So far in Judges we have seen the judges, the Avengers of God:
Othniel, the nephew of Caleb (3:7-11) defeat Mesopotamia
Ehud defeat the fat Moabite King Eglon (3:12-30)
Shamgar defeat 600 Philistines (3:31), and
Deborah directing Barak as he defeats King Jabin of Canaan
We now come to the Judge Gideon. God spends more time discussing Gideon and Samson that He does any other judges. We will cover Gideon in at least two installments.
Before Gideon Comes, The Midianites
And A Prophet Comes
Judges 6:1-2 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
Gideon’s calling by God is very similar to His calling of the other Judges. The phrase:
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them …
is the same pattern we see in Judges 2:11; 3:7 and 3:12. The “children of Israel” forgot that they were Children of God. Instead of following God they “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Our God watches us as His Children. He saved us so that we can serve Him. The Bible tells us:
Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV) Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
God watches our labor IN HIM, and will eventually bless us if we continue to serve Him. But the Bible is careful to remind us to “Do not be deceived – God is not mocked. What ever you sow, you will reap (Galatians 6:7)”. If you sow GOOD, you reap GOOD. If you sow NOTHING, you reap NOTHING. But if you sow EVIL, you reap EVIL. Some call it Karma. The Bible calls it Divine Justice. When Israel did evil we read:
the Lord delivered them
Word Study: The word “delivered” means “to give as a free gift”. God gives us the free gift of salvation, and calls us His own. But when we turn away from Him, He can “re-gift” us to our enemy. God gave Israel as a gift to Midian. Father Abraham had more sons than just Isaac and Ishmael. He had six sons by Keturah, the wife he married when Sarah died. The fourth of Keturah’s children by Abraham was Midian. Though the Midianites are descendants of Abraham, like Ishmael they did not come through Sarah as the child of promise.
During the time of Moses, when he fled Egypt after killing a taskmaster and traveled to the Desert of Midian. He married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro a priest of Midian (Exodus 2:15-16). At 80 years old God called Moses out of Midian, and had him lead Israel out of Egypt. Though the Midianites initially knew the God of Abraham and Moses, they drifted away from God and into idolatry. God directed Moses to “kill the Midianites” (Numbers 25:17-19) because of their evil.
God turned the fallen Israelites over to the fallen Midianites for punishment. The moral? Act like a pagan, God will treat you like a pagan!
Judges 6:2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
How far we as God’s people fall when we become one with the world! When God’s people follow Him, He becomes “the Rock of our salvation”. We live in power when we live in Christ. We sing with the Saints:
2 Samuel 22:47-48 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my Rock; and exalted be the God of the Rock of my salvation. 48 It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me.
Word Study: Israel should have been standing above the enemy on the Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). But instead, they are burrowing into the mountains, and hiding in caves to get away from their enemies. For “seven years” Israel is in this state. Seven is the number of REST in the Scripture, the number of completion. God created all in six days, and rested on the seventh day. Israel is not resting in God, but in their abilities, their subterfuge, their sneakiness. Why are they hiding in cages?
Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully”.
Judges 6:3-5 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
The Midianites lead the Amalekites (the descendants of Esau) in pillaging Israel. When Israel sowed their crops, as the harvest came the enemy came like locusts, and stole their crop. Furthermore, the Midianites had vast herds of sheep, oxen, and donkeys along with cattle and camels without number. All these beasts ate the grass of the lands where Israel was, so much so that their own beasts starved. What was frightening about the Midianites was that “they entered into the land to destroy it”. God warned Israel when they entered the Promised Land to “dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. … But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them. (Numbers 33:53, 55-56)
The Midianites did not want to settle the land. They moved into an area like locusts, destroyed it, then moved on. This terrible suffering caused Israel to call out to God.
Judges 6:6-8 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. 7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, 8 That the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, 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;
The Children of Israel cried out to God because of the Midianites. Before God raised up Gideon, “the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel” to explain why they were being punished. This is different from all the Judges we have had up to this time. Though we do not know the name of the Prophet, he speaks for God. “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel”. The Lord speaks through this Prophet reminding Israel of His great grace given to them.
Judges 6:9-10 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, and gave you their land; 10 And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
The Israelites were not to fear the gods of the Amorites – but they were to have fear or respect for their own God. Though the Amorite “was like the height of cedars, and strong as the oaks (Amos 2:9), our God was greater. We do not fear God as you would a poisonous snake or a bear, but we fear God in the sense that we have reverence, respect, and awe for Him. The Scripture tells us:
Hebrews 12:5-6 (NASB) My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; (6) For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And he scourges every son whom He receives.
God wants Israel to know that their low estate with the Midianites is not because God has forgotten them, nor is it because God is a poor God unable to do right by His people. They are in the mess they are in because God is disciplining them – just as He does all His children. “As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord Thy God chastens thee!” (Deuteronomy 8:5).
Judges 6:11-12 And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.
God has an unnamed Prophet speak to Israel about their failure. Now an unnamed Angel speaks to Gideon. The Angel finds Gideon hiding near a winepress. The grapes are not near harvest, but Gideon has gathered a small harvest of wheat from the fields. He is threshing the wheat – separating the grain from the chaff – so he can feed his family.
Gideon’s name (giḏʿôn) means “One who hews down, that bruises or breaks”
Gideon hewed down wheat in the dead of night, and carted it over to a hiding place near a “winepress”. Here he is gathering little in his own power. The Angel of the Lord tells him that it is God’s plan that he not just hew down and “thresh wheat” while hiding from the enemy. God wants to use Gideon as He used the unnamed Prophet. God will one day judge this earth and “cast it into the great winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 14:19-20; 19:15). The Angel tells Gideon:
The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor
This is somewhat amusing, for Gideon is anything BUT a “mighty man of valor”. But the Angel speaks of what God INTENDS Gideon to be, if he will but allow God to work in his life. Instead of worshiping God, Gideon begins to whine:
Judges 6:13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
Now what is interesting about Gideon’s whining is that the unnamed Prophet told Israel WHY they were being afflicted of the Midianites. Where was Gideon when the Prophet shared this news?
There are times when God clearly speaks to us, but we do not hear Him. Sometimes He gives us a clear message from the Pastor or Bible Teacher on Sunday – but we decided to stay home that day. Perhaps when the Prophet preached, Gideon skipped Synagogue. Or perhaps Gideon was there when the Prophet spoke, but he was preoccupied in fixing his own problems. Gideon was too busy worrying and too little praying. He missed the memo! Gideon blames God, just as Adam blamed God when he sinned in the Garden. Adam said, “The woman whom YOU, GOD gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). Gideon blames God. “YOU, GOD have forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites”. It’s all God’s fault!
The Lord does not argue with a fool! He merely replies:
Judges 6:14 And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
My commentary notes:
“The angel, in His greeting (“valiant warrior,” v. 12), was addressing Gideon as the man he would become, by God’s enablement, not the man he was then. In the same way, God had called Abraham the father of a multitude before he had any children. He called Peter a rock before he behaved like one. He also calls Christians saints, even though we are not yet as saintly as God will make us.”
The Bible says that when God chose Israel, that “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deuteronomy 7:7). The Bible says of the Christian
1 Corinthians 1:26-28 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are:
God calls the broken, the weak, the unable, and makes us whole, strong, and able. We cannot, but God can. “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), and yet Jesus said “apart from Me you can do NOTHING” (John 15:5). Gideon is God’s chosen Judge.
But Gideon is not sure.
Judges 6:15-16 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 16 And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
Gideon is “the least” or the youngest in his family. Normally the firstborn child would be chosen to lead the family, and to lead the warriors. Yet God often uses the younger over the older. God chose …
Abel’s offering, but rejected the elder Cain’s (Genesis 4)
Jacob over Esau (Romans 9:13)
Moses to lead Israel, though Aaron was 3 years older (Exodus 7:7)
David over his brothers (1 Samuel 16:12-13) to be King
Solomon over his older brothers to be King (1 Chronicles 22:6-10)
Ephraim was greater than his older brother Manasseh (Genesis 48)
Judges 6:17-21 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. 19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: 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. 20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. 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.
Gideon asks for a sign from God that the Lord was really talking to him. This is the first of three signs that Gideon will ask of God in this chapter.
Gideon first asked that God stay there while he prepared a meal, just as he would do for any honored guest. This is time consuming. There are no refrigerators, nor cook tops or microwaves. The flour was already ground, but had to be mixed and cooked on a flat rock. The goat had to be killed and the meat prepared for eating. The “angel of God” waited patiently until the meal was served. The Angel had Gideon put the food on a rock. The Angel extended a staff that he held in his hands, 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”. The fire came up OUT OF THE ROCK, not from some man made source. Gideon believed that this was of God. We read:
Judges 6:22-24 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. 23 And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Gideon was at first frightened when he was assured that this Angel spoke for God. But when God assured him that he would not die, Gideon “built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovahshalom”, which means “The Lord is Peace”. God commands Gideon – the younger son – to destroy his father’s false altar to Baal. Before Gideon can lead Israel into battle, he must put God above his own family. Our Lord Jesus said:
Luke 14:26-27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
God must be greater in our lives than anyone or anything. He demands our number 1 treatment – not second place. God told Gideon:
Judges 6:25-27 And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, 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, and cut down the grove that is by it: 26 And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. 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, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
We see some interesting parallels here. Israel has been in bondage to Midian for 7 years. Now God demands Gideon take a “bullock of seven years old” and tear down his family’s altar to Baal. An altar to the True Jehovah is to be built over top of this false altar, and a sacrifice made to Jehovah. Gideon does as God says, but “he did it by night” because he was afraid of what his family would do to him. Sadly, doing it by night didn’t protect him. We read:
Judges 6:28-30 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. 29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. 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 that was by it.
The people of the city called out for the death of Gideon. But “Joash”, Gideon’s father, refused to do so. He told them:
Judges 6:31-32 And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? 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. 32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
Gideon was given the nickname “Jerubbaal” (the Hebrew yᵊrubaʿal), which means “Let Baal fight him”. If Baal was indeed a true god, he himself could take care of Gideon. From that day forth Gideon would also be known as “Jerubbaal” – mocking the gods of the Midianites. In God we have nothing to fear! Next week we’ll study the fleece of Gideon. May God bless you as you grow in Him. Amen and Amen!