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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 at 19:47
  • Interesting. Being "set apart" is different than being empty, I think. – Gus L. May 31 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 at 20:47
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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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