Judges 8

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1 And the men of Ephraim came and said to him, Why did you not send for us when you went to war against Midian? And they said sharp and angry words to him.

2 And he said to them, What have I done in comparison with you? Is not that which Ephraim took up after the grape-cutting better than all the grapes which Abiezer got in from the grape-cutting?

3 God has given into your hands the chiefs of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; what have I been able to do in comparison with you? And when he said this, their feeling about him became kinder.

4 Then Gideon came to Jordan and went over it with his three hundred, overcome with weariness and in need of food.

5 And he said to the men of Succoth, Give bread cakes to my people, for they are overcome with weariness, and I am going on after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.

6 But the chiefs of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna even now in your hand that we are to give bread to your army?

7 Then Gideon said, Because of this, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hands, I will have you stretched on a bed of thorns of the waste land and on sharp stems, and have you crushed as grain is crushed on a grain-floor.

8 So he went up from there to Penuel and made the same request to the men of Penuel; but they gave him the same answer as the men of Succoth had given.

9 So he said to the men of Penuel, When I come back in peace, I will have this tower broken down.

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand men, those of all the army of the children of the east who were still living; for a hundred and twenty thousand of their swordsmen had been put to death.

11 And Gideon went up by the way used by the people living in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and made an attack on the army when they had no thought of danger.

12 And Zebah and Zalmunna went in flight; and he went after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and put all the army to the curse.

13 Then Gideon, the son of Joash, went back from the fight:

14 And taking prisoner a young man of the people of Succoth, he got from him, in answer to his questions, a list of the chiefs of Succoth and the responsible men, seventy-seven men.

15 So he came to the men of Succoth and said, Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, on account of whom you made sport of me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna even now in your hand, that we are to give bread to your army who are overcome with weariness?

16 Then he took the responsible men of the town and had them crushed on a bed of thorns and sharp stems.

17 And he had the tower of Penuel broken down and the men of the town put to death.

18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, Where are the men whom you put to death at Tabor? And they gave answer, As you are, so were they; every one of them was like a king's son.

19 And he said, They were my brothers, my mother's sons: by the life of the Lord, if you had kept them safe, I would not put you to death.

20 Then he said to Jether, his oldest son, Up! Put them to death. But the boy did not take out his sword, fearing because he was still a boy.

21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Up! Put an end to us yourself: for you have a man's strength. Then Gideon got up and Put Zebah and Zalmunna to death and took the ornaments which were on their camels' necks.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, Be our ruler, you and your son and your son's son after him; for you have been our saviour from the hands of Midian.

23 But Gideon said to them, I will not be a ruler over you, and my son will not be a ruler over you: it is the Lord who will be ruler over you.

24 Then Gideon said to them, I have a request to make to you; let every man give me the ear-rings he has taken. (For they had gold ear-rings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

25 And they gave answer, We will gladly give them. So they put down a robe, every man dropping into it the ear-rings he had taken.

26 The weight of the gold ear-rings which he got from them was one thousand, seven hundred shekels of gold; in addition to the moon-ornaments and jewels and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and the chains on their camels' necks.

27 And Gideon made an ephod from them and put it up in his town Ophrah; and all Israel went after it there and were false to the Lord; and it became a cause of sin to Gideon and his house.

28 So Midian was broken before the children of Israel and the Midianites never got back their strength. And the land had peace for forty years, in the days of Gideon.

29 And Jerubbaal, the son of Joash, went back to his house and was living there.

30 Gideon had seventy sons, the offspring of his body; for he had a number of wives.

31 And the servant-wife he had in Shechem had a son by him, to whom he gave the name Abimelech.

32 And Gideon, the son of Joash, came to his end when he was very old, and his body was put in the resting-place of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 And after the death of Gideon, the children of Israel again went after the gods of Canaan and were false to the Lord, and made Baal-berith their god.

34 And the children of Israel did not keep in their minds the Lord their God, who had been their saviour from all their haters on every side;

35 And they were not kind to the house of Jerubbaal, that is, Gideon, in reward for all the good he had done to Israel.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 8      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 8: Gideon subdues the Midianites.

In this chapter, Gideon continued to dismantle Midian’s oppression over Israel, facing opposition from some of his fellow Israelites in the process. First, the men of Ephraim complained that he did not call them to war. Gideon replied by praising them for their vineyards, and for capturing the two Midianite princes. So, Ephraim’s indignation subsided.

Then Gideon went to the city of Succoth, and asked for bread to feed his army. But the men of Succoth refused, instead taunting him because he had not yet captured the kings of Midian. Gideon told them them he would punish them with thorns and briars, after he had killed the two kings. The people of Penuel were equally dismissive when Gideon asked them for help, and he swore to tear down their tower.

In due course, Gideon captured the two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. Gideon told his oldest son to kill them, but he was young, and too afraid to do it. So Gideon killed the two kings, and punished the people of Succoth and Penuel.

When he returned from battle, the people of Israel asked Gideon to rule over them. However, he refused, saying that the Lord would rule Israel. He then collected gold from people’s earrings, used it to make an ephod (a priest’s garment), and set it up in his own city, Ophrah. The people began to worship it, and it became a snare for Gideon.

And Israel had peace for forty years under Gideon. Gideon had seventy sons, and died at an old age. As soon as he passed away, the Israelites forgot all the goodness that the Lord had shown them, and turned to worship other gods.

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The message of Gideon’s exchange with the Ephraimites is that sincerity and openness are the most powerful response to confrontation. Gideon, led by his trust in the Lord, could see the reason for Ephraim’s outburst, so he dealt with it by praising their strengths. This encounter shows how our faith in the Lord gives us a broader perspective, granting us the ability to respond rather than react (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 8159[3]).

When Gideon lashes out at the people of Succoth and Penuel, it may appear that he is acting purely from anger, and a wish to retaliate. In reality, he is filled with zeal to drive out the Midianites and free Israel. It is unthinkable to him that his own people would refuse to give his soldiers food. In our own lives, we can at times be astounded by our own resistance to serving the Lord’s purpose. We are constantly torn between two forces: heaven and hell (Arcana Caelestia 3839[3]).

The killing of the two Midianite kings reflects the need for justice in spiritual matters. If we fail to heed the truths we know and believe, we will suffer the consequences of fear and guilt. These are not inflicted by the Lord, but follow on from our own choices (Arcana Caelestia 2447). Gideon’s son’s inability to kill the kings means that behind spiritual justice, there must be an understanding of the essential value of all life (Arcana Caelestia 5826[2]).

Gideon’s ephod is a symbol showing how easily we can deviate from obeying the Lord. The text does not tell us the reason for Gideon’s actions, but perhaps he felt it was better for the people to worship something superficially related to worshiping the Lord, rather than following a foreign god. Seeing a priest’s garment reminds us that a priest serves the Lord. But we can so easily focus on the majesty of the ephod itself, and think no more about the priest’s duty nor about the Lord. We sometimes drift further from the Lord without even realizing it (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 327).

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