New Defender's Study Bible Notes
8:1 men of Ephraim. The Ephraimites–possibly because Joshua had been from their tribe–were accustomed to being leaders in Israel’s battles, and apparently resented not having been called earlier to the battle. Gideon defused the situation by especially commending them for what they had done.
8:14 described. The word translated “described” actually means “described in writing.” That this randomly encountered young man was literate strongly suggests that the Israelites in general were literate at this time, despite their previous decades of desert life and warfare.
8:16 taught the men. The Hebrew word here translated “taught” is flexible in meaning and is translated many different ways depending on context. Here it is used in the sense of “disciplined.” The cities of Succoth and Penuel, both east of the Jordan and north of the Jabbok, had refused to provide sustenance for Gideon’s armies as they were pursuing the Midianites, fearing vengeance by the Midianites. Instead they suffered Gideon’s vengeance when he returned from defeating the Midianites and capturing their two remaining kings. Gideon’s “teaching” was vindictively harsh, dragging the elders of Succoth over thorns and briers, probably killing them, and then also killing the men of Penuel.
8:27 ephod. The ephod made by Gideon was apparently something different from the priestly garment usually called an ephod (e.g., Exodus 28:4-14). Whatever it was, it represented an intrusion into the divinely prescribed ministry of the high priest, probably relating to the proper use of the Urim and Thummin (Exodus 28:30) which were worn with the ephod. In any case, its use by Gideon and his people was contrary to God’s Word, and it soon became an idol to them.
8:28 the days of Gideon. For a man who started out so well, Gideon’s heritage was disappointing and tragic. His merciless revenge on his own countrymen, then his demand for an exorbitant reward, followed by his making a golden ephod which soon became an idol, plus taking many wives and fathering seventy sons (who knows how many daughters) all left a bad memory in the minds of his people. Even though he had delivered them from the Midianites and kept the land in peace for forty years, the children of Israel returned to idolatry as soon as Gideon died. Most tragic of all, one of the sons conspired to make himself king by getting most of the others killed.