Sunday, September 10, 2006

JUDGES 8

8:1-3 Jealousy in the Aftermath

8:1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight with Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger [1] against him subsided when he said this.

The Ephraimites were angry that Gideon did not call them for the fight. They seemed to be jealous that Gideon accomplished without them. Gideon turned out to be quite a diplomat. He diffused their anger with compliments of their great achievements. I once heard it said you could get a lot done if you didn’t care who got the credit.

The victory at Oreb is mentioned in Isaiah 10:26.

8:4-9 No Succor In Succoth

4 And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5 So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” 7 So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8 And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”

Although Gideon and his small band had routed the Midianites and were chasing them, neither the people of Succoth or Penuel were willing to feed them. There is a feeling here of contempt for Gideon’s small force and fear of the Midianites. If Gideon did not prevail, the Midianites might take revenge on those who helped Gideon.

Succoth, ironically, means “shelters” and was named by Jacob, after his meeting with Esau upon his return from Paddan Aram and built shelters for his livestock. He had just been at Peniel, where he wrestled with the angel. This is all recorded in Genesis 32-33.

So, these people would not support Gideon with food even though they were all Israelites, and he was fighting for Israel. He was also the Lord’s chosen servant for this task. But they would not support him.

This angered Gideon, who threatened retaliation against them both.


8:10-12 Capture of the Kings

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.

Gideon continued his pursuit, and attacked the 15,000 men left of the army of 135,000. He still only had 300 men. The army had relaxed, thinking they had escaped by crossing the Jordan. But, Gideon attacked them and captured two of the kings.

8:13-17 Gideon’s Revenge

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

After his victory, Gideon returned. He took the 77 elders of Succoth and whipped them with briers. He broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

8:18-21 Gideon’s Revenge II

18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

Gideon killed the 2 kings in retaliation for their killing his brothers at Tabor.


8:22-23 Refusing the Throne

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Now that Gideon led the fight to save Israel from the Midianites, the Israelites want to make him king and his family the royal family.

Gideon declined and said the Lord would rule over them. He understood that the Lord had won this victory and was the true king of Israel.

It is sad that the Israelites did not give God the glory for the victory, but sought to glorify Gideon. There is no mention of a feast or sacrifice to the Lord. Human beings are very prone to worship the tool God uses, rather than God. This happens today with preachers and speakers. We often call it a cult of personality. Almost all big churches and ministries are built on one person who is attractive and charismatic. The person is often the focus of attention and publicity, rather than the church or ministry, much less the Lord.

8:24-28 Gideon’s Reward-Israel’s Sin

24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels [2] of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.

Although Gideon declined the throne, he did seek a financial reward. With the gold he received, he made an ephod. An ephod was part of the dressing of the High Priest. It is thought to have been a skirt with shoulder straps, or an apron type of garment, according to Exodus 28. (also, see Micah 5) The weight of the gold used to make it was around 50 pounds. He took it back to his home town and placed it there. It could be that he put it on to inquire of the Lord, and, thus bypassed the priesthood. We see David do this also, use the ephod to inquire of the Lord, in 1 Samuel 23:9. Gideon already had an altar to the Lord, where he had made sacrifice, so he may have added the ephod and had a competing place of worship to the tabernacle at Shiloh.

The Israelites began to treat it as an idol and worshipped it, becoming unfaithful to the Lord. So, evidently, did Gideon and his family, as it became a snare to them.

Nonetheless, Gideon’s obedience to the Lord produced a peace which lasted for a generation, or 40 years.

Matthew Henry said “Hitherto the times of Israel had been reckoned by forties. Othniel judged forty years, Ehud eighty—just two forties, Barak forty, and now Gideon forty, providence so ordering it to bring in mind the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation. And see Eze. 4:6. After these, Eli ruled forty years (1 Sa. 4:18), Samuel and Saul forty (Acts 13:21), David forty, and Solomon forty. Forty years is about an age.”

8:29-35 The Death of Gideon

29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, [3] for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.

Gideon returned home after his military victories. In that, he showed humility. But, he did not obey God in other respects. In addition to planting the ephod, Gideon took on many wives and concubines, and has 70 sons. Once was born in Schechem and was called Abimelech (“my father, a king”). His name is mentioned because of what he does later. (It also makes you wonder if Gideon had second thoughts about taking the kingship. Or, it could have been that his mother, as a concubine rather than a full wife, wanted to increase his stature. )

After Gideon died, the Israelites returned to Baal worship and abandoned the worship of the Lord. They began with false worship of the ephod, then went to false religion with false gods. They also did not recognize Gideon’s family for what Gideon had done. Baal-berith means Baal, or Lord, of the covenant, or Baal with whom they have a covenant, a particular affront to the Lord who truly was in covenant with Israel. Judges 9:4 tells us there was a temple to Baal-berith there.
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