Judges 81 The Ephraimites said to him, “Why have you done such a thing to us? You did not summon us ▼
▼ Heb “by not summoning us.”when you went to fight the Midianites!” They argued vehemently with him. 2 He said to them, “Now what have I accomplished compared to you? Even Ephraim’s leftover grapes ▼
▼ Heb “gleanings.”are better quality than Abiezer’s harvest! ▼
▼ Ephraim’s leftover grapes are better quality than Abiezer’s harvest. Gideon employs an agricultural metaphor. He argues that Ephraim’s mopping up operations, though seemingly like the inferior grapes which are missed initially by the harvesters or left for the poor, are actually more noteworthy than the military efforts of Gideon’s family.3 It was to you that God handed over the Midianite generals, Oreb and Zeeb! What did I accomplish to rival that?” ▼
▼ Heb “What was I able to do compared to you?”When he said this, they calmed down. ▼
▼ Heb “Then their spirits relaxed from against him, when he spoke this word.”
Gideon Tracks Down the Midianite Kings4 Now Gideon and his three hundred men had crossed over the Jordan River, and even though they were exhausted, they were still chasing the Midianites. ▼
▼ Heb “And Gideon arrived at the Jordan, crossing over, he and the three hundred men who were with him, exhausted and chasing.” The English past perfect (“had crossed”) is used because this verse flashes back chronologically to an event that preceded the hostile encounter described in vv. 1–3. (Note that 7:25 assumes Gideon had already crossed the Jordan.)5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give ▼
▼ Or perhaps, “sell.”some loaves of bread to the men ▼
▼ Heb “people.” The translation uses “men” because these were warriors and in ancient Israelite culture would have been exclusively males.who are following me, ▼
▼ Heb “who are at my feet.”because they are exhausted. I am chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 The officials of Succoth said, “You have not yet overpowered Zebah and Zalmunna. So why should we give ▼
▼ Or perhaps, “sell.”bread to your army?” ▼
▼ Heb “Are the palms of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give to your army bread?” Perhaps the reference to the kings’ “palms” should be taken literally. The officials of Succoth may be alluding to the practice of mutilating prisoners or enemy corpses (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 155).▼
▼ The officials of Succoth are hesitant to give (or sell) food to Gideon’s forces because they are not sure of the outcome of the battle. Perhaps they had made an alliance with the Midianites which demanded their loyalty.7 Gideon said, “Since you will not help, ▼
▼ Heb “Therefore.”after the Lord hands Zebah and Zalmunna over to me, I will thresh ▼
▼ I will thresh. The metaphor is agricultural. Threshing was usually done on a hard threshing floor. As farm animals walked over the stalks, pulling behind them a board embedded with sharp stones, the stalks and grain would be separated. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 63–65. Gideon threatens to use thorns and briers on his sledge.your skin ▼
▼ Or “flesh.”with ▼
▼ This is apparently a rare instrumental use of the Hebrew preposition אֵת (’et, note the use of ב [bet] in v. 16). Some, however, argue that אֵת more naturally indicates accompaniment (“together with”). In this case Gideon envisions threshing their skin along with thorns and briers, just as the stalks and grain are intermingled on the threshing floor. See C. F. Burney, Judges, 229–30.desert thorns and briers.” 8 He went up from there to Penuel and made the same request. ▼
▼ Heb “and spoke to them in the same way.”The men of Penuel responded the same way the men of Succoth had. ▼
▼ Heb “The men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth answered.”9 He also threatened ▼
▼ Heb “said to.” The translation “threatened” is interpretive, but is clearly indicated by the context.the men of Penuel, warning, ▼
▼ Heb “saying.”“When I return victoriously, ▼
▼ Or “safely.” Heb “in peace.”I will tear down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their armies. There were about fifteen thousand survivors from the army of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand sword-wielding soldiers had been killed. ▼
▼ Heb “About fifteen thousand [in number] were all the ones remaining from the army of the sons of the east. The fallen ones were a hundred and twenty thousand [in number], men drawing the sword.”11 Gideon went up the road of the nomads ▼
▼ Heb “the ones living in tents.”east of Nobah and Jogbehah and ambushed the surprised army. ▼
▼ Heb “and attacked the army, while the army was secure.” The Hebrew term בֶטַח (vetakh, “secure”) probably means the army was undefended (see R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 156), not suspecting an attack at that time and place.12 When Zebah and Zalmunna ran away, Gideon ▼
▼ Heb “he”; the referent (Gideon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.chased them and captured the two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. He had surprised ▼
▼ Or “routed”; Heb “caused to panic.”their entire army.
13 Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the pass ▼
▼ Or “ascent.”of Heres. 14 He captured a young man from Succoth ▼
▼ Heb “from the men of Succoth.”and interrogated him. The young man wrote down for him the names of Succoth’s officials and city leaders – seventy-seven men in all. ▼
▼ Heb “wrote down for him the officials of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.”15 He approached the men of Succoth and said, “Look what I have! ▼
▼ Heb “Look!” The words “what I have” are supplied in the translation for clarification.Zebah and Zalmunna! You insulted me, saying, ‘You have not yet overpowered Zebah and Zalmunna. So why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” ▼
▼ Heb “Are the palms of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give to your exhausted men bread?”▼ 16 He seized the leaders ▼
▼ Heb “elders.”of the city, along with some desert thorns and briers; he then “threshed” the men of Succoth with them. ▼
▼ The translation follows the reading of several ancient versions (LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and Vulgate) in assuming the form וַיָּדָשׁ (vayyadash) from the verb דּוֹשׁ (dosh, “thresh”) as in v. 7. The MT reads instead the form וַיֹּדַע (vayyoda’, “make known”), a Hiphil form of יָדַע (yadah). In this case one could translate, “he used them [i.e., the thorns and briers] to teach the men of Succoth a lesson.”17 He also tore down the tower of Penuel and executed the city’s men.
18 He said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Describe for me ▼
▼ Heb “Where are?”the men you killed at Tabor.” They said, “They were like you. Each one looked like a king’s son.” ▼
▼ Heb “each one like the appearance of sons of the king.”19 He said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. I swear, ▼
▼ The words “I swear” are supplied in the translation for clarification.as surely as the Lord is alive, if you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 20 He ordered Jether his firstborn son, “Come on! ▼
▼ Or “Arise!”Kill them!” But Jether was too afraid to draw his sword, ▼
▼ Heb “did not draw his sword for he was afraid.”because he was still young. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, ▼
▼ The words “to Gideon” are supplied in the translation for clarification.“Come on, ▼
▼ Or “Arise.”you strike us, for a man is judged by his strength.” ▼
▼ Heb “for as the man is his strength.”So Gideon killed ▼
▼ Heb “arose and killed.”Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent-shaped ornaments which were on the necks of their camels.
Gideon Rejects a Crown but Makes an Ephod22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son, and your grandson. For you have delivered us from Midian’s power.” ▼
▼ Heb “hand.”23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 Gideon continued, ▼
▼ Heb “said to them.”“I would like to make one request. Each of you give me an earring from the plunder you have taken.” ▼
▼ Heb “Give to me, each one, an earring from his plunder.”(The Midianites ▼
▼ Heb “they”; the referent (the Midianites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 They said, “We are happy to give you earrings.” ▼
▼ Heb “We will indeed give.”So they ▼
▼ In the LXX the subject of this verb is singular, referring to Gideon rather than to the Israelites.spread out a garment, and each one threw an earring from his plunder onto it. 26 The total weight of the gold earrings he requested came to seventeen hundred gold shekels. ▼
▼ Seventeen hundred gold shekels would be about 42.7 pounds (19.4 kilograms) of gold.This was in addition to the crescent-shaped ornaments, jewelry, ▼
▼ Or “pendants.”purple clothing worn by the Midianite kings, and the necklaces on the camels. ▼
▼ Heb “the ornaments which were on the necks of their camels.”27 Gideon used all this to make ▼
▼ Heb “made it into.”an ephod, ▼
▼ In Exod 28:4–6 and several other texts an ephod is described as a priestly or cultic garment. In some cases an ephod is used to obtain a divine oracle (1 Sam 23:9; 30:7). Here the ephod is made of gold and is described as being quite heavy (70–75 lbs?). Some identify it as an idol, but it was more likely a cultic object fashioned in the form of a garment which was used for oracular purposes. For discussion of the ephod in the OT, see C. F. Burney, Judges, 236–43, and R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 349–52.which he put in his hometown of Ophrah. All the Israelites ▼
▼ Heb “Israel” (a collective singular).prostituted themselves to it by worshiping it ▼
▼ The words “by worshiping it” are supplied in the translation for clarity.there. It became a snare to Gideon and his family.
Gideon’s Story Ends28 The Israelites humiliated Midian; the Midianites’ fighting spirit was broken. ▼
▼ Heb “Midian was humbled before the Israelites, and they no longer lifted their heads.”The land had rest for forty years during Gideon’s time. ▼
▼ Heb “in the days of Gideon.”29 Then Jerub-Baal son of Joash went home and settled down. ▼
▼ Heb “went and lived in his house.”30 Gideon fathered seventy sons through his many wives. ▼
▼ Heb “Gideon had seventy sons who went out from his thigh, for he had many wives.” The Hebrew word יָרֵךְ (yarekh, “thigh”) is a euphemism here for the penis.31 His concubine, ▼
▼ A concubine was a slave woman in ancient Near Eastern societies who was the legal property of her master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with her master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife. The children of a concubine could, in some instances, become equal heirs with the children of the free wife. After the period of the Judges concubines may have become more of a royal prerogative (2 Sam 21:10–14; 1 Kgs 11:3).who lived in Shechem, also gave him a son, whom he named Abimelech. ▼
▼ The name Abimelech means “my father is king.”32 Gideon son of Joash died at a very ▼
▼ Heb “good.”old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash located in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Israel Returns to Baal-Worship33 After Gideon died, the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They made Baal-Berith ▼
▼ Baal-Berith was a local manifestation of the Canaanite storm god. The name means, ironically, “Baal of the covenant.” Israel’s covenant allegiance had indeed shifted.their god. 34 The Israelites did not remain true ▼
▼ Heb “remember.”to the Lord their God, who had delivered them from all the enemies who lived around them. 35 They did not treat ▼
▼ Heb “did not do loyalty with,” or “did not act faithfully toward.”the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) fairly in return for all the good he had done for Israel.
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