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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Judges 8

Verse 1

CHAP. VIII.

Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites; he takes the two kings, Zeba and Zalmunna, prisoners. He refuses the kingdom offered to him, and dies, being the father of seventy children.

Before Christ 1267.

Verse 2

Judges 8:2. Is not the gleaning, &c.— The Ephraimites, displeased that they had not been called to share the glory of this enterprise with their brethren of the tribe of Manasseh, to whom they judged themselves superior, sharply expostulate with Gideon upon the occasion. He gives them a soft and gentle answer, which had the due effect, abating their anger towards him, Judges 8:3. (See Proverbs 15:1.) He magnifies their service, as greatly superior to his own; disarming their insolence by his humility; their anger by his meekness; a singular instance of modesty and prudence in a man of Gideon's carriage. See chap. 12: The words, Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim, &c. mean, that what the tribe of Ephraim had, as it were, gleaned and picked up after the victory, particularly their capture of Oreb and Zeeb, was far more than all which Gideon and his host had done. Abiezer was the chief of the family from which Gideon descended. See ch. Judges 6:11.Joshua 17:2; Joshua 17:2.

Verse 6

Judges 8:6. Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand This was an insulting irreligious taunt, which shewed at once that these persons believed not the divine interposition in behalf of Gideon, and, at the same time, were enemies to the true religion; no wonder, therefore, that Gideon replies to them with great severity, and afterwards inflicts upon them the punishment which they deserve. See note on Judges 8:16.

Verse 10

Judges 8:10. Children of the East Children of Kedem; i.e. Ishmaelites. Hiller. Onomastic. p. 534.

Verse 11

Judges 8:11. By the way of them that dwelt in tents That is, by the country of the Arabians, called Scenitae, from their dwelling in tents.

Verse 13

Judges 8:13. Before the sun was up Very different and contrary interpretations are given of this passage. Houbigant supposes, that החרס hechares does not signify the sun here, but is the proper name of a place; and accordingly he renders it by that place which is above Hares; and in this interpretation he is countenanced by the LXX, Syriac, and Arabic versions.

Verse 16

Judges 8:16. And with them he taught the men of Succoth He threatened in the 7th verse to tear their flesh with the thorns of the wilderness, and with briars, which Le Clerc there renders, then will I thresh their flesh, &c. and here for and with them he taught, &c. he reads, and made an example of them to the men of Succoth. But there is nobody, says Houbigant, conversant in the style of Scripture, who can doubt that דשׁתי dashti, I will tear, being read in the 7th verse, the true reading here is, וידשׁ vaiidash, and he tore, and not וידע vaiiodang, and he taught, as we now read. What gives the greatest confirmation to this conjecture is, that the ancient versions, with one consent, agree in this reading. It is doubtful what kind of punishment it was that Gideon inflicted upon the princes of Succoth; but as their crime was the same as that of the men of Penuel, there seems to be no doubt that it was a punishment unto death. However severe, this chastisement was just. In refusing Gideon the succours which he demanded for the troops employed to save the state, they rendered themselves guilty of a species of rebellion; they sinned against the laws of humanity; they joined insult to their cruelty; and their refusal, unworthy of a people who had any respect for religion, and any love of their country, merited a more public chastisement; as otherwise their example might have proved contagious, and have defeated all the good effects of Gideon's government. See Scheuchzer on the place.

REFLECTIONS.—Though the battle is won, and a vast slaughter already made of one hundred and twenty thousand men of war, yet the sword of Gideon cannot rest whilst Zeba and Zalmunna, with fifteen thousand men, are still alive in Karkor. We have therefore,

1. His hot pursuit of them. With his three hundred men, not one of whom was missing, he passes Jordan; and, since God had so eminently supported him, seeks no other assistance: though faint with watching, want of food, and fatigue, he slacks not his pace, nor is discouraged with the refusal of refreshment that he met with at Succoth or Penuel, but continues his march; and, having taken a compass out of the strait road, he surprised the fugitive Midianites, who thought themselves secure, and beyond the possibility of being overtaken. As before, they seek their safety in flight; and when most of them are slain, their two kings remain prisoners with the conquerors. Note; (1.) Though in our spiritual warfare our flesh and heart often seem ready to fail, we must be still looking up for strength, and persevere. (2.) Those from whom we might expect the most cordial assistance, often, like the men of Succoth and Penuel, seek to weaken our hands and discourage our hearts. (3.) Patient perseverance will infallibly be crowned with success.

2. His heavy chastisement of his unnatural countrymen, according to his threatening when they refused to assist him with provisions in the pursuit; his request was small, he asked only a few loaves of bread; his necessities were urgent, and his deserts at the hand of every Israelite such as entitled him to their best entertainment; but they, whether afraid of the resentment of the Midianites, or led, from the smallness of Gideon's forces, to treat his attempt as rash and desperate, not only shut up their bowels of compassion from him as a brother, but ridiculed his vain pursuit, as they conceived it, casting contempt on his faith in God. Justly incensed at such treatment, where not himself was more injured than God dishonoured, he had threatened to visit them; and, though he could not then interrupt his march to chastise their insolence, now that he is returned he will do it more deliberately and severely. Accordingly, having gained intelligence of the chief men at whose instigation he had been so used, he seizes their cities and persons: after upbraiding them with their baseness, and shewing them the captive kings in chains, as he had threatened, he scourged those of Succoth with thorns and briers, that, by this correction, they might know their folly and their sin, whilst the men of Penuel were put to the sword, and their fortress demolished. Note; (1.) They who sin will smart for it, either now under the rod of correction, or eternally under the wrath of God. (2.) It is no new thing to have the world ridicule the pursuits of God's people; but they who counted their lives madness, will shortly see that the folly was in themselves. (3.) In the severest chastisement, God means not our destruction, but correction: happy they who acknowledge God's hand, and correspond with the designs of his grace.

Verse 18

Judges 8:18. Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna The history is so extremely short in this place, that we can only form conjectures: it is plain, from the examination of these princes, that they had slain Gideon's brethren; but with what circumstances we know not. They tell Gideon, that they resembled him; as thou art; so were they; i.e. men in whose aspect greatness and majesty were conspicuous; every one resembled the children of a king. For this murder of his brethren, Gideon orders his eldest son Jether, Jdg 8:20 to rise up and slay Zeba and Zalmunna; for it was not unusual in ancient times for great persons to execute those offenders upon whom they passed sentence. They had then no public executioners. Samuel himself hewed Agag to pieces in Gilgal; and Benaiah, the general of the army, fell upon Joab at the horns of the altar. Gideon, like another Asdrubal, would have animated his son by this execution to a zeal against the enemies of Israel; but the youth was afraid to obey his father's commands; terrified, possibly, by the fierce countenance of the Midianites, intrepid at the view of death, as their next words prove; in which they entreat Gideon, as a man of strength and dignity, to dispatch them, that they might not have the disgrace of their defeat augmented by an ignominious death from the hands of a stripling.

Note; The day is coming when every secret thing will be brought to light, and such conviction flash on the offenders, that they shall no longer be able to conceal their guilt.

Verse 22

Judges 8:22. Rule thou over us The Israelites, forgetful of the peculiar government under which they were, wished to be ruled, like their neighbour-nations, by a king, and therefore entreat Gideon to assume the sceptre; but he, more wise than they, absolutely refuses them; and at the same time, in the most noble manner, reminds them that God was their king: The Lord will rule over you.

Verse 27

Judges 8:27. Gideon made an ephod As the people in the height of their gratitude had offered Gideon the kingdom, he justly concluded that they could not refuse him an inferior petition; he asked therefore, and they readily gave him, such of their spoils as were necessary to the making of an ephod. By referring to Exo 28:6 we shall find an account of the ephod appropriated by God to the use of the high-priest. This of Gideon, most likely, was made according to the pattern of that in Shiloh; and as the presents here given are evidently too numerous for the construction of an ephod only, it may be thought that the word ephod is here used for all the appendages of the ephod, the whole sacerdotal dress and service, which Gideon improperly instituted at Ophrah, and which drew all Israel a whoring thither after it; i.e. abandoning the worship of God in Shiloh, and unfaithfully attending this false and unallowed service. Some, however, think, that this ephod was formed by Gideon with the best design, merely as a triumphant emblem of the victory granted to him by God. See Spencer de Leg. Heb. lib. 3: cap. 3 sect. 5.

REFLECTIONS.—Though Gideon met with so ill a reception from the men of Penuel and Succoth, he met with a more honourable one from the rest of Israel.

1. They offer him the government, and to make it hereditary in his family. So affected were they by the greatness of their deliverance, that they thought no returns adequate to the deserts of their captain. Note; They, who have seen the Lord Jesus appearing for their salvation, cannot but with hearty choice say unto him, Come and reign over us.

2. Gideon modestly and piously declines the proposal; though he would serve them as a judge, he will not rule over them as a king: this would be to change the established government, which was a theocracy; and therefore neither his sons, any more than himself, may assume such authority. Note; The ambition of exalting a family is a great snare; but a true patriot, who means not himself but the public, will decline rather than seek honours, satisfied with the consciousness of his own integrity, and desiring not to rule, but to serve his country.

3. Though he declined their offer, he has a request to make to them. He asked the golden ear-rings of their spoil, to which he added what fell to his own share of jewels and fine garments; and with these he made an ephod, either designed for a memorial of his victory to be preserved in Ophrah, or conceiving that, as God had ordered him to build an altar, and had accepted his sacrifices, he might continue it to minister before him, and ask advice and direction from God, though not of the order of Aaron; and perhaps, as Shiloh lay in the tribe of Ephraim, who had disobliged him, he the rather fell on this method to prevent his going up to the altar of the Lord there. But, however honestly it was meant, it proved a dangerous snare, leading Gideon, and his own house, into a breach of God's commands, and proving a temptation to Israel, always too prone to idolatry. Note; (1.) In God's worship we must carefully adhere to his word, avoiding all superstition. (2.) What may be indifferent or innocent to one man, may, to a weaker brother, be a dangerous snare. (3.) From small beginnings arose all the present horrid idolatry of the church of Rome.

4. After Gideon's victory the land had again rest for forty years, during which time he judged them, and kept them, it is to be hoped, in the ways and service of God. Note; It is a great mercy to any people to have the lives of faithful ministers long spared among them.

Verse 33

Judges 8:33. Went a whoring after Baalim As the same expression is made use of in Jdg 8:27 with regard to Gideon's ephod, we may reasonably conclude, that, in the former case, they were guilty of idolatry, by worshipping the true God in an improper manner, and contrary to his immediate commands; as, in the latter, they were guilty of idolatry by worshipping false gods: an observation which confirms the opinion that we have advanced in the note on the former part of the 27th verse, concerning the ephod.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/judges-8.html. 1801-1803.