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Bible Commentaries
Judges 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-35

Judges 8:16 . He taught the men of Succoth. The LXX read, he threshed them. This little city of forty or fifty families was blinded, in giving this answer to Gideon. Soldiers fighting for their country have at least a right to demand bread. Now the backs of the elders must atone for the insolence of their tongues.

Judges 8:21 . The ornaments on their camels’ necks. They were caparisoned in the most gorgeous manner.

Judges 8:22 . Rule thou over us. The Hebrew government was a theocracy, supported almost without costs; but carnal men and wicked factions are not worthy of such an order of things. As their king, God was never wanting, when they addressed him as such: the calamities which befel the nation arose from the apostasy of the people. Gideon, aware of this, declined a monarch’s sceptre, and gave the glory to the Lord.

Judges 8:23 . I will not rule over you. Semiramis had formed a great empire, but Gideon shunned the sceptre: he did not raise a standing army, nor put garrisons in Ishmael, Ammon, and Moab. He was content with Jehovah’s presence as a wall of fire.

Judges 8:27 . Gideon made an ephod. Exodus 28:6. The ephod contained the breastplate, which Abiathar was careful to take when he fled to David. Gideon with all this gold established a sort of chapel royal, that he might in case of need enquire of God; and which no priest was allowed to do without the knowledge of the king.

Judges 8:31 . His concubine; a woman whose marriage was not registered; by consequence, neither she nor her children were entitled to the inheritance and wealth of their father. Such children are generally ill educated, as the sequel will prove.


Gideon in the full career of victory found his joys disturbed by the menaces of his brother Ephraim, and menaces of immediate death. This tribe claimed priority over Manasseh, because of Jacob’s blessing, and because of its own strength. Having distinguished themselves in the pursuit and slaughter of the enemy, they became insolent with the Lord’s appointed judge. How uncertain are all our earthly joys; and how calamitous is the situation of princes and rulers when surrounded by factions of proud and turbulent men. And it is no small mark of Gideon’s prudence and goodness, that he pacified them by a modest answer.

The princes or elders of Succoth and Penuel being situate contiguous to the enemy’s country, acted the part of selfish prudence. They did not believe in Gideon’s call and mission; they knew that Zebah and Zalmunna were still in the land with an army. Hence they denied bread to the victorious, who were expelling an enemy that consumed the land. This was a foul crime; it was death by the well-known and existing covenant of the Israelites; nor was the punishment long delayed. Before the sun was up next morning, Gideon was under the wall of Succoth, with the two captive kings in whom they had trusted. How soon was their unbelief put to shame; and how soon the angry army inflicted the vengeance on their backs, which hunger had denounced the preseding day. How weak are they who put confidence in princes, not in alliance with heaven. Let us learn to be on the Lord’s side, whatever adversity or clouds may for the moment surround his cause.

Zebah and Zalmunna having seen the loss of their whole army, must now in turn drink the bitter cup of death. Gideon finding that his brethren did not return to share the joys of victory, suspected them to be slain at Tabor. Hence, as they showed no mercy to their captives, they could expect no mercy from him. Oh how bitterly would they lament engaging in this invasion, which terminated in the loss of their lives: and how mysterious is the providence of God, which by the vicissitudes of war makes one wicked nation a dreadful scourge to another. Gideon having vanquished kings, and acquired salvation and glory for his country, was offered the throne of Israel as the reward of his victories. This through piety he refused; for he regarded the Lord as Israel’s king; and considered the patriarchal rights, and the municipal privileges of every city as ordained of God. He therefore retired to his own paternal cottage, and refused for himself all regal and pecuniary rewards. What proofs of disinterestedness, of wisdom and heroic virtue! How marvellous that this man, so weak but a few days ago, should now be so strong. What an act of faith that God would at all times raise up for the people a military judge or deliverer, whenever the invasion or menaces of the neighbouring nations should so require. Hence he would neither take advantage of his people’s good-will in the moment of popular enthusiasm, nor expose his sons to the temptations of royalty. Yet the very name that Gideon was still alive intimidated every heathen prince, who might otherwise have been disposed to molest the Hebrews. Unable at that time to remove the ark to the city, he requested the earrings in order to make an ephod, that in cases of necessity he might consult the Lord, and in all things do his will. This was contrary to the law, and yet it was in some sort sanctioned by example, for in many of the tribes an independent government prevailed, and they offered sacrifices on the high places where Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had been accustomed to worship.

Lastly, we have to blame this illustrious man for being too fond of a patriarch’s fame, though he had declined the honours of a king. He multiplied his wives, and saw seventy sons rising around his various tables. This was his sin, and it caused the special favours of his family to be blasted. These sons were all slain by one that was illegitimate; for how should the righteous Judge of heaven and earth entail his blessings when men depart from his precepts? Hence, though the example of Gideon, and other judges, be set before us by St. Paul, it regards only the great acts of faith and virtue, not their failings and their sins.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/judges-8.html. 1835.
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