Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 8: The aftermath of the battle against Midian

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Chapter 8: The aftermath of the battle against Midian

1. The tribe of Efraim confronts Gideon:

  • The tribesmen of Efraim confronted Gideon saying: What is this that you did that you waged war alone against Midian and did not call us [to begin with]. They forcefully confronted Gideon regarding this.
  • The reply of Gideon: Gideon replied to them that indeed they took a much greater part in the battel than he [as they killed the kings of Midian] and your weakest warriors are greater than the strongest of the family of Aviezer.[1] G-d handed to you the ministers of Oreiv, and Zeiv, and what could I have done like you.
  • The tribesmen of Efraim then had their anger soothed and backed away from Gideon upon them hearing his reply.

2. Gideon attempts to get food for his soldiers and is refused:

  • The soldiers are exhausted: Gideon and his three hundred men arrived at the Jordon river, and crossed it [giving chase to the kings of Midian called Zevach and Tzalmuna], and they were very exhausted from the chase.
  • The people of Sukkos refuse to feed them: They approached the people of Sukkos and requested bread for the exhausted soldiers who were in route to chasing after Zevach and Tzalmuna the kings of Midian. The ministers of Sukkos replied: Is the palm of Zevach and Tzalmuna already in your hands that we should give your soldiers bread.
  • Gideon threatens the people of Sukkos: Gideon replied to them: When G-d does hand over to me the kings Zevach and Tzalmuna, I will [return] and thresh your flesh with the thorns of the desert.
  • The people of Penuel refuse to feed them: Gideon went from there to Penuel and repeated the above statements of asking for bread, and the people of Penuel refused to give them bread just as the people of Sukkos had replied.
  • Gideon threatens the people of Penuel: Gideon replied to them: When I return in peace [from the battle] I will destroy this tower.

3. The battle against the kings Zevach and Tzalmuna:

  • The whereabouts and remaining soldiers of Zevach and Tzalmuna: Zevach and Tzalmuna were in [an area called[2]] Karkor with their entire armies, which numbered around 15,000 soldiers. This was the remains of the entire army of Bnei Kedem which numbered 120,000 men with drawn swords [who had already] fallen in battle.
  • Gideon attacks and captured the two kings: Gideon went up [with his army] through the path of the tents of the nomad shepherds, which was south of Novach and Yagbaha, and he smote the camp [of Zevach and Tzalmuna] as the camp thought that they were safe [and hence were unprepared for the attack of Gideon[3]]. Zevach and Tzalmuna ran away and Gideon and his army chased after them. They captured the two kings of Midian Zevach and Tzalmuna and the entire camp was frightened [and unable to save their king].

4. Gideon gets retribution against Sukkos and Penuel:

  • Gideon the son of Yoash returned from the war while it was still day, prior to sundown, [to the city of Sukkos].
  • Retribution against Sukkos: Gideon captured a lad from the city of Sukkos and asked him [questions], and [the lad] wrote for him the [names of the] leaders and elders of Sukkos, a total of 77 men. Gideon approached them men of Sukkos and said to them: Here is Zevach and Tzalmuna whom you ashamed me with saying that their palms are yet to be in my hands and thereby you refused to give my exhausted men bread. Gideon thus took the elders of the city, and the thorns of the desert, and he tortured the people of Sukkos with these thorns.
  • Retribution against Penuel: Gideon destroyed the tower of Penuel and killed all their men [as they waged war against him so he would not destroy the tower[4]].

5. Zevach and Tzalmuna are killed:

  • Gideon discovers that the kings killed his brothers: Gideon asked Zevach and Tzalmuna: Where are the people whom you killed in Tabor? [As when Zevach and Tzalmuna fled, they went through the city of Tabor and killed the brothers of Gideon.[5]] They replied that the people who were killed appeared similar to Gideon, and appeared like princes [who rebelled against them[6]]. Gideon replied that the people killed were his maternal brothers. He then told the kings that if only they would have spared his brothers lives, they would not have to be killed, but now that they killed his brother, he will kill them in return.
  • The kings are killed: Gideon instructed Yeser his first-born son to get up and kill them. The lad did not remove his sword from his shaft, due to fear, as he was still a child. In return Zevach and Tzalmuna said to Gideon that he himself should kill them, as he is strong [and will be able to kill them swiftly[7]]. So Gideon stood up and killed Zevach and Tzalmuna and he took the [gold[8]] chain ornaments [in the shape of a moon[9]] that were on the necks of their camels.

6. Gideon is asked to be appointed king and refuses:

  • The request: The Jewish people approached Gideon and asked him and his son and grandson to rule over them as king in reward for having saved them from Midian.
  • The refusal: Gideon replied with refusal, saying that nor he or his son will rule over them and rather G-d Himself will rule over them.

7. Gideon collects valuables from the spoils of Midian:

  • The request: Gideon requested from the Jewish people that they hand him the gold [nose rings[10]] jewelry that they took as booty from Midian, as the Midianites come from Yishmael [and hence would wear gold nose rings]
  • The booty collected: The people agreed, and they spread a sheet on the ground and threw onto it the gold nose rings that they plundered. The weight of the gold nose rings was 1,700 gold [Dinar[11]]. This is aside for the gold chains, the chest ornaments, and the crimson wool garments which were on the kings of Midian, and aside for the gold chains from the necks of the camels.
  • Gideon turns the gold into an apron: Gideon took the gold [nose rings] and turned them into a gold apron, which he showcased in his city in Afra [as a reminder to the people of the great miraculous victory that G-d gave them[12]].
  • The Jewish people turn the apron into idolatry: Eventually [after the passing of Gideon] this apron that Gideon made became a stumbling block for all the Jewish people, as they strayed after it in idolatry. This would become a terrible legacy for Gideon and his family.

8. The aftermath of the war and Gideon’s remaining life:

  • The land rests for 40 years: Midian became subjugated under the reign of the Jewish people, and could no longer raise their heads. The land became peaceful for a period of 40 years in the days of Gideon.
  • Gideon returns home: Yerubaal [i.e. Gideon] the son of Yoash returned to his home [rather than to lead the Jewish people[13]].
  • The children of Gideon: Gideon had seventy sons, as he had many wives. The Pilegesh [i.e. concubine without a Kesuba or Kiddushin[14]] of Gideon who lived in Shechem gave birth to son for him, and he was called Avimelech.
  • Gideon passes away: Gideon passed away at a ripe old age and was buried by his father’s plot, in Afra Avi Haezri.

9. The Jewish people return to idolatry:

  • After Gideon passed away the Jewish people returned to stray after the Baalim, and they turned the deity Baal Bris into their God. The Jewish people did not recall their G-d who saved them from the hands of their enemies who surrounded them.
  • The Jewish people did not perform kindness with the household of Gideon, despite all the good that he did for the Jewish people.


[1] See Rashi 8:2 and other Mefarshim ibid

[2] Rashi 8:10

[3] Metzudos David 8:11

[4] Metzudos David and Radak 8:17

[5] Malbim 8:18

[6] Malbim ibid

[7] Radak 8:21

[8] Rashi 8:20

[9] Metzudas Tziyon 8:21

[10] Metzudos  David and Metzudos Tziyon 8:24

[11] Metzudos David 8:26

[12] Radak 8:27

[13] Metzudos David 8:29

[14] Metzudos Tziyon 8:31

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