The Israelites Ask Gideon
22After the battle with the Midianites, the Israelites said, “Gideon, you rescued us! Now we want you to be our king. Then after your death, your son and then your grandson will rule.”
23“No,” Gideon replied, “I won't be your king, and my son won't be king either. Only the Lord is your ruler. 24But I will ask you to do one thing: Give me all the earrings you took from the enemy.”
The enemy soldiers had been Ishmaelites, and they wore gold earrings.
25The Israelite soldiers replied, “Of course we will give you the earrings.” Then they spread out a robe on the ground and tossed the earrings on it. 26The total weight of this gold was nearly 20 kilograms. In addition, there was the gold from the camels' ornaments and from the beautiful jewelry worn by the Midianite kings. Gideon also took their purple robes.
27-29Gideon returned to his home in Ophrah and had the gold made into a statue, which the Israelites soon started worshiping. They were unfaithful to God, and even Gideon and his family were trapped into worshiping the statue.
The Midianites had been defeated so badly that they were no longer strong enough to attack Israel. And so Israel was at peace for the remaining 40 years of Gideon's life.
30Gideon had many wives and 70 sons. 31He even had a wife who lived at Shechem. They had a son, and Gideon named him Abimelech.
32Gideon lived to be an old man. And when he died, he was buried in the family tomb in his hometown of Ophrah, which belonged to the Abiezer clan.
33Soon after Gideon's death, the Israelites turned their backs on God again. They set up idols of Baal and worshiped Baal Berith as their god. 34The Israelites forgot that the Lord was their God, and that he had rescued them from the enemies who lived around them. 35Besides all that, the Israelites were unkind to Gideon's family, even though Gideon had done so much for Israel.
It must have been a temptation to Gideon when the people asked him to be their king. But Gideon faced that temptation and refused it. He rightly told the people that they could only follow God, not any person. It seems strange then that Gideon turns around and runs right into the arms of temptation! And one of the greatest temptations is bright, shiny objects. At the very moment when Gideon turns his back on the temptation of kingship, he asks for gold that he makes into an ephod. An ephod was an item of ceremonial clothing generally worn by priests. So, by making an ephod, Gideon was elevating his own position.
When we see religious leaders wearing their formal robes of office, (think of the Pope for example), it shows us their importance. It is meant to bring solemnity and respect. In Gideon’s case, however, he was taking on a role that God had not given him. Presumably, he was putting himself in the position of a prophet, who interprets God’s words for the people. God had given Gideon a very important role, and had blessed him in that role. But by indulging himself with a golden ephod, Gideon made a snare for himself and all the people. After all that he had done to turn the people’s hearts back to God, he undid it by making himself an ornament.
Sadly, after Gideon’s death, things go from bad to worse. The people descend into idolatry of “Baal-Berith”, a name that means “The Lord of a covenant.” This mocks the Lord God.
Even those in Christian leadership can succumb to temptation. We must always be faithful to God and resist the temptation to follow false gods or feed our own egos.
Dear Father God,
Help me to be faithful to you and not to be tempted by the things of this world. Help me to remember that I influence others and that my influence is a positive one that leads people to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, who influences me each day. Amen.