Gideon defeats the forces of Midian, immediately upon returning from battle the people want to make Gideon their king.
Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” – Judges 8:22
It has been observed that people who are under oppression for an extended period of time, when freed, have no idea how to behave. Former prisoners sleep on the floor because the bed is too soft, or prefer the closet instead of a room that is too big. They can’t make independent decisions and are continually asking for direction. They even gravitate toward those who exhibit the same traits and habits as their former jailers or oppressors. One clinical example is called Stockholm Syndrome.
I think the people of Gideon’s time were experiencing Midian Syndrome. They had been oppressed and controlled for so long that they didn’t know how to live otherwise. They needed to be in bondage, to someone, anyone, anything.
Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. – Judges 8:27
Gideon makes a trophy, a symbol of his conquest of war – some special gold clothing. The people, instead of seeing this thing as a memorial or a great honor to Gideon and his family, worship it. They had to have something they could see, smell, and touch be in charge of them. And it gets worse.
As soon as Gideon was dead, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the images of Baal, making Baal-berith their god. – Judges 8:33
Those words, as soon as… wow. Could it be any clearer. They could not live without being oppressed.
In case you think it wasn’t oppressive, look at what it entailed.
Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of “mother earth.”
Um, no thank you.
They forgot the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them. – Judges 8:34
What a sad epitaph for that generation.
Then I get knocked right off my self-righteous high horse and realize that the same could be said of me…
Father, please forgive me for my oft wanderings. May I live my life in a way which honors you. May I desire to be subject to you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Under God. Jan