The Period Of The Judges

 
   
Chapter 35
He Died In Honor [Judges 8.29-8.32]


GIDEON'S LONG LIFE; HIS DEATH AND BURIAL

 

 Scripture

29And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he calledi Abimelech.
32And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites
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Commentary

 

29And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. (Judges 8:29; KJV)

29 Jerubbaal, son of Joash, went home to live. (Judges 8:29; GW)

 

And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house…The subject is Gideon, who was also called Jerubbaal; see [1](Judges 6:32) and [2](Judges 7:1). After his great victory over the Midianites, he went to Ophrah (his city) and lived in his own house; see [3](Judges 9:5). The war having ended, he disbanded his army, and retired to his own house; not that he lived altogether a private life there, but he continued as a judge in Israel, where he was successful in preserving and maintaining their religion and liberties. 

the son of Joash …The importance of Joash, who was the father of Gideon is evident in a number of things: (1) His clout in the cultic establishment at Ophrah indicating that he was wealthy and influential; (2) his forceful, compelling remarks in the altercation; (3) the mention of his sepulcher (the only one mentioned in Judges); and (4) his undoubted wealth." All of these things are a testimony of the wealth, power, and prestige of Gideon's family, despite Gideon's protest before the Angel of Jehovah in [4]Judges 6:15.

Hervey has this interesting summary of Gideon's life: "He did not return to poverty and obscurity like the early Roman Consuls. He was judge over Israel for forty years, with an immense household and a harem, living like a great prince in his paternal city, with himself and his ephod the center around which the affairs of church and state gathered. He directed the affairs of his country, both civil and ecclesiastical, so that Israel had peace for forty years. He suppressed Baal-worship, and having lived in peace and prosperity for a long life, he died in peace and was laid to rest in the sepulcher of his father;" See [5]Judges 8.33. He declined the people’s offer of kingship, but in general he lived like a king.

We have here the conclusion of the story of Gideon. We can realistically say some good things about this great man: he was a good man and an obedient servant of God. He lived privately, he was not puffed up with his great honors, and he did not covet a palace or castle to reside in, which is what the people desired, but retired to the same house he had lived in before his rise to the political and spiritual leader of Israel. However, there were blemishes in the life of Gideon. The idolatry which he encouraged by setting up his ephod would return as soon as he died, overwhelming Israel in another episode of oppression and sorrow. His own sons would, all except one, be ruthlessly slain by the son of his concubine. God's severe judgment did indeed fall upon Gideon in the person of his descendants.

_____________________________verse 29 notes_____________________________

[1](Judges 6:32) “Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.” The name Jerubbaal means “Let Baal Plead.”
[2](Judges 7:1; GW) “Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the troops with him got up early and camped above En Harod. Midian's camp was north of him at the hill of Moreh in the valley.” It appears that Jerubbaal was now a surname of Gideon—Adam Clarke's Commentary
[3](Judges 9:5; ASV) “And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: but Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself."
[4](Judges 6:15) “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” The angel of the LORD who spoke to him (Gideon) was the LORD Himself! He reminded Gideon that thou shalt save Israel, that is, he would be the next judge-deliverer. However, Gideon immediately began to make excuses for himself. He objected that his family in Manasseh was poor, and that he was least in my father’s house (i.e., he was the youngest son of his family, and they were an insignificant family from a militarily impoverished tribe). In essence, he was saying that he was not qualified for this task, neither was his family, and neither was his tribe— KJV Bible Commentary. Adam Clarks Commentary has this to say about Gideon’s claim, “my family is poor”.  Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh—‏הנה אלפי הדל‎, Behold, my thousand is impoverished. Tribes were anciently divided into tens, and fifties, and hundreds, and thousands; the thousands therefore marked grand divisions, and consequently numerous families; Gideon here intimates that the families of which he was a part of, were very much diminished. But if we take ‏אלפי‎  alpey for the contracted form of the plural, which is frequently in Hebrew nouns joined with a verb in the singular, then the translation will be, "The thousands in Manasseh are thinned;" i.e., this tribe is greatly reduced, and can do little against their enemies.
[5](Judges 8.33) “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.” A whoring after Baalim—This term has probably a different meaning here from what it has Judges 8:7; for it is very likely that in most parts of the pagan worship there were many impure rites, so that going a whoring after Baalim may be taken in a literal sense.—Adam Clarke's Commentary


30And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. (Judges 8:30; KJV)
30 Gideon had 70 sons because he had many wives. (Judges 8:30; GW)

And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten:…Not after his victories, for it is plain he had children before; mention is made of Jether, his firstborn, as a youth able to draw a sword, and slay with it, [6](Judges 8:20) but this was the number of all his sons, both before and after, and it was a large number; and the phrase "of his body begotten", or "that went out of his thigh" is used to show that they were his own sons, begotten in wedlock, and not sons that he had taken into his family by adoption, or that he was step-father to, having married a woman or women that had sons by a former husband; but these were all his own.

The large number of Gideon's sons is in keeping with the description of other judges: Jair (30 sons, [9]Judg. 10:4), Ibzan, (30 sons and 30 daughters, [10]Judg. 12:9), and Abdon (40 sons, [11]Judg. 12:14). "Polygamy and concubinage were institutions of the day, and their attendant evils are clearly seen in the family of Gideon (Judg. 9)."

for he had many wives;…which was not in line with the original law of marriage, but it was customary in those times, and even good men had multiple wives; and this is one reason for his having so many sons. I would say that Gideon had a kingly harem:
a. A harem was not only a reflection of a man's inability to control his sexual lust, it was also a way for him to proudly express his wealth, by saying "look at all the wives and children I can support"
b. The Old Testament never directly condemns polygamy (though the New Testament does in [7]Matthew 19:4-6 and [8]1 Timothy 3:2, but it does show the bitter fruit of it. We never find a healthy family life where Old Testament men take more than one wife.

________________________verse 30 notes___________________________

[6](Judges 8:20; NLT) “Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, for he was only a boy and was afraid. The nearest of kin was the blood-avenger; but a magistrate might order any one to do the work of the executioner; and the person selected was always of a rank equal or proportioned to that of the party doomed to suffer (1Ki 2:29). Gideon intended, then, by the order to Jether, to put an honor on his son, by employing him to slay two enemies of his country; and on the youth declining, he performed the bloody deed himself.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
[7](Matthew 19:4-6) “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ 5 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Made them male and female. In the creation, God made man male and female and united the two by an indissoluble bond in the marriage of one man to one woman. For this cause. The bond of husband and wife is stronger than that between children and parents. Be one flesh. Two lives joined into one. What God hath joined together. If God hath so joined them that the twain are one, no human ordinance has the right to separate them.—People's New Testament, The
[8](1 Timothy 3:2) “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” The traditional and most widely accepted view of Bible-believing, soul-winning preachers has been that a pastor must not be divorced and remarried. History has shown it almost never works for a pastor to be divorced. If he cannot rule his own house how can he rule the church?
 [9](Judg. 10:4; ESV) “And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead.”
[10] (Judg. 12:9; ESV) “He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.”
[11]Judg. 12:14; ESV) “He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years.”

 


31And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called [12]Abimelech. (Judges 8:31; KJV)
31 His concubine at Shechem also gave birth to a son. That son was named Abimelech. (Judges 8:31; GW)

And his concubine that was in Shechem…She was not a prostitute, she was a lawful, secondary or half wife, and referred to here as Gideon’s concubine. Concubines were generally taken from the handmaids that served in the home. They were usually poor women that worked in the home to pay for a debt they owed or their family owed to the owner of the home. They were not respected like the proper wives were, and they didn’t participate in the management of household affairs. Their lot was to share in the bed, and their children did not receive an inheritance. This concubine of Gideon's, it seems, was not taken into his house, but lived at Shechem, perhaps in her father's house, and here she met with Gideon when he went to Shechem as a judge to try causes; her name, according to Josephus, was Druma. The fact that Abimelech's mother was Gideon's concubine living in Shechem calls attention to a type of concubinage in which the concubine continued to live with her parents, to have custody of the children, and to permit her husband to visit her.

she also bare him a son;…So, she was like the other wives in this respect, that is, she had a son by Gideon; perhaps all the children he had were sons, or maybe daughters were not counted in the 70. Gideon would be son #71. I wonder if he had more children after this.

whose name he called Abimelech:…The name signifies, "my father a king" or “my father hath reigned”; which Gideon gave him either in memory of the offer made to him to be king of Israel, or through foresight of what this son of his would be; or he might have given him this name to please his mother who was now filled with pride and vanity. I believe that the third option is the correct one, and that this name was undoubtedly suggested by his mother, and she may have thought that this name would inspire the young man to aspire to be made a king. As it turned out, later on he was made Judge over Israel. We may have been introduced to Abimelech here, because in Chapter 37 he is the main character. There is a suggestion there that there may have been many concubines. It was not unusual at this time for a wealthy man to have many concubines. Women did not have many rights; it was a male dominated society; and they could do pretty much as they pleased to their wives and concubines.

Perhaps Gideon would have liked to be a king. However, he did not say so. People considered that Gideon’s other 70 sons belonged to his family. But they considered that Abimelech belonged to his mother’s family. Shechem city was in a valley, between the mountains called Ebal and Gerizim. The land round the city produced good crops. The city was on cross-roads. These roads were routes on which traders travelled.

At Shechem, God first told Abraham who God was. Jacob’s sons captured that city. It was a city where people would be safe. Those whom people had accused of murder could go there. People buried Joseph there. Joshua met with all of Israel’s people there before his death. Most people there were Canaanites and they served Baalberith (the ‘god of the agreement’). The city belonged to the Canaanites. People may have included it in Israel by an agreement. This would be an agreement of friendship. Perhaps Abimelech’s mother was a Canaanite.

 

___________________________verse 31 notes______________________________

[12]Abimelech. [uh BIM eh leck] (my father is king) The name Abimelech was common in Palestine. This Abimelech was the ruler of the city of Shechem during the period of the judges (Judg. 8:30–10:1; 2 Sam. 11:21). Abimelech was a son of Gideon by a concubine from Shechem. Abimelech tried to become king, and he did reign over Israel for three years (Judg. 9:22). In order to eliminate all who might challenge his authority, he killed all the other sons of Gideon—his brothers and half-brothers—who were potential successors of his father (Judg. 9:5).

Abimelech was killed in a battle at Thebez, a city northeast of Shechem, which he surrounded with his army. When Abimelech ventured too close to the city tower, a woman dropped a millstone on his head, crushing his skull. Abimelech commanded his armor bearer to kill him so it could not be said that he died at the hands of a woman (Judg. 9:50–54; 2 Sam. 11:21).

 

32And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 8:32; KJV)
32 Gideon, son of Joash, died at a very old age. He was buried in the tomb of his father Joash at Ophrah, the city belonging to Abiezer's family. (Judges 8:32; GW)


And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age…Having lived it seems forty years after his war with Midian, blessed with a large family, much wealth and riches, great prestige and esteem among his people, and in favor with God and men. He died in honor, in a good old age supposed to have been B.C. 1205, when he had lived as long as he was capable of serving God and his country; and who would desire to live any longer than that? And he was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

A good old age…His long life was crowned with honor, tranquility, and happiness. The statement that Gideon died in a good old age indicates that he lived a peaceful life in semi-retirement until his death. However, as soon as he died, the children of Israel turned again and went after Baalim.

and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites...Ophrah was a city which belonged to the family of the Abiezrites, who were of the tribe of Manasseh, in which Gideon lived, and his father before him; and where there was a family vault, in which he was interred. In the days of this judge it is supposed was the famous expedition of the Argonauts to Colchis, to fetch from there the golden fleece.

Throughout his career, we see Gideon as a man who slipped from great heights of faith, to a place of outright apostasy and rebellion against God. What killed Gideon were success, riches, and prominence.
1. It isn't enough for us to begin well with God; we must continue on throughout our whole Christian life. Gideon, in his later years, could only look back on his great deeds for God, for they were all in the past.
2. "Perhaps it is easier to honor God in some courageous action in the limelight of a time of national emergency than it is to honor Him consistently in the ordinary, everyday life, which requires a different kind of courage." (Cundall)

As soon as Gideon was dead—it was he who kept the people worshiping the God of Israel—they found themselves under no restraint; then they went after Baalim, and showed no kindness to the family of Gideon. It is no wonder if those who forget their God, also forget their friends. Yet conscious of our own ingratitude to the Lord, and observing mankind in general, we should learn to be patient under any unkind treatment we meet with for our poor services for the lord, and lack of resolve, after the Divine example, not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.

We have seen that Gideon had many wives and a concubine besides. He had a total of seventy–one sons. That is a real blot on this man’s life. Now someone will say, as they did about Solomon, “How could God use a man like this and why did He use him?” Well, Gideon took these many wives and had all these children after the battle. And the fact of the matter is that God used him in spite of this. God did not approve of what he did. The record makes it clear that his actions brought tragedy to the nation of Israel. Chapter 9 brings that out. God had forbidden intermarriage outside the nation. He had forbidden the Israelites to have more than one wife. God did not create several Eves for Adam. He created only one. God did not remove all of Adam’s ribs. God took out only one rib.

Abraham, you remember, took a concubine, that little Egyptian maid named Hagar and, believe me, it caused trouble. God never sanctioned it. Through Abraham’s son Isaac came the nation Israel. The Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar. I read about a man who talked to an Arab guide in Jericho who was very proud of the fact that he was a son of Abraham. He was also a Moslem. He said proudly, “I am a son of Abraham through Ishmael.” That is true. That was the sin of Abraham, and God never blessed that, friend. God did not bless Solomon’s actions in this connection, and He is not going to bless Gideon either. In fact, Gideon’s actions split the kingdom and caused real tragedy. This is the blot on his life. God does not hide anything. God paints the picture of man as he is. Now, if a friend of Gideon had been his biographer, he probably would have left this part of his life out of the story. God, however, did not. He paints mankind in all of his lurid, sinful color.— McGee, J. Vernon: Thru the Bible Commentary: History of Israel (Joshua/Judges). electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1991 (Thru the Bible Commentary 10), S. 169

It is interesting and instructive to contrast  Abraham and Gideon in the decisions they made after their victories (Genesis 14). Abraham took nothing for himself, but made sure that others received their share of the Spoils [13](Genesis 14.22-24). He especially refused to take anything from the heathen king of Sodom [14](Genesis 14.17, 21). Instead Abraham fellowshipped with Melchizedek, King of Salem, a type of our lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 7-8); and in all he said and did, Abraham gave glory to the Lord of Heaven and earth.

Andrew Bonar was right: “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.” After all, there may still be some land mines scattered around.

______________________verse 32 notes__________________________

[13](Genesis 14.22-24) “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
[14](Genesis 14.17, 21) “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale ... And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.”

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