Gideon Defeats Zebah and Zalmunna
8 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.
And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” So Gideon said, “Well then, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”
Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.
Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.
The Death of Gideon
Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
Judges 8 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Warren Wiersbe observes, “Gideon’s choosing to avenge himself could have been the beginning of his backsliding.”
Gideon’s story continues with interesting events that follow after the win over the Midianites. The leaders of Ephraim are incensed they were never brought into the war to fight and instead asked to clean up after. Leaders of Succoth and Peniel refused to help Gideon, which he would return and discipline them. He pursued the Kings of Midian into the desert, captured and brought them back to his taunters, where he whipped the men who had opposed him with briars and thorn bushes. By his own hands, he then killed the 2 enemy kings.
The Israelite’s rose up and begged Gideon to be their ruler. Fascinatingly, he refused stating it would be God who was their ruler but gave a request. The booty of the win each individual had taken, he asked for an earring from each man. Given the size of the army, 43 pounds of gold was collected. Although Gideon took the earrings, melted them down and made a golden ephod (a garment worn by priests) as a remembrance of this event, that very ephod became an idol for the Israelites where they worshipped it.
What the Midianites could not accomplish with swords, Satan did with earrings.
This ephod became a snare to Gideon and his entire family.
Although Gideon refused to be their king – he seemingly began to view himself that way. Having a massive family and a great amount of wives, he eventually had a son whom he called Abimelech. The Hebrew translation is Abi (my father) melech (is king).
Gideon was a man who initially didn’t see himself in the role he was called to. He struggled with that calling but in time responded. God’s patience in readying Gideon is encouraging. However, once he embraced what God was asking, he obeyed with zeal, resourcefulness, and speed. He was all in. There is no doubt, Gideon had weak moments and seemingly these last years of his life began to spiral out of control in thought and action after the ephod was made. It makes me wonder what the rest of Gideon’s life could have been like had he been acutely attuned with God instead of letting his own emotions or desires rule.
The challenge to consider is each of us has a calling. God usually takes us completely out of our normal life and asks things of us as we join Him in Kingdom work. The critical component is we never relent in our reliance on Him. Sometimes after tremendous ‘wins’ or victories, we tend to get lax in our working on the most important relationship we have – the one with God. This relationship is what will assure we end well and stay the course.
Judges 8 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The first question I asked after reading this chapter was, what in the world is an ephod? The golden ephod Gideon made would have been similar to a breastplate. It was a replica of a colorful garment worn by the high priest. Most scholars agree that Gideon’s intention was not to create an idol by making this altar. His intention was probably to use this as a symbol (and reminder) of the worship of God. After all, he did point the people back to God when they wanted to make him their ruler.
But good intentions are not enough. It was wisdom that was lacking. In fact, in Exodus 20:25 God gives specific instructions for setting up an altar.
‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.Exodus 20:25 NASB
It seems like a strange commandment. Why was it so harmful for a person to use their artistic ability to carve out a beautiful altar? Because it would distract from the real purpose – God himself. He required unfinished stone to be used for the altar so that the focus would remain on what was really important. Here, we see Gideon’s ephod doing the same thing. People came to worship the golden statue instead of remembering why it was there in the first place.
Do we do this today? Of course! Our hearts are susceptible to wandering toward the creation instead of the Creator. We are worshipers by nature, and will do so whether we know it or not. The first question we must reflect upon is obvious. Are there idols in our life that steal the focus from God?
The second question is not so obvious and maybe a question we’ve never considered. Are we, like Gideon, unintentionally creating idols for other people to stumble on?
False teachers rely heavily on steering people away from God toward human thinking. It takes the Holy Spirit’s discernment and wisdom to not let worldly passions become idols. Rather than dismiss this idea as irrelevant or unimportant, we need to be sober in judgment and evaluate if we are engaged in idol worship.
Anything that steals our focus away from God is fair game. It could be possessions, our career, a relationship, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions, etc. Even good-intentioned things like Gideon’s ephod can become a stumbling block. As you can clearly see throughout the book of Judges, the heart is deceitful and longs to go back to these empty cisterns. Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy.