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The reply of Gideon had its intended effect; and the Ephraimites appear to have been well satisfied with what they had achieved, and with the praise which was thus bestowed upon it. While chasing the Midianites, Gideon and his band having crossed the Jordan, came to Succoth. They were exhausted with fatigue and hunger, and halted a moment to ask for some refreshment. “Give, I pray you,” said he, “loaves of bread unto the people that follow me: for they be saint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.” The head men of Succoth refused the request, and tauntingly inquired if these princes were already the prisoners of Gideon; as if it would be time enough for him to make the demand when he had obtained such a triumph. This denial of hospitality was an act of the basest kind. Even an enemy when famishing should be fed ; how much more their own countrymen, and those, too, who had so bravely hazarded their lives, and were still doing it, for the protection and freedom of these very men of Succoth. Besides, it was rebellion against God, and treason against their country. They must have known that Gi'eon, in conducting the enterprise in which he was engaged, was acting in accordance with the express commands of the Almighty; and it was, in fact, rendering essential aid to the enemy thus to leave their pursuers to be so overcome with hunger and fatigue as to be unable, probably, to overtake and subdue them. Indeed, we have reason to believe that this would certainly have been the case, if Gideon and his band, under such circumstances, had not been sustained by a peculiar, divine influence. He left Succoth with this tremendous denunciation: “When the Lord hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briars.” Whether punishment was literally to be inflicted upon them in this way, or whether its great severity only was intended by the language used, it is difficult to decide. We have reason to believe that, in either case, it was to consist in putting them to death. Gideon soon came to Penuel, and making there a request similar to that which he made at Succoth, was answered in the same manner. He left its inhabitants, also, with a fearful rebuke;— “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.” While these things were taking place, Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, a town near the eastern borders of Gad, with an army of fifteen thousand men, being all that had escaped out of the immense hosts of the Midianites and their allies, one hundred and twenty thousand having been slain. Here they felt secure from attack,
and were most unexpectedly, therefore, discomfited by Gideon and his men, who reached the place by a route east of Nobah and Jogbehah. All were put to death except the princes Zebah and Zalmunna. They were retained as prisoners, to meet the peculiar fate which was in reserve for them. On his return, as he approached Succoth, Gideon seized upon a young man of that place, and demanded of him who the persons were that were the influential ones in denying him the re freshment for which he asked. The young man gave him the names of seventy-seven. It was not long before they were brought before him, in the presence of the other inhabitants. After calling upon them all to behold his prisoners, Zebah and Zalmunna, on whose account they had upbraided him in such an insulting manner, he ordered the punishment of death which he had threatened, to be inflicted upon the seventy-seven, as a just re. tribution for their conduct, and an example to the rest. The inhabitants of Penuel, also, soon met their merited fate; their tower, of which they probably boasted as their defence in their refusal to comply with Gideon's request, being demolished, and themselves put to death. Do judgments like these overtake the wicked in this world, under the government of that Being who is holy and just in all his ways, and will there be no terrible expressions of his displeasure, in the future world, against those who continue to hold out in their disobedience of his laws, and defiance of his authority ? Sad delusion, to rely on what is falsely called the boundless mercy of God, for deliverance from the merited punishment of transgression with which the finally impenitent sinner is threatened in the world of wo! Why does not the same boundless mercy of the unchangeable Jehovah manifest it self in sparing the sinner his sufferings in this life Why these sufferings here, and yet none hereafter It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. To the impenitent and wnbelieving it will, at length, be made known that God is a consuming fire.
CHA PTE R XIII.
Zebah and Zalmunna slain. Gideon refuses to be king. His death. Intrigues of Abimelech.
Gideon had a fearful question to propose to his prisoners, Zebah and Zalmunma. “What manner of men,” said he, “were they whom ye slew at Tabor 7”
He probably well knew that they were his own brothers, who had thus, not long before, been massacred there in cold blood by these princes. He wished to remind them of the deed, and to have a public confession of their guilt, to show the justice of the retribution which he intended to inflict upon them. They knew it was in vain to deny what they had done, or to endeavor to conceal it. “As thou art,” was their reply, “ so were they ; each one resembled the children of a king;” an eastern mode of expression, still in use, to denote the fine, personal appearance, and admirable qualities of the individual to whom it was applied.
“They were my brethren,” said Gideon, “even the sons of my mother: as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.” Having uttered these words, the warning of their doom, he immediately commanded his son Jether, his eldest child, to put them to death. "Up,” said he, “ and slay them.”
Jether hesitated. He drew not his sword. He was yet but a youth, and shrunk back from the bloody deed. Zebah and Zalmunna perceiving this, but knowing, still, that their fate was inevitable, besought Gideon himself to despatch them. For they, doubtless, regarded it both as a more honorable and easy death, to fall beneath the stroke of his hand. Gideon took them at their