Deuteronomy 20:9
And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
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(9) Captains of the armies—i.e., special leaders for the campaigns, whose command would probably cease when it was over. We may suppose from mention of the “thousands” in the army—“the captain of their thousand” (1Samuel 17:18)—that the military divisions corresponded with the civil organization of the people so far as this, that the men of the same “thousand,” according to Jethro’s arrangement, would be brigaded together, and have one captain. If, as is also possible, the word “thousand” in military language signifies the contingent furnished by a “thousand” in Israel, irrespective of its number, it would remove many difficulties; for the whole thousand would very rarely be in the field together, and the contingent sent by a given “thousand” might consist of a very few men. If, therefore, the contingent of sixty “thousands” were to be described as 60,000, and the sixty companies were all cut up or annihilated, it might be reported as a slaughter of 60,000 men, while the lives actually lost would be nothing like so many.

Deuteronomy 20:9. They shall make captains — Or rather, as the Hebrew is, they shall set or place the captains of the armies in the head or front of the people under their charge, that they may conduct them, and, by their example, encourage their soldiers. It is not likely they had their captain to make when they were just going to battle.

20:1-9 In the wars wherein Israel engaged according to the will of God, they might expect the Divine assistance. The Lord was to be their only confidence. In these respects they were types of the Christian's warfare. Those unwilling to fight, must be sent away. The unwillingness might arise from a man's outward condition. God would not be served by men forced against their will. Thy people shall be willing, Ps 110:3. In running the Christian race, and fighting the good fight of faith, we must lay aside all that would make us unwilling. If a man's unwillingness rose from weakness and fear, he had leave to return from the war. The reason here given is, lest his brethren's heart fail as well as his heart. We must take heed that we fear not with the fear of them that are afraid, Isa 8:12.The meaning is that the "officers" should then subdivide the levies, and appoint leaders of the smaller divisions thus constituted. 9. they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people—When the exempted parties have withdrawn, the combatants shall be ranged in order of battle. Or rather, as the Hebrew hath it, they shall set or place the captains of the armies in the head or front of the people under their charge, that they may conduct and manage them, and by their example encourage their soldiers. But it is not likely they had their captains to make or choose when they were just going to battle.

And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people,.... By reciting what the anointed of war said unto them, and by speeches of their own framing, to encourage to the battle; and all were dismissed that had leave to depart, and chose to take it:

that they shall make captains of armies to lead on the people; on to battle; that is, either the officers should do this, which may seem to confirm what has been hinted, that they might be generals of the army, who constituted captains under them, to lead the people on to battle: unless this is to be understood of the princes of Israel, or of the king when they had one, and his ministers; for it does not appear in any instance that the people chose their own officers over them, to go out before them, and lead them on to battle; or "to be at the head of them" (z); which the Jewish writers understand in a very different sense; not to head them, or be at the head of them, to direct and command them, but to keep them from deserting: their sense is, that the officers having dismissed persons in the circumstances before described, and set stout men before them, and others behind them (i.e. the army of the people), with iron hatchets in their hands, and every one that sought to return, they had power to cut off his legs; since flight is the beginning of falling before their enemies (a).

(z) "in capite populi", Pagninus, Montanus. (a) Misn. ut supra (Sotah, c. 8.), sect. 6.

And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
9. they shall appoint] They, not necessarily the officers of the previous clause, but indefinite: those whose duty it is to appoint, or the people as a whole. Cp. 1Ma 3:55 f.

captains of hosts] The chiefs of the main divisions, cp. 1 Kings 2:5. These are not appointed till the host has been sifted of all whom it was not proper to allow to accompany it, because the exemptions apply to all ranks. With these rules for sifting the host, cp. Cromwell’s measures with the recruits for his Ironsides.

Verse 9. - The next thing the shoterim had to do was to appoint captains to head the people who were going to war. The army was divided into bands or companies, and over each of these a captain was placed, whose it was to command and lead (cf. Numbers 31:14, 48; 1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Samuel 22:7; 2 Samuel 18:1). Captains of the armies. The phrase, "captain of a host" (שַׂר צָבָא), usually designates the general or commander-in-chief of the entire army (Genesis 21:22; 2 Samuel 2:8; 1 Kings 16:16, etc.); but here the phrase is used in the plural of the chiefs of the companies or detachments of which the whole was composed. Deuteronomy 20:9When this was finished, the shoterim were to appoint captains at the head of the people (of war). פּקד, to inspect, to muster, then to give the oversight, to set a person over anything (Numbers 3:10; Numbers 4:27). The meaning "to lead the command" (Schultz) cannot be sustained; and if "captains of the armies" were the subject, and reference were made to the commanders in the war, the article would not be omitted. If the shoterim had to raise men for the war and organize the army, the division of the men into hosts (Zebaoth) and the appointment of the leaders would also form part of the duties of their office.
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