Judges 8

Zebah and Zalmunna

1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously.
2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer?
3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.
4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it.
5 He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”
6 But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?”
7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”
8 From there he went up to Peniel[a] and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had.
9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen.
11 Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army.
12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army.
13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres.
14 He caught a young man of Sukkoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth, the elders of the town.
15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’ ”
16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers.
17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town.
18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?” “Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.”
19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.”
20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.
21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ ” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks.

Gideon’s Ephod

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”
23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”
24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)
25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it.
26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels,[b] not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks.
27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Gideon’s Death

28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.
29 Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live.
30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives.
31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.
32 Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god
34 and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.
35 They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them.

Judges 8 Commentary

Chapter 8

Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites. (1-3) Succoth and Penuel refuse to relieve Gideon. (4-12) Succoth and Penuel punished. (13-17) Gideon avenges his brethren. (18-21) Gideon declines the government, but given occasion for idolatry. (22-28) Gideon's death, Israel's ingratitude. (29-35)

Verses 1-3 Those who will not attempt or venture any thing in the cause of God, will be the most ready to censure and quarrel with such as are of a more zealous and enterprising spirit. And those who are the most backward to difficult services, will be the most angry not to have the credit of them. Gideon stands here as a great example of self-denial; and shows us that envy is best removed by humility. The Ephraimites had given vent to their passion in very wrong freedom of speech, a certain sign of a weak cause: reason runs low when chiding flies high.

Verses 4-12 Gideon's men were faint, yet pursuing; fatigued with what they had done, yet eager to do more against their enemies. It is many a time the true Christian's case, fainting, and yet pursuing. The world knows but little of the persevering and successful struggle the real believer maintains with his sinful heart. But he betakes himself to that Divine strength, in the faith of which he began his conflict, and by the supply of which alone he can finish it in triumph.

Verses 13-17 The active servants of the Lord meet with more dangerous opposition from false professors than from open enemies; but they must not care for the behaviour of those who are Israelites in name, but Midianites in heart. They must pursue the enemies of their souls, and of the cause of God, though they are ready to faint through inward conflicts and outward hardships. And they shall be enabled to persevere. The less men help, and the more they seek to hinder, the more will the Lord assist. Gideon's warning being slighted, the punishment was just. Many are taught with the briers and thorns of affliction, who would not learn otherwise.

Verses 18-21 The kings of Midian must be reckoned with. As they confessed themselves guilty of murder, Gideon acted as the avenger of blood, being the next of kin to the persons slain. Little did they think to have heard of this so long after; but murder seldom goes unpunished in this life. Sins long forgotten by man, must be accounted for to God. What poor consolation in death from the hope of suffering less pain, and of dying with less disgrace than some others! yet many are more anxious on these accounts, than concerning the future judgment, and what will follow.

Verses 22-28 Gideon refused the government the people offered him. No good man can be pleased with any honour done to himself, which belongs only to God. Gideon thought to keep up the remembrance of this victory by an ephod, made of the choicest of the spoils. But probably this ephod had, as usual, a teraphim annexed to it, and Gideon intended this for an oracle to be consulted. Many are led into false ways by one false step of a good man. It became a snare to Gideon himself, and it proved the ruin of the family. How soon will ornaments which feed the lust of the eye, and form the pride of life, as well as tend to the indulgences of the flesh, bring shame on those who are fond of them!

Verses 29-35 As soon as Gideon was dead, who kept the people to the worship of the God of Israel, they found themselves under no restraint; then they went after Baalim, and showed no kindness to the family of Gideon. No wonder if those who forget their God, forget their friends. Yet conscious of our own ingratitude to the Lord, and observing that of mankind in general, we should learn to be patient under any unkind returns we meet with for our poor services, and resolve, after the Divine example, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.

Cross References 53

  • 1. S Judges 6:11
  • 2. S Genesis 25:2
  • 3. Judges 12:1
  • 4. 2 Samuel 19:41
  • 5. S Numbers 26:30
  • 6. S Judges 7:25; Proverbs 15:1
  • 7. Judges 7:25
  • 8. S Genesis 33:17
  • 9. Job 16:7; Psalms 6:6; Jeremiah 45:3
  • 10. ver 7,12; Psalms 83:11
  • 11. ver 14
  • 12. 1 Samuel 25:11
  • 13. ver 15
  • 14. S ver 5; Judges 7:15
  • 15. ver 9,17; Genesis 32:30; 1 Kings 12:25
  • 16. ver 17
  • 17. S Judges 6:5; Judges 7:12; Isaiah 9:4
  • 18. Numbers 32:42
  • 19. S Numbers 32:35
  • 20. S Judges 6:11
  • 21. Judges 1:35
  • 22. ver 6
  • 23. S Exodus 3:16
  • 24. ver 6
  • 25. 1 Samuel 14:12; ver 7
  • 26. S ver 8
  • 27. ver 9
  • 28. S Joshua 19:22; Judges 4:6
  • 29. S Numbers 14:21
  • 30. ver 26; Isaiah 3:18; Psalms 83:11
  • 31. S Exodus 16:8; S Numbers 11:20; 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 12:12
  • 32. S Genesis 35:4
  • 33. S Genesis 49:27
  • 34. S Genesis 16:11; Genesis 25:13
  • 35. S ver 21
  • 36. S Exodus 25:7; Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14
  • 37. S Joshua 18:23
  • 38. S Exodus 10:7; Deuteronomy 7:16; Psalms 106:39
  • 39. S Exodus 32:2
  • 40. Psalms 83:2
  • 41. S Judges 3:11; Judges 5:31
  • 42. S Judges 6:32; Judges 7:1
  • 43. S Judges 6:11
  • 44. Jdg 9:2,5,18,24; Judges 12:14; 2 Kings 10:1
  • 45. S Genesis 22:24
  • 46. Judges 9:1; Judges 10:1; 2 Samuel 11:21
  • 47. S Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8
  • 48. S Jdg 2:11,13,19
  • 49. Judges 9:4
  • 50. Judges 9:27,46
  • 51. S Judges 3:7; S Nehemiah 9:17; Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalms 78:11,42
  • 52. S Judges 6:32
  • 53. Judges 9:16

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew "Penuel," a variant of "Peniel" ; also in verses 9 and 17
  • [b]. That is, about 43 pounds or about 20 kilograms

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JUDGES 8

In this chapter we are told how Gideon pacified the Ephraimites, who complained because they were not sent unto to fight the Midianites, Jud 8:1-3 how he pursued the Midianites, until he took their two kings, and on his return chastised the men of Succoth and Penuel, because they refused to relieve his men with food as they were pursuing, Jud 8:4-17 how he slew the two kings of Midian, Jud 8:18-21 and after this conquest refused to take the government of Israel when offered him, Jud 8:22,23 how he requested of the Israelites the earrings they had taken from the Midianites, with which he in weakness made an ephod, which proved a snare to his house, Jud 8:24-27 how that the people were in peace forty years during his life, and that he had a numerous issue, and died in a good old age, Jud 8:28-32 but that after his death the Israelites fell into idolatry, and were ungrateful to his family, Jud 8:33-35.

Judges 8 Commentaries