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Judges 8-9 Listen
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.
2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
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.
Now they want to help! Where have they been for the last 7 years of oppression? These leaders of Ephraim complain to Gideon about the fact that they were not called upon to supply troops in Judges 6:28-35 (see notes). They were called upon for clean-up operations in Judges 7:19-25 (see notes) and were responsible for catching and executing those pesky Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb. In verse 2, Gideon's a gentleman about their challenge and uses a harvesting-grapes metaphor to describe their actions compared to his; he compliments their bravery, and because of Gideon's diplomacy, they drop the whole issue.
Succoth, Penuel! Is that a yellow streak I see? (Judges 8:4-9)
4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
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.
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?
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.
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.
9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
These two cities were about 4.5 miles apart (Succoth and Penuel) located in the territory of the Tribe of Gad just east of the Jordan River, about 25 miles southeast of the battle at Jezreel in Judges 6:28-35 (see notes). The cowardly Midianites (15,000 of them) had headed that way. These Gadites just had no confidence that Gideon and his band of 300 could finish off the enemy. I mean...300 men in pursuit of 15,000 - what are the chances you'll see these 300 men again? These cowardly fellow Jews in verse 6 ask, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?" That's a reference to the two Midianite kings Gideon is pursuing.
So, these fellow Jews refuse provisions to Gideon for fear of reprisal from the Midianites if they do so. Bad news guys! When Gideon returns after taking care of that army, you'll meet those two kings...in the hands of Gideon; you're in for a very unpleasant surprise. Gideon threatens the leadership of both cities with a very unpleasant means of capital punishment when he says in verse 7, "I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers." He also adds this guarantee to Penuel in verse 9, saying, "When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower." Despite the threats, neither city is moved to cooperate with Gideon by these threats.
Gideon's band of 300 - Awesome! (Judges 8:10-21)
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.
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.
12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
13 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,
14 And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.
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?
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.
17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First, after having defeated 120,000 with his band of 300 (Judges 7, see notes), he goes after the remaining 15,000 that had fled and captures their two kings. Now, it's back to his fellow Jewish brethren in Succoth and Penuel with the two enemy kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, in tow. Hey Succoth and Penuel! Are these the two kings you thought we couldn't defeat? Those folks had bet on the wrong horse (so to speak). Gideon collects from these cowards - IN BLOOD. Gideon's actions may seem excessive here, but God had appointed Gideon to be the battle commander, and the men of these two cities aided the enemies of not only Gideon, but God himself. Traitors don't usually get favorable treatment...in anyone's army. Oh...and the two captured kings - they admit to having killed Gideon's brothers. If there was any thought of letting these guys live, this admission pretty much negates that idea. Gideon's son (Jether) is not fond of the notion of avenging his uncles, so Gideon himself does the honors.
A golden ephod beats ruling (Judges 8:22-28)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Israel's pretty tickled that Gideon has delivered them from the Midianites; they roll out the red carpet (metaphorically speaking). They offer him what sounds like a kingship to me, but he refuses. Instead, he asks for the earrings from the captured booty. He then makes a replica of the high priests apron (ephod) and puts it on display in his hometown of Ophrah. Why? Was he trying to compete with Shiloh (where the ark of the covenant was located) as an alternative place of worship? Who knows, but it did become problematic (verse 27); it seems those Hebrews were willing to worship just about anything. However, Gideon's brave leadership had brought Israel 40 years of peace.
Gideon dies, and it's back to the idols (Judges 8:29-35)
29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
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.
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 Baalberith their god.
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:
35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
Those Hebrews loved nicknames. You know how the bald guy always gets called "curly," and the big guy gets called "tiny." Well, Gideon's nickname was "Jerubbaal" (Aren't nicknames supposed to be shorter?). "Jerubbaal" means "let Baal fight for himself." He got that nickname back in Judges 6:32 (see notes) when he tore down the altar to Baal. So, what happens when Gideon finally dies? It's back to Baal for the people, and they show no respect whatsoever to Gideon's memory.
One more key point about Gideon is found in verse 30, "And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives." That's not counting daughters. An additional son is seen in verse 31; Abimelech was born to a concubine of Gideon who lived in Shechem, about six miles from Gideon's hometown of Ophrah. We're not told that any of the other brothers and sisters lived in Shechem - just Abimelech. He goes for a power grab in chapter 9.
1 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying,
2 Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.
3 And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
5 And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.
6 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.
7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.
9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
16 Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;
17 (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:
18 And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)
19 If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:
20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.
21 And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.
Some brother, huh? Gideon's son, Abimelech, goes for a power grab, kills 69 of 70 of his brothers and grabs the kingship of Shechem (his mom's hometown). That must have just been a starting place for Abimelech; he must have had his eyes on a bigger kingship, but you gotta start somewhere. Gideon had a bunch of wives and concubines and subsequently, sons. The sole surviving brother, Jotham, tells it like it is to the leaders of Shechem from the top of the Mount Gerizim (remember, that was that blessings mountain of Joshua 8, see photo). Shechem was in the valley at the foot of the mountain. He hollers out the whole ruthless truth about his power-hungry brother, Abimelech. One could stand on the top of that mountain and broadcast clearly and loudly into Shechem beneath. He then high tails it for his life after speaking his peace.
Jotham speaks to the men of Shechem by giving them a parable in verses 7-15. His olive tree/fig tree parable didn't flow that well...kinda hard to follow. It's a good thing he gives the interpretation of his parable in verses 16-20. It is important to notice the curse that Jotham pronounces on Abimelech and the men of Shechem (verse 20). It took three years, but this curse finally is fulfilled and noted so in verse 57.
22 When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,
23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
24 That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren.
25 And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.
26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.
27 And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech.
28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?
29 And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.
30 And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.
31 And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.
32 Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:
33 And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.
34 And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies.
35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait.
36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.
37 And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meonenim.
38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them.
39 And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.
40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate.
41 And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.
42 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.
43 And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.
44 And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them.
45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
46 And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.
47 And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together.
48 And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done.
49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
50 Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.
51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower.
52 And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.
53 And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.
54 Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.
56 Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:
57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
It's difficult to say with certainty, but it seems that maybe the whole of Israel had acknowledged Abimelech's kingship (verse 22), or perhaps just the half tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim. We actually don't see his influence in Israel beyond that localized region of Israel. He didn't reign very long before the challenge in Shechem by a guy named Gaal...and the whole town of Shechem fell in right behind Gaal. Abimelech feels he can't let that challenge stand, so he organizes all-out warfare against this town. When the people of the city gather in their pagan temple (house of Berith - verse 46) which was a secure building in the city, Abimelech and his army burn it down with the people inside, killing about a thousand.
While he's on a roll, Abimelech heads north about 12 miles to a neighboring city of conspirators called Thebez. As the people there gather in their tower, Abimelech prepares to burn it down with the people inside. He encounters a little glitch in his battle plan though; a woman drops a kitchen utensil (a millstone) on his head. As he lay there dying, his departing thoughts are, "OH, NO! DON'T LET ME DIE AT THE HAND OF A WOMAN!" With that plea, one of his loyal men runs him through with a sword to put him out of his misery. GOOD RIDDANCE King Abimelech! Oh...and by the way King Abimelech...we all know it was a woman who really killed you. We see in verse 57 that Abimelech died according to the curse of Jotham in verse 20; his own townspeople did turn against him.
After Abimelech's death, the army that supported him scattered, thereby ending the first attempt to establish a king over Israel.