Judges 8:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Judges 8:21, NIV: Zebah and Zalmunna said, 'Come, do it yourself. 'As is the man, so is his strength.'' So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels' necks.

Judges 8:21, ESV: Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

Judges 8:21, KJV: Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.

Judges 8:21, NASB: Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, 'Rise up yourself, and attack us; for as the man, so is his strength.' So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent amulets which were on their camels’ necks.

Judges 8:21, NLT: Then Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, 'Be a man! Kill us yourself!' So Gideon killed them both and took the royal ornaments from the necks of their camels.

Judges 8:21, CSB: Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Get up and strike us down yourself, for a man is judged by his strength." So Gideon got up, killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

What does Judges 8:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Are Zebah and Zalmunna taunting Gideon or flattering him? Commentators differ. The captured enemy kings (Judges 8:12–13) are daring Gideon to kill them himself (Judges 8:20). They quote a proverb about strength and manhood—a defiant provocation from condemned men with nothing to lose. This mirrors the bravado seen in modern action movies, novels, and comic books: the gritty soldier telling his executioner, "Just kill us yourself…if you're man enough!"

Another explanation is that the Midianite kings would prefer being killed by a great warrior, like Gideon. Part of the shame of Sisera's death was being killed by a woman (Judges 4:22; 5:26). To die at the hands of an accomplished warrior, at least, presents a respectable image. Yet another facet might be avoiding a messier, more painful death. Gideon's frightened son, Jether, clearly isn't experienced with a sword. Gideon is much more likely to deliver a decisive, clean blow than a terrified novice.

Whatever their motive, or combination of motives, the two men get their last wish. Gideon kills them and ends the ordeal. Then he takes crescent ornaments from the kings' camels. Scholars suggest these were representations of the moon god, worshipped by many pagan peoples during this time. The crescents may also have indicated the royal positions of the kings. We're not told what Gideon does with these objects, other than adding them to the rest of his spoil from the battles.