JUDGES 7:1 – 9:57 and LUKE 8:26–56
Gideon is pretty much known for the war against the Midianites which is covered in this chapter. He was encouraged by the signs and affirmations that God brought his way as seen in chapter 6. The Lord speaks that the army is too big to go to war seeing that they would give glory to themselves for the victory. A process takes place that brings the numbers from 32,000 down to 300.
The Lord was about to move mightily against the Midianites. The fact that this victory would be achieved by a mere 300 men will testify of God’s hand in the battle. He will get the glory so Israel will not boast. What is the primary characteristic that distinguishes the 300 men from the others? It appears to be vigilance based on the way they drank water (vs 5-6). We looked at this earlier when commenting on the shepherds from Luke 2. They were faithfully watching their flocks at night when the world around them was asleep. They had the privilege of witnessing the angelic choir as well as being told where the new born king was located. They also became powerful witnesses as well. The quality of vigilance and of being prepared is seen in the parable of the 10 virgins (Math 25:1-13).
There is also an exhortation to the church of Sardis in the Book of Revelation to be watchful (Rev 3:2). What is it about vigilance and being watchful that God seems to put a high premium on? Being watchful is a proactive approach in helping to prevent complacency and a “comfort zone” type mentality. In the Lord’s darkest hour while in the garden He saw His disciples sleeping. He asked as to why they were sleeping and then told them to arise and pray, lest they enter into temptation. I feel the Lord was indicating the intense pressure that is going to come upon the church in the last days. If we are not vigilant and awake we could well be vulnerable to temptation. At the same time being vigilant will allow us to respond when called upon by God.
It will enable us to break free from the stranglehold of indifference. A vigilant and watchful approach will enable a people to be discerning of the Spirit’s voice. They will be the ones who will be able to respond to the cry of “he that ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit is saying..”. Gideon’s army of 300 was distinguished from the others due to their being watchful. Remember the exhortation of Peter with regard to vigilance?
1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
1Pe 5:9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
The above verses are truths that Peter paid a price for. He knows first-hand the danger of not being watchful and careful in the time of testing. This is why Satan was able to sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31).
Gideon overhears the telling of a dream with its interpretation that pertains to the battle at hand (vs 15). He immediately rallies his troops to arise knowing the time is at hand for God to deliver the Midianites into their hand. It seems that Gideon needed proofs that God was calling him by way of the fleeces and the dream. There may be times when we are discouraged due to the situations happening around us. We have the promises, the call of God and yet things seem to be to the contrary. This was Gideon’s plight and it could well be ours. We need to be careful about putting out fleeces nonetheless God does confirm what He is about to do in unmistakeable ways; provided we are watchful and having ears to hear. Go back to your prayer journals or rehearse afresh the promises God has given you. At the same time ask the Lord to help in the area of being watchful and vigilant in this late hour.
Gideon continues his pursuit against the Midianites. He is specifically going after two kings by the name of Zebah and Zalmunna. The meaning of the name of Zebah is sacrifice. The meaning of the name Zalmunna is idol or forbidden. It is interesting that even though Gideon has experienced a great victory against the Midianites in chapter 7 the job is not yet complete. These two kings had about 15,000 men with them and they were heading across Jordan to wreak havoc to the 2 ½ tribes settled on the eastern side.
We saw earlier in Joshua the need to purge out the 31 kings of the land (Josh 12). Today we can liken these 31 kings to areas of the self-life. These two kings present a sign to us as well when considering the inner life. There are continual sacrifices that need to be offered up to God as we wholeheartedly pursue Him. There are the sacrifices of a broken spirit and a contrite heart and or the sacrifices of praise. Secondly, we need to allow God to get at the root of idolatry in our lives. It will be idolatry that will lead Israel into Babylon many years later. We will also see that Israel reverted back to idolatry and whoredom with Balaam after Gideon passes on (vs 33-34). We have seen that a primary problem of Israel was their inability or lack of obedience in totally destroying their enemies. There is the tendency to let up after knowing that you have the upper hand. The enemy knows well this tendency in man and is more than willing to wait for his opportunity to strike again, when our defences are down. This is why vigilance and watchfulness are so important, as seen in Gideon and his band of 300 warriors.
As Gideon was in pursuit of these kings he sought help from the people of Succoth and Penuel (vs 5-9). They denied giving help figuring that 300 men would never survive a troop of over 15,000. It is a mistake to underestimate the purposes and ways of God. These cities did not want to court disdain from these kings by helping a small group of 300 men. To them it was not worth the risk. Gideon made it clear that he would deal with them upon his return. Gideon, upon his return, paraded the men of Midian to Succoth in a way that humiliated the men of Succoth. “So you say that a band of 300 men would not be able to do battle with so many?” One could imagine Gideon saying words to that effect. He also punished the men of both cities. In the end these two kings desired to be slain by Gideon and not of a person of lower rank. What a horrible testimony it must be to come to the end and your only concern is to make sure that if you die it is by the hand of an equal or superior officer. Such are the fruits in living for this life.
In verses 23 through 27 we see Gideon declining an offer to reign over the people. Israel as yet is not to be ruled by kings and Gideon seemed to be clear on this matter. He said that it is the Lord that shall reign over you. The people here were not as insistent as they later would be with Samuel in years to come. God and Samuel tried to dissuade Israel from asking for a king but in the end the people got their wish. Gideon did however use this opportunity to ask for a golden earring of their prey which came from the Midianites and Ishmaelite’s. He then had a portion of the gold fashioned into an ephod, something to be worn upon the breast, like the priests would do. Gideon was not a priest and it does not seem like he is trying to usurp the priestly role like Saul and Uzziah did as kings. Still this ephod in the end became an object of idolatry to Israel. It is just another step towards Babylon. It is another glimpse as to what happens when enemies are not thoroughly driven out. The last few verses refers to the peace and rest in the land while Gideon was serving as judge. He ruled for 40 years but was a man who had many wives resulting in 70 sons. Once again, after a godly ruler passes on it is a matter of time before the people turn from God and go after Balaam. This speaks to the danger of mixture as seen through the counsel of Balaam. The seeds that Balaam sowed are now beginning to have strong ramifications. It will only become stronger through the generations to come. How much better it is to take God at His Word and learn to obey.
Abimelech is one of the seventy sons and is a product of the idolatry that had crept into Israel. Gideon was indeed a mighty man of valour but his multiple wives and his making of the golden ephod helped to contribute to what we are about to see in this one particular son. He woos the people of Shechem to follow him which required the slaying of all the other brethren. One of the sons (Jotham) was able to escape and hide. In verses 7-20 Jotham, upon hearing all that was done goes up upon Mt. Gerizim which was outside the city and prophesies to them via a parable.
The actual fulfilment of all that happened is summarized in verse 20. Jotham then fled and went to a place called Beer for fear of his brother Abimelech (vs 21). There are similarities to what will be seen during the reign of the kings at the time of Jehosophat and Ahab. The root of this parallel is idolatry which was able to take root through the counsel of Balaam. There will be a mass murder of the king’s sons of the royal line which will leave only Joash to be spared (2 Kings 11). Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel will wield her treachery for a season before she is ultimately judged by Jehu. The primary point I feel to bring out is the common denominator of the fallout from Balaam’s ministry. It can be seen here with Abimelech and later on with Athaliah. It stems from Israel not giving heed to fully follow the Lord in the keeping of his commandments. Jehosophat was good king and cannot be linked in any way to being like an Ahab yet he made an alliance with him which resulted in the marriage of his son (Jehoram) to the daughter of Ahab (Athaliah)( 2 King 8:18).
1Ki 22:4 And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramothgilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.
Likewise Gideon was a mighty judge on behalf of Israel. He in no wise can be linked to the treacherous ways of Abimelech even though he is his son from one of his many marriages. His making of the golden ephod later became a means of idolatry amongst Israel making for the fertile ground for Abimelech to come forth (8:27, 33). Soon after Gideon died the people resorted to idolatry while going a whoring after Balaam.
Abimelech and the men of Sechhem had three years of reigning together until the time where God allowed an evil spirit to come between them (vs 22-23). Here we see God allowing Satan to introduce an evil spirit to come into their midst to stir up jealousies, envy etc so as to divide the sentiments of the people of Shechem with Abimelech. This was a judgment due to the slaying of Gideon’s sons that was targeted at both the men of Shechem and Abimelech (vs 24).
It is interesting how the heart of man seems to never change through the years. It is even more amazing that man never seems to learn the lessons of history. Are there parallels that can be seen in this account to our day? It is clear that we live in a materialistic world that indulges itself in self-serving appetites. The phrase “eat, drink and be merry” comes to mind which is exactly the demeanor of man at the time of Noah. It is this climate in which Jesus gave the following warning:
Mat 24:38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
What was seen way back in Genesis is still playing out today. This is the fallout that results when the church makes allowances for compromise. A subtle altering of God’s commandments can have huge consequences. It may not be seen at the first but it must be understood that compromise, on any scale, opens a door. This is the reason why there needs to be a true priestly ministry to come on the scene. A true priestly ministry would never entertain any form of alliance as seen between Jehosophat and Ahab. Such a ministry would have helped Gideon in not making the golden ephod while tempering his appetite for many wives. Interestingly, the golden ephod he made was a priestly item. Gideon was not a priest. There are many truths to glean from the events of Judges 9.
Luke 8 – Read day 86 commentary