« AnteriorContinuar »
there be no terrible expressions of his displeasure, in the future world, against those who con. tinue 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 unbelieving it will, at length, be made known that God is a consuming fire.
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 Zalmunna. What manner of men,” said he, "were they whom ye slew at Tabor ?"
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
word. He slew them on the spot, and despoiled the necks of their camels of the splendid and costly ornaments with which they were adorned, seizing them as the trophy, according to the customs of the times, of his triumph over his enemies.
His countrymen felt their obligations to Gideon for the astonishing victory which he had achieved, and for their deliverance from the bondage of their oppressors. They did not consider, in their admiration of the conqueror, how much they owed to God, whose almighty arm it was that had subdued their enemies, and that Gideon was but the instrument in his hands of what had taken place. They forgot that Jehovah was their King, the head of the nation, and that they were bound to acknowledge him as such by their own solemn, covenant-engagements. They idolized their leader, and hoped to derive from his wisdom and prowess, what nothing but the divine protection could afford. They would pass from their allegiance to a heavenly monarch, and have an earth. ly one to govern
them. "Rule thou over us,” said the Israelites to Gideon, "both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.”
This offer was the first indication which this wayward people gave of their desire to be like
the nations around them; to reject the reign of the King of kings, and Lord of lords,—the highest honor and privilege whichøthey could possess; and to come under the dominion, with all its at tendant evils, of a mortal like themselves. Their subsequent history shows how deeply-rooted this feeling was, and the disastrous consequences to which it led.
Gideon was not to be seduced by the flattering proposal. He knew too well his own duty to Jehovah, and the best interests of his countrymen, to yield to it for a moment. His integrity stood the test of the temptation. His reply was prompt and decided. "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.”
He accompanied this declaration, however, with a request of a very questionable character, and which shows how good men are liable to err. · He asked the Israelites to give him the ear-rings which they had taken as spoils from their enemies. They did it readily ; and being very numerous, these ornaments amounted to seventy-three pounds and four ounces of gold, worth upwards of twelve thousand dollars. With these and the other costly ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that were taken from the kings of Midian, and the chains that were about their camels' necks, Gideon made an ephod, or very rich and splendid vestment for a priest, and
placed it in Ophrah. Some think that it was intended merely as a trophy of his victory; but it is more probable that he designed it for a religious purpose, that he might himself conduct the worship of God in his own house, without being obliged to go to Shiloh. He may have been led into this error from the fact that, when called of God to become the deliverer of the Israelites, he was instructed to build an altar and offer sacrifice, and he now supposed that he might still continue, in the same way, to officiate as a priest. The step was wholly unauthorized, and not to be justi. fied by any pretended exigency of the case. It was attended with the most pernicious results. While Gideon lived it was a constant source of temptation to him, and subsequently of sin and ruin to his family. It drew his countrymen to follow his example, and to resort to the ephod which he had prepared, instead of going to the true one at Shiloh ; and it led the way for their relapsing again into idolatry after his death.
For forty years, under the administration of Gideon, the Israelites remained secure from all attacks of their enemies, and the nation regained its wonted prosperity. He died in a good old age, having been the father of seventy sons, and of one other by a secondary wife, whom he called Abimelech.
Immediately on his decease, the Israelites re