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JUDGES CHAPTER 8
The Ephraimites are displeased with Gideon; he satisfies them, Judges 8:1-3.
He pursueth two kings of the Midianites he punisheth those of Succoth and Penuel, Judges 8:4-17.
He revengeth his brethren’s death on the two kings, Judges 8:18-21.
He refuseth government, Judges 8:22,Judges 8:23; demandeth a present of the spoil, and thereof makes an ephod; places it in Ophrah; it is a cause of idolatry, Judges 8:24-27.
Gideon’s children, wives, death, and burial, Judges 8:30-32.
Israel revolts to idolatry; is ungrateful to Gideon’s family, Judges 8:33-35.
Why hast thou neglected and despised us, in not calling us in to thy help, as thou didst other tribes? These were a proud people, Isaiah 11:13, puffed up with a conceit of their number and strength, and the preference which Jacob by Divine direction gave them above Manasseh, Genesis 48:19,Genesis 48:20, of which tribe Gideon was, who by this act had seemed to advance his own tribe, and to depress theirs.
What was done was done by God’s immediate making them one to kill another; what I have done, in cutting off some of the fugitive common soldiers, is not to be compared with your exploit in destroying their princes; I began the war, but you have finished.
The gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim; what you have gleaned or done after me.
Of Abi-ezer, i.e. of the Abi-ezrites, to whom he modestly communicateth the honour of the victory, and doth not arrogate it to himself, as generals commonly do.
His soft and humble answer allayed their rage and envy. See Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 25:15.
Passed over, or, had passed over: when he passed over, See Poole "Judges 7:25".
Succoth; a place beyond Jordan, Genesis 33:17; Joshua 13:27; Psalms 60:6.
Kings of Midian; where before this time were five kings at once, Numbers 31:8, who either reigned separately in divers parts of the land, or governed by common counsel and consent, as sometimes there were two or three Roman emperors together.
Art thou so foolish to think, with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers, to conquer and destroy a host of fifteen thousand men?
With the thorns which grow abundantly in the neighbouring wilderness; I will chastise or beat your naked bodies with thorny rods, even unto death. Or, I will lay you down upon thorns on the ground, and bring the cartwheel upon you, which will both tear your flesh, and bruise you to death.
Penuel; another city beyond Jordan; of which see Genesis 32:30; 1 Kings 12:25.
Your confidence in which makes you thus proud and presumptuous. He implies that he would afterwards destroy their persons, as is expressed, Judges 8:17.
i.e. Persons expert and exercised in war, besides the retainers to them, Judges 6:5.
Of them that dwelt in tents, i.e. of the Arabians; so fetching a compass, and falling upon them where they least expected it.
Nobah and Jogbehah; of which cities see Numbers 32:35,Numbers 32:42.
The host was secure; being now got safe over Jordan, and a great way from the place of battle; and, probably, supposing Gideon’s men, to be so tired with their hard service, and the great slaughter which they had made, that they would have neither strength nor will to pursue them so far.
By which it may be gathered that he came upon them in the night, which was most convenient for him, who had so small a number with him; and most likely both to surprise and terrify them by the remembrance of the last night’s sad work, and the expectation of another like it.
He told him their names and qualities.
By that severe punishment (of which Judges 8:7) he made the men, i.e. the elders of Succoth, to know their sin and folly, though it was too late for their good, but not for the instruction and warning of others.
What manner of men, i.e. for outward shape and quality?
At Tabor; whither he understood they fled for shelter, upon the approach of the Midianites; and where he learnt that some were slain, which he suspected might be they.
Each one resembled the children of a king; not for their garb, or outward splendour, for the family was but mean; but for the majesty of their looks; by which commendation they thought to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror.
For being not Canaanites he was not obliged to kill them; but they having killed his brethren, and that in cool blood, he was by law the avenger of their blood.
Up and slay them; partly, that he might animate him to the use of arms for his God and country against their enemies, and to the exercise of justice; partly, that the death of those mischievous persons might be more shameful and painful; and partly, that he might have some share in the honour of the victory.
As the man is, so is his strength: thou excellest him, as in age and stature, so in strength; and it is more honourable, as well as easy, to dig by the hands of a valiant man.
Rule thou over us; not as a judge, for that he was already made by God; but as a king; and let the kingdom be hereditary to thee and to thy family. This miraculous and glorious deliverance by thy hands deserves no less from us.
I will not rule over you, to wit, as a king, which you desire.
The Lord shall rule over you, in a special manner, as he hath hitherto done, by judges, whom God did particularly appoint and direct, even by Urim and Thummim, and assist upon all occasions; whereas kings had a greater power, and only a general dependence upon God, as other kings had. Compare 1 Samuel 8:6,1 Samuel 8:7.
Object. They are called Midianites before.
Answ. Here seems to have been a mixture of people, Judges 6:3, which are all called by one general name, Ishmaelites, or Arabians, who used to wear earrings, Genesis 35:4; but the greatest, and the ruling part of them, were Midianites.
Made an ephod thereof; not of all of it, for then it would have been too heavy for use; but of part of it, the rest being probably employed about other things agreeable and appertaining to it; which elsewhere are comprehended under the name of the ephod, as Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14,Judges 18:18; Hosea 3:4.
Put it in his city; not as a monument of the victory, for such monuments were neither proper nor usual; but for religious use, for which alone the ephod was appointed. The case seems to be this, Gideon having by God’s command erected an altar in his own city, Ophrah, Judges 6:26, for an extraordinary time and occasion, thought it might be continued for ordinary use; and therefore as he intended to procure priests, so he designed to make priestly garments, and especially an ephod, which was the chief and most costly; which besides its use in sacred ministrations, was also the instrument by which the mind of God was inquired and discovered, 1 Samuel 23:6,1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7, which might seem necessary for the judge to have at hand, that he might consult with God upon all occasions.
All Israel went thither a whoring after it; committing superstition or idolatry with it; or going thither to inquire the will of God; whereby they were drawn from the true ephod, instituted by God for this end, which was to be worn by the high priest only.
A snare; an occasion of sin and ruin to him and his, as the next chapter showeth. Though Gideon was a good man, and did this with an honest mind, and a desire to set up religion in his own city and family; yet here seems to be many sins in it.
1. Superstition and willworship, worshipping God by a device of his own, which was frequently and expressly forbidden.
2. Presumption, in wearing, or causing other priests to wear, this kind of ephod, which was peculiar to the high priest.
3. Transgression of a plain command, of worshipping God ordinarily but at one place, and one altar, Deuteronomy 12:5,Deuteronomy 12:11,Deuteronomy 12:14, and withdrawing people from that place to his.
4. Making a fearful schism or division among the people.
5. Laying a stumbling-block, or an occasion of superstition or idolatry, before that people, whom he knew to be too prone to it.
Lifted up their heads no more, i.e. recovered not their former strength or courage, so as to conquer or oppress others, as they had done.
Forty years, i.e. to the fortieth year, from the beginning of the Midianitish oppression: see on Judges 3:11.
In the days of Gideon, i.e. as long as Gideon lived.
Not in his father’s house, as he did before; nor yet in a court, like a king, as the people desired; but in a middle state, as a judge, for the preservation and maintenance of their religion and liberties.
In Shechem; she dwelt there, and he oft came thither, either to execute judgment, or upon other occasions.
Abimelech, i.e. my father the king; so he called him, probably to gratify his concubine, who desired it either out of pride or design.
In a good old age; his long life being crowned with the continuance of his honour, tranquility, and happiness.
The children of Israel turned again; whereby we see the wicked temper of this people, who did no longer cleave to God than they were in a manner constrained to it by the presence and authority of their judges.
Baalim: this was the general name, including all their idols, whereof one here follows.
Baal-berith, i.e. The lord of the covenant, so called, either from the covenant wherewith the worshippers of this god bound themselves to maintain his worship, or to defend one another therein; or rather, because he was reputed the god and judge of all covenants, and promises, and contracts, to whom it belonged to maintain them, and to punish the violaters of them; and such a god both the Grecians and the Romans had.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Judges 8". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany