He said to Zebah and Zalmunna,
“Describe for me the men you killed
at Tabor.” They said, “They were like you.
Each one looked like a king’s son.”
The two kings now stand before Gideon, humbled, broken and defeated. They once chased he and his men, and now stand captured and powerless. The have watched him persecute the Elders of Succoth, and tear down the tower and kill the men of Penuel. Now they stand face to face with the man who’s life they sought to take, after watching him take out his anger and vengeance on a group that feared them we enough not to help them.
Gideon questioned them about the encounter that placed them on his list. He asks them a question to confront them about their decision and their awareness of what they had done. “Describe for me the men you killed at Tabor”, he said. Tabor, a place at the foot of the mountain, housed the bodies of slain brothers of Gideon and the troop. Zebah and Zalmunna led their two armies as one to take the lives of those who believed in God.
The importance of them describing the men to Gideon, was their acknowledgement that they were aware of the lives they had taken. The significance is found in them verbalizing their choice to end these lives. Much like Gideon, they had looked the men at Tabor in the eyes, and placed sword to action, spilling the blood of these men to further their cause. They did this, not considering the families and communities that would suffer because of their loss.
They looked at Gideon, they one who had their lives in his hand, and spoke “They were like you….” They looked just like you, telling Gideon that they had taken the lives of people that bore his image. What a disrespect this was. Had Gideon been present at the foot of the mountain, Zebah and Zalmunna would have taken his life without a second thought. This had to have fueled Gideon even more. Pouring un-needed fuel on the fire of a man that was consumed in the moment by the pain.
They conclude their statement, “Each one looked like a king’s son” they continued. This statement continue to pour fuel on the fire. Zebah and Zalmunna say, “Each one looked like a kings son”. The words “each one” informed Gideon that they both looked at each person and took consideration before taking each life.
Furthermore, from the “each one”, the equated them to the likeness of “king’s son.” It is as though they were acknowledging they considered the very potential and future of each soldier, and erased their potential. A kings son is one that is valued in the community as one that carries the gene, future, image, substance of his predecessor. He will continue the legacy of the father, protecting and expanding the kingdom into future generations. As a child of God, he will make sure the image of God is replicated in those that are born and those they encounter. They were people who were cared for, pillars of their community, bridges to future endeavors, and they looked each one in the eye and individually removed them from their communities.
In addition, they acknowledged that they were aware these were God’s people. In all this, Gideons information was confirmed. These people deserved the worst because of their willing participation of the destruction of God’s people. Gideon would reach deep and avenge the death of each soldier, speaking loudly for each family that shed a tear, and making a statement for the God that they served as to his care for them. The ground of Tabor contained the blood of the innocent, and now the town of Penuel will hold the blood of the guilty.
What is interesting as I read the passage is that Gideon is going to take the lives of Zebah and Zalmunna for doing a similar act that he just performed. He placed himself in the position as judge and jury, and sentences them to eternity. Gideon took to heart what and Eye for an Eye meant. He, like many of us are able to feel completely justified in our actions, while finding complete disgust for those who carry out the same actions we commit. Gideon had slain innocent men in two cities because they refused to help him, and is punishing two men who fought nobly to expand their kingdoms (did I say nobly?).
Nobility is found in the cause. I know, I know; their cause was against the children of God! There cause is still deemed noble because they were fighting for their own cause. Much like our forefathers felt noble on the crusades, and locals felt noble bombing abortion clinics, modern day extremist and disillusioned participants perform their acts as righteous.
Though we all have feelings about what is right and wrong, we approach said topics knowing that God is the judge. Vengeance must belong to the Lord! Only He is filled with mercy, grace and truth, while man lack the fortitude to remain without checks and balances. Mankind is not able to be fully unbiased in its effort to carry out judgement and justice.