And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why have you treated us like this, why didn’t you call us, when you went out to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
Enter the troublemakers chiding him about why he didn’t call them. Had Gideon been defeated, it would have been a different story, you can be sure of that. But, being victorious, here they come chiding with him, and they are really getting on his case. Gideon shows some real diplomacy here.
He said unto them, What have I done in comparison to what you have done? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim?
Gleaning is going in, after the harvesters are finished, and picking or gathering the grapes that remain.
Are they not better than the vintage of Abiezer?
The vintage is the first picking. Gideon is being diplomatic by praising what they had done. “Wow. You guys! Your gleanings are more than our vintage. What have we done compared to you?”
God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: what was I able to do in comparison to what you did? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he said that.
This was a very diplomatic move, on the part of Gideon, to be sure. Gideon does show some depth of character. The men of Ephraim are going to do this again, as we move through Judges, but they’re going to be dealing with a different kind and they’re going to wish they hadn’t done it. They did it once too often. Gideon was gracious, the next guy won’t be.
And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, and they were fainting, still they were pursuing. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, some loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.
These are some interesting names, aren’t they? Zebah, Zalmunna, Zeeb, and Oreb. Actually, these names a bit terrifying. My wife would say I am guilty of the same, with the naming in our family, Kiier, Kiiler, Kiiedon, Kiilan, and Kiilys.
And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread unto your army? And Gideon said, When God has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I’m going to tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with the briers.
Gideon and his troops came to the men of Succoth. At this point, they are tired, worn out, and they were needing supplies for the troops. These guys are now trying to play it safe, when they said, “Hey, you haven’t conquered them yet. What if they defeat you? Then they’re going to come back and get even with us.” And, so, they refused to help.
Gideon warned them of what was to come, once God had delivered Zebah and Zalmunna, and it wasn’t pleasant.
And so he came to Penuel, and they answered him the same way as the men of Succoth: and so he said unto the men of Penuel, When I come again in peace, I’m going to break down your tower. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their host were with them, there were only about fifteen thousand left, of all of the children of the east: they had already slain about one hundred and twenty thousand of them that drew the sword. And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in the tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and he smote the host: for the host was secure. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he discomfited all of their host. And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up. And he caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and he inquired of him: and he said, Describe to me the princes of Succoth, and the elders of the city, even seventy seven men. And they came to the men of Succoth, and he said, Behold, Here is Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom you did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give you bread for your men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and he took the thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught them a lesson.
So, delivering on his threat, Gideon picked up some cacti type plants, and some thorny briers, and taught these guys a lesson. It would be pretty miserable.
And then he came to Penuel, and he beat the tower in Penuel and slew the men of the city. And then he said unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom you killed at Tabor? And they answered, They are a lot like you: each one of them resembled the child of a king. And he said unto them, They were my brothers, they are the sons of my mother: and as the LORD lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you. And he said to Jether his oldest son, Kill them, son. But the youth did not draw his sword: for he was afraid, because he was still just a young boy. Then the kings Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise up, and fall on us: for as a 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. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule over us, and your sons, and your son’s sons: for you have delivered us from the hands of the Midians. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, nor will my sons rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
Here, again, we see the depth of the character of Gideon. This guy had a tremendous character. Here, they want to elevate him and his sons to rule over them, to set up his own dynasty. Gideon tells them that is not happening, because the Lord will rule over them. Easy to see this tremendous character of Gideon.
So Gideon said, I will just have one request, I would like to have all of the earrings that you took off of those guys that you wiped out. So he laid out a blanket, and they willingly gave the earrings on the garment. And the weight of the gold in these earrings was about fifty pounds of gold; besides all the ornaments, and collars, and the purple raiment that were on the kings that he took, beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks. So Gideon made an ephod.
An ephod is sort of a divining instrument. The priest wore the ephod. And, they would often come to inquire of the ephod. It is spoken of in the Old Testament as a divining instrument, an instrument by which they could ascertain the will of God. It could be that Gideon’s purpose in making this ephod was to ascertain God’s will. He made the ephod out of the gold that was taken, but it became sort of an idol to the people of Israel.
It became a real problem, because it became an object of worship.
And thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more.
That was the end of Midian’s power.
And the country was in quietness for forty years during all of the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had seventy sons begotten of his own body: for he had many wives.
This is actually the beginning of the period in Israel where there was a multiplicity of wives. Gideon had 70 sons!
He had a concubine that lived in Shechem, and she also bore him a son, whose name is called Abimelech.
This guy, Abimelech, was a very treacherous guy. In the next chapter, we will see his treachery.
Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, there at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: and neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness which he had showed to Israel.
After this, we will see the treachery against the sons of Gideon, and the rise of Abimelech.
There are important lessons that we can learn from the story of Gideon, like never worrying when God thins the ranks. If God is cutting down the numbers, He’s doing it for a purpose. God had to thin the ranks of Gideon’s army to ludicrous levels: 300 men against 135,000 that ‘drew a sword.’ God made the odds so impossible that there was just no way that any man could boast.
Sometimes God lets things get so bad that only He can deliver, and I believe He does that, so that you can’t possible take any credit or glory for what happens. It’s a head-shaker. “Wow! The Lord had to do that, man! There was nothing I could do!”
It’s really a sign of our times, that we sometimes force God’s hand, and we end up in such dire straits, before He can work. God knows our hearts. He knows how we like to glory. We are always ready to bring glory to ourselves. But, God will not allow any flesh to glory in His sight.
Sometimes, we just make it so tough on ourselves, BECAUSE of our desire to glory. So, God just lets it get worse, and worse, and worse. He thins the ranks, until there is literally nothing we can do. It gets out of hand and out of our hands. When things get hopeless, that is when God works. It leaves us with nothing to say, except “God did it. I was at the end of my rope. There was nothing I could do. It had to be God.” That is when God gets the glory. That is how it works.
We need to keep our eyes on God, rather than on the problems, or the enemy. When we look at the enemy, fear sets in. When we look at God, faith will fill your heart. Whatever we let take our attention, grows. If we look at problems, they grow. If we look at the opposition, it grows. If we look at God, He grows. If we look at anything, away from God, God will get smaller in our lives and in the situation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our problems. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord.
We need to be on a constant alert, even when doing the necessary things of life, like drinking water. We must know that we are in a battle, we’re facing an enemy, and we must be alert! We need to live in that sense of urgency. We should have a constant urgency for prayer, for reading and studying of the Word, the urgency of getting the gospel out, the urgency of witnessing. We must live in a sense of urgency, for these are desperate days.
We must make sure we are in the will of God, open, flexible, ready to change, not set in my ways. We need to give God the glory for any and all of the victories that come. All of them are a direct result of His deliverance over the enemy. We must not take credit, but give God the glory.
Finally, pray without ceasing! These are important lessons. I pray that the Lord hide these lessons in each of our hearts.
Don D. Stephens