Judges 8:32-35: Gideon's Death, Israel's Declension

[circa 1209 BC] Verse 32:[1] And Gideon the son of Joash died (Gen. 25:8; Job 5:26) in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, (Judg. 8:27; 6:24) in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites.


[He died…in a good old age] That is, 1. A very old man (Serarius). Now worn out with old age (Vatablus, Lapide). A long and late old age is a gift of God, Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 3:2, 16; Ephesians 6:3 (Serarius). 2. In a quiet and tranquil old age (Serarius, Lapide); not pressed with battles, want, hardships (Serarius). In such a way that the mind is strong, and the body is not weakened with illnesses (Martyr). He says, in a good old age, since old age is commonly bad; whence it is called an evil age and bad days (Drusius). 3. An old age good, that is, glorious (Lapide); with the goodness of reverence and a good reputation (Serarius). In such a way that resources fail not, and the paternal household and dignity stand firm (Martyr). 4. Good, the goodness of virtue, of a good conscience, of Divine friendship (Serarius, Lapide). He died in grace. For concerning others this expression was not wont to be used in Scripture according to the Greek and Latin Doctors (Lyra). Objection: But Gideon sinned grievously. Response: But he repented before his death (Martyr, certain interpreters in Lyra, certain interpreters in Bonfrerius). Reply: But there is no vestige of this matter extant in the Scriptures; and, if he had repented, he would have removed the cause and occasion of the sin (Bonfrerius on verse 27). The Ephod set up by him he ought to have brought down, and to have recalled the people from superstition. Response: The superstition was able to have arisen at the end of his life, which he would have determined to remove if he had lived; but he, cut off by death, was not able to make that good (Augustine in Martyr, similarly Lyra).


In a good old age; his long life being crowned with the continuance of his honour, tranquility, and happiness.


Verse 33:[2] And it came to pass, (Judg. 2:19) as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and (Judg. 2:17) went a whoring after Baalim, (Judg. 9:4, 46) and made Baal-berith their god.


The children of Israel turned again; whereby we see the wicked temper of this people, who did no longer cleave to God than they were in a manner constrained to it by the presence and authority of their judges.


[Baalim] Idols. That is to say, with the former Religion changed, they began to be idolaters (Vatablus).


Baalim: this was the general name, including all their idols, whereof one here follows.


[And they struck a covenant with Baal, וַיָּשִׂ֧ימוּ לָהֶ֛ם בַּ֥עַל בְּרִ֖ית לֵאלֹהִֽים׃] [They vary.] They placed for themselves Baal-berith (Baal of the covenant [Syriac]) for a god (Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus, similarly Castalio, English, Dutch, Osiander, Syriac). He had said that they worshipped Baalim, that is, various gods and idols; here it is added concerning some particular idol, or Baal, to whom they adhered more zealously (Bonfrerius). The deity of the Shechemites was called Baal-berith (Drusius, Malvenda, Junius, Piscator), concerning which in the following chapter (Junius): which is to say, Jupiter of the covenant, or covenanted (Drusius). The Lord of the covenant, since he was believed to be present at pacts and covenants, and for this reson he was worshipped (Bonfrerius). Not ineptly do some set forth this god as Covenanter, Mediator, Intercessor, who procures peace, friendship, and covenants between the gods and men, as if he were an intermediary and mediator between them; which sort they feigned Mercury to be. Others: god the author, defender, and patron of human covenants, and their arbiter and avenger (Malvenda out of Montanus’ Commentary). Thus the Israelites were violating God’s covenant, which nevertheless they were persuading themselves to be able to be consistent with this worship of Baal, while they were including in it the name and covenant of God, and were pretending that this was done for the worship and honor of God (Dutch). Moreover, as in Romans 11:4 it is τῇ Βάαλ, to Baal, so also here τὴν Βάαλ Βέριθ, Baal-berith, is to be used, since בְּרִית/covenant is always feminine: hence it was the name of a goddess, not of a god, among the Phœnicians; like Astarte and Atergatis. Objection: But it follows, לֵאלֹהִים, for a god. Response: The Hebrews are compelled thus to speak, because they do not recognize the genders of the gods, nor is there any Hebrew word that expresses goddess: For accordingly Astarte is called a God, 1 Kings 11:5,[3] 33[4] (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Canaan” 2:17:860). Others translate it, setting for themselves Baal by a certain covenant for a god (Munster). Thus the Chaldean explains it, which has בעל קיים, Baal by covenant (Munster). They put Baal in charge of themselves by covenant as a god; that is, they entered into a covenant with Baal, that he might be to them for a god (Lapide). Ἔθηκαν ἑαυτοῖς τῷ Βάαλ (note that here it is τῷ Βάαλ,[5] while elsewhere it is τῇ Βάαλ[6] [Drusius]) διαθήκην, τοῦ εἶναι αὐτοῖς αὐτὸν εἰς θεόν (Septuagint), that is, [as Cornelius à Lapide translates it] they set for themselves Baal-berith for a covenant [it is rather to be translated, they set for themselves a covenant with Baal], that he might be to them for a god (Lapide). They established Baal as the god covenanted with themselves (Arabic).


Baal-berith, that is, The lord of the covenant, so called, either from the covenant wherewith the worshippers of this god bound themselves to maintain his worship, or to defend one another therein; or rather, because he was reputed the god and judge of all covenants, and promises, and contracts, to whom it belonged to maintain them, and to punish the violators of them; and such a god both the Grecians and the Romans had.


Verse 34:[7] And the children of Israel (Ps. 78:11, 42; 106:13, 21) remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side…


Verse 35:[8] (Judg. 9:16-18; Eccles. 9:14, 15) Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.


[They did not mercy] Mercy here (and elsewhere according to the usage of Scripture) embraces various virtues (Bonfrerius); indeed, almost all things that flow unto another for his advantage, glory, and good (as is benevolence, beneficence, piety, righteousness [Menochius, Lapide]), and especially gratitude (Bonfrerius).


[With the house of Jerubbaal Gideon (thus Jonathan, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus)] It is a pleonasm, as if you should say, Jacob Israel, Simon Peter, the cognomen with the proper name (Drusius). In this manner identification is intended (Kimchi in Drusius). Μετὰ τοῦ οἴκου Ἱεροβάαλ, αὐτός ἐστιν Γεδεὼν (Septuagint), with the house of Jerubbaal, the same is Gideon. With the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon (Syriac, English, Dutch).

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּ֛מָת גִּדְע֥וֹן בֶּן־יוֹאָ֖שׁ בְּשֵׂיבָ֣ה טוֹבָ֑ה וַיִּקָּבֵ֗ר בְּקֶ֙בֶר֙ יוֹאָ֣שׁ אָבִ֔יו בְּעָפְרָ֖ה אֲבִ֥י הָֽעֶזְרִֽי׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֗י כַּֽאֲשֶׁר֙ מֵ֣ת גִּדְע֔וֹן וַיָּשׁ֙וּבוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיִּזְנ֖וּ אַחֲרֵ֣י הַבְּעָלִ֑ים וַיָּשִׂ֧ימוּ לָהֶ֛ם בַּ֥עַל בְּרִ֖ית לֵאלֹהִֽים׃


[3] 1 Kings 11:5: “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the god of the Zidoniansעַשְׁתֹּ֔רֶת) אֱלֹהֵ֖י צִדֹנִ֑ים), and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”


[4] 1 Kings 11:33: “Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammonלְעַשְׁתֹּרֶת֮ אֱלֹהֵ֣י צִֽדֹנִין֒ לִכְמוֹשׁ֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י מוֹאָ֔ב וּלְמִלְכֹּ֖ם) אֱלֹהֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־עַמּ֑וֹן), and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.”


[5] In the masculine gender.


[6] In the feminine gender.


[7] Hebrew: וְלֹ֤א זָֽכְרוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֑ם הַמַּצִּ֥יל אוֹתָ֛ם מִיַּ֥ד כָּל־אֹיְבֵיהֶ֖ם מִסָּבִֽיב׃


[8] Hebrew: וְלֹֽא־עָשׂ֣וּ חֶ֔סֶד עִם־בֵּ֥ית יְרֻבַּ֖עַל גִּדְע֑וֹן כְּכָל־הַטּוֹבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָׂ֖ה עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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