Judges
Introduction 1 Jealousy 2-3 Gideon’s Gentle Answer 4 Weary yet Pursuing 5-9 Refusal to Cooperate 10-12 The remainder Is Beaten 13-17 The Repayment 18-21 Zebah and Zalmuna Are Killed 22-23 Escaping a Snare 24-27 The Ephod 28-31 Gideons Further Life 32-35 Gideons End and Thereafter
Introduction

This chapter is also about battle. The battle in the previous chapter goes against an enemy from outside who has gained a foothold in the promised land. The main force has been defeated. The victory has been achieved, but cannot yet be celebrated. There are other types of battle in this chapter. They are the result of jealousy (verses 1-31Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they contended with him vigorously.2But 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 vintage of Abiezer?3God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.), of refusal to cooperate (verses 4-174Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan [and] crossed over, weary yet pursuing.5He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”6The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?”7Gideon said, “All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.”8He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered.9So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.”10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen.11Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting.12When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.13Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.14And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then [the youth] wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.15He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning 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 weary?’”16He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.17He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.) and of flattery (verses 18-3118Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men [were] they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.”19He said, “They [were] my brothers, the sons of my mother. [As] the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.”20So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth.21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks.22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”23But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”24Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)25They said, “We will surely give [them].” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil.26The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 [shekels] of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which [were] on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that [were] on their camels’ necks.27Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.28So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.29Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house.30Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives.31His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.). How Gideon deals with this, again contains important teaching material for our spiritual warfare. The chapter ends with Gideon’s death.


Jealousy

1Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they contended with him vigorously.

Ephraim is a jealous tribe. In Isaiah 11 jealousy is given as a special feature of this tribe (Isa 11:1313Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
). Their own ‘I’ is aroused because they are not known in battle. Their self-esteem is affected. In Joshua 17 we already see what is wrong with the Ephraimites: they are not satisfied with their allotted land (Jos 17:1414Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?”). After all, they are a large tribe and are therefore entitled to a larger piece, they think. They feel themselves the main tribe.

When God is working to keep the believers together, there will always be someone who causes new difficulties. For jealousy it is intolerable that God uses others and passes us by. If someone does something that the Lord blesses, instead of a ‘praise the Lord’, something will come like ‘why didn’t you call me?’ It comes down to: ‘It can’t be good, because it went without me’. The ‘Ephraimites’ are still not extinct.

The spirit of jealousy that characterizes the Ephraimites is certainly not found in Paul. He rejoices in it when Christ is preached, even at his expense (Phil 1:15-1815Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;16the latter [do it] out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,).


Gideon’s Gentle Answer

2But 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 vintage of Abiezer? 3God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

The mind of the Ephraimites is revealed precisely by the victory of Gideon. Through the reaction of the Ephraimites, Gideon’s mind also becomes public. There is an interaction. When we have gained a victory for and by the Lord, others are put to the test, but so are we ourselves. Did that victory make us important? Gideon does what is written in Philippians 2: “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:33Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;). This is the means to prevent discord and to maintain unity among the people.

He appeases their anger by praising them. He does not go hard against it, but with gentleness, for “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Pro 15:1a1A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
). Although the Ephraimites were not involved in the real battle, Gideon gives them more honor than himself. They killed more enemies than he did. He brings that forward. More enemies are killed when the enemy flees than when the battle rages in all its intensity. Gideon makes their share large and important and presents his own share as smaller.

With this attitude and mind he wins from his wronged brothers and thus indicates that he is stronger than a strong city. “A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city” (Pro 18:1919A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
). We sometimes disparage the service of another person. Jephthah takes a very different approach to this matter and the result is civil war. We get that history in Judges 12.

The Ephraimites leave with the idea that by their efforts the war has been won. It can be a means of preserving peace in the local church by emphasizing certain good qualities or activities of a ‘troublesome’ brother in the community, without falling into flattery.

It demands of us the mind of humility that is perfectly present in the Lord Jesus. He is our example (Phil 2:1-91Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;4do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men.8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,). His humiliation was voluntary and total. He always looked for the other person’s interest. His example is the most far-reaching of what someone has ever done for another. He came from heaven to earth, became Man, became Slave, and died the death on the cross. Greater humiliation is inconceivable. And we often have the greatest difficulty with the slightest indulgence to another. This is not about justifying a sin. It’s about our attitude towards someone who’s is difficult to deal with, by which our mind is tested, whether we think we’re important.


Weary yet Pursuing

4Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan [and] crossed over, weary yet pursuing.

The 300 men who have hardly been taken the time to drink water (Jdg 7:6-76Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.7The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the [other] people go, each man to his home.”) understand that the time to rest has not yet come. The dedication to the cause of the LORD continues to inspire them. They experience what is written: “He gives strength to the weary, And to [him who] lacks might He increases power” (Isa 40:2929He gives strength to the weary,
And to [him who] lacks might He increases power.
). Often the enemy still achieves a partial victory because we stop the battle prematurely because of fatigue. Of course, our powers are limited, but it is important that we have an eye for the ultimate goal of a particular battle. We must not rest until that goal has been achieved.

In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul lists all that he has gone through in his service for the Lord (2Cor 11:16-3316Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if [you do], receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.17What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.18Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.19For you, being [so] wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.20For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.21To [my] shame I [must] say that we have been weak [by comparison]. But in whatever respect anyone [else] is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself.22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.23Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes].25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.26[I have been] on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from [my] countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;27[I have been] in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.28Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure on me [of] concern for all the churches.29Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me,33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and [so] escaped his hands.). He says of someone else: “Because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life” (Phil 2:3030because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.). These are people who “did not love their life even when faced with death” (Rev 12:1111And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.). People with such an attitude continue, despite their fatigue. Unfortunately they are scarce.


Refusal to Cooperate

5He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” 7Gideon said, “All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. 9So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.”

After the dispute with Ephraim had been settled by Gideon’s meek conduct, he is faced with a new dispute. The dispute with Ephraim was still about the share in the battle. The dispute that is now arising concerns those who do not want to participate in the fight. It is not even about active participation, but only about supporting those who are active in the deliverance of the people. Gideon is entitled to their sympathy and support.

The inhabitants of Succoth, which lies on the territory of the tribe of Gad, calculate that 300 tired men will never be able to win over 15,000 experienced fighters. These will of course regroup after Israel’s first surprise attack. Gideon must first prove that he can really take the kings of the enemy. In that half-hearted, hesitant and finally rejecting attitude they stand. They first want to see the results.

What they overlook, is the only thing that matters: Is the LORD with the 300 weary men or not? They characterize the people who first have to see and only then believe. They first want a tangible result and only then intend to share. It is about the things one sees. This is the spirit of the world and unbelief. Here is a whole city that refuses any fellowship with the fighters for God. Such a thing can have a very discouraging effect on anyone who wants to work for the Lord. These people still think too much of the power of the enemy and obstruct all kinds of things for those who devote themselves to the cause of God.

Paul has also had the experience that all leave him, but he reacts differently from Gideon. He says: “May it not be counted against them” (2Tim 4:1616At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.). That does not mean that Gideon is reacting wrongly. Having bread and not giving it, while it is necessary because of the progress of the testimony, asks for retribution. Those who take a stand against the work of God will not escape their just punishment, even if it is not yet time for it, because the battle demands all the attention.

Penuel adopts the same attitude as Succoth and will therefore share in the same fate. Penuel means ‘face of God’. This city recalls Jacob’s struggle with God that took place there some 500 years earlier – in Genesis 32 this place is called Peniel, with the same meaning (Gen 32:22-3222Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.23He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.24Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.25When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.26Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”28He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”29Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there.30So Jacob named the place Peniel, for [he said], “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”31Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.32Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.). There Jacob was touched at the socket of his thigh, constantly realizing that his weakness gave God the opportunity to show His strength. The inhabitants have forgotten that lesson. Just like Succoth, they look at what is in front of them and calculate with human factors. The punishments announced by Gideon come to our attention in verse 1616He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. and verse 1717He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city..


The remainder Is Beaten

10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. 11Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. 12When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

The main goal Gideon wants to achieve by chasing the remainder of the Midianites is to capture and eliminate both kings. Without the authority and strategy of these kings, the army of the Midianites is rudderless. These kings did not get involved in the battle themselves, but were in the background. From this position they passed on their orders to the fighters. These kings represent evil powers in the heavenly places, which also operate in the background and pass on their orders to the visible world and exert their influence on it. The princes we met in Judges 7 (Jdg 7:2525They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.) represent persons by whom the evil powers exercise their authority.

In the meaning of the names of these kings their character is clearly expressed. Zebah means ‘a religious sacrifice’ or ‘a victim to sacrifice’. Zalmunna means ‘a forbidden shadow’ or ‘a spiritual shadow of death’. That there are two kings says something of the diversity of evil within the sphere of authority of Satan who is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:22in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.). Zebah does not represent a sacrifice to God, but the massacre that Satan without mercy wants to inflict upon God’s people. Zalmunna characterizes the atmosphere in which this takes place.

If we want to be free or unbound, we must not allow these enemies to influence our lives. Strife – this is as we have seen the meaning of the name Midian – is an enemy that is also today making countless victims among God’s people. The terrain and the atmosphere in which strife takes place is the death shadow. Strife brings no life, but sows death and destruction. It is not for nothing that these two kings are located in the city of Karkor, which means as much as ‘city of destruction’. Isn’t that an appropriate name?

There is another aspect to this victory that is important to point out. The victory over Midian is a foreshadowing of the final victory Israel will achieve over its enemies in the future (Psa 83:4-124They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation,
That the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
5For they have conspired together with one mind;
Against You they make a covenant:
6The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites;
7Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8Assyria also has joined with them;
They have become a help to the children of Lot. Selah.
9Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera [and] Jabin at the torrent of Kishon,
10Who were destroyed at En-dor,
Who became as dung for the ground.
11Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb
And all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12Who said, “Let us possess for ourselves
The pastures of God.”
; Isa 9:3-43You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders,
The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.
).


The Repayment

13Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then [the youth] wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning 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 weary?’” 16He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. 17He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

Before he deals with the captured kings, Gideon will first redeem his vows to Succoth and Penuel. These two cities have not only taken a neutral stance in the struggle, they have also refused to unite with the fighters for God and have withheld the necessary support. This means that in a practical sense they have chosen the side of the enemy. Whoever withhold from God’s people the means by which they would receive strength for battle, while those means are available, is playing into the hands of the enemy. The latter then has to deal with a weakened opponent.

Gideon’s indignation is therefore justified. In order to be able to express it in a good way, he uses a young man from Succoth whom he has captured. He lets him write down the names of the people he considers responsible for the attitude of the city. When he arrives at the city, he reminds them of their attitude and scornful remarks, pointing to the captured kings. They must have been ashamed. Now they have to bow down on the announced discipline.

Gideon chastises them because they behaved kindly towards the enemy at a time when the servants of God are tired and yet continued the pursuit. Thorns and thistles will make their sharp stimuli feel and remind them for a long time how half-hearted they behaved in the day of decision. It is a sensitive lesson. The thorns and thistles as means of discipline represent the distress, disappointments and sufferings necessary to repent those who have been half-hearted in their confession before the Lord Jesus and to make them realize that they have gone astray in connection with the cause of God.

In Penuel, the city with the tower that probably gives the city an important appearance, he demolishes the tower and kills the men. As with Succoth, the judgement is carried out here about those who could have participated in the fight against the enemy by at least encouraging the men of Gideon in their pursuit. Their arrangement is the result of purely human calculation. Such forms are strongholds that rise up against the knowledge of God and that must be broken down.

The tower of Penuel seems to represent human thought and judgment, of having trust in themselves. There should be no room for this (2Cor 10:4-54for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.5[We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,). The first tower mentioned in the Bible is mentioned in Genesis 11. Why this tower is being built, is told: “Let us make for ourselves a name” (Gen 11:44They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [will reach] into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”). The tower serves to glorify man. Whoever owns and honors such a tower will always keep his distance from the battle in which faith is involved. But he who contends for the faith (Jude 1:33Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.), breaks down that tower.


Zebah and Zalmuna Are Killed

18Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men [were] they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” 19He said, “They [were] my brothers, the sons of my mother. [As] the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 20So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them.” But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. 21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels’ necks.

The victory has been achieved, but it still has to be completed. The dangers have not yet definitively disappeared. The danger lies in the tail. After the victory, a subtle danger comes to light. That danger is the use of flattery. The first time it comes out of the mouth of the enemy. After the sword of the enemy Gideon now has to deal with his mouth. The victory may have made Gideon a little self-confident. At least he seems to lose some of his dependence on the LORD.

Why does he start a conversation with his enemies? After all, it is clear that they have to be killed, isn’t it? He wants to call them to account for the murder of his brothers. But by talking to them, he opens up to their influence. It is exactly the same as with Eve, who also enters into conversation with the serpent, the devil, so that she comes under his influence. It has become her and the whole human gender fa-language.

Now that their power has been broken, the two kings are trying to take in Gideon with flattery. Although he is not impressed by their flattery, he does not seem to be able to escape its influence completely. He loses the real understanding of the enemy’s power and tells his son to kill them. That is different from what we read in Joshua 10, where Joshua captured five kings. The order to put their feet on the necks of these kings Joshua does not give to young people, but to “the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him”. Then Joshua kills them himself (Jos 10:22-2722Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring these five kings out to me from the cave.”23They did so, and brought these five kings out to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, [and] the king of Eglon.24When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came near and put their feet on their necks.25Joshua then said to them, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.”26So afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees; and they hung on the trees until evening.27It came about at sunset that Joshua gave a command, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and put large stones over the mouth of the cave, to this very day.).

It is unlikely that the boy belonged to the 300 men. The young boy is afraid, and all those who had shown fear had already left before the battle began. Gideon overestimates the power of his son. This is a lesson for all parents – and leaders – who note with a certain satisfaction, that their natural or spiritual children participate in the spiritual warfare. They must not allow themselves to be led astray to ask of them things that exceed their spiritual strength. Often these are situations in which the power of the enemy is underestimated.

After this ‘defeat’ of Gideon, the enemy is once again flatters, this time with challenging words. Their expression has to do with the honor they want to keep to themselves. They would rather die by the hand of the captain than by the hand of a boy. This time Gideon takes full responsibility and kills both kings.

However, he takes something of them with him as a kind of spoils of war, a trophy, as a memory of the victory. It is possible that the crescent ornaments he takes from the camels of the kings indicate that these Midianites were worshippers of the moon-god. What Gideon does is a symptom that indicates that he does not give all honor to God. He wants to keep a memory of the victory he has won.

We do not read from any of the other God-given judges that they have done anything like this. Only Samson goes one step further. With him we don’t see that he takes something from the enemy, but someone. That person makes sure that he fails in his service and eventually falls down. With Gideon it doesn’t go that far, but it seems the germ has been laid here for his coming failure.


Escaping a Snare

22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” 23But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”

The next flattery that Gideon has to face doesn’t come from the side of the world, but from the side of God’s people. The people want a visible leader, as do the nations. What God warns about in Judges 7 (Jdg 7:22The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’) is going to happen here. They attribute victory to a man. They give Gideon the honor only due to God. They also want to secure the kingship through succession. After all, you never know who and how the next judge will be. Successive kingship offers certainty. It all seems so plausible, but it indicates that the people have lost their real dependence on God.

In Christianity there is a lot of talk about leadership. Its importance is always stressed. Without clear leadership, it is said that God’s people are not doing well. Much of such talk in reality indicates that one does not know how to deal with the leadership of the Lord Jesus that He exercises through the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that there are no brothers with the gift of government or who function as pastors, or overseers, or elders. But in God’s people there is often no longer the spiritual condition to recognize such people and also to recognize them according to the spiritual characteristics indicated in Scripture. What happens then is that such people are appointed or openly indicated, or whatever one wants to call it. In any case, they want to be able to hear and see clearly who the leaders are.

In many cases the seed is sown for the difference between the clergy and the laity. What Israel is asking for is comparable to the introduction of a clergy. The servant is made great and God is forgotten. Later Israel will repeat this question (1Sam 8:1-61And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.2Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; [they] were judging in Beersheba.3His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;5and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”6But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD.). Then it will get a king in Saul (1Sam 10:17-2417Thereafter Samuel called the people together to the LORD at Mizpah;18and he said to the sons of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I brought Israel up from Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the power of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’19But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans.”20Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot.21Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found.22Therefore they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” So the LORD said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.”23So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.24Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “[Long] live the king!”), after which God comes with the man to His heart: David (1Sam 16:1-131Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”2But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears [of it], he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’3You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.”4So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, “Do you come in peace?”5He said, “In peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.6When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him.”7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God [sees] not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”8Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”9Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”10Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.”11And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”12So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.).

Fortunately, Gideon sees through the danger of the request. He refuses to become king and reminds the people of God as their King. That should also be our answer when there are remarks to confirm someone or a few in the position of leader. A leader to God’s mind will reject any confirmation by people.

Paul gives a good description of his apostleship. As an apostle he is a great leader, but his whole apostleship is separate from man, so he can say that he is an apostle “not [sent] from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11Paul, an apostle (not [sent] from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),). This means that the origin, the source of his apostleship, is not in man and that he has not been appointed by a man in this apostleship.


The Ephod

24Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25They said, “We will surely give [them].” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 [shekels] of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which [were] on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that [were] on their camels’ necks. 27Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.

What Gideon asks now does not come from others, but this desire springs from his own heart. He had hardly spoken the words by which he refused the kingship, or he stretched out his hand to the priesthood. He asked the whole people for a contribution for the production of an ephod. The ephod is a clothing piece that is only worn by the high priest or priests. Therefore it is not for Gideon to make this ephod.

He could have defended his request by referring to the sacrifice he made and the altar he erected in Ophrah (Jdg 6:19,2419Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought [them] out to him under the oak and presented [them].24Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.). There he did something like a priestly service, didn’t he? But the altar he built there did not have a mediating character. It did not serve to approach God on behalf of the people.

The ephod he wants to make must become a memorial of his victory. That is why he asks the whole people to give something for this. Aren’t we doing it all sometimes: making a souvenir or hanging up the victory the Lord has given us? It may be that we like to tell about our victories, the blessing the Lord has wanted to give through our service, of course everything under the covering that it is to the Lord’s honor. But isn’t it true, that they are essentially trophies that we ‘hang up’ for ourselves? Aren’t we the celebrated instruments? Something like that becomes a snare.

The people are immediately ready to make this contribution. If a person is allowed to contribute something to make a memorial for a victory, he likes to participate. For example, at the place where there was first a statue for the Baal that was overthrown by Gideon, now a statue for God is placed by Gideon.

But the effect is the same: idolatry or plying the harlot. It is considered to be a means of approaching God through it. Because the ephod is not in connection with the high priest who has to carry it, and it is therefore only a form, it becomes a means of idolatry. At the same time idolatry is harlotry, because it denies the connection with God and establishes a connection with the idols, that is to say, the demons.

Everything that is loosened from Christ in Christianity becomes a means of idolatry. The form replaces the being. We see it when it is said that someone receives new life through baptism. The same is said of the Supper of the Lord. There is also kneeling for a crucifix. Such results can be expected in a religion when one acts on the basis of religious feelings rather than being guided by what God has said in His Word about serving and worshipping Him “in the Spirit of God” (Phil 3:33for we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,).

It is not only a snare to Gideon, but also to his home. He drags his whole house into this idolatry. That shows the seriousness of the words that have once been spoken: “The way away from God you never go alone.”


Gideons Further Life

28So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon. 29Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. 31His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.

After we have heard all about the battle and the events that resulted directly from it, we come to the final conclusion in verse 2828So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.. Midian has been defeated and the land has 40 years of rest under the leadership of Gideon.

But that is not the end of Gideon’s history. It seems that when the days of his fighting for God are over, he has made himself easy and has begun to give in to the lusts of the flesh. Not for nothing does the Christian hear the warning that after a victory he should not rest on his laurels. He must take up the full armor of God, not only during the day of the struggle, but also “having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph 6:1313Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.).

Unfortunately, Gideon’s further life is a telling example that he did not take this into account. He quietly retreats into his home, takes many wives and therefore has numerous offspring. On the one hand, this is a proof of prosperity. As one’s prosperity and influence grew at that time, so did one’s harem. King Ahab had seventy sons (2Kgs 10:11Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters and sent [them] to Samaria, to the rulers of Jezreel, the elders, and to the guardians of [the children of] Ahab, saying,) and some of Gideon’s successors also had many sons (Jdg 10:44He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havvoth-jair to this day.; 12:9,149He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters [whom] he gave in marriage outside [the family], and he brought in thirty daughters from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.14He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys; and he judged Israel eight years.). On the other hand, the hatred and murder entering Gideon’s family are precisely characteristics for these Old Testament situations of polygamy. Having more than one wife goes against God’s order of creation and gives a lot of misery.

In that period Gideon also gets a son with his concubine from Shechem whom he names Abimelech. Of all Gideon’s sons this is the only one whose name is mentioned here. That is not for nothing. The next chapter, a long chapter, will show the character of this man and what a source of misery he is. We will see in his history that the laziness and pleasure in Gideon’s life gives life to a source from which evil originates.

It is telling that Abimelech’s mother does not live in Ophra, but somewhere else. Gideon wants, so to speak, the lusts, but not the burdens. Even more significant is the meaning of the name he gives to this child. Abimelech literally means ‘my father is king’. This is a name that also Philistine princes have (Gen 20:22Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.; 21:2222Now it came about at that time that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do;; 26:11Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines.). That Gideon gives this name to his son shows something of what may have been hidden in his heart. It is not inconceivable that the flattery of verse 1818Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men [were] they whom you killed at Tabor?” And they said, “They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.” and verse 2222Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” has had an influence.

Those who know something of their own heart know how easily certain flattery can take root in their thinking. It can stay with you and ‘underground’ the idea that you are someone of significance, someone against whom others are noticing, can continue to play a role. On certain occasions, this thought can no longer be suppressed and comes to the fore. Then the own importance will assert itself and the Lord will no longer be number One.

Only by radically condemning such thoughts and keeping them in ‘death’ is it possible to preserve their playing an active role. Whoever radically condemns such thoughts puts into practice what Colossians 3 calls for: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col 3:55Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.). Is the desire to be important not an evil desire? Is it not a form of greed to want to take a position that only God is entitled to? It is nothing but idolatry. That is why we have to deal with such things. This can be replaced by “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:1212So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;).

The thought of being important not only must be judged, but must be considered to be dead. This can be done by putting into practice what Romans 6 says: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:1111Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.) Here we have the key in our hands to wring arrogant thoughts the neck and not allowing them to arise again.

The basis for such an attitude towards pride lies in what the Lord Jesus did on the cross. This is the subject of the verses preceding Romans 6:11 (Rom 6:1-101What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.5For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be [in the likeness] of His resurrection,6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him], in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;7for he who has died is freed from sin.8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.). That is why it is so important to make a fundamental study of the letter to the Romans in particular. We then gain insight into who we ourselves are by nature, into what God in Christ has done to us, and how as a result we may see ourselves before God. This gives us the right weapons to deprive sin of any authority over us.


Gideons End and Thereafter

32And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. 34Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; 35nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal ([that is], Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.

The end of Gideon is a testimony of the Spirit about who he has been before God. Of him, and further only of Samson, is said in this book that he “was buried in the tomb of his father”. He is also mentioned to have died “at a ripe old age”. This is also said in the Old Testament of Abraham (Gen 15:1515As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.; 25:88Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied [with life]; and he was gathered to his people.) and of David (1Chr 29:2828Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor; and his son Solomon reigned in his place.).

Unfortunately, the Israelites do not follow the good that has been seen in Gideon’s life, but the bad that has also been present in his life. By making the ephod he has brought the people back to the path of idolatry. By this he has ruined his own work (Jdg 6:25-2725Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;26and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”27Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night.) and has laid the seed for a renewed deviation of the people from the LORD.

The Israelites “again played the harlot with the Baals”. More than forty years after Gideon demolished the altar of the Baal, the Israelites choose Baal-berith as their god. Baal-berith means ‘lord of the covenant’. The worship of the Baal is a sign of a covenant with the Canaanites, something that God has explicitly forbidden. God is forgotten and no thought is given to the good that Gideon has done for the people.

Despite the fact that Gideon participated in this development, God holds the people responsible for their own behavior. He reproaches them for being ungrateful for what Gideon did.

Ungratefulness is also a characteristic of our days. How do we deal with brothers who have served us and who, by preaching God’s Word, have made the Lord Jesus greater for us, so that we worship Him more? In addition, their service has increased our desire to obey God’s Word, so that we have begun to serve Him with greater dedication. We must be thankful to those who, through their preaching and life, have brought Christ closer to us and brought us closer to Christ. About such people we read for example in Romans 16 and in Hebrews 13 (Rom 16:3-43Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,4who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;; Heb 13:7,177Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.17Obey your leaders and submit [to them], for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.).


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