JUDGES – Chapter 8

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.

birds 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.

JudgesIn other words, ‘Be a man.’

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.

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He put it in his city, in Ophrah: and all of Israel went there whoring after it: and it became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

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
Teaching Notes

Judges 2 – With Don Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 2 – Teaching Notes – Don D. Stephens
So the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, that I will never break my covenant with you. But you shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; you shall throw down their altars: but you have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?
Here, I believe the Angel of the Lord is Jesus, simply because the language is speaking for Jehovah in the first person. And, the message from the Lord is that they have not obeyed Him, and He wants to know why. They are not conquering, they are not taking the complete victory. The Lord, Himself, is now rebuking them for this failure.
Wherefore as I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare to you.

The Lord is telling them that, because they haven’t fulfilled their part of the bargain, they are going to have a problem, from this point forward.

And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, the people lifted up their voices, and wept. And so they called the name of the place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

Bochim means “weepers”. This is amazing! They cried, had an emotional experience, and sacrificed to the LORD. However, they did nothing about their condition. They didn’t go back and drive out the inhabitants. Often, when a person is under the conviction of the Spirit, God is dealing with them on the issues of their life, and they see their failures. When this happens, they have an emotional experience, sometimes even weeping. The problem is that the weeping is of no value if they don’t change. Unfortunately, most people feel that the crying is enough. But, they do nothing after they cry. They don’t change the circumstances, they don’t repent, and they don’t change. The just continue doing the same thing. The children of Israel did the same thing. They cried and offered sacrifices, but there were no changes.

When the people of Israel had a time of great emotional distress, they would tear their clothes. It was a common practice to show grief, sorrow and remorse. Later in their history, God told them “Rend your heart, and not your garments.” God doesn’t want to see an outward show, he wants to see changes. I believe it is actually possible that a person can cry away the conviction of the Spirit on our hearts. God wants changes.

Because they just wept, but there were no changes, the people they let survive become a thorn in their side. Their gods became a snare to them, and they were drawn to worship the gods.

Now when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man to his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all of the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen the great works of the LORD, that which he did for Israel.

So, as long as this generation was alive, they served the LORD. As long as these men, who saw the marvelous miracles of God, who saw the works of God in the wilderness, who were able to relate to them their eyewitness accounts, were alive, the children of Israel served the LORD.

When Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old. They buried him in the border of the inheritance of Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all the generation were gathered to their fathers: there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

Here is a great tragedy! There was a failure, on the part of the parents, to adequately communicate to the children what God had done. God said that they were to gather the children, rehearse it in their ears. They had all kinds of memorials, like the pile of stones down near Gilgal, next to the Jordan River. The idea of these memorials was for the passing down of stories of what God had done for Israel, to each of the new generations. When a child saw the pile of stones, they would ask about them, giving the parent or grandparent an opportunity to express the story of how that was where they first crossed over into the Promised Land. It was an opportunity to share how the river was stopped in flood time, allowing the folks to cross over on dry land. They could express that these very stones came from the center of the river and, most importantly, that God was with them. The whole idea was to rehearse to the children the marvelous works of God. But, somehow, they failed to communicate to their children.

This is a very unfortunate thing. Revival rarely goes into the second generation. God works among a generation, among a people.
There is a powerful, glorious work of God. The problem is that, rarely does that work of God go into the next generation. This is a sign of the failure of the parents to pass on the heritage to their children of the wonderful works of God.

Even in the early church we find the same thing. When the apostles began to die off, the love began to grow cold. The Lord said to the church of Ephesus, “You have left your first love.” So often, this is the case.

Here, in Judges, we see the failure of the parents to adequately communicate to the children the power of Jehovah, whom they served. They did not fully obey God in driving out all of the inhabitants of the land, settling for something less than total victory, which, in turn, brought the great sorrows to them.

As the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they began to serve Baalim: and they forsook Jehovah God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and they bowed themselves unto them, and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and they served Baal and Ashteroth.

Baalim is the plural of Baal, just as Ashteroth is the plural of Astoreth, the goddess of the Ephesians. So, they began to worship these male and female deities of the people of the land over which they had conquered. It is truly tragic, that the Truth didn’t go into the next generation. Somehow, there was a failure of the transmitting of God’s power.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. [They deserted God, God deserted them.] And whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto the judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: and they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of the enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; and they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

This is the continuous tragic story of these people. This part is really the prologue to the book of Judges. This gives us a view into what we are going to be looking at, as we cover this sad period of history. Israel falls into the worship of the false gods, God delivers them into the hands of their enemies, God raises up a judge, who inspires the people spiritually to turn back to the LORD, and during the lifetime of that judge there is spiritual revival. When the judge dies, Israel turns back to these other gods, and they go back into captivity. This is that cycle, which we are going to follow, the tragic cycle of the history of the nation of Israel.

And so the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; he said, Because these people have transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, they have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: [‘okay, I’m through: I’m not going to drive out any more. You’ve disobeyed, you’ve broken the covenant.” And so, God withdraws His support and His strength] that through them they might be tested, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; and neither did he deliver them into the hand of Joshua.

God says He is through, He is not going to drive out any more nations for Israel. They have disobeyed and broken His covenant, so God withdraws His support and His strength.

Now, beginning in Chapter 3, we begin the prologue, with the first apostasy, the servitude, the first judge, followed by the second apostasy and the second judge. We will see some pretty gory stories in Chapter 3, when Eglon gets his message from the Lord.

What did you learn from Chapters 1 & 2? We learned to seek total victory, with no compromise with the flesh. We learned we need to live completely after the Spirit. We learned whatever we sow, we will, in kind, reap. We learned that we need to sow seeds of mercy, goodness, and love, so that we might reap the same.

May God lead us all into victory over those areas of the flesh that have held sway over our lives for so long. Don’t make a covenant with your flesh. Don’t decide that you’re just going to have to live with certain characteristics of your flesh. Though you’ve been troubled for a long time, and though you’ve tried so hard, turn it over and let God help you. Claim the victory through the power of God’s Spirit, and begin to walk fully after the Spirit. Strive for that rich, full, abundant life that God wants you to know as you walk in fellowship with Jesus our Lord.