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- The Antiquities of the Jews - 50/253 -


those that were in it were awake, and that one of them was telling to his fellow soldier a dream of his own, and that so plainly that Gideon could hear him. The dream was this: - He thought he saw a barley-cake, such a one as could hardly be eaten by men, it was so vile, rolling through the camp, and overthrowing the royal tent, and the tents of all the soldiers. Now the other soldier explained this vision to mean the destruction of the army; and told them what his reason was which made him so conjecture, viz. That the seed called barley was all of it allowed to be of the vilest sort of seed, and that the Israelites were known to be the vilest of all the people of Asia, agreeably to the seed of barley, and that what seemed to look big among the Israelites was this Gideon and the army that was with him; "and since thou sayest thou didst see the cake overturning our tents, I am afraid lest God hath granted the victory over us to Gideon."

5. When Gideon had heard this dream, good hope and courage came upon him; and he commanded his soldiers to arm themselves, and told them of this vision of their enemies. They also took courage at what was told them, and were ready to perform what he should enjoin them. So Gideon divided his army into three parts, and brought it out about the fourth watch of the night, each part containing a hundred men: they all bare empty pitchers and lighted lamps in their hands, that their onset might not be discovered by their enemies. They had also each of them a ram's horn in his right hand, which he used instead of a trumpet. The enemy's camp took up a large space of ground, for it happened that they had a great many camels; and as they were divided into different nations, so they were all contained in one circle. Now when the Hebrews did as they were ordered beforehand, upon their approach to their enemies, and, on the signal given, sounded with their rams' horns, and brake their pitchers, and set upon their enemies with their lamps, and a great shout, and cried, "Victory to Gideon, by God's assistance," a disorder and a fright seized upon the other men while they were half asleep, for it was night-time, as God would have it; so that a few of them were slain by their enemies, but the greatest part by their own soldiers, on account of the diversity of their language; and when they were once put into disorder, they killed all that they met with, as thinking them to be enemies also. Thus there was a great slaughter made. And as the report of Gideon's victory came to the Israelites, they took their weapons and pursued their enemies, and overtook them in a certain valley encompassed with torrents, a place which these could not get over; so they encompassed them, and slew them all, with their kings, Oreb and Zeeb. But the remaining captains led those soldiers that were left, which were about eighteen thousand, and pitched their camp a great way off the Israelites. However, Gideon did not grudge his pains, but pursued them with all his army, and joining battle with them, cut off the whole enemies' army, and took the other leaders, Zeba and Zalmuna, and made them captives. Now there were slain in this battle of the Midianites, and of their auxiliaries the Arabians, about a hundred and twenty thousand; and the Hebrews took a great prey, gold, and silver, and garments, and camels, and asses. And when Gideon was come to his own country of Ophrah, he slew the kings of the Midianites.

6. However, the tribe of Ephraim was so displeased at the good success of Gideon, that they resolved to make war against him, accusing him because he did not tell them of his expedition against their enemies. But Gideon, as a man of temper, and that excelled in every virtue, pleaded, that it was not the result of his own authority or reasoning, that made him attack the enemy without them; but that it was the command of God, and still the victory belonged to them as well as those in the army. And by this method of cooling their passions, he brought more advantage to the Hebrews, than by the success he had against these enemies, for he thereby delivered them from a sedition which was arising among them; yet did this tribe afterwards suffer the punishment of this their injurious treatment of Gideon, of which we will give an account in due time.

7. Hereupon Gideon would have laid down the government, but was over-persuaded to take it, which he enjoyed forty years, and distributed justice to them, as the people came to him in their differences; and what he determined was esteemed valid by all. And when he died, he was buried in his own country of Ophrah.

CHAPTER 8.

That The Judges Who Succeeded Gideon Made War With The Adjoining Nations For A Long Time.

1. Now Gideon had seventy sons that were legitimate, for he had many wives; but he had also one that was spurious, by his concubine Drumah, whose name was Abimelech, who, after his father's death, retired to Shecbem to his mother's relations, for they were of that place: and when he had got money of such of them as were eminent for many instances of injustice, he came with them to his father's house, and slew all his brethren, except Jotham, for he had the good fortune to escape and be preserved; but Abimelech made the government tyrannical, and constituted himself a lord, to do what he pleased, instead of obeying the laws; and he acted most rigidly against those that were the patrons of justice.

2. Now when, on a certain time, there was a public festival at Shechem, and all the multitude was there gathered together, Jotham his brother, whose escape we before related, went up to Mount Gerizzim, which hangs over the city Shechem, and cried out so as to be heard by the multitude, who were attentive to him. He desired they would consider what he was going to say to them: so when silence was made, he said, That when the trees had a human voice, and there was an assembly of them gathered together, they desired that the fig-tree would rule over them; but when that tree refused so to do, because it was contented to enjoy that honor which belonged peculiarly to the fruit it bare, and not that which should be derived to it from abroad, the trees did not leave off their intentions to have a ruler, so they thought proper to make the offer of that honor to the vine; but when the vine was chosen, it made use of the same words which the fig-tree had used before, and excused itself from accepting the government: and when the olive-tree had done the same, the brier, whom the trees had desired to take the kingdom, (it is a sort of wood good for firing,) it promised to take the government, and to be zealous in the exercise of it; but that then they must sit down under its shadow, and if they should plot against it to destroy it, the principle of fire that was in it should destroy them. He told them, that what he had said was no laughing matter; for that when they had experienced many blessings from Gideon, they overlooked Abimelech, when he overruled all, and had joined with him in slaying his brethren; and that he was no better than a fire himself. So when he had said this, he went away, and lived privately in the mountains for three years, out of fear of Abimelech.

3. A little while after this festival, the Shechemites, who had now repented themselves of having slain the sons of Gideon, drove Abimelech away, both from their city and their tribe; whereupon he contrived how he might distress their city. Now at the season of vintage, the people were afraid to go out and gather their fruits, for fear Abimelech should do them some mischief. Now it happened that there had come to them a man of authority, one Gaal, that sojourned with them, having his armed men and his kinsmen with him; so the Shechemites desired that he would allow them a guard during their vintage; whereupon he accepted of their desires, and so the people went out, and Gaal with them at the head of his soldiery. So they gathered their fruit with safety; and when they were at supper in several companies, they then ventured to curse Abimelech openly; and the magistrates laid ambushes in places about the city, and caught many of Abimelech's followers, and destroyed them.

4. Now there was one Zebul, a magistrate of the Shechemites, that had entertained Abimelech. He sent messengers, and informed him how much Gaal had irritated the people against him, and excited him to lay ambushes before the city, for that he would persuade Gaal to go out against him, which would leave it in his power to be revenged on him; and when that was once done, he would bring him to be reconciled to the city. So Abimelech laid ambushes, and himself lay with them. Now Gaal abode in the suburbs, taking little care of himself; and Zebul was with him. Now as Gaal saw the armed men coming on, he said to Zebul, That some armed men were coming; but the other replied, They were only shadows of huge stones: and when they were come nearer, Gaal perceived what was the reality, and said, They were not shadows, but men lying in ambush. Then said Zebul, "Didst not thou reproach Abimelech for cowardice? why dost thou not then show how very courageous thou art thyself, and go and fight him?" So Gaal, being in disorder, joined battle with Abimelech, and some of his men fell; whereupon he fled into the city, and took his men with him. But Zebul managed his matters so in the city, that he procured them to expel Gaal out of the city, and this by accusing him of cowardice in this action with the soldiers of Ahimelech. But Abimelech, when he had learned that the Shechemites were again coming out to gather their grapes, placed ambushes before the city, and when they were coming out, the third part of his army took possession of the gates, to hinder the citizens from returning in again, while the rest pursued those that were scattered abroad, and so there was slaughter every where; and when he had overthrown the city to the very foundations, for it was not able to bear a siege, and had sown its ruins with salt, he proceeded on with his army till all the Shechemites were slain. As for those that were scattered about the country, and so escaped the danger, they were gathered together unto a certain strong rock, and settled themselves upon it, and prepared to build a wall about it: and when Abimelech knew their intentions, he prevented them, and came upon them with his forces, and laid faggots of dry wood round the place, he himself bringing some of them, and by his example encouraging the soldiers to do the same. And when the rock was encompassed round about with these faggots, they set them on fire, and threw in whatsoever by nature caught fire the most easily: so a mighty flame was raised, and nobody could fly away from the rock, but every man perished, with their wives and children, in all about fifteen hundred men, and the rest were a great number also. And such was the calamity which fell upon the Shechemites; and men's grief on their account had been greater than it was, had they not brought so much mischief on a person who had so well deserved of them, and had they not themselves esteemed this as a punishment for the same.

5. Now Abimelech, when he had aftrighted the Israelites with the miseries he had brought upon the Shechemites, seemed openly to affect greater authority than he now had, and appeared to set no bounds to his violence, unless it were with the destruction of all. Accordingly he marched to Thebes, and took the city on the sudden; and there being a great tower therein, whereunto the whole multitude fled, he made preparation to besiege it. Now as he was rushing with violence near the gates, a woman threw a


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