The Period Of The Judges

 
Chapter 36
Gideon and his God Were Soon Forgotten By an Ungrateful Israel [Judges 8.33-8.35]


Scripture

33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel. –Judges 8:33-35 (KJV)


Commentary


33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.--Judges 8:33 (KJV)
33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel chased after other gods—the Baals—as though they were prostitutes. They made Baal Berith their god.--Judges 8:33 (GW)

 

And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again,... from God, and the pure worship of Him, to idolatry: which reveals the disposition of the Hebrew people. It seems that as soon as Gideon was dead that they put off the worship of Jehovah God and turned to worshipping foreign gods; particularly, the local Baal gods. It was not an impulsive decision but was something they desired for a long time and perhaps even prepared for; they wanted a god like the nations around then, a God they could see and touch; and for awhile (even while Gideon lived) they worshipped Gideon’s ephod; for which Gideon was to blame for allowing it to go on. And we should not be surprised that they chose Baal, since they had worshipped him before. These people would have changed their allegiance long ago had they not been constrained by the presence and authority of their judges. There may have been overlapping periods of time between the Judges of Israel, but that was not the situation when Gideon died. No one was waiting in the wings that could replace Gideon; God would have to appoint someone.

The constant emphasis on fidelity to the Lord, which brings deliverance until the death of the judge, would seem to indicate that each leader’s judgeship was marked by a time of spiritual revival and renewed dedication to the Lord God of Israel. Tragically, however, the death of each judge was always followed by an increased period of idolatry and paganism. This time, the relapse into apostasy was especially severe in that the people made Baal-berith (see Article 8.7) their God. Berīt is the Hebrew word for covenant. Their original covenant was with the Lord Jehovah, and this new act of rebellion caused them actually to recognize Baal as their new Lord of the covenant!

This is the same old story, is it not? The hoop of history continues to roll as it is rolling today. At first they were a nation who served God, and then they did evil, forsook God, turned to Baal, and God sells them into slavery and servitude. Then they cry out to God. Then they repent, and God raises up a judge to deliver them. Here goes Israel again. As soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned from God and went a–whoring after Baalim (see Article 8.6). That is the sad, sordid story of Israel, and also the story of His church today. This up and down business is the story of nations, churches, and individuals. Today many of us are just rolling a hoop through this world. One day we are up, and the next day we are down. God never intended our spiritual lives to be that way.


Article 8.6: Baalim
BAALIM:   This was the general name that included all their idols. It is the plural of "Baal"; it occurs fifteen times in the Bible, but is not found in the Pentateuch or in the poetical books. The true significance of the word has been a matter of dispute. One of the leading explanations is that the expression is a "plural of majesty," equivalent to "the great god Ba'al," after the analogy of "Elohim" and "Adonim," which are two of the names of the one true God whom we worship. Apart from other objections that may be used against this point of view it is said that such expressions always become proper names. Hence other explanations are more plausible; for example, that Baalim are images of the god Baal, or that they are the various forms in which Baal is worshiped. Since, however, there is no evidence of the formal worship in Israel of any Ba'al at a common center, and as the local Canaanite deities were known as the "baals" of their respective districts, and as Israel notoriously addicted itself to the cult of such deities, it is altogether probable that the expression designates the local deities to which such worship was paid in various places by the Hebrews in Palestine. Among other passages, Judges 8.33 is especially instructive on this point. In connection with the lapse of the people of Israel into the worship of the Baalim, it is there said that "they made Baal-berith their god" (see Baal-berith).


Article 8.7: Baalberith
Baal-Berith means "Baal of the Covenant" or “the lord of the covenant.” [1](Judges 9:4, 46); the Israelites, to their down-fall regarded Baal as the "covenant god." It was the influence and popularity of Gideon that had kept them close to the worship of the God of Israel.  But as soon as Gideon was dead, they were no longer bound by any restraints, and because they were like all other people, they went a whoring after Baalim. False worshiping made way for false deities. They now chose a new god [2](Judges 5:8), a god by the name of, Baal-berith (some say a goddess); some think Berith, was the god at Berytus, the place where the Phoenicians worshipped this idol. The name signifies the Lord of a covenant. Perhaps he was called this because his worshippers fixed themselves to him by covenant, in imitation of Israel’s covenanting with God; or rather, because he was alleged to be the god and judge of all covenants, and promises, and contracts, and they supposed that these belonged to him, and therefore, he would maintain them, and punish all those that violated them; both the Grecians and the Romans had such a god.  The Roman god was Jupiter faederis, or Mercury; the deity whose business it was to preside over alliances, coalitions, treaties, covenants, and arrangements.  The bottom-line is that the Israelites had made a covenant or agreement to have Baal for their god.

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and went a whoring after Baalim,...Baalim was the general name that included all the idols or gods of the Phoenicians and Canaanites, and several of the other nations in the area. The Israelites, by quitting God and worshipping an image of a Baalim committed spiritual whoredom.

Pliny mentioned where this Baal might have been worshipped for the first time. It was fifty miles from Sidon, and was in later times a seat of learning. Sanchoniatho, a Phoenician historian, was a resident of this city; He wrote about Gideon and the Jews.

This term, whoring, has more than one meaning; but, as it is used here it is very likely that it is descriptive of pagan worship where there were many impure rites, so that going a whoring after Baalim may be taken in a literal sense. In a manner Israel is serving the memory of Gideon well, especially Gideon in his later years. By serving Baal, Israel was saying "what really matters is money and success," and that was the example Gideon had set in his later years.

and made Baalberith their god...Their god (because the Jews had bound themselves to it by covenant); which was the idol of the Shechemites, and that is apparent from a temple being built at Shechem for a specific god called Baalberith [1](Judges 9:4). It probably got its name from Berytus, a city in Phoenicia. Beruth is the name of a Phoenician deity. Though it may be that this idol got its name from its supposed concern for covenants, the word "Berith" signifying a covenant; and so the Targum and Syriac version call him the lord of covenant; and the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions affirm, “and they made a covenant with Baal, that he should be their god;''

"The worship of Baal-berith, as it was performed at Shechem [3](Judges 9:46), was an imitation of the worship of Jehovah, or rather, an adulteration of that worship, in which Baal was put in the place of Jehovah." Just as the true worshippers in Israel recognized Jehovah as their covenant God, the apostates mentioned here made what they called a "covenant" with their false god Baal. "`Baal-berith' means `the covenant Baal.'" The Wycleffe Bible Commentary gives the meaning of this idols name as “Lord of the covenant;” a possible reference to a confederation of city-states that looked to Shechem as their leader.

 

34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:--Judges 8:34 (KJV)

34 The Israelites did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all the enemies around them.--Judges 8:34 (GW)

And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God,
Or, as the Targum puts it, (The Jews quit) the worship of the Lord their God; they forgot him, and forsook him, which showed base ingratitude.


 Remember:
• (Psalms 78:11; BBE) “They let his works go out of their memory, and the wonders which he had made them see.”
• (Psalm 78.42; BBE) “They did not keep in mind the work of his hand, or the day when he took them from the power of their haters;”

who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side;...not only out of the hands of Midian, but out of the hands of all other nations round about them; Edom, Moab, Ammon… not one attempted to oppress them. In this revolt, Israel turned from God to idolatry, and by it they showed great ingratitude to God: They remembered not the Lord, not only who had delivered them into the hands of their enemies, to punish them for their idolatry, but who had also delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, to invite them back again into His service; both the judgments and the mercies were forgotten, and the impressions they made were lost. They attributed their deliverance to some other cause, and did not give Him the glory for their salvation.

 

35 Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.--Judges 8:33 (KJV)
35 And they were not kind to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) despite all the good he had done for Israel.--Judges 8:33 (GW)

Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely Gideon…
But, on the contrary, they showed them great unkindness and cruelty, and even killed his seventy sons, as related in the following chapter.

They were both unthankful and unholy. Though they had the clearest proofs of God's power and goodness before their eyes, yet they forgot him. And although they were under the greatest obligations to Gideon, and at one time they thought so much of him that they offered to place upon him and his family the mantle of royalty, nevertheless they forgot him also; because, when they became foes to GOD, they could not be friends to man.

Instead of Jerubbaal, namely Gideon, we would say Jerubbaal Gideon, since we call any man by his Christian name and surname. For instance, we would say Simon Peter or Chloe Link (my Granddaughter). Gideon was a mighty man of valor, a true patriot, but evidently he was disinterested and void of ambition. He loved his country, and would give his life for it; but he refused the kingdom, when it was offered to him and his heirs. The act of making the ephod was totally wrong; yet, probably it was done with no dishonorable intentions.

according to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel;...in exposing his life to danger for their sake, in delivering them out of the hands of their oppressors, in administering justice to them, in protecting them in their civil and religious liberties, and then establishing a quiet and peaceable existence for them. Undoubtedly, he showed a great deal of goodness to the citizens of Israel; he was like a father to his country, for which they ought to have been kind to his family when he was gone, because that is one way in which we can show our gratitude to our friends and benefactors, and it is a way to show kindnesses to them when they are in their graves. But Israel did not act with kindness toward Gideon's family, as we will discover in the next chapter. It is no wonder if those who forget their God forget their friends.

The ancients, particularly St. Ambrose and Augustine, have tried to find a parallel between our blessed Lord Jesus and Gideon. I believe no such parallel was intended by the Spirit of God; therefore, I must be excused from presenting their details. It is not useful for either Christ or Christianity to be compared to such persons and their dealings. However, I will offer the following comments concerning Gideon:
1. The very best that can be said about him is what the angel said; he was a mighty man of valor.
2. He was also a true patriot, he loved his country, and would have willingly given his life for it; and yet he would not make a move until he had the most incontrovertible proofs that God would, by his supernatural assistance, make him victorious.
3. He was, for the most part, disinterested, and void of ambition; he refused the kingdom when it was offered to him and to his heirs after him. But, consistently with the belief he had in God, he could not accept it, since this would have been a complete revision of the Jewish constitution, which acknowledged no ruler but God himself.
4. His motive in making the ephod is not well understood; probably it was done with no wrong intentions. But the act was totally wrong; he had no Divine authority to bring such a novelty into the religious worship of his country. The ark was at Shechem; and the proper and only accredited priest was there. The act therefore can never be excused, whatever his motive may have been.
5. His personal character does not appear to have been very exemplary; he had many wives and seventy sons by them, besides one by a concubine, which he kept at Shechem, where he often had to go in his role as judge, for the purpose of administering justice. In short, there is scarcely a trait in his character worthy to be compared with anything in the conduct of the Redeemer of mankind.
6. Parallels to Christ, and the work of his Spirit in the salvation of men, have been diligently searched for in the Holy Scriptures, by both commentators and preachers; and we have had massive dissertations on types and antitypes; and what if any sound doctrine or true holiness has been derived from them! I have decided that only when the Spirit of God says such things are types and such things are symbols, it is our duty to believe and examine; however, when men produce their types and metaphors, it is our duty to doubt, be suspicious, and move on.

{"Neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, who is Gideon"}This reveals a fact that is often overlooked in the evaluation of human behavior. The fact is, “Unfaithfulness to God is man's failure to honor his RELIGIOUS DUTY. And once infidelity, or unfaithfulness, has been established at this highest level of man's obligations, all other obligations are also immediately made vulnerable and secondary to the inconsistency of human behavior. I have often noticed that men forsake their wives and children or betray and violate business and other obligations after they had denied and forsaken their sacred obligations to their God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


 ________________________General Notes______________________________


[1](Judges 9:4, 46; KJV)
“And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him... And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith.” Vain and light persons—worthless and dissolute men; persons who were living off the public, and had nothing to lose. Such men were the foundation of his Babel government. By a cunning management of such rascals most revolutions have been brought about.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[2](Judges 5:8; GW) “When the people chose new gods, war broke out inside the city gates. Not a weapon was seen among 40,000 in Israel.” They chose new gods—This was the cause of all their calamities; they forsook Jehovah, and served other gods; and then was war in their gates—they were hemmed up in every place, and besieged in all their fortified cities; and they were defenseless, they had no means of resisting their adversaries; for even among forty thousand men, there was neither spear nor shield to be seen. The Vulgate gives a strange and curious turn to this verse: Nova bella elegit Dominus, et portas hostium ipse subvertit; "The Lord chose a new species of war, and himself subverted the gates of the enemy." Now, what was this new species of war? A woman signifies her orders to Barak; he takes 10,000 men, wholly unarmed, and retires to Mount Tabor, where they are immediately besieged by a powerful and well-appointed army. On a sudden Barak and his men rush upon them, terror and dismay are spread through the whole Cannanitish army, and the rout is instantaneous and complete. The Israelites immediately arm themselves with the arms of their enemies, and slay all before them; they run, and are pursued in all directions. Sisera, their general, is no longer safe in his chariot; either his horses fail, or the unevenness of the road obliges him to desert it, and fly away on foot; in the end, the whole army is destroyed, and the leader ingloriously slain. This was a new species of war, and was most evidently the Lord's doings. Whatever may be said of the version of the Vulgate, (and the Syriac and Arabic are something like it), the above are all facts, and show the wondrous working of the Lord.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[3](Judges 9:46; GW) “All the citizens of Shechem's Tower heard about it and went into the basement of the temple of El Berith.” This must mean the confines of the temple; there were a thousand men and women together in that place.


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