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Judges 7:16 (KJV), "And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers."

Now the Hebrew ends the verse saying: "and with empty pitchers, and torches within the pitchers."

How are these empty if they have torches in them? They are empty "and" with torches? If they were empty "but" with torches, then they are not empty, so why is the term "empty" here? Why not just "clay jars with torches inside."

I think this is quite peculiar. The term for empty in the Septuagint is κενάς (kenas). I got to this story from Philippians 2:7 and the verb κενόω (to empty) being applied to God's actions through Christ's.

I've also thought that it is fascinating that the same term for being empty (Heb: רֵיק) is applied to describe the army of Jephthah in Judges 11:3 (the word is different in LXX there).

Is there something else going on here?

Another example is with Gideon's calling,

Judges 6:19, So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them.

Here the author doesn't describe the pot of broth as empty, with broth in it. The basket isn't empty with meat in it...

Why is the jar in Judges 7:16 "empty, and a torch inside?"

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    A pitcher would normally carry fluid. They were empty of fluid, to accommodate the torches. The wording may well carry a spiritual allusion - perhaps the necessity of holy separation (emptiness) in order to contain the fire of spirituality. But this is a matter of the interpretation of spiritual allegory and many will call this 'opinion'. Hence a comment, not an answer.
    – Nigel J
    May 31, 2020 at 19:47
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    Interesting. Being "set apart" is different than being empty, I think.
    – Gus L.
    May 31, 2020 at 19:57
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    To be full of an Holy Spirit necessitates being empty of any other spirit.
    – Nigel J
    May 31, 2020 at 20:47
  • I googled "hidden anti-samaritan polemic in judges 7]" to find this, while reading chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/638426/jewish/… . Therefore, I appreciate your reference to Jephthah: "I've also thought that it is fascinating that the same term for being empty (Heb: רֵיק) is applied to describe the army of Jephthah in Judges 11:3 (the word is different in LXX there)." I have been wondering why he was included in Hebrews 11.32 as a 'hero of faith"? The word in LXX is Jephthah's name in Greek & used in Hebrews reference. Christ type? Jan 16, 2022 at 15:59
  • Would it be possible to keep a torch lit in a pitcher ? As soon as the oxygen was used up,the torch would extinguish.
    – N6TEZ
    Jan 17, 2022 at 22:54

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As Nigel pointed out, a pitcher would normally carry something - see 1 Sam 26.12 (Saul's water jug), 1 Kings 17.12 (the jug of oil) and Mark 14.13 (a man carrying a pitcher of water).

Not only that, but bringing an empty pitcher into battle is unusual enough that it requires clarification. The normal expectation would be for Gideon's people to carry supplies, not empty vessels towards battle.

As it turns out (Judges 7.20), the purpose of the pitchers here was also unusual - not to carry fluids, but to conceal the light from the torches. The torches were revealed all at the same time, with the noise from breaking the pitchers and then from the trumpets, creating the element of surprise that the Lord used to confuse the enemy camp and make them turn against each other (Judges 7:22).

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From Judges 6.19 "broth in a pot" reminds of "empty,vain" and a "well, cistern or bottomless pit" "kid" relates to "Gideon" and "jar" etymologically.

Rashi 6.19 It was Passover.
Rashi 7.13

Just after midnight Exodus 12.29

Rashi 7.16

cf. John 4.11 https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/4/1/t_conc_1001011 "nothing to draw with" and "well is deep". "bathos" Here it was after Passover and First born Jesus was escaping from Jerusalem.

I have been recently interested in Judges 6-9 because of Hidden Anti-Samaritan Polemic in Judges 7 The Midianite's Dream

". The torches were revealed all at the same time, with the noise from breaking the pitchers and then from the trumpets, creating the element of surprise that the Lord used to confuse the enemy camp and make them turn against each other (Judges 7:22)."

Is this unusual because it shows miraculous solution relying totally on God, or is there any legitimate military strategy involved creating element of surprise with small "guerilla" type group. This would make it also difficult to determine where the attack is coming from. News today mentioned FBI used flash/bang grenade to enter synagogue under hostage situation. https://www.google.com/search?q=flash+bang+dallas+synagogue&oq=flash+bang+dallas+synagogue&aqs=chrome..69i57.10553j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#:~:text=louder%20bang%2C%20possibly%20a%20flash%20grenade.%20Heard%20the%20loud%20bang%20followed%C2%A0...

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Symbol: Clay = person... God is the potter and we are the clay. Symbol: Fire = Holy Spirit Symbol: Shofar/horn of an animal/trumpet. Horn=power... power of God. Envision two rams raising up and crashing their horns together. Since both hands were occupied by Shofar/trumpet and by clay pot with lamp inside, It seems likely clay pot is broken by swinging shofar/ trumpet/ horn of animal against pot, revealing lamp inside. Symbolic meaning could possibly be, that when man (clay pot) is broken (as a horse is broken of its own self will and made more useable to its master), the broken pot/man reveals the Holy Spirit within. The battle was won by the power of God (the trumpet/animal horn) and a spirit-filled man of God (the clay pot with lamp inside). It is the same today. God uses men/women who are broken/surrendered to the will of God. God empowers them by the Power of the Holy spirit residing within the believer. There is no battle that we can not win if God is in it. We are more than conquerors thru Christ who loves us so.

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    Oct 28, 2023 at 13:39
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In Judges 7:8, Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. The empty jars described in Judges 7:16, were likely carrying the provisions originally. In Judges 7:15, Gideon affirmed that the Lord had given him the Midianites, and he planned to attack Midianite camp at night. His plan may have been to dump the provisions from the jars to hide the torches, so that they could get close to the camp without being detected. Then they smashed the jars and blow the trumpets from three sides, pretending that the Midianite camp was surrounded by a great army. What Gideon might not have known was that the torches inside the jars burned faintly with limited oxygen. Once they smashed the jars, the torches flared brightly, though only for a short moment, but it was effective in deceiving the Midianites into believing that there was a great army surrounding them.

So the jars (pitchers) were carrying their provisions at first. Gideon ordered his men to empty the jars to hide their torches (lamps).

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