The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 33
He Foolishly Gratified the Superstitious Humor of His People
[Judges 8.24-8.27]

 

Scripture: Judges 8:24-27 (KJV)

24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)
25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.
27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

Commentary

24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were [1]Ishmaelites .)  (Judges 8:24; KJV)
24 Then Gideon said to them, “Do me a favor. Each of you give me the earrings from your loot.” (Their enemies, the Ishmaelites, wore gold earrings.)  (Judges 8:24; GW)

And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you,...Which he thought they would not deny him, since they had offered him a crown—they wanted him to be king over them—and so now was the best time to make the request: and the favor he asked was,

that you would give me every man the earrings of his prey;...or, as Abarbinel interprets it "an earring of his prey", since the expression is in the singular; every man should give him one earring even though they might have more, yet only one ear ring is desired from every man. The earrings are spoils taken from their enemies in the recent warfare against the Midianites. This is a transaction very similar to that between the Israelites and Aaron; when they brought him their golden ear-rings, out of which he made the molten calf [2](Exodus 32:2), for an instrument of worship, or merely as a trophy, is not very clear. But here, it is most likely that Gideon had intended to establish a place of worship at Ophrah, where the gold earrings would be used to produce the proper priestly vestments, and he would show himself thankful for this victory by restoring religion, which because it was not according to God’s command, eventually caused their destruction.

In verse 26 it is revealed that Gideon gained a fortune from his request:
a. It didn't seem like much to ask for; just the earrings from the booty received from the Midianites, who were gorgeously adorned with gems and gold (an immense amount of such valuable booty had fallen into the hands of the Israelitish soldiers.); yet when it was all added up, it came to more than 50 pounds of gold, which was quite a fortune.
b. It is hard to say that Gideon did not deserve this huge fortune; yet it was inappropriate, because it lifted him far above the level of the people he would lead, and at their expense. A general rule of thumb is that Christian leaders who make a living from the gifts of God's people should live at the level of their own people - not below or above. Of course, it is a different matter if that leader has an income or assets from another source.

For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites;...so the Midianites and Ishmaelites are spoken of as being the same; they were united and living together, or very near each other [3](Genesis 37:25, 28, 36). Kimchi explains it this way: The reason the Midianites were also called Ishmaelites is that they were the sons of Keturah, and Keturah was Hagar the mother of Ishmael.
Those who were defeated by Gideon were called, "Midianites," and here it is clear that they were also identifiable as "Ishmaelites." This passage refutes the critical enemies of Genesis who allege "multiple sources," "contradictions," etc., in [3]Gen. 37:27-28, where the company of people to whom Joseph's brothers sold him are referred to in those verses both as "Ishmaelites," and as "Midianites."

The Targum calls them Arabians, who it seems, used to wear earrings; actually, many men in the eastern countries did; see [4](Genesis 35:4).  Pliny says that in the east it was considered ornamental for men to wear gold in their ears.

The "ear-ring" mentioned here might have been a "nose-ring", “finger-ring”, or “ear-ring” or any combination of them (compare [5]Genesis 24:22 ). The custom of wearing nose-rings prevails in Eastern countries to the present day; actually, nose-rings are worn by some in many, if not all nations today. The circumstance of Job's friends each contributing a nose-ring of gold [6](Job 42:11)  is a remarkable parallel to the incident in Gideon's history. Rings of gold were also used as money by the Celts, and in Egypt as documented on several early monuments.

In his desire for gold Gideon tumbles to the level of ordinary men, and we may see in it the first decline of his glory, leading to a sad tarnishing of the luster of his bright name. Gideon resisted the temptation to put an earthly crown upon his head, from true devotion to Jehovah; but he yielded to another temptation, which this appeal on the part of the people really involved, namely, the temptation to secure to himself for the future the position to which the Lord had called and exalted him. The Lord had called him to be the deliverer of Israel by visibly appearing in the form of an angel, and had not only accepted the gift which he offered Him, as a well-pleasing sacrifice, but had also commanded him to build an altar, and by offering an atoning burnt-sacrifice to re-establish the worship of Jehovah in his family and tribe, and to restore the favor of God to His people once more. Lastly, the Lord had made His will known to him again and again; while at the same time, by the glorious victory which He had given to him and to his small band over the powerful army of the foe, He had confirmed him as His chosen servant to be the deliverer and judge of Israel. Gideon believed that the relationship that he had with the Lord ought to be preserved; and therefore, after declining the office of King, he said to the people, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. This request the historian explains by adding the remark: (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites) from whom the Israelites were able to get an abundance of rings as booty.

____________________________________verse 24 notes__________________________________________________
[1]ISHMAELITES [ISH may el ites] — descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s first son. His mother was Sarah’s Egyptian servant, HAGAR (Gen. 16:1–16; 1 Chr. 1:28). The Ishmaelites, like the Israelites (Abraham’s grandchildren through Sarah), were divided into 12 tribes (Gen. 25:16). Out of respect for Abraham, God made a great nation of the Ishmaelites, even though Ishmael was not Abraham’s promised son (Gen. 21:12–13). Ishmael’s 12 sons had many descendants who lived as nomads in the deserts of northern Arabia.
The Old Testament eventually used the term Ishmaelite in a broader sense, referring to all the Arabian merchants (Is. 13:20; Ezek. 27:20, 21). Any wild and warlike peoples of the desert could claim to be descendants of Ishmael (Gen. 16:12). This wider use of Ishmaelites is illustrated by an event in the life of Joseph. His older brothers sold him to some caravan traders who were called “a company of Ishmaelites” (Gen. 37:25) as well as “Midianite” traders (37:28). They were probably a minor clan of the larger Ishmaelite tribe. Muhammad claimed Ishmael as his ancestor, as do most Arabs.
[2](Exodus 32:2) “And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.” During Moses’ delay with God upon the mountain (Ex 24:18–31:18), the people came to Aaron and demanded from Aaron, make us gods. Aaron seemingly consented, telling the people to Break off the golden earrings … and bring them unto me. He had no backbone to stand against this blatant treason and idolatry, but instead he became their leader!

[3](Genesis 37:25, 28, 36) 25And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt... 27Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content... 28Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt... 36And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.” The Midianites and the Ishmaelites are terms used interchangeably in verse 28, just as in Judges 8:22, 24. The term Ishmaelite may not be an ethnic term, as used here, but is simply a reference to nomadic merchants.
[4](Genesis 35:4)
“And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.”
[5](Genesis 24.22) “And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold”
b Enhanced Strong’s Lexacon--5141 nexem { neh’-zem} from an unused root of uncertain meaning; TWOT 1338a; n m AV - earring 14, jewel 3; 17GK - 5690 { נֶזֶם }
1)     ring, nose ring, earring
1a)     nose ring (woman’s ornament)
1b)     earring (ornament of men or women)

[6](Job 42.11) “Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”


25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.  (Judges 8:25; KJV)

25 The men of Israel answered, “Yes, we'll give them to you.” So they spread out a coat. Each man took the earrings from his loot and dropped them on it.  (Judges 8:25; GW)

And they answered, we will willingly give them…“Gideon's soldiers had made quite a haul”; and they freely and cheerfully turned over to Gideon the ear-rings he requested, which no doubt amounted to only a small fraction of the booty taken from the slain Midianites.

and they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey;...every man, which would amount to no more than three hundred; although many others may have joined in the pursuit and might have taken even more than the three hundred, or otherwise the weight of the tribute to Gideon would not amount to what in the next verse they are said to weigh.
They spread... The [7]Septuagint  reads "He spread his garment." They (or Gideon) spread out the cloth (brought for collecting the rings), and every one threw into it the ring that he had received as booty. The upper garment, called Simlah, was for the most part only a large square piece of cloth. The weight of these golden rings amounted to about 50 lbs., which was separate from, or beside, the remaining booty, for which Gideon had not asked, and which the Israelites kept for themselves; the little moons, the ear-pendants (probably pearl-shaped ear-drops: see [8]Isaiah 3:19), and the purple clothes which were worn by the kings of Midian (i.e., which they had on), and also apart from the neck-bands upon the necks of their camels. Instead of the anakoth or necklaces, the saharonim, or little moons upon the necks of the camels, are mentioned in [9]Judges 8:21  as the more valuable portion of these necklaces. Even today, the Arabs are accustomed to ornament the necks of these animals "with a band of cloth or leather, upon which small shells called cowries are strung or sewed in the form of a crescent. The sheiks add silver ornaments to these, which make a rich booty in time of war" (Wellsted, Reise, i. p. 209). The Midianitish kings had their camels ornamented with golden crescents. This abundance of golden ornaments will not surprise us, when we consider that the Arabs still carry their luxurious tastes for such things to a very great excess. Wellsted (i. p. 224) states that "the women in Omn spend considerable amounts in the purchase of silver ornaments, and their children are literally laden with them. I have read of as many as fifteen ear-rings upon each side; and the head, breast, arms, and ankles are adorned with the same profusion." Since the Midianitish army consisted of 130,000 men, of whom 15,000 only remained at the commencement of the last engagement, the Israelites may easily have collected 5000 golden rings, or even more, which might weigh 55 lbs.
________________________________________verse 25 notes______________________________________________
[7]Septuagint [sep-too-uh-jint] the oldest Greek version of the Old Testament, traditionally said to have been translated by 70 or 72 Jewish scholars at the request of Ptolemy II: most scholars believe that only the Pentateuch was completed in the early part of the 3rd century b.c. and that the remaining books were translated in the next two centuries. \
[8](Isaiah 3.18-21) “18In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 19The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, 20The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, 21The rings, and nose jewels, 22The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,” Thus, the prophet warns that the Lord will take away all of their adornments. Again the NASB reads: “… their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans, and veils”
[9](Judges 8:21) “Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.” The ornaments that were on their camels’ necks, i.e., their crescent, or moon-shaped ornaments (Heb sahar̄on) were amulets to bring good luck in battle and may indicate that the Midianites were moon worshipers (See also Isa 3:18).


26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks. (Judges 8:26; GW)
26 The gold earrings Gideon had asked for weighed 40 pounds. This did not include the half-moon ornaments, the earrings, the purple clothes worn by the kings of Midian, and the chains from their camels' necks.  (Judges 8:26; GW)
          

And the weight of the golden earrings he requested was one thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold…Which, as Schcuchzer computes, was eight hundred and ten ounces, five drachms, one scruple, and ten grains, using a physicians weight scale; but as reckoned by Moatanus amounted to eight hundred and fifty ounces, and were of the value of 6800 crowns of gold; and, according to Waserus, it amounted to 3400 Hungarian pieces of gold, and by the value of Zurich money upwards of 15,413 pounds, and of British money 2,380 pounds: Taking the shekel at half an ounce weight, the sum of the gold collected in ear-rings was seventy pounds ten ounces; and worth, as gold now rates, about œ3,100 sterling. The amount in American dollars is approximately $850,000.00.

This computation of the weight of the golden ear-rings, taken from the slaughtered Ishmaelites, will bring to the reader's mind the slaughter of the Roman knights by the Carthaginians at the battle of Cannae, from whose spoils Hannibal sent three bushels of gold rings to the city of Carthage!

Keil estimated this as, "About fifty pounds of gold." This, of course, made Gideon a very wealthy man.
If the Ishmaelite nose-rings were half a shekel in weight, then 1,700 shekels weight of gold implied that 3,400 persons wearing, gold rings had been slain.

besides ornaments;...such as were upon the necks of the camels, (see [9]Judges 8:21)  for the same word is used here as there. These ornaments are described as crescent-like plates of gold suspended from the necks, or placed on the breasts of the camels.

and collars;...the Targum renders it a crown, and Ben Melech says in the Arabic language the word signifies odoriferous liquor, and so collars were probably smelling bottles: Otherwise, the reference is to "earrings," or drops of gold or jewels [10](Esther 8:15); (also see, Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:7; Luke 16:19; John 19:2,5; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12,16).
and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian;...which it seems was the color that kings wore, the same as they do now; so Strabo says of the kings of Arabia, that they are clothed in purple, a royal color. The ancient, as well as modern Arabs adorned the necks, breasts, and legs, of their riding animals with the royal color. The Israelite generals had the most splendid part of the spoils: purple robes and cloth, which was, the booty of assorted colors [11](Judges 5:30).

and besides the chains that were about their camels' necks;...which seem to be different from the other ornaments that adorned their camels, since another word is used here; now all these seem to have been what amounted to his share, as the general of the army, and not what were given him by the people. 

    _______________________________________verse 26 notes_______________________________________

[10](Esther 8:15) “And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.” Mordecai now appears in a position of prestige and honor. These garments were probably the official uniform of the first minister of the empire.
[11](Judges 5.30)
“Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?”


27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. (Judges 8:27; KJV)
27 Then Gideon used the gold to make an idol and placed it in his hometown, [12]Ophrah. All Israel chased after it there as though it were a prostitute. It became a trap for Gideon and his family.  (Judges 8:27; GW)

And Gideon made an ephod thereof…That is, of some of this gold; for such a quantity could never have been made into an ephod only, for it is not likely that any man could wear a coat of nearly one hundred pounds weight. That begs the question, “what was done with the gold that was not used?” For one thing, there were also fourteen precious stones to be procured, and the work itself to be paid for, so that 50 lbs. of gold might easily be devoted to the preparation of this state dress. The large quantity of gold, therefore, does not call for us to arbitrarily introduce into the text the establishment of a formal sanctuary, and the preparation of a golden image of Jehovah in the form of a bull, as Bertheau has done.

It was not a linen ephod, but it was one like the high priest wore, made of gold, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, with intricate work (worked throughout with gold threads; and in addition to that there were precious stones set in gold braid upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod and upon the choshen (amulets), and chains made of gold twist for fastening the choshen upon the ephod see Exodus 28:6-30), together with an elaborate belt of the same work; there was a breastplate with it, of twelve precious stones, like Aaron had; and with little images of teraphim or cherubim in it, as Dr. Spencer thinks. The Jewish commentators generally understand this ephod to be made as a memorial of the great salvation God had wrought by his hands for Israel, and of the wonderful things done by him; so Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Gersom agree; but such a garment, whether worn by him, or hung up in some certain place, seems not so proper and pertinent to perpetuate the memory of his victories, as a monument or pillar would have been; it looks therefore more likely to be done with a religious view, which afterwards was perverted to superstitious uses; and whereas Gideon had built an altar already by the command of God, and had sacrificed upon it, he might think himself authorized as a priest, and therefore provided this ephod for himself; or, however, for a priest he might think of taking it into his family, and so use it as an oracle to consult upon special occasions, without going to Shiloh, the Ephraimites having displeased him in their rough disputes with him; and so R. Isaiah interprets it as a kind of divination or oracle which gave answers.

 

 

Article #8.4: The Breastplate and Ephod of the High Priest — an Important Part of Worship in the Temple
 

The 12 Stones of the Ephod

After much research, the twelve types of stones in the breastplate have been found, each of which has special characteristics. In Exodus 28, God commanded Aaron to make the ephod and breastplate for the garments of the high priest and his descendants.
God gave all the details connected to these two important items and named the twelve stones. This allowed our generation — the generation of the redemption of Israel — to find the stones. Each of the stones carried the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The high priest wore the breastplate on the ephod. When the people of Israel enquired of God concerning an important issue, the high priest asked God the question. God answered through the twelve stones. For example, when they wanted to know whether they should go out to war, the high priest asked God and God answered through the breastplate in this way: the relevant letters of the name of the tribe shone and together they formed God's answer. It was in this special way that God spoke to Israel. 

 The sages also found spiritual values and practical influences of the stones of the breastplate besides their holy task. Rabbi Bechai’ei said that each of the stones attracted heavenly strength and in the Midrash in Bereshit Raba 14 it is written that each of the stones receives strength from heaven. The Kabbala tells us that the twelve stones matched the attributes of the tribes. According to researchers the twelve stones also have healing values. The stone of Reuven, the Odem (ruby), is good for pregnant women, strengthens the heart and calms the mood; Shimon, the Piteda (topaz), cleanses the blood and teaches the benefit of the doubt; Levi, the Bareket (beryl), increases wisdom and aids learning; Judah, the Nofech (turquoise), calms the mood and removes worry; Isachar, the Sapir (sapphire), strengthens the eyes and brings peace; Zebulun, Yahalom (diamond), brings longevity, and helps in earning a livelihood; Dan, Leshem (jacinth), strengthens a weak heart, brings joy and success to the wearer; Naftali, Shvo (agate), brings peace and happiness and repels the “evil eye”; Gad, Ahlama (jasper), gives strength and removes worry and fear; Asher, Tarshish (emerald), increases wisdom, gives courage and the wearer finds favor in the eyes of fellow men, and it brings success in business; Joseph, Shoham (onyx), is a remedy for restoring memory and improving sight, enables the wearer to speak wisely; Benjamin, Yashfe (jade), prevents hemorrhaging, improves sight and aids in childbirth. As we see, the breastplate and the ephod had an important part in the Temple and in the life of the people of Israel. We hope that in the near future the reconstructed breastplate and ephod will be completed for the high priest for worship in the Third Temple.

 

Article #8.5: The Ephod
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Jewish High Priest wearing the sacred vestments. The ephod is depicted here in yellow.
An ephod (pronounced /ˈiːfɒd/ or /ˈɛfɒd/) was an object in ancient Israelite culture, and was closely connected with oracular practices. In the Books of Samuel, David is described as wearing one when dancing in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, and one is described as standing in the sanctuary at Nob, with a sword behind it; in the book of Exodus and in Leviticus one is described as being created for the Kohen Gadol (Jewish High Priest) to wear as part of his official vestments, in the Book of Judges, Gideon and Micah each cast one from a metal, and Gideon's was worshipped.
Within the Bible, in the contexts where it is worn, the Ephod is usually described as being linen, but did not constitute complete clothing of any kind, as the Books of Samuel describe Michal as taunting David for indecently exposing himself by wearing one. David was "clothed with a robe of fine linen.....David also wore an ephod of linen." [NAS Bible translation; 1 Chronicles, 15:27] "and David was wearing a linen ephod" [NAS Bible translation; 2 Samuel, 6:14] There appears to have been a strong religious and ceremonial implication to wearing an ephod, since the eighty-five priests at Nob are specifically identified as being the type of people who wore an ephod; though the Masoretic text here describes them as being linen ephods, the word linen is not present in the Septuagint version of the passage, nor is it present when the Septuagint describes David and Samuel as girding themselves with an ephod. Therefore, some textual scholars regard its presence in the Masoretic text as a later editorial gloss.
A passage in the Book of Exodus describes the Ephod as an elaborate garment worn by the high priest, and upon which the Hoshen (breastplate), containing Urim and Thummim, rested. According to this description, the Ephod was woven out of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet threads, was made of fine linen, and was embroidered "with skillful work" in gold thread; the Talmud argues that each of the textures was combined in six threads with a seventh of gold leaf, making twenty-eight threads to the texture in total. The Biblical description continues without describing the shape or length of the ephod, except by stating that it was held together by a girdle, and had two shoulder straps which were fastened to the front of the ephod by golden rings, to which the breastplate was attached by golden chains; from this description it appears to have been something like a minimalist apron or a skirt with braces, though Rashi argued that it was like a woman's riding girdle. The biblical description also adds that there were two engraved gems over the shoulder straps (like epaulettes), made from shoham (thought by scholars to mean Malachite, by Jewish tradition to mean Heliodor, and in the King James Version is translated as Onyx), and with the names of the twelve tribes written upon them; the classical rabbinical sources differ as to the order in which the tribes were named on the jewels. Textual scholars attribute the description of the Ephod in Exodus to the priestly source and to a date later than the other mentions of Ephod; biblical scholars believe that the Ephod may have evolved over time into this highly ceremonial form from more primitive beginnings (the simple linen form described in the Books of Samuel), much like the manner in which the highly liturgical maniple evolved from an ordinary handkerchief.
Besides use as a garment, an Ephod was also used for oracular purposes, in conjunction with Urim and Thummim; the books of Samuel imply that whenever Saul or David wished to question God via oracular methods, they asked a priest for the Ephod.[21] Since the oracular process is considered by scholars to have been one of cleromancy, with the Urim and Thummim being the objects which were drawn as lots, the Ephod is considered by scholars to have been some form of container for the Urim and Thummim; to harmonise this with the descriptions of the Ephod as a garment, it is necessary to conclude that the Ephod must have originally been some sort of pocket, which the priests girded to themselves. However, the biblical text states the Urim and Thummim were placed in the breastplate, not the ephod (Leviticus 8:8).
The object at Nob, which must have been somewhat freestanding since another object is kept behind it, and the objects made by Gideon and by Micah, from molten gold, logically cannot have just been garments. The object made by Gideon is plainly described as having been worshipped, and therefore the idol of some deity (possibly of Yahweh), while the object made by Micah is closely associated with a Teraphim, and the Ephod and Teraphim are described interchangeably with the Hebrew terms pesel and massekah, meaning graven image, and molten image, respectively. Even the ephods used for oracular purposes were not necessarily just pieces of cloth, as they are not described as being worn, but carried (though some translations render 1 Samuel 2:28 as wear an ephod rather than carry an epho); the Hebrew term used in these passages for carry is nasa, which specifically implies that the Ephod was carried either in the hand or on the shoulder. The conclusion thus is that Ephod, in these cases, referred to a portable idol, which the lots were cast in front of; some scholars have suggested that the connection between the idol and the garment is that the idol was originally clothed in a linen garment, and the term Ephod gradually came to describe the idol as a whole.
According to the Talmud, the wearing of the ephod atoned for the sin of idolatry on the part of the Children of Israel.
See ephod, (Exodus 28:4,6-12; Judges 17:5; 18:14,17 2 Samuel 6:14; 1 Samuel 2:18; 23:9,10; Isaiah 8:20

 

 


and put it in his city, even in Ophrah;... it may be that Gideon hung it up in some proper place as a monument of his victories, or placed it in a structure built on purpose for it, to keep it nearby for use as an oracle. 

The scriptures do not say what was done with it, but I do not believe it was made a monument of the victory, for such monuments were neither proper nor usual; but it had a definite religious use, and that was the purpose for creating it. The case seems to be this; Gideon having by God's command erected an altar in his own city, Ophrah, [13]ch.6:24, for an extraordinary time and occasion, thought it might continue to be used for commonplace worship; and therefore since he intended to obtain priests, he designed priestly garments, and especially an ephod, which was the chief and most costly item; which besides its use in sacred functions, was also the instrument by which the mind of God was enquired and consulted, and it might seem necessary for the judge to have this at hand, so that he might consult with God upon all occasions.

Gideon, either through ignorance or inconsideration, sinned in making this ephod, although his intentions were good. The place the Israelites were to worship God was SHILOH [SHIGH loe] — a city in the territory of Ephraim which served an Israelite religious center during the days before the establishment of the United Kingdom. Shiloh was “north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem. At Shiloh the tabernacle received its first permanent home, soon after the initial conquest of Canaan by the children of Israel. This established Shiloh as the main sanctuary of worship for the Israelites during the period of the judges.

Shiloh, it is true, was not far off, but it was in Ephraim, and that tribe had recently antagonize, him (v. 1) , which perhaps made him not want to go there when occasions would lead him to consult the oracle, and therefore he would have a place nearer home. However honest his intentions, and though at first there was little harm done, yet in time, Israel went a whoring after it, that is, they deserted God's altar and priesthood, seeing that they were fond of change and prone to idolatry, and since they had some excuse for paying respect to this ephod, because they greatly respected Gideon, who had set it up, their respect for it grew more and more and their rationale more superstitious. Note, many are led into false ways by one false step of a good man.

I do not believe that Gideon had an idolatrous use in view, nor did he contemplate revenge against the men of Shiloh, which is apparent from [15]Judges 8:33. Gideon made an ephod for his use only as a civil magistrate or ruler, as David did—“David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod” (1 Chron 15:27; NKJV), and a magnificent breastplate also. It would seem, from history that he was not to blame for making this ephod, but that it later-on became an object to which religious ideas were attached; whereby it proved a snare, and consequently an evil, by perversion, to Gideon and his family.
and all Israel went thither a whoring  after it:...made an idol of it and worshipped it, and so committed spiritual fornication, which is idolatry. Some render it, "after him"; not after the ephod, but after Gideon; that is, after his death, according to Jarchi. Look at all the religions that are around today and it would appear that people will worship almost anything. But as long as Gideon was alive he prevented the Israelites from making this ephod an idol; but after he died the people turned from God to worship this lifeless uniform, which couldn’t help them in any way; though he cannot be totally excused from sin and weakness for making it, we can still credit him for preventing it becoming an idol.

The idolatrous honor paid to Gideon's ephod was probably a source of revenue to his house; after his death. Contrast this with the conduct of Abraham—[16]Genesis 14:21-23 , and of Elisha—[17]2 Kings 5:16, [17]2 Kings 5:26

The whole Jewish nation is represented as being united to God as a wife is to her husband. Any act of idolatry is considered to be a breach of their covenant with God; and an act of whoredom is a breach of the marriage agreement between a man and wife. God calls himself the husband of the Jewish nation, and their idolatries acts of whoredom, adultery, and fornication. All Israel paid idolatrous worship to the ephod made by Gideon at Ophrah, and this is called going a whoring after it; see [15]Judges 8:33.

We certainly should not think that the holy coat was exposed for the people to worship. It is far more probable that Gideon put on the ephod and wore it as a priest, when he wished to inquire and learn the will of the Lord. It is possible that he also sacrificed to the Lord upon the altar that was built at Ophrah (Judges 6:24)13. The motive which led him to do this was certainly not merely ambition, as Bertheau supposes; ambition is not what impelled him, along with his followers, to retain a detached attitude towards the tribe of Ephraim after the war ended (Judges 8:1.)14, or to act independently of the common sanctuary of the congregation which was within the territory of Ephraim, or to assume the office of the high priest in the time of peace as well. For there is not the slightest trace of such ambition to be found in anything that he did during the conflict with the Midianites. The germs of Gideon's error, which became a snare to him and to his house, lie unquestionably deeper than this, namely, in the fact that the high-priesthood had probably lost its worth in the eyes of the people on account of the worthlessness of its representatives, so that they no longer regarded the high priest as the sole or principal channel of divine revelation; and therefore Gideon, to whom the Lord had shown himself openly, as He had not to any judge or leader of the people since the time of Joshua, might suppose that he was not acting in violation of the law, when he had an ephod made, and thus provided himself with a vehicle for inquiring the will of the Lord. His sin therefore consisted chiefly in his taking on himself the privilege of the Aaronic priesthood, drawing away the people from the one legitimate sanctuary, and thereby not only undermining the theocratic unity of Israel, but also giving an impetus to the relapse of the nation into the worship of Baal, after his death. This sin became a snare to him and to his house.

which thing proved a snare  to Gideon and to his house;...it was a snare to him if he consulted it as an oracle, because that would be a sin, since the only “Urim and Thummim” belonged to the breastplate at Shiloh.

Whatever Gideon’s reason for making the ephod, the end result was that all Israel went thither a whoring after it so that it became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house . It is possible that Gideon meant no harm by his actions and was equally shocked by the unfortunate result. Some commentators suggest that he actually made an idol clothed with the ephod, but this seems highly unlikely. Instead of giving glory to God for His miraculous deliverance, the people began worshiping the loot of that deliverance. The fact that it became a snare unto Gideon would imply that he was not happy with this result.

This was certainly a sad end to Gideon’s influence. Gideon’s ephod became an object of idolatry. Its erection marks the tragic end of a truly great man. Gideon and his family suffered as a result of it. In Judges 9.5 we read of the death of most of Gideon’s sons, because of the desire of one, Abimelech to be king. This tragedy may be traced to the idolatry that resulted from the construction of Gideon’s ephod.

_____________________________________________verse 27 notes____________________________________ 

[12]Ophrah: A fawn. 1Ch 4:14.
(1.) A city of Benjamin (Jos 18:23); probably identical with Ephron (2Ch 13:19) and Ephraim (John 11:54).
(2.) "Of the Abi-ezrites." A city of Manasseh, 6 miles south-west of Shechem, the residence of Gideon (Jdg 6:11; Jdg 8:27, 32). After his great victory over the Midianites, he slew at this place the captive kings (Jdg 8:18-21). He then assumed the function of high priest, and sought to make Ophrah what Shiloh should have been. This thing "became a snare" to Gideon and his house. After Gideon's death his family resided there till they were put to death by Abimelech (Jdg 9:5). It is identified with Ferata.—Easton's Illustrated Dictionary
[13(Judges 6.24) “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” The statement that this altar was still in Ophrah unto this day means that it was still standing in the day of the author of the book of Judges.
[14](Judges 8.1)
“And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites”
[15](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) They left God for something they could see and touch, and they did it with a lot of enthusiasm.
[16](Genesis 14.21-23) “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. 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:” 
[17](2 Kings 5:16, 2 Kings 5:26) “But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused...And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?”

[18](A snare) - An occasion of sin and ruin to him and his, as the next chapter will show. Though Gideon was a good man, and did this with an honest mind, and a desire to set up religion in his own city and family; yet there seem to be many sins surrounding it;
• Superstition and will – worship (worshipping God by a device of his own making, which was expressly forbidden).
• Presumption, in wearing or causing other priests to wear this kind of ephod, which was only to be worn by the high - priest.
• Transgression of a plain command to worship God at one place, and one altar, Deut 12:5, 11, 14.
• Making a division among the people.
• Laying a stumbling - block, or an opportunity to perform idolatry before his people, whom he knew were too prone to it.

 

 

 

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