Judges 8: The Denouement of Gideon

Returning home the Israelites are happy with Gideon and offer him kingship.  He surprisingly turn this down and tells them that only the Lord should be their ruler but he never pays tribute the Lord for his victories.  Instead he says nothing about the Lord’s help.  Instead Gideon asks his tribesman  for tribute:  one gold earring from all the booty that they have captured from the Ishmaelites (aka Midianites). {It seems that Ishmaelites wore gold earrings.}

Nonplussed, his tribesmen, gladly give Gideon his tribute &  in an act reminiscent of Aaron and his golden calf, Gideon melts it all down and turns it into a golden ephod, the breastplate of judgement worn only by the High Rabbi, the Levites, and sets up in his front yard instead of wearing it as he should. (from Exodus xxviii.15)

You are to make a breastpiece for use in making decisions, the work of an artistic designer; you are to make it in the same fashion as the ephod; you are to make it of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen.

16 It is to be square when doubled, nine inches long and nine inches wide. 17 You are to set in it a setting for stones, four rows of stones, a row with a ruby, a topaz (brown), and a beryl  (most prizeworthy is its form as an emerald)– the first row; 18 the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald; 19and the third row, a jacinth (a red zircon), an agate (white), and an amethyst; 20and the fourth row, a chrysolite (typically a peridot), an onyx (black), and a jasper (usually brown or yellow). They are to be enclosed in gold in their filigree settings. Image

21The stones are to be for the names of the sons of Israel, twelve, according to the number of their names. Each name according to the twelve tribes is to be like the engravings of a seal….

30 0“You are to put the Urim and the Thummim into the breastpiece of decision; and they are to be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord.  Aaron is to bear the decisions of the Israelites over his heart before the Lord continually.

Our narrator, supposedly the Great Prophet Samuel,  then mentions, rather matter-of-factly,  that the tribesman prostitute themselves “worshiping” this ephod.  “Nor did they show thanks to Gideon for all he had done”.

Still forty years of quiet result from Gideon’s battles and he  lives long.  He as seventy sons through his wives but then through a concubine in Shechem, a very large Canaanite city,  has another whom is named “Abimelech” or the “King is my father”.

(Jesus will visit this same town as well many centuries later see John 4:4 when it’s name changes to Sychar in the parable of the Samaritan woman)

1 Jesus …   4  had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” … (Net version)

In Zondervan’s Bible Dictionary, as well the much earlier   Dr. W. M. Thomson’s The Land and the Book (1874, Harper) comments  that it is “fair to conclude that Abimelech was the royal title, just as Pharaoh was in Egypt and Caesar in Rome”.

The last time we met an “Abimelech” was all the way back in Genesis 20:1-18 when Abraham lied that Sarah was his sister and not his wife.

1 Abraham journeyed from there to the Negev region and settled between Kadesh (in Judah, the northern Sinai) and Shur (a desert town). While he lived as a temporary resident in Gerar, (in the western Negev likely identified with Tell Haror today)  2 Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her.  (NET version)

This Abimelech, though, we will meet again in the next chapter, unfortunately.  As for the King Abimelech we will meet him and his sons in few other places as well as Psalm 34 which was written by David when he pretended to be insane before him, causing Abimelech to send him away.

Gideon dies and is buried in the grave of his father, Joash, at Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer.     (As this is the desert,  land is scarce and after a year, only the skeletal remains are left, anyways. Greeks in Greece traditionally did the same.)

But as soon as Jerubbaal (Gideon) is gone, the Israelites go back to the idolatrous ways and make Baal-berith their god.

And so closes Chapter 8.

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