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Judges 8:27

ESV And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.
NIV Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
NASB Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah; but all Israel committed infidelity with it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household.
CSB Gideon made an ephod from all this and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. Then all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his household.
NLT Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
KJV And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

What does Judges 8:27 mean?

Scripture does not explain Gideon's exact motivation for making a golden ephod. The result was disastrous. The object was worshiped by the people of Israel, as an idol. The bible applies a sharp, harsh term: zanah, used for things like fornication and prostitution. In a common spiritual metaphor, the people are said to have "whored" after the object. Their worship of it was unfaithfulness to God, as much as adultery is unfaithfulness to a spouse. Idolatry is as self-debasing as a person selling their body for someone else's sexual use. The English word "whore" evokes a distasteful response, and idolatry is similarly disgusting to the Lord.

The term used in this passage doesn't clearly explain what, exactly, the object Gideon created looked like. In the Law, God had directed Israel to use an 'ephowd as part of worship. In that context, an "ephod" was a shirt-like garment worn by the high priest in his ceremonial duties (Exodus 28:6). However, ephods were also used in the worship of false gods in Egypt and other parts of Mesopotamia. In contexts other than the worship of the God of Israel, the term might have been used generically for sacred objects. The passage gives no further details about which of the two meanings is in mind.

Also unclear is whether the ephod was made of solid gold or made with golden threads. In either case, Gideon may have used it as a kind of oracle for seeking guidance from Israel's God or other false deities. The ephods of Israel's priests were associated with objects called Urim and Thummim, which somehow involved determining God's will (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 14:41).

From the perspective of a modern reader, it might be surprising to realize Gideon has not entirely given up worship of other gods alongside the one true God. He sets up his ephod in his hometown of Ophrah, just as idols to Baal and Asherah had been found on his father's land (Judges 6:25–27). Gideon's influence turns this religious icon into an object of worship for the entire nation.

For all he has accomplished by faithfully following God, Gideon is the only judge recorded as leading Israel into acts of false worship and betrayal of the Lord. This comes with a price. In some way, the ephod becomes a "snare" for Gideon and his family. No details about that are provided; this might simply mean that they were caught up in idolatrous worship. It might also mean that owning the ephod brought strife and controversy into Gideon's home. The next chapter details the sordid, ugly experiences of Gideon's children (Judges 9:1–5).
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