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Crescents. Midianite kings often decorated their camels with gold or silver pendants in the shape of a crescent moon (8:21). They may have believed the crescents were magic, since many of Israel’s neighbors worshiped the moon. Crescents are mentioned in Isaiah 3:16–18 as part of the “finery” that the Lord will take away from the […]

The night watch

The night watch. Watchmen were an important part of life in Bible times. They provided night-time protection both for soldiers in their tents and for ordinary people in their homes.

Camels at war?

Camels at war? The Midianites were among the first to use camels in warfare (6:5). Their camels were most likely the single-humped dromedary, which could travel more than 150 miles (240 km) in one day. The two-humped Bactrian camel was slower but could carry more weight than the dromedary. It was therefore ideal for trade […]


Donkeys played many roles in the ancient Near East. They provided much of the heavy labor in agriculture and provided personal transportation. The number of donkeys a man possessed often determined his wealth. White donkeys were highly prized (5:10) because they were rare.

Chariots of iron

Chariots of iron. Iron chariots were the equivalent of tanks in the ancient Near East. They were greatly feared by enemy foot soldiers. Charioteers could run over them, and archers riding in the chariots could hit them from a distance. The only real problem with chariots was that their wheels could get mired in mud.

Cool breezes

Cool breezes were rare in the arid climate of ancient Israel. Usually the best place to feel a nice breeze was on the roof of the house. Roofs served many purposes. They provided a place to dry grain and fruit and to store the harvest. They were also a good place to sleep on hot […]


Ashtoreth was the goddess of fertility, love, and war in Canaanite culture. Canaanite legends portray her as Baal’s wife or sister. She is also known by her Greek name, Astarte, and in Mesopotamian texts as Ishtar.

Toes and Thumbs

Toes and Thumbs. Victors in ancient battles would often cut off the thumbs and toes of their foes (1:6–7). This would allow their enemies to live but would prevent them from ever participating in another battle.