Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.The Ephraimites are displeased with Gideon; he satisfies them, Judges 8:1-3. He pursueth two kings of the Midianites he punisheth those of Succoth and Penuel, Judges 8:4-17. He revengeth his brethren’s death on the two kings, Judges 8:18-21. He refuseth government, Judges 8:22,23; demandeth a present of the spoil, and thereof makes an ephod; places it in Ophrah; it is a cause of idolatry, Judges 8:24-27. Gideon’s children, wives, death, and burial, Judges 8:30-32. Israel revolts to idolatry; is ungrateful to Gideon’s family, Judges 8:33-35.
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, Isaiah 11:13, puffed up with a conceit of their number and strength, and the preference which Jacob by Divine direction gave them above Manasseh, Genesis 48:19,20, of which tribe Gideon was, who by this act had seemed to advance his own tribe, and to depress theirs.
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 was done was done by God’s immediate making them one to kill another; what I have done, in cutting off some of the fugitive common soldiers, is not to be compared with your exploit in destroying their princes; I began the war, but you have finished.
The gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim; what you have gleaned or done after me.
Of Abi-ezer, i.e. of the Abi-ezrites, to whom he modestly communicateth the honour of the victory, and doth not arrogate it to himself, as generals commonly do.
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.His soft and humble answer allayed their rage and envy. See Proverbs 15:1 25:15.
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: when he passed over, See Poole "Judges 7:25".
And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.Succoth; a place beyond Jordan, Genesis 33:17 Joshua 13:27 Psalm 60:6.
Kings of Midian; where before this time were five kings at once, Numbers 31:8, who either reigned separately in divers parts of the land, or governed by common counsel and consent, as sometimes there were two or three Roman emperors together.
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?Art thou so foolish to think, with thy three hundred faint and weary soldiers, to conquer and destroy a host of fifteen thousand men?
And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.With the thorns which grow abundantly in the neighbouring wilderness; I will chastise or beat your naked bodies with thorny rods, even unto death. Or, I will lay you down upon thorns on the ground, and bring the cartwheel upon you, which will both tear your flesh, and bruise you to death.
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; of which see Genesis 32:30 1 Kings 12:25.
And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.Your confidence in which makes you thus proud and presumptuous. He implies that he would afterwards destroy their persons, as is expressed, Judges 8:17.
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.i.e. Persons expert and exercised in war, besides the retainers to them, Judges 6:5.
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.Of them that dwelt in tents, i.e. of the Arabians; so fetching a compass, and falling upon them where they least expected it.
Nobah and Jogbehah; of which cities see Numbers 32:35,42.
The host 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, and the great slaughter which they had made, that they would have neither strength nor will to pursue them so far.
And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,By which it may 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 both to surprise and terrify them by the remembrance of the last night’s sad work, and the expectation of another like it.
And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men.He told him their names and qualities.
And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary?No text from Poole on this verse.
And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.By that severe punishment (of which Judges 8:7) he made the men, i.e. the elders of Succoth, to know their sin and folly, though it was too late for their good, but not for the instruction and warning of others.
And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.No text from Poole on this verse.
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, i.e. for outward shape and quality?
At Tabor; whither he understood they fled for shelter, upon the approach of the Midianites; and where he learnt that some were slain, which he suspected might be they.
Each one resembled the children of a king; not for their garb, or outward splendour, for the family was but mean; but for the majesty of their looks; by which commendation they thought to ingratiate themselves with their conqueror.
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.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.
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 them; partly, that he might animate him to the use of arms for his God and country against their enemies, and to the exercise of justice; partly, that the death of those mischievous persons might be more shameful and painful; and partly, that he might have some share in the honour of the victory.
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.As the man is, so is his strength: thou excellest him, as in age and stature, so in strength; and it is more honourable, as well as easy, to dig by the hands of a valiant man.
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 thou over us; not as a judge, for that he was already made by God; but as a king; and let the kingdom be hereditary to thee and to thy family. This miraculous and glorious deliverance by thy hands deserves no less from us.
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 over you, to wit, as a king, which you desire.
The Lord shall rule over you, in a special manner, as he hath hitherto done, by judges, whom God did particularly appoint and direct, even by Urim and Thummim, and assist upon all occasions; whereas kings had a greater power, and only a general dependence upon God, as other kings had. Compare 1 Samuel 8:6,7.
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.)Object. They are called Midianites before.
Answ. Here seems to have been a mixture of people, Judges 6:3, which are all called by one general name, Ishmaelites, or Arabians, who used to wear earrings, Genesis 35:4; but the greatest, and the ruling part of them, were Midianites.
And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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.
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 heads no more, i.e. recovered not their former strength or courage, so as to conquer or oppress others, as they had done.
Forty years, i.e. to the fortieth year, from the beginning of the Midianitish oppression: see on Judges 3:11.
In the days of Gideon, i.e. as long as Gideon lived.
And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in 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.
And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.No text from Poole on this verse.
And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.In Shechem; she dwelt there, and he oft came thither, either to execute judgment, or upon other occasions.
Abimelech, i.e. my father the king; so he called him, probably to gratify his concubine, who desired it either out of pride or design.
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.In a good old age; his long life being crowned with the continuance of his honour, tranquility, and happiness.
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.The children of Israel turned again; whereby we see the wicked 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, whereof one here follows.
Baal-berith, i.e. 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.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.