I am having a really good weekend, and kinda don’t want to do this today. The book of Judges is really testing my resolve to keep going with this project, because it’s a whole lot of killing I wasn’t prepared for. Apparently this book didn’t get talked about as much when I was a kid in church; a lot of it has been stories with which I wasn’t previously familiar, and they’re bumming me out.
But, I soldier on.
Chapter 8- The people of Ephraim are mad that Gideon didn’t ask them to join the battle until it was nearly over. Gideon assuages their hurt feelings with some smooth words. The people take off in pursuit of 2 kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna. Two cities, Succoth and Penuel, refuse to help feed the soldiers, so Gideon promises to come back and destroy them after he finishes with the Midianite kings. He kills the kings, then does as he promised to the 2 cities. The Israelites ask Gideon to rule them; Gideon says God will rule them, but does ask for all their gold earrings as a tribute. He turns the gold into an ephod (an article of clothing) that the people worship instead of God. When Gideon died, the people start worshiping Baal-Berith.
There is a lot going on in this chapter. The first thing that really came to my mind, though, was that the name Zebah reminds me of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. (That’s just how my brain works. I can’t seem to control it.)
There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of killing in this chapter. 120,000+ men die. I’m beginning to be more surprised that the human race survived at all.
I am confused about this golden ephod that Gideon made. Wikipedia tells me that an ephod is an article of clothing that was also sometimes worshiped. Apparently these people would worship anything. What I don’t understand is that in verse 23, Gideon is commanding the people to follow God, but by verse 27 the ephod has become a “snare” to himself and his people. Even God’s mighty warrior would rather worship a golden tunic, it seems.
Verse 30, “Gideon had seventy sons who were his own offspring, for he had many wives.” Yikes. I’m cool with polyamory, but seventy wives (and as many children!) just sounds like a recipe for a kreplit shortage.
Chapter 9- Abimelech (Gideon’s son by a concubine) declares himself king with the support of his mother’s family and kills all of Gideon’s other sons except Jotham, the youngest, because he was hiding. Jotham rebukes the people for accepting Abimelech as king, then runs and hides again. 3 years later, God sows discord between Abimelech and the people. War breaks out; Abimelech is successful for a while, but eventually dies. God says his death is retribution for killing his brothers.
The name Abimelech sounded really familiar, and with the help of Google, I recalled that it was also the name of the king that Abraham lied to about Sarah being his sister. With as many creative names as exist in the Bible, why did they have to repeat names of major-ish characters. It’s confusing! (Says the girl born in the 80s named Jessica…pot, meet kettle.)
I’m also unclear as to why, as retribution for killing his brothers, God starts a war involving Abimelech where he gets to kill a bunch of other people in the process. He burns people alive in a tower before finally meeting his end. I think perhaps, maybe, God was punishing the people as well for accepting Abimelech as king?
As for Abimelech’s death: “But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man, his armorbearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, “A woman killed him.”‘ So his young man thrust him through, and he died.” (53, 54)
The book of Judges has a lot of women killing people. I don’t know whether this is an interesting moment of female empowerment, or a sign that God uses death by a women as an extra shameful way to go. Probably the latter.