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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible - Old Testament

Judges 8 (Chapter VIII Study)

 

Judges Exposition: Index | Introduction to the book of Judges | Judges 1 | Judges 2 | Judges 3 | Judges 4 | Judges 5 | Judges 6 | Judges 7 | Judges 8 | Judges 9 | Judges 10 | Judges 11 | Judges 12 | Judges 13 | Judges 14 | Judges 15 | Judges 16 | Judges 17 | Judges 18 | Judges 19 | Judges 20 | Judges 21

Judges full text: Judges 1 | Judges 2 | Judges 3 | Judges 4 | Judges 5 | Judges 6 | Judges 7 | Judges 8 | Judges 9 | Judges 10 | Judges 11 | Judges 12 | Judges 13 | Judges 14 | Judges 15 | Judges 16 | Judges 17 | Judges 18 | Judges 19 | Judges 20 | Judges 21

This chapter gives us a further account of Gideon's victory over the Midianites, with the residue of the story of his life and government. I. Gideon prudently pacifies the offended Ephraimites, ver. 1-3. II. He bravely pursues the flying Midianites, ver. 4, 10-12. III. He justly chastises the insolence of the men of Succoth and Penuel, who basely abused him (ver. 5-9), and were reckoned with for it, ver. 13-17. IV. He honourably slays the two kings of Midian, ver. 18-21. V. After all this he modestly declines the government of Israel, ver. 22, 23. VI. He foolishly gratified the superstitious humour of his people by setting up an ephod in his own city, which proved a great snare, ver. 24-27. VII. He kept the country quiet for forty years, ver. 28. VIII. He died in honour, and left a numerous family behind him, ver. 29-32. IX. Both he and his God were soon forgotten by ungrateful Israel, ver. 33-35.

Gideon Pacifies the Ephraimites. (b. c. 1249.)

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. " alt="St-Takla.org Image: Gideon circled around by a caravan route to take the Midianite army by surprise. - "Gideon pursues the Midianites" images set (Judges 8: 1-35): image (4) - Judges, Bible illustrations by James Padgett (1931-2009), published by Sweet Media صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: جدعون يحاصر جيش المديانيين - مجموعة "جدعون يتعقب المديانيين" (القضاة 8: 1-35) - صورة (4) - صور سفر القضاة، رسم جيمز بادجيت (1931-2009)، إصدار شركة سويت ميديا" width="640" height="480">

St-Takla.org Image: Gideon circled around by a caravan route to take the Midianite army by surprise. - "Gideon pursues the Midianites" images set (Judges 8: 1-35): image (4) - Judges, Bible illustrations by James Padgett (1931-2009), published by Sweet Media

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: جدعون يحاصر جيش المديانيين - مجموعة "جدعون يتعقب المديانيين" (القضاة 8: 1-35) - صورة (4) - صور سفر القضاة، رسم جيمز بادجيت (1931-2009)، إصدار شركة سويت ميديا

II. Gideon's irregular zeal to perpetuate the remembrance of this victory by an ephod made of the choicest of the spoils. 1. He asked the men of Israel to give him the ear-rings of their prey; for such ornaments they stripped the slain of in abundance. These he demanded, either because they were the finest gold, and therefore fittest for a religious use, or because they had had as ear-rings some superstitious signification, which he thought too well of. Aaron called for the ear-rings to make the golden calf of, Exod. xxxii. 2. These Gideon begged v. 24. And he had reason enough to think that those who offered him a crown, when he declined it, would not deny him their ear-rings, when he begged them, nor did they, v. 25. 2. He himself added the spoil he took from the kings of Midian, which, it should seem, had fallen to his share, v. 26. The generals had that part of the prey which was most splendid, the prey of divers colours, ch. v. 30. 3. Of this he made an ephod, v. 27. It was plausible enough, and might be well intended to preserve a memorial of so divine a victory in the judge's own city. But it was a very unadvised thing to make that memorial to be an ephod, a sacred garment. I would gladly put the best construction that can be upon the actions of good men, and such a one we are sure Gideon was. But we have reason to suspect that this ephod had, as usual, a teraphim annexed to it (Hos. iii. 4), and that, having an altar already built by divine appointment (ch. vi. 26), which he erroneously imagined he might still use for sacrifice, he intended this for an oracle, to be consulted in doubtful cases. So the learned Dr. Spencer supposes. Each tribe having now very much its government within itself, they were too apt to covet their religion among themselves. We read very little of Shiloh, and the ark there, in all the story of the Judges. Sometimes by divine dispensation, and much oftener by the transgression of men, that law which obliged them to worship only at that one altar seems not to have been so religiously observed as one would have expected, any more than afterwards, when in the reigns even of very good kings the high places were not taken away, from which we may infer that that law had a further reach as a type of Christ, by whose mediation alone all our services are accepted. Gideon therefore, through ignorance or inconsideration, sinned in making this ephod, though he had a good intention in it. Shiloh, it is true, was not far off, but it was in Ephraim, and that tribe had lately disobliged him (v. 1), which made him perhaps not care to go so often among them as his occasions would lead him to consult the oracle, and therefore he would have one nearer home. However this might be honestly intended, and at first did little hurt, yet in process of time, (1.) Israel went a whoring after it, that is, they deserted God's altar and priesthood, being fond of change, and prone to idolatry, and having some excuse for paying respect to this ephod, because so good a man as Gideon had set it up, and by degrees their respect to it grew more and more superstitious. Note, Many are led into false ways by one false step of a good man. The beginning of sin, particularly of idolatry and will-worship, is as the letting forth of water, so it has been found in the fatal corruptions of the church of Rome; therefore leave it off before it be meddled with. (2.) It became a snare to Gideon himself, abating his zeal for the house of God in his old age, and much more to his house, who were drawn by it into sin, and it proved the ruin of the family.

III. Gideon's happy agency for the repose of Israel, v. 28. The Midianites that had been so vexatious gave them no more disturbance. Gideon, though he would not assume the honour and power of a king, governed as a judge, and did all the good offices he could for his people; so that the country was in quietness forty years. Hitherto the times of Israel had been reckoned by forties. Othniel judged forty years, Ehud eighty—just two forties, Barak forty, and now Gideon forty, providence so ordering it to bring in mind the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation. And see Ezek. iv. 6. After these, Eli ruled forty years (1 Sam. iv. 18), Samuel and Saul forty (Acts xiii. 21), David forty, and Solomon forty. Forty years is about an age.

Israel's Return to Idolatry. (b. c. 1249.)

29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.   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.   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.   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 Baal-berith their god.   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 showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel.

We have here the conclusion of the story of Gideon. 1. He lived privately, v. 29. He was not puffed up with his great honours, did not covet a palace or castle to dwell in, but retired to the house he had lived in before his elevation. Thus that brave Roman who was called from the plough upon a sudden occasion to command the army when the action was over returned to his plough again. 2. His family was multiplied. He had many wives (therein he transgressed the law); by them he had seventy sons (v. 30), but by a concubine he had one whom he named Abimelech (which signifies, my father a king), that proved the ruin of his family, v. 31. 3. He died in honour, in a good old age, when he had lived as long as he was capable of serving God and his country; and who would desire to live any longer? And he was buried in the sepulchre of his fathers. 4. After his death the people corrupted themselves, and went all to naught. As soon as ever Gideon was dead, who had kept them close to the worship of the God of Israel, they found themselves under no restraint, and then they went a whoring after Baalim, v. 33. They went a whoring first after another ephod (v. 27), for which irregularity Gideon had himself given them too much occasion, and now they went a whoring after another god. False worships made way for false deities. They now chose a new god (ch. v. 8), a god of a new name, Baal-berith (a goddess, say some); Berith, some think, was Berytus, the place where the Phoenicians worshipped this idol. The name signifies the Lord of a covenant. Perhaps he was so called because his worshippers joined themselves by covenant to him, in imitation of Israel's covenanting with God; for the devil is God's ape. In this revolt of Israel to idolatry they showed, (1.) Great ingratitude to God (v. 34): They remembered not the Lord, not only who had delivered them into the hands of their enemies, to punish them for their idolatry, but who had also delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, to invite them back again into his service; both the judgments and the mercies were forgotten, and the impressions of them lost. (2.) Great ingratitude to Gideon, v. 35. A great deal of goodness he had shown unto Israel, as a father to his country, for which they ought to have been kind to his family when he was gone, for that is one way by which we ought to show ourselves grateful to our friends and benefactors, and may be returning their kindnesses when they are in their graves. But Israel showed not this kindness to Gideon's family, as we shall find in the next chapter. No wonder if those who forget their God forget their friends.

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Other commentaries and interpretations on the Book of Judges:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

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