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GRIEVOUS WORDS AND A SOFT ANSWER
But the men of Ephraim were resentful that Gideon had called them so late rather than when he began his campaign against Midian (v.1). They did not stop to consider that it was God who ordered the assault on Midian.They probably did not know that God had reduced the army to 300 rather than increasing it by the inclusion of Ephraim.Gideon could have pointed these things out to them, but instead he took a wiser way of using a soft answer to turn away their anger.
If they thought that Gideon was seeking honor for himself, such an attitude on their part would melt away when Gideon told them that he had done little in comparison to Ephraim. They had taken a part that was most important in completing a victory over the enemy. Why should they feel as though they had been left out? God had used them to destroy the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, so that Gideon asks them what he had done in comparison to them? This humble attitude of Gideon produced good results, for the anger of the Ephraimites subsided. Thus, strife in the camp was averted and the armies left free to finish their work.
Gideon with his 300 men pursued Zeba and Zalmunna, kings of Midian, becoming weary after a long day's conflict. Crossing the Jordan, they came to Succoth, a city of Israel, and there asked for bread for the army (v. 5). Certainly they were entitled to this, for they were fighting Israel's battles. But the leaders of the city, haughtily refused, saying, in effect, that if they had already defeated Zeba and Zalmunna they might have reason to expect food from Succoth (v. 6).
Gideon therefore warned them of what he would do when he had captured these two kings. He would return and tear the flesh of the leaders with thorns and briars (v. 7). This would not be pleasant, but it was a righteous revenge.
Another city in Israel, Penuel, when asked for food, spoke in the same insulting way to Gideon. How sad it is when God's people not only give no support to those who are fighting God's battles, but rather insult them! In the case of Penuel, Gideon tells them that when he returned he would tear down their tower. The tower was for the purpose of watching against enemy attacks, but Penuel had no concern for opposing the enemy. Then of what use was their tower?
Zeba and Zalmunna were in Karkor, with15,000 men, for 120,000 of their army had been killed, an amazing decimation (v. 10). The 15,000 were evidently practically paralyzed with fear and unable to resist the assault of 300 men! They had traveled some miles, and felt secure from further conflict (v. 11), then when attacked were totally routed. Of course it was the Lord who gave the victory, and they took captive the two kings, Zeba and Zalmunna (v.12).
Returning from the battle, as they neared Succoth, Gideon caught a young man who was resident in that city, to learn from him who were the leaders and elders of Succoth. He was given 77names (v.14).Therefore he faced these leaders with the fact of his now having captured Zeba and Zalmunna, reminding them of their insulting words (v. 15), and "taught" them with thorns and briars of the wilderness, as he had promised (v. 16). This meant they were physically torn by the thorns and briars (v. 7), certainly a painful infliction, to say the least!
Then he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city (v. 17), likely meaning the leaders among them. We are not told why there was a difference between the punishment given to the men of Succoth and those of Penuel, but no doubt Gideon had a reason for this.
Following this Gideon asked Zeba and Zalmunna what kind of men they had killed at Tabor. This killing must have taken place some time before, but we have no record of it. They answered that those men resembled Gideon, their appearance being as sons of a king (v. 18). So Gideon tells them they were his own brothers, and if Zeba and Zalmunna had let them live, Gideon would not kill them (v. 19). Gideon may have been too partial in saying this, for these kings were enemies of God, which is more serious than their attitude toward individual Israelites who were Gideon's relatives.
He gave orders to his eldest son to kill the two kings, but being young, he was not a hardened warrior and would not attempt such work (v. 20). Zeba and Zalmunna then told Gideon he should kill them, for they say, "as a man is, so is his strength." Gideon responded by killing them both, then took as spoil the crescent ornaments that were on their camels' necks. There is some significance in this, little as we might perceive it.
A GOLDEN EPHOD
Gideon had earned the respect of Israel, but just as the people who had witnessed the Lord's feeding of the five thousand wanted to take Him by force to make Him a king (John 6:15), so the men of Israel wanted Gideon to reign over them and his sons to succeed him in reigning (v. 22). They thought this was the way to perpetuate the blessing that God had brought to them through Gideon. But this would be confidence in the vessel, not confidence in the Lord. Gideon perceived this immediately and refused their proposition, telling them the Lord should rule over them, not Gideon or his sons (v. 23)). This was wisdom and faith that would have been most fruitful if Gideon had left it at that.
However, Gideon made a very grave blunder in another direction.He requested ( not demanded) that the people should give him the golden earrings they had taken as plunder from the Midianites. They willingly did so, and with this large amount of gold Gideon made an ephod and set it up for public display in Ophrah, his own city (vv. 25-27).
He had certainly not enquired of God as to this matter, but evidently thought it was a nice religious symbol of God's approval. How deceiving was such a thing! An ephod was the most important article of the high priest's clothing, the vesture in which the breastplate with its twelve precious stones was set (Exodus 39:2-21). But Gideon was not a priest. Nor did God ever suggest an ephod being set up by itself: it was to be worn.
The sad mistake of Gideon in making a golden ephod involves a most serious lesson for believers today. One may rightly realize he is not to be a ruler over God's people, and yet assume the place of being their spiritual adviser, the one through whom the people may receive their spiritual instruction. Thus many today want to give to a godly man the honor of being called "reverend," expecting him to be more spiritual than others. With such an arrangement the people excuse themselves from requiring the exercise of being in God's presence for themselves, to receive instruction directly from Him. This dependence on a man is a worse evil than people think. It is really idolatry, just as the people came to Gideon's house to honor the golden ephod. Gideon would say that the ephod was intended just as a reminder of God's authority, but God commanded Israel only to make a linen ephod, and that to be worn by a priest, so that the golden ephod actually became an object of worship to Israel (v. 27). However, the land remained in peace for forty years in the days of Gideon (v. 28).
Gideon then lived in his own house, with no more exploits to occupy him. We are told he had seventy sons, his own offspring, because he had many wives (v. 30), as well as having a concubine who bore him one son named Abimelech. God had said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24), so that having more than one wife was contrary to God's will, though many believers in the Old Testament did so.
Gideon died at a good old age (v. 32), and as soon as he died, Israel again reverted to their idolatrous worship of the Baals, and particularly Baal-Berith, meaning "lord of the covenant." This speaks of Israel being degraded to a covenant relationship with God which is not God's covenant at all, but rather a promise of serving the Lord that is merely of the flesh. God's covenant with Israel was that of the law of Moses, but false lords advocate a falsified covenant. Thus Israel was guilty again of not remembering the Lord God who had delivered them from their enemies, and forgot Gideon and his house (vv. 34-35). It is with good cause that Christians are told, "Remember those who rule (or have taken the lead) over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7). Paul speaks here of those leaders who have passed away. We are not to forget their faith and their example.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Judges 8". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany