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The DEEP

Symbols

are only as important as we make them.

Judges 8:18–21

And he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?”

So they answered, “As you are, so were they; each one resembled the son of a king.”

Then he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had let them live, I would not kill you.” And he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them!” But the youth would not draw his sword; for he was afraid, because he was still a youth.

So Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.

The Bible doesn’t record Gideon’s brothers being killed at Tabor. Tabor is mentioned, in Joshua 19 and Judges 4, but only as a mountain where people gather; so we can’t know exactly what Gideon is getting at in his questioning of Zebah and Zalmunna.

But this does show that the Midianite raids went beyond just stealing food. They had pursued the Israelites into the mountains and killed them. Even so, this kind of vengeance is wrong. This whole endeavor is supposed to be about God and His glory, not some personal vendetta.

And Gideon training his son in vengeance is even worse. The Hebrew word translated as “youth” (נַעַר, na-ar) means a male older than a child (יֶלֶד, yel-id), but not yet a man (אִישׁ, eesh). “Adolescent” is close.

It’s appropriate for a T-rex to train its adolescent offspring in killing, but not for Gideon.


And so it begins. The great and recurring lesson of the Old Testament—that even heroes are deeply flawed—is starting to play out in Gideon’s life. The relentless tug of sin always makes an entrance.

Notice the last sentence in today's passage—So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.

What’s up with the ornaments? Were they religious symbols or symbols of royalty?

They may have been both. In any case, Gideon should have left them alone. Yes, they seem innocent enough. “Hey! Shiny thing! Wouldn’t want it to go to waste, right?”

But no. Notice that the details are curious in an ominous way. The jewelry is hung on the camels, not on the kings. Also the camels don’t just have random jewelry; they all have crescents—the symbol of the moon (and of Asherah).

Of course, crescents don’t have any power of their own. Gideon taking them is what matters.

That’s the lesson. Countless American adolescents mess around with the occult and with occult symbols.

A symbol doesn’t have any power, but the choice to mess with it does.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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