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Gideon’s Triumph and Vengeance
Then the Ephraimites said to him, “What have you done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against the Midianites?” And they upbraided him violently. 2So 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? 3God has given into your hands the captains of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; what have I been able to do in comparison with you?” When he said this, their anger against him subsided.
4 Then Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the three hundred who were with him, exhausted and famished. 5So he said to the people of Succoth, “Please give some loaves of bread to my followers, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your army?” 7Gideon replied, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will trample your flesh on the thorns of the wilderness and on briers.” 8From there he went up to Penuel, and made the same request of them; and the people of Penuel answered him as the people of Succoth had answered. 9So he said to the people of Penuel, “When I come back victorious, I will break down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the east; for one hundred twenty thousand men bearing arms had fallen. 11So Gideon went up by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the army; for the army was off its guard. 12Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and threw all the army into a panic.
13 When Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres, 14he caught a young man, one of the people of Succoth, and questioned him; and he listed for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven people. 15Then he came to the people of Succoth, and said, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your troops who are exhausted?’ ” 16So he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. 17He also broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city.
18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What about the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they, every one of them; they resembled the sons of a king.” 19And he replied, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother; as the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Go kill them!” But the boy did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a boy. 21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “You come and kill us; for as the man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon proceeded to kill Zebah and Zalmunna; and he took the crescents that were on the necks of their camels.
22 Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian.” 23Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24Then Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you; each of you give me an earring he has taken as booty.” (For the enemy had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25“We will willingly give them,” they answered. So they spread a garment, and each threw into it an earring he had taken as booty. 26The weight of the golden earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold (apart from the crescents and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and the collars that were on the necks of their camels). 27Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28So Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they lifted up their heads no more. So the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.
Death of Gideon
29 Jerubbaal son of Joash went to live in his own house. 30Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. 32Then Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals, making Baal-berith their god. 34The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side; 35and they did not exhibit loyalty to the house of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
Jud 8:1-9. The Ephraimites Offended, but Pacified.
1. the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus?—Where this complaint was made, whether before or after the crossing of the Jordan, cannot be determined. By the overthrow of the national enemy, the Ephraimites were benefited as largely as any of the other neighboring tribes. But, piqued at not having been sharers in the glory of the victory, their leading men could not repress their wounded pride; and the occasion only served to bring out an old and deep-seated feeling of jealous rivalry that subsisted between the tribes (Isa 9:21). The discontent was groundless, for Gideon acted according to divine directions. Besides, as their tribe was conterminous with that of Gideon, they might, had they been really fired with the flame of patriotic zeal, have volunteered their services in a movement against the common enemy.
2, 3. he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you?—His mild and truly modest answer breathes the spirit of a great as well as good man, who was calm, collected, and self-possessed in the midst of most exciting scenes. It succeeded in throwing oil on the troubled waters (Pr 16:1), and no wonder, for in the height of generous self-denial, it ascribes to his querulous brethren a greater share of merit and glory than belonged to himself (1Co 13:4; Php 2:3).
4. Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over—much exhausted, but eager to continue the pursuit till the victory was consummated.
5. he said unto the men of Succoth—that is, a place of tents or booths. The name seems to have been applied to the whole part of the Jordan valley on the west, as well as on the east side of the river, all belonging to the tribe of Gad (compare Ge 33:17; 1Ki 7:46; with Jos 13:27). Being engaged in the common cause of all Israel, he had a right to expect support and encouragement from his countrymen everywhere.
6. the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand—an insolent as well as a time-serving reply. It was insolent because it implied a bitter taunt that Gideon was counting with confidence on a victory which they believed he would not gain; and it was time-serving, because living in the near neighborhood of the Midianite sheiks, they dreaded the future vengeance of those roving chiefs. This contumelious manner of acting was heartless and disgraceful in people who were of Israelitish blood.
7. I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers—a cruel torture, to which captives were often subjected in ancient times, by having thorns and briers placed on their naked bodies and pressed down by sledges, or heavy implements of husbandry being dragged over them.
9. he spake …, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower—Intent on the pursuit, and afraid of losing time, he postponed the merited vengeance till his return. His confident anticipation of a triumphant return evinces the strength of his faith; and his specific threat was probably provoked by some proud and presumptuous boast, that in their lofty watchtower the Penuelites would set him at defiance.
Jud 8:10-27. Zebah and Zalmunna Taken.
10. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor—a town on the eastern confines of Gad. The wreck of the Midianite army halted there.
11. Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east—He tracked the fugitives across the mountain range of Gilead to the northeast of the Jabbok, and there came upon them unexpectedly while they were resting secure among their own nomadic tribes. Jogbehah is supposed to be Ramoth-gilead; and, therefore, the Midianites must have found refuge at or near Abela, "Abel-cheramim," "the plain of the vineyards."
12. when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them—A third conflict took place. His arrival at their last quarters, which was by an unwonted path, took the fugitives by surprise, and the conquest of the Midianite horde was there completed.
13. Gideon returned from battle before the sun was up—He seems to have returned by a nearer route to Succoth, for what is rendered in our version "before the sun was up," means "the heights of Heres, the sun-hills."
14. he described—wrote the names of the seventy princes or elders. It was from them he had received so inhospitable a treatment.
16. he took … the thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth—By refusing his soldiers refreshment, they had committed a public crime, as well as an act of inhumanity, and were subjected to a horrible punishment, which the great abundance and remarkable size of the thorn bushes, together with the thinness of clothing in the East, has probably suggested.
18. Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor?—This was one of the countless atrocities which the Midianite chiefs had perpetrated during their seven years' lawless occupancy. It is noticed now for the first time when their fate was about to be determined.
each one resembled the children of a king—An Orientalism for great beauty, majesty of appearance, uncommon strength, and grandeur of form.
19. They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother—That is, uterine brothers; but, in all countries where polygamy prevails, "the son of my mother" implies a closeness of relationship and a warmth of affection never awakened by the looser term, "brother."
20. he said unto Jether his first-born, Up, and slay them—The nearest of kin was the blood-avenger; but a magistrate might order any one to do the work of the executioner; and the person selected was always of a rank equal or proportioned to that of the party doomed to suffer (1Ki 2:29). Gideon intended, then, by the order to Jether, to put an honor on his son, by employing him to slay two enemies of his country; and on the youth declining, he performed the bloody deed himself.
22, 23. the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us … Gideon said unto them, the Lord shall rule over you—Their unbounded admiration and gratitude prompted them, in the enthusiasm of the moment, to raise their deliverer to a throne, and to establish a royal dynasty in his house. But Gideon knew too well, and revered too piously the principles of the theocracy, to entertain the proposal for a moment. Personal and family ambition was cheerfully sacrificed to a sense of duty, and every worldly motive was kept in check by a supreme regard to the divine honor. He would willingly act as judge, but the Lord alone was King of Israel.
24-26. Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you—This was the contribution of an earring (singular). As the ancient Arabians (Ishmaelites and Midianites being synonymous terms, Ge 37:25, 28) were gorgeously adorned with barbaric pearl and gold, an immense amount of such valuable booty had fallen into the hands of the Israelitish soldiers. The contribution was liberally made, and the quantity of gold given to him is estimated at £3113 sterling.
26. ornaments—crescent-like plates of gold suspended from the necks, or placed on the breasts of the camels.
collars—rather, "earrings," or drops of gold or pearl.
purple—a royal color. The ancient, as well as modern Arabs, adorned the necks, breasts, and legs, of their riding animals with sumptuous housing.
27. Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, … Ophrah—That no idolatrous use was in view, nor any divisive course from Shiloh contemplated, is manifest from Jud 8:33. Gideon proposed, with the gold he received, to make an ephod for his use only as a civil magistrate or ruler, as David did (1Ch 15:27), and a magnificent pectoral or breastplate also. It would seem, from the history, that he was not blamable in making this ephod, as a civil robe or ornament merely, but that it afterward became an object to which religious ideas were attached; whereby it proved a snare, and consequently an evil, by perversion, to Gideon and his house [Taylor, Fragments].
Jud 8:28. Midian Subdued.
28. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel—This invasion of the Arab hordes into Canaan was as alarming and desolating as the irruption of the Huns into Europe. It was the severest scourge ever inflicted upon Israel; and both it and the deliverance under Gideon lived for centuries in the minds of the people (Ps 83:11).