Bible References: Judges 8:18-35, Judges chapter 9
Heart of Story: Gideon was an Israelite judge but actions later in his life documented that he led Israelites into idolatry and apostasy. After Gideon defeated the Midianites, the Promised Land had no wars for 40 years.
Back Story: When Gideon killed the two Midianite kings, he took the gold on the necks of their camels. Most likely he also took the gold from each king. After Gideon and the men with him returned to Manasseh, the people requested that Gideon become their king. Gideon refused and his words are ones that Christians remember, “I will not rule over you, and my sons will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Gideon asked each man to give him a single gold earring from their spoils. The men did so.
Story Line: After successfully defeating Midianites and tribes aligned with them, Gideon took his share of the gold from defeated Midianites. He made an ephod from the gold, set it up in Ophrah. Gideon and the people of Orhrah worshiped the ephod as if it was their god; thus, worshiping a false idol.
Gideon had multiple wives and 70 sons. The youngest son was Jotham. In Shechem, Gideon had a concubine who was a Canaanite. The name Abimelech means “my father is king.” Most likely, the concubine named her son. Gideon refused to be king consequently would not have given a son a name that meant “my father is king.”
Pondering Relationships: Most non-Jews don’t immediately know what an ephod is. Thus, they can’t relate to the one Gideon created from gold and placed in Ophrah. An ephod was an ornate ceremonial garment designed to be worn only by the chief priest (Exodus 28:6-12). The complete high priest garments included the woven ephod and onyx stones (on which were written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel) fastened to the shoulders.
Initially, clothing which included the ephod was prepared for the chief priest Aaron to wear when the Tabernacle was built and priests ordained. The ephod and other priestly garment were to only be worn by the chief priest. In the early years of Israelites in the Promised Land, the Tabernacle and Israelite high priest was at Shiloh. The high priest’s garments would have been there.
Gideon making a statue of the high priest’s ephod most likely was designed to honor God who gave the Gideon victory of the Midianites. In time, the ephod image was worshiped rather than the true God; thus, the ephod became a trap for Gideon’s family, the people of Ophrah, and the wider Israelite nation.
Although Gideon refused to be named king, some of his actions were similar to ancient Near Eastern kings. Gideon had multiple wives. Possibly, Israelite fathers negotiated with Gideon to marry daughters. These families wanted to be associated with a significant leader such as Gideon in much the same way that foreign kings gave daughters to King Solomon.
The Old Testament (Deuteronomy 17:17) laws say that a king should not have multiple wives or his heart will be led astray. Old Testament law does not address the number of wives that non-kings can have; thus, I could find no Old Testament written law against Gideon having multiple wives. The Bible provided no information that Gideon was led astray by his wives in the same way the King Solomon was led to worship foreign gods by his wives.
Gideon took a concubine as a secondary wife in a manner that mimicked the behavior of kings in surrounding countries. Gideon’s un-named concubine was a Canaanite, not an Israelite. Often concubines were treated more as servants rather than wives. Gideon’s concubine lived in Shechem rather than in the family complex at Ophrah. Possibly, the concubine didn’t want to move to Gideon’s family complex where she would be treated as a servant.
Gideon accumulated wealth, i.e., gold, from the battle. Likely, Israelites gave Gideon monetary and other gifts for ridding their land of Midianite invaders. Large accumulations of gold and silver are banned for kings (Deuteronomy 17:17). Accumulation of gold and silver by non-kings isn’t forbidden as long as Israelites give a yearly tithe to God. Wealth-accumulation in and of itself is not a sin. Sin occurs when the wealth is not used to glorify God.
Reflection: As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites began to worship idols (Judges 8:33). How did Gideon’s behavior facilitate this Israelite behavior.
Copyright: June 21, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth.
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