He Modestly Declines the Government of Israel
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.—Judges 8:22-23 (KJV)
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.-Judges 8.22,(KJV)
22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “You, then your son, and then your grandson, must rule us. You rescued us from Midian.”-Judges 8:22-23 (GW)
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon…Some time after his return, the chief men of Israel met in a body to decide upon the future government of Israel. They decided upon Gideon, and sent a deputation to him with an offer that would make him king over Israel. The success of Gideon against the feared and hated Midianites marked him as the one blessed with divine favor. He was the strongest man in Israel, as far as his influence and popularity is concerned, and the most likely candidate for ruler.
"The men of Israel" did not include all the twelve tribes, but probably only the northern tribes of the western part of the land already mentioned in Judges 6:35 , who had suffered more severely from Midianite oppression, and had been the first to gather round Gideon to make an attack upon the foe.
rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and thy son's son also; that is, become our king, and let the crown be hereditary in thy family. What a weak, foolish, and unpredictable people these were! Up to now their government was a theocracy; and now, dazzled with the success of a man who was only an instrument in the hands of God to deliver them from their enemies, they wish to throw off the Divine yoke, and shackle themselves with an unlimited hereditary monarchy! An unlimited monarchy is a curse; a limited monarchy may be a blessing: the latter may be an appointment of God; the former never can be. Those who cast off their allegiance to their Maker are guilty of foolishness and extravagance of every kind.
As a judge in Israel, he already had a sort of rule and government over them under God, but his rule did not include royal power and authority; and this was what the people of Israel wanted; they wanted a king so that they might be like their neighbors; and this was what they tempted Gideon with, and the reason they gave for their choice was that he had done such very wonderful and extraordinary things for them. In view of that, it was right to offer it: and since he had faced the perils of their deliverance he should enjoy the honor and power of commanding them forever afterwards, and that it was very desirable that he who at this great and critical juncture had had such manifest tokens of God's presence with him should forever afterwards preside in their affairs. Making him king was one way they could reward Gideon for what he had done for them. But it was also somewhat of a guarantee that there would be a measure of unity among the tribes as well as the kind of leadership that would mobilize them against possible future invaders.
Let us apply it to the Lord Jesus: He has delivered us out of the hands of our enemies, our spiritual enemies (Satan and his allies), the worst and most dangerous of enemies, and therefore it is fitting He should rule over us; for how can we be ruled better than to be ruled by one that appears to have so great an interest in heaven and so great a kindness for this earth? We are delivered for a purpose; that we may serve him without fear (Lu. 1:74, 75).
for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian; he delivered them from being in bondage to them, and therefore, he was fit to be a king over them.
This is the first indication given to us in Scripture that the children of Israel wanted a king to rule over them. God told them at the beginning that He did not want them to have a king like the nations all-around them. Moses warned that one day Israel would want a king like the other nations and forget that they were a unique nation, unlike the gentiles: “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deut 4:5-8; ESV). What other nation had the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, as their king?
But because Gideon had delivered them from bondage, they wanted him to accept the position of king. Note that Israel, true to their rebellious character, gave the honor and glory which belonged to God to one of them, namely, Gideon. He apparently is the first one to have been offered this high position, and according to the next verse he turned it down. Later on we will discover that Israel asks for a king again. In fact, they insist upon having a king, and finally they demand one. Then God tells Samuel (who is the last of the judges and the first in the line of the prophets) that he is to anoint a king for them. Also God makes it clear that Israel is not rejecting Samuel, but is rejecting God. God wanted to rule over His people. The form of government for Israel was to be a theocracy. In this case, it was God who had used Gideon so remarkably, but it is Gideon whom Israel wants to rule over them. They not only want Gideon to rule, but his son and his son’s son also. This means that they want a king like the nations around them.
Notice the remarkable answer that Gideon gave the people (v.23)
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(Judges 6.35; ESV ) “Now all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in the Valley of Jezreel.” The Arab alliance moved into the area with renewed aggression and pitched their tents in the valley of Jezreel, extending from Mount Carmel to the Jordan Valley. This was often a major battleground, for it cut into the heart of Palestine. In response to this challenge, the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he rallied the men of Abiezer, his hometown, and the men of Asher … Zebulun … Nphtali joined with them.
(Luke 1.74, 75; KJV) “That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”
How comprehensive is the view given here!
(1) The purpose of all redemption -- "that we should serve Him" -- that is, "the Lord God of Israel" (Lu 1:68). The word “serve” signifies religious service distinctively -- "the priesthood of the New Testament."
(2) The nature of this service -- "in holiness and righteousness before Him" (Lu 1:75) -- or, as in His presence (compare Ps 56:13).
(3) Its freedom -- "being delivered out of the hand of our enemies."
(4) Its fearlessness -- "might serve Him without fear."
(5) Its duration -- "all the days of our life."
—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.-Judges.23 (KJV)
23 Gideon replied, “I will not rule you nor will my son. The LORD will rule you.”-Judges 8:23 (GW)
And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you…Not that he declined the government of them as a judge, to which he was elevated by God, but as a king, for which he had no authority and call from God; the choice of a king belonged to Him, and not to the people. Their request was a confession of unbelief; for as Gideon reminded them, God was their king. Every Jew should have known that the mercy seat in the tabernacle was the throne of God from which He ruled in the midst of His people. “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth” (Psalms 80:1; ESV). “The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!”(Psalms 99:1; ESV). To set up a rival throne would be to dethrone the Lord.
neither shall my son rule over you; which Abarbinel thinks he spoke as a prophet, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; for after his death neither Jether his eldest son, nor any of the rest of his legitimate sons, ruled over them; for they were all slain by Abimelech, the son of his concubine, who was made king.
the Lord shall rule over you; as he did since the days of Abraham; their government was a theocracy, which they wanted to change, but Gideon would not agree to it. However, though Gideon says he doesn't want to be a king, in the rest of the chapter he goes on to act like one. His words are humble, but his actions are not. It's easy to talk humility and service to God, but it is harder to actually live it
The Lord has ruled Israel in a special manner, by judges, whom God appointed and directed, even by Urim and Thummim, and assisted upon all occasions; whereas Kings had only a general dependence upon God.
The temptation to accept the government of Israel was resisted by this warrior of God. "Neither I nor my son shall rule over you; Jehovah shall rule over you," was his reply to this offer, which contains an evident allusion to the destination and constitution of the tribes of Israel as a nation which Jehovah had chosen to be His own possession, and to which He had just made himself known in so conspicuous a manner as their omnipotent Ruler and King. This refusal of the regal dignity on the part of Gideon is not at variance with the fact, that Moses had already foreseen the possibility that at some future time the desire for a king would arise in the nation, and had given them a law for the king expressly designed for such circumstances as these (Deuteronomy 17:14. For Gideon did not decline the honor because Jehovah was King in Israel, i.e., because he regarded an earthly monarchy in Israel as irreconcilable with the heavenly monarchy of Jehovah, but simply because he thought the government of Jehovah in Israel was fully sufficient, and did not consider either himself or his sons called to found an earthly monarchy. The words of Gideon are right on; it was not his place to take the throne over Israel. God intended that Israel recognize that the Lord was king over Israel - the nation already had a King, if they would only recognize Him
The Lord shall rule over you - Few who possess such power as Gideon at this time would have rejected the offer. His speech calls them back to their first principles, and should have excited in them both shame and repentance.
It was honorable of him to refuse it: I will not rule over you. What he did was done for a purpose; to serve them, not to rule them—to make them safe, trouble-free, and happy, not to make himself great or honorable. And, since he was not ambitious for a royal title and the majesty that is associated with kings, he did not covet that for him or his family: "My son shall not rule over you, either while I live or when I am gone, but the Lord shall still rule over you, and constitute your judges by the special designation of his own Spirit, as he has done." This shows:
1) His modesty, and the poor opinion he had of himself and his own competence. He thought the honor of doing well in the war to rid Israel of their Midianite enemies was compensation enough for all his services, which did not need to be rewarded with the honor of kingship.
2) His piety, and the good opinion he had of God's government. Perhaps he detected in the people a dislike of the theocracy, or divine government, a desire for a king like the surrounding nations, and thought they availed themselves of his merits as a credible pretence to move for this change of government. But Gideon would by no means go along with it. No good man can be pleased with any honor done for him which ought to be given to God.
Gideon certainly had learned a lesson; there is no question about it. This young man, who threshed grain down by the winepress, recognized that he was a coward. He knew that it was God who had given him the victory. He knew he had no strength in himself to win the battle, but he realized God had raised him up for this purpose. Gideon was indeed a remarkable person. He is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11 where the “Heroes of the Faith” are listed. In fact, he leads the list of judges. He is also ahead of David in the list. “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:32–34). The writer of Hebrews says that there was not enough time to tell everything about these men, and he wanted to tell about Gideon. God raised up Gideon to perform an extraordinary task. It teaches us that any man or woman that God uses has to be used on God’s terms. And He chooses the weak things of this world.
It seems as though each judge had some glaring weakness and in most cases God used it. Gideon’s weakness was the fact that he was a coward. J. Vernon McGee said this about himself—“At times I have felt very close to this man in my ministry. When I became pastor of the great Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, California, in 1949, I preached my first message on Gideon. I put myself in his class. I came to that congregation in weakness. The only reason I could see that God called me was because I was like Gideon—weak and cowardly. I have rejoiced in the fact that God did for me what He did for Gideon. God certainly was with me, and I have always been grateful to Him. I have discovered that when I get in the way (and I do sometimes), then I stumble and fall. But as long as I am willing to let God have His way, it is remarkable what He will do. I give God all of the glory for my radio ministry, friend. I never sought it. I did not start out after it. Like Topsy, it “just growed.” God has blessed it, and I rejoice in it. He has been wonderful.
I wish we could end the story of Gideon here, but he had another weakness that will be the subject of the following chapters
Article 8.3: Urim and Thummim
Urim and Thummim, generally translated as "lights and perfections" or "revelation and truth" were a scrying medium or divination process used by ancient Hebrews (usually Israelites) in revealing the will of God on a contested point of view or other problem. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they were also used to translate ancient manuscripts, including The Book of Mormon however, their recorded use by Joseph Smith, Jr. is not in conjunction with their recorded historical use by the Hebrews.
According to the teachings of Judaism, a small parchment with God's holy name, the Tetragrammaton, inscribed on it was slipped into an opening under the Urim and Thummim on the high priest's breast plate, which caused the breastplate to "glow" and thereby "transmit messages" from God to the Children of Israel.
The Urim and Thummim is also thought to be a Hebrew oracular device, used in the following manner: "The twelve stones in the breastplate, with their bright colors, were of great importance in the oracular sentences of the high priest, who by means of these stones made the Urim and Thummim exercise their functions" according to Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews. Some scholars have suggested "the" Urim and Thummim consists of two crystals; however, the precise nature of the medium is unknown to most secular scholars. According to the Hebrew Bible, stones used for "an" Urim and Thummim were kept in the breastplate of Aaron, the brother of Moses.
More recent scholars have pointed to the plural nature of the words to argue that there wasn't "a" certain device, but rather Urim and Thummim was the process or procedure priests used in the casting of lots and some sort of stones or jewels were the medium. Others have pointed out that the words "Urim and Thummim," in the Hebrew, begin with the first letter (aleph,) and end with the final letter (tav,) of the Hebrew alphabet, that the device contained these and perhaps other letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which were used as lots to determine the response of the oracle.
There is some evidence that Urim and Thummim were/was used as a lot that provided "yes" or "no" answers, depending upon whether the Urim or the Thummim came into play, as manipulated by a Hebrew oracle. There is also evidence that the medium was used as an ordeal to establish a person's guilt or innocence.
The earliest reference to Urim and Thummim in the Hebrew Bible is that Aaron carried them with him as High Priest. Many scholars believe Urim and Thummim were originally stones that resided in the breastplate (with other precious stones) of the Jewish High Priest ceremonial clothing when he officiated in the tabernacle or temple. Upon the death of Aaron and Moses, Joshua was instructed to present himself to the high priest for the counsel of the Urim and Thummim when he wished to consult God. This was in contrast to Moses, who was believed to speak to God directly, and indicated that Joshua would not normally receive direct revelation. The last agreed-upon reference to Urim and Thummim in the Bible is in Ezra and Nehemiah when, as the Temple and its worship practices are being restored, those who cannot prove their lineage as priests are commanded to wait for a priest with Urim and Thummim to identify them.
Some feel that "Urim and Thummim" is another name for the casting of lots, rather than a device (or stones, etc.) that is used as a medium. Because of this context, some traditions hold that the choosing of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot in the book of Acts by the casting of lot was done by Urim and Thummim, rather than by "the" Urim and Thummim. In either case, Urim and Thummim are not mentioned specifically in Biblical text in regard to this calling.
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(Deuteronomy 17:14; NKJV) “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me.” When thou . . . shalt say, I will set a king over me -- In the following passage Moses prophetically announces a revolution which should occur at a later period in the national history of Israel. No sanction or recommendation was indicated; on the contrary, when the popular clamor had effected that constitutional change on the theocracy by the appointment of a king, the divine disapproval was expressed in the most unequivocal terms (1Sa 8:7). Permission at length was granted, God reserving to Himself the nomination of the family and the person who should be elevated to the regal dignity (1Sa 9:15 1Sa 10:24 1Sa 16:12 1Ch 28:4). In short, Moses foreseeing that his ignorant and fickle countrymen, insensible to their advantages as a peculiar people, would soon wish to change their constitution and be like other nations, provides to a certain extent for such an emergency and lays down the principles on which a king in Israel must act. He was to possess certain indispensable requisites. He was to be an Israelite, of the same race and religion, to preserve the purity of the established worship, as well as be a type of Christ, a spiritual king, one of their brethren.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary