Judges 8

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1 And the men of Ephraim said to him: What is this that thou meanest to do, that thou wouldst not call us when thou wentest to fight against Madian? and they chid him sharply and almost offered violence.

2 And he answered them: What could I have done like to that which you have done? Is not one bunch of grapes of Ephraim better than the vintages of Abiezer?

3 The Lord hath delivered into your bands the princes of Madian, Oreb and Zeb: what could I have done like to what you have done? And when he had said this, their spirit was appeased, with which they swelled against him.

4 And when Gedeon was come to the Jordan, he passed over it with the three hundred men, that were with him: who were so weary that they could not pursue after them that fled.

5 And he said to the men of Soccoth: Give, I beseech you, bread to the people that is with me, for they are faint: that we may pursue Zebee, and Salmana the kings of Madian.

6 The princes of Soccoth answered: Peradventure the palms of the hands of Zebee and Salmana are in thy hand, and therefore thou demandest that we should give bread to thy army.

7 And he said to them: When the Lord therefore shall have delivered Zebee and Salmana into my hands, I will thresh your flesh with the thorns and briers of the desert.

8 And going up from thence, he came to Phanuel: and he spoke the like things to the men of that place. And they also answered him, as the men of Soccoth had answered.

9 He said therefore to them also: When I shall return a conqueror in peace, I will destroy this tower.

10 But Zebee and Salmana were resting with all their army. For fifteen thousand men were left of all the troops of the eastern people, and one hundred and twenty thousand warriors that drew the sword, were slain.

11 And Gedeon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents, on the east of Nobe and Jegbaa, and smote the camp of the enemies, who were secure, and suspected no hurt.

12 And Zebee and Salmana fled, and Gedeon pursued and took them, all their host being put in confusion.

13 And returning from the battle before the sun rising,

14 He took a boy of the men of Soccoth: and he asked him the names of the princes and ancients of Soccoth, and he described unto him seventy-seven men.

15 And he came to Soccoth and said to them: Behold Zebee and Salmana, concerning whom you upbraided me, saying: Peradventure the hands of Zebee and Salmana, are in thy hands, and therefore thou demandest that we should give bread to the men that are weary and faint.

16 So he took the ancients of the city and thorns and briers of the desert, and tore them with the same, and cut in pieces the men of Soccoth.

17 And he demolished the tower of Phanuel, and slew the men of the city.

18 And he said to Zebee and Salmana: What manner of men were they whom you slew in Thabor? They answered: They were like thee, and one of them as the son of a king.

19 He answered them: They were my brethren, the sons of my mother. As the Lord liveth, if you had saved them, I would not kill you.

20 And he said to Jether his eldest son: Arise, and slay them. But he drew not his sword: for he was afraid, being but yet a boy.

21 And Zebee and Salmana said: Do thou rise, and run upon us: because the strength of a man is according to his age: Gedeon rose up and slew Zebee and Salmana: and he took the ornaments and bosses, with which the necks of the camels of kings are wont to be adorned.

22 And all the men of Israel said to Gedeon: Rule thou over us and thy son, and thy son's son: because thou hast delivered us from the hand of Madian.

23 And he said to them: I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, but the Lord shall rule over you.

24 And he said to them: I desire one request of you: Give me the earlets of your spoils. For the Ismaelites were accustomed to wear golden earlets.

25 They answered: We will give them most willingly. And spreading a mantle on the ground, they cast upon it the earlets of the spoils.

26 And the weight of the earlets that he requested, was a thousand seven hundred sicles of gold, besides the ornaments, and jewels, and purple raiment which the kings of Madian were went to use, and besides the golden chains that were about the camels' necks.

27 And Gedeon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city Ephra. And all Israel committed fornication with it, and it became a ruin to Gedeon and to all his house.

28 But Madian was humbled before the children of Israel, neither could they any more lift up their beads: but the land rested for forty years, while Gedeon presided.

29 So Jerobaal the son of Joas went, and dwelt in his own house.

30 And he had seventy sons, who came out of his thigh, for he had many wives.

31 And his concubine, that he had in Sichem, bore him a son, whose name was Abimelech.

32 And Gedeon the son of Joas died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father in Ephra of the family of Ezri.

33 But after Gedeon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and committed fornication with Baalim. And they made a covenant with Baal, that he should be their god:

34 And they remembered not the Lord their God, who delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies round about:

35 Neither did they shew mercy to the house of Jerobaal Gedeon, according to all the good things 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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