Verses 18-21 (Judges 8:18-21)

Judgment began at the house of God, in the just correction of the men of Succoth and Penuel, who were Israelites, but it did not end there. The kings of Midian, when they had served to demonstrate Gideon?s victories, and grace his triumphs, must now be reckoned with. 1. They are indicted for the murder of Gideon?s brethren some time ago at Mount Tabor. When the children of Israel, for fear of the Midianites, made themselves dens in the mountains (Jdg. 6:2), those young men, it is likely, took shelter in that mountain, where they were found by these two kings, and most basely and barbarously slain in cold blood. When he asks them what manner of men they were (Jdg. 7:18), it is not because he was uncertain of the thing, or wanted proof of it; he was not so little concerned for his brethren?s blood as not to enquire it out before now, nor were these proud tyrants solicitous to conceal it. But he puts that question to them that by their acknowledgment of the more than ordinary comeliness of the persons they slew their crime might appear the more heinous, and consequently their punishment the more righteous. They could not but own that, though they were found in a mean and abject condition, yet they had an unusual greatness and majesty in their countenances, not unlike Gideon himself at this time: they resembled the children of a king, born for something great. 2. Being found guilty of this murder by their own confession, Gideon, though he might have put them to death as Israel?s judge for the injuries done to that people in general, as Oreb and Zeeb (Jdg. 7:25), yet chooses rather to put on the character of an avenger of blood, as next of kin to the persons slain: They were my brethren, Jdg. 7:19. Their other crimes might have been forgiven, at least Gideon would not have slain them himself, let them have answered it to the people; but the voice of his brethren?s blood cries, cries to him, now it is in the power of his hand to avenge it, and therefore there is no remedy?by him must their blood be shed, though they were kings. Little did they think to hear of this so long after; but murder seldom goes unpunished even in this life. 3. The execution is done by Gideon himself with his own hand, because he was the avenger of blood; he bade his son slay them, for he was a near relation to the persons murdered, and fittest to be his father?s substitute and representative, and he would thus train him up to the acts of justice and boldness, Jdg. 7:20. But, (1.) The young man himself desired to be excused; he feared, though they were bound and could make no resistance, because he was yet a youth, and not used to such work: courage does not always run in the blood. (2.) The prisoners themselves desired that Gideon would excuse it (Jdg. 7:21), begged that, if they must die, they might die by his own hand, which would be somewhat more honourable to them, and more easy; for by his great strength they would sooner be dispatched and rid out of their pain. As is the man, so is his strength. Either they mean it of themselves (they were men of such strength as called for a better hand than that young man?s to overpower quickly) or of Gideon, ?Thou art at thy full strength; he has not yet come to it; therefore be thou the executioner.? From those that are grown up to maturity, it is expected that what they do in any service be done with so much the more strength. Gideon dispatched them quickly, and seized the ornaments that were on their camels? necks, ornaments like the moon, so it is in the margin, either badges of their royalty or perhaps of their idolatry, for Ashteroth was represented by the moon, as Baal by the sun. With there he took all their other ornaments, as appears Jdg. 8:26; where we find that he did not put them to so good a use as one would have wished. The destruction of these two kings, and that of the two princes (Jdg. 7:25) is long afterwards pleaded as a precedent in prayer for the ruin of others of the church?s enemies, Ps. 83:11; Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and all their princes as Zebah and Zalmunna, let them all be but off in like manner.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary