THE ENEMY WITHIN
Conflict Of A Different Kind
Ephraim responded to Gideon's request by marshaling their forces, capturing two princes, and seeing to their execution. Israel was routing their enemy, but when the men of Ephraim met Gideon, he finds them incensed that he did not include them in the fight earlier. As a leader, Gideon faces a different kind of struggle and instead of fighting, he must seek peace with the men of Ephraim. Gideon shows great wisdom by responding to their hostility with humility. Gideon recognizes their achievement in the capture of the Midianite princes and lauds their superiority. Gideon's humble response is well received, and their anger subsides. Gideon and his men are exhausted, but they continue their pursuit of the Midianites. When they arrive at Succoth, Gideon requests some provisions for his men and explains their situation. The leaders of the village are hesitant because as of yet, Gideon has not apprehended Zebah or Zalmunna and if they failed the people of Succoth would suffer. They refused Gideon, but it is debatable as to whether it was prudence or fear that led to the decision. It seems that they taunted Gideon during this negotiation (vs. 15). Gideon was frustrated and warned these leaders that this choice would bring reprisals. He and his men went to Penuel where he was refused again. Gideon tells the leaders that their refusal would cost them the city tower. Meanwhile, Zebah and Zalmunna has reassembled their forces at Karkor and managed to organize fifteen thousand men. Gideon tracked down what was left of the Midianite army and went on the offensive while the army felt secure. Zebah and Zalmunna fled, but this time Gideon recovered them quickly. God was still working through Gideon and his three hundred men giving them victory in spite of their fatigue and weakness.
Crime And Punishment
Gideon and his band of warriors began the journey home, and along the way, he would mete out the punishment that was promised. As Gideon approached Succoth, he captured a youth who gave him the names of the seventy-seven elders and officials. Gideon came to Succoth and presented Zebah and Zalmunna as evidence of victory. He then repeated the taunts that had been spoken by their leaders and then disciplined them. From there, Gideon and his men made their way to Penuel where they demolished the city tower and put to death the leaders of the city. Finally, Gideon confronts the prisoners of war and questions them about their crimes against the Israelites. He reminded these kings of the massacre they ordered at Tabor during which it seems two of Gideon's brothers were killed. The implication is that his brothers were murdered rather than being killed during combat and if these kings would have shown mercy, Gideon would have extended the same. Gideon orders his firstborn to execute the kings, but Jether was young and afraid. The kings ask Gideon to wield the sword and dispense justice personally. Gideon enforces capital punishment, and the deliverance of Israel was complete. As a trophy, Gideon took the crescent ornaments from the necks of their camels.
The Danger Of Success
The Israelites are overwhelmed with gratitude, and they offer to make Gideon their king because he is a national hero. Gideon will not accept their generous offer and states that the Lord would be their ruler. On the surface, Gideon's response seems admirable, but it would seem that he was happy to be treated like a king. He asks them for a tribute, a symbol of submission and collects the royal emblems which included the pendants, purple garments worn by the kings, and the collars from their camels. Gideon made an ephod of gold, a symbol of authority and a sacred object which became a snare in the very place city where he once called the people to repent of their idolatry. Gideon had a harem and one of his sons was named Abimelech which means "my father is king." Gideon said the right things but his life was a contradiction, and he lived like a king. When Gideon died, the people returned to their idolatry and forgot the Lord their God. Success makes one vulnerable to spiritual defeat. God had warned Gideon while recruiting the army of the tendency to rob God of the glory that he is due. Sin is the enemy within, and it will not stop fighting in this life. Be on guard and fight the enemy.
Things To Consider:
- How should we respond to complaints and criticism?
- Why do we struggle with humility during disagreements?
- How does God continue to go before Gideon and give Midian into his hand?
- Did Gideon act justly with the people of Succoth, Penuel, and the two kings? How do you know?
- Where was Gideon's hypocrisy?
- Where is your hypocrisy?
- How is authority dangerous?
- Why must we fight pride?
- Why do we turn to idols?
- How do we fight sin and keep from idolatry?