Judges 8 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Judges 8)

Verse 1

[1] And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.

Why haft thou, … — Why hast thou neglected and despised us, in not calling us in to thy help, as thou didst other tribes? These were a proud people, puffed up with a conceit of their number and strength, and the preference which Jacob gave them above Manasseh, of which tribe Gideon was, who by this act had seemed to advance his own tribe, and to depress theirs.

Verse 2

[2] And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?

What have I, … — What I have done in cutting off some of the common soldiers, is not to be compared with your destroying their princes; I began the war, but you have finished.

The gleaning — What you have gleaned or done after me, Of Abiezer - That is, of the Abiezrites, to whom he modestly communicates the honour of the victory, and does not arrogate it to himself.

Verse 3

[3] God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

Was abated — His soft and humble answer allayed their rage.

Verse 4

[4] And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.

Passed over — Or, had passed over.

Verse 6

[6] And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

Are the hands, … — Art thou so foolish, to think with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers, to conquer and destroy an host of fifteen thousand Men? Thus the bowels of their compassion were shut up against their brethren. Were these Israelites! Surely they were worshippers of Baal, or in the interest of Midian.

Verse 8

[8] And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.

Penuel — Another city beyond Jordan; both were in the tribe of Gad.

Verse 9

[9] And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.

Your tower — Your confidence in which makes you thus proud and presumptuous.

Verse 10

[10] Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.

That drew sword — That is, persons expert and exercised in war, besides the retainers to them.

Verse 11

[11] And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.

That dwelt in tents — That is, of the Arabians, so fetching a compass, and falling upon them where they least expected it.

Was secure — Being now got safe over Jordan, and a great way from the place of battle; and probably, supposing Gideon's men to be so tired with their hard service, that they would have neither strength nor will to pursue them so far.

Verse 13

[13] And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,

Before the sun was up — By which it might be gathered, that he came upon them in the night, which was most convenient for him who had so small a number with him; and most likely to terrify them by the remembrance of the last Night's sad work.

Verse 14

[14] And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.

He described — He told him their names and qualities.

Verse 17

[17] And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

Slew the men of the city — Not all of them; probably those only who had affronted him.

Verse 18

[18] Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.

What manner of men — For outward shape and quality.

At Tabor — Whither he understood they fled for shelter, upon the approach of the Midianites; and where he learned that some were slain, which he suspected might be them.

Resembled — Not for their garb, or outward splendor, but for the majesty of their looks: by which commendation they thought to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror.

Verse 19

[19] And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.

I would not slay — For being not Canaanites, he was not obliged to kill them; but they having killed his brethren, and that in cool blood, he was by law the avenger of their blood.

Verse 20

[20] And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth.

Up, and slay — That he might animate him to the use of arms for his God and country, and that he might have a share in the honour of the victory.

Verse 21

[21] Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels' necks.

So is his strength — Thou excellest him, as in age and stature, so in strength; and it is more honourable to die by the hands of a valiant man.

Verse 22

[22] 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.

Rule — Not as a judge, for that he was already made by God; but as a king.

Thy son's son — Let the kingdom be hereditary to thee, and to thy family.

Thou hast delivered us — This miraculous and glorious deliverance by thy hands deserves no less from us.

Verse 23

[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.

I will not rule — As a king.

The Lord shall rule — In a special manner, as he hath hitherto done, by judges, whom God particularly appointed and directed, even by Urim and Thummim, and assisted upon all occasions; whereas Kings had only a general dependance upon God.

Verse 24

[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.)

Ishmaelites — A mixture of people all called by one general name, Ishmaelites or Arabians, who used to wear ear-rings; but the greatest, and the ruling part of them were Midianites.

Verse 27

[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.

Thereof — Not of all of it; for then it would have been too heavy for use; but of part of it, the rest being probably employed about other things appertaining to it; which elsewhere are comprehended under the name of the ephod, as chap. 17:5.

Put it — Not as a monument of the victory, for such monuments were neither proper nor usual; but for religious use, for which alone the ephod was appointed. The case seems to be this; Gideon having by God's command erected an altar in his own city, Ophrah, ch. 6:24, for an extraordinary time and occasion, thought it might be continued for ordinary use; and therefore as he intended to procure priests, so he designed to make priestly garments, and especially an ephod, which was the chief and most costly; which besides its use in sacred ministrations, was also the instrument by which the mind of God was enquired and discovered, 1 Samuel 26:6,9, and it might seen necessary for the judge to have this at hand, that he might consult with God upon all occasions.

Went a whoring — Committed idolatry with it; or went thither to enquire the will of God; whereby they were drawn from the true ephod, instituted by God for this end, which was to be worn by the high-priest only.

A snare — An occasion of sin and ruin to him and his, as the next chapter sheweth. Though Gideon was a good man, and did this with an honest mind, and a desire to set up religion in his own city and family; yet here seem to be many sins in it; 1. Superstition and will-worship, worshipping God by a device of his own, which was expressly forbidden. 2. Presumption, in wearing or causing other priests to wear this kind of ephod, which was peculiar to the high-priest. 3. Transgression of a plain command, of worshipping God ordinarily but at one place, and one altar, Deuteronomy 12:5,11,14. 4. Making a division among the people. 5. Laying a stumbling-block, or an occasion of idolatry before that people, whom he knew to be too prone to it.

Verse 28

[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.

Lifted up their head — That is, recovered not their former strength or courage, so as to conquer or oppress others.

Forty years — To the fortieth year, from the beginning of the Midianitish oppression.

The days, … — As long as Gideon lived.

Verse 29

[29] And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.

His own house — Not in his father's house; as he did before; nor yet in a court like a king, as the people desired; but in a middle state, as a judge for the preservation and maintenance of their religion and liberties.

Verse 31

[31] And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.

Shechem — She dwelt there, and he often came thither, either to execute judgment, or upon other occasions.

Abimelech — That is, my father the king; so he called him, probably, to gratify his concubine, who desired it either out of pride, or design.

Verse 32

[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.

A good old age — His long life being crowned with the continuance of honour, tranquility, and happiness.

Verse 33

[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.

As soon as, … — Whereby we see the temper of this people, who did no longer cleave to God, than they were in a manner constrained to it, by the presence and authority of their judges.

Baalim — This was the general name including all their idols, one of which here follows.

Baal-berith — That is, the Lord of the covenant; so called, either from the covenant wherewith the worshippers of this god bound themselves to maintain his worship, or to defend one another therein; or rather, because he was reputed the god and judge of all covenants, and promises, and contracts, to whom it belonged to maintain them, and to punish the violaters of them; and such a god both the Grecians and the Romans had.