For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

8:1.  “And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?  And they did chide with him sharply.”

Ephraim was a tribe marked by pride and jealousy, the roots of which may have lain in their being descended from a famous father, Joseph, as well as the fact that Joshua was an Ephraimite.  The first evidence of their pride is discovered in connection with the lot assigned them in Canaan, for it will be remembered that Ephraim and Manasseh were to share one lot, and they complained, “Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people?” (Jos 17:14).  (We might note incidentally, the spiritual significance of their being given one lot between them: the fruitfulness which Ephraim represents, and the forgetting portrayed by Manasseh, cannot be separated).

Ridout also points out that in the present instance their jealous anger may have been provoked by the fact that the enemy had been put to flight by a Manassite, the elder brother of Ephraim, in regard to whom the promise had been given that Ephraim the younger would have precedence over Manasseh the elder (Ge 48:19).  And the same writer notes that Ephraim represents works, so that his pride is meant to remind us that there is a very great danger of works begetting the same pride and jealousy in us - pride in our own works, and jealousy of what others may be doing.  Service itself can furnish fuel for the fires of jealousy amongst God’s people.  The deliverance from such pride and jealousy is to remember that each man is but an instrument in the hand of God, apart from Whose power we can do nothing.

8:2.  “And he said unto them, What have I done in comparison of you?  Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?”

Ephraim’s anger was completely unjustified, for Gideon had been given no command to take with him any except the three hundred men whom God had separated for that special work, but then the anger of jealousy is never justified.

Gideon’s answer is a perfect example of the soft answer that turns away wrath (Pr 15:1).  If it were given more often there would be less contention and strife in the midst of God’s people today.

Since gleanings are connected with the end of the harvest, and harvest is the symbol of judgment, this is perhaps the disclosure of the fact that Gideon was far better aware than Ephraim that in the end the supremacy would be Ephraim’s according to God’s promise given through Jacob.  Were we willing to esteem others better than ourselves (Php 2:3), and content to leave till the Bema the proper judgment of each man’s worth and work, there would be less contention and strife in our midst.

8:3.  “God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you?  Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.”

It would appear that Gideon was sincere in his appraisal of what the Ephraimites had done, remembering that he and the three hundred had been initially required only to stand each in his appointed place and blow the trumpets, while Ephraim had had to engage in actual combat with the enemy, and secure the fords of Jordan against their escape.  It is clear from his having pursued the enemy over the Jordan, that Gideon too engaged in actual combat, but he remembered that no pursuit would have been possible at all had not God first given the victory by setting the sword of each Midianite against his fellow.  Our service would be kept in proper perspective if we remembered that apart from God we could do nothing.

8:4.  “And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.”

As noted already, this pursuit beyond Jordan speaks of that determination not to permit ourselves to become embroiled in contention and strife even in the things that must of necessity occupy us in the world in connection, for example, with our jobs, etc.  Contention and strife have no place in the believer’s life, either in spiritual things, or secular.

“... faint, yet pursuing them.”  In spite of weariness, they still pursued the enemy.  This would remind us that we are not to indulge the flesh.  They might well have been excused had they taken time to eat and rest, but for them there could be neither eating nor resting until the foe was vanquished.  How often the foe has been allowed to recover himself simply by the tendency of believers to indulge the flesh, the temptation to do so coming not infrequently in subtle guise, e.g., the advice of other Christians, “You’ll wear yourself out.  You need some relaxation.  Everybody needs a hobby.  Consider your family.”  The list of plausible reasons for resting could be continued....  All such advice is on a par with Jethro’s advice to Moses, “The thing thou doest is not good.  Thou wilt surely wear away ... this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone” (Ex 18:17-18), and Peter’s to the Lord, “Be it far from thee, Lord (lit., Pity thyself, Lord)....” (Mt 16:22).  He who would do the Lord’s work recognizes that that calling permits no indulgence of the flesh.  Though “faint,” he “pursues,” knowing that God never assigns a task without also furnishing the power to do it, and knowing that God is careful to provide, in His Own way, and in His Own time, for the needs of His servants.  He who is doing the Lord’s work need have no fear of wearing himself out, of suffering “burnout.”  This happens only to the man who undertakes spiritual work which God has not assigned.

8:5.  “And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.”

Succoth means booths, which, like the tent, are symbolic of a pilgrim walk.  These men of Succoth, however, manifested a very different spirit from that which should mark the believer, not only as a pilgrim and stranger here in the world, but as a brother of every other believer.  They were not being asked to engage in the actual conflict, but simply to provide bread for their brethren who had wearied themselves in that conflict, a conflict moreover that would benefit these very men of Succoth!

Inasmuch as it was in the land, and at the end of their harvest or work year, that Israel was to dwell in booths, the booths speak of rest.  There are, however, two rests: the rest of faith, and also the rest of sloth.  With Israel, the booth had become an empty symbol, and clearly with the men of Succoth the worship of Jehovah had become a mere empty ritual.

The same selfish spirit marks many of today’s professing Christians.  Mere ritual has replaced reality.  They employ the same evil diplomacy as the men of the world, refusing to aid those believers who are bearing the brunt of the battle, until they see how the battle is going to go.  They choose to be on the side of the victor, even though that victor may be the enemy.  God has no need of such fair weather warriors.  Those who would do His work are they who fight for right even when they must stand alone, and the cause seems hopeless.

Things have changed little since then.  It is still the “three hundred” (the faithful minority) who, though faint, pursue the enemy, while the majority prefer the yoke of the oppressor to the hardship of the spiritual conflict needed to break that yoke.

Zeba means a sacrifice; and Zalmunna, shade was withheld.  The fact that they were enemy kings helps us to understand the spiritual significance of their names, for Scripture assures us that the final outcome of that warfare in which we are engaged today will be that all who oppose God and His people will become a sacrifice to Him on that soon-coming day when Christ returns in power and glory to establish His Millennial kingdom.  Isaiah, referring to that day, declares, “... the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah a fold....” (Isa 34:1-8).  For them it will be the time when the meaning of Zalmunna will have its fulfillment.  God’s enemies will call upon the mountains and rocks, saying, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Re 6:16), but there will be no shade, no hiding place.

8:6.  “And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?”

This is the same attitude as was displayed by the unbelieving rulers of Israel when they stood around the cross and mocked, “If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Mt 27:42).  The men of Succoth, like their counterparts of a later day, lacked the faith that God requires of all who would enter heaven.  Faith believes without proof, because proof automatically excludes faith, for where there is proof there is no need of faith, “But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6). 

He who insists upon waiting for proof, waits too long.  Proof will be provided in eternity - too late to profit the unbeliever.

8:7.  “And Gideon said, Therefore when the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.”

No such faithlessness marked Gideon.  He who had dealt with God in secret, could act with confidence.  The enemy would be defeated, but that same day would bring judgment to those whose faithlessness had deterred them from declaring on which side they stood until the outcome would be known.  That day of retribution for the men of Succoth is but a foreshadowing of that coming terrible day when “... the fearful and unbelieving....” (Re 21:8) will stand at the great white throne and hear the command of the Judge (the Christ they had refused to trust as Savior on earth), to depart into the everlasting torment of the lake of fire.

Thorns are the symbol of the curse (Ge 3:18); and briars, of that which is worthless and fit only for burning (Heb 6:8).  For the men of Succoth the tearing at the hand of Gideon would be with literal thorns and briers, but for the faithless whom the men of Succoth represent, it will be their sins and their worthless “good works” that will torment them eternally, the torment coming from knowing that those sins could have been forgiven, and from realizing that had they but listened, they could have learned in time to save themselves, the worthlessness of works.

8:8.  “And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.”

Penuel, meaning turn ye to God: the face of God, is the name given to the place where Jacob, after wrestling with the angel, had had his name changed from Jacob he will take by the heel: supplanter, to Israel he shall be prince of God (Ge 32:30).  And, as with the men of Succoth, God would have us see also in the men

of Penuel, a picture of professing Christians.  They seem to represent those who are mere professors, claiming to have turned to God, as they claim also to see the face of God, i.e., to have the knowledge of God.  The men of Succoth and Penuel are apt types of the Scribes and Pharisees, and of all such self-righteous professors, who in spite of an outward form of godliness, know not God.

8:9.  “And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”

This second reference to his victorious return reminds us that Gideon, like all the judges, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He too will return as Victor to administer judgment.  He is a wise man who takes sides with Christ before that day comes.

A tower is a symbol of strength, so that Gideon’s promise to break down the tower in which the men of Penuel trusted, is simply the symbolic announcement of the fact that when Christ returns He will destroy all who have failed to put their trust in Him as the “strong tower” (see e.g., Ps 18:2) into which the Gospel invites sinners to flee in order to save themselves from the wrath to come.  When the day of testing comes, all other “towers” will prove to have been built upon sand.

8:10.  “Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.”  

Karkor means battering down, and inasmuch as the enemy was routed from that refuge, it would seem that the reference is to the “battering down” of the city by Gideon.  Such will be the fate of every refuge except Christ, in the day of judgment.  Every “Karkor” will be battered down.  Whether it be morality, church membership, generosity, kindness, etc., every such refuge will prove then to be as worthless as was Karkor to the fleeing Midianites.

The folly of contending with God is taught in the fact that out of a multitude of a hundred and thirty-five thousand, there remained only fifteen thousand, and they too were soon to be scattered.  Since fifteen factorizes to three and five (the numbers of resurrection and responsibility respectively), these remaining enemies would remind us that as there is a resurrection of life, so is there also a resurrection of damnation (Jn 5:29), and as they were destroyed, so will the resurrection of death bring destruction to everyone who has failed in his responsibility to trust Christ as Savior.

8:11.  “And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.”

“... the way of them that dwelt in tents” is literally “the route used by the nomads,” but since the tent is associated with the pilgrim lifestyle, the lesson being taught is that we will be victorious against the forces of darkness only as we pass through this world as pilgrims and strangers.

The location of Nobah is unknown, though thought to be in the vicinity of Jogbehah which lay north east of Jerusalem in the territory of Gad.  Gideon’s being east of these two places means that he had to move west to attack them, but since the west is the direction that speaks of approach to God, the truth being declared symbolically is that the destruction of what this enemy represents brings us nearer to God, for it implies obedience.  Their being called “the children of the east” (v.10), would make them the representatives of sin in general, rather than the specific evil of contention and strife represented by Midian

Nobah means a barking; and Jogbehah, he will be elevated.  Since barking is generally associated with dogs, which are unclean animals, and which represent apostates (see 2 Pe 2:22); and since elevation that doesn’t come from God is the exaltation of pride, the combined lesson of Nobah and Jogbehah appears to be, that as the enemy which had assembled there, was destroyed, so will the pride and defiance of apostasy be destroyed, when the Lord returns to judge the nations, and establish His Millennial kingdom.

“... for the host was secure.”  They rested in the false confidence of thinking that they had escaped beyond reach of Gideon.  The very same false confidence will mark the apostate world just prior to the return of Christ to establish His millennial kingdom, for in 1 Th 5:3 we read, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them... and they shall not escape.”

8:12.  “And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited (terrified) all the host.”

There was nothing half-hearted about Gideon.  He might very well have been satisfied to let them escape, but he would ensure that there would be no return of this enemy.  We would be well advised to display the same zeal when dealing with everything that we know to be antagonistic to God and His people. 

8:13.  “And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up.”

The more generally accepted rendering of this verse is, “returned ... from the pass or Ascent of Heres.”  (Heres means the sun).

As noted already, there is much in this section to indicate that it is a foreshadowing of what will be when Christ returns to end the Tribulation, and establish His millennial kingdom.  Here, for example, its being repeated that he was the son of Joash God has become man, would remind us that it was only by His becoming man that Christ won the great victory at Calvary, and it will be as Son of man that He will return to vanquish and banish all His foes at the end of the Tribulation.  The further reference to the Ascent of Heres (lit. the rising of the sun), reminds us also that that return will be as “the Sun of righteousness,” for in Mal 4:1-3 it is written, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.... “

8:14.  “And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.”

Succoth’s day of retribution had come, proving that there is no neutral ground when we are dealing with God.  We are either with Him, or against Him, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Mt 12:30).  By refusing Gideon aid, the men of Succoth made themselves abettors of his enemies.  So is it with us.  The world that would eradicate all clear-cut lines of distinction between good and evil, has impressed its character on the professing church, and it will be for that world, and that false church, on the day of Christ’s return, as it was for Succoth and Penuel on the day of Gideon’s victorious return.  There will be swift and terrible retribution.  Those who might have shared in the celebration of Gideon’s victory, became instead the objects of his wrath.  The day of Christ’s victorious return will reveal the folly, not only of active opposition to Him, His work, and His people, but of all so-called neutrality.  He is a wise man who takes sides with Christ during this day of His rejection.  The day of His victory is near!

In Scripture the young man is the symbol of strength, see for example, Pr 20:29 and 1 Jn 2:14.  There must be some special significance connected with this young man, but I am unable to determine what it is.  It may be that he represents the imagined strength of the neutral position they had taken, being convinced that it rendered them impervious to retribution from either Midian or Gideon.  That imagined strength, however, betrayed them just as did the young man, reminding us again that there can be no neutral position with regard to Christ.  The imagined strength of a neutral position will in the end betray all who

have taken that position.

“... he described unto them” is literally “he wrote down the names of....” thus making it impossible for any of them to escape their deserved punishment.  This written list reminds us that we are dealing with a God Whose judgment cannot be escaped.  Every believer will be judged at the Bema; every unbeliever, at the great white throne.  And since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, there being seventy and seven of them, assures us that none will escape the judgment of God.

8:15.  “And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?”

This allusion to the weariness of Gideon’s men reminds us that the offense of the men of Succoth was not only that they refused Gideon aid, but that they refused even to minister to the need of their brethren.  This recalls the words of Christ, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mt 25:40).  God takes careful note of how we treat our brethren, and He will recompense us accordingly.

8:16.  “And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.”

Commentators generally take this to mean that he slew the elders of Succoth by dragging them over thorns and briers, or by dragging thorns and briers over them.  Whether he slew all the men of Succoth and Penuel is uncertain, the opinion of many scholars being that it was the leaders only who were slain.

Since thorns and briers are the symbols of the curse, and of sin generally, the lesson being taught in this unusual method of punishment or execution is that men’s sins will destroy them, unless remitted through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

8:17.  “And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.”

Since a tower is a place of refuge, Gideon’s destruction of the tower of Penuel is the symbolic reminder that nothing can afford shelter from the judgment of God.  That judgment may be long delayed, for God would have all men repent and save themselves, but it must eventually overtake the man who refuses to find refuge in Christ as his “strong tower,” Ps 18:2 “The Lord is ... my high tower”; 61:3 “For thou hast been ... a strong tower from the enemy”; 144:1-2 “Blessed be the Lord ... my high tower, and my deliverer”; Pr 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe”.

An unresolved question of little importance is whether he slew all the men of Penuel, or only the elders, for certainly all the people are represented by the elders.  All out of Christ will perish.

8:18.  “Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor?  And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.”

This continues to confirm that in this section we have a symbolic picture of the judgments that will accompany the return of Christ in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom, for inasmuch as Gideon is a type of Christ, these slain brethren represent those who are the brethren of Christ, i.e., believers; and their having been slain by these two enemy kings designates them as those who have suffered persecution and death just because they belonged to Christ.  The resemblance each bore to Gideon reminds us that in the sight of God we are as is Christ, 1 Jn 4:17:  “... because as he is, so are we in this world.”

Their resembling “the children of a king” ought to remind us of our standing in Christ, and should beget within us a determination to, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph 4:1).  God would have men see Christ in us.

The specification of Tabor as the place where they had been slain, is also meant to instruct us, for Tabor means thou wilt purge, and in this connection at least one thought presents itself.  The persecution, of which their slaughter is clearly a type, purges the Church of mere professors.  Only genuine faith will continue to confess Christ when the penalty for such confession is death.  The Tribulation judgments, which the death of Gideon’s brethren also appears to portray, will purge mere empty professors from the midst of the believing remnant in that soon-coming day.

8:19.  “And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.”

When or why these brethren were slain isn’t revealed, nor is it important; but their being described as “the sons of my mother” points to them as being representative of Christ’s Jewish brethren, for it was the nation of Israel that was His “mother.”  It was their slaughter of Gideon’s brethren that sealed the fate of Zeba and Zalmunna: had they spared those brethren, Gideon would have spared them.  The same principle will operate when Christ judges the nations just prior to the beginning of the Millennium, see Mt 25:31-46.  Their treatment of His Jewish brethren (Jewish believers) during the Tribulation, will determine their fate.  This, however, is not to be taken to mean that works will save people in the Tribulation: they won’t, any more than in any dispensation.  Their kind treatment of the believing Jewish remnant will be because they themselves will also be believers.  Their good works will be the evidence of their own spiritual state.  “Ye shall know them by their fruits.... A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Mt 7:16-20).  The profession of the lips must be confirmed by what is produced in the life.

8:20.  “And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them.  But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth. “

Jether means a remnant: excellence, and in spite of the seeming good meaning of his name, he represents evil, not good.  The clue to the interpretation of the type is furnished in the words “his firstborn.”  The firstborn in Scripture is always rejected in favor of the secondborn, for he represents the old nature, the flesh, and it is Christ Himself Who declares the imperative of a new birth to replace the natural with the spiritual, “Ye MUST be born again” (Jn 3:7). 

As always in Scripture, the spiritual meaning transcends the literal.  It was his immaturity that made Jether fearful of slaying these Midianite enemies, but in the spiritual realm the truth is that the flesh (which Jether represents) will not take up the sword against the old nature.  It is, in fact, the willing instrument of that evil master.  It is significant that he “feared.”  Heading the list of those whose eternal dwelling place is the lake of fire, are “the fearful and unbelieving....” (Re 21:8).

The seeming good meaning of his name, however, requires explanation, and it would appear to be that it is what the natural man could be, were he willing to trust Christ.  By faith the believer dies to his former state, and is raised up to live eternally in union with his resurrected Savior, Whose life and nature he now shares.  He becomes a part of the believing “remnant” of humanity, whose “excellence” is the excellency of Christ, see 2 Co 4:7.  That is God’s ideal for all men, but it is realized only in those who trust in Christ.

8:21.  “Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength.  And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.”

In the absence of any recorded plea from these Midianite kings that they be spared, and from their request that Gideon himself slay them, we read the announcement that in the day when the righteous judgment of Christ is executed, even the condemned will be unable to utter any word against the justice of their sentence.

The removal of the ornaments from their camels’ necks has also its lesson, for the camel represents the body as the servant of the new nature, and the ornaments were replicas of the moon, one of the gods worshipped by the Midianites.  Clearly these Midianites were not believers, but their riding upon camels whose necks were ornamented with the symbols of their religion, reminds us that the natural man is not by any means irreligious, his outward life often giving the appearance of being indeed that of one who is born again.  The removal of the ornaments from the camels’ necks, however, warns us that in the final judgment it is Christ, not religion, Who saves the soul.

8:22.  “Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.”

Prophetically this portrays the world’s acceptance of Christ’s rule in the Millennium, but practically it reminds us that they whose refusal of God’s rule had brought upon them the chastisement of the Midianite oppression, would willingly submit themselves to the rule of man, and in that choice demonstrate that they still refused to be ruled by God.  Man cannot live apart from rule, and he who refuses to serve God must serve Satan.

It is to be noted also that they would make it a permanent rule, and according also to their own appointment; and further, they would bind future generations to that rule.  This continues to demonstrate man’s tendency to live according to tradition, rather than the Word of God, as it demonstrates also that man will bind others by his vain traditions.  Himself in bondage, he cannot bear to see others enjoy freedom.

Their ascribing to Gideon the credit for their deliverance is simply the announcement of their refusal to give to God the glory that was His due.  It was He Who had delivered them, Gideon being but an instrument in His hand.

8:23.  “And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.”

Gideon recognized that his having been used of God to deliver Israel from the Midianite oppression didn’t carry with it any authority for him to rule God’s people.  Many since then who have been used as was he, have unfortunately forgotten that lesson.

8:24.  “And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey.  (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)”

Inasmuch as the ear is the channel of hearing, and the ring the symbol of that which is eternal (God and His Word), the removal of those earrings reminds us that the dead Midianites had passed for ever beyond the sound of the voice of Him Who is Eternal.  Man is responsible, not only to hear God’s voice, but to obey it.  Its being added that they were Ishmaelites, assures us that they represent the flesh, for Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn, and, as noted already, in Scripture the firstborn always represents the old nature.  (The interchange of the terms Midianites and Ishmaelites may be due to the fact that they were closely allied, both being sons of Abraham: Ishmael, by Hagar, and Midian by Keturah.  See also Ge 37:25,36.  Those earrings, once upon their ears, but now removed, remind us that man will not always hear God’s voice. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Pr 29:1); “My Spirit shall not always strive with man....” (Ge 6:3).

8:25.  “And they answered, We will willingly give them.  And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.”

Those earrings represent the Word of God, so that their giving them up, speaks of their readiness to abandon that Word, and since the garment is always the Biblical symbol of righteousness (either the filthy rags of self-righteousness, or the spotless righteousness of Christ), their casting them into a garment declares in symbol what was clearly demonstrated when the Lord was on earth: the Word of God was given up and confined within the “garment” of Jewish self-righteousness.  It is little different today in much of the professing church: the facade of outward righteousness is preserved even though the heart rejects the Word of God as that which must govern the life.

We should note that in Scripture we find the ring associated with the ear, the hand, and the ankle or foot, and for an obvious reason.  The ear is the channel of hearing (we are to hear and obey the Word of God); the hand is the symbol of work or service (our service is to be according to the Word of God); and the foot is the symbol of the walk or manner of life (our walk is to be according to God’s Word).  The ring detached from ear, hand, or foot, however, speaks of the refusal of God’s Word in the realms represented by these three parts of the body.  Israel’s casting the earrings into the garment speaks symbolically of their rejection of God’s Word.

8:26.  “And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks.”

Its being emphasized that the earrings were of gold (symbol of glory) reminds us of the glory that belongs to the Word of God, while the great weight of that gold (about seventy pounds) reminds us of the inestimable worth of that same Word. 

A thousand is simply the multiple of ten, as seven hundred is of seven, but ten is the number of God as Governor, as seven is the number of completeness or perfection, and the shekel is the Divine standard of measurement, so that everything here combines to set before us the character of the Word of God.  It is the revelation of Him Who is the Creator and Ruler of all things, it is perfect, and it is the presentation of the standard that must govern all things.

There is ominous significance, however, in the fact that there were added also “ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks.”  The spiritual lesson is easily read.  All of these things were associated with the enemy - their ornaments, their garments, and their idolatrous worship.  The heaping together of the earrings and all these other things, declares all too plainly what we see all around us in professing Christendom: a strange mixture of the Word, the trappings Juadaism, and of paganism - all of it heaped together in a “garment,” the garment of righteousness according to man’s standard, but not God’s.

The reference also to the “the chains that were about their camels’ necks” ought to remind us of the bondage into which all of this will bring the man who is so foolish as to abandon obedience to the Word in favor of submission to man’s religion.

8:27.  “And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.”

All of the gold was melted down and fashioned into the likeness of a ephod, a picture of what is seen in Christendom today, for there we find the same blending together of Judaism, Christianity, and paganism, all of it presented as “Christian worship.”  There was however, as much difference between that golden image,and a genuine ephod, as there is between what passes for worship in the professing church, and what is validated by Scripture.  The genuine ephod was the God-appointed garment of the priest; the golden replica, simply the product of man’s corrupted mind.  The former was associated with a living man in connection with his worship of God; the latter was but the cold impersonal symbol of man’s apostasy.

Gideon’s putting it in “his city” was further departure, for Gilgal, and later, Shiloh were the only places designated by God for the presentation of Israel’s corporate worship.  Gideon’s act was but the foreshadowing of what is found in the professing church today: God’s order has been superseded by man’s.  An empty ritual, represented by that golden ephod, has been set up in every man’s “city,” i.e., in every man’s heart, and the result is that it is now in the professing Church as it was during the era of the judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25).

That city was Ophrah, meaning dustiness: fawn-like, and as noted in our study of chapter 6:11, it represents this world as a place of death.  Fittingly therefore the idol was set up in the city, which in its very meaning, speaks of death, for disobedience and death are inseparable.  The type is fulfilled today, for here on earth, the place of death, man has set up the equivalent of Gideon’s golden ephod: a humanly contrived dead, cold ritual that man calls worship, but which is an abomination to God, and which will cause the man who continues in it, to die the second death, i.e., experience the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

And as all Israel “went thither a whoring after it,” so has the professing, but apostate church gone after this humanly contrived “worship” - in its proud ignorance despising both the way appointed by God, and those who adhere to it.

We might note further that its being set up in Ophrah was certainly a means of bringing honor to Gideon, but it served a further purpose: it saved him the trouble of going to Shiloh to worship.  In other words, it was for his convenience.  So is it with the “worship” of apostate Christendom: it is for man’s convenience!  It is to be feared, however, that the contagion of convenience has touched the true Church, for there is much in her midst to indicate that often the glory of God is made to take second place to the convenience of man.

We must note also that it became a snare, not only to Gideon, but also to his descendants.  We need to remember that in spiritual things, our children will inherit only what we leave them.  There is much to indicate that what we will leave them will bear a closer resemblance to Gideon’s golden ephod than to the pattern bequeathed to us by the believers, not only of the early Apostolic age, but of the preceding generation.  Only blinded eyes will fail to see how very far we have departed from the Scriptural pattern of worship and service.

The suggestion has been made that the slaughter of most of Gideon’s sons in 9:5 may have been the result of God’s displeasure against the idolatry introduced by the setting up of the golden ephod in Ophrah.

8:28.  “Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more.  And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.”

The grace of God transcends man’s ability to comprehend.  In spite of the idolatry that was centered around the golden ephod set up in Ophrah, He still blessed Israel with forty years of quietness.  And the fact that that quietness lasted all the days of Gideon points still further to the magnitude of His grace, for in this He honored Gideon even though it was he who was directly responsible for that idolatrous worship.

A practical lesson being taught in the fact that the quietness was directly related to the destruction of Midian is that there will be quietness in the assemblies of God’s people today when the contention and strife which Midian represents are also permitted no activity.

A further lesson is connected with the duration of the quietness, for forty is the Biblical number of testing.  That long period of blessing was to test Israel, and unfortunately she failed the test, for no sooner was Gideon gone, than she apparently abandoned even the appearance of the worship of Jehovah.  It would appear further that in spite of his failure, it was Gideon who was responsible for preserving at least the outward form of the worship of Jehovah.  The sad tale has been repeated many times since then, for not infrequently it has been the influence of one godly man that has kept more than one assembly from outright apostasy, the measure of his godly influence being the measure of the departure from Scriptural principles that has followed his homecall.

8:29.  “And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.”

As noted already Jerubbaal meaning Baal will be contended with: Baal will be taught was the name bestowed by his father in 6:32 following Gideon’s destruction of the altar and grove of Baal which appear to have been used by the family up till then.  Just why that name should be used in the present instance isn’t readily apparent, unless it is to remind us that though Midian was the literal flesh and blood foe, the actual enemy was the sinister spirit lurking in the shadows behind the altars and groves of the Baal worship.  Gideon’s conflict had been with Baal, literally Satan.  It was he who had been contended with, and who had been taught the futility of contending with the Almighty.

His being referred to as “the son of Joash, meaning Jehovah has become man” can scarcely have any other purpose than to remind us that Gideon’s victory against Midian is simply a foreshadowing of the greater victory won at Calvary by the true Gideon, the Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us, Jehovah become man.

Its being said that “he went and dwelt in his own house” may also be meant to point us to Christ, for following His great victory He too has gone to dwell in “His own house,” His work there being the preparation of a place for His redeemed in that same house (Jn 14:2-3).

8:30.  “And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.”

His numerous sons would further remind us that the true Gideon, the Lord Jesus Christ also has many sons, for every believer is His child, as in Heb 2:10-13 for example, it is written, “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.... Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”

When it comes to Gideon’s many wives, however, the parallel ends, for the Lord Jesus Christ has but one “Bride” - the Church.

8:31.  “And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.”

Not only did God not authorize more than one wife (though He tolerated polygamy), neither did He authorize concubinage, though He also tolerated that social evil.  If therefore polygamy lacked Divine sanction, much more did concubinage. 

In this, however, as in everything else, the spiritual transcends the literal, so that as the wife represents the expression of the man’s spiritual life (either genuine spiritual life, or what passes with the unconverted for that life), so is the concubine symbolic of something else, and the symbol is easily read.  She represents the great false church which masquerades as the true Church, the Bride of Christ, and the aptness of the symbol is apparent when we remember that the concubine also occupies the place of a wife without actually being one.

Her being in Shechem, meaning shoulder, one of the Biblical symbols of strength, is also significant, for while usually Shechem is indicative of the place of strength and security in which the believer dwells in Christ, the present context indicates that this is the strength of evil rather than good.  It speaks, in fact, of the strength of the great harlot church.

Every detail of this symbolic picture points to the development of the great apostate counterfeit of the true Church even before the end of the Apostolic age.

The fact that Gideon named this son Abimelech, meaning my father is king, may indicate that even though he had once refused the invitation to be Israel’s king, he may now in his later years have desired that office.  Abimelech clearly portrays, not only the development of the apostate travesty which masquerades as the true Church, but also the alleged Apostolic succession claimed by the popes who head up that harlot system.

It is significant that the name of this wicked son of the concubine was also the title of the Philistine kings (similar to Pharaoh, the title of the Egyptian kings).  That title clearly speaks of hierarchical succession.  The history of Abimelech furnishes abundant evidence that he is also a type of the beast who will rule during the Tribulation, and in this also is emphasized the principle of hierarchical succession, for the beast will simply continue the rule of the apostate church after he himself has destroyed her and arrogated all her power and wealth.  That destruction is foreshadowed in Abimelech’s eventual annihilation of the men of his mother’s city, the very same people who had brought him to power.  So will the beast similarly destroy the form in which the great false church has existed for centuries, but he will continue her nefarious work with himself as head, claiming to be God, and compelling all to worship him or die, until the whole evil system is finally destroyed by the Lord returning in power and glory to end the Tribulation and establish His millennial kingdom.

8:32.  “And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”

It is perhaps also significant that the announcement of the birth of this evil son is followed immediately by the announcement of Gideon’s death.

8:33.  “And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god.”

This would indicate that it was the personal influence of Gideon that had restrained Israel’s idolatry, the clear implication being that their worship of Jehovah had been a mere sham, an empty ritual, and teaching us the lesson that where the obedience is compelled, or even influenced by man, but is not the spontaneous response of a grateful heart, then it is only a matter of time until the true heart condition manifests itself. 

The death of Gideon points symbolically to the end of the Apostolic age.

In addition to the general worship of all the Canaanite Baals, Israel had selected one, Baal-berith, to be their own particular god, thus offering a special affront to Jehovah, for Baal-berith means lord of the covenant.  No greater insult could have been offered God, for it was by virtue of the covenant which He had made with their father Abraham that He had borne so patiently with them, and it was by virtue of His covenant with them that they had been delivered from Egyptian bondage, and brought into the land of Canaan.

In this is demonstrated the enormity of the offense of the professing church, for she has turned away from the God Whose covenant with mankind has been sealed with the blood of His Son.

8:34.  “And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:”

It is emphasized that their idolatry stemmed from their forgetting God, reminding us that one of the surest ways to total departure is simply to forget God.  But how does one forget God?  Very simply.  It begins with neglect of the written Word, of prayer, of the Lord’s supper, of assembling together with God’s people.  And with these as the criteria, it is readily apparent that the professing church has followed all too faithfully in the footsteps of rebel Israel.  Remembering, however, that the Church is made up of individuals, each one of us would do well to ask, Am I guilty of these things?

8:35.  “Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.”

Their ingratitude to God was accompanied by similar ingratitude to the man who had been the instrument of their deliverance, and in this is demonstrated the pattern of all declension: lack of love for God begets lack of love for men.

Since, however, Gideon is a type of Christ, Israel’s failure to remember their indebtedness to him is simply a foreshadowing of the professing church’s failure to remember her indebtedness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The house of Jerubbaal,” namely, Gideon would seem to represent the true Church in the midst of the professing mass of apostate Christendom, reminding us that whether in regard to Israel or the Church, the attitude of the professing, but unbelieving mass has always been the same as that of ungrateful Israel to the house of Gideon.

[Judges 9]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough