The Cynical - Page 2 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Had we been there (ours is a great day for interviewing the man on the street), we could have had interviews with the men in Gideon’s army. For example, let us take the man that is down on all fours. We would go up to him and say, “Brother, why did you get down on all fours?” “Well,” he would reply, “I was just wondering why I didn’t go home with the other crowd. I have been thinking this thing over and I have a wife and family, and I just do not think I ought to be here. I feel like I should have gone home. I have no heart for this.” He made his choice, but God also made His choice. That is divine election and human free will. You see, God elects, but He lets you be the one to make the choice. Then we go to the man that lapped water like a dog and went to the other side of the stream. “Why did you lap water like that?” we ask him. He says, “Where are the Midianites?” “Wait just a minute,” we reply. “Why did you do that?” He replies, “Because I am with Gideon one hundred percent!” May I say to you that these three hundred men had a heart for battle. If you had said to any one of these three hundred men, “Say, did you know that God has elected you?” he would have replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about. The thing is that I want to go after these Midianites!”
You can argue about divine election and free will all you want to, but it works. You cannot make it work out by arguing, but it sure works out in life, friend. Each one of the ten thousand men in Gideon’s army exercised his free will. God did not interfere with one of them as far as their free wills were concerned. Today God, through His Son Jesus Christ, offers you the free gift of salvation. It is a legitimate offer. It is a sincere offer from God Himself. He says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Now don’t tell me that you can argue about election right now. You cannot. You can come to God if you want to come. If you don’t come, I have news for you—you were not elected. If you do come, I have good news for you—you were elected. That is the way God moves.
Now, these three hundred men have often been misunderstood. A few months ago, I went to a little church in South Carolina. When I got there, a dear little lady I had known for years said to me, “Mr. Lowe, we have here just a little Gideon’s band.” They didn’t have a Gideon’s band! They had the most discouraged, lazy folk I have ever seen in my life. That is not Gideon’s band. Gideon’s band was a group of dedicated men, willing to die to deliver Israel, men who had their hearts and souls in this matter. May I say to you that these men lapped up water like a dog because they were after the Midianites and not after water. They will drink after the battle is over.
I once watched a football game, and then I listened to the post-game interview of the quarterback. Even after the game, he was so excited and so emotional that he took no credit for himself. He gave his team the credit for winning. He said, “We were determined to win.” That is Gideon’s band, friend, and that is the thing that is needed today in the church if you please.
for they are exhausted due to lack of food; they had not eaten since midnight, since they had been in constant pursuit of the enemy, and they were not done yet.
and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian,” who had fled with 15,000 men, and were now, as Jarchi speculates, destroying the countries of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. But now Gideon and his men were in hot pursuit of them, in hopes of overtaking them, and then to complete the conquest, and thoroughly deliver Israel from their bondage on both sides of the Jordan, the benefits of which these men of Succoth would share with the other tribes. These were the arguments that Gideon used, and they were convincing ones, as he attempted to persuade them to give his weary troops some provisions— “They're exhausted, and I'm pursuing King Zebah and King Zalmunna of Midian.”
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2(Joshua 13:27) “and in the valley Beth Haram, Beth Nimrah, Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, with the Jordan as its border, as far as the edge of the 8Sea of Chinnereth, on the other side of the Jordan eastward.”
3(Genesis 33:17;NKJV) “And Jacob journeyed to
Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths (shelters) for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.” This city was located east of the Jordan and just north of the Jabbok (32:22).
6And the leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?”-- Judges 8.6 (KJV)
6 The generals at Succoth replied, “We shouldn't give your army food. You haven't captured Zebah and Zalmunna yet.”--Judges 8.6 (GW)
And the leaders of Succoth said …The chief officials of the place answered Gideon, one spoke for the rest; for the word said is singular in this translation.
Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that is, are their hands in your possession, referring to the ancient custom of collecting the hands of the slain; or are they taken prisoner, and handcuffed; or are their hands bound behind them, and put into the custody of Gideon, to do with them as he pleased? No, they were not; and then they suggested that they never would be captured. They mocked him and his small number of men, saying that they were not a match for these kings, whom, perhaps a little before this little band arrived, they had seen the two kings pass by with 15,000 men. This little army would not stand a chance, should they turn and attack them, which they thought would be the case; and therefore, they say, when they are in your hands, which they thought would never happen, we will give you bread. They were afraid to help Gideon, for fear that, if he should be overpowered, the Midianites would take revenge on them; and they dared not trust God. It was FEAR OF REPRISAL that motivated the shameful actions of Succoth.
The Anchor Bible and other liberal sources question the authenticity of these names, Zebah and Zalmunna, with many speculative references to transcribers, editors, compilers, etc., but, by far, the most probable understanding is that the Holy Spirit inspired Samuel whom we believe to be the author of Judges not only got the names down correctly, but that his simple narrative, as it stands, is worth a hundred scissors-and-paste jobs by critics, no two of whom can agree on anything!
Cundall admitted that the names Zebah and Zalmunna, "May be genuinely Midianite." As for the meaning of these names, David Frances Roberts wrote this: “ ‘Victim' for Zebah and ‘protection refused’ for Zalmunna."
“Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” was an insolent as well as a time-serving reply. It was insolent because it implied a bitter taunt that Gideon was counting with confidence on a victory which they believed he would not gain; and it was time-serving, because living in the near neighborhood of the Midianite sheiks, they dreaded the future vengeance of those roving chiefs. This impertinent manner of acting was heartless and disgraceful in people who were of Israelitish blood.
But the princes of Succoth neither feared God nor regarded man. Their attitude showed their contempt for God; they refused to answer the just demands of him whom God had raised up to save them. They insulted him, teased him, despised the success he had already been honored with, ignored the success of his present undertaking, did what they could to discourage him from prosecuting the war, but they were very willing to believe that the remaining forces of Midian, which they had recently seen march through their country, would be too hard for him to conquer: Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thy hand? "No, nor ever will be,’’ so was their conclusion, judging by the disproportion of numbers.
that we should give bread to your army?” Instead of help, they have an excuse—they don't want to side with Israel until they have already won the battle. When the heart is unwilling, it is never hard to find an excuse. They feared, that if they did give them bread, that these kings would hear about it, and they would suffer for it, and their bondage would be harder than it was before. The men of Succoth were so selfish and insecure in themselves, so cruel and uncompassionate to their brethren, and so ungrateful to their deliverers, and that stirred up the spirit of great resentment in this humble and good man. The men of Succoth had no faith in God or appreciation for Gideon and his men, and their lack of love cost them dearly. Were these Israelites! Surely they were worshippers of Baal, or they wanted to promote the interests of Midian. The bowels of their compassion were shut up against their brethren; they were as destitute of love as they were of faith; they would not give morsels of bread (so some read it) to those that were ready to perish. These base and degenerate men were not worthy of the title of Israelite.