Oreb (whose name means “raven”) and Zeeb (“wolf”) were Midianite leaders, or princes, who were captured and executed by the Israelites during the judgeship of Gideon.
The Midianites and their allies had been cruelly oppressing the Israelites for years, and Judges 7 records God’s gracious deliverance of His people through Gideon and his tiny army. Through some highly unusual military tactics, God miraculously routed a substantially larger enemy army in the Valley of Jezreel, sending them fleeing for their lives (Judges 7:16–22).
Once the enemy was on the run, Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, urging them to rush ahead and intercept the Midianite coalition at the River Jordan (Judges 7:24–25). The Ephraimites successfully mobilized and captured Oreb and Zeeb, though the rest of the Midianite leadership managed to slip across the river (Judges 8:4–5).
After capturing Oreb and Zeeb, the Ephraimites promptly executed them. The places where they were slain were renamed to commemorate this event: “They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb” (Judges 7:25). Afterwards, the Ephraimites took their foes’ heads and brought them to Gideon. The “rock of the raven” and the “winepress of the wolf” remained for years to commemorate God’s victory over the enemies of His people.
For the Israelites, the defeat of Oreb and Zeeb and the armies they led is an example of God’s mercy, justice, and power. He had rescued His people from an enemy bigger and stronger than they, and God had even delivered Midianite leaders into Israelite hands. Later, in the Psalms, Asaph asks for God’s help in defeating a coalition of nations arrayed against the Israelites. In his prayer, Asaph recalls the events of Judges 7 and asks for similar deliverance: “Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb” (Psalm 83:11).
In Isaiah, God promises to break the power of the Assyrians, who had tormented and attacked God’s people. First, God tells the people of Jerusalem not to fear the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:24). Then God promises to give His people the victory: “The Lord Almighty will lash them with a whip, as when he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb” (Isaiah 10:26). The Assyrians, despite their great strength and incessant boasting, would suffer the same fate as Oreb and Zeeb.
By bringing about the fall of Oreb and Zeeb, the leaders of Midian, God demonstrated that He is stronger than any earthly nation. He had promised He would protect and provide for the Israelites, if only they would turn to Him (Judges 6:6–10). The story of Oreb and Zeeb highlights the grace of God, who rescues His people when they cry out for help, and it should serve as a warning to anyone who would set himself against God and His chosen ones.