Gideon and his men go to camp close to the Midianites in preparation for battle. “And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” So God narrows Gideon’s army of 32,000 men down to 300 men and arms them with unusual weapons of war, trumpets and empty pitchers with torches inside; “and they blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers that were in their hands… they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!’” At the sound and sight of the army of Gideon, the Lord confuses the Midianites, and “the Lord set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled.”
After the initial attack, Gideon calls for the rest of the men of Ephriam to join them in pursuing the Midianites. When the prideful men of Ephraim catch up to Gideon they say “‘Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?’ And they reprimanded him sharply.” It is obvious that these men only care about their own recognition and their own agenda. They have no clue that this is the Lord’s battle and that He chose who will fight and how they will fight. So Gideon responds by giving them the recognition they want, and then he continues on with the work that the Lord has for him.
Once the Lord gives Gideon final victory over the Midianites, the people ask Gideon to rule over them, but he smartly declines and tells the people that the Lord shall rule over them. However, Gideon’s humble words do not align with his prideful actions as he tells the people to bring him earrings from the plunder. Then Gideon makes an ephod, a garment worn by the priests, out of the gold, which becomes a snare to Israel because anything we elevate other than the Lord always becomes a stumbling block. Gideon began well with the Lord, but success leads him to sin. A now prideful Gideon acquires many wives and has seventy sons. However, the Lord gives the Israelites forty years of peace.
“So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel.” Gideon’s son Abimelech from his concubine in Shechem hires some reckless troublemakers to follow him. “Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem.”
Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, who escaped the slaughter, runs to the top of Mount Gerizim, where about one hundred and fifty years earlier Israel heard the blessings of God for obedience (Joshua 8:33). From there Jotham shouts down a parable to the people warning them of their new king. He tells of worthy trees bearing good fruit who did not want to be king, but the unworthy bramble did. This unworthy bramble will not provide any good shelter or protection for the people. Jotham says that the city of Shechem will be repaid for foolishly choosing such an unworthy leader.
Tomorrow Jotham’s warning comes true as the Lord sends a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Keep reading. (Judges 7:1-9:21)