Gideon is mostly a good guy who went from hiding with the wheat sheaves in a winepress to leading Israel in daring exploits (Judges 6:11-8:35). The Old Testament judge has his place in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:32), and no one can take that away from him. But shall we not learn from a great man’s failings as well as his achievements? We will do well to avoid the pitfalls of the devil in our own lives by taking caution regarding the tragedy that befell the noble Gideon.
Gideon was valiant. After a shaky start, he believed the Lord was with him and he dared to tear down his own father’s altar to Baal. Then, with 300 men he fought and overcame the Midianites and Amalekites, who were “as numerous as locusts.” Then, exhausted and with the same 300 men (Judges 8:4) he embarked immediately on another campaign to pursue Zebah and Zalmunna, two kings of Midian.
And as if it were an inconsequential detail, the narrative recounts, in ending this rousing story:
“And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels” (Judges 8:21).
Little did Gideon know that when he took the crescent ornaments, they also took him. Like Sauron’s infamous ring in The Lord of the Rings, the ornaments were inhabited with a dark power over the hearts of men. Not that inanimate objects have power in themselves, but as the apostle Paul said:
“… so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
And as Paul warned elsewhere:
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey … ?” (Romans 6:16)
After eschewing the first temptation, to allow himself to be made king (Judges 8:23), Gideon fell into another temptation, and dragged all Israel with him, for they trusted that he was a godly man and therefore did not question him when he proceeded to request all their jewelry. He took the jewelry and the crescent ornaments and this is what happened:
“And Gideon made an ephod [a ceremonial garment warn by priests] of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there. And it became a snare to Gideon and to his family” (Judges 8:27).
The moral of the story, for me, is twofold: Beware of falling into one temptation while congratulating yourself for averting a previous one. Beware of unquestioning loyalty to a leader who has done much good in the past, for he is also susceptible to falling.