International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
o'-reb, ze'-eb, zeb (`orebh, "raven," especially "crow"), and (ze'ebh, "wolf") (Judges 7:25; Judges 8:3 Psalm 83:11, Isaiah 10:26 (Oreb only)): Two Midianite chieftains captured and beheaded by the Ephraimites, who brought their heads to Gideon.
1. Meaning of Names:
As to the meaning of the two names, both words are found in Arabic. Robertson Smith, Kinship, etc. (190;, 218;), says that the use of the names of animals as names of persons is a relic of totemism. But Noldeke (ZDMG, XL, 160;) and others hold that such a use shows a desire that those so named should be as disagreeable to their enemies as the plant or animal which the name denoted. Some again (e.g. Stade, Geschichte, 189;) maintain that the two names here are borrowed from localities and not vice versa, as Judges 7:25 implies. If so, we must take the names to be originally two places, apparently in Ephraim, for the words "beyond Jordan" in 7:25 contradict 8:4, where it is said that Gideon came to the Jordan and passed over. Moore (Judges, 214) suggests that the two localities were near the junction with the Jordan of the stream that comes from Wady Far`ah. The construction of the Hebrew allows of a translation "the rock (called) Oreb," and "the winepress (called) Zeeb."
2. The Battle of Oreb:
The account of a battle here is corroborated by Isaiah 10:26, a verse which mentions the "rock of Oreb," and suggests that the great defeat of the Midianites took place there (compare Isaiah 9:4). The passage in Isaiah 10:24-26 is prose, however, and is said to be late editing (see G.H. Box, Isaiah, 65). In Psalm 83:11 (Hebrew 12) there is a prayer that God would make the "nobles" among the Psalmist's enemies as Oreb and Zeeb.
David Francis Roberts