Judges 8

Zebah and Zalmunna

1 The Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why did you not ask us to come with you to fight Midian?’ They thought that he did not want their help. They were very angry with Gideon. 2 Gideon said that they had done much more than he had. His part was only small. 3 God had given them Oreb and Zeeb. Ephraim's part was much bigger than Gideon's. When Gideon said this, the Ephraimites stopped being angry.

4 Gideon and his 300 men were very tired. But they crossed the Jordan and ran after the Midianites. 5 He asked the men of Succoth for bread to feed his soldiers. He said that they were tired. But they wanted to catch Zebah and Zalmunna. These were the two Kings of Midian. 6 The leaders of Succoth said, ‘You have not yet caught Zebah and Zalmunna. We will not give you bread’. 7 Gideon replied, ‘I will return when I have taken Zebah and Zalmunna. Then I will punish you with sharp branches. They will tear your skin’.

8 Gideon went on to Peniel. He asked their people for bread. But they gave the same answer as the men of Succoth. 9 Gideon said to the men of Peniel, ‘When I have won the fight with my enemies, I will return. Then I will destroy your strongest building’.

10 Zebah and Zalmunna had 15,000 men with them in Karkor. They were the only men left of their great army from the east. 120,000 of their soldiers had died. 11 Gideon followed a quiet, country path to Karkor. He went east of Nobah and Jogbehah. He made a surprise attack on the army there. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna ran away. Gideon ran after the two kings and caught them. The whole Midianite army ran away.

13 Then Gideon, son of Joash returned towards Israel. He went through the Pass of Heres.

14 He caught a young man from Succoth. He made the young man write the names of 77 leaders. 15 Gideon showed Zebah and Zalmunna to the men of Succoth. He said, ‘You refused to give us bread because we had not already caught Zebah and Zalmunna’. 16 He caught the leaders of Succoth. He hit them with thorn branches to punish them. 17 He also destroyed the building at Peniel, and killed the men of the town.

18 Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna what kind of men they had killed at Tabor. The kings answered, ‘Men like you, men who stood like kings’. 19 Gideon replied, ‘These were my brothers. They were my mother's sons. As sure as the Lord lives, if you had let my brothers live, then I would have let you live’. 20 He turned to his oldest son, Jether. ‘Kill them,’ he said. But Jether stood still. He was afraid because he was only a boy. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, ‘Kill us yourself. You are strong’. So Gideon went to them and killed them. He took the valuable ornaments from their camels' necks.

Gideon's ephod

22 The Israelites asked Gideon to be their king. They said, ‘Rule over us, you and your sons. You have saved us from the rule of Midian’.

23 But Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you. Nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you’. 24 He said, ‘I will ask for one thing. Will each of you give me one ear-ring from the riches you have taken?’ (The Ishmaelites wore gold ear-rings.)

25 They answered, ‘We are happy to give them to you’. So they put a coat on the ground. Every man threw a ring on to it. 26 The weight of all the rings was 1,700 shekels (about 40 pounds or 19 kilos in weight). They also had many other valuable things. They had ornaments and rich clothes from the Kings of Midian. And they took the rich ornaments from the necks of the camels. 27 Gideon made the gold into a beautiful ephod. He put this in Ophrah, his own town. All the Israelites came and worshipped the ephod. They made it into a false god. It pulled Gideon and his family away from the true God.

Gideon dies

28 Midian could not fight Israel again. While Gideon was alive, Israel kept Midian down. The land had peace for 40 years. 29 Gideon, son of Joash, went back home to live. 30 He had many wives and 70 sons. 31 Gideon visited a woman who lived in Shechem. They had a son called Abimelech.

32 Gideon, son of Joash, lived for a long time. Then he died and they put his body into the ground with that of his father, Joash. This was in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 As soon as Gideon had died, the Israelites started to worship the Baals again, They made Baal-Berith their god. 34 They forgot the Lord their God. They did not remember that he had saved them from their enemies. These enemies had been all round them. 35 Nor were Israel kind to the family of Gideon. They did not remember all the good things that he had done for them.

8:35Gideon told the Israelites that he did not want to rule over them. He said that the Lord was their King. But he did live like a king. He had many wives. He was rich. The ephod he made became a false god. This pulled the Israelites away from the true God. It pulled his own family away from God. We are not sure how people used an ephod. We know that the leader of the priests wore one. He may have used it when he tried to find out what God wanted. Israel had no leaders of the priests in the days of the judges. The people of Israel forgot that they must worship only the true God. They must obey his rules. They must not worship other gods. When they did this, God always punished them.