In the time of the Judges, when the Israelites told Gideon, “You and your son and your son’s son reigns over us,” he responded very worthily: “I will not reign over you and my son will not reign over you, that Yahweh will reign over you “(Judges 8: 22-23 Open with Logos Bible Software (if available)).
Gideon’s response has been used many times as an example of the leader who is not looking for position or recognition, but recognizes that the king of Israel is God. This sounds very pious, very “biblical” and very beautiful, but the words of Gideon really mean the opposite of what he says. We are facing an irony, a literary resource of much use and common in the Bible. How do we know? Let’s read the rest of the story.
Immediately after such a confession of humility, Gideon does what the kings do: collect taxes. At the request of Gideon, each male hands out a golden tendril of those taken from the spoils in his war against Midian. The collection added one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold (8: 24-26). This is the first proof that Gideon says one thing to mean the opposite.
With gold, Gideon makes a replacement for Yahweh: an ephod “with which all Israel played the harlot” (8:27). This is the second test: it has no intention that Yahweh reigns over Israel.
An additional fact that the biblical text gives us is the family life of Gideon: “He had seventy sons, who were his direct descendants, because he had many women” (8:30). This is a family of kings, many women and many children. We come thus the third proof that in the Bible you can find a text that says one thing to mean the opposite. But there is still more.
One of the sons of Gideon, with a certain concubine of Siquém, was called Abimelech (8:31). At first glance it is an innocent and very biblical name too. Biblical yes it is, but not so innocent because the etymology of this name is highly suggestive in this story. The man who says he will not reign has a son whose name is abi-melek, “my father is king”! And this is the fourth test.
And we arrive at the fifth, what happens next? “As soon as Gideon died the people of Israel went back into prostitution after the Baals and determined that Baal-Berit would be their god” and “they did not remember Yahweh, who had delivered them from the hand of their enemies;” and to complete, They also did not have much appreciation for Gideon because “they did not show kindness (hesed) to the house of Gideon (8: 33-35). In other words, Yahweh did not reign over them. And there are five.
The sixth and last stitch that closes all the details of Gideon’s seemingly humble statement is the actions of none other than Abimelech: he goes to Shechem, harangues his family, and proclaims himself the best candidate to reign over them (Judges 9). : 1-3 Open with Logos Bible Software (if available)). He then imitated his father and collected his taxes: “they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-Berit” [!] And with them he hired his own band of mercenaries to assassinate his own brothers, the potential enemies “Throne” (9: 4-5).
Thus we complete six evidences with which the text shows us that a person in the Bible is capable of saying something that sounds very beautiful, but that communicates the opposite. Such is the state of Israel at this time that neither the word, nor the life of the people, nor the Yahweh itself has any value to them. What matters is to use the “biblical” language in the speeches, the power and the security that the men of war give and the prosperity that Baal guarantees. In this the story of Gideon ended, someone who, incidentally, also had a powerful testimony to tell: supernaturally called (Judges 6: 11-27 Open with Logos Bible Software (if available)) and mighty Israel Liberator (Judges) 6: 28-8: 21 Open with Logos Bible Software (if available)).
In this way were the things in the days when there was no king and each one did what he thought best: the most useless ends up governing (Abimelech) because he has convincing speech and knows how to kill. The Bible does not let go without adding a mockery of such a people and their leaders, the fable of the trees (Judges 9: 7-21 Open Logos Bible Software (if available)). Demonstrated then is how the Bible uses language in a creative way, letting people say one thing to mean another through irony. That is, in this text (Gideon) it says exactly the opposite of what it says.