Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people
Such a proclamation as follows, was, according to the law of God, to be made when Israel went out to battle against their enemies, ( Deuteronomy 20:8 ) ; though it looks as if Gideon would not have made such proclamation, had he not been directed to it by the Lord, his army being so small in comparison of the enemy; and perhaps Gideon might understand that law to have respect only to war made for the enlargement of their country, and not for defence against invaders:
saying, whosoever is fearful and afraid;
to, engage in battle, because of the number of the enemy:
let him return, and depart early from Mount Gilead;
where it seems they now were, being the same with the hill of Moreh, or adjoining to it; a mountain in the tribe of Manasseh, so called either from its likeness to Mount Gilead on the other side Jordan; or rather in memory of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from whence the half tribe sprung, which was on this side, as well as that on the other; and perhaps this name might be given to the mount, to show that they were of the same tribe, though separated by Jordan: now the fearful and faint hearted had leave given them by this proclamation to return home directly; and as both armies lay so near, and it might reasonably be expected the battle would be the next day, they are directed to get away in the morning, as early as they could, that they might not be seen, and so be filled with shame themselves, and discourage others. Though some think Mount Gilead, on the other side Jordan, is meant, from whence it is supposed many came to Gideon, ( Judges 6:35 ) and now are ordered to return back, as many as were fearful; and instead of "from", they render the word "to", or "towards", or "beyond" Gilead. Kimchi thinks the word we render "depart early" has the signification of surrounding, a diadem being expressed by a word from hence, which encompasses the head, ( Isaiah 28:5 ) and so the sense is, that they were ordered to go round about Mount Gilead, and so return home; but it rather may signify their hasty departure and speedy flight, like that of a bird, ( Psalms 11:1 ) and there returned of the people 22,000, and there remained 10,000; so that they were in all 32,000: now though these of their own accord came and joined Gideon with an intention and resolution to stand by him, and fight the enemy, yet when they came and saw what a large host they had to engage with, and how small the army was with Gideon, their hearts failed them, and they were glad to take the advantage of the proclamation.