Judges 8

CHAPTER VIII

The Ephraimites are angry with Gideon because he did not call

them particularly to his assistance; he pacifies them, 1-3.

Gideon and his three hundred men pass over Jordan, pursuing the

Midianites; and, being faint, ask victuals from the princes of

Succoth, but are refused, 4-7.

They make the like application to the people of Penuel, and are

also refused, 8, 9.

Gideon defeats Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, and

takes them prisoners, 10-12.

He chastises the men of Succoth and Penuel, 13-17.

He slays Zebah and Zalumunna, who had killed his brethren,

18-21.

The Israelites offer him the kingdom, which he refuses, 22, 23.

He requires from them the gold rings which they had taken from

the Ishmaelites, and makes an ephod, which he sets up at

Ophrah; and it became an instrument of idolatry, 24-27.

The land enjoys peace forty years; Gideon dies, having

seventy-one sons, 28-32.

The Israelites fall into idolatry, and forget their

obligations to Gideon's family, 33-35.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

Verse 1. The men of Ephraim said] This account is no doubt

displaced; for what is mentioned here could not have taken place

till the return of Gideon from the pursuit of the Midianites; for

he had not yet passed Jordan, Jud 8:4. And it was when he was

beyond that river that the Ephraimites brought the heads of Oreb

and Zeeb to him, Jud 7:25.

Verse 2. Is not the gleaning, &c.] That is, The Ephraimites have

performed more important services than Gideon and his men; and he

supports the assertion by observing that it was they who took the

two Midianitish generals, having discomfited their hosts at the

passes of Jordan.

Verse 3. Then their anger was abated] A soft answer turneth away

wrath. He might have said that he could place but little

dependence on his brethren when, through faint-heartedness, 22,000

left him at one time; but he passed this by, and took a more

excellent way.

Verse 4. Faint, yet pursuing] The Vulgate paraphrases this, et

prae lassitudine, fugientes persequi non poterant; "and, through

fatigue, unable to pursue the fugitives."

Verse 5. Give, I pray you, loaves of bread] As Gideon was

engaged in the common cause of Israel, he had a right to expect

succour from the people at large. His request to the men of

Succoth and Penuel was both just and reasonable.

Verse 6. Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand]

They feared to help Gideon, lest, if he should be overpowered, the

Midianites would revenge it upon them; and they dared not trust

God.

Verse 7. I will tear your flesh] What this punishment consisted

in I cannot say; it must mean a severe punishment: as if he had

said, I will thresh your flesh with briers and thorns, as corn is

threshed out with threshing instruments; or, Ye shall be trodden

down under the feet of my victorious army, as the corn is trodden

out with the feet of the ox.

Succoth was beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad. Penuel was also

in the same tribe, and not far distant from Succoth.

Verse 9. I will break down this tower.] Probably they had not

only denied him, but insultingly pointed to a tower in which their

chief defense lay; and intimated to him that he might do his

worst, for they could amply defend themselves.

Verse 10. Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor] If this were a

place, it is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture. Some contend

that karkor signifies rest; and thus the Vulgate understood

it: Zebah and Zalmunna requiescebant, rested, with all their army.

And this seems the most likely, for it is said, Jud 8:11, that

Gideon smote the host, for the host was secure.

Verse 13. Returned from battle before the sun was up] This does

not appear to be a proper translation of milmaaleh

hechares. It should be rendered from the ascent of Chares: this is

the reading of the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic.

Verse 14. He described unto him the princes of Succoth] The

young man probably gave him the names of seventy persons, the

chief men of Succoth, who were those who were most concerned in

refusing him and his men the refreshment he requested.

Verse 16. He taught the men of Succoth.] Instead of he

taught, Houbigant reads he tore; and this is not only

agreeable to what Gideon had threatened, Jud 8:7, but is

supported by the Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic.

The Hebrew text might have been easily corrupted in this place by

the change of shin into ain, letters very similar to

each other.

Verse 18. What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor?]

We have no antecedent to this question; and are obliged to

conjecture one: it seems as if Zebah and Zalmunna had massacred

the family of Gideon, while he was absent on this expedition.

Gideon had heard some confused account of it, and now questions

them concerning the fact. They boldly acknowledge it, and describe

the persons whom they slew, by which he found they were his own

brethren. This determines him to avenge their death by slaying the

Midianitish kings, whom he otherwise was inclined to save. He

might have heard that his brethren had been taken prisoners, and

might have hoped to have exchanged them for the kings now in his

hand; but when he found they had been all slain, he decrees the

death of their murderers. There is something in this account

similar to that in the 12th AEneis of Virgil:-When Turnus was

overthrown, and supplicated for his life, and AEneas was inclined

to spare him; he saw the belt of his friend Pallas, whom Turnus

had slain, and which he now wore as a trophy: this immediately

determined the Trojan to sacrifice the life of Turnus to the manes

of his friend. The story is well told:-

Stetit acer in armis

AEneas, volvens oculos, dextramque repressit.

Et jam jamque magis cunctantem flectere sermo

Coeperat: infelix humero cum apparuit ingens

Balteus, et notis fulserunt cingula bullis

Pallantis pueri; victum quem vulnere Turnus

Straverat, atque humeris inimicum insigne gerebat.

Ille oculis postquam saevi monumenta doloris

Exuviasque hausit: furiis accensus et ira

Terribilis: Tune hinc spoliis indute meorum

Eripiare mihi?.-Pallas, te hoc vulnere Pallas

Immolat; et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.

Hoc dicens furrum adverso sub pectore condit Fervidus.

VIRG. AEn. lib. xii., ver. 938.

"In deep suspense the Trojan seem'd to stand,

And, just prepared to strike, repress'd his hand.

He roll'd his eyes, and every moment felt

His manly soul with more compassion melt.

When, casting down a casual glance, he spied

The golden belt that glitter'd on his side;

The fatal spoils which haughty Turnus tore

From dying Pallas, and in triumph wore.

Then roused anew to wrath, he loudly cries,

(Flames, while he spoke, came flashing from his eyes,)

Traitor! dost thou! dost thou to grace pretend,

Clad, as thou art, in trophies of my friend?--

To his sad soul a grateful offering go;

'Tis Pallas, Pallas gives this deadly blow.

He rais'd his arm aloft; and at the word,

Deep in his bosom drove the shining sword."

DRYDEN.

The same principle impels Gideon to slay Zebah and Zalmunna which

induced AEneas to kill Turnus: and perhaps the ornaments which he

took from their camels' necks, Jud 8:21, were some of the spoils

of his slaughtered brethren.

Verse 20. He said unto Jether his first-born] By the ancient

laws of war, prisoners taken in war might be either slain, sold,

or kept for slaves. To put a captive enemy to death no executioner

was required. Gideon slays Zebah and Zalmunna with his own hand.

So Samuel is said to have hewn Agag in pieces, 1Sa 15:33.

Benaiah slew Joab, 1Ki 2:25.

Saul orders his guards to slay the priests who had contributed

to the escape of David, 1Sa 22:17; and

David caused one of his attendants to slay the Amalekite who

pretended to have slain Saul, 2Sa 1:15.

Verse 21. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise, thou, and fall

upon us] It was disgraceful to fall by the hands of a child; and

the death occasioned by the blows of such a person must be much

more lingering and tormenting. Some have even employed children to

despatch captives. Civilis, a Roman knight, headed a revolt of the

Gauls against Rome, in the year of the city 824. Of him Tacitus

says, Hist. lib. iv., c. 61: Ferebatur parvulo filio quosdam

captivorum sagittis jaculisque puerilibus figendos obtulisse: "He

is said to have given to his little son some prisoners, as butts

to be shot at with little darts and arrows." This was for their

greater torment and dishonour; and to inure his child to blood!

Could any thing like this have been the design of Gideon?

The ornaments that were on their camels' necks.] The heads,

necks, bodies, and legs of camels, horses, and elephants, are

highly ornamented in the eastern countries, and indeed this was

common, from the remotest antiquity, in all countries. Virgil

refers to it as a thing long before his time, and thus describes

the horses given by King Latinus to the ambassadors of

AEneas.-AEn. lib. vii., ver. 274.

Haec effatus equos numero pater eligit omni.

Stabant tercentum nitidi in praesepibus altis:

Omnibus extemplo Teucris jubet ordine duci

Instratos ostro alipedes pictisque tapetis.

Aurea pectoribus demissa monilia pendent:

Tecti auro fulvum mandunt sub dentibus aurum.

"He said, and order'd steeds to mount the band:

In lofty stalls three hundred coursers stand;

Their shining sides with crimson cover'd o'er;

The sprightly steeds embroider'd trappings wore,

With golden chains, refulgent to behold:

Gold were their bridles, and they champ'd on gold."

PITT.

Instead of ornaments, the Septuagint translate τουςμηνισκους,

the crescents or half-moons; and this is followed by the Syriac

and Arabic. The worship of the moon was very ancient; and, with

that of the sun, constituted the earliest idolatry of mankind. We

learn from Jud 8:24 that the Ishmaelites, or Arabs, as they are

termed by the Targum, Syriac, and Arabic, had golden ear-rings,

and probably a crescent in each; for it is well known that the

Ishmaelites, and the Arabs who descended from them, were addicted

very early to the worship of the moon; and so attached were they

to this superstition, that although Mohammed destroyed the

idolatrous use of the crescent, yet it was universally borne in

their ensigns, and on the tops of their mosques, as well as in

various ornaments.

Verse 22. Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy

son's son] That is, Become our king, and let the crown be

hereditary in thy family. What a weak, foolish, and inconstant

people were these! As yet their government was a theocracy; and

now, dazzled with the success of a man who was only an instrument

in the hands of God to deliver them from their enemies, they wish

to throw off the Divine yoke, and shackle themselves with an

unlimited hereditary monarchy! An unlimited monarchy is a curse;

a limited monarchy may be a blessing: the latter may be an

appointment of God; the former never can. Those who cast off their

allegiance to their Maker, are guilty of folly and extravagance of

every kind.

Verse 23. The Lord shall rule over you] Few with such power at

their command would have acted as Gideon. His speech calls them

back to their first principles, and should have excited in them

both shame and contrition. How different is this speech from that

of Oliver Cromwell when the commons offered him the crown of

England!

Verse 24. Give me every man the ear-rings of his prey.] The

spoils taken from their enemies in this warfare. This is a

transaction very like to that of the Israelites and Aaron; when

they brought him their golden ear-rings, out of which he made the

molten calf, Ex 32:2, &c. Whether Gideon designed this ephod

for an instrument of worship, or merely as a trophy, is not very

clear. It is most likely that he had intended to establish a place

of worship at Ophrah; and he took this occasion to provide the

proper sacerdotal vestments.

Verse 26. The weight of the golden ear-rings-was a thousand and

seven hundred shekels of gold] Taking the shekel at half an ounce

weight, the sum of the gold collected in ear-rings was seventy

pounds ten ounces; and worth, as gold now rates, about �3,100

sterling.

This computation of the weight of the golden ear-rings, taken

from the slaughtered Ishmaelites, will bring to the reader's mind

the slaughter of the Roman knights by the Carthaginians at the

battle of Cannae, from whose spoils Hannibal sent three bushels of

gold rings to the city of Carthage!

Verse 27. Gideon made an ephod thereof] That is, he made an

ephod out of this mass of gold; but he could not employ it all in

making this one garment, for it is not likely that any man could

wear a coat of nearly one hundred pounds weight. It is likely that

he made a whole tabernacle service in miniature out of this gold.

All Israel went thither a whoring after it] This form of speech

often occurs, and has been often explained. The whole Jewish

nation is represented as being united to God as a wife is to her

husband. Any act of idolatry is considered as a breach of their

covenant with God, as an act of whoredom is the breach of the

marriage agreement between man and wife. God calls himself the

husband of the Jewish nation, and their idolatries acts of

whoredom, adultery, and fornication. All Israel paid idolatrous

worship to the ephod or sacerdotal establishment made by Gideon at

Ophrah, and this is called going a whoring after it; see on

Jud 8:33. For a description of the

ephod, see Ex 25:7; and for the other garments of the priests,

see Ex 28:4, &c.

Verse 28. Forty years in the days of Gideon.] The Midianites

were so completely humbled that they could make head no more

against Israel during the forty years in which the government of

Gideon lasted.

Verse 31. His concubine] A lawful but secondary wife, whose

children could not inherit.

Whose name he called Abimelech.] That is, my father is king, or

my father hath reigned. This name was doubtless given by the

mother, and so it should be understood here; she wished to raise

her son to the supreme government, and therefore gave him a name

which might serve to stimulate him to seek that which she hoped he

should enjoy in his father's right. See the following chapter.

Verse 32. Gideon-died in a good old age] Supposed to have been

A.M. 2799; B.C. 1205.

Verse 33. A whoring after Baalim] This term has probably a

different meaning here from what it has Jud 8:7; for it is very

likely that in most parts of the pagan worship there were many

impure rites, so that going a whoring after Baalim may be taken

in a literal sense.

Baal-berith] Literally, the lord of the covenant; the same as

Jupiter faederis, or Mercury, among the Romans; the deity whose

business it was to preside over compacts, leagues, treaties,

covenants, &c. Some of the versions understand it as if the

Israelites had made a covenant or agreement to have Baal for their

god; so the VULGATE: Percusseruntque cum Baal faedus, ut esset eis

in deum.

Verse 34. Remembered not the Lord their God] They attributed

their deliverance to some other cause, and did not give him the

glory of their salvation.

Verse 35. Neither showed they kindness to the house of-Gideon]

They were both unthankful and unholy. Though they had the clearest

proofs of God's power and goodness before their eyes, yet they

forgot him. And although they were under the greatest obligations

to Gideon, and were once so sensible of them that they offered to

settle the kingdom on him and his family, yet they forgot him

also; for, becoming foes to GOD, they could not be friends to MAN.

Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon.-This is improper; it should be

Jerubbaal Gideon, as we say Simon Peter, or call any man by his

Christian name and surname.

THE ancients, particularly St. Ambrose and Augustine, have

endeavoured to find out a parallel between our blessed Lord and

Gideon. We have already seen what Origen has made of the whole

account, who is followed in the main by the above Latin fathers.

As I believe no such parallel was intended by the Spirit of God, I

must be excused from going into their details. It is no credit

either to Christ or Christianity to be compared to such persons

and their transactions.

1. Of Gideon the most we can say is that which the angel said,

he was a mighty man of valour.

2. He was also a true patriot, he loved his country, and

hazarded his life for it; and yet he would not stir till he had

the most incontestable proofs that God would, by his supernatural

assistance, make him victorious.

3. He was most evidently disinterested, and void of ambition; he

refused the kingdom when it was offered to him and to his heirs

after him. But, consistently with the belief he had in God, he

could not accept it, as this would have been a complete alteration

of the Jewish constitution, which acknowledged no ruler but God

himself.

4. His motive in making the ephod is not well understood;

probably it was done with no reprehensible design. But the act was

totally wrong; he had no Divine authority to make such an

innovation in the religious worship of his country. The ark was at

Shechem; and there was the proper and only accredited priest. The

act therefore can never be excused, whatever may be said of his

motive.

5. His private character does not appear to have been very

exemplary; he had many wives, and seventy sons by them, besides

one by a concubine, which he kept at Shechem, where he was often

obliged to go as judge, for the purpose of administering justice.

In short, there is scarcely a trait in his character worthy to be

compared with any thing in the conduct of the Redeemer of mankind.

6. Parallels to Christ, and the work of his Spirit in the

salvation of men, have been diligently sought in the sacred

writings, by both commentators and preachers; and we have had

voluminous treaties on types and antitypes; and how little has

sound doctrine or true piety derived from them! They have often

served to unsettle the former, and have been rather inimical than

favourable to the interests of the latter. When the Spirit of God

says such things are types and such things are allegories, it is

our duty to believe and examine; when men produce their types and

metaphors, it may be our duty to doubt, be suspicious, and pass

on.

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