What does Judges 8:17 mean?
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.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Judges 8:1–21 begins with a confrontation between Gideon and the men of Ephraim. Gideon defuses the situation with diplomacy. With his original 300 fighters, he chases down the remnant of the Midianite army led by two kings known as Zebah and Zalmunna. Once the Midianites are defeated and the kings are captured, Gideon punishes the men of two Israelite towns who refused to help him. He then reveals to the captured kings that they murdered his own brothers at Mount Tabor. He kills them and takes their distinctive jewelry as spoils of war.
Chapter Summary:
Gideon soothes the anger of the men of Ephraim. Then, with his 300 fighting men, he chases the remnant of the Midianite army. After a difficult pursuit, he finally catches and defeats them in the wilderness. Gideon then returns to two Israelite towns who refused to help him along the way. He flogs the leaders of one town and kills the men of the other. He then executes the captured enemy kings. Gideon collects tribute from Israel but declines to become their official king. He lives to gain seventy sons, many wives, and at least one Canaanite concubine. When Gideon dies, Israel immediately returns to idol worship.
Chapter Context:
Judges 8 follows the great victory described at the end of the previous chapter. This passage begins with Gideon awkwardly soothing the anger of Ephraimites while trying to chase down an escaping enemy. After capturing the Midianite kings, Gideon punishes two towns for failing to aid their fellow Israelites. Gideon refuses to become a literal king but collects tribute from the people and lives like a king all his days, with many wives and sons. The people return to idol worship after his death. Soon after, the concubine's son, Abimelech, murders Gideon's other sons and briefly rules before meeting a gruesome death.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
Accessed 4/18/2024 1:04:28 AM
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