Gideon's Failure – Judges 8:18-32
Open your bibles to Judges 8:18; we continue our study of Gideon. The last few weeks we have taken a slight departure from the text in order to look at the application of a principle we discovered earlier and in the previous verses in Judges 8 we saw that at the conclusion of the battle, Gideon's campaign against the Midianite aggressors he had crossed the Jordan and approached the inhabitants of the towns of Succoth and Penuel for aid and sustenance for the 300 troops he had who were in pursuit of the enemy. They refused; after he defeated the enemy Zebah, led by the kings Zebah and Zalmunna, he returned to Succoth and Penuel and there he executed some discipline on them; he killed the elders of the city and tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men in that city and disciplined, rather violently, the elders of the city in Succoth.
The principle of application that we saw there was that these towns had completely compromised with the enemy, with the Midianites and the Amalekites who had conquered Israel, they were traitors and they had completely sold out so that there was no longer any commitment to the Lord. They had completely violated the covenant with God and as a result of that Gideon was operating within his responsibilities as a judge; he was reacting correctly to go back and to punish the inhabitants of this town. The application was that as believers we are to aggressively seek and destroy all of the human viewpoint thinking in our own soul. I used the example of psychology; we did an in depth study of why psychology is not neutral, why transpersonal psychology as it has been developed since Freud, is built on a foundation that is religious and is a competing religious system with Christianity. And the problem is that it has so infected all of the thinking of people around us and the culture around us that many of us have quietly absorbed a lot of principles and concepts from psychology that affect our own thinking and we're not even aware of it. So part of my purpose was to sort of shock us into waking up and realizing that we have a lot of vocabulary terminology, concepts that we have sort of bought into that's really what the Bible calls worldly thinking, cosmic thinking, human viewpoint, and is unique to paganism.
I got a great example of how this has influenced our culture this week so before we go on with verse 18 I want to give you a little example of something that took place locally in the school district over in Norwich, in terms of a teacher training seminary. The reason I go into this is first of all because I want you to develop critical thinking skills. It's one thing to stand up and teach doctrine week after week after week, and have people learn it and put it in their notebooks but it's another thing for you to begin to develop the kind of critical thinking skills necessary to be able to spot these things on a day to day basis as you read them in the newspaper or in a periodical, hear them on the news, hear some politician say something, hear some educator say something and we are constantly being influenced and affected by this type of thinking.
The second thing we need to realize as I go through some of this is that we see in this an example of how, by rejecting the fundamental Scriptural analysis of the human problem as sin and God's solution is redemption as the starting point of the solution of man's problems, you immediately start developing any kind of distorted solution. In other words, if you misdefine the problem you're going to misdefine the solution, and even though there may be elements in the definition of the problem that the world system comes up, and there will always be a certain amount of truth there, when Satan is counterfeiting truth, when the cosmic system counterfeits truth it does so…an effective counterfeit is going to be about 98% right and 2% wrong but it's the 2% that's wrong that's going to get you. So we always remember the analogy that we need to have a lot of protein in order to be healthy; rattlesnake venom is 100% protein but we don't want to drink rattlesnake venom in order to get our protein. Although a glass of water may be 98% pure water it's the 2% cyanide that's dangerous. So we have to watch out for those elements. In any system of thought you can arrange the elements in the thinking in such a way that the overall picture is false, even though there may be a lot of elements within it that are true. Don't get suckered by the true elements into buying into the overall system and its interpretation.
This last week this seminar was on connectiveness. If find this really interesting, more psycho-babble, the purpose of it was to, I think, try to give some sort of psychological framework or tool to teachers and educators for handling problem kids in school. The name of the seminar was called "Connectiveness," being connected, and the solution is being connected that the reason that we have kids with discipline problems, with behavioral problems, the reason kids are going home and breaking into dad's gun closet and stealing his pistol and going down to the local high school and shooting up all of his friends is because he doesn't belong anywhere, he doesn't have the right kind of social connections. Now if we boil this down into what we use in our vocabulary here, basically that approach is saying that the solution to man's problems is fellowship. See, they define man's problem as a social problem, not a moral or ethical problem.
The speaker, who had his degree from Harvard said that moral behavior derives from a feeling of connectedness, notice the emphasis on emotion, the emphasis on feeling, and therefore morality comes out of this feeling of connectedness. In other words, morality comes from positive social connections. And then the opposite for him of connectedness was indifference. And he said that basically at the conclusion of his argument he was saying that the reason these kids kill, the reason they have behavioral problems, the reason they have disciplinary problems, is because they just don't feel welcome, the problem is they're not loved, they just don't feel like they're part of the system. Now I'm not saying that there's not an element of truth to that; what I'm saying is that's not the basic problem. The basic problem stems from the fact that we are approaching all these people, the kids and everything, from a position that man is inherently good and not the Biblical position that man is inherently sinful. If you start from a position that man is inherently sinful then the problem is that nobody's taught the kids how to discipline, control, regulate, their sin nature. So it goes right back to a parental problem of failure to teach discipline to kids.
I was watching, just to go off on another tangent here, this whole problem with violence in the schools is being completely distorted today. This particular individual was saying, referring to the wrap artist Eminem, said that his lyrics shouldn't be allowed into children's lives whether or not the Constitution says so. Now think about that. See, you start ending up with an end justifies the means, you go into an end justifies the means methodology you're going to end up with an end justifies the means approach and conclusions. So you throw out the Constitution and freedom because kids may have…there may be results of violence. There have always been results of violence and he even went so far as to completely distort reality by saying that Charlton Heston and the NRA fights for guns to be available to children. What a distortion. Systems like that are just full of lies. Nobody is fighting for guns to be available to children.
In fact, that brings up another point, I saw some totally confused news media person interviewing someone on television this last week and they were talking to a Congressman and they said what proposals do you have so that kids will not have access to firearms. See, this is where people don't think any more, we have to challenge presuppositions and assumptions. That's one thing I keep trying to teach; don't let people ask you the wrong question. That happens in evangelism; you're communicating the gospel to somebody and they ask you a certain question, if you accept the question as valid you've immediately bought into their presuppositions. Say if somebody comes along and says well, what are you going to do to keep children from having access to firearms. If you answer that question you've legitimized it. The point I'm making is children have always had access to firearms. That's one reason that liberals didn't like the movie The Patriot is because Mel Gibson's character is giving firearms to his young children to go out and shoot the British and that was part of the whole American Revolution because people were fighting for freedom.
When I was young and growing up, even in a big city like Houston in the south it was not uncommon for children, teenagers, high school kids, to come to school with a 30.30 on the gun rack on the back of the pickup truck. But they weren't taking the guns out and shooting their classmates with it. Therefore, if they had access to guns and they were bringing them on campus 30 years ago and not shooting other kids, then the problem today isn't access to firearms. And if people are going to define the problem as access to firearms it flows out of a complete orientation to life that is based on an assumption that man is basically good and not basically evil, and if you start with the assumption that man is basically good then your solutions are all going to be messed up and that is what is happening here. So the solution to the problem is that in order to keep kids from getting into trouble they need to be connected at home, they need to be connected at school, they need to have a lot of warm fuzzies and big hugs, group hugs, and those kinds of things. Now I'm not saying that that is not a part of the solution, I'm just saying that the entire framework is completely false and this is what's being taught to educators and how to solve the problems in the schools. And then the educators are in turn adopting that methodology and using that in their approach to children so it just builds and develops the entire cosmic system influence on kids.
We need to be aware of that kind of thinking, and it's not restricted to the schools; most of you who are working for any kind of a corporation, even in the military, have had to go through covey training and you've had to go through all sorts of other touchy feely sensitivity training type of courses in order to improve effectiveness. And all that stuff is predicated on pure human viewpoint hogwash to avoid using more prosaic terminology and more descriptive terminology. So we have to be on target in our own thinking as believers to not be influenced by this kind of thinking. We need to be able to identify it and remove it.
That is essentially what Gideon is doing. In Judges 8:13-17 where we see Gideon going back to Succoth and to Penuel and disciplining those cities because of their rebelliousness and because they had completely sold out to the enemy, there's something very subtle that begins to take place, starting in verse 18 and you won't necessarily catch it if you're just reading the English. There's very subtle things that the author of Judges is doing through vocabulary, through his stylistic arrangement of the information and through a knowledge of the culture at that time that go right past the average 20th century English reader. Starting in verse 18 the writer is choosing vocabulary and he begins to illustrate through what happens that a change is taking place in Gideon. He has moved from executing justice in a righteous manner, in verses 13-17, to executing justice from an arrogant self-centered manner in verse 18. Starting here our sympathies are going to start shifting away from Gideon because Gideon is going to succumb to the same arrogance that he has been against. And that's so easy for us to do. One minute we are upset correctly about something and the next thing we know we're taking it personal and all of a sudden we shift from self-righteous anger to arrogant anger and to self-centered anger, and it is easy to make a subtle shift in our thinking and to move from walking by the Spirit or walking in obedience to the Word to disobedience to the Word and we see how Gideon moves from being a correct executer of justice in verses 13-17 to where he gets involved in vengeance starting in verse 18.
Let's read through these verses. Judges 8:18, "Then he said, to Zebah and Zalmunna," so we see a conversation taking place, it is a question answer session that follows the pattern of classic Greek ethics. I've never had the time to go through this but I think that the Greeks got their epic style from the Hebrews and not the other way around because of the way history should be interpreted from a Biblical framework and not from a historical framework based on evolutionary presuppositions. So it follows a classic pattern of the hero epic, but there's a sense of tragedy here. And he is going to question the kings regarding some men who were killed up near Mount Tabor. He says, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" and that's a bad translation because the sentence begins with a Hebrew word eypoh, and it's a compound word and it means where, at what place. It's not what kind of men; he's not asking that question, he's asking where are the bodies. "Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?" He wants to identify them because he has… apparently Gideon has certain suspicions about who they were.
Now Tabor was a mountain on the northeast side of the Valley of Jezreel. The Valley of Jezreel is where this battle against the Midianites began and apparently they had not only gone through the Valley of Jezreel destroying all the farms and capturing all of the grain and taking it off for themselves and leaving the people with very little food or sustenance to get them through the next year but they had also been sending out raiding parties who were guilty of a number of atrocities. And in one of these we learn from this episode, and it has been mentioned before, that apparently Gideon's brothers were all killed by the Midianites. This has not been mentioned before but Gideon has been aware of this and now he's concerned, he's heard the rumor and he wants to identify the bodies to see if they were indeed his brothers.
So he asks, "Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor. And they said, They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king." Now I want you to notice that here we see that the Midianites are using a little flattery in order to try to have their way with Gideon and when they mention this, and I want you to notice this, you ought to underline the term "son of a king" here, they said "they were like you, each one resembling the son of a king.
Now we've studied Hebrew idiom before, that when they use a phrase like "son of" that is an adjectival description. For example, if someone were a murderer they might be termed the son of a murderer. That doesn't mean their dad was a murderer, it means they are characterized by the adjective there, they're a murderer. If they were the son of a fool that doesn't mean that their father was a fool, it means that they are a fool; they are characterized by being a fool. When Jesus was called the Son of God it is not emphasizing His lineage that God gave birth to Him, it is emphasizing the fact that He is full deity.
When Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ the night before He went to the cross, is called the son of perdition it's not saying that perdition gave birth to Judas, it is saying that Judas is characterized by everlasting punishment, because the word in the Greek for perdition, apolumi, is the same word used in John 3:16 to describe those who do not trust in Christ as their Savior. John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish," perish is the verb form from apolumi which means destruction. It's the same word used of Judas Iscariot, that he is the son of perdition. So he is characterized by eternal condemnation. Judas Iscariot was never saved even though he had a relationship and was connected to Jesus Christ for three and a half years. See, it didn't do him any good, the problem isn't relational, the problem is judicial that we violated the righteousness and the character of God and the condemnation comes because we are sinners but God, in His grace, provided the perfect solution for that and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross as a substitute for our sins, that by simply accepting that death on our behalf, as a free gift, simply by believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior we can have eternal life.
So the term "son of" describes something about these men. They had a regal bearing, the Midianites are saying, just like you, they looked like a king. So they're flattering Gideon. But this is foreshadowing because what's going to happen for the first time in Israel's history there's now going to be the introduction of the issue of kingship in an illegitimate way starting in just a few verses and so the author uses this as a way of foreshadowing the coming of the monarchial crisis in Israel. And Gideon doesn't quite fall for this. He said they looked just like you, but he recognizes that they had seen a family resemblance.
Judges 8:19, "He said, They were my brothers," this confirms to him the rumors he heard that his brothers were all killed, "They were my brothers, the sons of my mother." And then he swears, "As the LORD lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you." Now this is very interesting, because Gideon here reveals what's going on inside of his soul. He is not going to…he's getting ready to have them executed and the execution of Zebah and Zalmunna is not related to other atrocities they committed, it's not related to the fact that they have invaded and dominated Israel and stolen grain and food and been responsible for many other acts of violence; it is because they have killed Gideon's own brothers. So we see here that his motivation is an act of personal vengeances not judicial authority. And he is making it personal and it no longer has to do with the execution of justice.
See, this is the problem you always run into in our society today when you start talking about capital punishment, because capital punishment was not only authorized by Scripture but mandated by the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 9. And that has not changed and the mark and the identification of the continuation of that covenant is a rainbow and as I keep saying, every time you see the rainbow you ought to be reminded that capital punishment is still mandated for today. Gideon uses the Hebrew word harag, which is an interesting word because it has two meanings; one is to take life illegitimately through murder and the second is to execute justice in the sense of capital punishment, to execute the criminal. And under the Mosaic Law and under the Noahic Covenant it is clear that the person who does not execute the criminal is viewed as being an accomplice of the murderer by failing to take the loss of life, of the victim and being concerned about the victim, seriously. Whenever you let a murderer survive what you are doing is you are saying the life of the victim of really didn't matter. And that's the way human viewpoint turns things around. So Gideon is going to use this word "execute" here and the author uses a play on words here to bring out the point. He says, Gideon says "they were my brothers.... As the LORD lives, if you had let them live I would not kill you."
Now he could be saying execute but the writer uses this specific word, there are seven different words in Hebrew for the taking of life. The one that always comes to mind is in Exodus 20 when you read the Ten Commandments and it's translated poorly in the King James Version, "thou shalt not kill," and you always have pacifists and anti-capital punishment crowd running around ignorantly spouting off the King James Version, "thou shalt not kill." In the Hebrew the word for "kill" in Exodus 20 is ratsach, which means to commit murder. It's homicide; it's a technical term. There are seven different words in Hebrew for the taking of life and the author here uses harag because it has this double sense but what we're going to see as we look down at Judges 8:21 that when Zebah and Zalmunna respond to this they say, why don't you "Rise up yourself," see, in the meantime Gideon tries to get his young son to execute them and they respond, why don't you do it yourself. [20, "So he said to Jether his firstborn, Rise, kill them. But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth.  Then Zebah and Zalmunna said…"
"…Rise up yourself, and fall on us;" and the Hebrew word for fall there is not naphal, which means to fall, it is paga' which means to take life in an illegitimate manner based on a capricious selfish whim. See, they've got Gideon nailed here; they understand that he's shifted to personal vengeance and he's not making a decision based on justice, he's making a decision based on a personal vengeance, it is capricious and it is unjustified. In Judges 8:19 Gideon indicates clearly what his motive is, that it's purely personal, and then he tries to get his son to do this and the fact that he gets his youngest son to do this is reminiscent of a Canaanite blood initiation rite. And what we're seeing here by bringing in this context is that Gideon is beginning to operate more and more like the pagans around him, he really doesn't understand much of the Word. We saw that when we started this study of Gideon back in Judges 6 that he didn't know much about God, he didn't understand much about the Old Testament, he didn't understand the purpose of divine discipline and suffering, and because of his failure to have doctrine in the soul, because of his doctrinal ignorance he easily goes back, when he gets in this pressure situation he easily reverts to the pagan values that he has imbibed as he has grown up.
So he tries to get his firstborn son, Jether, who is just a young lad, probably not more than 12 or 13, to do this but we're told that "he was afraid because he was still a youth." He's not ready for this. So Zebah and Zalmunna then challenge him, and we're told "Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels' necks." These were the decorations of royalty that they wore on their camels and the fact that Gideon is going to take them for his own indicates that he is starting to thinking terms of being king. He is going to take for himself the trappings of monarchy. This foreshadows what's about to take place in verse 22.
Judges 8:22, we read, "Then the men of Israel" notice it says "the men of Israel," this was a large group, it could have been his army coming together and voting for him, they were from various tribes in Israel, it could have been a larger group, but they came as representatives of the nation. Just a little aside here, we're going to see in the next couple of chapters the answers to a little trivia question that you can always drop on somebody. You can ask them who was the first king of Israel. 99% of the time somebody is going to say Saul. It's not Saul; it's Abimelech who is Gideon's son; that occurs in the next chapter. Gideon is going to have false humility. This is really a sham in verse 22, it's pseudo humility. "Then the men of Israel come to Gideon and they said to Gideon, Rule over us," we voted, we want you to be king, it's interesting, they don't use the word "king" or the verb from that noun in this passage, that would be the Hebrew word malach, to rule, from melek, king, but they use another word for ruling, mashal, and they say, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." They want a dynasty here, they want to be like all of the other nations; they want to have a king and this foreshadows an ultimate problem that we see in Judges.
Now before we understand the significance of this, let's remind ourselves why this author is writing Judges. Twice he states that "there was no king" in the land during the period of the Judges and "everyone did what was right in their own eyes." Now what we're going to find out in chapter 9 is there was a king, there was a pretender to the throne, Abimelech, there was a so-called king but he's not a God-ordained king, he is not placed there by God. When the writer of Judges says "there was no king in Israel," and then he goes on to say in the next sentence "everyone did what was right in their own eyes," they are doing what's right in their own eyes here, they're not obeying God, they have rejected God as king. Israel was set up at this point to be a theocracy, that means God was viewed as the executive branch of government; God was the King of Israel, but they have rejected God, they don't want to have anything to do with God and it reveals that the people have absolutely no positive spiritual inclination at this point. They've rejected the Mosaic Law; they don't even go back to Deuteronomy 17 to discover what the Scripture says about the role of a king or how a king is to be appointed or what the qualifications of a king are supposed to be, they are doctrinally ignorant, they have rejected doctrine, and all they want to be is like everybody else, and that will come up in 1 Samuel 8 when God finally does give them a king. They say God, give us a king so we can be like all the other nations, we want to be like everybody else God, we don't want to be distinct as believers any more; we just want to be like the rest of the world.
So that's their attitude here. We want to make you king because you're the one who delivered us from the hand of Midian. Now was it Gideon who delivered them? No, it was God; in God's grace He delivered them. Did He do it because Israel had turned to Him? No. we went back to Judges 6 to look at the initial situation when the Midianites had come in and were overrunning the country, and they did this on an annual basis, all it says that the people cried out to God; Lord, we're miserable, Lord, take it away, quit the pain, quit the discipline, they never turned to God. They did not turn their back on the idols, they did not reject the worship of the Baalim, the Canaanite fertility gods, they just cried out to God from their own misery, just like a lot of people do when they get into divine discipline, there is no real repentance as the Bible defines it, which means to change your mind or your thinking toward God and move from disobedience and rejection of doctrine to obedience and positive volition toward doctrine and making doctrine the number one priority in your life. So they've not had any sort of change of attitude, they're not at all concerned with God's plan or God's law for Israel, they just want to be like everybody else.
But notice Gideon's response in Judges 8:23, on the surface it's deceptive if you don't understand what's going on in this passage. "But Gideon said to them, I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you;" so he's showing a certain level of obedience here and many people think this is the high point of Gideon's life because he rejects the kingship and this shows that at this point he's still being obedient. But he's not, he says, "the LORD shall rule over you," but we've already seen that he has started to act like a king. He wants the trappings of kingship, he's taken the spoils of war as if they were his right, just like the pagan kings surrounding them would do, and he's going to continue to act like a king, all through, from here down to verse 32 when Gideon dies we're going to see that one thing after another that he does is the standard operating procedure for any oriental despot at this time in history. So he's like a lot of Christians who say the right things but don't mean it; he's like a lot of people who say in false humility, oh, don't give that to me, don't honor with me that, and yet that's not what they want, they really want all of the accolades and all of the honor, they're just showing false humility. And that's where Gideon is.
And I want you to notice, there is no indication yet, and there will not be, that there is any gratitude on the people's part to God for His deliverance. They're claiming it was Gideon. Remember the battle cry when they went into war, "For the sword of the Lord and the sword of Gideon," that foreshadowed it; it wasn't the sword of the Lord and the sword of Gideon, it was just the sword of the Lord. But from the very beginning they're not willing to give 100% allegiance to the Lord.
So Gideon rejects the offer of kingship but he continues to…he turns right around in his rejection, he hardly even takes a breath between the sentences, and he goes on to request the rights of a monarch, in Judges 8:24, "Yet Gideon said to them, I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil. (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)" In other words, the Midianites were descendants of Abraham's son by Hagar, Ishmael and it was characteristic of their culture, notice, of the pagan culture to wear earrings. Now I have not gone into extended development of this subject but it's an issue today and I though this would be a good point to bring it out.
In Leviticus there is a prohibition against tattoos for the Jews. They are not to have tattoos and there also seems to be sort of a negative thing in Scripture for any kind of so-called body art, body piercing, all of that, which is very popular today. One of the things that struck me when I moved up here from the south is that there seems to be about twice as many women getting tattoos up here than there were down south. Now it's made its way down there, it's very popular, you go out to the west coast it's popular there. What's produced this? First of all, I want you to be clear that the Scripture is not saying this is sin. The reason the Scripture forbade the Jews to have certain practices, to dress certain ways, was because that was always associated with a pagan outlook on life, a pagan outlook on the body; in a Scriptural viewpoint the body's physical appearance is not the issue; the issue is what's in the soul. And yet body art, body decoration, all of this draws attraction to the body and makes that the primary thing as opposed to the beauty and attractiveness of the soul.
And so as a culture slips more and more into a pagan way of thinking they begin to adopt pagan practices. It's interesting. Up until the mid 60s very few people in our culture were involved in body piercing and body art. There was a display for several months down at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on body art. I went down there and picked up a thick book on the history of body art and in the introduction the writer makes the point, of course all the authors in here are positive to body art, and in the introduction he makes the observation that what made body art, tattooing acceptable in the cultural mainstream of the U.S. was that there was a worldview shift that took place in the 60s and it's the same worldview shift that made America open to eastern mysticism and many Christian historians will make a point of the fact that it was in the early 60s that we finally finished out all of our Protestant capital that was left over from the founding fathers, from the Puritans who founded the nation, and 19th century residue of Biblical thinking that still survived in the nation. So the 60s saw a major transformation.
So the point is that in many, many ways we adopt practices that are reflective, not of a Christian background, a Christian view of even the body, but we pick up these ideas from paganism, and we don't even know it. And this was one of the things that characterized the Ishmaelites, was these gold earrings, and they're going to make an issue out of this, and he wants all their gold and so they all gave it to him. He's asking for the spoils of war, this is due him, this is the typical procedure of a monarch. [Judges 8:25, "They said, We will surely give them. So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil."]
In Judges 8:26 we're told that "The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold," now if you take that and you calculate that in terms of modern value in U.S. dollars that comes to 3.2 million U.S. dollars, so he's getting quite a good chunk of change here for his victory over the Midianites, and besides that he took "the crescent ornaments," all the trappings and emblems of monarchy, "besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels' necks," so he took all the trappings of royalty for himself, and that's now his own possession and he's going to utilize that.
And then we're told in Judges 8:27 that he made an ephod, "Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah," now what's interesting here, we learn two things, that he moves away from his dad's home and he establishes his own city which will become a virtual capital of Israel because everybody is going to come there to worship this ephod. Now an ephod is a priestly garment, and this word, the way it's used here…it's always troubled me that why, he made a garment and everybody comes and worships the garment, but if you look at the word in terms of its cognate epotu [?*] in the Hebrew…[tape turns] … an epotu not only refers to the garment itself but the image that it was placed on. So the picture here is not just that he sets up this ephod that becomes an object of idol worship but the ephod itself was probably placed on an idol. And this was set up as an object of worship, and we're told that "all Israel played the harlot with it there," now the term "harlot" there, that just picks up the old English concept but they are…the concept of sexual infidelity, adultery and fornication has as its root meaning unfaithfulness to a covenant, that's why it's implied in marriage, when one marriage partner is unfaithful to their marriage covenant that is adultery, and going to a prostitute or harlot is a sign of unfaithfulness to that covenant, and so it is then applied to the relationship between the believer and God and in Israel they had a covenant with God, and whenever they would go to false gods they were breaking that covenant, they were being unfaithful to God, so that is the significance here, they are immediately led into idolatry by Gideon, and he sets up this ephod in his new home town and that becomes the capital for Israel and everyone goes there, and then we're told "so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household." So he goes very quickly from victory to failure and goes right into idolatry and he just keeps going further and further into spiritual reversionism and he is a complete failure in the spiritual life.
Now doesn't that give you hope? See, Gideon is mentioned in Hebrews 11 because at one point of time in his life he trusted God. So in that he's an example of faith; but after that he's a failure for the rest of his life.
We're told in Judges 8:28, "So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon." So that summarizes Gideon's judgeship and then for the next forty years there are no longer invasions by foreign powers in the land.
Now we see the legacy of Gideon beginning in Judges 8:29, notice the shift in name, "Then Jerubbaal," we are told back in Judges 6 that after Gideon was called by God he went out in the dead of night with some of his servants, household servants, and he destroyed…it was like a small temple that was set up there for the worship of Baal, and apparently his father was a priest in Baal worship, and his father had set this up and so the surrounding region all came to Gideon's home to worship Baal. And when Gideon came in with a couple of oxen and tore down this shrine to Baal his father came out and gave him this name, Jerubbaal. Now when I taught that I made the point that Jerubbaal was probably Gideon's primary name and Gideon was his secondary name. Gideon means a hewer; Gideon emphasizes…he's only called Gideon in the passages where he's obedient to God and he's doing what God wants him to do and he is pictured as God's instrument to destroy the pagan forces, but whenever he is pictured in terms of his spiritual depravity we go back to this word, Jerubbaal, and that is because it's misconstrued, I think in the English, we get the idea that when his dad calls him Jerubbaal, it's transliterated "let Baal contend," and people take that to mean well, if Baal is really god he'll come back and he'll take care of himself. And it's really more of a prophecy that Baal will eventually contend and rule out. The author uses that to foreshadow the fact that Gideon will eventually succumb to the pagan worship of Baal worship.
So when we come to Judges 8:29 there is a shift back and forth between the names. In verse 29 he's Jerubbaal, in verse 30 he's Gideon. In verse 32 he's Gideon, in verse 33 he's Gideon, and then in verse 35 he's Jerubbaal again. Jerubbaal is at the beginning and the end, that's framing the passage, and what the author wants us to pay attention to is the fact that he's going back to this name to indicate the negative characteristics of Jerubbaal, of Gideon, that he is in spiritual failure at this point.
Judges 8: 29, "Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house." Now the word there for "lived" is going to be the Hebrew word yashab, it's pronounced almost like a "v" and it's primary meaning is not to dwell or to live, its primary meaning is to sit; it is used of a king sitting upon his throne. And so when we are told that "Jerubbaal, the son of Joash went and lived in his own house," that's badly translated, he went and sat upon a throne in his own house, he is establishing himself as a dynastic head by how he is acting; he's acting like a king.
Then we're told in Judges 8:30, "Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives." Now see the author is indicating he's not just acting like a king, he's acting like a Canaanite king, "Gideon had seventy sons." According to archeological discoveries in a town called Ugarit, which is in the northeast of the area we call Israel, which was a Canaanite city at approximately this same time, according to the Ugarit records we know that in their pantheon of gods El was the chief god and Asherah was his wife or consort, and El and Asherah had seventy sons. So the author is assuming that the reader, any Jew at that time, would have understood this, that the reader understood Canaanite mythology. So when he tells us that Gideon had seventy sons he's saying that Gideon is acting like a Canaanite god, he literally had seventy sons but he brings out this point just to indicate just another characteristic of Gideon that he has succumbed to the paganism of the culture around him. He's acting like a king; he has seventy sons. Now if you stopped there most of the women here would be cursing him and glad they're not his wife, but we're then told that he had many wives. This again is a characteristic of pagan kings, is that they would have a harem.
Turn to Deuteronomy 17: 14 and we're going to see how all of this is a direct violation of the Mosaic stipulations for kingship. "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say," in other words, God recognizes the fact that they are ultimately going to reject Him as king and they're going to demand a king, "and you say, I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me.  You shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses," so first of all you can't have a king unless I choose him, and so we see a violation there, they're not concerned at all about God's choice for king. It says, "You shall set a king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.  Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself," he's not to build up his own stable at the expense of the people, he is not to promote himself at the expense of the people, "nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, You shall never again return that way.  Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself."
Now let's go back to Judges 9. Immediately we see that Gideon is completely violating everything in the Mosaic Law, he's developed tremendous wealth, he's promoting his own prestige and position and he is multiplying wives. He has numerous wives who give him seventy sons. And then he goes beyond that and he has a Canaanite concubine in verse 31 and that's also forbidden by the Mosaic Law, he was not to have a foreign wife, and he takes a concubine in Shechem. Now Shechem was the scene of the horrible episode between Jacob and his daughter Dinah and a couple of the other brothers went there and Judah took a wife from Shechem and they were involved in paganism so if you were a Jew and you read "Shechem" you immediately brought the Genesis background with you and you realize he's talking about a pocket of Canaanites in the midst of the land and so Gideon is going to take a Canaanite wife, and she bears him a son, ["His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son,] "and he named him Abimelech." Now there's only three other people in the Scripture named Abimelech and they are all Philistines and two of them are Philistine kings. And if you break down the name Abimelech, the Hebrew word for father is "ab," we see that in the name Abram, my father is great, we see it in the name Abraham, father of multitudes, ab means father. The "i" is a first person singular suffix, so we're talking about "my father," and melech is the Hebrew for king, so his name means "my father is king."
So there's great humor here as the author writes this, he says Gideon on the one hand, back in verse 22 says don't make me king, then he lives a live as a rich oriental despot and then he has a son by a foreign concubine and he names that son "my father is king." The author wants us to get the point that Gideon is in massive failure here and that his rejection of the kingship was just a sham. Furthermore, the word that is translated "concubine" here is a non-Semitic word for a woman whose soul function is to satisfy the sexual desire of the man, and once again we're going to see that as paganism increases in this period of the Judges women are abused, they're treated as sex objects, finally we come to Samson at the end and he's just a sexual predator and there are other examples of abuse of women and see it's only on the basis of a Judeo-Christian worldview that men and women can have a semblance of equality, and a culture where women can have genuine status as an equal bearer of the image of God, that all pagan cultures are going to put women down. That's a result of the curse back in Genesis 3, but only Christianity has the ethical basis for reversing that. And so we're going to see that anytime a culture deteriorates more and more into a pagan worldview then women become sex objects, there's an increase of abuse, there's all kinds of negative things that begin to take place and we see that today.
If you go back about 70 or 80 years ago, not that there was no abuse at that time, or 100 years ago, but there was very little abuse, and when it occurred, obviously it occurred in circumstances where Christianity was not making an impact. But what has happened since the 60s is that there's more and more abuse taking place and that's because the culture is no longer anchored to a Judeo-Christian ethic. It is in rank paganism.
So we're told that he has a concubine and he takes a woman just for sexual pleasure and she has a son, Abimelech, and then Judges 8:32, "And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Then verse 33, notice what happens in Israel, "Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot" they were unfaithful toward God, and they "played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god." Now as soon as he dies they just go into full blown overt idolatry and pagan worship. Baal-berith means the lord of the covenant, so apparently in Shechem there was a temple to this specific Baal, Baal is Canaanite for lord, and berith means covenant, and apparently the Canaanites had this view, and in Shechem that they had made a particular covenant with their god, and so in contrast to worshiping Yahweh who gave Israel a covenant, they are going over to this false god, Baal, who gave a covenant to the Canaanites. So it shows they are complete traitors to God.
Conclusion in Judges 8:34, "Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;" they didn't remember His deliverance, they didn't remember His grace to them, they didn't remember their salvation, they completely ignore everything that God has done for them, which shows that they have absolutely no gratitude. This is developed in verse 35, "Nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon), in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel." now it is Gideon who delivered them from the Midianites but they're no longer going to honor Him or treat him with kindness, which shows that they are ungrateful, there is no level of gratitude or thankfulness on their part, and that is indicative of carnality and spiritual failure. And that brings us to a very important doctrine called the doctrine of gratitude. Gratitude is the barometer of our spiritual growth, and their lack of gratitude, the lack of gratitude in this passage, both by Gideon and the Jews indicates that they are in spiritual failure. The same thing is true for us. That is why whenever we are going through difficult times our ability to thank God for all things and in all things is a barometer to us of how well we are adjusting to the grace of God in difficult times. We'll come back next time to look at the doctrine of gratitude as a barometer of our spiritual growth.