Scriptures

Judges 8

Introduction

‘Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously. But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided. Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.” From there he went up to Peniel  and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.” Judges 8:1-9

It appears here that the Ephraimites were kind of jealous or left out of the initial battle, and we read that Gideon used the soldiers he had in reserve, sealing off the enemy escape route eastward down the valley and over the Jordan and his troops capture and kill two key enemy officers, named Oreb and Zeeb.

The officials of Sukkoth answered that they would not give provisions to Gideon in response to his request because Gideon hadn’t won the battle yet. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of the Midian hadn’t been defeated yet. It appears if Gideon were helped, then these kings would return and punish them, Genesis 32:30.

Notice Gideon says the same, he says if he is victorious, then he will return and punish them. Gideon assumed that they should have known that he was fighting God’s battle, and so, they should help God by giving his army provisions.

Zebah And Zalmunna

‘Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. He caught a young man of Sukkoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth, the elders of the town. Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.’ Judges 8:10-17

Here we read that a young man revealed to Gideon all the names, seventy five in all, of the leaders of Sukkoth, and they would have to pay the price for not assisting the one who was as actually delivering Israel from the hands of the Midianites.

Notice the punishment they received for not helping Gideon, he punished them as an example to others, he punished them ‘with desert thorns and briers’.

Some commentators believe this means they were tortured to death, while other commentators suggest that they were beaten into submission.

The fashion in which they were punished isn’t really important, what is important is that they were punished because of their lack in faith in God to help Gideon and his men when they needed them.

‘Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?” “Men like you,” they answered, each one with the bearing of a prince.” Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid. Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ ” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks.’ Judges 8:18-21

Here we read that the men whom Zebah and Zalmunna had murdered, were actually the brothers of Gideon. The good news is that they openly confessed what they had done, the bad news is because they were next to kin, Gideon had the right legally to declare their judgment of death, Deuteronomy 19:12-13 / Numbers 35:19 / Numbers 35:21.

Gideon’s Ephod

‘The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23

Here we read that out of gratitude, the throne of Israel is offered to the deliverer. The throne is offered to the slayer of kings and Gideon is urged to become king. But to his credit, Gideon unselfishly declines the offer to be crowned king of Israel. Why? ‘the LORD will rule over you.’

Gideon knew that he was only an instrument of God, and that Israel’s real King was the Lord Himself.

‘And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.’ Judges 8:24-27

Gideon continued to serve as a judge and lived out his days in prosperity. All he asks of his countrymen is a small portion of the captured gold, which he fashions into an ephod, which was a priestly garment used in worship. But what was supposed to be a symbol commemorating Israel’s victory regrettably became an object of worship.

Gideon’s Death

‘Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek. Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.’ Judges 8:28-32

After the defeat of the Midianites, the land had peace for forty years.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The importance of Joash, the father of Gideon is evident in a number of things. 1. His proprietary rights in the cultic establishment at Ophrah. 2. His definitive word in the altercation. 3. The mention of his sepulchre, the only one mentioned in Judges, and 4. His undoubted wealth. All of these things are a testimony of the wealth, power, and prestige of Gideon’s family, despite Gideon’s protest before the Angel of Jehovah in Judges 6:15.

Gideon certainly required a lot of wealth in order to take care of such an immense family, ‘many wives and 70 sons,’ to say nothing of his relation to that concubine in Shechem who became the mother of Abimelech.

The next chapter reveals that there was a special reason for mentioning Abimelech and his mother, suggesting that there were also many concubines.

The large number of Gideon’s sons is in keeping with the description of other judges. Jair, 30 sons, Judges 10:4, Ibzan, 30 sons and 30 daughters, Judges 12:9, and Abdon, 40 sons, Judges 12:14.

The fact that Abimelech’s mother was Gideon’s concubine living in Shechem calls attention to a type of concubinage in which the concubine continued to live with her parents, to have custody of the children, and to permit her husband to visit her.

“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.” Judges 8:33-34

Note what happens after Gideon passes away, the cycle continues, they get involved in idolatry, they end up in a mess, they repent and cry out to God for help.

God sends a deliverer, God uses that person to deliverer them and everything is great for a while but as soon as that deliverer dies, it starts all over again.

Gideon’s ignorance about the Word of God was a strong factor in his ability to trust God. He totally misunderstood the very nature and character of God. Gideon was a lowly farmer but with the Lord’s help, he became a mighty warrior.

Go To Judges 9

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16

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