Judges – Chapter 8

Gideon's Here to Knock Heads and Give Out Candy (Please Note: He's All Out of Candy)

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The men of Ephraim complained to Gideon: Why didn’t he call them for the battle with Midian, instead of leaving them the clean-up? Gideon replied that their role, which they perceived to be small, was actually greater than his accomplishment. (At the risk of waxing political, capturing Orev and Zeev could be compared to the US forces who found Saddam in his “spider hole.” It was a significant event that happened after the battle was won.) The men of Ephraim accepted this from Gideon. (Compare how the Judge Yiftach mishandled a similar situation in Chapter 12.)

Gideon and his army were pursuing the Kings of Midian, when they came to the city of Succos. They asked for food, but were rebuffed because the people feared that Midian would remain in power and would punish them for helping Gideon. Gideon replied that he would capture the kings, then return to thrash the leaders of Succos with thorns. He proceeded to the city of Penuel. They likewise refused to assist Gideon because their city was protected by a tower; he swore to return and destroy the tower. Gideon caught the kings, then returned to punish those cities, as he had said.

Next, Gideon interrogated the captured kings and he learned that his own brothers were among their victims. More displeased than ever, he instructed his son to execute the captives. His son was still a youth and was too intimidated to do so, so Gideon did it himself.

The people asked Gideon to become king over them and to start a dynasty, but he declined. Instead, he collected gold nose rings from each of his soldiers’ booty. He used them to make an ephod (a kind of apron, similar to the one worn by the High Priest) as a sign that G-d had wrought the victory. Unfortunately, his plan backfired and people worshipped it as an idol.

This was followed by 40 peaceful years. Gideon had many wives and 70 sons. Avimelech was Gideon’s son from a concubine. Gideon died and the people started to fall back into their bad ways. To be continued next chapter…

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