From Hero to Disgrace and Sorrow (Judges 8-9)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 8-9

Judges 8 – What is important? Not Where You Begin, but Where You End!

Our study of Gideon’s life continues with his leading a mere three hundred men to rout an army of Midianites (7:16-25). Judges 7 closes with Gideon sending messengers to call the men of Ephraim to take up arms and pursue the Midianites across the Jordan River (7:23-25).

Remembering Gideon was of the Abiezrite family and member of the tribe of Manasseh (one of Joseph’s two sons, the other being Ephraim), the Ephraimites alleged Gideon had slighted them by not inviting them to war against the Midianites (8:1).

Charged unfairly, nevertheless, Gideon humbly appeased the anger of the Ephraimites, proposing that tribe had achieved more than he in slaying two princes of Midian (7:25; 8:2-3).

 

Gideon requested food for his men while in pursuit of the Midianites; however, both Succoth and Penuel denied him aid and suggested Gideon would fail to dispose of the Midianites and their kings (8:6-10). Incensed, Gideon warned he would return after the battle and the men of Succoth and Penuel would pay for their rejection (a threat Gideon fulfilled – 8:11-21).

With the battle over, the men of Israel proposed to make Gideon their king (8:22). Gideon wisely refused and encouraged the nation, “The LORD shall rule over you” (8:23).

Judges 8:24-35 – No Fool Like an Old Fool

The battle being ended and his status as a victor secured, Gideon took a path that ultimately led him and the nation far from the LORD.

Requesting earrings of gold taken from the Ishmaelites (of whom the Midianites were descended), Gideon foolishly venerated his victory with a commemorative ephod that became an idol to Gideon and his household (8:27).

An old adage comes to mind when I read the concluding verses of Judges 8: “The best of men are men at best.” Gideon, known as Jerubbaal (“Baal fighter”), embraced his hero status and took “many wives” of whom were born seventy sons (8:30).

Gideon lived to be an old man; however, his sin so compromised his life and testimony that when he was dead, “the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:33).  The tragedy is heightened by the observation that the people not only forgot the LORD, but they did not honor the memory of Gideon or his household (8:34-35).

Judges 9 – The Tragic Culmination of Gideon’s Sins

Abimelech, one of the seventy sons of Gideon, was born to a Canaanite woman, a concubine in Shechem (8:31; 9:1). Abimelech hated his brothers and set in motion a plan to annihilate his father’s household.  Hiring wicked men to assist him, Abimelech ordered the murder of Gideon’s sons (9:1-5).

Only Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, was spared death because he hid himself (9:5). When Jotham heard Abimelech had gathered men to crown him king (9:6), he stood eight hundred feet above the plain and shouted from mount Gerizim a parable about trees that proved to be a prophetic curse against Abimelech (9:7-15).

Judges 9:8-13 – A Parable of Trees

For the sake of interpretation, the olive tree, fig tree, and even the grape vine represent noble men (9:8-13). The bramble, a worthless vine of briars and thorns, was meant to represent Abimelech as a worthless man whom noble men had foolishly appointed to rule over them (9:14-15). Portraying the bramble as a worthless vine devoured by fire (9:19-20), Jotham prophesied Abimelech would die an ignoble death.

Abimelech reigned for three years (9:22) when there arose a rebellion. Attempting to put down the rebellion, Abimelech was mortally wounded by a woman who “cast a piece of a millstone” and fractured his skull (9:53). Rather than leave the account he was slain by a woman, Abimelech demanded his armorbearer thrust him through with his sword and kill him (9:54-57).

An Ignoble End

The tragic end of Gideon’s legacy is a lesson for all believers. When he was young and insecure, he was conscious how much he needed the LORD (6:12, 15-16). When he became famous and prosperous, he forgot the LORD and led his family down a path of sin and self-destruction.

What path are you taking, and where are you leading others?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith