Judges 9 is a harsh reversal of Judges 8 and Gideon’s anger against Israel’s enemies. It is poignant picture of how warring for God is no sin, but warring against God most certainly is. The two scenes, Gideon against Succoth and Penuel vs Abimelech against Gideon’s Israelite sons, are so similar, that without wisdom & understanding, one could barely discern difference between the two.
It is true that Gideon’s anger against the Israelite towns of Succoth and his destruction of Penuel for refusing him succor seems overdone, but from the standpoint of lack of faith in Gideon as Jehovah’s chosen warrior, it seems understandable and totally human.
What Christian really enjoys being taunted with “What has your God done for you lately?” knowing full well whatever they say will be laughed at, for blind men see only what they want. Imagine how much worse it becomes when it people of your own circle, your own neighborhood, your own Church, that question your zealotry?
If you can, then you will quickly see how when Gideon the great warrior on a crusade against the two Canaanite princes is abashed and stunned when he asks the townspeople of Succoth for something as simple as bread and water for his men, because they are more scared of retaliation from the Canaanites than they are from their own Jehovah.
“We’ll feed you when you have Zebah and Zalmunna in your hands”, they jeer.
Penuel, the next town Gideon and his men visit, is no better perhaps worse, with its “tower” as they say the same, but from the safety of the parapet wall.
That really irks Gideon and from what I can surmise, the walls of Penuel are just a smaller version of those great walls that encircled Jericho that the mighty Joshua fell, and so to Gideon, a greater slap in the face. Gideon does have some pride here, but it is more of righteous indignation, than personal pettiness (that does come later with the tributes he requires).
And so like the great walls Jericho, the tower of Penuel too falls down with a clang and all are dead. This does seem cruel and barbaric; but upon reflection and looking within the framework of the Books of Joshua and Judges understandable. And it must be to Jehovah as well, as there is no retribution, no criticism; no rebuke.
By the end of Judges 8, before our hero dies, he has threescore (a score is a county of twenty so threescore is 60) and ten sons (a total of 70). A good amount, but Gideon, our Jerubbaal, is not happy with that and consorts with a Canaanite whore and has another, named Abimelech (My father is King).
It is a good pun; Gideon naming the boy after his Lord and King while the mistress, naming the boy for his father. That pun unfortunately comes home in Judges 9 with a crash and bang, but before it does, 8 ends on a hauntingly sour note :
”And the children of Israel remembered not their Lord…who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side; neither did they show kindness to Gideon and his family, despite all the goodness he had done for them:.” (viii.35)