Judges 20:38
Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.
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(38) signal which had been agreed upon.

That they should make.—Literally, multiply to cause to ascend. The actual words of the agreed on signal are quoted. For the word hereb (which is an imperative) some MSS. read chereb, “a sword,” and this is adopted by the LXX. (Cod. A). But the flash of a sword would not be seen at such a distance, and the word gives no good sense. Otherwise it would remind us of the shield, which was seen to flash in the sun as a traitorous signal from Athens to the Persians, just before the battle of Marathon.

A great flame with smoke.—The margin gives elevation for flame.” It means a column of smoke, or “beacon.” (Comp. Jeremiah 6:1 : “Set up a sign of fire in Beth-haccerem.”)

17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.Baal-tamar is only mentioned here. It took its name from some palm-tree that grew there; perhaps the same as the "palm-tree of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel" Judges 4:5, the exact locality here indicated, since "the highway" Judges 20:31 along which the Israelites enticed the Benjamites to pursue them, leads straight to Ramah, which lay only a mile beyond the point where the two ways branch off.

The meadows of Gibeah - The word rendered "meadow" is only found here. According to its etymology, it ought to mean a "bare open place", which is particularly unsuitable for an ambush. However, by a change in the vowel-points, without any alteration in the letters, it becomes the common word for "a cavern".

34. there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men—This was a third division, different both from the ambuscade and the army, who were fighting at Baal-tamar. The general account stated in Jud 20:35 is followed by a detailed narrative of the battle, which is continued to the end of the chapter. No text from Poole on this verse.

Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait,.... Or an appointed time (z) as the Targum; so Kimchi and Abarbinel. There was a time fixed, at which the men of Israel proposed to be at Baaltamar, exactly when the Benjaminites would be drawn at a proper distance from the city, and then the liers in wait were to break forth, and rush upon it, and enter it:

and that they should make a great flame with smoke to rise up out of the city; set it on fire, and cause the fire to burn fiercely, that there might be a large ascent of flame and smoke to be seen afar off; which, when the men of Israel saw, they would know the city was taken.

(z) "tempus constitutum", Panginus, Montanus, Junius et Tremellius, Piscator.

Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.
38. a great cloud of smoke] Omit great (hereb, an ungrammatical form) with LXX. cod. A and mss., Syr., Vulgate, as an incorrect repetition of the preceding word (’ôrçb).

Judges 20:38The Benjaminites, for instance, saw (this is the proper rendering of ויּראוּ with vav consec., which merely indicates the order of thought, not that of time) that they were beaten, and the man of Israel vacated the field before Benjamin (מקום נתן, to give place by falling back and flying), because they relied upon the ambush which they had placed against Gibeah. The Benjaminites did not perceive this till the ambush fell upon their rear. But the ambush itself, as is added in Judges 20:37 by way of further explanation, hastened and fell (fell as quickly as possible) into Gibeah, and went thither and smote the whole town with the edge of the sword. To this there is added the further explanation in Judges 20:38 : "And the arrangement of the Israelites with the ambush was this: multiply, to cause smoke-rising to ascend (i.e., cause a great cloud of smoke to ascend) out of the city." The only objection that can be raised to this view of הרב, as the imperative Hiphil of רבה, is the suffix ם-attached to להעלותם, since this is unsuitable to a direct address. This suffix can only be explained by supposing that there is an admixture of two constructions, the direct appeal, and the indirect explanation, that they were to cause to ascend. If this be not admitted, however, we can only follow Studer, and erase the suffix as an error of the pen occasioned by the following word משׂאת; for the other course suggested by Bertheau, namely that הרב should be struck out as a gloss, is precluded by the circumstance that there is no possible way of explaining the interpolation of so apparently unsuitable a word into the text. It certainly stood in the text used by the lxx, though they have most foolishly confounded הרב with חרב, and rendered it μάχαιρα.
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