In last week’s study, we went over the post-war ramifications of Gideon’s actions as well as those jealous of the grace bestowed upon him by God during this time of his life. As Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” This statement by Churchill is definitely a truth that was apparent in Gideon’s life as he continues his mission to cut off the Midianites for good by hunting their two kings: Zebah and Zalmunna. This week we will be in Judges 8:10-17 and verse 10 is where we will pick up.
“Now 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. Gideon 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. When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army. Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. And 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. He 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?’ ” He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them. He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city (1).”
So the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, escape to a place called Karkor. Some speculate that this place of Karkor may have been another name for a place called Qarqor, which is a place East of the Jordan River. Karkor may have been a type of enclosure that the Gadites built to protect their cattle and livestock. If this is true, then the Midianites were smart in seeking such a place for refuge because it would be seriously fortified with walls encompassing the area to keep the large animals enclosed.
I find it ironic that an army that began with 135,000 soldiers that waged war with Gideon’s mighty men would in a twist of fate dwindle down to 15,000 men because they lost 120,000 soldiers to Gideon’s kosher 300. When we first started, Gideon had an army of 32,000 men going against an army of 135,000 soldiers of Midian. Whittle those numbers down and we get a ratio of 8:34. Those were the odds at first.
Then God made Gideon send away thousands of soldiers that amounted in the kosher 300, while the Midianites still had 135,000 soldiers. A new ratio of 1:450, but after Gideon’s back-to-back victories over Midian and a series of battles shrunk that massive number all the way down to the current 15,000. The current odds of Gideon winning in spite of all of this success is even still tremendously low as the ratio is 1:50 and at this rate some could have said that Gideon was pushing his luck. I mean, how does one even fathom that comparison and those odds? If I was in that batch of 300 guys, I would at this point have serious doubts.
Yet God is faithful and once again lets Gideon accompanied by his dope band of misfits have another critical victory. We are only 3 verses into this study and Gideon already won. He has captured both Midianite kings, has had another victory, and caused the army to be routed (to retreat or flee) back to their lands. Some translations say the Midianite army left in confusion and fear from the surprise attack that squashed their forces.
It is quite impressive when put into proper perspective. The war is over. Gideon has won and peace is just around the corner to being restored in the nation of Israel.
What’s next for the mighty Gideon? Being a man of his word. This story takes a new turn when on the march back home, Gideon captures a youth from Succoth (v14). Once the youngin’ is captured, he is questioned.
Next, there is the way of travel that Gideon took which has multiple interpretations concerning what exactly it means. In the translation we are using (the NASB), it says “by (from) the ascent of Heres.” Now is this a time of day like before the sun comes up? Is it a city? Is it a mountain? Hard to say, but biblehub.com takes good time clearing the confusion by providing multiple responses here. As for the youth of Succoth? He spills the beans and writes down the names of every prince and elder of Succoth, which amounts to a grand total of seventy-seven men (v14).
Based off of its uses within Scripture (Genesis 5:31, Judges 8:14, Ezra 8:35), the number 77 represents closure as the number is used to amount to a satisfactory sacrifice to the LORD (see: Ezra 8:35-36), as well as here where it symbolizes Gideon’s fulfillment of his own promise that he would execute after God had given him victory in battle. The men of Succoth mocked the things of God, so God sends Gideon to judge them on His behalf for taunting Gideon who was an ambassador for God.
Word of advice: don’t mock God. It never ends well. Just look at 2 Kings 2:23-24 where some dumb lads mock God’s prophet, Elisha, so two female bears kill 42 of them. Yeah, the things of God and those who do the things of God are not something worth mocking. The consequences are severe.
Speaking of severe consequences, Gideon now knows who the men of Succoth are that taunted him, thus justice is about to be served to these pansies. Gideon brings his undeniable proof to the 77 elders with the 2 captured kings in his possession and then commences to do exactly as he warned he would do. What fascinates me about this whole subplot of the men of Succoth and Penuel is how there were all of these men mocking Gideon for trying to stop the Midianites from terrorizing the surrounding lands, yet they stayed home and remained on the sidelines of the whole war. Neither would they support Gideon’s men or the Midian men. They were lukewarm and that is the exact reason that they were punished so severely because they remained apathetic during the whole war as thousands of men died. They were cowards, plain and simple.
As promised, Gideon takes the elders and beats them with briers and thorns (v16). Then he goes onto the next city and tears down the great tower of Penuel before slaying every man in the city (v17). Jesus spoke of this lukewarm nature in Revelation 3:14-22 where he rebukes the church of Laodicea for their lukewarm ways. They neither loved nor hated God. They were indifferent and apathetic to it all.
In life, God desires for us to give our all to Him or to keep our all to ourselves. In this situation, the middle ground is the worst possible place to be because it shows how much you really do not care. Lesson of the week: either give God everything or give God nothing. Both are better options than giving God only a portion of what is yours and lying by saying you gave it your all or vice versa. I mean look at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. They died for making this crucial mistake.
Learn from history and live wholeheartedly either for Jesus or for the world. There cannot be a middle ground when it comes to this issue. It’s all or nothing. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!
- NASB Judges 8:10-17