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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Judges

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

3.7–16.31 : Cycles of the judges.

3.7–11 : Major judge cycle: Othniel.

The hero of 1.12–15 appears here as Israel's first deliverer. With all of the components used in this narration (see Introduction), the story serves as the paragon of the cyclic pattern. The Kenazite (from a southern group eventually assimilated into Judah) Othniel stands as the model judge. Cushan rishathaim (lit. “dark, double wicked”) is likely a pejorative created from the real name as a literary device to heighten Othniel's deliverance of Israel. It rhymes with Aram naharaim (“Aram of the Two Rivers”), an area of eastern Syria.

7 :

Asherah was another female fertility deity associated with Baal.

10 :

The spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel. Othniel uses this empowerment for positive ends.

11 :

The typical conclusion of the cycle (see 3.30; 5.31; 8.28 ).

6.33–7.18 : Gideon's struggle with belief in God's promise.

6.33–40 :

Gideon mobilizes his troops, but he seeks more reassuring signs through the fleece. Gideon's testing of God speaks to his unbelief. The tests with the fleece are God's second sign to Gideon, and they are doubled. No character in the book receives more divine assurance than Gideon, and none displays more doubt.

7.1–8 :

Gideon's force is doubly reduced: Fearful Israelites are encouraged to leave (vv. 2–3 ), and men are selected out arbitrarily according to how they drink water (vv. 4–8 ). Only three hundred men are left. Hence, it is impossible to ascribe the victory over Midian to human prowess ( 7.2 ).

1 :

The spring of Harod is at the foot of Mount Gilboa. The hill of Moreh, a mountain to the north of Mount Gilboa in the Jezreel valley.

9–18 :

Gideon overhears a Midianite relate his dream and another interpret it, and mobilizes his force of three hundred for a surprise attack against the Midianites. After this additional sign, he is fully confident in God's promise.

7.19–8.21 : God's deliverance from the Midianites.

7.19–8.3 :

Battle west of Jordan.

19–25 :

Gideon's forces surprised the Midianites. The elimination of two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, consolidated Gideon's victory.

8.1–3 :

Gideon diplomatically handles the provocations of the Ephraimites. Contrast Jephthah's lack of diplomacy in 12.1–6 .

8.4–21 :

Pursuit and battle east of the Jordan. There are no indications of the LORD's involvement in this second battle.

4–9 :

The cities of Succoth and Penuel refuse to help Gideon, fearing Midianite reprisals.

5 :

Zebah and Zalmunna, pejoratives or distortions of names (see 3.8n. ). Zebah means “sacrificial victim”; Zalmunna means “protection refused.” Succoth, a Transjordanian city east of Shechem; see Gen 33.17 .

8 :

Penuel, another Transjordanian city; see Gen 32.30–31; 1 Kings 12.25 .

10–12 :

The second battle against the Midianites.

13–21 :

Gideon takes reprisals against the Israelites in Succoth and Penuel, torturing and killing those who refused to support his army. This anticipates actions of Abimelech ( 9.46–49 ) and Jephthah ( 12.1–6 ).

18–19 :

Gideon's motive is revealed: personal revenge.

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