Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, March 20, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 21, Jdg 8-9

Today’s readings are Jdg 8-9.

As Gideon pursues the Midianite army and their allies, two cities along the way refuse to help (Jdg 8:1-9). Succoth and Penuel are towns belonging to Gad, Penuel (Penial) being the very place where Jacob wrestled with God and became Israel (Gen 32:28-30). The reason the towns refuse to help their brothers is for fear of Midianite reprisal in the event Gideon loses his war with them. Apparently, between the time of the tribal allotments and Gideon’s day, the region has become unstable. The inability or unwillingness of the original tribes to thoroughly remove all the ungodly peoples from the conquered areas is bearing rancid fruit.

With a decisive victory over the pagan kings, Gideon, seemingly over his doubts and fears, has become a conquering hero and a statesman. We see the first hints that Israel desires a king when they implore upon Gideon to become their king. Gideon wisely tells them that God is their leader (Jdg 8:22-23).

However, it all goes to his head, and he creates his own ephod, a garment designed by God to be worn only by one of His designated priests (Jdg 8:24-28). People begin to worship the garment rather than the God the garment honors and things start going downhill.

We also hear that Gideon has multiple wives and seventy sons. Note, Scripture neither endorses nor condemns polygamy but the man who has more than one wife always seems to struggle mightily. Regardless of his many wives, Gideon has at least one concubine who bears him a son, whom Gideon names "Abimelech", which means, “my father is king.” Although Scripture does not judge Gideon harshly, he is incontestably struggling.

The magnitude of his struggle manifests itself when Gideon dies as Israel begins to pursue other gods (Jdg 8:33-35). His legacy as a godly leader is not a lasting one.

When Abimelech comes of age, he accelerates Israel's slide away from God. He wrests control by bloody and deceitful means, laying siege to his own hometown and killing all seventy of his brothers but one, Jotham (Jdg 9:1-6).

Abimelech comes to a bad end. It seems that Israel has learned neither from previous mistakes nor prophetic warnings. They’re losing their grip on the Transjordan region, struggling in Canaan, looking for an earthly king and blindly following the wrong people. The warnings about eliminating all ungodly influences have gone unheeded, and the consequences are beginning to make themselves known. 

Israel's stunning shift away from God occurs as they begin to prosper and enjoy peace. During their times of oppression and difficulty, they call out to God and beseech Him for help and deliverance. When things go well, they become complacent and drift toward self-interest and worship of just about anything or anyone other than the one true God of the universe. Their pattern of behavior is a lesson in how God uses trials to bring His children closer to Himself and refine them.

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