Judges 8 Commentary

 

 

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Judges 8:1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously.

the men (KJV): Jdg 12:1-6 2Sa 19:41 Job 5:2 Ec 4:4 Jas 4:5,6
Why (KJV): etc. Heb. What thing is this thou hast done unto us, sharply. Heb. strongly.

THEN:

The chronology in chapter 8 seems to be as follows: Gideon’s pursuit of the two kings (Jdg 8:4-12); his disciplining of the defiant Jews on his journey home (Jdg 8:13, 14, 15, 16, 17); the protest of the Ephraimites after he arrived home (Jdg 8:1, 2, 3); the slaying of the kings (Jdg 8:18, 19, 20, 21); and Gideon’s “retirement” (Jdg 8:22-35). Each of these events presented a new challenge to Gideon, and he responded differently to each one.

THE MEN OF EPHRAIM:

The tribe of Ephraim had a proud heritage (Jdg 1:22) and felt insulted by Gideon's failure to call on them earlier Jdg 8:1). They had cooperated honorably with Ehud (Jdg 3:26, 27, 28, 29-note) and Barak (Jdg 5:13, 14-note) and may have wondered why they were left out this time or perhaps they were eager for some of the rich Midianite plunder that went to the victor.

SAID TO HIM, "WHAT IS THIS THING YOU HAVE DONE TO US, NOT CALLING US WHEN YOU WENT TO FIGHT AGAINST MIDIAN:

Note this story is an excellent illustration of the truth found in (Pr 15:1) instructing us that a gentle or soft answer is always in order when we sense thunderclouds of wrath rising in the other person.

Ephraim, however, missed out on acquiring some valuable spoils of war from over 100,000 soldiers, and this may have been what irritated them. (Usually when people criticize something you’ve done, there’s a personal reason behind their criticism; and you may never find out what the real reason was.) Since David’s unselfish law governing the dividing of the spoils of war hadn’t been established yet (1Sa 30:21, 22, 23, 24, 25), those who didn’t participate in the battle didn’t share in the loot. When the men of Ephraim should have been thanking Gideon for delivering the nation, they were criticizing him and adding to his burdens.

AND THEY CONTENDED WITH HIM VIGOROUSLY: interesting they contended with he was name "let Baal CONTEND".

Gideon called Ephraim to capture the two famous princes, which they did. But they were provoked! How easy it is for the flesh to act even when God has given a great victory. Gideon could have “told them off” but instead he practiced Pr15:1 ("A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."). It is better to control our feelings than to conquer a city (Pr16:32 "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city."); and if Gideon had offended his brethren, he might never win them back (Pr18:19 "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle."). Godly leaders must know how to control their own feelings.

Contrast Gideon, who placates the wrath of this tribe (Jdg 8:2-3), with Jephthah, who brings humiliation and defeat to it (Jdg 12:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-note).

Warren Wiersbe provides an interesting analysis of Judges 8:

It takes all kinds to make a nation (or a church), and a leader must know how to handle each one, especially after a great victory.

The critical (Jdg 8:1-3)

They were angry with Gideon because they were left out and did not share in the glory. Gideon tactfully gave them the “soft answer” that healed the wounds and prevented division (Pr 15:1; Ep 4:1, 2, 3-note, Ep 4:29-note). Better to do that than to start another war.

The cynical (Jdg 8:4-9)

They said, “You have not yet won the battle, so why should we help you?” The men of Succoth had no faith in God or appreciation for Gideon and his men, and their lack of love cost them dearly.

The cowardly (Jdg 8:10-21)

Executing two famous kings would be a great way to start a military career, but the lad was too immature to carry it out. We wonder if Gideon remembered his own fears and God’s patience with him.

The compromising (Jdg 8:22-35)

Unlike Abraham, Gideon became covetous and asked for a generous share of the loot (Ge14:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24). This led to idolatry and apostasy because the heart of man is ever ready to indulge in sin.

 

Judges 8:2 But 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 vintage of Abiezer?

What (KJV): 1Co 13:4-7 Ga 5:14,15 Php 2:2,3 Jas 1:19,20 3:13-18
Is not the (KJV): That is, the Ephraimites have performed more important services than Gideon and his men had achieved.
Abiezer (KJV): Jdg 6:11,34

BUT HE SAID TO THEM, WHAT HAVE I DONE NOW IN COMPARISON WITH YOU:

Perhaps Gideon’s immediate feelings to Ephraim being "in his face" weren’t that cordial, but he controlled himself and treated his brothers with kindness and his reply (Pr 15:1, 16:32) stands in marked contrast to that of Jephthah (Jdg 12:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-note). Gideon might have questioned the Ephraimites' motives by asking them why they had not taken action on their own during the long seven-year oppression.

IS NOT THE GLEANING OF THE GRAPES OF EPHRAIM BETTER THAN THE VINTAGE OF ABIEZER:

"Gleaning" is used here figuratively by Gideon of Ephraim's military achievements.

"of the grapes" added by NASB translators but not in original Hebrew.

In a sense Ephraim received the "leftovers" (NIV, "gleanings"). These, however, were more substantial than the initial victory ("harvest") won by his little Abiezrite clan. Gideon calmed their anger and avoided the civil war that later flared up between Ephraim and Manasseh (Jdg 12:4, 5, 6-note).

 

Judges 8:3 "God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

God (KJV): Jdg 7:24,25 Ps 44:3 115:1 118:14-16 Jn 4:37 Ro 12:3,6 15:18,19 Php 2:3
Then (KJV): Pr 15:1 16:32 25:11,15
anger (KJV): Heb. spirit

GOD HAS GIVEN:

Note that Gideon (like the verses below) has a proper perspective of Who this victory belongs to and Who it is Who is to receive the glory.

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Thy name give glory because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth." (Ps 115:1-note)

"The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly. The right hand of the LORD is exalted; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.  (Psalms 118:14, 15, 16-note)

"For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3-note

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-note)

THE LEADERS OF MIDIAN, OREB (raven) AND ZEEB (wolf) INTO YOUR HANDS AND WHAT WAS I ABLE TO DO IN COMPARISON WITH YOU:

Jealousy is a hindrance to the work of God, fostering disunity and distracting attention from the main task of the people of God. With Gideon's gentle answer (Pr 15:1), he averted conflict and set a noble example for every Christian leader.

THEN THEIR ANGER TOWARD HIM SUBSIDED WHEN HE SAID THAT:

This suggest that Gideon was one who at this stage of his spiritual pilgrimage was in control of his spirit.

It’s sad when brothers declare war on each other after they’ve stood together to defeat the enemy.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1-note)

It didn’t cost Gideon much to swallow his pride and compliment the men of Ephraim. He told them that their capturing Oreb and Zeeb was a greater feat than anything the men had done from his hometown of Abiezer. Peace was restored and Gideon returned to the more important tasks at hand.

In Poor Richard’s Almanack (1734), Benjamin Franklin wrote:

Take this remark from Richard, poor and lame,
Whate’er’s begun in anger ends in shame.

And King Solomon wrote,

“The beginning of strife is like  releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Pr 17:14, NKJV).

 

Judges 8:4 Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing.

faint (KJV): 1Sa 14:28,29,31,32 30:10 2Co 4:8,9,16 Ga 6:9 Heb 12:1-4

THEN GIDEON AND THE 300 MEN WHO WERE WITH HIM:

God had said, By these 300 men will I deliver you (Jud7:7).

CAME TO THE JORDAN AND CROSSED OVER, WEARY YET PURSUING

The tiny army was now some 40 miles from the hill of Moreh when they came to Succoth, just north of the Jabbok River. Worn out from the long chase, Gideon asked these residents of Gad for some provisions. The men of Succoth surely must have reasoned that the fleeing Midianites would soon regroup and easily defeat the makeshift army of only 300 thrown together by Gideon. Any assistance given to Gideon would implicate Succoth and bring certain retaliation from the feared nomads. And so fear of man brought a snare to Succoth (and Penuel) for which they paid dearly. Compare Angel of the Lord cursing Meroz (Jdg 5:23-note) because they did not come to the help of the LORD. In a sense Succoth & Penuel are not coming to the "help of the LORD" because Gideon is the LORD's emissary and deliverer to accomplish the LORD's work (Jdg 6:14,16). So even as Saul persecution of believers was tantamount to persecution of Jesus (Acts 9:4,5), Succoth & Penuel's refusal to help and taunting was an affront to the Most High God of Israel. Having said all this it seems that there is therefore some justification for Gideon's subsequent seemingly harsh punishment of these "traitors". 

 

Judges 8:5 And he said to the men of Succoth, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian."

Succoth (KJV): Ge 33:17 Ps 60:6
loaves (KJV): Ge 14:18 Dt 23:4 1Sa 25:18 2Sa 17:28,29 3Jn 1:6-8

AND HE SAID TO THE MEN OF SUCCOTH:

E of the Jordan and N of the Jabbok River. Succoth is in the territory of the tribe of Gad so these were Gideon's "brethren" not enemies. There response shows how sin had begun to corrode the tribal unity so that every man did what was right in his own eyes.

PLEASE (I beg you = marker of emphasis) GIVE LOAVES OF BREAD TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE FOLLOWING ME:

The Ammonites and Moabites, relatives of the Jews through Lot, failed to help Israel with food; and God declared war on them (Dt 23:3, 4, 5, 6). Hospitality is one of the basic laws of the East, and custom demands that the people meet the needs of strangers as well as relatives. Hospitality was also an important ministry in the early church, for there were no hotels where guests might stay; and in times of persecution, many visitors were fleeing. (Ro12:13-note; 1Ti 5:10; Heb13:2-note; 1Pe 4:9-note.)

FOR THEY ARE WEARY:

They had been up all night & yet weary, they pressed on. "Weary & pursuing" could describe many of God's saints over the centuries striving according to His power which mightily works within them. Gideon had been delivered from the depths of a winepress and was a man on mission to accomplish the will of God to utterly destroy the enemy. He kept his eyes on the real enemy and we believers today need to do the same.

 

Judges 8:6 And the leaders of Succoth said, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?"

Jdg 5:23 Ge 25:13 37:25,28 1Sa 25:10,11 1Ki 20:11 2Ki 14:9 Pr 18:23 Php 2:21

AND THE LEADERS OF SUCCOTH SAID ARE THE HANDS OF ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA:

This may allude to the practice (although not apparently condoned or commanded by God) at that time of the victor cutting off the hands of the dead victims as a convenient body count. Saul required David to produce one hundred Philistine foreskins to prove he had killed that number (1Sa18:25; cf. Jdg1:6-note).

ALREADY IN YOUR HANDS:

These were Gadite brethren and should have been helpers not hindrances. How often are good soldier's of Christ Jesus (2Ti 2:4,5-note) jeered and taunted and derided and not supported in their quest for that word & work which they indubitably have heard from God. The goal He has promised to believers may to doubters seem impossible and so they refuse to throw in their lot with us. But we must set our faces like flint toward Jerusalem and press on toward the goal. In eternity future, the shallow tauntings will be long forgotten as we bask in the presence of the Captain of the hosts and hear "Well done, My weary warrior". So be not detracted good soldier but fight on in His strength and for His glory. And so Gideon pressed onward in the face of "discouraging words" and "obstacles". If God had called him to defeat the Midianites as if they were one man (Jdg 8:7) then God would provide the necessary strength to complete the task.

THAT WE SHOULD GIVE BREAD TO YOUR ARMY:

Their lack of faith in Gideon and especially in Gideon's God (after all surely they must have been told that 300 defeated 135,000...what more proof would they need?) meant that they lived in deep fear of reprisal from the Midianites. 

 

Judges 8:7 And Gideon said, "All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers."

tear (KJV): Heb. thresh, Jdg 8:16

AND GIDEON SAID, "ALL RIGHT, WHEN (not "if") THE LORD HAS GIVEN ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA INTO MY HAND:

Perhaps the tribes of Transjordan could be excused for failing to aid Deborah and Barak (Jdg 5:17-note), but neutrality was impossible when the conflict was on their soil (cp Jdg 5:23-note).

THEN I WILL THRASH (thresh, trample) YOUR BODIES WITH THE THORNS OF THE WILDERNESS AND WITH BRIERS:

"Thrash" (duwsh) usually means "thresh," and it may indicate that the victims were dragged over thorns or laid on thorns. The word means to tread as one treads wheat and it could have a figurative meaning. Either way it sounds gruesome.  In Amos 1:3, Damascus is condemned for threshing Gilead with iron instruments.

 

Judges 8:8 And he went up from there to Penuel, and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered.

Ge 32:30,31 1Ki 12:25

AND HE WENT UP FROM THERE TO PENUEL:

Moving 6 miles East Gideon received the same response from the people of Peniel. In the very place (Penuel or Peniel = "face of God")  where Jacob had wrestled with God and God had his name changed to Israel (Ge 32:28, 29, 30), these descendants of his refused to believe that God could give victory over the Midianites. Gideon vowed that he would soon demolish the fortified tower that had made Peniel an important city (Jdg 8:9).

AND SPOKE SIMILARLY TO THEM; AND THE MEN OF PENUEL ANSWERED HIM JUST AS THE MEN OF SUCCOTH HAD ANSWERED.

 

Judges 8:9 So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I return safely, I will tear down this tower."

I come (KJV): 1Ki 22:27,28
I will break (KJV): Jdg 8:17

SO HE SPOKE ALSO TO THE MEN OF PENUEL, SAYING, "WHEN I RETURN SAFELY:

 KJV = when I come again in peace" (shalom). But it would not be for he goes on to say...

I WILL TEAR DOWN THIS TOWER:

Therefore similar to the earlier curse on the city of Meroz in Deborah’s time (cf. Jud 5:23-note), Gideon threatened to punish them in retribution for their virtual hostility. Gideon was to win a complete victory over Midian, but it meant anything but "peace" for Peniel!

 

Judges 8:10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen.

Karkor (KJV): If this were the name of a place, it is no where else mentioned. Some contend that {karkor} signifies rest; and the Vulgate renders it {requiescebant,} "rested". This seems the most likely; for it is said (ver. 11) that Gideon "smote the host: for the host was secure."
children (KJV): Jdg 7:12
fell an hundred (KJV): etc. or, an hundred and twenty thousand every one drawing a sword, Jdg 7:22 20:2,15,17,25,35,46 2Ki 3:26 2Ch 13:17 28:6,8 Isa 37:36


The Disciple's Study Bible has an interesting note writing that...

Today's readers are often surprised how many murders are described in the Old Testament. Accounts such as this one are more descriptive than prescriptive in nature. They major on the "what'' and "how'' of an incident but do not develop the "why'' of an incident beyond the matter of revenge. In a world dominated by cause and effect values, little time was given to reconciliation or rehabilitation. Thus, often the murders associated with political intrigue, war, and interpersonal conflict do not reflect normative, timeless principles for dealing with injustice. Caution must be applied before making quick jumps of application to contemporary time based on such incidents. Such caution asks from where the initiative comes for any acts of killing. For example, to say even "but God is on our side'' must bear the proof when matters of life and death are raised. In Gideon's case the biblical emphasis is on punishment of murderers rather than justifying Gideon's attitude of vengeance. A helpful consideration is to read these passages through the light of Jesus' actions, words, and attitudes." (Disciple's Study Bible)

 

Judges 8:11 And Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp, when the camp was unsuspecting.

Nobah (KJV): Nobah took its name from an Israelite who conquered it; and is said by Eusebius to have been, in his time, a forsaken place eight miles south from Heshbon. Jogbehah was probably near it. Nu 32:35,42
secure (KJV): Jdg 18:27 1Sa 15:32 30:16 1Th 5:3

AND GIDEON WENT UP BY THE WAY OF THOSE WHO LIVED IN TENTS ON THE EAST OF NOBAH AND JOGBEHAH:

Gideon pressed farther into Transjordan, following the caravan trail taken by the Midianites. By this time the remnants of the Midianite army were in Karkor (v10), located perhaps in the Wadi Sirhan, east of the Dead Sea. Gideon passed Jogbehah, about fifteen miles southeast of Peniel and seven miles northwest of modern Amman.

AND ATTACKED THE CAMP, WHEN THE CAMP WAS UNSUSPECTING:

"Unsuspecting" (betach) conveys the thought that the Midianite army was dwelling in safety, with a sense of carelessness, in a place of refuge and with a feeling of trust! Little did they know that the LORD's army would soon demolish them! Sinners may think they are safe but in due time their foot will slip (Deut 32:35 the verse Jonathan Edwards used for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God "). 

 

Judges 8:12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

took (KJV): Jos 10:16-18,22-25 Job 12:16-21 34:19 Ps 83:11 Am 2:14 Rev 6:15,16 19:19-21
discomfited (KJV): Heb. terrified

WHEN ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA FLED, HE PURSUED THEM AND CAPTURED THE TWO KINGS OF MIDIAN, ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA:

Gideon's main goal was the capture of Midian's two kings, for without leadership the eastern hordes were not likely to resume their raids to the west. The two kings probably belonged to different tribal groups. Multiple rule in Midian was also the practice earlier, for Moses killed five Midianite kings (Num 31:7, 8).

AND ROUTED (caused to tremble) THE WHOLE ARMY:

"Routed" (charad) means to tremble, to quake, to be terrified which describes the effect that Gideon's surprise attack had on the Midianite forces.

This conflict began at "the spring of Harod" (Judges 7:1-note), where Gideon's 22,000 men "trembled with fear" (related Hebrew word chared in Judges 7:3-note) at the spring of Harod (which means "Trembling"!). How fitting that this battle should end with terror-stricken, trembling (charad) Midianites!

 

Judges 8:13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.

before (KJV): The words {milmaaleh haichaires} should, most probably be rendered "from the ascent of Chares;" which is the reading of the LXX. Syriac, Arabic, and Houbigant. Jdg 8:13

X

 

Judges 8:14 And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.

aught (KJV): Jdg 1:24,25 1Sa 30:11-15
described (KJV): Heb. writ

AND HE CAPTURED A YOUTH FROM SUCCOTH AND QUESTIONED HIM:

Demsky and M. Kochavi argue that the "young man" was probably a local official familiar with the names of the taxpayers (cf. "An Alphabet From the Days of the Judges," Biblical Archaeology Review 4, 3 [Sept--Oct 1978]: 28).

THEN THE YOUTH WROTE DOWN FOR HIM:

Writing was widely known by the time of the Judges. Our first written documents antedate 3000 B.C. Documents from Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) in Canaan date from the fifteenth century B.C. 16.

 

Judges 8:15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, "Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning 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 weary?'"

upbraid (KJV): Jdg 8:6,7

AND HE CAME TO THE MEN OF SUCCOTH AND SAID, "BEHOLD ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA, CONCERNING WHOM YOU TAUNTED ME:

Taunt (harap) means to reproach or to agitate someone about something. It refers to sarcastic challenge in a mocking or insulting manner. It suggests a jeeringly provoking insult or challenge.

SAYING, 'ARE THE HANDS OF ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA ALREADY IN YOUR HAND, THAT WE SHOULD GIVE BREAD TO YOUR MEN WHO ARE WEARY:

The seventy-seven men who were registered on this death list heard Gideon repeat their earlier taunt before carrying out the punishment (v15). It is quite probably that just like their neighbors in Peniel, the men of Succoth also died for their guilt (Jdg 8:16, 17).

"Weary" (yaep) means faint or exhausted.  Gideon adds this detail ("weary") to the men of Succoth's earlier taunting when they had refused to help him, asking: "Why should we give bread to your troops?" (Jdg 8:6). They showed no sympathy for Gideon's exhausted, worn-out troops (Jdg 8:4, 5). By altering their words he highlighted the extreme situation of his men at the time of his request, as well as the gross insensitivity of the men of Succoth and thus made a solid case for punishing them.

 

Judges 8:16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.

the elders (KJV): Jdg 8:7 Pr 10:13 19:29 Ezr 2:6
thorns (KJV): Mic 7:4
taught (KJV): Heb. made to know, Instead of {wyyoda,} Houbigant, Lev Clerc, and others read {wyyadosh,} "and he tore or threshed;" and this is not only agreeable to what Gideon threatened (ver. 7), but is supported by the LXX. Vulgate, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. The Hebrew text might easily have been corrupted simply by the change of [Shiyn,] {shin,} into ['Ayin,] {ayin,} letters very similar to each other.

AND HE TOOK THE ELDERS OF THE CITY, AND THORNS OF THE WILDERNESS AND BRIERS AND HE DISCIPLINED THE MEN OF SUCCOTH WITH THEM:

The form yada`, translated "disciplined" (NASB) or "taught...a lesson" (NIV) is disputed. Some ancient versions favor yadhash (yadash) which means "thresh" and which would agree with the earlier description [v7].  In either event Gideon had the leaders of Succoth dragged over thorns, which may have taught them a lesson if indeed they lived! This was a cruel torture to which ancient captives were often subjected. Gideon’s made good on his threatened discipline of Succoth’s leaders for refusing to help their brothers. 

 

Judges 8:17 And he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

Jdg 8:9 1Ki 12:25

AND HE TORE DOWN:

The word nathats is same one used when Gideon "broke down" the altar of Baal (Jdg 6:31, 32-note).

THE TOWER OF PENUEL AND KILLED THE MEN OF THE CITY:

Warren Wiersbe writes:

"Why didn’t Gideon show to the people of Succoth and Peniel the same kindness that he showed to the Ephraimites and simply forgive them their offenses? For one thing, their offenses were not alike. The pride of Ephraim was nothing compared to the rebellion of Succoth and Peniel. Ephraim was protecting their tribal pride, a sin but not a costly one; but Succoth and Peniel were rebelling against God’s chosen leader and assisting the enemy at the same time. Theirs was the sin of hardness of heart toward their brethren and treason against the God of heaven. Of what good was it for Gideon and his men to risk their lives to deliver Israel if they had traitors right in their own nation? Leaders must have discernment or they will make wrong decisions as they deal with different situations. Personal insults are one thing, but rebellion against the Lord and His people is quite something else."

 

Judges 8:18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" And they said, "They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king."

Tabor (KJV): Jdg 4:6 Ps 89:12
As thou art (KJV): Ps 12:2 Jude 1:16
resembled (KJV): Heb. according to the form of, etc

THEN:

When Gideon arrived back home at Ophrah, leading Zebah and Zalmunna captive, the procession must have been as exciting as a ticker-tape parade. Gideon was a true hero. With only 300 men, he had routed the enemy camp and then pursued the fleeing soldiers across the Jordan and as far south as Karkor. He had brought his royal prisoners back, plus whatever spoils the men had gathered along the way.

HE SAID TO ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA, "WHAT KIND OF MEN WERE THEY WHOM YOU KILLED AT TABOR:

The question implies that Gideon knew that Zebah and Zalmunna had killed his brothers. The reply was in the form of arrogant flattery: “They were just such men as you, men of kingly figure” Someone has said that flattery is a good thing to taste but a bad thing to swallow, and Gideon didn’t swallow it!

AND THEY SAID, "THEY WERE LIKE YOU, EACH ONE RESEMBLING THE SON OF A KING:

As discussed under the note above after "Then", the scene by now had probably shifted back eastward across the Jordan River into the homeland of the tribe of Manasseh, so that Gideon could display his captives to the main body of Israelites. The presence of his young son, Jether, who likely did not accompany his father in the rigorous pursuit, also points to a location nearer home. After viewing the vengeance taken by Gideon on fellow Israelites, the Midianite kings did not hold out much hope for their own survival. In fact, they seemed to prefer death by admitting they had killed Gideon's full brothers, who shared his impressive appearance.

"Resembling the son of a king" (NIV renders it "the bearing of a prince”) is a description which sets the stage for Gideon's subsequent actions. These enemies acknowledge, he was beginning to look like a king and the grateful people were ready to enthrone him as their ruler (Jdg 8:22).

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Judges 8:18
F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily


As thou art, do were they; each one resembled the children of a king.

It was a magnificent tribute to the royal bearing of this illustrious family. All the children had the stamp of kingliness on them, which had impressed even these barbaric princes. Would that a similar confession could be extorted from those who behold the members of the royal house of Jesus!

The children of a king! It is within the reach of any who aspire to it. By the second birth we become the children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, and the Spirit witnesses to our sonship, teaching us to cry, Abba, Father. As children of the great King we should bear the sign of our high lineage in our bearing and walk.

Royalty of Demeanor. — There is an aristocratic bearing in the scions of noble houses among men. The head is lifted high, the mien is proud, the manner distant and reserved. But in the family of God, meekness and lowliness, humility and contriteness, are marks of family likeness. We walk as Jesus walked, of whom the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Royalty of Dress. — The king is marked by the brilliant orders glittering on his breast. Purple and ermine become those who date their descent from a line of kings. But the emblem of our family is the cross; our color is scarlet; our insignia is the towel and basin that speak of lowly service.
Royalty of Occupation. — The earthly king does nothing servile. He is waited on with lowly obeisance. But they who are of the same family as Jesus are found performing the lowliest acts of service, in jails, hospitals, and slums. In this they follow closely on the steps of Him who went about doing good.

 

Judges 8:19 And he said, "They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you."

AND HE SAID, "THEY WERE MY BROTHERS, THE SONS OF MY MOTHER:

Gideon explained that they were his full brethren, i.e., not only of the same father but of the same mother as well. In an age when men often had several wives it was necessary to distinguish between full brothers and half brothers. Gideon had considered sparing the kings' lives, but the additional element of personal revenge made their death certain. Moreover, the death of enemy leaders almost always accompanied total military victory (Jdg 3:21, 22, 23, 24, 25-note; Jdg 4:21, 22-note, Jdg 9:55-note; Jos10:26).

AS THE LORD LIVES, IF ONLY YOU HAD LET THEM LIVE, I WOULD NOT KILL YOU:

According to Mosaic Law, the family was to avenge crimes like this by killing those responsible for the murder. There was no police system in the land, and each family was expected to track down and punish those who had murdered their relatives, provided the culprit was guilty (Nu35:9-34). In the case of Zebah and Zalmunna, the culprits were not only murderers but also enemies of Israel.

Gideon felt obligated to carry out the duty of the Blood Avenger (Dt 19:6,12). Thus Gideon persisted until he vanquished he enemy and slew their leaders. 

 

Judges 8:20 So he said to Jether his first-born, "Rise, kill them." But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth.

Jos 10:24 1Sa 15:33 Ps 149:9

SO HE SAID TO JETHER HIS FIRST-BORN, "RISE, KILL THEM:

In those days, how a soldier died was important to his reputation. Abimelech didn’t want to die at the hand of a woman (Jdg 9:53, 54-note), and King Saul didn’t want to fall into the hands of the Philistines (1Sa 31:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). For a child to kill a king would be the ultimate in humiliation thus Gideon told his young son Jether to execute the two criminals. By doing so, Jether would not only uphold the law of the land and humiliate the two kings, but he would also bring honor to himself. For the rest of his life, he would be known as the boy who executed Zebah and Zalmunna.

 

Judges 8:21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength." So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels' necks.

Rise thou (KJV): It was disgraceful to fall by the hands of a child; and death by the blows of such a person must be much more lingering and tormenting. Some have employed children to dispatch captives. Jdg 9:54 1Sa 31:3,5 Rev 9:6
slew (KJV): Ps 83:1
ornaments (KJV): or, ornaments like the moon, Isa 3:18

GIDEON AROSE AND KILLED ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA:

Gideon gave the honor of executing the kings to his firstborn son, Jether (v20). The lad shunned this gruesome task, and the kings quickly pointed out that this was a man's job (v21). For them it would be more honorable and less painful to be killed by a renowned warrior like Gideon. Death at the hands of a boy or a woman was considered a disgrace (Jdg 5:24, 25, 26, 27-note; Jdg 9:54-note). Gideon complied with their final request and slew the kings as Samuel slew Agag (1Sa 15:33).


AND TOOK THE CRESCENT (moon shaped) ORNAMENTS WHICH WERE ON THEIR CAMELS' NECKS:

The Moon in its first quarter was a religious symbol from earliest times and figured, for example, in the worship of the Near Eastern goddess Astarte. Also take note of whose ornaments these were ? The Kings' royal ornaments. So could this have been a "leak" that began to erode Gideon's character. He would not be the first leader brought down by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. 

 

Judges 8:22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian."

Rule thou (KJV): Jdg 9:8-15 1Sa 8:5 12:12 Jn 6:15

THEN THE MEN OF ISRAEL SAID TO GIDEON, "RULE OVER US, BOTH YOU AND YOUR SON ALSO YOUR SON'S SON:

After winning a great victory, we must always beware of the temptation to sin, for Satan attacks us subtly when we least expect it. The nation asked Gideon to become their Ruler and to establish a dynasty; but this he refused. This is the first recorded attempt to establish. a hereditary monarchy in Israel. (see Deut 33:5)

FOR YOU HAVE DELIVERED US FROM THE HAND OF MIDIAN:

The Lord had reduced Gideon's army to a handful of men so that the people would not attribute victory to their own strength (Jdg 7:2, 3, 4-note). Despite the Lord's clear leading in the victory, the people maintained that their success was a result of Gideon's leadership! To Gideon's credit, he did correct them in the next verse (Jdg 8:23), but the point remains that the people's perspective on the source of their victory was proof of their spiritual insensitivity and their man-centered focus, which ultimately culminated in their request for a king in the days of Samuel (1Sa 8:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Who had really delivered them? Does God use this opportunity to correct that error? God had used Gideon to deliver Israel but ultimately He was the deliverer and Gideon should have emphasized this great and might deed of Jehovah that Israel might come to fear Him and not the gods of the Amorites. But Gideon missed the golden opportunity. He then seems to realize that since you go through life only once that you had better grab for all the gusto you can...read the description in the remainder of Judges 8 to see the "gusto" Gideon grabbed and then Judges 9 for the legacy he left. O valiant warrior, you were running so well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7).

Gideon's response seems to show his awareness that such an action would amount to refusing to trust the Lord (cf. Nu 14:9, 10, 11, 12; 1Sa 8:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; 12:12). Although the Book of Judges demonstrates Israel's need for a king to lead them in covenant faithfulness, they did not need the kind of military king familiar to them from the surrounding nations. As long as they were faithful to the Lord, they could rely on Him for security.

As shown in the next verse Gideon refused. But this may have either it planted a seed or his refusal was shallow and weak for Gideon had what looks like a royal harem in Jdg 8:30 (cf. Dt17:17), and named his son "Abimelech" in Jdg 8:31 which means "my father is king." Gideon's actions set a bad example for his son Abimelech, who decided to grasp the royal position his father had turned down.

 

Judges 8:23 But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you."

I will (KJV): Jdg 2:18 10:18 11:9-11 Lk 22:24-27 2Co 1:24 1Pe 5:3
the Lord (KJV): 1Sa 8:6,7 10:19 12:12 Isa 33:22 63:19

BUT GIDEON SAID TO THEM, I WILL NOT RULE OVER YOU, NOR SHALL MY SON RULE OVER YOU:

What Gideon said was commendable, but what he did later on was puzzling. After rejecting the throne, he lived like a king as [Jdg 8:29-32] attests! Nobody would deny that this courageous soldier-judge deserved honor and rewards, but his “retirement plan” seemed a bit extravagant.

THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU

At least Gideon's theology was accurate - Jehovah was their true king. Sadly as alluded to above, his actions did not reflect his theology! But that never happens in lives of believers today does it?!

In their song of praise after passing through the Red Sea at the Exodus, Israel acknowledged Jehovah’s kingship when they sang, “The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (Ex 15:18). Moses warned that Israel would one day want a king like the other nations and forget that they were a unique nation, unlike the Gentiles (Dt 4:5, 6, 7, 8; 14:2; 17:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20; Ex.19:4, 5). What other nation had the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, as their King?

Gideon seems to acknowledge his awareness that he was only an instrument in God's hands and he knew God meant Israel to be a theocracy, a people and nation ruled by God Himself. They already had a King if only they would acknowledge Him. Their request however was later fulfilled when one of Gideon's sons, Abimelech would later set himself up as king and a subsequent generation of Israelites would again seek a king, wanting ultimately to be like all the surrounding nations (1Sa 8:6, 7, 10:19).

Unfortunately Gideon's insight, modesty and humility at this moment in history are in sharp contrast to the events that follow. Ponder the wisdom of (Pr27:21) for possible insights into his imminent demise, for here Solomon records that...

The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And a man is tested by the praise accorded him.
 

Success is not always so easy to handle. Thomas Carlyle wrote that

“only one in a hundred passes the test of prosperity.”

Spurgeon’s spiritual presence of mind when he was approached by an over-effusive admirer, following a particularly brilliant sermon is reflected in the following response....

“Mr. Spurgeon, you were wonderful,” she crooned.

To which the reply came,

“Madam, the devil whispered those same words in my ear, as I left the pulpit.”

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Judges 8.23
G Campbell Morgan

I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you. Judges 8.23

Here was clearly manifested the decline of the people from the high ideal and central glory of their national life. They were a Theocracy, needing (and so far having) no king other than Jehovah. Their creation as a nation by God was in order that this true conception of life should have its manifestation among other nations. Their peculiarity was their distinctive feature, and their secret of power among the nations surrounding them. All the recurring discipline through which they passed resulted from their rebellion against the rule of God, and constituted His method of restoring them to that rule. They found relief in the judges who were raised up of God, and began to hanker after some ruler, visible, and of their own number. They thought that, by securing this, they would preserve themselves from the recurrence of these troubles. So they proposed establishing an hereditary ruler-ship, that is, kingship, and they asked Gideon to accept the position. He declined in these words, and by. so doing revealed his clear understanding of the truth about the nation. That is the true attitude of all those whom God raised up to lead and deliver His people. Their leadership must ever stop short of sovereignty. Their business is never that of superseding the Divine rule; but of interpreting it, and of leading the people to recognition of it, and submission to it. This is true, not only of kings, but also of priests, prophets, and preachers. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).

 

Judges 8:24 Yet Gideon said to them, "I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil." (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

give me (KJV): Ge 24:22,53 Ex 12:35 32:3 1Pe 3:3-5
because (KJV): Ge 16:10,11 25:13 37:25,28 1Sa 25:11 1Ki 20:11

YET (then) GIDEON:

Andrew Bonar's counsel would have been good for Gideon to have heard & heeded and it is good counsel for all believers today:

“Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”

Judges 8 gives some interesting insights into how Gideon handled some difficult situations (remember 1Cor 10:6,11)

SAID TO THEM:

Note this strong contrast in this verse. It is like a great ocean separating two continents, one good and the other evil. The human heart is truly more deceitful than all else (Jer 17:9). The man who had just given such a magnificent lead to his fellow Israelites, now sets a deplorable example of self-indulgence. Perhaps this speaks to the fact that it is easier to honor God in some courageous action in the limelight of a time of national emergency than it is to honor Him consistently in the ordinary, everyday life, which requires a different kind of courage. Gideon who came thru the test of adversity with flying colors was not the first nor the last to be less successful in the test of prosperity!

I WOULD REQUEST OF YOU, THAT EACH OF YOU GIVE ME AN EARRING FROM HIS SPOIL:

However, Gideon used this opportunity to ask for “a lesser thing”—all their earrings and ornaments. This was in essence a form of virtual taxation. And although this seemed like a fitting gift for a great deliverer, keep in mind that these golden trinkets were associated with idol worship. Crescents in [Jdg 8:21] were connected with moon-worship (goddess Astarte). See [Ge35:1, 2, 3, 4] for association between earrings and idolatry. (cp Ex 32:2, 3, 4,v4 = fashioned a molten calf). Beware of the "little foxes" (Song 2:15) because over time they can become a spiritual "Tyranosaurus Rex"!

Gideon ran the race with endurance for a time (that's why he is in Heb 11:32-note) but he did not finish his course, and he did not keep the faith as the apostle Paul did and as do all who have loved His appearing (2Ti 4:7,8-note). Lord, give us a holy fear of the ever present danger that we might stumble off Thy highway of holiness and not finish our race as Paul did. Amen.

FOR THEY HAD GOLD EARRINGS, BECAUSE THEY WERE ISHMAELITES:

nomadic traders which the Midianites were. The term Ishmaelites originally referred to another nomadic tribe descended from Hagar (Ge 16:15) but the term apparently took on a broader usage so that it is here applied to the Midianites.

 

Judges 8:25 And they said, "We will surely give them." So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil.

AND THEY SAID, "WE WILL SURELY GIVE THEM." SO THEY SPREAD OUT A GARMENT, AND EVERY ONE OF THEM THREW AN EARRING THERE FROM HIS SPOIL:

Most of the items given to Gideon often were worn by women in Israel.

The "earrings" (nezem) were sometimes rather "nose rings" for brides (Ge 24:47; Ezek 16:12).

The word for "chains" (`anaqoth) is rendered "necklace" in Song 4:9.

 

Judges 8:26 And the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels' necks.

a thousand (KJV): Taking the shekel at half an ounce, the sum of the gold ear-rings was 73 lbs. 4oz. and worth about #3,300 sterling.
collars (KJV): or, sweet jewels
purple (KJV): Es 8:15 Jer 10:9 Eze 27:7 Lk 16:19 Jn 19:2,5 Rev 17:4 Rev 18:12,16
chains (KJV): Jdg 8:21

AND THE WEIGHT OF THE GOLD EARRINGS THAT HE REQUESTED WAS 1,700 SHEKELS OF GOLD:

Assuming the reference is to "shekels", the weight would be 43 pounds, calculated at .4046 ounces (11.33 grams) per shekel; on the weight of a shekel see Y. Ronen, “The Enigma of the Shekel Weights of the Judean Kingdom,” Biblical Arch 59/2 (1996) 122-126.

BESIDES THE CRESCENT ORNAMENTS AND THE PENDANTS AND THE PURPLE ROBES WHICH WERE ON THE KINGS OF MIDIAN, AND BESIDES THE NECK BANDS THAT WERE ON THEIR CAMELS' NECKS:

"Pendants" (netipoth) occurs in the same list of women's ornaments with regard to v. 21 (Is 3:19, "earrings").

So although Gideon refused to be king, Gideon retains the king's symbols of royalty: the crescent ornaments worn by the camels (8:21), the pendants, the purple robes formerly worn by the Midianite kings, the neckbands worn by the camels around their necks! Were his words earlier truly the "high point" of his spiritual life as some interpret? Or were his words a sham humility and external bowing to the Lordship of Jehovah? Or did the coveting virus infect him about this time and spread so rapidly that he quickly forgot his noble defense of the Most High God? We probably won't know until glory but obviously somewhere along here, in the midst of the "applause" and "adoration" (cp Pr 27:21), Gideon began to get a glimmer in his eye for the finer things of life...and why not? After all he had become a valiant warrior and valiant warriors were compensated royally. Food for thought as we all put our pants on the same way Gideon did (cp 1Co 10:12) and our flesh is just as vulnerable to the "viruses" of coveting and pride today as it was in Gideon's day. Jesus warned us to...

"Keep watching and praying, (present imperative = both verbs are commands to make this one's habitual practice. Why? Because we are continually at risk of falling into the snares of temptation!) that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mt 26:41)

 

Judges 8:27 And Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.

an ephod (KJV): Jdg 17:5 18:14,17 Ex 28:6-12 1Sa 23:9,10 Isa 8:20
Ophrah (KJV): Jdg 8:32 6:11,24 Dt 12:5
a whoring (KJV): Ex 23:33 Ps 73:27 106:39 Ho 2:2 4:12-14
a snare (KJV): Jdg 8:33 Dt 7:16

AND GIDEON MADE IT INTO AN EPHOD AND PLACED IT IN HIS CITY OPHRAH:

What a contrast with (Jdg 6:24,27,28) where Gideon built 2 altars to Jehovah and destroyed one idolatrous altar to Baal!

 Elsewhere in the OT “ephod” denotes the priest’s special breast piece (cf. Ex28:15-30). In Jdg 17:5; 18:14-20 the same word refers to the priestly vestments of Micah. But because this object is erected in Gideon’s city and becomes an object of pagan worship the meaning uncertain here.

Gideon may have been well intended; perhaps he wanted to consult the Lord's will or to give the people something tangible to remind them of the Lord's intervention. However the idol-prone Israelites made the ephod into an object of worship. Gideon, who had boldly broken up his father's altar to Baal, was now setting a trap for his own family.

AND ALL ISRAEL PLAYED THE HARLOT WITH IT THERE:

"Play the harlot" (zanah) refers to marital infidelity or unfaithfulness. It was word used elsewhere in the OT to describe prostitution. Israel (Jehovah's "wife") committed "spiritual prostitution" by having "intercourse" with other gods (cp 1Co6:16) because Idolatry is looked upon as prostitution (Isa 50:1, 2, 3; 54:6, 7, 8; Jer 2:1, 2, 3; 3:1ff; Hos 2:1ff; Jas 4:4-note; Rev 2:4-note).

Gideon may have made the ephod as a representation of Jehovah, to “help the people” in their worship, but a good motive can never compensate for a bad action. He knew (or should have known) that it was wrong to make an idol (Ex 20:4-6).

SO THAT IT BECAME A SNARE (cf Jdg 2:3, 8:33, Dt7:16, Jos23:13) TO GIDEON:

"Snare" (moqesh) describes the lure or bait placed in a hunter’s trap and comes to mean the snare itself as used to trap birds.

The Septuagint translates moqesh with the Greek word skandalon (see word study), which is literally, that part of a trap on which the bait was laid, when touched caused the trap to close on its prey and came to mean any entanglement of the foot. That's a picture of sin which looks alluring, but if touched, will surely captivate and capture its foolish prey.

When we insist on having what God has not given us, we always are ensnared. God does not always frustrate our sinful longings. Sometimes he allows us to have what we have been determined to get, but with bitterness and vexation.

Whatever Gideon's purpose was, one thing appears certain -- it represented an intrusion into the divinely prescribed ministry of the high priest, probably relating to the proper use of the Urim and Thummin (Ex 28:30). Its use by Gideon (who was not a Levite) was contrary to God's Word. Furthermore at that time in Israel's history, the only divinely decreed worship center was Shiloh, not Ophrah. It is always a mistake to substitute a man's plans for the commandments of God. And so the ephod would prove to be like bait that lures a bird into the fowler's net and it would be the beginning of a sad decline in Gideon's life. It is sad to see the man who overthrew Baal’s altar now setting up an idol of his own. Unfortunately, the whole nation forsook God and worshiped the new god

And so beloved here is the question:

Do you have an ephod? What is your "ephod"? On what or whom do you set your heart? On God or on your "ephod"? Beware for the corrupting effect of the "ephod" can be most subtle and deceptive.

AND HIS HOUSEHOLD:

Gideon and his family suffered as a result of it. In [Jdg9:5] we read of the death of most of Gideon’s sons because of the desire of one, Abimelech, to be king. This tragedy seems to be traceable to the idolatry that resulted from the construction of Gideon’s ephod.

John Hunter writes:

"In some ways we can be like this. Great men and women can be used of the Lord. They can then start organizations, societies, or denominations, to commemorate and extend the glory of God in their work. These can function wonderfully as planned -- to begin with. But then as the vision goes, so does the response of those who follow those leaders. (cp Pr 29:18)

This can deteriorate until the purpose of the organization, society, or denomination becomes simply to maintain its own entity. So we find people dedicated to keep a certain movement in existence, regardless of whether the Lord is purposing to use it or not. Their "ephod" takes their allegiance and true effort away from the living Lord to a dead society." 

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Good Intentions - Have you ever had one of those "I was just trying to help" moments? Maybe you offered to carry the cake to the table and you dropped it. Or perhaps you offered to dog-sit your neighbor's pooch and the little guy ran away.

In Judges 8, it appears that Gideon tried to do a good thing. But the result was tragic. Impressed by his military exploits, the men of Israel asked Gideon to be their king. To his credit, he refused (Judges 8:22, 23). But then he asked them to donate gold earrings, which he made into an "ephod" (Jdg 8:27). This was either a sacred garment worn by the high priest or some type of image. Why did he do this? We don't know for sure, but Gideon may have been trying to provide spiritual leadership. Whatever his motive was, God hadn't told him to do this.

When Gideon set up the ephod in Ophrah, it drew the people's attention away from worship of the Lord and led them into idolatry (Jdg 8:27). And as soon as Gideon died, the people found it easy to go back to worshiping the Baals (Jdg 8:33).

Gideon may have had good intentions, but he made the mistake of acting without consulting the Lord. Let's be careful not to allow anything to take our eyes off our loving, holy God—or it will lead us and others astray. — Dave Branon
(Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The Word of God provides the light
We need to see the way;
If we obey what God has said,
We'll not be led astray. —Sper

Good intentions are no substitute for obedience.

 

Judges 8:28 So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.

was Midian (KJV): Ps 83:9-12 Isa 9:4 10:26
forty years (KJV): Jdg 3:11,30 5:31

SO MIDIAN WAS SUBDUED BEFORE THE SONS OF ISRAEL, AND THEY DID NOT LIFT UP THEIR HEADS ANYMORE:

Like an animal no longer able to toss its horns and charge against the foe, Midian could not "raise its head"

AND THE LAND WAS UNDISTURBED FOR FORTY YEARS IN THE DAYS OF GIDEON:

Why 40 years here and (Jdg 5:31-note)? Generally seems to equate with a "generation". Thus when the generation that knew God and His mighty deeds died out (Jdg 2:7, 8, 9, 10, 11-note), evil crept back in and took control of their hearts.

"Undisturbed" (saqat) means to be still, to be quiet, to be undisturbed thus describing the state or condition of tranquility. It is interesting but sad that this verse marks the last reference to peace in the book of Judges (3:11, 30; 5:31).

Ralph Davis adds that...

"after this the land will no longer recover its rest. Judges will show you. that Yahweh’s mercy is deep but not easygoing; it is tender but will not be trampled. The word it preaches is not “though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he’ll always say, ‘I forgive’ “ (a la the sentimental song of the fifties) but “do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and long suffering, ignorant of the fact that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro 2:4-note). It is tough to end well. Any believer knows that. “He will keep you strong to the end” (1Cor. 1:8 NIV) — that is one’s only assurance. (Ralph Davis, D. Focus on the Bible: Judges)

 

Judges 8:29 Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house.

Jerubbaal (KJV): Jdg 6:32 1Sa 12:11
in his own house (KJV): Ne 5:14,15

X

 

Judges 8:30 Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives.

threescore (KJV): Jdg 9:2,5 10:4 12:9,14 Ge 46:26 Ex 1:5 2Ki 10:1
of his body begotten (KJV): Heb. going out of his thigh
many wives (KJV): Ge 2:24 7:7 Dt 17:17 2Sa 3:2-5 5:13-16 1Ki 11:3 Mal 2:15 Mt 19:5-8 Eph 5:31-33

NOW GIDEON HAD SEVENTY SONS WHO WERE HIS DIRECT DESCENDANTS FOR HE HAD MANY WIVES:

With his vast wealth and his great national reputation, Gideon probably thought that his children were well provided for, but just the opposite proved true. Sixty-nine of his seventy sons were killed by their half-brother who himself was slain by a woman dropping a stone on his head. There is no security apart from the will of God. Had Gideon practiced Mt 6:33-note, subsequent events might have been radically different.

"Many wives" is proof of Gideon's prosperity. As wealth and prestige increased, so did one's harem. King Ahab also had seventy sons (2Ki10:1), and even some of Gideon's successors had thirty (Jdg 10:4-note; Jdg 12:9-note) or forty (Jdg 12:14-note) sons each. The hatred and murder that plagued Gideon's family are characteristic of OT polygamous situations.

Though Gideon refused to take rulership as king (Jdg 8:22,23), his lifestyle was that of self-indulgent royalty, setting the stage for the next chapter of Israel's sordid, tragic apostasy and anarchy.

J. Vernon McGee writes that..

"Gideon had many wives and a concubine besides. He had a total of seventy-one sons. That is a real blot on this man’s life. Now someone will say, as they did about Solomon, “How could God use a man like this and why did He use him?” Well, Gideon took these many wives and had all these children after the battle. And the fact of the matter is that God used him in spite of this. God did not approve of what he did. The record makes it clear that his actions brought tragedy to the nation of Israel. The next chapter brings that out. God had forbidden intermarriage outside the nation. He had forbidden the Israelites to have more than one wife. God did not create several Eves for Adam. He created only one. God did not remove all of Adam’s ribs. God took out only one rib. Abraham, you remember, took a concubine, that little Egyptian maid named Hagar and, believe me, it caused trouble. God never sanctioned it." (Thru the Bible)

 

Judges 8:31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.

concubine (KJV): Jdg 9:1-5 Ge 16:15 22:24
called (KJV): Heb. set
Abimelech (KJV): Jdg 9:18 Ge 20:2

Gideon fell severely into the sin of polygamy, an iniquity tolerated by many but which never was God’s blueprint for marriage

 

Judges 8:32 And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

died in (KJV): Ge 15:15 25:8 Jos 24:29,30 Job 5:26 42:17
Ophrah (KJV): Jdg 8:27 6:24

AND GIDEON THE SON OF JOASH DIED AT A RIPE OLD AGE (lit = "gray-headed"):

The account of Gideon's life in one sense ends here but really does not end until with chap. 9, not chap. 8. This chapter provides us with the real legacy of Gideon. Gideon's death notice further attests his importance, for only he and Samson are said to have been buried in the tomb of his father.

To die "at a ripe old age" implies a long and full life. Elsewhere in the OT the expression is used only of Abraham (Ge 15:15; 25:8) and David (1Ch 29:28)!

AND WAS BURIED IN THE TOMB OF HIS FATHER JOASH, IN OPHRAH OF THE ABIEZRITES:

Before the battle against Midian, Gideon humbly depended on the Lord. During the “mopping up” operations, however, he became authoritative and even vindictive. After his victory over Midian we don’t find Gideon honoring the Lord or calling the people together to make a new covenant to obey the Lord. Gideon started out as a servant, but now he was a celebrity. The result was decline for him, his family, and his nation.

It’s interesting and instructive to contrast Abraham and Gideon in the decisions they made after their respective victories (Ge14). Abraham took nothing for himself but made sure that others received their share of the spoils (Ge 14:22, 23, 24). He especially refused to take anything from the heathen king of Sodom (Ge 14:17, 21). Instead, Abraham fellowshipped with Melchizedek, King of Salem, a type of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 7-8); and in all that he said and did, Abraham gave glory to the Lord of heaven and earth.

After winning a great victory, we must always beware of the temptation to sin, for Satan attacks us subtly when we least expect it. Andrew Bonar warned regarding "mountain top" experiences...

“Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”

 

Judges 8:33 Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god.

as soon (KJV): Jdg 2:7-10,17,19 Jos 24:31 2Ki 12:2 2Ch 24:17,18
went (KJV): Jdg 8:27 2:17 Ex 34:15,16 Jer 3:9
Baalberith (KJV): Literally, "the lord of the covenant." Jdg 9:4,46

THEN IT CAME ABOUT AS SOON AS GIDEON WAS DEAD:

What an incredible time phrase...it is almost as if the people were waiting for Gideon to die so that they could carry on with business as usual.

As soon as Gideon was dead” the spiritual and moral condition of the people reverted back to its previous state. It almost seems as though they were waiting impatiently for the old hero to go. Proverbs records that...

"Where there is no vision (divine revelation, oracle, vision or word from God), the people are unrestrained (run wild, are uncontrolled), but happy (blessed, spiritually prosperous) is he who keeps the law." (Proverbs 29:18)

"BLACK
TUESDAY"

What happens when a "Gideon" dies, when they is no one to restrain the people. Well on October 7, 1969 the city of Montreal, Canada found out because on that day the police force went on strike. Because of what resulted, the day has been called Black Tuesday. A burglar and a policeman were slain. Forty-nine persons were wounded or injured in rioting. Nine bank holdups were committed, almost a tenth of the total number of holdups the previous year along with 17 robberies at gunpoint. Usually disciplined, peaceful citizens joined the riffraff and went wild, smashing some 1,000 plate glass windows in a stretch of 21 business blocks in the heart of the city, hauling away stereo units, radios, TVs and wearing apparel. While looters stripped windows of valuable merchandise, professional burglars entered stores by doors and made off with truckloads of goods. A smartly dressed man scampered down a street with a fur coat over each arm with no police around. In short, with no "king" in Montreal, anarchy assumed the throne!

Dr. Harry Ironside in his final lectures at Dallas Seminary said he often prayed

"O God, keep me from becoming a foolish old man!"

Apparently when Dr. M. C. Culbertson, retired president of Moody Bible Institute heard the trustees planned to name a building in his honor, he protested:

"But you don't know how I will end."

THAT THE SONS OF ISRAEL AGAIN PLAYED THE HARLOT WITH THE BAALS AND MADE BAAL-BERITH ("Lord of the Covenant) THEIR GOD:

In light of Israel's refusal to God's lordship, William Penn words are relevant...

"If we are not willing to be governed by God, we shall be ruled by tyrants." .

 

Judges 8:34 Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;

remembered (KJV): Ps 78:11,42 106:18,21 Ec 12:1 Jer 2:32

THUS THE SONS OF ISRAEL DID NOT REMEMBER THE LORD THEIR GOD, WHO HAD DELIVERED THEM FROM THE HANDS OF ALL THEIR ENEMIES ON EVERY SIDE:

A SAD REFRAIN:
"DID NOT..."

Did not - This is a sad refrain in the book of Judges (and I fear too often in our lives [including mine!] as believers!

Did not drive out = Jdg 1:21, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33-note

did not know the LORD = Jdg 2:10-note

did not listen to their judges = Jdg 2:17a-note

did not do as their fathers = Jdg 2:17b-note

did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways = Jdg 2:19-note

did not remember the LORD their God Jdg 8:34-note

did not serve Him = Jdg 10:6-note

Did not remember - This is just another way to say they forgot. Israel forgot Jehovah and so neglected His covenant demands, which was a reflection of ingratitude for His blessings, and a self-sufficient attitude, which in turn opened the door to idolatry.

Davis notes that...

When the text condemns Israel for not remembering Yahweh, it is not suggesting that Israel forgot the identity of Yahweh nor even that they could no longer list the enemies from whom Yahweh has rescued them. It means that what they knew of Yahweh exercised no control over them, held no grip on their loyalties. They could still answer catechism questions about Yahweh but that knowledge did not determine their commitment. Whatever factual, intellectual information about Yahweh they retained did not keep them from adopting Baal––berith as their god. In the latter months of 1947, sometime before the British mandate in Palestine expired, Jamil Mardam, the prime minister of Syria, joined other Arab leaders in planning a coordinated military attack on Israel as soon as the new Jewish state was born. Ironically, all that winter Mardam’s wife made her regular visits to Jerusalem, where she received treatment from her Jewish doctor.1 Apparently, the benefit Mardam’s wife received from a Jewish source had no impact on how he himself planned to deal with the Jews. There was no connection; that is, he “did not remember” in the biblical sense of the phrase.  (Ralph Davis, D. Focus on the Bible: Judges)

Israel deserved cursing for her disobedience but instead in Judges, God intervenes on Israel’s behalf—and He does repeatedly—it is consistently in spite of rather than because of what the nation deserves. In this book we observe the mercy of God at work in as sharp relief as anywhere else in Scripture.

The greatest threats to Israel’s existence do not come from outside enemies who may occasionally oppress them. Israel’s most serious enemy is within. She is a nation that appears determined to destroy herself. Only the gracious intervention of God prevents this from happening. With hindsight we can recognize His motivation. He had made an eternal covenant (See Covenant: Abrahamic versus Mosaic) with His people (Ge 12:1, 3). He could not let them destroy themselves or let others destroy them. The mission for which He had called them could not abort. If anything positive happens to Israel in the period of the judges in general or through the agency of Gideon in particular, it has much less to do with the character of the human agents that God has at His disposal than with the character of Him who would say in another time and in another place,

“I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

 

Judges 8:35 nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon), in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.

showed (KJV): Jdg 9:5,16-19 Ec 9:14,15
Jerubbaal (KJV): Rather, Jerubbaal Gideon; as we say, Simon Peter; or call a person by his Christian and surname. Gideon was a mighty man of valour, a true patriot, evidently disinterested and void of ambition. He loved his country, and hazarded his life for it; but refused the kingdom, when offered to him and his heirs. The act of making the ephod was totally wrong; yet, probably it was done with no reprehensible design.

NOR DID THEY SHOW KINDNESS TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF JERUBBAAL (THAT IS, GIDEON):

"Show kindness" (hesed) means loyalty, devotion, commitment. In the present context hesed refers to fair and benevolent treatment as a reward for good deeds rendered, usually as an act of allegiance. How soon the sinful hearts of humans forget both the Lord and the people who have served them faithfully.

This is the last time the name "Gideon" is used in Judges. Judges 9 uses "Jerubbaal" 8x's. There must be a message.

Charles Simeon's sermon on...

Gideon Pacifies the Ephraimites
Jdg 8:1,2 3

WE are apt to admire great military exploits, and to account men honourable in proportion to the victories they have gained: but there is a victory over ourselves that far more dignifies a man, than the most extended conquests over others. We certainly regard Gideon as one highly renowned in the feats of war: but his defeat of all the Midianitish hosts with only three hundred men, armed with pitchers, lamps, and trumpets, is less worthy of admiration, than the self-possession he exercised towards the offended and objurgatory Ephraimites. Solomon has weighed as in a balance the different characters, and has decided in favour of him whose victory is over his own spirit: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” (Pr. 16:32)

In the transaction before us we see,

I. Whence it is that unreasonable men take offence—

There is scarcely a society or even a single family to be found, where the different members walk in perfect harmony together: in most circles there are frequent disagreements: one or other of the members is unreasonable in his expectations, and by the unquietness of his own dispositions spreads dissatisfaction and disquietude all around him. The inquiry, “Whence come wars and fightings among you?” St. James answers by an appeal to our own experience; “Come they not hence, even from the lusts that war in your members?” (Jas 4:1) The chief sources of offence are discernible in the conduct of the Ephraimites. It arises,

1. From the pride of our own hearts—

[The Ephraimites had evidently a high conceit of their own dignity, and were offended that Gideon had not paid as much deference to them, as they supposed themselves entitled to. And from this root of bitterness it is that so many disputes arise. “Only by pride cometh contention,” is the testimony of God himself. See the proud man, swelling with a sense of his own importance: if you differ from him in judgment, or act contrary to his will, yea, if you do not comply with his humour in every thing, he is quite indignant, and bursts forth into a rage. Even the best-meant endeavours cannot always please him: as an inferior, he cannot brook the least restraint: as a superior, he never thinks that sufficient homage is paid him: and as an equal, he cannot endure that others should exercise the liberty which he arrogates to himself. To what an extent this domineering principle will prevail, we may see in the instance of Nebuchadnezzar; who, because of the conscientious refusal of the Hebrew youths to bow down to his idol, “was full of fury; and the form of his visage was changed against them; and he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual,” in order to destroy them. Truly there is no principle in the heart more adverse to the peace and happiness of mankind than this.]


2. From envy at others—


[Great honour accrued to Gideon and the Abi-ezrites from the victory that had been gained: and the Ephraimites were grieved that others should possess a glory, in which themselves had no share. Hence they broke forth into revilings against Gideon. The same principle also prevails more or less in all: “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy:” and how nearly it is allied with wrath, we see from those words of Eliphaz, “Wrath killeth the foolish man; and envy slayeth the silly one.” The examples of Cain, and Joseph’s brethren, and Saul, sufficiently mark the murderous tendency of this malignant passion. One evil peculiar to it is, that it makes excellence itself the object of its attack; as Solomon has observed, “For every right work a man is envied of his neighbour.” Hence that pointed question, “Who can stand before envy?” Not the benevolence of the Apostles, nor the blameless conduct of our Lord himself, could ward off its malignant shafts: and wherever it exists, it will be attended with “strife, railings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings.”]


3. From impetuosity of spirit—


[The Ephraimites would not give themselves any time for reflection or inquiry, but instantly began with violent invectives. It should seem that they were a hasty people, full of pride and wrath: and on another occasion precisely similar to this, they suffered for it in no slight degree; for no less than two and forty thousand of them were slain in consequence of it. Had they been at the pains of making inquiry, they would have found that Gideon had committed no offence at all: he had acted altogether by the direction of God: and so far was he from being at liberty to increase his army by the accession of the Ephraimites, that he was necessitated to reduce the thirty-two thousand troops which he had raised to three hundred. Thus it is that innumerable quarrels arise, when a moment’s inquiry would shew, that no reason for them exists, or at least no reason for such resentment as is felt by the offended person. Behold David, when Nabal had refused him the refreshments which he desired: nothing short of the death of Nabal and all his adherents was deemed a sufficient atonement for his offence. But when Abigail had brought David to reflection, he found that his vindictive purposes were highly criminal; and that, if his anger was not groundless, it far exceeded that which the occasion called for. In a word, this hastiness of temper prevents men from listening to the dictates of reason, and makes them deaf to every consideration of truth and equity.]


The readiness with which unreasonable men take offence, makes it important to inquire,


II. How judicious men may pacify it—


Truly admirable was the conduct of Gideon on this occasion: and his success may well recommend it to our imitation. Indeed the general rules deducible from it are as good as any that can be suggested. When a person is offended at us without a cause, we should endeavour, as far as circumstances will admit of it, to calm his mind,


1. By patience and forbearance—


[Not a word of recrimination dropped from the mouth of Gideon. He might perhaps have justly said, that when the Ephraimites knew his determination to oppose the Midianites, they had never offered their services, or come forward to assist him in the undertaking: but, when the danger was over, they were ready to impute evil to him for omissions which were chargeable only on themselves. But he did not so much as glance at any thing that might either betray irritation in his own mind, or strengthen it in theirs. Though “they did chide sharply with him,” he bore it with a meekness that was truly amiable and praiseworthy. Now this was an excellent way to conciliate their minds, even if he had deserved all the blame that they imputed to him: Solomon justly observes, that “yielding pacifieth great offences.” It is recrimination that fans the flame, and causes it to burst forth into destructive quarrels. The common progress of disputes may be seen in the case of Israel and Judah after the death of Absalom; where, each of them justifying his own cause, the result was, that the dispute on both sides grew, till the accused were more incensed than even the accusers; and “the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.” Silence therefore is the best remedy, at least till the offended person is so far calmed as to listen readily to the voice of reason: and though the advice of Solomon appears at first sight as paradoxical and absurd, yet it is the best that can be offered; “Leave off contention before it be meddled with:” for it will be difficult enough to leave it off when once it is begun.]


2. By humility and self-denial—


[Gideon might justly have said, “If God has been pleased to honour me, why should that give any umbrage to you?” But he forbore to take to himself the credit that was his due, or to claim from them the approbation he had merited at their hands. Thus he hid from them the light which had pained their eyes, and cast a veil over the actions which had provoked their jealousy. This was a striking instance of that “charity which vaunteth not itself, and seeketh not her own.” This is a disposition which tends no less to the preservation of our own happiness than it does to the conciliating of those who are offended at us: for when once we are willing to forego the honour to which we are entitled, it will appear a small thing to us to be censured without a cause; seeing that such censures only reduce us to the place which we were previously in our own minds prepared to occupy. And it will almost invariably be found true, that, as men are ready to hate those who arrogate honour to themselves, so will they be more easily reconciled to those who are humble and unassuming.]


3. By commendation and love—


[Gideon, instead of loading his adversaries with blame, was glad to search out causes for commending them. The Ephraimites, though they offered not themselves in the first instance, were of great service in pursuing and destroying the routed foe. They took the two hostile princes, Oreb and Zeeb: and though this was only the gleaning of Gideon’s vintage, yet does Gideon speak of it as incomparably greater than any thing that had been done by him. And it is particularly deserving of notice, that this was the word which produced the desired effect; “Then their anger was abated, when he had said that.” Thus it appears, that “a soft answer turneth away wrath;” and that, if we would blunt the edge of other men’s displeasure, we should study to conform ourselves to that sublime precept; “Let nothing be done through strife and vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”]


On this subject we would found a word or two of advice—


1. Be cautious not too hastily to take offence—


[Innumerable circumstances may exist, which, if known to us, would, make us form a very different judgment of men and things, from that which at first sight we have entertained. To weigh, and consider, and inquire, is the part of true wisdom: but to be precipitate is a certain indication of folly — — —]


2. If offence be taken at you, labour to the uttermost to pacify it—


[This was a leading feature in the character of Jesus; and it must be so in that of all his followers — — — “To feed our enemies, and heap coals of fire on their heads,” is the Christian’s duty: therefore, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”] (Simeon, C. 1832-63. Horae Homileticae)

Charles Simeon's sermon on...

Judges 8:4
Faint, Yet Pursuing

THERE are those who speak of Gideon as a type of Christ. But, excepting as a deliverer raised up in an extraordinary manner to Israel, there is scarcely sufficient correspondence between him and our blessed Lord to justify such a representation of him. As an example to the Church in all ages, and especially as illustrating for our benefit the power and efficacy of faith, we can have no hesitation in commending him to your most particular attention: for he is not only set forth in Scripture under that character in common with many other eminent men, but, together with David and Samuel, he is proposed to us as a pattern which we are bound to follow: “Seeing that we are encompassed with such a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” I would notice him, therefore, under the two-fold character of A deliverer to Israel, and A model to us: or, rather, instead of separating the two, I will combine them; that so the whole subject may come before us in a more luminous and useful point of view.

Let us, then, notice respecting Gideon,

I. His ready obedience to the divine call—

When convinced that God had called him to fight for Israel, he delayed not to execute his commission—

[The Midianites had grievously oppressed Israel. By a kind of predatory warfare, they annually desolated the whole land. Gideon was threshing out some corn, in order to hide it from the Midianites: and God sent an angel to inform him, that, through his instrumentality, the country should be delivered from its invaders. This seemed to be an hopeless and almost impossible event: but when God had shewn him, by repeated signs, that the office of delivering Israel was committed to him, he cheerfully obeyed the call, and addressed himself to the work assigned him — — —]

The same promptitude, Brethren, is expected at your hands—

[You are called to war against the enemies of God and his people. Satan has exercised a most tyrannic sway over the whole world, “leading them captive at his will.” But the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the trumpet to be sounded throughout all your coasts, that you may flock to his standard, and arm yourselves for the combat. Let none say, The enemy is too powerful for me; I cannot venture to oppose him. The command is absolute; and every one of you must gird on his armour, and prepare to “war a good warfare.” Let there be no reluctance, Brethren, no timidity, no “conferring with flesh and blood.” It is a disgraceful bondage to which you have been subjected: and the time is come for you to free yourselves from it. I call on all of you, therefore, to obey the summons, and in every possible way to approve yourselves “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”]

But be sure to follow in this,

II. His simple dependence on divine aid—

Admirably did Gideon’s faith display itself on this occasion—

[Most particularly is this noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “By faith Gideon and the others subdued kingdoms.” There came, in obedience to his summons, two-and-thirty thousand men. But God directed him to dismiss from amongst them all who were timid: and instantly was his army reduced to ten thousand men. But even these were more than God chose to employ: and therefore Gideon was ordered to bring them down to a stream, and to separate those who lapped like a dog, from those who bowed down to drink like cattle; and to reserve the former only for his companions in arms. Of those who lapped, there were only three hundred; and these were all who were left him to go against the Midianites, who amounted in all to one hundred and thirty-five thousand men. But not even these were to be employed in one compact body: no: scarcely two of them were to be together: they were to occupy an immense tract of ground, surrounding the whole camp of Midian. Nor were they to make a simultaneous attack: but to take, every one of them, a pitcher and a lamp and a trumpet, and to break their pitchers and blow their trumpets, and to stand in their place, crying, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” What an armament, and what a disposal of the troops, according to the judgment of sense, was this! It was the direct way to have every soul amongst them slain in an instant: for not one of them could escape through darkness; since every one held his lamp, as it were, for the express purpose of making himself a mark for the spear or sword of his enemy. But Gideon presumed not to sit in judgment on the directions given him. It was sufficient for him to know what God’s appointment was; and to that he submitted, without hesitation or delay.]

It is also the good fight of faith which you are now called to fight—

[There must be no dependence on an arm of flesh. You must “go forth in the strength of the Lord,” and of him only. To overcome through the simple exercise of faith, may appear strange; but it is the way appointed by God himself, who will have all the honour of your success, and will suffer “no flesh to glory in his presence.” “To stand still, and see the salvation of God” with you, may appear to savour of presumption: but it is infinitely greater presumption to invade the prerogative of God, and to take on ourselves the work that belongs to him alone. The proclamation of his name, and the exhibition of his light, are doubtless proper, as his appointed means for advancing his own glory; but of themselves they can effect no more for the subjugation of our enemies, than could the blowing of trumpets to destroy the walls of Jericho, or the breaking of pitchers to subdue the armies of Midian and of Amalek. It is “by faith you are to walk, and not by sight:” and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you.”]

You must further imitate,

III. His full determination never to relax his efforts—

Gideon, “though faint” from the excess of his exertions, “yet pursued” his enemies—

[A panic having struck the Midianites, they, by mistake, slew one another, so that not less than one-hundred-and-twenty thousand of them fell that night. The remaining fifteen thousand fled. Now Gideon might well have said, The enemy is so weakened, that they cannot invade us any more: I will now, therefore, with my little band of soldiers, take my rest. But he would not on any account act thus. As long as there were any of his enemies remaining, he would pursue them. Though he was quite “faint” with fatigue, he would not cease from his exertions; but followed them, and fell upon them, and slew them, and took captive both their kings, both Zebah and Zalmunna.]

What a bright example is here for us!

[There must, of necessity, be times and seasons when we are ready to faint in our great warfare, and to wish, as it were, for some relaxation from our labour. Who has not experienced both weariness in duties, and dejection of mind, too, in the conflicts which he has had to sustain? But it must be time enough for us to rest when we get to heaven. St. Paul was “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed:” “for which cause he fainted not.” So must it be with us: whatever progress we have made, we must “forget the things which are behind, and press forward to that which is before.” “We must never be weary in well-doing,” or, if weary in it, we must never be weary of it. Whoever sees us, must see us still “pursuing,” and determining never to rest, till every enemy be subdued, and “Satan himself be for ever bruised under our feet.”]
Above all, we must follow him in,

IV. His assured expectation of ultimate success—

This was very conspicuous—

[His own countrymen, both of Succoth and Penuel, refused even to administer food to his weary soldiers, lest the Midianites should visit it with signal judgments, after having recovered from their present panic. They even ridiculed the sanguine expectations of Gideon, saying, “Are Zebah and Zalmunna yet fallen into thy hands, that I should incense them by giving relief to thee?” But, notwithstanding the Midianites were fifty times as numerous as he, he expresses no doubt of final victory over them, and declares to his ungrateful countrymen how he will punish their ingratitude on his return from the expedition.]

Thus should we also “hold fast our confidence firm unto the end”—

[Whatever victories we may have gained, our enemies would soon vanquish us, if we were left to ourselves. But we should never for a moment give way to unbelieving fears. We should neither consider our own weakness, nor the strength of our enemies; but should regard the mightiest foes merely “as bread for us;” as bread, which we shall devour, even “as the ox licketh up the grass of the field.” We should “know in whom we have believed;” and “be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun the good work in us will carry it on, and perfect it until the day of Christ.” However powerful our adversaries may appear, we should say to them, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” Has God said, “No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper?” We should go on in full anticipation of victory, and in a certain assurance, that, whatever conflicts we may have to maintain, we shall be “more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”]

Application

[Are any of you faint, my beloved Brethren? I will not act the part of the men of Penuel or Succoth, but will most gladly set before you all the richest provisions which we possess. Here is bread of the finest quality, “the very bread that came down from heaven,” that will not only strengthen and refresh your souls, but actually give life to the dead: and, if you eat to the full of that, you shall go on in the strength of it to the latest hour of your lives. Consider under whose banners you fight; even under the banners of the Lord Jesus Christ himself — — — Consider with whom you are contending: they are vanquished enemies; as our Lord himself has told us: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” — — — Consider where your strength lies: not in yourselves, but in the Captain of your salvation, who has said, that “his grace shall be sufficient for you,” and “his strength be perfected in your weakness” — — — Consider, finally, what will be the fruits of victory; even glory and honour and immortality, in the presence, and in the bosom, of your God — — — Will you, then, draw back? God forbid! Let me rather urge you to proceed: for, faint as ye are, ye shall surely overcome. Of Gideon’s army, so far as we know, there died not one; whilst the entire host of his enemies were slain. So shall all the powers of darkness fall before you, and not so much as a hair of your head shall perish. “It is not the will of your Father that one of his little ones should perish.” In a word, “Be not weary in well-doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not.”]

Charles Simeon...

Gideon Chastises
the Men of Succoth and Penuel
Jdg 8:15, 16, 17

CONSISTENCY is essential to the character of a child of God. But pious persons are very apt to err in judging of the consistency of others: they would have been ready to condemn the conduct of Paul in relation to many things which he did at one time and forbore to do at another. We do not in general make sufficient allowance for a change of circumstances, which may not only warrant, but demand, a change of conduct. All would admire the gentleness and forbearance of Gideon, when the Ephraimites blamed him so vehemently for not summoning them to the battle against the Midianites (Jdg 8:1, 2,3); but probably they would accuse him of severity and injustice towards the men of Succoth and of Penuel: whereas his firmness in chastising these was no less proper under his peculiar circumstances, than his kindness in forgiving them. The two cases were not at all parallel: the Ephraimites at least thought honourably of the cause in which Gideon was embarked; but the men of Succoth and of Penuel treated it with contempt. Now the cause was that of God himself: and for despising it, the men of Succoth and of Penuel deserved all that they suffered.

 

Let us consider,


I. The punishment inflicted on them—


The provocation they gave was exceeding great—


[Gideon had already destroyed one-hundred-and-twenty thousand of the Midianitish army; and was now pursuing with his three hundred men the remnant, who had escaped the general carnage. He had crossed over Jordan, and was following them with all possible ardour; but his men having been engaged all the preceding night and day without any intermission or any refreshment, were faint: Gideon therefore, in passing through Succoth, a city of the tribe of Gad, requested in the kindest manner some provisions for his men: but the elders of the city only insulted him, and endeavoured to weaken his hands by deriding the vanity of his attempts. Gideon would not lose any time in debating the matter with them, but warned them, that when God should have delivered the Midianites into his hand, he would scourge them all with briers and thorns. (Jdg 8:7) He then went forward to Penuel, a neighbouring city; but was insulted by its elders precisely as he had been by the men of Succoth. It should seem that the men of Penuel confided in a tower which they had, and thought themselves safer in that, than they could be by any efforts of Gideon, or of God himself in their behalf. Gideon therefore threatened them with heavier vengeance, when God should have delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into his hands: for, though their ingratitude was the same with that of the men of Succoth, there was in their answer somewhat more of atheistical impiety, which was the ground of a severer sentence against them. (Jdg 8:9)]


The punishment he inflicted on them was just—


[Gideon pressed forward, weak and faint as he was, and came upon the Midianites, when they conceived themselves to be perfectly secure: and God blessed his efforts, so that the fifteen thousand Midianites were destroyed, and their two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, taken, without the loss of a man belonging to the host of Gideon. Instantly did Gideon return, with his royal captives, to the two ungrateful cities which had refused him sustenance; and executed on their elders the vengeance he had threatened: he punished those of Succoth with briers and thorns; and those of Penuel with death, and the destruction of their boasted tower.


Now we say that this was just. Had the injury which he had sustained been purely personal, it would have become him to pass it by, and to leave the punishment of it to a righteous God, who says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” But he acted as a magistrate who was authorized to punish the treason of which these persons had been guilty. Considered as an act of ingratitude only, it was exceeding sinful; for what could be more base than to refuse a meal to those who had at the peril of their own lives delivered the whole nation from the yoke of Midian; and were now, though only three hundred in number, following the remaining fugitives, fifty times as numerous as themselves, in order to extirpate them entirely? But it was treason, both against the state, and against God: it was the very way to prevent the execution of Gideon’s designs against the enemies of God and his people: and, if God had not miraculously renewed the strength of the victors, this refusal of food to them would have done more to vanquish them than all the hosts of Midian had been able to effect. If Gideon had demanded that the men of Succoth and of Penuel should join in the pursuit, he would have required no more than he was authorized to do: and he might justly, considering whose cause he was engaged in, have punished them severely for a refusal (Jdg. 5:23-
note): but when his request was so moderate, and his necessity so urgent, and the probable consequences of their refusal so injurious to the whole nation, he did right in making an example of such wicked traitors.]


Having vindicated this act of justice, let us proceed to notice,


II. The lessons it suggests to us—


It is very instructive to us both,


1. In a civil view—


[The men of Succoth and of Penuel well illustrate the character and conduct of many amongst ourselves. The burthens of war must of necessity be borne by all the nation: and methinks they should be cheerfully borne by every member of the community: for, to whom do we owe our security, but to those who are standing forth in our defence, and, under God, are combating our enemies with success? It is true, we feel the pressure of the taxes as a burthen; and by means of them we are deprived of comforts which we might otherwise enjoy: but what are our privations in comparison of those which are experienced by our fleets and armies? Little do we think what they have to bear; or what obligations we owe to them for exposing themselves to so many fatigues and dangers in our defence. Shall we then grudge to the state whatever is necessary for their support? Is not the murmuring on account of our burthens, and the striving to elude them, highly criminal? The men of Succoth and of Penuel had some excuse for their ungenerous conduct: for they intimated, that, by contributing to aid Gideon in the pursuit, they should only bring on themselves the heavier vengeance from the Midianites, as soon as ever they should have recovered from their panic. But what excuse have we? Their interest seemed to lie on the side of neutrality; but ours is altogether on the side of energy and exertion. Let us only consider what our enemies would exact of us, if they were to reduce us under their power: truly “their little finger would be heavier than the loins” of our own governors: instead therefore of grudging what is necessary for the support of our government, we should rejoice and bless God for the security that we enjoy under their watchful care.]


2. In a religious view—


[The whole of that astonishing transaction tends to inspire us with confidence in God, and to encourage our exertions in his cause. But there are two lessons in particular which we shall do well to learn from it: the one is, To prosecute the spiritual warfare under all discouragements ourselves; and the other is, To put no discouragements in the way of others.


That we shall find discouragements in our warfare is certain; sometimes from the number and power of our enemies; sometimes from the fewness and weakness of our friends; sometimes from the inefficacy of our past exertions; and sometimes from the protracted continuance of a struggle which we had fondly hoped to have seen terminated long before. But we must go forth, like Gideon, in the strength of the Lord, and, though “faint, must yet be pursuing;” (Jdg 8:4) nor must we ever look for rest, till we have gotten the final victory over all our enemies. We must remember, Whose cause it is; Under whose banners we are enlisted; Whom we have for our Guide and Protector; and, Whose word is pledged for our final success. What though he reduce the number of our friends to ever so low an ebb? What though he send us forth with no better armour than a trumpet and a lamp? What though our enemies be so great and numerous, that, after having been vanquished by us a thousand times, they still appear, according to human apprehension, invincible by such an arm as ours? What though we be so feeble that we seem incapable of continuing the contest any longer? Shall we give over? No: we must still fight on, assured of victory; knowing, that “when we are weak, then are we strong;” that “God will perfect his own strength in our weakness;” and that, “if God be for us, none can” possibly succeed “against us.”


At the same time that other lesson must be attended to, Not to put any discouragement in the way of others. Almost all people are ready to obstruct, rather than to aid, the Christian in his spiritual progress. Those of the same family and kindred will discountenance his zeal; and even some who profess to be of the true Israel, will represent his duties as impracticable, and his efforts as hopeless. But God is indignant with those who would weaken the hands of his people. He would have us rather encourage one another to the utmost of our power. His command is, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; say unto them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and help you.” (Is. 35:3, 4 and He 12:13-
note) It is said of our Lord, that “he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory:” let us, like him, “carry the lambs in our bosom, and gently lead those that are with young;” yea, let us so unite our efforts with theirs, that we may be sharers in their triumphs, and partakers of their glory.] (Simeon, C. 1832-63. Horae Homileticae)

F B Meyer...

JUDGES 8
"RULE THOU OVER US"

Judges 8:1-3 The benefit of a soft answer is well illustrated in the opening verses. Those who are most reluctant to undertake difficult services are quickest to find fault with such as carry them through to success. When we are doing God's work, and especially if we are successful in doing it, there will always be plenty of critics. Answer them kindly, or do not answer them at all. Gideon ruled his spirit, and behaved with true magnanimity and meekness (Pr. 13:10; 15:1).

Judges 8:4-12 The pursuit of noble ends amid discouragement. --How little does the world understand the faintness which overtakes the Christian warrior, never losing sight of his high purpose, yet often sorely in need of sympathy and help, which is not always given. We, however, are not at liberty to imitate Gideon in his threats of vengeance, which he terribly realized (Judges 8:13, 14, 15, 16, 17).

Judges 8:18-21 The infliction of deserved punishment. -- Gideon constituted himself the avenger of the blood of his brethren. Those were two striking sentences uttered by the captive kings, which we do well to ponder (Judges 8:18-21). We, who belong to the family of God, should see to it that we resemble the children of a king, that there is a royalty in our bearing worthy of our origin. A notable sentence is that which repeats an old proverb that a man's strength is the outcome of his inner self (Judges 8:21). Force proportioned to character!

Judges 8:22-23 The refusal of a generous request. -- "Rule, because thou hast delivered:' As the men of Israel spake to Gideon, we should speak to our Lord: Rule Thou over us, for Thou hast saved us. "Thou art worthy to take the book, for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us" My soul, thou hast been saved out of the hand of thy foes, now enthrone the Lord, who has saved thee. When shall the love of Jesus so inspire and melt our hearts, that we shall gladly give to Him all the jewels of life?

Judges 8:24-27 The ephod was a rich priestly garment. Gideon's may have been made in good faith, but it was turned to very evil uses. Thus evil is often wrought for want of thought, as well as from want of heart. What we do innocently may become a terrible snare to others, and it behooves us to consider each act, not only as it is in itself, but as it may affect others (2Cor. 6:3).

The closing words of the chapter (Judges 8:33-35) are bitter. They remind us of the way in which the butler treated Joseph and our own treatment of the Lord. (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)


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