The other Israelites were angry at Gideon because they weren’t included -and didn’t get credit for- such a successful undertaking. His reply was elegant, letting them know that they received the official praise. Isn’t that just like the religious part of us, wanting to show off what we have done for God?
Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they criticized him sharply. But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided. (Judges 8:1-3)
For Gideon to rid the land of the Midianites, he also had to destroy all those who gave aid to them.
Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Succoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.” From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.” (Judges 8:4-9)
This little band of 300 men led by the least recognized man of Israel overturned an army four hundred times their size. That’s what happens when God is at work; He does the impossible.
Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen. Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. (Judges 8:10-12)
The execution of those accomplices was a public expression of not tolerating the traitors of his country.
Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Succoth, the elders of the town. Then Gideon came and said to the men of Succoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’” He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town. (Judges 8:13-17)
By executing the kings, Gideon showed that he was committed to his charge of destroying all that God had told him to do.
Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?” “Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.” Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid. Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ ” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks. (Judges 8:18-21)
Here we go again. Man always wants someone or something that can be seen. He wants gods (those people or things) to be down on his own level. That way he can think that he has control on his life.
The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23)
So Gideon made a memorial to remind all of Israel of what God had done to remove the oppression. It was a forty-plus pound item of gold to show the magnitude of His accomplishment and it was displayed where all could come to see it.
All of Gideon’s life he reminded the people of what God had done. But the people kept saying to each other, “Have you seen the ephod that Gideon made after he killed the Midianites? That Gideon, he was a mighty warrior and deserves our praise.” Israel gave praise to Gideon instead of God.
And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. (Judges 8:24-27)
When Gideon was leading there was peace. But there is a warning here. Read on in Judges chapter ten and you will find that his son from the concubine nearly wiped out his entire family and he also took Israel back into troubles.
Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years. Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 8:28-32)
And the cycle begins again. It’s another example of how our faith -our salvation- cannot be passed from one generation to another. Each of us must go through the trials of life to find a need for God and the salvation that He offers through His Son Jesus Christ.
No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them. (Judges 8:33-35)