Notes on Judges 8:22-35
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 8:22, KJV: Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
This was something new. Neither Ehud, Othniel, Shamgar, Barak, or Deborah, had received an offer like this, according to the text. It is strange that these Israelites seem to have forgotten, and it had not been that long ago, that when they obeyed the LORD things went well, and when they rejected Him, bad things happened, such as the various captivities. Their desire for a human king or ruler never seemed very far away after this incident.
Not too long after this, in the days of Samuel, the people desired a human king so badly that God in so many words told Samuel, “they’ve rejected Me, so give them what they want (1 Samuel 8:7-10)”.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
The idea of becoming a king or ruler must have shocked Gideon! He first told the other people “NO!” in no uncertain terms, then he reminded them that the LORD would be their ruler. He seems to have included himself and his family.
24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they (were) Ishmaelites.)
What was Gideon thinking here? Why does he want these earrings? The earrings were gold, and he had been poor, so was he thinking of making himself rich? Also, did the other Israelites keep anything else they might have taken from the dead Midianites?
More importantly, why had no one given thanks to God for the victory by this time?
25 And they answered, We will willingly give (them). And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
Now the Israelites willingly gave all the earrings they had captured (for lack of a better term). The size of the garment is not specified, nor what fabric it was made of. Apparently it was a quality garment.
26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred (shekels) of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that (was) on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that (were) about their camels' necks.
It seems here that the Israelites gave more than just the gold earrings to Gideon. This verse mentions the ornaments, collars, purple garments, and the chains taken from the camels’ necks. Compare this with the freewill offering to build the Tabernacle in Exodus 5. Again, there is no mention in the text that Gideon even considered giving any of these items to the LORD, the Tabernacle, or anywhere else except to keep it all for himself.
Gold is measured by the troy ounce, 12 ounces to the pound, and has been valued at over $1000 per troy ounce for several years, As of summer 2019, gold was worth around $1400 per troy ounce, An Internet site, www.convertunits.com, rendered 1700 shekels to just under 685 ounces or just over 57 pounds of gold, worth an estimated $80,000!
27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, (even) in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
An ephod was a garment, usually worn by the priests (Exodus 25:7, 28:6, etc.) The tribe of Manasseh had nothing whatsoever to do with the duties of priests or the Tabernacle so it is a mystery why Gideon made this ephod. There is no record in chapters 6-8 that Gideon even visited the Tabernacle.
But there was one significant problem with this ephod, whatever it was. If the ephod was a garment, anything like the garments for the priests, the weight of the gold alone was close to 60 pounds which would have been uncomfortable after a while, except for, perhaps, the strongest of men. The problem was that Israel began to worship Gideon’s creation, rather than the God of Israel Who gave Gideon the victory over Midian in the first place.
Does the phrase “which thing became a snare to Gideon, and to his house”, mean Gideon began to worship something he had made? Only he and God know for sure.
28 Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
There is no record in Scripture where the Midianites came against Israel or ever conquered Israel after this battle. After this encounter, God gave Israel 40 years of peace during the days of Gideon.
29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
“Jerubbaal” was the other name for Gideon. Joash, Gideon’s father, gave him that name when Gideon tore down the altar to Baal which was on his father’s land (Judges 6:28-32).
30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine that (was) in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
The names of Gideon’s wives and children, except for Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine and Jotham , the youngest son (Judges 9:4), are not recorded.
32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
How long Gideon lived is not mentioned in the text. His body was buried in the same grave as his father, which followed the same pattern as Abraham and his grandson Jacob in the cave of Ephron the Hittite near Hebron (see Genesis 25:9 and 50:13, respectively). This could be remarkable if Joash had never renounced Baal worship and Gideon had remained a worshiper of the LORD, God of Israel. Another question is why Gideon didn’t use some of the wealth he had obtained when the other Israelites gave him the golden earrings from the Midianites (see verses 24-26) to purchase his own sepulcher or burial site.
33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
These words are a paraphrase or restatement of Judges 2, describing how Israel would cry out for deliverance and then, after a relatively short time, abandon the God of Israel for idols. In this case, Israel chose to follow “Baalim”, the plural of Baal, choosing one such “Baal” as their god. Some commentators have observed that “Baal” is a word for “lord” and “berith” is the Hebrew word for “covenant”. In view of this, it seems Israel rejected the God Who had given them a covenant in exchange for another “lord” of a “covenant”. The period of time until the next Judge arose is not specified here.
34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: 35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, (namely), Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
Here are two cases of the worst form of ingratitude. The Israelites forgot the LORD, the God Who had brought them to the Promised Land and Who had delivered them from their enemies any number of times. This mirrors in some way humanity’s downward plunge in Romans 1, where one of the first sins was unthankfulness (Romans 1:21). They also failed to show kindness to Gideon and his family even after he led them to victory over Midian with God’s help. He turned down their offer to be king, now they turned down any offer to show kindness or respect to one of Israel’s greatest heroes (Hebrews 11:32).
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).