During our last excursion into Judges, doubtful Gideon received clear messages from God that he would be successful–and, of course, keeping in line with the fact that when God says something, it is what it is, the victory comes to pass. However, the celebration is short-lived. At the beginning of Judges Chapter Eight, we see that the tribe of Ephraim is upset that they didn’t get to play a bigger role in the battle.
“Then the people of Ephraim asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us this way? Why didn’t you send for us when you first went out to fight the Midianites?” And they argued heatedly with Gideon” (v. 1).
I wonder would they have been so willing to share in a loss? Probably not, but that is unimportant right now.
I admire Gideon’s response here. It reminds me of the oft-condescending responses we sometimes have to give people who crave attention and recognition just to shut them up, although Gideon’s response was probably sincere.
“But Gideon replied, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t even the leftover grapes of Ephraim’s harvest better than the entire crop of my little clan of Abiezer? 3God gave you victory over Oreb and Zeeb, the commanders of the Midianite army. What have I accomplished compared to that?” When the men of Ephraim heard Gideon’s answer, their anger subsided” (v. 2).
Whether he meant it or not, Gideon is weighing the actions of Ephraim heavier than his own. Apparently this pat on the back was sufficient. I’m not sure if it happened later, but it doesn’t seem that Ephraim properly credited the Lord for this victory.
Regardless, a win is a win, and Gideon’s confidence and faith has increased. He now leads his company of 300 (realize that he started out with 300, meaning during this battle not a single Israelite was killed) in their continued pursuit of the enemy, despite their exhaustion. When they reach a town named Succoth, Gideon asks the leaders there to supply his men with food as they pursue Zebah and Zalmunna, the Midianite kings.
The leaders of Succoth refuse, imploring Gideon to catch the kings first. Obviously they are afraid of what will happen to them if the Midianite kings live and find out they provided aid to the enemy. Gideon takes their refusal as disrespect, and vows to come back and tear their flesh with the thorns and briars from the wilderness after he has caught the kings.
Next Gideon and his men go to Peniel and make the same request for food. Again they are denied. Gideon vows to come back and tear down their tower.
At this point, the fullness of the previous victory is reiterated. Although Zebah and Zalmunna are hiding out with 15,000 warriors in a city called Karkor, that was all that was left of the army. One hundred and twenty thousand warriors had already been killed–completely routed by only 300 of God’s men. Gideon and Co. come up against them in a surprise onslaught and capture them. After this, Gideon makes his way back from battle by way of Heres Pass. Now, I am unsure of the geography here, or even what Heres Pass is, but my assumption is that it is some kind of Interstate, if you will, that goes through Succoth and Peniel. As he is doing so, Gideon captures a man from Succoth and has him write down the names of all of the town’s 77 elders (apparently these are the leaders that denied the army’s request for food).
At Succoth, Gideon shows the leaders that he has indeed captured the Midianite kings and reminds them of how they refused food unless the kings were captured. Then he does exactly as he said he would do, punishing them with thorns and briars, and tearing down the tower at Peniel. Whether or not God told him to do that, or whether it was an unsolicited act of vengeance, I dunno. Either way it goes, the story continues.
Gideon has a brief exchange with Zebah and Zalmunna. He asks them, “The men you killed at Tabor–what were they like?” (paraphrased a tad from verse 18).
The Midianite kings respond that the men were like him, with the appearance of a king’s son, to which Gideon informs them that the men they killed were his brothers, and had they not killed his brothers, he would not kill them. Gideon then orders his oldest son Jester to kill them, but Jester is a young boy and is too afraid to even draw his son.
Being killed by a child is obviously not an honorable death, and the Midianite kings request that Gideon kill them instead of the boy.Gideon obliges them and takes the royal ornaments from around their necks of their camels.
Next we come upon a passage of Scripture that shows a major stumble committed by Gideon, although it may have been inadvertent. He is now a war hero, and the Israelites try to convince him to rule over them and be succeeded by his son and grandsons. So it is almost like they were attempting to establish a monarchy there. Gideon refuses, informing the people that neither he nor his son will rule over the people–that is the Lord’s job. That was definitely an admirable response, but here is where the stumble occurs: Gideon asks for each of the Israelites to give him an earring from among the plunder. Apparently it was tradition or custom for the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings. They have been collected and now Gideon wants one from each… family? Tribe? Warrior? I am not sure. He ends up with 43 pounds worth of gold earrings in addition to the royal ornaments from the camel’s necks and the purple robes worn by the Midianite kings.
Gideon uses the gold to make a sacred ephod, a trophy of sorts, which he takes back to his hometown of Oprah. The Bible tells us that “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family” (v. 27b).
Isn’t that something? As opposed to worshiping the God that allowed them to have the victory in the first place? Admittedly, these Israelites are far removed from the golden calf worshiping Israelites of old, but it is always amazing to me whenever I read the Old Testament that the Israelites just never seemed to get it.I also marvel at how the Israelites’ story is so relevant to our life today. We will quickly accept and marvel at the things made by man’s hands while taking God’s role in the creation of everything for granted or diminishing it.
Midian never recovered from Gideon’s victory. He returned home, and we learn that he had seventy sons born to him by many wives. He also had a concubine in Shechem who bore him a son named Abimelech, who turns out to be a problem. Gideon dies, and can you guess what happens?
I’m sure you already know. The Israelites return right back to their Baal-worshiping ways.
My baby keeps waking up. Last night it was my middle child, Layla, who apparently wanted some attention, and understandably so. A lot of time revolves around Jayden and his schooling and then the baby, often times leaving Layla to her own devices. She is typically an independent little soul anyway… if Jayden is not at home, she usually entertains herself for the majority of the day until I make her lunch, read with her, practice her letters, etc.. But every now and then she wants Mommy and/or Daddy to pay her some unsolicited attention. It is easier for her to get Daddy to herself, since I am nursing Jayla, but now that Jayla is starting solid foods I am looking forward to the chance to take both my son and daughter out separately and spend some alone time with them. As well as with my husband.
It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and while I believe that to be true, too much absence cannot be healthy for a marriage. Which is why I believe no matter what the circumstances married couples have to eke out a few minutes of alone time somehow each day. Even if it is to send some sweet texts back and forth while one is at work, or leave each other little love notes on the steering wheel for one to see on his or her way to work, we have to focus on our love for each other each day. We affirm our kids regularly, why not our spouse? I find myself getting lonely and feeling isolated and unhappy when I don’t get regular alone time with my husband. Even if he has gotten on my last nerve the day before, I still desire oneness with him. I didn’t come into this whole marital thing expecting an easy-peasy fairy-tale type deal. No, I knew it was going to be work, and that we both had to be dedicated. I think the worst is behind us… we have gotten used to each other in terms of being angry with one another. But I find out new things about him even now, almost eleven years later. I love keeping things new and fresh.
So although I am looking forward to this weekend, which is a rare weekend where we have NO obligations, I am hoping that AFTER we hang out with the children we can just kick back and watch a movie alone. That’s all I need.
I majorly digress. What can we get from chapter 8? The biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far is this: If God gives you a job to do, trust that He has equipped you, prepared you, and ordered your steps so that you will be successful. God is not going to lead you into a battle and abandon you. I understand Gideon… it was probably the last thing he ever expected in the world to become a hero. But when God calls someone to do His work, God is going to make sure that whatever resources that person needs are made available so that He might have the glory.
Even in the face of adversity, we have to trust God. Faced with a monumental task? Trust God. Give your cares over to Him, and trust Him. I know it’s not always easy, but you know what..? The more you do it, the better you get at it…. Faith has to be exercised to be strengthened. I’ll use my unknown condition as an example. Although I have understandable concerns about my future, particularly in terms of how I will best be able to serve my family, I am confident that God will make a way. How can I be so confident? Because I have cast my cares upon Him before, and in each instance He has proven to be more than capable.