Gideon was called by the Lord, to lead Israel to victory against the army of the Midianites. He had shown his faith and reliance on the Lord, which led to their being able to frighten and destroy the enemy soldiers. This chapter begins as follows:
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.
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 Abi-ezer?
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.
The armies of the tribe of Ephraim, were angry and wondered why they had not been called to fight when the army went against the Midianites. Gideon reminded them to be grateful that Lord had delivered the princes of Midian into their hands, and they had done well with that. They were no longer angry with him.
4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
5 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.
Gideon led his three hundred men to pursue the Midianites over the Jordan. He asked the people of Succoth, on that side of the Jordan, to give food to his men.
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?
7 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.
The request was denied by the people of Succoth, and Gideon promised that after they had destroy the Midianites, they would destroy the people of Succoth for their refusal to assist them. It seems that the people of Succoth did not believe that the army of Gideon was going to be successful in their attempt.
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.
9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
Gideon went to the place of Penuel, also requesting aid for his men who needed food. They also refused, and Gidoen made another promise to them that when they returned in peace, they would actually bring down the tower of Penuel.
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.
15,000 men of the children of the east, were remaining in the army in Karkor.
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.
12 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.
Gideon and his army approached the host of Midianites from the east and destroyed them. The kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, ran away and Gideon pursued after them and took them.
13 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,
14 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.
15 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?
16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
Gideon returned that day, to the people of Succoth, and found the leaders and destroyed them with thorns of the wilderness, just as he had promised. He made them an example to their people. Then he returned to Penuel and destroyed the tower and killed the men of the city.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gideon asked the Midianite kings who they had killed at Tabor. They admitted to killing his family, and Gideon said that if they had left them living, he would not kill them. Gideon commanded his son Jether to kill the kings. He was a young man and afraid to kill them, but the kings recognized to their defeat and told him to go ahead and kill them. Gideon killed the kings of Midian.
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.
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.
After receiving their freedom from the Midianites, the children of Israel desired for Gideon to become their king. He refused and would not have his family rule over them. He told them that the Lord would be their ruler.
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.)
25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
26 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.
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.
Gideon asked instead, for the golden earrings of their prey and made a garment or medallion of gold, which the people began to seek after. This was a temptation for the household of Gideon. The call for the people to bring their gold, was much like the people being told to bring their treasures for the work of building the tabernacle. I think it was customary in those days to pay this kind of tribute to those who were the rulers and leaders. However, it would have been the duty of Gideon to use it for good, which it seems he did not.
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.
The Midianites had been subdued and they had peace for 40 years.
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.
Jerubbaal, the brother of Gideon, lived in his own home. Gideon had many wives, and 70 sons. One of his sons was named Abimelech, son of the concubine Shechem.
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 Abi-ezrites.
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 shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
Gideon died, and the Israelites returned again to the worship of Baal, or idolatry. They forgot the Lord and his deliverance once again. They also turned against their family, by not showing kindness to the family of Jerubbaal.
Gideon was truly led by the hand of the Lord, in delivering the Israelites from their enemies. Yet, once again, the people could not retain a remembrance of the power of the Lord if they would only follow His commandments. The ways of the world were once again, too strong for them them to avoid on their own. The treasures of their victory, were a temptation for the people of Gideon, and they returned to their wicked ways. This is yet another lesson to us, of how simple it is to forget the Lord and turn to those things that will bring us down into bondage. If we can remember to follow the commandments of the Lord, we will be blessed with the strength to avoid temptations in our lives.