JUDGES CHAPTER 8
The End of the Campaign against Midian.
DIFFICULTIES WITH EPHRAIM AND THE CITIES SUCCOTH AND PENUEL. — V. 1. And the men of Ephraim, who had not been included in the order to mobilize their forces, chap. 6, 35, said unto him, Gideon, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? They demanded an explanation for having been slighted by Gideon, as they supposed. And they did chide with him sharply, attacked him in a vehement quarrel. V. 2. And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison with you? It was a diplomatic retort, for it placed the exploit of the Ephraimites in capturing the princes Oreb and Zeeb above the defeat of the entire army by Gideon’s band. Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? They had, indeed, had the gleaning of the battle, but this achievement, as Gideon intimates, is to be valued more highly than the victory of the three hundred men whom he called according to the name of his family, Abiezer. V. 3. God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; and what was I able to do in comparison of you? As a real hero Gideon was truly humble and thereby, above all, gained his object, that of keeping peace in Israel. Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that. They were appeased, their pride and vanity was satisfied, but their jealousy was afterward rebuked most sharply by the deeds of Gideon. V. 4. And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. Their pursuit of the enemy had rendered them weak and faint, yet they continued on their way in order to complete the overthrow of the oppressors. V. 5. And he said unto the men of Succoth, near. which city, not far from the mouth of the Jabbok, he had forded the Jordan, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, chiefly from hunger, for they had exhausted their small stock of provisions, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. He and his band were risking their lives for all Israel, including the men of Gad, whom he was here addressing, and therefore his request was by no means unreasonable. V. 6. And the princes, the rulers or magistrates, of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand that we should give bread unto thine army? Since bread costs money, their covetous hearts referred to the small band of Gideon as a host, and their sneering reference to the fists or arms of the Midianitish kings implied that they first wanted to see the enemy bound before them. Here was utter lack of charity combined with cowardice and even treason. V. 7. And Gideon said, Therefore, when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers, using these as threshing-flails on their backs. V. 8. And he went up thence to Penuel, a city some tell miles up the Jabbok, on its north bank, and spake unto them likewise; and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him, with the same exhibition of selfishness. V. 9. And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower, the strongest part of the city’s fortification, upon which they relied. Lack of courage and selfishness are the chief dangers threatening the Church of Christ from within, for they make men unwilling to fight and sacrifice for the Lord.
THE END OF ZEBAH AND ZALMUNNA. — V. 10. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, near the headwaters of the Jabbok, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the East; for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword, namely, in the battle in the Plain of Jezreel and in the pursuit. V. 11. And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, the easternmost cities of Gad, and smote the host, attacking, apparently, from the northeast, from which direction the enemy did not expect an assault; for the host was secure. V. 12. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host; terror seized upon them, so that they offered no resistance, and the army surrendered. V. 13. And Gideon, the son of Joash, returned from battle before the sun was up, or, from the ascent or pass of Hecheres, in the hills east of Succoth, v. 14. and caught a young man of the men, the inhabitants, of Succoth, and enquired of him, in order to find out certain facts about the city; and he described unto him the princes of Succoth and the elders thereof, wrote down their names for Gideon, even threescore and seventeen men. V. 15. And he, Gideon, came unto the men of Succoth and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, whom he led along with him captive, with whom ye did upbraid me, concerning whom they had spoken to him in a jeering manner, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary? V. 16. And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth, by giving them a well-deserved flogging he taught all the inhabitants of the city a lesson, especially concerning the penalties of treasonable selfishness. V. 17. And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city, in a just punishment of their faithlessness and treason. V. 18. Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, after his return to his own tribe, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? He wanted a description of their face and form, their general appearance. And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king. This was in reference to a raid which had been made by the Midianites before Gideon had been called to enter upon this campaign of vengeance. V. 19. And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother, the very nearest blood-relatives. As the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you, he would have been inclined to spare their lives, but this one cruel action made it impossible for him to do so. V. 20. And he said unto Jether, his first-born, apparently still a lad, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword; for he feared, because he was yet a youth, not yet accustomed to slaying men. V. 21. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou and fall upon us; for as the man is, so is his strength; their execution was a task, not for a weak lad, but for a full-grown man. And Gideon arose and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments, little moon-shaped pendants, that were on their camels’ necks. In this way was the just punishment of God upon the oppressors put into execution.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CAMPAIGN. — V. 22. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and thy son’s son also, they wanted to establish a hereditary kingdom with their great deliverer at their head, as the founder of a royal dynasty; for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. V. 23. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you. Gideon did not feel himself called upon to found a royal dynasty in Israel, but considered the direct government of the Lord (theocracy) sufficient for the needs of the people. V. 24. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey, the various rings, especially those worn in the nose and in the ears, which the soldiers of Israel had taken from the captives and slain in the recent battle. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) The enemies, members of nomad tribes as they were, had possessed a wealth of gold in the form of ornaments. V. 25. And they answered, We will willingly give them, they were very glad to comply with his request. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey, whatever booty he had gained in the form of gold ornaments and other precious possessions. V. 26. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold (more than $16,000 worth); beside ornaments, and collars, ear-pendants made of pearls and precious stones, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks, made up of moon shaped pendants. V. 27. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, a copy of that worn by the high priest at Shiloh, Ex. 28, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah, intending it as an act of worship to God, in accordance with his declaration that Jehovah alone was to be honored; and all Israel went thither, instead of to Shiloh, a-whoring after it, come mitting idolatry with the ephod of Gideon, perverting even faith into superstition; which thing became a snare unto Gideon and to his house, for he set aside the Aaronic priesthood and lowered the respect in which it was held by the people. V. 28. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted Up their heads no more; they were effectually overthrown. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon, for his powerful influence kept the enemies in fear and the people from idolatry. V. 29. And Jerubbaal, the son of Joash, went and dwelt in his own house, retired to the outward position of a private person. V. 30. And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten; for he had many wives. He had everything that made for fame and happiness in Israel, power and influence, peace, riches, and many sons. V. 31. And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called, or, “and called his name,” Abimelech (“My father is king”). It seems that this concubine from the beginning had great plans for the son of Gideon and taught him a false ambition from the start. V. 32. And Gideon, the son of Joash, died in a good old age, untroubled by even the shadow of events which transpired after his death, and was buried in the sepulcher of Joash, his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites, a king in the estimation of the grateful Israelites, if not in deed. V. 33. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a-whoring after Baalim, in all the idolatry of the Canaanites, and made Baal-berith their god, considering him as one with whom they had made a covenant. V. 34. And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord, their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side; v. 35. neither showed they kindness to the house, the children, the family, of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel. They deliberately set out to forget everything that might have reminded them of repentance. Unbelief and ingratitude go hand in hand, for the heart of men is unreliable. Even great benefactors, through whom the Lord brings blessings upon His people, are soon forgotten.