Judges 7-9

Sunday Evening Bible Study

November 11, 2001

Introduction

God called Gideon to deliver Israel from the terrorizing Midianites who kept stealing Israel’s harvests. Gideon seems not only to be a timid man, but a skeptical one as well. He made a decision to follow the Lord and started his “ministry” by tearing down the altar of Baal that his own dad had built. Then Gideon blew a horn and gathered an army together to face the Midianites. Then, just to be sure that God was really behind all that was happening, Gideon asked God for a sign and we saw how God used the “fleece” to show Gideon that indeed God was behind everything.

We’re at the place where Gideon now has his army and he knows for sure that God is in control.

Judges 7

:1-8 Selecting an army

:1 Jerubbaal ……beside the well of Harod …by the hill of Moreh

Jerubbaal – “the one who fights with Baal” – this was a nickname that was given to Gideon by his father when Gideon tore down the altar of Baal (Judg. 6:32).

the well of Harod – or, the “spring of Harod”. The name “Harod” means “trembling” or to be “terrified”. Pretty appropriate place to meet. See map.

hill of Moreh – a hill located in the valley of Jezreel. See map.

:2 lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

vauntpa’ar – to glorify, beautify, adorn

Gideon was able to gather an army of 32,000 men. He was facing an army of 135,000 men (8:10). Yet God says that Gideon has too many people.

Lesson

God wants to do the work

Wiersbe:
“If you can explain what’s going on in your ministry,” Dr. Bob Cook used to remind us, “then God didn’t do it.”

:3 Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart

mount GileadSee map.

This was actually according to something God had already told Israel about how to conduct warfare. Certain people were to be exempt from fighting in the battles –

(Deu 20:8 KJV) And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
The reason is spelled out. Fear can be contagious.

Lesson

Don’t run away

I came across a quote this week that troubled me. G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The fearful and trembling man God cannot use.” As I’ve thought and pondered on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a sense in which Mr. Morgan is not correct. The truth is that God uses fearful people all the time. Gideon was a fearful man. And God will use him.
I think the real issue is not whether you are afraid, the issue is whether you will take the option of running away.
The point of asking people to go home is that God doesn’t want you running away in the battle. If you are going to run, you’d better run away before the battle so you won’t influence anyone else.
Illustration

Gasping For Breath

A senior gas company training supervisor and a young trainee were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. They parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman in her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter. Having finished the meter checks, the supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck—just to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one. As they at last came running up to the truck, they forgot to check who had won since they both realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped immediately and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath, she replied, “When I saw two man from the gas company running away from my house as hard as you two were, I figured I’d better run too!”

Did you notice that Gideon didn’t go home? He’s certainly afraid, yet he didn’t run home.
Just because you are afraid doesn’t mean God can’t use you.
The most important warning about fear is that we don’t let it make us run away.

:4 I will try them for thee there

I will trytsaraph – to smelt, refine, test; to test (and prove true)

Lesson

You never know when God is testing you

What is about to take place would not have seemed to be anything more than everyone taking a break and getting a drink of water. Yet in reality, it was a test.

Illustration

Football Players and the Test
Two football players were taking an important final exam. If they failed, they would be on academic probation and not allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl the following week. The exam was fill-in-the-blank. The last question read, “Old MacDonald had a _________.” Bubba was stumped. He had no idea of the answer. He knew he needed to get this one right to be sure he passed. Making sure the professor wasn’t watching, he tapped Tiny on the shoulder. “Pssst. Tiny. What’s the answer to the last question?” Tiny laughed. He looked around to make sure the professor hadn’t noticed then he turned to Bubba. “Bubba, you’re so dumb. Everyone knows Old MacDonald had a farm.” “Oh yeah,” said Bubba. “I remember now.” He picked up his No. 2 pencil and started to write the answer in the blank. He stopped. Reaching to tap Tiny’s shoulder again, he whispered, “Tiny, how do you spell farm?” “You are really dumb, Bubba. That’s so easy. Farm is spelled E-I-E-I-O.”

Illustration

Final Exam
This was taken out of Duke University's Staff newsletter.
At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry. They did so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an “A” so far for the semester. These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to University of Virginia and party with some friends up there. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to UVA for the weekend with the plan to come to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The Professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, worth 5 points. It was something simple about free radical formation. “Cool,” they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room, “this is going to be easy.” Each finished the problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written: (For 95 points): Which tire?

Warren Wiersbe writes, “I heard about one leading minister who always took a drive with a prospective pastoral staff member in the other man’s car, just to see if the car was neat and if the man drove carefully. Whether or not neatness and careful driving habits are always a guarantee of ministerial success is debatable, but the lesson is worth considering. More than one prospective employee has ruined his or her chances for a job while having lunch with the boss, not realizing they were being evaluated.”

A man named Marsden wrote, “Make every occasion a great occasion, for you can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.”

God Himself may even be the one giving the test. How are you doing?

:5 So he brought down the people unto the water

down … unto the water – it would seem that this means the river that is separating the two armies.

:6 the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men

that lappedlaqaq – to lap, lick, lap up

After reading the commentaries, the consensus seems to put things together like this. The Hebrew word “lapped” (laqaq) is one of those words that sounds like what it describes. A dog doesn’t lower his head into his bowl and sip up the water, he laps it up with his tongue (making the sound, “laqaq, laqaq, laqaq”). I don’t think the idea is that the men actually lapped the water with their tongues, but that as a dog laps up the water with his tongue, these guys scooped up the water with their hands up to their mouths, lapping with their hands, not their tongues.

Three hundred men drank in this manner, while the other 9,700 stooped down and put their face in the water to take a drink.

If I were Gideon, I’d probably be thinking to myself, “Okay, God is going to tell me that the group of 9,700 is the group He’s going to use. Wrong.

:7 By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you

Is there significance to the fact that God used the men who “lapped”?

Some commentaries think that there is no significance. They consider this no different than drawing straws. Yet if this were the case, why did God consider this a “test” (7:4) to determine who would go? Why not just have Gideon pull out the first three hundred men?

Lesson

God uses vigilant people

I believe the significance is that these men weren’t the ones who bowed down with their face in the water. Instead, they were the ones who were aware of their surroundings. They would be the first ones to see the enemy approaching.
These guys were aware that they were in a war. They were aware that the enemy was just around the corner.
As you’re going to see, Gideon was going to need people who had their eyes opened and were paying attention.
In regards to our flesh and temptation, Jesus said to Peter,
(Mat 26:41 KJV) Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
In regards to the Second Coming, Jesus said,
(Mark 13:32-33 KJV) But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. {33} Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
In regards to our enemy in the battle, Peter writes,
(1 Pet 5:8 KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Lesson

It doesn’t take many

Jonathan would learn this same lesson a few hundred years later –
(1 Sam 14:6 KJV) And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.
Pastor Chuck has a comment regarding this: “Never worry when God thins the ranks”.

:9-14 Spying out the enemy

:9 Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.

God is going to have Gideon go and spy on the Midianites. Keep in mind, these are days when there were no photographs, newspapers, or TVs. Most likely there aren’t very many people who would be able to recognize Gideon.

Note that God considers the victory as having already taken place.

:10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah

if thou fear – as you’re going to see, Gideon must still be afraid because he takes Purah with him.

Phurah – or, Purah

:11 And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go

God wants to give Gideon one more shot in the arm for courage.

:13 a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian

barley – the poor man’s grain. It was the food given to animals and the poor. This is going to be related to the Israelites because they have become so impoverished by the continual Midianite raids.

The picture is of a huge cake rolling down the hill and flattening the tents as it rolls over them. The Israelite army was up in the hills, and was being pictured as rolling down upon the Midianites in the valley.

:14 This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash

This tells us that the Midianites were pretty aware of what was going on in Israel. Perhaps they had their own spies in the Israelite camp. They had heard of Gideon.

Gideon had already seen some pretty neat things happen. The angel brought fire from the rock to consume Gideon’s sacrifice (6:21); then God made the fleece be wet with dew (6:38), then God made the fleece be dry (6:40).

Yet it seems that these were not enough for Gideon.

Frankly, I don’t blame Gideon. Even with these miraculous things happening, the fact is that God is now saying that Gideon will defeat 135,000 Midianites with just a band of 300 men. To me, the reality of those numbers is staggering.

Lesson

God helps our weak faith

God used this man’s dream and its interpretation to show Gideon one more time that He was at work.
I was asked earlier this week, “Is it okay for me to ask God to increase my faith?”
Jesus had been up on a mountain for a few days and came back to find a mess. His disciples had been faced with a demon-possessed boy whom they were unable to help. Jesus rebuked His disciples for not having faith and then …
(Mark 9:21-24 KJV) And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. {22} And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. {23} Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. {24} And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

The man was honest. He knew he lacked complete faith. But he was willing to ask Jesus to help his faith.

And Jesus went on to heal his child.

It’s okay to ask God to increase your faith.
But don’t use that as an excuse for not doing anything.
Instead, be prepared to have God answer that prayer.
Be prepared for God to expect you to then step out in faith.

:15-18 Instructions to the army

:15 And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.

worshippedshachah – to bow down, prostrate oneself

Lesson

God prepares the way

Gideon had gotten to the place where he had followed God’s instructions, he had torn down his father’s altar to Baal, he had gathered an army, he had been a part of sifting the army until they had just the right group of guys.
Now Gideon has gotten a peek at what was going on in the enemy camp, and Gideon finds out that while he has been doing all his things with the Israelites, God had also been work at the same time in the hearts of the Midianites.

:16 three hundred men into three companies … lamps within the pitchers.

With Gideon dividing the army into three groups, they will appear to the Midianites to have surrounded them.

lamps within the pitchers – the torches will be burning inside the empty pitchers, and when the pitchers are broken, then the light will seem to appear suddenly to the Midianites.

:17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise

They were going to need to be vigilant to follow Gideon’s lead.

Gideon set an example for others to follow.

:18 blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp

The typical thing for an army would be to have one man in each group blowing a trumpet to give the army instructions to advance, attack, or retreat. With each of the three hundred men all blowing trumpets, it will give the Midianites the idea that they are surrounded by a huge army.

:19-25 The Battle starts

:19 in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch

the beginning of the middle watch – The first watch was between 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.. The middle watch was from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. The morning watch was from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. The attack then comes somewhere around 10 p.m.

In the confusion that occurs, it is possible that some of the guards that are going to bed for the night are being mistaken for Israeli soldiers.

:21 all the host ran, and cried, and fled

The Midianite army is woken from sleep and they all start running wildly.

:22 the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and

Lesson

God does the work

We need to be careful to not think that this was just a brilliant plan by Gideon. God used this plan to have the Midianites fight against each other.
Ultimately, God was the one at work here.

:22 the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.

The Midianite army flees south along the Jordan River valley. See map.

:23 out of Naphtali … Asher … Manasseh

See map.

:24 mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites … unto Bethbarah and Jordan

Bethbarah would be the place where the Midianites would try and cross the Jordan to safety. Gideon sends messengers to Ephraim to request that they send an army to cut off the Midianites’ retreat. See map.

:25 and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.

Oreb‘Oreb – “raven”

Zeeb[email protected]’eb – “wolf”

This victory would be one of the classic victories in the mind of Israel –

Asaph wrote a song asking God for help against their enemies:

(Psa 83:11 KJV) Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna:
We’ll get to Zebah and Zalmunna in a minute (8:10)

Isaiah wrote,

(Isa 9:4 KJV) For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
(Isa 10:26 KJV) And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.

Lesson

Take a step

You can only ask God to increase your faith so many times before you will be expected to take a step.
God helped Gideon to trust him, but eventually, Gideon had to take a step and face the Midianites.

Judges 8

:1 the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus

The men of Ephraim were upset that they had not known of the battle in the first place.

Lesson

Some people are never satisfied

It seems that no matter what you do, there will always be people who will find fault in what you are doing.
From a human perspective, the Ephraimites have a good point. Couldn’t Gideon have been better “organized”? Couldn’t he have done a better job at trying to include more people into his battle plan?
The truth is, God had been the one leading Gideon, and God didn’t want a lot of people involved at the beginning of this battle. God wanted it clear that He was the one doing the work.

:2 Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?

gleaning – when a poor person goes back into a field and looks for leftover grain or grapes, things left by the harvesters.

the vintage – the best of the crop

Gideon is comparing his own family, Abiezer, to the tribe of Ephraim. He’s trying to give a great compliment to the tribe of Ephraim. He’s trying to make a point that he’s not better than Ephraim, in fact, the best that his family could ever offer is not as good as the worst that Ephraim has to offer.

:3 Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.

To further appease Ephraim, Gideon is showing them that they indeed accomplished a great feat, having killed Oreb and Zeeb.

Lesson

Humble words help end arguments

Gideon shows us that he has the heart of a peacemaker.
(Prov 15:1 KJV) A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
You can choose to use words that will work towards resolving an argument, or you can use words that will stir up anger. Gideon chose to calm them down.
(Phil 2:3 NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;
Gideon chose to take the “lower seat”, choosing to give honor to Ephraim.

:4 And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men

Gideon still has his original three hundred man army intact. But they’re running a little low on gas. They’ve traveled something close to 30 miles since blowing their trumpets.

:5 unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people

Succoth – “booths” – a town on the eastern side of the Jordan River. See map.

Gideon is looking for a little help with food for his troops. It seems that they’ve gone further than he ever expected. I guess you could say he’s outrun his supply lines.

:6 Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?

These people of Succoth seem to have two problems in regards to helping Gideon –

First, they have this idea that Gideon has bitten off a little more than he can chew. They don’t think he could do anything to hurt Zebah and Zalmunna.

Second, they live pretty close to the Midianites. If they help Gideon, and he fails, then they are going to be in BIG trouble.

As a result, they don’t want to risk getting involved.

:7 I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.

Pretty cruel stuff.

Quite a contrast with what Gideon says to Ephraim. Where’s those “peaceful” words?

We might just look at this and think that Gideon is tired, hungry, and cranky.

But I think that there’s a time to be a peacemaker, and there’s a time to be firm with people.

:8 the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him.

Penuel – “facing God” – a town located on the Jabbok creek. The same place where Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen. 32:30).

The men of Penuel give Gideon the same kind of answer that the men of Succoth gave him.

:10 Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor … fifteen thousand men … an hundred and twenty thousand men

Karkor – a town on the eastern side of the Jordan, about even with Dead Sea (not on map).

Here’s where we get the size of the Midianite army. 120,000 have already been killed, and there are only 15,000 left.

:11 Jogbehah … the host was secure

Jogbehah - See map.

the host was secure – the Midianite army wasn’t expecting them

:12 and discomfited all the host.

Gideon and his army wipe out the remaining Midianite army. Keep in mind, though the Midianites only have 15,000 men left, Gideon is still only fighting with an army of 300. He’s still outnumbered 50 to 1.

:13 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up,

before the sun was up – It seems a better way to translate the Hebrew here is, “from the Ascent of Heres”. This isn’t saying that Gideon did all this in one night.

:14 he described unto him the princes of Succoth

It was the elders of Succoth who had made the decision not to help Gideon.

:16 he taught the men of Succoth.

This isn’t a pleasant way to learn a lesson, is it?

:17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.

Gideon follows through on his earlier threat.

:18 As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.

Zebah and Zalmunna are suggesting that Gideon is similar to a king, and the men they slew looked a lot like Gideon.

Gideon finds out that among other things, these Midianites had been the ones who had killed part of his own family, a fact we don’t learn until this point.

:20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them

Apparently, this was a type of honor that Gideon is offering to his son, to execute these enemies of Israel and the ones who killed their relatives. Jether doesn’t seem up to it.

The Israelites are overwhelmed with gratitude towards Gideon for the deliverance he has brought. They offer to make him king.

: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.

Gideon is smart enough to know that even though God had called him to lead a battle, God had not called him to be a king.

Lesson

Know your calling.

It’s not uncommon for people to try and egg people in to positions that they are not called to do.
Illustration
“Salesman At the Circus”
“Following the 1929 stock market crash, an out-of-work bond salesman finally landed at the winter quarters of the circus in Peru Indiana, and asked the manager if he had any jobs. The manager said, “We have only one job and I don’t think you’d be interested in it.” The salesman said he’d take anything...he was so hungry. “Well”, said the manager, “we’re looking for someone to wear Nelly’s skin, and I don’t think that would interest you.” “What are you talking about?”, asked the bond salesman. Nelly”, replied the manager, “was our pet Gorilla and our most popular attraction. After Nelly died we tried to buy another gorilla, but none are available - so we finally skinned Nelly and want someone to put on her skin and take her place in the cage.” “How much does that job pay?” asked the salesman. “$25 a week and board”, was the reply. “Mister, we’re wasting a lot of time... Where’s the skin?” Well, it turns out that the salesman made a better gorilla than even old Nelly. He hopped all around the cage, rattled the bars, beat his chest...so that people who saw him went away and said, “Have you seen Nelly?” More people came, and before long it was the most popular concession in the Circus. At which point the manager came along and said to the salesman, “Boy, you’re doing such a swell job that I’m going to raise your salary to $35 a week and board”. Well, this really got the salesman all excited and he hopped around the cage as he had never hopped before, In fact, he hopped so much that he hit the trap door down at the end of the cage, and fell through into the next cage. As the door clanged behind him he looked over at the corner, and there lay a great big lion. As the lion opened his eyes and blinked, the salesman scrambled up the side of the cage to sit on that little trap seat up there, hanging on for dear life. The lion got up slowly and took a couple of steps toward him, then crouched like he was going to spring. The gorilla was shaking in fear so much the bars were rattling, and he closed his eyes because he thought this was it. But then the lion said, “What are you so scared about big boy? Do you think you’re the only bond salesman in this Circus?”
A mark of maturity is knowing what you are called to do and what you are not called to do.

:24 I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey

Gideon gets to thinking that even though he wasn’t going to be king, it would be nice to have a reward. The Israelite soldiers have acquired a huge amount of booty from their slain enemy. All Gideon asks is for one gold earring from each of the slain enemy soldiers.

The Bible says the workman is worthy of his wage (Mat. 10:10), so in a sense, there’s probably nothing wrong with Gideon’s request initially.

:26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold

thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold – The New Living Translation says “forty three pounds of gold”. Even though Gideon is only receiving a single earring from each of the slain Midianites, keep in mind there could have been something up to 135,000 earrings!

: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.

an ephod‘ephowd – ephod; priestly garment, shoulder-cape or mantle, outer garment. It seems this would have been something like a “breast plate”.

Gill: 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.

The way this is described, it doesn’t seem that Gideon is at fault here. The problem wasn’t in Gideon making the ephod, the problem came with the importance that the people put on it. Apparently, somewhere along the way, the people looked at this ephod in an unhealthy way.

Perhaps it was similar to what happened with the bronze serpent.

When the people were in the wilderness with Moses, they had a problem with poisonous snakes. God told Moses to make a serpent out of brass and put it up on a pole.
(Num 21:9 KJV) And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
While this worked well in the wilderness to teach the people to look to God and have faith in His abilities, the nation eventually turned the whole thing into a superstition. By the time of Hezekiah, it had become an idol –
(2 Ki 18:4 KJV) He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

Lesson

Finish well

It’s not just important that we face the big crises and battles well by trusting in the Lord. It’s important that we continue to walk with the Lord, day in and day out.
Illustration
“The Race Track”
Charlie was a regular visitor at the racetrack. One afternoon he noticed an unusual sight. Right before the first race, a Catholic priest visited one of the horses in the stable area and gave it a blessing. Charlie watched the horse race very carefully, and sure enough the blessed horse came in first! Charlie followed the priest before the next race, and again he went to the stables and performed a similar procedure. Charlie played hunch and put a couple of dollars on the blessed horse. Sure enough the blessed horse came in by two lengths and Charlie won close to fifty bucks! The priest continued the same procedure through the next few races and Charlie won each time. He was now ahead $1000, so between races Charlie left the track and went to the bank and withdraw his life’s savings $20,000. The biggest race of the day was the last one. Charlie followed the priest and watched carefully which horse he blessed. He then went to the betting window and put his whole $21,000 bundle of cash on that horse to win. Then Charlie went out to watch the horses race. Down the stretch they came, and as they crossed the finish line, the horse Charlie’s fortune was bet on was dead last! Charlie was crushed. He located the priest and told him that he had been watching him bless the horses all day, and they all became winners except the last horse on which he had bet his life savings. Charlie then asked, “What happened to the last horse which you blessed? Why didn’t it win like the others?” “That’s the trouble with you Protestants,” sighed the priest. “You can never tell the difference between a blessing and the Last Rites.”
Charlie started well, but he didn’t finish well!

:28 And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.

This will be the last time of peace that Israel will experience in the book of Judges. The following two judges (Jephthah, Samson) did not bring a period of peace.

:30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.

Gideon had many wives and had 70 sons.

:31 And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.

Apparently, Gideon had 70 “legitimate” children from his many wives. But because Abimelech was the son of a “concubine” (Josephus says her name was “Drumah”), he wouldn’t have had the full status of a son of one of Gideon’s wives. We’ll see Abimelech in the next chapter.

:33 went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.

BaalberithBa‘al [email protected] – “lord of the covenant; a god of the Philistines

:35 Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon

How quickly we forget. The cycle has started again.

Map

Judges 9

:1-6 Abimelech makes himself king

:1 Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal

Abimelech‘Abiymelek – “my father is king”

Don’t think that Abimelech is going to rescue Israel from another enemy. He IS the enemy. The entire next chapter will be focusing on the “down side” of Israel’s backsliding.

:2 remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.

Abimelech wants to be king. He tells the people of Shechem that it would be better for them if he ruled all of Israel since he was from Shechem.

:3 And his mother's brethren

His uncles

:4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith

I wonder how Abimelech’s uncles are able to acquire money from the temple of an idol? It sounds like they are idol worshippers.

:5 And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal

Abimelech takes this hired army and kills all of Gideon’s legitimate sons, except for Jotham.

:6 And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king

the house of Millo – or, “Beth-Millo”, “house of the fortress”. This was thought to be the “Beverly Hills” of Shechem.

In a way, Abimelech becomes the first “king” in Israel. But we don’t consider him the “first king” because this was Abimelech’s doing, not God’s. Saul will be the first king that God will choose.

:7-21 Jotham’s parable of rebuke

:7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim

Mount Gerizim is the hill overlooking the city of Shechem. Shechem lies between two peaks, Gerizim and Ebal. It was from these two peaks that Israel was to pronounce blessings and curses on the people when they entered the land (Deut. 27).

:7 and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them

Jotham is going to tell a parable to give the people of Shechem a warning about what they have done in making Abimelech a king.

:8-15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Jotham uses irony in the bramble requiring the others to rest in it’s shade. The bramble is by far shorter than all the other trees.

The idea of the parable is that the trees start with the best tree and offer to make it a king. When the olive tree refuses, they go down a notch to the next tree. This continues until the only one who will accept being king is the most worthless of plants, the bramble. All a bramble is good for is for starting a fire.

The lesson is that the “worthy” individuals are too busy to seek places of authority, while it is worthless people who seek to control others.

Jotham is saying that the people of Shechem have chosen the most worthless person imaginable to be their king.

:17 (For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:

Is this the way you repay Gideon for delivering you from the Midianites?

:20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.

Jotham is pronouncing a curse on the people of Shechem. He’s saying that there’s going to be trouble between the people of Shechem and Abimelech.

:21 And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer

Beer – a small village on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

:22-29 Gaal rebels against Abimelech

:24 That the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come

Lesson

God’s authority is earned, not taken

Abimelech is an example of what happens when a person decides they want to take and exercise authority over others.
Contrast David and Absalom.
David had the opportunity to stab his boss in the back several times, but he didn’t. He waited until God took care of Saul. David became the epitome of the godly king in Israel.
Absalom, on the other hand, decided it was his time to be king, and made a plot to overthrow his own father, David. His attempted reign ended in disaster.
Jesus said that faithfulness is what leads to promotion
(Luke 16:10-12 KJV) He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. {11} If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12} And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

:25 they robbed all that came along that way by them

The men of Shechem were disrupting the trade routes in Israel.

:26 And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren

Gaal is a descendant of the original Canaanite people of the land.

:28 and Zebul his officer?

Zebul is something like the “mayor” of Shechem, under the authority of Abimelech.

:28 serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?

Hamor was the original founder of the city, a contemporary of Jacob’s (Gen. 33:19).

:30-49 Abimelech punishes Shechem

:36 Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.

Zebul is trying to give Abimelech time to get his army assembled and so he plays with Gaal’s mind, saying that he’s only seeing shadows.

:37 come along by the plain of Meonenim.

(NIV) from the direction of the soothsayers' tree."

:38 Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth

It was easy for Gaal to boast against Abimelech, but now he’s face to face with Abimelech’s army.

:42 the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech.

The people are going out to harvest their crops, but Abimelech is waiting for them. He wants revenge.

:44 And Abimelech …rushed forward

Abimelech ambushed the people of the city.

:45 sowed it with salt.

Making the land worthless, unable to grow crops.

:49 set the hold on fire upon them …

A thousand people were hiding in the tower, and Abimelech burnt it down around them.

The prophecy of Jotham has come true.

(Judg 9:20 KJV) But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech.

:50-57 Abimelech dies at Thebez

:50 Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.

Abimelech tries to expand his “kingdom” by taking another city.

:52 went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.

Abimelech has had success before with burning down towers.

:54 that men say not of me, A woman slew him

He couldn’t stand the thought of his life’s reputation ending with his being killed by a woman. Too late. We all know he was killed by a woman.