What does Judges 8:31 mean?
ESV: And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech.
NIV: His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelek.
NASB: And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.
CSB: His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.
NLT: He also had a concubine in Shechem, who gave birth to a son, whom he named Abimelech.
KJV: And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
NKJV: And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
Verse Commentary:
During the decades following Israel's victory over the Midianites (Judges 6:1–5; 8:10–12), Gideon was wealthy and powerful. He took numerous wives and had an enormous number of children, including seventy sons (Judges 8:30). Likely, all his "official" wives were Israelites, in keeping with the requirements of God's law for Israel (Deuteronomy 7:3–4).

The woman described in this verse, however, was probably not an Israelite. She was likely a Canaanite woman, from the mostly Canaanite town of Shechem. Gideon clearly had no problem marrying many women, but this woman is not a "wife." She is described as a concubine. In Old Testament culture, a concubine was more of a servant (Judges 9:18) than a wife; such relationships were primarily about sex. Gideon's home (Judges 8:29) is in Ophrah (Judges 6:11; 8:32); this woman lives in an entirely different town.

Gideon has a son with this concubine, whose story will take center stage in the following chapter. This verse is usually translated to mean that Gideon chose the child's name. Strictly speaking, the Hebrew of this verse can suggest the name came from either Gideon, or from the concubine mother. That the chosen name is Abimelech—literally meaning "the king is my father"—suggests the latter (Judges 8:22–23), since Gideon rejected the role of king. If Gideon did, in fact, choose the name, it implies a level of arrogance about his position in the nation.

If this woman was a Canaanite, having a son with her was a direct disobedience to God's law for His people. God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with the people of the land and have children with them. His purpose for that command was explicitly a matter of faith: such relationships would lead Israel into sin (Deuteronomy 7:3–4). This rebellion against God will have far-reaching consequences for Gideon's entire family.
Verse Context:
Judges 8:29–35 describes Gideon's enormous family after God's power defeated Midianite raiders. Wealthy and influential, Gideon takes many wives and has seventy sons. This includes one son by a Canaanite concubine. Unrestrained by a deliverer after Gideon's death, the people of Israel dive deeper into worshiping false idols. They abandon God and worship Baal-berith. They also stop caring for Gideon's family. This sudden change factors into the sordid events recorded in chapter 9.
Chapter Summary:
Gideon soothes the anger of the men of Ephraim. Then, with his 300 fighting men, he chases the remnant of the Midianite army. After a difficult pursuit, he finally catches and defeats them in the wilderness. Gideon then returns to two Israelite towns who refused to help him along the way. He flogs the leaders of one town and kills the men of the other. He then executes the captured enemy kings. Gideon collects tribute from Israel but declines to become their official king. He lives to gain seventy sons, many wives, and at least one Canaanite concubine. When Gideon dies, Israel immediately returns to idol worship.
Chapter Context:
Judges 8 follows the great victory described at the end of the previous chapter. This passage begins with Gideon awkwardly soothing the anger of Ephraimites while trying to chase down an escaping enemy. After capturing the Midianite kings, Gideon punishes two towns for failing to aid their fellow Israelites. Gideon refuses to become a literal king but collects tribute from the people and lives like a king all his days, with many wives and sons. The people return to idol worship after his death. Soon after, the concubine's son, Abimelech, murders Gideon's other sons and briefly rules before meeting a gruesome death.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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