Many are led into false ways by one false step of a good man (v. 27).
False worship soon makes way for false deities.
1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
4 ¶ And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.
6 ¶ And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?
7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
8 ¶ And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.
9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
10 ¶ Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.
11 ¶ And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.
12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
13 ¶ And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,
14 And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.
15 And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?
16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
18 ¶ Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.
19 And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.
20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.
21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.
22 ¶ Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
24 ¶ And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks.
27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
28 ¶ Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
32 ¶ And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god.
34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
Judges 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Judges 7:24-25; 8:1-12 – A Soft Answer Turneth Away Wrath
The fleeing host made for the three fords of the Jordan, and with all haste Gideon summoned the tribes to anticipate them. The way of the victor was not without its drawbacks and discouragements. Ephraim was wroth; Succoth and Penuel were contemptuous; his own men were faint, though pursuing. But the faith that had won the great victory never wavered. Gideon “endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). From the eternal source of patience and hope he derived the grace of continuance. This is what Paul also learned and taught in after-years, II Corinthians 6:4, etc.
When the soul is leaning on God, drawing on his resources and affirming his sufficient grace, it can afford to answer Ephraim pleasantly; it will not shrink from rebuking cowardice in Penuel and Succoth; and it will hold on its victorious way, until the last enemy is destroyed and it enters the presence of God to receive the “Well done!” Discouraged soul, get alone, shut your door on all other thoughts, and say over and over to God the words with which the good Asaph ends Psalm 73:23-28. Let these fill your heart with music till you are strong again. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Judges 8:13-28 – The Snare of Success
Clearly Gideon’s family had passed through some terrible tragedy previous to this war of emancipation. He had not learned our Lord’s teaching of forgiveness and acted on the usual maxims of his age. Possibly, also, he felt that he was the executioner of God’s vengeance upon these chiefs, whose names, “Immolation” and “Trouble,” were derived from their desperate deeds. As they stood anticipating death, they uttered a memorable sentence, “As the man is, so is his strength” (Judges 8:21). The usefulness of our lives is not to be gauged by what we say or have or think, but by what we are. It is not gift but grace that leaves the deepest dint upon other lives. If you want to be strong in the arm, you must be pure and true at heart.
The gold and purple of the spoil enabled Gideon to make an ephod, presumably on the pattern of that described in Exodus 28. It was not exactly an idol but a kind of fetish, and it diverted the thoughts of the people from Shiloh and the spiritual worship of the unseen and eternal God. So apt is the human heart to cling to some outward emblem—it may be a crucifix, a wafer, or a church—and miss that worship in spirit and in truth for which the Father seeks. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Judges 8:18—As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.
It was a magnificent tribute to the royal bearing of this illustrious family. All the children had the stamp of kingliness on them, which had impressed even these barbaric princes. Would that a similar confession could be extorted from those who behold the members of the royal house of Jesus!
The children of a king! It is within the reach of any who aspire to it. By the second birth we become the children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, and the Spirit witnesses to our sonship, teaching us to cry, Abba, Father. As children of the great King we should bear the sign of our high lineage in our bearing and walk.
Royalty of Demeanor.—There is an aristocratic bearing in the scions of noble houses among men. The head is lifted high, the mien is proud, the manner distant and reserved. But in the family of God, meekness and lowliness, humility and contriteness, are marks of family likeness. We walk as Jesus walked, of whom the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36).
Royalty of Dress.—The king is marked by the brilliant orders glittering on his breast. Purple and ermine become those who date their descent from a line of kings. But the emblem of our family is the cross; our color is scarlet; our insignia is the towel and basin that speak of lowly service.
Royalty of Occupation.—The earthly king does nothing servile. He is waited on with lowly obeisance. But they who are of the same family as Jesus are found performing the lowliest acts of service, in jails, hospitals, and slums. In this they follow closely on the steps of Him who went about doing good. —Our Daily Homily
Judges 8:29-35 – Through Slaughter to a Throne
The Children of Israel were guilty of great fickleness and instability. They soon relapsed into Baal worship and forgot to show kindness to the family of their great leader. But such is the frailty of the human heart. However hot we may be for Christ today, we may be cold and distant tomorrow. It seems as if the great adversary taunts us with this as he did John Bunyan, to whom he kept whispering. “I’ll cool you, I’ll cool you.” We must take our fickle hearts to our Lord, asking Him to keep us true and hot in our love. There are times when His friendship is the most real thing in life, but then the rainbow-glory fades in the sky. Let it not be so any more, O Lord, we beseech thee! —Through the Bible Day by Day