JUDGES - CHAPTER 8
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“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.”
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).
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men
that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.”
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.
“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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?”
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).
who insists upon waiting for proof, waits too long.
Proof will be provided in eternity - too late to profit the unbeliever.
“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
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.
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.
“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.”
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
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.
“And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in
peace, I will break down this tower.”
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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
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.”
“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.”
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.
“And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up.”
more generally accepted rendering of this verse is, “returned ... from the pass or
Ascent of Heres.” (Heres means the
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.... “
“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.”
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!
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
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.
“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?”
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
“And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and
briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.”
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.
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.
“And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.”
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”.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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).
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).
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
“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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son
rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.”
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
“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.)”
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).
“And they answered, We will willingly give them.
And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his
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.
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
“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’
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.”
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.
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.
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).
“And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had
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.”
it comes to Gideon’s many wives, however, the parallel ends, for the Lord Jesus
Christ has but one “Bride” - the Church.
“And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son,
whose name he called Abimelech.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
is perhaps also significant that the announcement of the birth of this evil son is
followed immediately by the announcement of Gideon’s death.
“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
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.
death of Gideon points symbolically to the end of the Apostolic age.
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.
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.
“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:”
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?
“Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon,
according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.”
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.
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.
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.