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Judges 8:17

ESV And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
NIV He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.
NASB And he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
CSB He also tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
NLT He also tore down the tower of Peniel and killed all the men in the town.
KJV And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

What does Judges 8:17 mean?

When Gideon made his way out into the wilderness, chasing down the remnant of the Midianite army, he and his exhausted fighting men passed through two towns of Israelites. At each, he asked for bread for his men to sustain them in their pursuit of Israel's enemy. At each, he was refused. The leaders of those towns feared what the Midianites would do to them if Gideon failed in his mission to wipe them out (Judges 8:4–9).

Gideon's response to the men of each town was similar, but not identical. He promised the men of Succoth he would return and flail them once he was victorious, which he has now done. The leaders of the town have been whipped—not merely given pain but publicly humiliated—for favoring Midian's raiders over their own people.

When rejected by Penuel, Gidon vowed he would tear down their defensive tower (Judges 8:8–9). A reader's opinion will vary on which town was threatened with the worse punishment. If a man is whipped severely enough, he will be scarred for life. He may die. A tower can be rebuilt.

However, Gideon not only tears down the tower, but he also kills the men of Penuel. Most likely, they fought back against his punishment. Gideon seems to have surprised Succoth (Judges 8:14–15), to prevent the town elders from running away or hiding. There would be no need for surprise if his objective in Penuel was an immobile building. If the people of the town attempted to fight back, it would help explain why they seem to suffer the worse penalty for fearing the Midianites more than they feared Gideon and the God of Israel.
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