Judges 7-8: The humiliation of Gideon and the incarnation of Christ

Judges 7:  Christ, our humiliated Co-heir

Gideon

1Then(A) Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside(B) the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them,(C) by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

When Jesus said that He came not in peace but as a sword (Matthew 10:34), He was referring also to the division between family members.  Though they may be related by blood, any contradiction in spiritual allegiance will simply mean that – in God’s eyes – they are not true family members the same way the Trinity is one family.  Of all the eastern tribes and other races mentioned to have persecuted the Israelites during the time of Gideon, Midian is the only one mentioned by name as if the narrator aims to focus on Midian as a type of family nation to Israel.  From Genesis 25:2, we remember how Midian was the strife of Abraham and Keturah, and they are quite clearly a principal Arabian enemy of the Israelites (Numbers 31:22; Judges 8:21, 24-26), marked by the wealth of the plunder which Israel victoriously wins after each battle in the name of the LORD.  And here, it is thus continually symbolic that Jerubbaal, he who Baal contends with, is directly pit against Midian, the ‘uncle’ of Israel – and the dichotomy has historically been quite clearly that of Baal represented by Midian, against Yahweh represented by Israel.

Dogs and princes:  The humiliation of the Redeemer

Before the battle officially began, the Israelites stood by the spring of Harod, which means fear.  It is ironic that this spring should mean fear, but this may indicate their fear of man given the content of this chapter where the LORD wants Gideon to reduce the size of his army by the river to a quantity far more minimal so that the LORD receives all the glory (c.f. v.3 – “whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead”).

Finally, while they stood between Midian and Harod the spring of fear,  they were also near the hill of Moreh which is the first place where Abraham stopped upon entering Canaan after entering the area of Moreh (Genesis 12:6) which was at the place of Shechem.  Once again we see a repetition in the actions of Abraham and the actions of Israel – and the victories of Abraham undoubtedly becoming the victories of Gideon.

2The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand,(D) lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying,(E) ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

4And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” 5So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” 6And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7And the LORD said to Gideon,(F) “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” 8So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him(G) in the valley.

V.2-8 is simply astounding.  God has decided to take the lowest of the low, who are like dogs (v.5) to shame those who are fearful and trembling, those who have enough dignity to at least drink like a man by kneeling down to drink – the choice of Caleb (the name meaning dog) over the other spies who feared the Canaanites upon first sight; the Gentile woman who saw herself as a dog eating the crumbs off the table of the master (Matthew 15:26-27).  This is the humility needed for the three hundred men, akin to the story of the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae, but the eventual victory of these three hundred quite clearly reliant on the strength of the LORD given the humility and dependence of the remaining men.  What we therefore see here are dogs, feeding on the waters of life, the Holy Spirit, with the meekness necessary to totally display this total reliance on the Living God who will be able to help them succeed in the bloody battles.

9That same(H) night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp,(I) for I have given it into your hand. 10But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11(J) And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”(K) Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 12And the Midianites and the Amalekites and(L) all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number,(M) as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 13When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 14And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”

What is interesting here is the nature of the vision:  a cake of barley bread rolling into the camp of Midian and striking the tent so it fell and turned it upside down, laying the tent flat.  It is clear how this prophecy refers to Gideon, entering the camp of Midian and destroying the tent, representing of their dwelling place.  Yet, what of ‘barley bread’ as a prophetic tool to represent Gideon?  In 2 Kings 4:42-43 we see Elisha commanding some barley bread to be given to one hundred men, akin to the story of Jesus sharing the bread miraculously to thousands.  This story of provision is perhaps inferred here – for the three hundred could hardly penetrate the Midianites who are as numerous as the locusts are similar to the piece of bread which, initially does not look sufficient but eventually – by faith in Christ – multiplies into a force to be reckoned with.  Such is the nature of the faith as small as a mustard seed, for it shall grow by the water of the Spirit and the nurture of the gardener Son into a strong unshakeable tree of life.

Furthermore, this mentioning of the usage of dreams to frighten the Midianites is a very good example of the LORD working outside of our ambit of understanding, just as He similarly uses the dreams of the Pharoah in Joseph’s time, or Nebuchadnezzar, to fulfil His plans which can work through non-Christian and Christian alike.  Ultimately this is done to His own glory and the glory of the church, and in this instance represented by Gideon the type of Christ and the men representing the invisible church out of all of Israel, the physical church which has succumbed to Baal and other gods.

So when the LORD directed Gideon, and his servant Purah (meaning foliage or bough) to go to the camp to be encouraged, it is clear that the LORD had already arranged the dream in favour of Gideon and his three hundred men.  Perhaps the irony of this scenario is how Gideon and Purah, a name of such delicate nature (foliage being the leaves of a plant), represent the protection of these two men despite waltzing into the heart of enemy camps.  This scenario is again repeated by David who cuts off a piece of Saul’s cloak in 1 Samuel 24.  The whole battle would have ended as soon as Gideon, the head of these three hundred men, was destroyed by these Midianites; and yet Yahweh boldly uses these two weak men, these two delicate men, in the face of thousands and thousands of Midianites – to simply walk into the camp and receive their interpretation of the dream.  This event in itself is already a great miracle.

The Spirit in Non-believers

In light of Thomas Goodwin’s pneumatology, it is important to see that even non-Christians are given the Spirit not strictly in the sense of the indwelling deposit we are asked to guard as an evidence of our salvation (2 Timothy 1), but the Spirit who sustains our physical lives until the day we die:

A spiritual, holy goodness is denied to be in man’s nature, such as might make us acceptable to God… So as though in themselves these endowments have this natural goodness ‘in abstracto’, or abstractly considered, as they are in their own nature, yet take them ‘in concreto’, as they are seated in a corrupt mind, they are unclean and abominable things in the sight of God.  For why?  All these gifts are poisoned and infected, yea, and make the source of sin greater and to work the more strongly… God therefore looks upon all these as things that make his enemies stronger against him; and therefore you that are scholars, and have good gifts, natural and acquisite, yet you wanting grace, these make you so much more abominable in God’s eyes” – Thomas Goodwin Volume 10, p. 95

Paul Blackham in his unpublished paper on Thomas Goodwin’s pneumatology explains that all good gifts come from God through the general work of the Spirit, so these common grace gifts of civility, justice, understanding, wisdom, creativity… are all good gifts.  But as Thomas Goodwin has noted, humanity’s corruption has turned these common gifts against God.  This may be more in sync with the episode of Balaam for he knowingly uses these gifts against Israel, but the men here are given a vision seemingly beyond their control, yet it is nonetheless important to understand the background behind the gifts of the Spirit working through unbelievers.

From this perspective, we can divulge how these Midianites have the gift of interpretation let alone receive these visions and dreams which would presumably come through those who are sympathetic to Yahweh’s work of redemption.  Similarly, Balaam has been given the gift of prophecy and had planned to curse Israel, only to have his own gift used against him.  This is why Gideon can worship upon hearing the dream and its interpretation, as he himself saw the clarity of the LORD’s protection in both the vision and the very fact that he is standing within enemy ranks – as opposed to question how these non-Christians even bear the gift of visions and interpretations.  It should not be surprising that non-believers have access to the spiritual things, but whether they use it for God’s glory and whether these gifts are borne of the Holy Spirit for Christ’s glory is a different matter.

15As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 16And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with(N) torches inside the jars. 17And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout,(O) ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.'”

Brother against brother – Christ against Satan

19So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow.(P) And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21Every man stood in his place around the camp,(Q) and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22(R) When they blew the 300 trumpets,(S) the LORD set(T) every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah [house of the acacia (trees)] toward Zererah [oppression],[a] as far as the border of Abel-meholah [meadow of dancing], by Tabbath [celebrated]. 23And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.

As in Jeremiah 19:11, the smashing of the jar is symbolic of Yahweh smashing the Midianites, these vessels which have not lived according to the purpose of men (which is to be predestined unto Christ – Ephesians 1).  The imagery here is also very rich, for we see the left hand of the three hundred bearing torches, representing the Holy Spirit (similar to the parable of the virgins waiting for the Bridegroom’s return), and their right hands bearing the trumpet, representative of the victorious trumpet call of Christ’s second return.  Thus, by the Spirit and the son do these men rush down with vigour, having Yahweh striking fear into the hearts of the Midianites already beforehand – just as we similarly in spiritual warfare penetrate the enemy’s ranks by the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit made successful by the victory on the cross which has shaken Satan and the other rebellious angels into fear to the core.  Though the Midianites may escape all the way to Beth-shittah (house of acacia trees), to Abel-meholah (meadow of dancing) to Tabbath (celebrated), there is nothing to celebrate nor dance for unless you are taking the side of the Israelites.

24(U) Gideon sent messengers throughout(V) all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as(W) Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 25And they captured(X) the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb(Y) at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon(Z) across the Jordan.

And so this present ordeal is completed by Beth-barah, the house of the ford and at the Jordan – where the rivers would cut them off, that even the LORD’s creation is set against the army of Satan.  The princes captured, Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, respectively strife, raven and wolf – are suitably named.  Thus, the sheep of the Shepherd have, by the Shepherd and His Angelic staff, destroyed the head of His enemies – the symbolic nature of bringing the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan a reflection of the Israelites crossing the river in the beginning of the book of Joshua, representing the Israelites entering new life.  Here, the imagery supplied bears the same message – albeit with the message of judgment as well, for the victory of the church upon reaching new creation means the serpent has been made headless like Oreb and Zeeb, the two princes of Midian.  Their defeat at the rock and winepress adds to the poignancy of the LORD’s preparation – that the blood of Zeeb and the rock of Oreb is nothing compared to the Rock and Blood of Israel which saves and destroys (c.f. Genesis 49:11).

Judges 8:  True King against kings

Gideon in the face of adulterous enemies

1(AA) Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not(AB) the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3(AC) God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?”(AD) Then their anger[b] against him subsided when he said this.

Although Ephraim is geographically distant from the main areas of war, the key focus of the opening of chapter 8 is similar to that of chapter 7 – familial feud.  Manasseh, the tribe from which Gideon is from, is the brother-tribe of Ephraim – this dichotomy between siblings as written in Isaiah 9:21 and undoubtedly stemming from the blessings of Israel in Genesis 48:14 whereupon Ephraim received the greater blessing as the younger child of the two.  Yet, despite their obvious blessing it would seem that this first-blessed son of Joseph is not living according to the understanding that they are blessed because of Christ; and not because of some military victories which they manipulate to their whim.

In light of this, Gideon’s strong faith shines just as it has been doing so against the familial nation Midian; and he rather be humbled and recognise the contribution of the men of Ephraim (v.2-3), though it would be clear that men like Gideon – the unrecognised and the patient – are set apart as truly holy in comparison to men like Ephraim who try to do things ‘for the LORD’ when they are in reality seeking to propel their name forward.  Gideon’s humble background, gleaning the grapes of Abiezer compared to the royal chosen race of Ephraim; the small number of men against the large army of Midian; the weakness of his courage and his doggish men compared to the men who were truly kings and princes of Midian.  Yet, these Midianite royalties saw Gideon and the three hundred as the true sons of kings (v.18), undoubtedly the aroma of Christ permeating through the actions of Gideon and the men.  Gideon is the very example of that small mustard seed, of the struggling speaker Moses, and of the innocent shepherd-boy David – humble saints to display the very humility of Christ when he became the incarnate Son of Man (Hebrews 1) – yet His royalty still shining through by His very dependence on the Spirit especially during His incarnate life.

4And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and(AE) the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5So he said to the men of(AF) Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah [sacrifice/deprived of protection] and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6And the officials of Succoth said,(AG) “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand,(AH) that we should give bread to your army?” 7So Gideon said, “Well then, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand,(AI) I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8And from there he went up to(AJ) Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9And he said to the men of Penuel,(AK) “When I come again in peace,(AL) I will break down this tower.”

The antithesis of humility and pride; of small and big; of dog and son of king does not stop here.  Gideon goes to the men of Succoth and ask them for loaves of bread as the three hundred were exhausted but still pursued.  Yet, this city of booths would rather protect both Zebah and Zalmunna, both names meaning “deprived of protection”, as opposed to Gideon who needed protection the most.  Similarly, Penuel – the city facing God – treated these dogs as if they were exactly that.

It is at this point that the reader should realise the shape of Gideon’s story and its purpose – to display the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:

1Co 1:18-31  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (19)  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  (20)  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  (21)  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  (22)  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  (23)  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  (24)  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  (25)  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  (26)  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  (27)  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  (28)  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  (29)  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  (30)  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  (31)  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Indeed, so much of what Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 is true here – for the men and Gideon were living the cross-centered life, and yet these cities and nations surrounding them, considered the ‘wisest’ and most respectable of the ancient Middle-Eastern Arabian world are depending on their own wisdom.  Instead, Gideon preached Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles – a stumbling block to Penuel and Succoth, and folly to Midian.  Gideon and his men indeed have nothing to boast in, except in the LORD for they are dogs not worthy to be respected – and this is the key to the kingdom of heaven.

10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of(AM) the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men(AN) who drew the sword. 11And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of(AO) Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt(AP) secure. 12And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them(AQ) and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.

The statistics are incredible: 105,000 dead from 300 – a direct indication of the LORD’s hand over Gideon’s army.  This army that had been pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna persistently, having not been provided rest nor shelter (v.4-9), although the men being pursued had themselves felt secure and rested (v.11 – more literally they felt like they were in a place of refuge, בּטח) complacently.  This is the eventual demise of the enemy – the classic hare and tortoise story founded upon the story of the cross of Christ, the tortoise persisting in the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1), the hare relying on his physical, Spirit-less senses descending into undeserved rest.

13Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying,(AR) ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?'” 16And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17(AS) And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

And so, the city of Succoth and Penuel – like the fig tree that bore no fruit (Matthew 21:19) – is immediately destroyed for failing to fulfil its purpose (especially given the hypocrisy of their actions in comparison the meaning of the names of these cities).  The final demise of Penuel symbolised by the bringing down of the tower is an intentional recollection of the bringing down of the tower of Babel, alluding to the pride of both Jew and Gentile in the face of the folly of the gospel which attracts the weak and the meek.

18Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at(AT) Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother.(AU) As the LORD lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and(AV) killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took(AW) the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

It is briefly mentioned here about the youth of Jether, the firstborn son of Gideon.  His youth has prevented him from executing the men – and it would seem that this is inferring to Israel who had also been too youthful in their treatment of the neighbouring nations.  Thus, in the maturation until the fullness of time when Christ came and conquered on the cross (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10), Israel was preparing herself for Christ – and had been drinking from the milk, just as Adam had been, in their spiritual immaturity.  And just as young men grow up, so also the physical Israel is rejected in favour of the spiritual Israel, the milk replaced in favour of real food, the law in testimony to the true Christ.  Jether is the weakness of the Israel in the Old Testament for all their compromises due to spiritual immaturity, like Adam who had failed to obey God in the garden of Eden.  Only Gideon took the responsibility of the man, just as Christ himself did on the cross.

The unfortunately nature of Gideon’s last act (v.21) begs the question of his intention for taking these crescent ornaments which, according to Adam Clarke, could be highly related to the worship of the moon and sun (from the LXX which translates the word ornaments, instead, into crescents or half-moons – very Islamic in inference, unsurprising given these pagan traditions giving rise to Islam’s presently famous crescent-icon).
Gideon’s Ephod

22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you;(AX) the LORD will rule over you.” 24And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings,(AY) because they were Ishmaelites.) 25And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels[c] of gold, besides(AZ) the crescent ornaments and(BA) the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27And Gideon(BB) made an ephod of it and put it in his city,(BC) in Ophrah. And all Israel(BD) whored after it there, and it became a(BE) snare to Gideon and to his family. 28So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more.(BF) And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.

And so chapter 8 ends with v.23, summarising Gideon’s own view of the LORD’s participation in these victories.  Gideon is not to be praised nor worshipped; only the LORD alone.   Gideon and the dead men of Tabor may have looked like sons of kings, though Gideon’s men physically resemble dogs, but he recognises that he is but a shadow of what the true LORD is to become.  Of the true humiliation His Son is going to experience.  Of the true death, resurrection and ascension and receiving the glory once more as the True Son of the True King.
Having said that, in verses 24-27 they made an ephod of all spoils and put the ephod (made from the spoils) into Ophrah as if it was a second Shiloh; a second ephod to the one made for the High Priest to wear.  Indeed, the LORD had endorsed the kind of icons as tools of worship concerning the tabernacle and its equipment in the latter parts of the book of Exodus; but to make your own [ephod] is not much different from disobeying God by tempering the altar of stone (Exodus 20:25).

All of these works therefore end with the repetitive 40 years of rest – undoubtedly leading on to the next period of heresy, the next period of disobedience, confirming the nature of these stories to be merely types and shadows.

The Death of Gideon

29(BG) Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30Now Gideon had(BH) seventy sons, his own offspring,[d] for he had many wives. 31And his concubine(BI) who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32And Gideon the son of Joash died(BJ) in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father,(BK) at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Perhaps v.29 is already implying what Jerubbaal’s state of faith was like by the end of his life.  It is not expressly shown whether he had lived in a tent a la Abraham (Hebrews 11) in anticipation of new creation, but the contrast is definitely deliberate, between the victory which he won through the tent-dwellers of the east (v.11) and the narrator’s choice to highlight that he is now living in his own house.  This contrast was similarly highlighted in Genesis when Abraham had been a hermit living in a tent, whereas Lot his nephew lived by the gate of the enemy’s lands as a sign of his sympathy to the city’s lack of faith in Christ (indicated also by his failure to evangelise to the families around him).

The second message concerning Gideon’s faith is that, like Solomon, he fell into the temptation of having many wives (v.30).  It has been clear by implication and by expression throughout Scripture that we are to have one wife modelled after the mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5), of which Adam and Eve were themselves formed after.  Yet, though it is not good to be alone – a sign of the Trinitarian communion (Genesis 2:18) – it is also not good to be unfaithful as represented by his multiple wives which, as in Solomon’s story, would lead his faith astray.  It is indeed uncertain whether these wives are Christian or not, but that does not seem to be the crux of the message here, for the final verses seem to show that Gideon had been led astray, be that by his new household, his wives, or even the spoils of victory.

His name, Jerubbaal, has now become a label of irony.  For all the things which he had lived to fight for as a judge, he has allowed Satan to enter into his private life of worship in the form of that cursed ephod, in the form of these multiple wives, in the form of the concubine through whom he bore Abimelech, the antagonist of the coming chapters.  And so often we see how children of concubine, of servants, primarily with Abraham and Hagar, would end up with descendants which eventually become the enemies of God (Ishmael eventually became the head of the Arab nation, although not directly linked but possibly living alongside the Midianite Arabs).

It is thus clear that the message of chapter 7 to 8 is simple, and flavoured with fascinating details of history.  Here, we see a man who is an underdog, who is under-estimated by all as he pressed for wheat in the winepress without the majority’s notice; and he worked by the night until the dawn of light showed to all the shame of the Asherah which they worshipped, as an indication of God’s work up to Christ’s incarnation.  And this humility continues until the end with he lived like a king, a sign of Christ’s humiliation until His ascension, though Gideon’s self-ascension into household goods and multiple wives strayed from Christ’s ultimate model of loyal faithfulness to his one wife, the Bride.

And so, as soon as even a shadow of Christ is gone, there is none to contend with Baal – the missing Jerubbaal leads to immediate worship of the Baalim, of the husbands, their idolatry thriving in the depths of their hearts and has forgotten that by the Spirit they too could have also contended with Baal.

33(BL) As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and(BM) whored after the Baals and made(BN) Baal-berith their god. 34And the people of Israel(BO) did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35(BP) and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.

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Judges 7-8: The humiliation of Gideon and the incarnation of Christ

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