JUDGES CHAPTER 6
The Call of Gideon.
THE OPPRESSION OF MIDIAN. — V. 1. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, after the forty years of rest; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. The Midianites, descendants of Abraham and Keturah, occupied the rich steppes east of the territory of Moab and Ammon. After their decisive defeat at the hands of the children of Israel at the time of Moses, Num.31, they had again grown numerous enough to give vent to their ancient hatred for the people of God. V. 2. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel, rested heavily upon the people; and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains and caves and strongholds. They made use of the natural grottoes and caves in the limestone, excavated others, made them habitable by digging air-holes from above, and fortified many, to serve not only for retreats in case of a raid, but also as places for the safe-keeping of their personal property. V. 3. And so it was, when Israel had sown, prepared the fields for harvest, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, the other tribe which was especially hostile to Israel, and the children of the East, desert tribes living by plunder and pillage, even they came up against them; v. 4. and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, by wantonly plundering and devastating the harvest-fields, till thou come unto Gaza, the raids thus extending across the entire land, to the Philistine country, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. V. 5. For they, the Midianites and their allies, came up with their cattle and their tents, fully supplied with all they needed; and they came as grasshoppers, locusts, for multitude, and also for voracity; for both they and their camels were without number, a very great multitude; and they entered into the land to destroy it, that was their avowed purpose, wantonly and ruthlessly to devastate the entire land, making it unfit for habitation. V. 6. And Israel was greatly impoverished, brought down very low, deeply distressed, because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, they turned to Him in repentance. V. 7. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, v. 8. that the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, a man directly inspired by Him, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage, namely, as a people, Ex. 13, 3. 14; 20, 2; v. 9. and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, the nations of Canaan as they were defeated by Moses and Joshua, and gave you their land; v. 10. and I said unto you, I am the Lord, your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, the name here standing for the Canaanitish nations in general, in whose land ye dwell; but ye have not obeyed My voice. That was the explanation of their present plight. God does not suffer disobedience in His children to go unpunished. But in sending such punishment, His intention is to draw His children back to Him in true sorrow over their sins, that they plead for mercy and forgiveness.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARS TO GIDEON. — V. 11. And there came an Angel of the Lord, the Angel in the extraordinary sense of the term, the Son of God, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash, the Abiezrite, in the territory of Manasseh, apparently in the northwestern part of the plain, not far from the territories of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulun; and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, the place where the grapes were pressed out, not an exposed threshing-floor, to hide it from the Midianites, bands of whose raiders might be expected at any time. V. 12. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him, Gideon, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. The reference was not only to his physical strength, but to the determination and energy which was apparent in his entire appearance. V. 13. And Gideon said unto him, O my Lord, for he realized that this man was not a common man, if the Lord be with us, why, then, is all this befallen us? Cp. Deut. 31, 17. And where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? These words did not arise from doubt and unbelief, but from a deep feeling of Israel’s dishonor. But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. It was the only conclusion which Gideon found possible. V. 14. And the Lord looked upon him, for He it was that appeared in the form of the Angel, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee, or, Do not I send thee? V. 15. And he said unto Him, O my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? acknowledging the speaker as the Lord God. Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, my division of a thousand families is the lowliest in the tribe, and I am the least in my father’s house, he occupied no position of influence and authority. V. 16. And the Lord said unto him, in taking away this objection, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man; their entire host would fall before him as though it consisted of but a single man. V. 17. And he, Gideon, said unto Him, If now I have found grace in Thy sight, then show me a sign that Thou talkest with me, literally, “whether thou art He who speaks with me,” whether He had this divine authority thus to send him, in other words, whether He were God. V. 18. Depart not hence, I pray Thee, until I come unto Thee and bring forth my present, a sacrificial gift offered to God, from whose acceptance he would obtain evidence of the deity of the messenger, and set it before thee.. And He said, I will tarry until thou come again. V. 19. And Gideon went in and made ready a kid, preparing it for food, and unleavened cakes of an ephod of flour (almost twenty-six quarts). The flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak and presented it, set it down before his Visitor. V. 20. And the Angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, which He pointed out to him, and pour out the broth, namely, over the food. And he did so. V. 21. Then the Angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight, disappearing as suddenly as He had come. V. 22. And when Gideon perceived that He was an Angel of the Lord, the Lord Himself, as He had revealed Himself to Abraham and to Joshua, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! an expression of dismay and of the fear of death, since he, a sinful human being, had spoken with Jehovah, for because I have seen an Angel of the Lord face to face! V. 23. And the Lord said unto him, no longer in visible form, but by the voice of the unseen God, Peace be unto thee; fear not; thou shalt not die. V. 24. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom (“The Lord is peace”); unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. This altar was not to serve for sacrifices, but as a memorial and witness of the theophany vouchsafed to Gideon, and of his expression that Jehovah did not desire to destroy Israel in His wrath, but had only thoughts of peace toward the people. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, has given us thousands of proofs that He is all-powerful, but also gracious and merciful. Therefore we should trust in His power and grace.
GIDEON GRANTED SPECIAL SIGNS. — V. 25. And it came to pass the same night, following this wonderful manifestation, that the Lord said unto him, Gideon, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, for thus openly was idolatry practised in Israel, and cut down the grove, the Ashera pillar that is by it, the chief deities of the Canaanites being worshiped by the family of Abiezer; v. 26. and build an altar unto the Lord, thy God, upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, on the grotto or fortification, the wood from the pillar of Ashera being intended to consume the burnt offering of Gideon, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. V. 27. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had said unto him; and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, addicted to idolatry as they were, and the men of the city that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. V. 28. And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove, the wooden pillar erected in honor of Ashera, was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built, for it was not yet fully consumed by the fire. V. 29. And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, searching for the man who might be guilty, they said, either the searchers themselves upon strong suspicion, or men who knew of Gideon’s exploit, Gideon, the son of Joash, hath done this thing. V. 30. Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son that he may die, because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove, the wooden pillar, that was by it. V. 31. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, for he fully approved of the act of his son, Will ye plead for Baal? Will ye save him? The emphasis in either case is on the “ye,” since Joash wanted to ridicule the idea of Baal’s having need of men to defend him, if he were in truth god. He that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning; if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. He demanded that his enraged townspeople wait till the morning, in order to give Baal time to avenge himself if he were able. Joash knew, and the people knew, that this settled the matter, for none of them seriously believed in the idol. It is one of the characteristic illusions of heathenism in all ages that it itself does not believe in that for which it appears to be so zealous. V. 32. Therefore on that day he, Joash, called him, Gideon, Jerubbaal (“Let Baal plead his case”), saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar. This brought the incident to a close. V. 33. Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the East, all the enemy allies, were gathered together, and went over, passed over Jordan from the east, and pitched in the Valley of Jezreel, in the upper reaches of the Kishon. V. 34. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, clothing him like a garment or a coat of mail, and he blew a trumpet, to summon Israel against their enemies; and Abiezer, his own section of the tribe of Manasseh, was gathered after him. V. 35. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also was gathered after him; and he sent messengers unto Asher, who had held back from Barak, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them. V. 36. And Gideon said unto God, in asking a further confirmation of the success of his undertaking, If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said, v. 37. behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor, out in the open on the ground; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and if it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said. He had such a humble opinion of himself and his influence that he felt the need of such a sign to establish his courage. V. 38. And it was so; for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water, while the ground round about was dry. V. 39. And Gideon said unto God, let not Thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once, requiring one more sign, in which all explanations on natural principles would be excluded; let me prove, I pray Thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, which has a tendency to absorb the slightest moisture, and upon all the ground let there be dew. V. 40. And God did so that night; for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground, as Gideon had asked. His request did not flow from unbelief, but from the weakness of his flesh, which causes even the servants of God to be anxious for the future. But God is rich in kindness; He has compassion with our weakness, and comes to our assistance even with extraordinary blessings and miraculous manifestations.