Judges 8:18 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 8:18, NIV: Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, 'What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?' 'Men like you,' they answered, 'each one with the bearing of a prince.'

Judges 8:18, ESV: Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.”

Judges 8:18, KJV: 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, NASB: Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, 'Where were the men whom you killed at Tabor?' But they said, 'You and they were alike, each one resembling the son of a king.'

Judges 8:18, NLT: Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, 'The men you killed at Tabor--what were they like?' 'Like you,' they replied. 'They all had the look of a king's son.'

Judges 8:18, CSB: He asked Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men did you kill at Tabor? ""They were like you," they said. "Each resembled the son of a king."

What does Judges 8:18 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Gideon and his men pursued Zebah and Zalmunna across the wilderness on the east side of the Jordan River (Judges 8:5). They have defeated the remnant of the Midianite army and have taken these two kings captive (Judges 8:10–12). Gideon has made a point of punishing the people of Succoth and Penuel: towns who refused to help their fellow Israelites during the pursuit (Judges 8:14–17).

With that complete, Gideon appears to return home. This incident includes a mention of Gideon's son, who has no battle experience (Judges 8:20). Having brought back captive enemy kings, he interrogates them. The exchange contains a surprising revelation. Here, again, is an example of Scripture including a detail without much background information. The context of the passage, itself, is all we have to determine what's being said.

Gideon begins by asking the pair a sarcastic question: where are the men they killed at Tabor? Earlier descriptions of Midianite raids did not mention Tabor (Judges 6:1–5). Gideon appears to be asking about a specific incident that took place on Tabor Mountain, north of the Valley of Jezreel, where the Midianite army was camped. In some way—apparently directly—these two men were responsible for the death of some Israelites in that place. This doesn't seem connected to a battle but is an isolated incident.

What could Zebah and Zalmunna say in response to this question? Gideon is not asking for the location of the bodies. Nor is he expecting the dead men to be returned to life. Rather, he is about to hold these two kings responsible for those deaths.

To calm Gideon's anger, the kings attempt flattery. They describe the men they killed as being like Gideon, resembling the son of a king. This remark is meant to compliment Gideon and imply respect for the men who died. Whether the two Midianite kings genuinely recall the incident is not clear. What's almost certain is that they don't realize the ironic truth of their own words: the dead men were, in fact, related to Gideon (Judges 8:19).