Judges 8:10 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 8:10, NIV: Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen.

Judges 8:10, ESV: Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword.

Judges 8:10, KJV: Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.

Judges 8:10, NASB: Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of the entire army of the people of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen.

Judges 8:10, NLT: By this time Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with 15,000 warriors--all that remained of the allied armies of the east, for 120,000 had already been killed.

Judges 8:10, CSB: Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and with them was their army of about fifteen thousand men, who were all those left of the entire army of the people of the east. Those who had been killed were one hundred twenty thousand armed men.

What does Judges 8:10 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This verse reveals how many Midianites and other "people of the East" Gideon and his band of 300 men have been chasing. According to traditional interpretations, this fleeing army numbers around 15,000 men. That's a daunting number, but it's only a fraction of the 135,000–man army which first occupied and oppressed Israel. Fully 120,000 swordsmen had been killed already, many by the blades of their own countrymen when God brought chaos on their camp after the sound of Gideon's 300 trumpets (Judges 7:22–23).

Scholars note that the Hebrew terminology used here allows for numbers smaller than tens of thousands, while still being large. The word 'eleph is often translated as "thousands," but it can also mean "divisions" or "clans." In fact, that's exactly how Gideon used the word when first responding to God's call (Judges 6:15). The literal text indicates "15 'eleph" are fleeing, and "120 'eleph" have fallen, pursued by Gideon's tiny group of 300. If the Midianite army were more than 135,000, it would have rivaled the armies of any ancient superpower. That's not impossible, of course, but it's not the only faithful interpretation of the text.

Also revealed is just how long this chase has gone. The kings Zebah and Zalmunna have led this remnant of their former armies to Karkor. Unfortunately, this reference was much more meaningful to the original readers; modern commentators differ on where exactly this was. In any case, Gideon finally catches up to his prey.