The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 53: The Earlier Judges
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >
Gideon returned from pursuing the enemies of the nation,
to meet censure and accusation from his own countrymen. When
at his call the men of Israel had rallied against the Midianites,
the tribe of Ephraim had remained behind. They looked upon
the effort as a perilous undertaking; and as Gideon sent them
no special summons, they availed themselves of this excuse not
to join their brethren. But when the news of Israel's triumph
reached them, the Ephraimites were envious because they had not
shared it. After the rout of the Midianites, the men of Ephraim
had, by Gideon's direction, seized the fords of the Jordan, thus
preventing the escape of the fugitives. By this means a large
number of the enemy were slain, among whom were two princes,
Oreb and Zeeb. Thus the men of Ephraim followed up the battle,
and helped complete the victory. Nevertheless, they were jealous
and angry, as though Gideon had been led by his own will and
judgment. They did not discern God's hand in the triumph of
Israel, they did not appreciate His power and mercy in their [p. 555] deliverance; and this very fact showed them unworthy to be
chosen as His special instruments.
Returning with the trophies of victory, they angrily reproached
Gideon: "Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us
not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?"
"What have I done now, in comparison of you?" said Gideon.
"Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than
the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered into your hands the
princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in
comparison of you?"
The spirit of jealousy might easily have been fanned into a
quarrel that would have caused strife and bloodshed; but
Gideon's modest answer soothed the anger of the men of Ephraim,
and they returned in peace to their homes. Firm and uncompromising
where principle was concerned, and in war a "mighty
man of valor," Gideon displayed also a spirit of courtesy that is
The people of Israel, in their gratitude at deliverance from
the Midianites, proposed to Gideon that he should become
their king, and that the throne should be confirmed to his
descendants. This proposition was in direct violation of the
principles of the theocracy. God was the king of Israel, and for them
to place a man upon the throne would be a rejection of their
Divine Sovereign. Gideon recognized this fact; his answer shows
how true and noble were his motives. "I will not rule over you,"
he declared; "neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall
rule over you."
But Gideon was betrayed into another error, which brought
disaster upon his house and upon all Israel. The season of
inactivity that succeeds a great struggle is often fraught with greater
danger than is the period of conflict. To this danger Gideon was
now exposed. A spirit of unrest was upon him. Hitherto he had
been content to fulfill the directions given him from God; but
now, instead of waiting for divine guidance, he began to plan for
himself. When the armies of the Lord have gained a signal
victory, Satan will redouble his efforts to overthrow the work of
God. Thus thoughts and plans were suggested to the mind of
Gideon, by which the people of Israel were led astray.
Because he had been commanded to offer sacrifice upon the
rock where the Angel appeared to him, Gideon concluded that [p. 556] he had been appointed to officiate as a priest. Without waiting
for the divine sanction, he determined to provide a suitable place,
and to institute a system of worship similar to that carried on
at the tabernacle. With the strong popular feeling in his favor
he found no difficulty in carrying out his plan. At his request all
the earrings of gold taken from the Midianites were given him
as his share of the spoil. The people also collected many other
costly materials, together with the richly adorned garments of
the princes of Midian. From the material thus furnished, Gideon
constructed an ephod and a breastplate, in imitation of those
worn by the high priest. His course proved a snare to himself
and his family, as well as to Israel. The unauthorized worship
led many of the people finally to forsake the Lord altogether,
to serve idols. After Gideon's death great numbers, among whom
were his own family, joined in this apostasy. The people were
led away from God by the very man who had once overthrown
There are few who realize how far-reaching is the influence
of their words and acts. How often the errors of parents produce
the most disastrous effects upon their children and children's
children, long after the actors themselves have been laid in the
grave. Everyone is exerting an influence upon others, and will
be held accountable for the result of that influence. Words and
actions have a telling power, and the long hereafter will show
the effect of our life here. The impression made by our words
and deeds will surely react upon ourselves in blessing or in cursing.
This thought gives an awful solemnity to life, and should
draw us to God in humble prayer that He will guide us by His
Those who stand in the highest positions may lead astray.
The wisest err; the strongest may falter and stumble. There is
need that light from above should be constantly shed upon our
pathway. Our only safety lies in trusting our way implicitly to
Him who has said, "Follow Me."
After the death of Gideon "the children of Israel remembered
not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the
hands of all their enemies on every side: neither showed they
kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according
to all the goodness which he had showed unto Israel." Forgetful
of all that they owed to Gideon, their judge and deliverer, the
people of Israel accepted his baseborn son Abimelech as their [p. 557] king, who, to sustain his power, murdered all but one of
Gideon's lawful children. When men cast off the fear of God they
are not long in departing from honor and integrity. An appreciation
of the Lord's mercy will lead to an appreciation of those
who, like Gideon, have been employed as instruments to bless
His people. The cruel course of Israel toward the house of
Gideon was what might be expected from a people who
manifested so great ingratitude to God.
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >