Judges 8

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1 And the men of Ephraim say unto him, `What [is] this thing thou hast done to us -- not to call for us when thou didst go to fight with Midian?' and they strive with him severely;

2 and he saith unto them, `What have I done now like you? are not the gleanings of Ephraim better than the harvest of Abi-Ezer?

3 Into your hand hath God given the heads of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; and what have I been able to do like you?' Then their temper desisted from off him in his speaking this thing.

4 And Gideon cometh in unto the Jordan, passing over, he and the three hundred men who [are] with him -- wearied, and pursuing,

5 and he saith to the men of Succoth, `Give, I pray you, cakes of bread to the people who [are] at my feet, for they [are] wearied, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna kings of Midian.'

6 And the heads of Succoth say, `Is the hand of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thy hand, that we give to thy host bread?'

7 And Gideon saith, `Therefore -- in Jehovah's giving Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand -- I have threshed your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness, and with the threshing instruments.'

8 And he goeth up thence [to] Penuel, and speaketh unto them thus; and the men of Penuel answer him as the men of Succoth answered.

9 And he speaketh also to the men of Penuel, saying, `In my turning back in peace, I break down this tower.'

10 And Zebah and Zalmunna [are] in Karkor, and their camps with them, about fifteen thousand, all who are left of all the camp of the sons of the east; and those falling [are] a hundred and twenty thousand men, drawing sword.

11 And Gideon goeth up the way of those who tabernacle in tents, on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smiteth the camp, and the camp was confident;

12 and Zebab and Zalmunna flee, and he pursueth after them, and captureth the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and all the camp he hath caused to tremble.

13 And Gideon son of Joash turneth back from the battle, at the going up of the sun,

14 and captureth a young man of the men of Succoth, and asketh him, and he describeth unto him the heads of Succoth, and its elders -- seventy and seven men.

15 And he cometh in unto the men of Succoth, and saith, `Lo Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye reproached me, saying, Is the hand of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thy hand that we give to thy men who [are] wearied bread?'

16 And he taketh the elders of the city, and the thorns of the wilderness, and the threshing instruments, and teacheth by them the men of Succoth,

17 and the tower of Penuel he hath broken down, and slayeth the men of the city.

18 And he saith unto Zebah and unto Zalmunna, `How -- the men whom ye slew in Tabor?' and they say, `As thou -- so they, one -- as the form of the king's sons.'

19 And he saith, `My brethren -- sons of my mother -- they; Jehovah liveth, if ye had kept them alive -- I had not slain you.'

20 And he saith to Jether his first-born, `Rise, slay them;' and the young man hath not drawn his sword, for he hath been afraid, for he [is] yet a youth.

21 And Zebah saith -- also Zalmunna -- `Rise thou, and fall upon us; for as the man -- his might;' and Gideon riseth, and slayeth Zebah and Zalmunna, and taketh their round ornaments which [are] on the necks of their camels.

22 And the men of Israel say unto Gideon, `Rule over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, for thou hast saved us from the hand of Midian.'

23 And Gideon saith unto them, `I do not rule over you, nor doth my son rule over you; Jehovah doth rule over you.'

24 And Gideon saith unto them, `Let me ask of you a petition, and give ye to me each the ring of his prey, for they have rings of gold, for they [are] Ishmaelites.'

25 And they say, `We certainly give;' and they spread out the garment, and cast thither each the ring of his prey;

26 and the weight of the rings of gold which he asked is a thousand and seven hundred [shekels] of gold, apart from the round ornaments, and the drops, and the purple garments, which [are] on the kings of Midian, and apart from the chains which [are] on the necks of their camels,

27 and Gideon maketh it into an ephod, and setteth it up in his city, in Ophrah, and all Israel go a-whoring after it there, and it is to Gideon and to his house for a snare.

28 And Midian is humbled before the sons of Israel, and have not added to lift up their head; and the land resteth forty years in the days of Gideon.

29 And Jerubbaal son of Joash goeth and dwelleth in his own house,

30 and to Gideon there have been seventy sons, coming out of his loin, for he had many wives;

31 and his concubine, who [is] in Shechem, hath born to him -- even she -- a son, and he appointeth his name Abimelech.

32 And Gideon son of Joash dieth, in a good old age, and is buried in the burying-place of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abi-Ezrite.

33 And it cometh to pass, when Gideon [is] dead, that the sons of Israel turn back and go a-whoring after the Baalim, and set over them Baal-Berith for a god;

34 and the sons of Israel have not remembered Jehovah their God, who is delivering them out of the hand of all their enemies round about,

35 neither have they done kindness with the house of Jerubbaal -- Gideon -- according to all the good which he did with 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.

*****

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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