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Scripture reading – Judges 8

Our study of the Book of Judges continues with Gideon’s army being reduced from 32,000 men to only three hundred brave and vigilant soldiers (7:7). Humanly, the task before Gideon was an impossible one, for Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

Review of Judges 7

The LORD’s Assurance (Judges 7:1-15)

The night before the fateful battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD allowed him to quiet his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, and “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (Judges 7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD and returned to his soldiers and exhorted them and said, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (Judges 7:15).

The Plan of Attack (Judges 7:16-21)

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (Judges 7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed them that when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (Judges 7:20).

The Rout of the Midian (Judges 7:22-25)

When Gideon blew upon his trumpet, the blare of three hundred trumpets followed. Then the soldiers shouted, and the lights of their lamps surrounding the camp pierced the night’s darkness. The Midianites feared a great force had set upon them. In confusion, they turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (Judges 7:22) and fled toward the waters of the Jordan. Gideon then sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued the enemy and slew “two princes of the Midianites…and brought the heads of Or-eb and Zeeb (Z-ub) to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (Judges 7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history! Yet, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon was not satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

Ephraim’s Hollow Grievance (Judges 8:1-3)

One would think all of Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon and his three hundred, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. (According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.)

How shallow and self-centered was Ephraim’s protest! For seven years, that tribe had suffered the Midianite invasions, and there was no evidence that they had tried to stand against their adversaries. Rather than chide Gideon out of their wounded pride, the Ephraimites should have displayed gratitude for his leadership!

The Impudence and Punishment of Succoth and Penuel (Judges 8:4-17)

Gideon and his men continued their pursuit of the Midianite army, crossed the Jordan River, and entered the land belonging to the tribe of Gad. As they passed Succoth, Gideon appealed to the Gadites of the town and said, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Ze-bah and Zal-mun-na, kings of Midian” (Judges 8:5). Yet, though they were brethren of Israel, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. Therefore, he vowed to return after the battle and warned that he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (Judges 8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they also refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed to return and break down their strong tower (Judges 8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Ze-bah and Zal-mun-na, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (Judges 8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth. Gideon fulfilled his promise and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them, he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (Judges 8:16). He then continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (Judges 8:17).

Gideon’s Retribution for His People (Judges 8:18-21)

Following his victory over Midian, some in Israel would have made Gideon king, for they said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:22-23)

Closing thoughts (Judges 8:24-35):

Though the LORD had significantly used Gideon, he made foolish decisions in his later years. He raised a memorial to his victory over Midian and overlaid it with gold. Tragically, it became an idol to some in Israel and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (Judges 8:27). He also took “many wives” by whom he had seventy sons (Judges 8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name or raise a monument to themselves. Despite his heroism and the adulation of the people, when he died, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35). Tragically, Gideon was gone and forgotten!

Friend, you and I were created with a sense of our mortality and eternity. Indeed, like Gideon, you long for the satisfaction that your life has made a difference. Gideon’s life and testimony serve as a reminder:

In eternity, what matters is not what you have built but whom you have served!

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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