Title: Judges 8. Gideon, part 41: Ephraim seeks her own glory. Gad distrusts God and chooses self-preservation in slavery.
Ephraim seeks her own glory.
If we seek glory from others then we fail to see the glory of God.
"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"
For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear,
Neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
In every other religion, the creature acts on behalf of the god or gods, benefiting him or them. We wait for Him by faith. We follow Him and obey His commands by faith and we wait for His acts.
JDG 8:1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously.
Ephraim is angry. They not only contended with Gideon verbally, but they did so with vigorous force. Their anger stems from the fact that they weren't summoned in the original call to arms, they were not involved in the primary battle, and that they were called at the last minute, only when it was obvious that the Midianites might escape through their territory.
Is it plunder that they want or is it injured pride and jealousy. Perhaps it is a mixture of both since such self-seeking people are always materialistic.
One other thing to consider is that Israel is without a king or leader. While the judge at the time might be considered a leader, his influence was usually only felt around the area that he lived and not the whole nation. As we noted last night, Ephraim was blessed by Jacob above Manasseh and both Shechem, the initial capital, and Shiloh, the location of the tabernacle, are in Ephraim. They feel that they have the right to rule their brethren, but this is not God's will, and by the way that they covet this rulership, they are certainly not qualified for it.
Gideon shows very good tact in giving a soft answer. He doesn't return anger with anger.
JDG 8:2 But he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? [Have I done as great as you?] Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
Abiezer - an ancestor of Gideon and the name of his clan in Orphah.
Gleaning - picking produce that was missed in the main harvest.
JDG 8:3 "God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.
He makes a contrast between the full grape harvest and the gleanings of Ephraim's grapes. Gleaning is when the grapes that were missed in the main harvest are picked. The full grape harvest was the initial victory at the camp of Midian. The gleaning was the mopping up operations. The best that Abiezer can produce is less than the scraps of Ephraim's table. The part played by Ephraim, although less spectacular than the initial victory, was of decisive importance in the ultimate success of the campaign because if the fords of the Jordan had not been seized in time, the fruits of the initial success would have been lost.
Gideon uses a skillful hand and points out to Ephraim that they killed two princes while he had killed none, and they stopped Midian from fleeing, so they could not return.
This is a very good use of diplomacy since it is true. Gideon could have easily pointed out their self-centeredness and their hypersensitivity, but that would have only made them more so. We should remember this since this is not an uncommon position for a man or woman of God to be in.
One wonders if Ephraim were to be called, how many of them would have been sent home due to fear and how many of them would have been sent home for not lapping the water.
Now that the involvement of Ephraim has been dealt with, verse four picks up the narrative fROM 7:23.
JDG 7:23 And the men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.
JDG 8:4 Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing.
We assume that the others, called out in verse 23, are with him, but the historian continues to focus on the 300, possibly as a way to honor them and also indicating what can safely assume, that they are leaders of those who have rejoined them. They have been pursuing for a few days and they are weary and hungry. They come upon the significant [77 leaders] town of Succoth, a part of the tribe of Gad.
JDG 8:5 And he said to the men of Succoth, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian."
JDG 8:6 And the leaders of Succoth said, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?"
They demand victory prior to providing supplies, just in case Gideon fails and the Midianites take vengeance.
He asks his fellow Jews, the leaders of Succoth, whom he is delivering, for enough bread to feed his small army. However, the men of Succoth have witnessed the Midianites already pass by on their way east, back to their homeland. The Midianites were 15,000 fighting men and were a people that all Israel was already afraid of for the past seven years. They are fearful since Gideon's army is much smaller. They did not witness the initial battle of the 300 and although Gideon might have told them of it, and surely they would have heard of it from any number of sources, they either don't believe it or believe it to be a fluke and they have a "what have you done for me lately" attitude.
God through Gideon is fighting for Israel's deliverance and Succoth will not offer the smallest assistance if it means they "might" be in danger.
They were not even asked to join the fight. They were only asked for provisions.
Their number one concern is self-preservation. Gideon's men are at a higher risk of death due to depleted energy and exhaustion from the pursuit of the enemy, but their death is not important to Succoth.
This same mindset is found in all who fail to love God's goodness. Nothing is more important to them than their own preservation, even if others must die to preserve it. It is a common enough mindset that it often reveals itself in recorded history when men face such critical decisions.
NUM 14:1 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.
NUM 14:2 And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!
NUM 14:3 "And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"
NUM 14:4 So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."
They show contempt for Gideon's small force and so reveal their complete lack of confidence in God.
Lack of faith in God makes a man a coward. Because of this evil, Israel stopped seeing themselves as one people.
God does not weigh in on Gideon's response. He responds with a threat, and one that he fully intends on carrying out. Since we don't have God evaluation of it, we will avoid any definitive judgments and we will only comment on what we can know. Was Gideon's response just? You can judge for yourself. I have my own opinion based upon the Mosaic law that they are under.
Gideon responds with a threat.
JDG 8:7 And Gideon said, "All right, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers."
God had not told him to do this. Plus, we come to know that Gideon will have a major downfall in the manner of pride after the Midianites are defeated. We have also already heard him require the 300 troops to shout, "for Jehovah and for Gideon," which signaled the beginning of pride. When we turn to the Lord's law we find that the whole law is summed up on the commandments to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Would we deem it that Gideon is seeing Succoth as his neighbor? And there you have my opinion.
But also, they live in a violent time, much more so than in recent world history. Succoth is completely cowardly, they have no trust in God, they do not love their own brethren, they won't even give them bread when it is clear that they are famished and only because they want to protect themselves from what might happen. If God had instructed Gideon to discipline them, we wouldn't have batted a theological eye.
JDG 8:8 And he went up from there to Penuel, and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered.
JDG 8:9 So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I return safely, I will tear down this tower."
Gideon moves further east and comes upon Penuel, also a town of significance since it possesses a tower, which was a stronghold, which formed a refuge in time of danger.
They refuse Gideon for the same reason and they are also met with a threat.
JDG 8:10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen.
Karkor is about one hundred miles east of the Dead Sea, very close to the Midianite homeland, and this shows just how far their pursuit went in spite of the lack of provisions from Succoth and Penuel.
JDG 8:11 And Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp, when the camp was unsuspecting.
JDG 8:12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.