet they followed the course of nature and the laws of psychology. The presentiment that God had delivered Midian into Gideon’s hand is exactly like the terror in the minds of the Canaanites which preceded the arrival of Joshua (Exo_23:27; Deu_2:25; Deu_11:25; Jos_2:9-11).
It was so, etc. The effect upon Gideon was like magic. He not only learnt the state of panic in which the Midianites were, but he had a further certainty that God was with him. His simple piety and adoring gratitude threw him at once upon his knees to thank God, and to cast himself anew upon his strength with un-doubting trust. His hands were indeed strengthened, and he lost not a moment in returning to his 300, relating in a few words the incident of the dream, and bidding them follow him. The Lord hath delivered, etc. Cf. 1Sa_14:20.