“Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23)
In the two hundred sixty years or so since they had first crossed the Jordan, Israel had been dominated by other groups four times. Each time it had been the result of their deciding that God’s commandments were no longer relevant. Each time they had been delivered when they turned back to God and Followed the instructions of a Judge God sent to teach them. They had had far less turmoil than any of the nations around them.
Having seen how completely Gideon defeated the Midianites, the people decided to make him king. Three hundred years later, when they demanded a king, in I Samuel 8:20, it was “That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” Literally, they wanted a king to take responsibility for their serving the Lord, and for fighting their battles for them. The people in Gideon’s were probably thinking the same thing.
Gideon flatly refused to take the monarchy or allow his son to, stating that God was Israel’s king. To do as they asked would be to usurp God’s authority. In I Samuel 8:7, God stated, “…they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” God’s plan was(and is) that they should be responsible directly to God, and that he would fight for them and protect them from their enemies as he promised in Deuteronomy 20:4, “For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.”
Two hundred years later, they were still following this plan, when Judges 17:6 declares, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” No one forced them to follow the Lord, but each man made his own decision. It is repeated in Judges 21:25.
Today many use Judges 17:6 and 21:25 as a reason for having a powerful ruler. In doing so they ignore the results after Israel got kings. The kings more often led the people away from God than to him, and were constantly embroiled in wars. Only about a fourth of the thirty eight kings that reigned in Judah and Israel even pretended to serve God. In Revelation 2 we are told that God hates both the doctrine and the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. Matthew 20:25-27, Mark 10:42-44, and Luke 22:25-26 all teach that we are not to have powerful rulers in the church. Christ is to be the head, not the pastor.
A Symbol Becomes An Idol
“And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) Jud 8:25 And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks.
And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.” (Judges 8:24-27)
The Midianites and Amalekites were descendants of Ishmael, and wore gold earrings as a means of identification, as well as a means of showing off their wealth. They also wore other jewelry as well as decorating their camel tack. When they killed them Israel had kept the gold, and much of the rich clothing for themselves. Gideon requested that he be given some of the spoil to be used to make an ephod similar to the one the high priest wore, apparently to try to focus people’s attention on God.
Described in Exodus 28, the ephod was a tunic of fine linen, woven in pattern of blue purple, scarlet and gold, fastened at each shoulder with a large stone in a gold setting which supported the breastplate on gold chains. The breastplate had twelve more large semiprecious stones in gold settings and contained the Urim and Thumim. It symbolized the High Priest’s function as the mediator between God and man as described in Hebrews 5:1-2.
Used in the temple as just a part of the entire service of God, the ephod helped people to understand, but isolated, it lost it‘s symbolism, becoming an object of worship. Today we see a similar attitude toward baptism, or the communion service. Misused symbols become a snare hindering even sincere believers and completely misleading others. Gideon’s Last Days
“Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.” (Judges 8:28)
After their defeat at the hands of Gideon, the Midianites never again attacked Israel. For forty years, while Gideon lived, Israel served the Lord and lived in peace.
“And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Judges 8:29-32)
While Gideon served the Lord, he let down his guard in certain areas. Although there was no prohibition of polygamy, the law specified they were not to multiply wives to themselves. Gideon had many wives, including a concubine that was never formally married. His involvement in questionable behaviors such as making the ephod and marrying many women set the stage for Israel’s next turn