Judges 8:27
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27) Made an ephod.—The high priest’s ephod is described in Exodus 28:6-14. It was a sleeveless coat of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, with two ouches of onyx on the shoulders, bound by a rich girdle. Over this was worn the splendid jewelled breastplate, the choshen, with the Urim and Thummim. This ephod, with its “oracular gems,” was by far the most splendid and sacred adjunct of worship which the Israelites possessed, and hence was regarded with extreme reverence (1Samuel 21:9; 1Samuel 23:9; 1Samuel 30:7), and it seems clear that Gideon’s object was to provide a counter-attraction to it in an ephod of equally precious materials. It is a mistake to suppose (as Gesenius and others do, following the Peshito and Arabic versions) that ephod here means an idol or some unauthorised symbol of Jehovah, like the later “calves.” Ewald, too (Alterthümer, p. 232), assumes that the ephod” was really “a gilded household idol.” But we may hope that Gideon, though guilty of a great sin, had not sunk quite so low as Jeroboam did. On the other hand, we cannot believe, with the Rabbis, that his ephod was only intended as a memorial of his victory.

Thereof.—This does not necessarily imply that he devoted the whole of his mass of gold to this object. In Hosea 2:13, “decking herself with earrings” is one of the signs of the “days of Baalim.” Hence, perhaps, an earring is called in Chaldee kaddisha.

Put it in his city, even in Ophrah.—This gives us a clue to Gideon’s motive. Shiloh, the national sanctuary, was in the precincts of the fierce tribe of Ephraim, and Gideon may have been as anxious as Jeroboam afterwards was to keep some direct hold on the nation’s worship, as one of the secrets of political power. It was the endeavour to secure and perpetuate by unworthy political expedients a power which he had received by Divine appointment.

Went thither a whoring after it.—The phrase and the metaphor are sufficiently explained in Judges 8:33, Judges 2:12; Leviticus 17:7, Leviticus 20:5; Hosea 1:2; Psalm 106:39, &c. As to the nature of the schismatic service we are told nothing further. The strange narrative of Judges 18 shows us the decadence and disintegration of the national worship at this period, and it is far from improbable that Gideon may have associated his worship with an unauthorised priesthood and modes of diviuation, if not with teraphim, &c. (Judges 17:5; Hosea 3:4). (See on Judges 17:3.) His already existing altar (Judges 6:24) would promote his object. It does not seem likely that the high priest at Shiloh would abandon the use of his own proper “breastplate of judgment;” but his acquiescence during this epoch of oppression would go far to invalidate his authority. If Hierombalos be meant for Jerubbaal (see Judges 6:32), he is represented as having been a priest.

A snare.—The word used is mokesh, which implies not only a stumbling-block (LXX., skandalon), but also “a cause of ruin” (in ruinam., Vulg., Exodus 10:7; Exodus 23:33).

Jdg 8:27. Gideon made an ephod 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 Jdg 17:5. Put it in his city — 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, (Jdg 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 inquired and discovered, 1 Samuel 26:6-9; and it might seem necessary for the judge to have this at hand, that he might consult with God upon all occasions. Israel went a whoring — Committed idolatry with it; or went thither to inquire 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. Which thing became a snare — An occasion of sin and ruin to him and his as the next chapter shows. 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: 1st, Superstition and will- worship, worshipping God by a device of his own, which was expressly forbidden: 2d, Presumption, in wearing, or causing other priests to wear this kind of ephod, which was peculiar to the high-priest: 3d, Transgression of a plain command, of worshipping God ordinarily but at one place and one altar, Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11-14 : 4th, Making a division among the people: 5th, Laying a stumbling-block, or an occasion of idolatry, before that people, whom he knew to be too prone to it.

8:22-28 Gideon refused the government the people offered him. No good man can be pleased with any honour done to himself, which belongs only to God. Gideon thought to keep up the remembrance of this victory by an ephod, made of the choicest of the spoils. But probably this ephod had, as usual, a teraphim annexed to it, and Gideon intended this for an oracle to be consulted. Many are led into false ways by one false step of a good man. It became a snare to Gideon himself, and it proved the ruin of the family. How soon will ornaments which feed the lust of the eye, and form the pride of life, as well as tend to the indulgences of the flesh, bring shame on those who are fond of them!The ephod was that particular part of the high priest's dress which was necessary to be worst when he inquired of God by Urim and Thummim. It seems that Gideon being now the civil ruler, desired to have an ephod of his own, kept in his own city, to he worn by the priest whenever Gideon might summon him to inquire of the Lord for him. His relations with the tribe of Ephraim probably made him unwilling to resort to Shiloh. Compare the act of Jeroboam 1 Kings 12:28. 27. Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, … Ophrah—That no idolatrous use was in view, nor any divisive course from Shiloh contemplated, is manifest from Jud 8:33. Gideon proposed, with the gold he received, to make an ephod for his use only as a civil magistrate or ruler, as David did (1Ch 15:27), and a magnificent pectoral or breastplate also. It would seem, from the history, that he was not blamable in making this ephod, as a civil robe or ornament merely, but that it afterward became an object to which religious ideas were attached; whereby it proved a snare, and consequently an evil, by perversion, to Gideon and his house [Taylor, Fragments]. Made an ephod 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 agreeable and appertaining to it; which elsewhere are comprehended under the name of the ephod, as Judges 17:5 18:14,18 Ho 3:4.

Put it in his city; 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, Judges 6:26, 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 inquired and discovered, 1 Samuel 23:6,9 30:7, which might seem necessary for the judge to have at hand, that he might consult with God upon all occasions.

All Israel went thither a whoring after it; committing superstition or idolatry with it; or going thither to inquire 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 showeth. 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 seems to be many sins in it.

1. Superstition and willworship, worshipping God by a device of his own, which was frequently and 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, Deu 12:5,11,14, and withdrawing people from that place to his.

4. Making a fearful schism or division among the people.

5. Laying a stumbling-block, or an occasion of superstition or idolatry, before that people, whom he knew to be too prone to it.

And Gideon made an ephod thereof,.... That is, of some of this gold; for such a quantity could never have been expanded on an ephod only, even taking it not for a linen ephod, but such an one as the high priest wore, made of gold, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, with curious work, together with a curious girdle of the same work; unless we suppose such a breastplate with it, of twelve precious stones, as Aaron had; and with little images of teraphim or cherubim in it, as Dr. Spencer thinks (i). The Jewish commentators generally understand this ephod to be made as a memorial of the great salvation God had wrought by his hands for Israel, and of the wonderful things done by him; so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Gersom; but such a garment, whether worn by him, or hung up in some certain place, seems not so proper and pertinent to perpetuate the memory of his victories, as a monument or pillar would have been; it looks therefore more likely to be done with a religious view, which afterwards was perverted to superstitious uses; and whereas Gideon had built an altar already by the command of God, and had sacrificed upon it, he might think himself authorized as a priest, and therefore provided this ephod for himself; or however for a priest he might think of taking into his family, and so use it as an oracle to consult upon special occasions, without going to Shiloh, the Ephraimites having displeased him in their rough expostulations with him; and so R. Isaiah interprets it of a kind of divination or oracle which gave answers:

and put it in his city, even in Ophrah; hung it up in some proper place as a monument of his victories, as is generally thought; or in a structure built on purpose for it, to which he might resort as to an oracle:

and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: made an idol of it and worshipped it, and so committed spiritual fornication, which is idolatry. Some render it, "after him" (k); not after the ephod, but after Gideon; that is, after his death, so Jarchi; no ill use was made of it in Gideon's time, though he cannot be altogether excused from sin and weakness in making it; but after his death it was soon made an ill use of:

which thing proved a snare to Gideon and to his house; it was a snare to him if he consulted it as an oracle, which could not be without sin, since the only Urim and Thummim to be consulted were in the breastplate of the high priest at the tabernacle; and it was what led his family into idolatry, and was the ruin of it, as well as it reflected great discredit and disgrace upon so good and brave a man: some read the words (l): "to Gideon, that is, to his house"; or family; he being so good a man himself, it is not thought that he could be ensnared into idolatry itself; though it is apparent that men as wise and as good have fallen into it, as particularly Solomon.

(i) De leg. Heb. l. 3. c. 3. Dissert. 7. sect. 5. (k) "post ipsum", Vatablus. (l) So Junius & Tremellius, Noldius, p. 280. No. 1205.

And Gideon made an {o} 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.

(o) That is, such things as pertained to the use of the tabernacle. See ephod, Ex 28:4,6 Jud 17:5 1Sa 2:18, 2Sa 6:14,.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
27. made an ephod thereof] i.e. out of a large amount of precious metal—the gold of the earrings 26a, not of the ornaments in 26b. Gideon dedicated his spoil to Jehovah, cf. 2 Samuel 8:11, Micah 4:13, Moabite St. ll. 12 f., 17 f. (Mesha‘ dedicates his spoil from Israel to Kĕmôsh).

The ephod we find associated with terâphim in Jdg 17:5, Jdg 18:14 ff., Hosea 3:4, and in connexion with the Urim and Thummim or sacred lots, 1 Samuel 14:18 cf. 1 Samuel 14:41 LXX; it was carried, not ‘worn,’ by the priest, 1 Samuel 2:28; 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 14:18 LXX (see RVm., but render carried), 1 Samuel 22:18 (omit linen with LXX. cod. B, and render carry), 1 Samuel 23:6, 1 Samuel 30:7; we gather, therefore, that it was used in consulting Jehovah to obtain an oracle. But what the ephod was itself is not so clear. It may have been a rich vestment or embroidered loin-cloth, such as we see in Egyptian paintings, which the priest put on when he consulted Jehovah; this may explain the amount of gold which Gideon devoted to its making. In the sanctuary at Nob the ephod stood or hung near the wall, but free from it; and here Gideon set or placed his ephod in the sanctuary at Ophrah. The root apparently means ‘to sheathe,’ and a derivative is used in Isaiah 30:22 for ‘the plating of thy molten images of gold’; hence many suppose that it must have been an image, but it is very doubtful whether the plating of the image could come to mean the image itself. Different in some way from the oracular ephod was the ephod of linen with which Samuel and David were girt when performing religious functions: a closely fitting garment is what the meaning of the root implies. A richer development of this was the ephod of the High-Priest described in Exodus 28:6-12 P, shaped like a kind of waistcoat, over which he wore the jewelled pouch or breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim; in its latest development the ephod thus maintained its association with the divine oracle. See esp. Sellin, Orient. Studien Theodor Nöldeke … gewidmet 1906, ii. 701 f. and Benzinger, Hebr. Arch.2, 347 f., 359; Driver, Exodus, p. 312.

went a whoring after it] Cf. Jdg 8:33 and Jdg 2:17 n. In Gideon’s day there was no wide-spread objection to an image in Jehovah’s sanctuary; the prohibition in Exodus 20:4, though it may have been laid down by Moses, was not observed by the people generally. A later age, however, trained in more spiritual conceptions, took offence at Gideon’s action and saw in it the cause of the disaster which befell his family.

Verse 27. - Gideon made an ephod thereof. There is great difference of opinion among commentators as to the significance of this statement. The ephod (Exodus 28:4, 6-30) was that part of the high priest's dress (1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 21:9) which covered the breast in front, and the upper part of the back behind, the two parts being clasped together by two large onyx stones, one on each shoulder, and kept together by the curious girdle, just above which was fastened the breastplate of judgment. In a modified form the "linen ephod" was worn by all priests; but it was especially worn by the high priest when he inquired of God by Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7). Hence it was also connected with idolatrous worship, as we see by ch. Judges 17:5, and Hosea 3:4, being probably used for purposes of divination, as we know that idolatrous kings of Israel, instead of inquiring of the Lord, inquired of the false gods (2 Kings 1:2, 3). What, then, was Gideon's purpose in making this costly ephod? We may infer from his proved piety that at all events his intention was to do honour to the Lord, who had given him the victory. Then, as he was now at the head of the State, though he had declined the regal office, and as it was the special prerogative of the head of the State to "inquire of the Lord" (Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Samuel 23:2, 4, etc.; 1 Samuel 28:6, etc.), he may have thought it his right, as well as a matter of great importance to the people, that he should have the means ready at hand of inquiring of God. His relations with the great tribe of Ephraim may have made it inconvenient to go to Shiloh to consult the high priest there, and therefore he would have the ephod at his own city of Ophrah, just as Jephthah made Mizpeh his religious centre (ch. Judges 11:11). Whether he sent for the high priest to come to Ophrah, or whether he made use of the ministry of some other priest, we have no means of deciding. The people, however, always prone to idolatry, made an idol of the ephod, and Gideon, either because it was a source of gain or of dignity to his house, or thinking it was a means of keeping the people from Baal-worship (ver. 33), seems to have connived at it. This seems to be the explanation best supported by the little we know of the circumstances of the case. A snare, i.e. as in Judges 2:3, that which leads a person to eventual destruction. See Exodus 10:7, where Pharaoh's servants say of Moses, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? See also Exodus 23:33; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:16; 1 Samuel 18:21, etc. Observe in this verse how the narrative runs on far beyond the present time, to return again at ver. 28 (see note to Judges 2:1-6; Judges 7:25; Judges 8:4). Judges 8:27"And Gideon made it into an ephod," i.e., used the gold of the rings obtained from the booty for making an ephod. There is no necessity, however, to understand this as signifying that 1700 shekels or 50 lbs. of gold had been used for the ephod itself, but simply that the making of the ephod was accomplished with this gold. The word ephod does not signify an image of Jehovah, or an idol, as Gesenius and others maintain, but the shoulder-dress of the high priest, no doubt including the choshen belonging to it, with the Urim and Thummim, as in 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Samuel 23:6, 1 Samuel 23:9, etc. The material for this was worked throughout with gold threads; and in addition to that there were precious stones set in gold braid upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod and upon the choshen, and chains made of gold twist for fastening the choshen upon the ephod (see Exodus 28:6-30). Now, if 50 lbs. of gold could not be used for these things, there were also fourteen precious stones to be procured, and the work itself to be paid for, so that 50 lbs. of gold might easily be devoted to the preparation of this state dress. The large quantity of gold, therefore, does not warrant us in introducing arbitrarily into the text the establishment of a formal sanctuary, and the preparation of a golden image of Jehovah in the form of a bull, as Bertheau has done, since there is no reference to פּסל or מסכה, as in Judges 17-18; and even the other words of the text do not point to the founding of a sanctuary and the setting up of an image of Jehovah.

(Note: Oehler has correctly observed in Herzog's Cyclopaedia, that Bertheau acts very arbitrarily when he represents Gideon as setting up the image of a bull, as Jeroboam did afterwards, since there is nothing to sustain it in the account itself. Why cannot Gideon have worshipped without any image of Jehovah, with the help of the altar mentioned in Judges 6:24, which was a symbol of Jehovah's presence, and remained standing till the historian's own time?)

The expression which follows, אתו ויּצּג, does not affirm that "he set it up," but may also mean, "he kept it in his city of Ophrah." הצּג is never used to denote the setting up of an image or statue, and signifies not only to put up, but also to lay down (e.g., Judges 6:37), and to let a thing stand, or leave behind (Genesis 33:15). The further remark of the historian, "and all Israel went thither a whoring after it, and it became a snare to Gideon and his house," does not presuppose the founding of a sanctuary or temple in Ophrah, and the setting up of a golden calf there. In what the whoring of Israel after the ephod, i.e., the idolatry of the Israelites with Gideon's ephod which was kept in Ophrah, consisted, cannot be gathered or determined from the use of the ephod in the worship of Jehovah under the Mosaic law. "The breastplate upon the coat, and the holy lot, were no doubt used in connection with idolatry" (Oehler), and Gideon had an ephod made in his town of Ophrah, that he might thereby obtain revelations from the Lord. We certainly are not for a moment to think of an exposure of the holy coat for the people to worship. It is far more probable that Gideon put on the ephod and wore it as a priest, when he wished to inquire and learn the will of the Lord. It is possible that he also sacrificed to the Lord upon the altar that was built at Ophrah (Judges 6:24). The motive by which he was led to do this was certainly not merely ambition, as Bertheau supposes, impelling the man who, along with his followers, and maintained an independent attitude towards the tribe of Ephraim in the war itself (Judges 8:1.), to act independently of the common sanctuary of the congregation which was within the territory of Ephraim, and also of the office of the high priest in the time of peace as well. For there is not the slightest trace to be found of such ambition as this in anything that he did during the conflict with the Midianites. The germs of Gideon's error, which became a snare to him and to his house, lie unquestionably deeper than this, namely, in the fact that the high-priesthood had probably lost its worth in the eyes of the people on account of the worthlessness of its representatives, so that they no longer regarded the high priest as the sole or principal medium of divine revelation; and therefore Gideon, to whom the Lord had manifested himself directly, as He had not to any judge or leader of the people since the time of Joshua, might suppose that he was not acting in violation of the law, when he had an ephod made, and thus provided himself with a substratum or vehicle for inquiring the will of the Lord. His sin therefore consisted chiefly in his invading the prerogative of the Aaronic priesthood, drawing away the people from the one legitimate sanctuary, and thereby not only undermining the theocratic unity of Israel, but also giving an impetus to the relapse of the nation into the worship of Baal after his death. This sin became a snare to him and to his house.

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