“And to Gideon there were seventy sons born from his own loins, for he had many wives. And his concubine, who was from Shechem also bore a son to him and she called his name Abimelek. And Gideon, the son of Joash, died with good grey hair. And he was buried in the tomb of his father in Ophrah, the city of the Abizerites.”
We get a hint at the calamity to come in these verses. As if Gideon’s many wives was bad enough, we find that there is a concubine singled out and it is the son of the concubine who is given the name: “Abimelech” or “Son of the King.” It is a reminder that while Gideon did not want the official title of king, that was how he is viewed by the people and perhaps, if there were a bit of false modesty on Gideon’s part, perhaps that is how Gideon thought of himself and just needed a concubine to point it out. Even so, it is the son born out of wedlock that is given the name of “Son of the King.”
We finally arrive at the account of Gideon’s passing. Literally the Hebrew reads that he had “good grey hair.” That sounds odd to our western ears as grey hair is often viewed as something to be dreaded. Yet, in the Jewish culture, it was a sign of wisdom and blessing that one had reached old age. And while we might reserve judgment on wisdom with respect to Gideon’s later life, God certainly blessed him in his old age as he and the land both had rest. And thus, he is buried with honor in the city of his father, Ophrah.
While we often see presumption like that of his concubine in the society and even in the church, the key to remember with all of our heroes, whether they are Biblical ones like Gideon or post-Biblical ones like Augustine, Calvin, or Ryle, is that they are sinners. They are fallen humans just as are we and we bring our whole being to the table even when God chooses to use us in remarkable ways. Often, people ask, how could Gideon, having had such a powerful experience with the delivering hand of God, fall into the sin of so many wives so quickly? The answer is simple: it happens in the same way you or I fall back into sin even after God has used us in profound ways. We are fallen and in need of grace. We are also in need of the daily reminding that anything good that we do — great or small — is the work of God through our sinful humanity. How indeed we need grace and how amazing it is that God chooses in his sovereignty to give it. Praise the Lord for that.