Gideon crushes Midian raiders
Ephraim men yell at Gideon1 When the men from Ephraim caught up with Gideon, they tore into him, screaming in anger. “Why did you cut us out of the fight with Midian?”
2 Gideon said, “Look at what you’ve accomplished in this fight. What have I done, compared to you? Listen, grapes in Ephraim left behind after harvest are better than the best we harvest in my little family of Abiezer. 3 But look at you. God gave you the commanders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I done that compares to that?” Gideon’s humble response diffused their anger.
Marching tired and hungry4 By the time Gideon and his 300 men crossed the Jordan River onto the eastern bank, they were exhausted and famished. 5 When they reached the town of Succoth, Gideon asked the people there for food. “Please, could you spare some bread for my men. They’re starving. And we’re going after the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna.”
6 City leaders said, “Show us the kings and we’ll show you the bread. Do you have Zebah and Zalmunna in custody?” 7 Gideon said, “Fine. When the LORD lets us capture Zebah and Zalmunna, we’re coming back here. I’m going to make a whip from desert thorns and briers. Then I’m going to use it to tear off your skin. I’m going to beat you like I beat wheat on the threshing floor.”
8 Gideon took his men on the climb up to the city of Penuel, where he asked the same question and got the same answer. 9 Gideon told the people, “Take a look at that defensive tower of yours. When I come back it’s coming down.”
Gideon captures the last Midian kings10 By this time, Zebah and Zalmunna retreated with their army to Karkor. There were only 15,000 men left. The rest had been killed, 120,000 armed warriors. 11 Gideon took his men up a herder’s trail east of Nobah and Jogbehah. He caught the Midianites off guard. 12 Kings Zebah and Zalmunna ran for their lives. Gideon ran them down and captured them both. Their army collapsed in chaos and panic.
13 When the battle was over, Gideon the son of Joash went home by way of Heres Pass. 14 Along the trail he arrested a young man from Succoth and questioned him. The young man gave Gideon a list of 77 city leaders in Succoth. 15 When Gideon reached Succoth, he told the people, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings you used to insult me. Remember? You said, ‘Show us the kings and we’ll show the bread.’” 16 Gideon arrested the city leaders and taught them a lesson in hospitality. He had them beaten with whips made from desert thorns and briars. 17 At Penuel, Gideon tore down the city tower and killed the men.
Gideon executes Midian’s kings18 Gideon turned to Zebah and Zalmunna and said, “Those men you killed at Mount Tabor, what did they look like?” Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Like you. They looked like sons of a king.” 19 Gideon said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As sure as there’s a LORD alive, if you hadn’t killed them, I wouldn’t kill you.”
20 Gideon ordered his oldest son, Jether, who was still a young boy, “Go over there and kill them.” But Jether wouldn’t draw his sword. He didn’t want to kill them. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Don’t send a kid to do a man’s job. Kill us yourself.” Gideon killed them both and pulled the royal crescent ornaments off the necks of their camels.
Israel wants to crown King Gideon22 Israelites told Gideon, “We want you to become our ruler. Lead the nation—you, your son, your grandson. After all, you’re the one who saved us from Midian.” 23 Gideon told them, “Not a chance. I’m not your ruler. My son won’t be your ruler. The LORD will be your ruler. 24 But let me ask one favor. I’d appreciate it if everyone would give me one earring taken from the enemies.” Ishmaelites, who were among the enemies, wore earrings.
25 “Absolutely,” they said. “We’re happy to give that you.” So, they spread out a cloth blanket and everyone tossed in an earring. 26 The golden earrings weighed 43 pounds. Gideon also kept the purple clothing of the kings along with their royal jewelry and the chains, crescents, and pendants decorating the camels.
Gideon builds an idol27 Gideon used what he took from the kings to build an object that he set up in his town of Ophrah. People of Israel came from all over to worship this object instead of God. This thing hooked Gideon and his whole family.
28 So, that’s the story of how the people of Israel defeated Midian—a nation that never recovered from the defeat. The people of Israel lived in peace for 40 years, as long as Gideon lived. 29 Gideon, also known as Jerubbaal, returned home and lived in his own house.
30 He married an awful lot women and they gave him 70 sons. 31 He also had a concubine in the city of Shechem. She gave him a son named Abimelech.
32 Gideon died after living a long life. They buried him in the tomb of his father Joash, in the city were the Abiezer family lived, at Ophrah. 33 Once Gideon died, the Israelites went back to worshiping the local gods known as baals. They picked one in particular, Baal-berith. 34 Israelites forgot about the LORD their God. They didn’t remember the stories of how he saved them from their enemies time after time. 35 And despite all Gideon did, they no longer showed any loyalty or gratitude to his family.
Succoth was an Israelite town in the tribe of Gad. It’s often linked to a ruin in Jordan called Tel Deir Alla, roughly halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.
Karkor was a desert oasis in what is now Jordan, not far from where Gideon was in Succoth.
Location of Heres Pass is unknown.
That’s 19.4 kg. The Hebrew weight was 1,700 shekels. That’s a lot of gold. At the time this note is being written, 43 pounds of gold is worth $645,000 or 570,000 euros.
The mysterious object is called an ephod. In the time of Moses, an ephod was an apron or vest worn by the high priest. Scholars debate exactly what that looked like. Some describe it as a skirt or a shift-like garment that covered the body from about the waist to the mid-thigh. Priests used what was described as an ephod to store the sword of Goliath, after David killed this Philistine champion warrior (1 Samuel 23:9). But here, the ephod is somehow set up as an object that people could visit and worship. Some scholars suggest the Hebrew word ephod was related to the Akkadian word epattu. Assyrian writings say epattu were idols dressed in expensive clothing worn by high officials.
It could be a coincidence, but the Canaanite high god, El, also had 70 sons—gods of the Canaanite Mediterranean port city of Ugarit, Syria. Archaeologists have discovered in Ugarit a lot of ancient artifacts from the times of Joshua and the Israelites heroes such as Gideon, from the 1400s-1200s BC.
A concubine was a woman who lived with a man in a legally binding relationship as a secondary wife, but who had less social status and fewer privileges than a wife.
Baal-berith surfaces only here in Judges, so far—nowhere else in known history. But there’s also a reference to a temple in Shechem devoted to El-berith (9:46). Some scholars say “El” and “Baal” were interchangeable names referring to the same god. Baal means lord or master. Berith is a Hebrew word for contract, agreement, or covenant. Some scholars theorize that this “Lord of the covenant” was intended to replace the LORD of the covenant agreement made with Abraham, Moses, and the nation of Israel. If so, the Israelites traded God in on a local god worshipped by Canaanites in Shechem. They made a new covenant with a new god.
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