When Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres, he caught a young man, one of the people of Succoth, and questioned him; and he listed for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven people. Then he came to the people of Succoth, and said, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, 'Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunnah, that we should give bread to your troops who are exhausted?' " So he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. He also broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. Judges 8:13-17 NRSV
I am really tempted to take a moment and discuss the interesting names found in the Bible (Zalmunna?) but we will instead face head-on the violence and revenge in this passage.
I believe the most important thing here is that Gideon is a man of his word as well as God's judge and deliverer. So, the people of Succoth and Penuel who refused to give help to Gideon's troops were actually in defiance of God. Not only did they refuse to give help, but they ignored what Gideon had already done with only 300 men and declared that unless the entire enemy (Zebah and Zalmunnah being the leaders of the "remnant" of 15,000 out of 120,000 Midianites!) was overthrown, they were not going to give these men aid.
This does have echoes of Gideon's own demands of God (give me a sign, let's try this fleece thing once more). The people of Succoth and Penuel are essentially saying that they need a total victory before they will give aid. Okay, so you've gotten rid of 105,000 men and some of their captains but we won't believe you are worth helping until you have destroyed everyone, they seem to be saying.
But Gideon (and probably God, too) will have none of that. "Just you wait," Gideon says, "I'm going to return with these guys as trophies and then I am going to kill you with thorns and briers - a ridiculous, impossible, humiliating and ultimately painful way to die. Oh yeah, and I'll tear down your big tower, too."
Never underestimate the final result of God's intentions.
God, Gideon brings to light some of our own weak and strong traits. Help us to follow you and not wait on the final outcome, knowing yours is the final victory. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Question of the day: When have you refused to help because you needed further "proof?"
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims