-The men of Ephraim wanted to know why Gideon had not called on them in the initial fight with Midian. In fact, the Scriptures say they “contended with him vigorously” on this matter. Gideon’s response settled them entirely, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you (Judges 8:1-3)?” In other words, he was saying, “Look, what you have been able to do has exceeded my operation by a lot. We are all in this together, to God be the glory.”
-As the narrative continues, Gideon and his 300 valiant soldiers who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed it, “weary yet pursuing.” They encountered the men of Succoth, who refused to give bread to Gideon’s hungry brigade probably fearing a retaliation from Midian since they had not yet been completely defeated. Gideon was pursuing the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. He frankly told the men of Succoth that when the LORD had given Zebah and Zalmunna into his hands, which he was absolutely confident in faith to do, he promised a reckoning on these worthless men for their stubbornness to help in their time of intense need. He warned them that he would “thrash their bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” From there, Gideon and his men went up to Penuel and spoke similarly to them in searching entreaty for bread. When they too refused, he promised when he safely came back that he would tear down their city’s security tower. Now, Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor. They had about 15,000 men from their army of the sons of the east still with them out of the some 135,000 that started this campaign. 120,000 swordsmen had already fallen. Amazing, even miraculous, numbers when we think of it. Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah (in Eastern Manasseh) and attacked the Midianite camp when they were least suspecting it. The kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, fled. They were pursued and captured as the whole army was routed. Gideon returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres to capture a youth from Succoth and question him as to who the princes and elders were in his city. It came to 77 men. Gideon fulfilled his word coming back to Succoth to avenge his position on those who taunted him and his men over Zebah and Zalmunna. He “disciplined” these men with the thorns and briars of the wilderness. Then, he went and tore down the tower of Penuel just as he had guaranteed, plus he killed the men of that unhelpful city. Then he turned his attention to the two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. He asked them what kind of men they had killed at Tabor. When they responded that they were like Gideon and his crew, resembling the son of a king, Gideon was infuriated. He told them that he would have spared them, but those that they killed were his “brothers, the sons of his mother.” So, he instructed his firstborn son, Jether, to rise up and take their lives. However, the youth did not draw his sword because he was too afraid. Zebah and Zalmunna at that point encouraged Gideon to carry out his own vengeance on them for they said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” Therefore, Gideon did arise and killed these two Midianite kings. Then he took their crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks (Judges 8:4-21).
-At that point, the men of Israel wanted to make Gideon their king. After all, he had saved them from the oppression of the Midianites, Amalekites, and sons of the east. In fact, they wanted his son and his son’s son to rule over them as well. Gideon’s response is humble, classic, and God-fearing, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” But Gideon did have one request from them. He asked that each of them give him an earring of gold from their spoil of these Ishmaelites. They willingly complied and spread out a garment with everyone throwing their earrings of gold onto it. The weight of this was an impressive 1,700 shekels, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and purple robes which had been the kings of Midian, and besides the crescent neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made this into an ephod (a priestly garment, Exodus 28:4) and placed it in his home city of Ophrah. But unfortunately, all Israel played the harlot with it there (worshipped it as an idol). This indeed made it a snare to Gideon and his household as a result (Judges 8:22-27).
-Thus Midian was subdued before Gideon and the sons of Israel by the LORD’s strength. They did not lift up their heads anymore to oppress and pillage. The land was undisturbed for 40 years in the days of Gideon with this hero otherwise known as “Jerubbaal (let Baal contend for himself)” living in his own house. Some facts about Gideon’s life are now given. He had 70 sons who were direct descendants by many different wives. His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son by the name of “Abimelech.” He would prove to be a real problem as the future unfolded (see Judges 9). Gideon lived to a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father, Joash, in the city of Ophrah of the Abiezrites. As soon as Gideon died, we see a sad commentary for the nation of Israel once more. “The sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith (lord of the covenant) their god. Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel (Judges 8:28-35).”
-*Application* How humble are we when the LORD blesses us? This is a great thing to ponder from this narrative. Do we give God the credit and the glory when people want to make us king, even when it might be a small dominion? Do we receive our own glory, or reflect the glory of the real King? In many ways Gideon succeeded in these tests of grandiosity, but we do see some evidence of faltering too. The Bible is a truth book, and our lives often reflect the same disparity, or shall we say inconsistency. We should always look to become more faithful and dependent on our God, even when times are good and He is blessing in mighty-powerful ways. Just like Jesus said and taught, wealth can be an indicator of our real heart and motivations (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-30, Luke 18:18-30).
Verses to Memorize: Judges 8:22-23