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(MT versing)
Zabah and Zalmunna Routed Gideon Subdues the Midianites Gideon
The Final Defeat of the Midianites The Ephramites Take Offence
8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3
Gideon Pursues the Enemy Beyond the Jordan
8:4-9 8:4-9 8:4-9 8:4-5 8:4-9
8:7-9 The Defeat of Zebah and Zalmunna
8:10-12 8:10-12 8:10-12 8:10-12 8:10-12
Gideon's Acts of Vengeance
8:13-17 8:13-17 8:13-17 8:13-17 8:13-21
8:18-21 8:18-21 8:18-21 8:18a
Gideon's Ephod 8:21 Latter Days of Gideon
8:22-27 8:22-28 8:22-28 8:22 8:22-27
Forty Years of Peace 8:25-27
8:28 8:28 8:28-32
Death of Gideon The Death of Gideon
8:29-32 8:29-32 8:29-32 8:29-32 Israel Relapses into Idolatry
8:33-35 8:33-35 8:33-35 8:33-35 8:33-35

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


1Then the men of Ephraim said to him, "What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?" And they contended with him vigorously. 2But he said to them, "What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

8:1 "the men of Ephraim" This was the largest and most powerful tribe. It was the tribe of Joshua and Samuel.

▣ "they contended with him vigorously" Josephus (Antiq. 5.6.6) says they wanted to make war against Gideon. The Amphictyony period was a time of loose alliances and tribal jealousies. Gideon's tribe, Manasseh, was closely related to Ephraim, both being sons of Joseph (cf. Gen. 48:8-22).

8:2 "the gleaning" This was probably a proverb of the day. The gleaning is the grain left from the first harvest. It was left for the poor (cf. Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21).

▣ "Abiezer" This is the name for one of the clans of Manasseh (cf. Jos. 17:2; 1 Chr. 7:14-19, esp. 7:18). The name appears in Jdgs. 6:11,34 and here. They settled west of Shechem on the western side of Jordan.

8:3 Gideon downplays the importance of his victories to make Ephraim feel more important. It was the Ephraimites who captured the military leaders (BDB 978) of Midian (cf. Jdgs. 7:25) and killed them.

Apparently Zebah and Zalmunna were

  1. their political leaders (i.e., princes, BDB 978)
  2. in Ps. 83:11 they are called
    1. Oreb and Zeeb ‒ "nobles" (BDB 622)
    2. Zebah and Zalmunna ‒ "princes" (BDB 651)
  3. leaders of other clans of Midian

4Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. 5He said to the men of Succoth, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian." 6The leaders of Succoth said, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?" 7Gideon said, "All right, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers." 8He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. 9So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I return safely, I will tear down this tower."

8:4 This describes Gideon and his army of 300 pursuing the remnant (cf. Jdgs. 8:10) of the invaders' army across Jordan to the eastern side.

Both Succoth and Penuel are eastern cities on the major caravan route from Mt. Tabor to the southeast.

8:5 "Succoth" The name (BDB 697) means "booths" (cf. Gen. 33:17). It is located in the territory of Gad on the eastern side of Jordan, close to the River Jabbok.

Gideon asked (Qal IMPERATIVE) the city of Succoth to provide food for his weary soldiers but they refused out of fear of the larger Midian army (cf. Jdgs. 8:10).

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB  "loaves of bread"

The Hebrew term translated "loaves" (BDB 503) means "round." Therefore, it was a designation for bread in the shape of a circle (cf. 1 Sam. 2:36; 10:3; 1 Chr. 16:3; Pro. 6:26; Jer. 37:21). It was often used as an idiom for food in general without designating the kind.

▣ "Zebah" The name (BDB 258 II) means "sacrifice" or "victim." The name occurs only in this chapter and Ps. 83:11.

▣ "Zalmunna" The name (BDB 193) means "withheld hospitality" or "withheld protection."

8:6 "hands" The reference to "hands" may mean

  1. power
  2. literally, a way of showing victory by cutting off body parts (see IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 256)


8:8 "Penuel" This place was named by Jacob after he wrestled with the angel, yet he lived (cf. Gen. 32:30).

The name (BDB 819) means "face of God (El)."

This east bank city replied in the same way as Succoth.

8:9 "I will tear down this tower" It was the city's security and pride.

10Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen. 11Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting. 12When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

8:10 "Karkor" The place is unknown (ABD, vol. 4, p. 6). It is obviously on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 256, suggests the MT should not read as a place name but as "level ground," which it asserts was seven miles from Rabbah (Amman). If this is true, it would show that Gideon did not travel so far into the trans-Jordan area.

▣ "15,000" Josephus says it was 18,000.

8:11 "went up by the way of those who lived in tents" This refers to (1) a caravan route or (2) the way of nomads (JB). It is a phrase used of unwalled villages or campsites.

▣ "Nobah and Jogbehah" The first name is not listed in the MacMillan Bible Atlas index but the second is, on page 63, map 76. It is positioned between Penuel and Rabbath-bene-ammon on the caravan route to Karkor.

▣ "when the camp was unsuspecting" This is literally "secure" (BDB 224, KB 243, Qal PERFECT with ADVERB, BDB 105 I). It could mean

  1. this large military camp felt secure, so far from the fighting on the west bank
  2. they had posted guards
  3. they did not expect Gideon to follow them
  4. it was another night attack

8:12 "routed the whole army" The VERB (BDB 353, KB 350, Hiphil PERFECT) means "to terrify" (cf. NJB). As in the first battle (Jdgs. 7:21-22), Gideon's army caused panic.

13Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15He came to the men of Succoth and said, "Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, 'Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'" 16He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. 17He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

8:13 "ascent of Heres" The KJV has "before the sun was up." Heres (BDB 357 I) means "sun." All other English translations translate it as an unknown pass or ascent leading up from Jogbehah to Succoth along the caravan route. It possibly had an association with sun worship.

8:14 "the youth wrote down" This shows the educational level of children in this age and locality. A "youth" (BDB 654) could refer to someone from infancy to 40 years of age.

▣ "the princes. . .its elders" This seems to designate two different leadership groups.

The term "princes" (BDB 978) is the same one used in Jdgs. 7:25 for "Oreb" and Zeeb."

"Elders" would refer to the older tribal or community leaders. Both are also used together in Isa. 3:14.


▣ "seventy-seven men" This number of community leaders is very large for one city the size of Succoth. Possibly it is figurative for a full and complete list.


8:16-17 Judges 8:17 specifically states that Gideon killed the male population of Penuel but 8:16 might be a type of physical punishment short of death.

8:16 "disciplined" The MT has "made known" (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw, see NASB margin). The LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate emend this to "thrash" (BDB 190, KB 218).

  1. know ‒ ידע inflected וידע
  2. thrash ‒ דוש inflected וידש

18Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" And they said, "They were like you, each one resembling the son of a king." 19He said, "They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if only you had let them live, I would not kill you." 20So he said to Jether his firstborn, "Rise, kill them." But the youth did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a youth. 21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Rise up yourself, and fall on us; for as the man, so is his strength." So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments which were on their camels' necks.

8:18 "They were like you" These kings remembered the ones they had killed at Mt. Tabor. This battle is not mentioned in the OT. Part of Gideon's motivation in pursuing the Midianites across the Jordan was revenge.

The phrase "each one resembling the son of a king" gives some credance to the view that "O valiant warrior" (Jdgs. 6:12) was a reference to nobility.

8:19 "As the Lord lives" This is an oath formula using YHWH's name.


▣ "I would not kill you" Gideon was the Go'el for his brothers (i.e., Kinsman Redeemer, cf. Num. 35:19).

8:20 "a youth" This is the same word used in Jdgs. 8:14. Gideon's son was part of his army but still not accustomed to the brutality of ANE warfare.

These kings being killed by a "youth" would be the height of shame (i.e., 1 Sam. 17:42). So they asked Gideon to kill them instead (Jdgs. 8:21).

8:21 "for as the man, so is his strength" This unusual Hebrew phrase may refer to the fact that these kings wanted a quick kill by an expert warrior.

D. Brent Sandy and Ronald L. Giese, Cracking Old Testament Codes, pp. 239,245, suggest that both Jdgs. 8:20 and 21 are proverbial.

▣ "the crescent ornaments" Arabs still use this crescent moon symbol (see note at Isa. 3:18 online; see ABD, vol. 3, p. 831). This would represent YHWH's victory over moon worship.


22Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." 23But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you." 24Yet Gideon said to them, "I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil." (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25They said, "We will surely give them." So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels' necks. 27Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household.

8:22 "Rule over us" This was an offer by several of the northern tribes to let Gideon be king (cf. 1 Sam. 8:5). Gideon declined, probably because he knew YHWH was the true king (cf. Exod. 15:18; 1 Sam. 8:4-20; 12:12; 1 Kgs. 22:19; Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 47; 93; 96; 97; 98; 99; Isa. 6:5; 24:33; 41:21; 43:15; 44:6; 52:7; Mic. 4:7). Canaan was YHWH's land (cf. Jos. 22:19; Jer. 2:7; 16:18; Ezek. 36:5; Hos. 9:3).

8:24 "Ishmaelites" This designation seems to apply to both Midianites and Ishmaelites (cf. Gen. 37:28). Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah (cf. Gen. 25:2), while Ishmael was from Abraham and Hagar (cf. Gen. 16:15).

8:25 "We will surely give them" This is an intensified grammatical structure (an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and IMPERFECT VERB from the same root, BDB 678, KB 733).

The northern tribes who participated in the battle were happy to share with Gideon.

8:26 Notice the different sources of wealth.

  1. gold earrings (or nose rings)
  2. crescent (BDB 962; NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1220) ornaments on the camels
  3. the pendants (BDB 643)
  4. purple robes
  5. neck bands (BDB 778) on the camels, obviously different from #2, which are mentioned earlier

One of these may have had religious significance as amulets or charms from pagan gods. Melting them (Jdgs. 8:27) may have shown their powerlessness!

▣ "17,000 shekels" This equals somewhere between 40-75 pounds.


▣ "purple robes" Purple was very expensive, made from sea shells (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 498). It was a sign of wealth and royalty.

8:27 "an ephod" This is either (1) a cloth garment of a priest (cf. Exod. 39:1-2), which contains the means of determining God's will or (2) a free standing idol (cf. Jdgs. 17:5; 18:14,18; 1 Sam. 2:28; 14:3; 21:9). Originally it may have been a way of Gideon asserting YHWH's reign.


▣ "all Israel played the harlot with it there" This means they committed spiritual apostasy (cf. Jdgs. 8:33; 2:17; Exod. 34:15; 1 Chr. 5:25; fertility worship).


28So Midian was subdued before the sons of Israel, and they did not lift up their heads anymore. And the land was undisturbed for forty years in the days of Gideon.

8:28 "the land was undisturbed" This VERB (BDB 1052, KB 1641, Qal IMPERFECT with waw) is literally "at rest." It is used of the period of covenant fidelity, with its promised blessing (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28), after each Judge (cf. Jdgs. 3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28; also note 2 Chr. 14:1). YHWH gave the "rest" (cf. 2 Chr. 20:30.

▣ "forty years" This was one generation.


29Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30Now Gideon had seventy sons who were his direct descendants, for he had many wives. 31His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. 32And Gideon the son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

8:29 "Jerubbaal" See note at Jdgs. 7:1.

8:30 "seventy sons. . .had many wives" This is imagery for a wealthy noble (possibly royal, cf. Jdgs. 8:18) person. For "seventy" see note at Jdgs. 8:14.

▣ "direct descendants" This is an idiom, possibly euphemism, of procreation (cf. Gen. 46:26; Exod. 1:5; NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1198-1211). It is literally "hip" or "thigh" (BDB 437). It was used to designate Gideon's children by "wives" in distinction from "concubines" (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 618-619). Abimelech was a "lesser" child in a legal sense. One wonders if his mother tried to overcome this by naming him "My father is king" (BDB 4).

8:31 "concubine" Josephus (Antiq. 5.6.6) says her name was "Drumah." Concubines had limited rights. Their children usually lived with them and were counted among their family (cf. Jdgs. 15:1; 16:4ff) but had no inheritance rights.

▣ "Abimelech" The name means, "My father is king" (BDB 4). His name reflected his desires.

8:32 Death was not viewed as an enemy (cf. Gen. 15:15; 25:8; 1 Chr. 29:28). It was, in a sense, a family reunion. Often (when possible) families were buried together in a tomb or cave (cf. Jdgs. 16:31; 2 Sam. 2:32; 17:23; 19:38; 21:12-14).

In the OT the Israelites believed in life after death, but with diminished physical abilities, conscious but silent. Thank God for NT revelation!


33Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. 34Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; 35nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel.

8:33 "Baal-berith" This means "Baal of the Covenant" (cf. Jdgs. 9:46).



8:34 This was the terrible pattern during this period. Somehow the faith of the parents who saw YHWH's salvation was not passed on to their children.

The next generation forgot

  1. YHWH's deeds, Jdgs. 8:34
  2. Gideon's deeds, Jdgs. 8:35

They were self centered, thereby, the characteristic phrase of this period was "every man did what was right in his own eyes."


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why was the tribe of Ephraim so upset at Gideon's victory over the Midianites?
  2. Why was Gideon so upset with the Israelite cities of Succoth and Penuel?
  3. What does Jdgs. 8:7 refer to?
  4. How are Oreb and Zeeb related to Zebah and Zalmunna?
  5. Why did Gideon reject the offer to be king in Jdgs. 8:22-23?
  6. Explain the purpose of the Ephod.
  7. Define and explain the role of a "concubine."
  8. How is Jdgs. 8:27 related to 8:33?
  9. What does "did not remember the Lord" in Jdgs. 8:34 mean?

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