“And they said, ‘We will surely give!’ And they spread out a garment and threw there the rings from their spoil. And the weight of the golden rings asked for was a thousand and seven hundred measures of gold. Not to mention the crescent ornaments and pendants and garments of purple which were from the kings of Midian or the necklaces that were on the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an Ephod from it and set it in his city, in Ophrah. And all of Israel committed fornication with it there and it became to Gideon and to his sons a snare.”
Rule of thumb: flee from temptation. And flee, especially when it comes to sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) and from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). How much easier our lives would be if we took that counsel and took it seriously. Yet, time and time again, we and other believers allow ourselves to be tempted by such things, thinking that we will just taste it and then pull back in resistance, yet, time and time again we fall into sin. How many pastors have ruined their ministries because of sexual temptations or because of great wealth? How many times have pastors’ ministries or legacies become ephods for the people of God, who pursue a man loyally rather than to pursue Christ loyally. How many churches have sought to build their own kingdoms on earth rather than laboring to build the Kingdom of Heaven? Such is the temptation (and often the sin) of men in places of authority and leadership.
The rings are placed on a garment in a pile and their weight in gold is 1,700 measures. Many English translations will add “shekels” in the text (sometimes in italics to show that it is inferred) as shekels were the typical measure of gold in the ancient near east. Literally, the text simply reads that the weight of the gold was 1,700. Assuming shekels, which represents about 11 grams, that works out to 18,700 grams of gold, which works out to 659 ounces of gold weight — 54 pounds as we measure gold today. This is an astounding amount of gold weight and suitable to make a small idol — an Ephod to be displayed in Ophrah. We are not told exactly what this Ephod looked like, simply that the people “committed fornication with it.”
Fornication is used in two ways in the scriptures. One is the literal and obvious sin and the other as a symbol of idolatry — which is spiritual fornication, lusting after gods the people are not to worship. As, in many cases, pagan worship also included the ordinary form of fornication, it seems a sadly appropriate analogy.
In the end, the people worship the man rather than the God who delivered them through the man. Gideon was but a tool in the hands of God. Sadly the people could not see that and Gideons and his sons did not undo that. The ephod became a stumbling block to them as well.