Tuesday, October 23, 2012

LXXVII - Judges 8-9 - Gideon and Abimelek

LXXVII  -  Judges 8-9  -  Gideon and Abimelek

In the last post we saw the faithful Gideon being called by God to deliver Israel from the cruel oppression of the Midianites and the Amalikites.  We saw Gideon lay out the fleece, then obediently put God's military plan in action to defeat the Midianites.

Chapter 8 - This chapter begins with the Ephraimites complaning to Gideon that they were not called out to go to war against the Midianites.  Gideon, being a wise leader, answered them with flattery in verse 3, which immediately calmed the situation.   Gideon and his army of three hundred men continue to chase Zebah and Zalmunna, Midianite kings, but they cannot get any help or cooperation from the territories they passed through, namely Succoth and Peniel. He wanted food for his 300 weary soldiers, but Succoth and Peniel refused to give them any.   Gideon told them that he would punish them for their refusal to help him at a later time.  Vss 10-12 tell of him catching up with the two kings and their remaining army of 15,000 soldiers.  The Scripture in vs 10 suggest "all that were left" of the Midianite army was 15,000.  The Scripture makes it sound as though the mighty army has been dwindled down to practically nothing, but 15,000 is still huge compared to Gideon's 300.  But Gideon goes on to defeat the remainder of the enemy and captures the two kings.  Then (vss 13-17) Gideon returns to the two cities that refused to help him.  He put Succoth under a land curse and killed all the men in Peniel.  {Peniel was east of the Jordan, home of pagan Moabites or Amorites.  Succoth was in Ephraim, mostly Israelites, which is why Gideon did not put them to death also.}  In vss 18-21, Gideon gives his oldest son Jether the opportunity to kill the two Midianite kings, but Jether, being so young, did not want to kill them, so Gideon did it himself.

Vss 22-->  The people then wanted to make Gideon their king.  Gideon did the right thing by refusing and saying that God is their King.  However, in vs 24 Gideon does make a request that they give him a gold ring from their collection of spoils, which the Scripture tells us is the custom of the day.  So they went on and collected gold rings, so many that it totaled 43 pounds of pure gold.  Look at verse 27.  {This seems out of character for Gideon to me.}  Gideon fashioned from the gold an ephod, and placed it in his home town.  Then Israel (being Israel) prostituted itself and worshipped the ephod. 
Vss 28-35  -  After Gideon's defeat of the Midianites, Israel had peace for forty years.  It says that Gideon had many wives that bore him seventy sons.  He also had a son by a mistress.  That son's name was Abimelek.  The last two verses of chapter 8 tells of Israel's return to its idolatrous ways.

Chapter 9 tells of Gideon's illegitimate son Abimelek.  Now Abimelek was a very ambitious man.  He decided to try to take advantage of his father's notoriety and establish himself as a leader among the Manasseh tribe and perhaps beyond.  But all of the seventy legitimate sons of Gideon, of course, were individually more qualified.  The reading of the first four verses in chapter 9 puzzles me somewhat, but I'll try to make some sense of it.  Abilelek approaches all the seventy sons of Gideon and volunteers his services as leader of Manasseh.  His rational was that one leader is better than seventy one leaders and since his illegitamacy somewhat set him apart, he was the obvious choice.  I perceive that the seventy sons thought this was all very silly, but they knew this half brother was going to be a problem, so they decided to "pay him off" so he would go away.  But Abimelek used the money to hire some "thugs" to help him go back and kill all the seventy sons of Gideon.  Only Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, escaped from death.  {There is something interesting about verses 7-15.  Read these verses and you will see the first parable in the Bible.  Jesus taught many truths by using parables.  Jotham used this parable to warn Israel.  Many of the prophets will do the same.}  The Scripture goes on to say that Abimelek (through fear) was made leader of this middle section of Israel and served three years.  Abimelek's reign was so terrible that there were many attempts to unseat him from his position of authority.  The most notable is the attempt of Gaal when he tried to lead the city of Shechem againts Abimelek, but it failed.  Abimelek always answered any actions against him with more and increased violence.  He even burned the Shechem citizens alive.  Finally, in vss 50-57, he was killed when a woman dropped a top millstone on his head.  This did not quite kill him and he asked his armor-bearer to kill him so it would not be said that he was killed by a woman.  This was a "good riddance" to an evil leader.  Abimelek was a self-appointed leader.  Noone can be referred to as a "judge" unless they were appointed by God.

In the next post we will look at Judges chapters 10-13 and study those between Gideon and Samson.

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