Judges 6

 

 

1 “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.” In Numbers 22:7 we read

of the Midianites as allied with the Moabites in their hostility to the children of Israel,

and we find them willing agents of Balaam s iniquitous counsels (Ibid. 25:6,17-18;

31:7-8), and suffering a terrible chastisement from the Israelites in consequence.

An abiding national feud was the natural consequence; and this, added to their love

of plunder, no doubt led to the present invasion in company with the Amalekites

(ch.3:13, note).  Observe the contrast between the victory described in Numbers

31. and the defeat narrated in this chapter.

 

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.”  In the writer’s time certain

hiding-places called by the above names were traditionally known as the places

where the Israelites took refuge during the terrible Midianite invasion. The

limestone hills of Palestine abounded in such caves.

 

3 “And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up,

and the Amalekites, and the children of the east,” - We first find this term in

Genesis 29:1, where it is applied to the people of Haran. Comparing the analogous

phrases, “the east country” (Ibid. 25:6), “the mountains of the east” (Numbers

23:7), “the men of the east” (Job 1:3), “the east” (Isaiah 2:6; Matthew 2:1), we

gather that the country lying to the east of Palestine as far as the river Euphrates was

called the east country, and that the various tribes of Arabs and others who peopled

that desert were called “the children of the east” (see v. 33 and ch.7:12; 8:10) -

 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” - i.e. neither grass,

nor corn, nor fruit - “for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.”  These all either

died for want of food or were seized by the Midianites. The next verse explains

that the enormous multitudes of their cattle and camels consumed the whole

produce of the ground.

 

5 “For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as

grasshoppers” -  See the striking description of the destruction caused by locusts

in Joel 1:4. I have heard travelers in India describe the sudden darkening of the sky

by a flight of locusts - “for multitude; for both they and their camels were

without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.  6 And Israel

was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of

Israel cried unto the LORD.”

 

 

Israel’s Extremity (vs. 1-6)

 

With repeated defection a severer punishment is needed and inflicted. Midian is not

only a neighbor, but one who encircles Israel on the south, south-east, and east. It

was a name given to the great Arab tribes living east of the Red Sea, and south and

east of Canaan. Unlike a comparatively civilised nation, they are not satisfied with

receiving tribute; they render husbandry and the arts of civilized life impossible

by lawless raids, ceaseless devastation, and wanton destruction. It is a new

terror. Israel may be overwhelmed and stamped out if this curse of the wilderness be

not restrained.

 

  • ISRAEL’S ABANDONMENT OF JEHOVAH IS PUNISHED BY AN

APPARENT ABANDONMENT OF ISRAEL BY JEHOVAH. It seems                                                         

A light punishment; really there could scarcely be a harder one. Let the sinner

and the backslider consider what their condition would be were God just to

treat them as they treat Him. Even the mildest phase of such discipline

could not be long bearable. Simply to be left to oneself — let alone

what tragic possibilities does that suggest! But when enemies of the most

ruthless description overrun our land, and have us at their mercy, how

much does abandonment mean! It is in such times we learn how much we

owe to Divine interposition hour by hour. The moral consciousness of

Israel was consequently lowered. So of all in like cases.

 

  • THE MANNER AND EXTENT OF THEIR DISCIPLINE ARE

SUGGESTIVE OF THE HEINOUSNESS OF THEIR OFFENCE.

Things had come to such a pass that only a full experience of the worst of

their heathenish and idolatrous neighbors would avail. There is little or no love

of God left; let the consequences of their unbelief teach them a bitter

hatred of evil; in time it will drive them back to the doctrine and practice of

truth for very life. By and by they will learn to love it again. We have but to

think of God’s loving nature and infinite tenderness to see how desperate

such a measure is. If forbearance failed, no other remedy would suffice but

this. ALL UNBELIEF IS THIS POTENTIALLY!   It was a glimpse

of the horror of A GODLESS WORLD!

 

  • IT WAS A SALUTARY DISCIPLINE, BECAUSE IT LED THEM

TO REPENTANCE AND PRAYER. God had no pleasure in this long

agony; but neither, on the other hand, would He shorten it until due cause

appeared. The result justified the severity. Saints often regard their

calamities amongst their GREATEST MERCIES!  How roughly

handled have been some of God’s dearest ones! But the worst is not ours

to bear, since CHRIST DIED!   There is no calamity we cannot take to

Him. He will distil sweetness from wormwood itself, and give us help in time

of sorest need.  Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth

 every son whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:6).  He may be nearer to

 us IN THE AFFLICTION THAN IN PROSPERITY!

 

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” - Literally, a man, a prophet, just as

Deborah was described as a woman, a prophetess (ch.4:4). It is interesting to

observe the flow of the spirit of prophecy in those early days between Moses and

Samuel, before the dispensation of the prophets had risen to its height - “unto the

children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,

I brought you up from Egypt,” -  Note the constant reference to the exodus as a

fixed point in their national and religious life (see v.13; ch.2:1) - “and brought

you forth out of the house of bondage;  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, 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 Fruit of Ingratitude (vs. 8-10)

 

What a condemnation of Israel there was in the simple statement of facts

by the mouth of the prophet, without exaggeration and without comment.

God had brought them up from the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and a

stretched-out arm; when they were in bondage He had broken their yoke;

when they were oppressed He had set them free; when the multitudes of

Moabites, and Ammonites, and Midianites, and Canaanites, had opposed

their entrance into the land of promise, God had brushed them all away and

given their land to the Israelites. He had accompanied these acts of grace

and power with a simple command not to worship the idols of Canaan, but

to remember that Jehovah was their God, but they had not obeyed His

voice. They had forsaken God, to whom they owed all they had, and they

had turned to heathen vanities. What need to say any more? They were now

 reaping WHAT THEY HAD SOWN!   They were helpless because they had

cast off Him who had helped them so wondrously, and who would have

been their help in every time of need if they had not so wantonly forsaken

Him. And in like manner how often will a bare statement of facts be enough

to overwhelm us with guilt and shame! Let any man be his own prophet,

and with unflinching truth record the incidents of a year or a day of his own

life. “God in his abounding grace and love redeemed me by the blood of His

dear Son; He freely forgave me my trespasses and sins; He received me into

the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, unto Himself; He sealed me with

the Holy Spirit of promise; He crowned me with loving-kindness and tender

mercy; He showed me the kingdom of heaven, and bid me enter into it; He

showed me the deadly evil of sin; He showed me the beauty and loveliness

of goodness; He said to me, Abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which

is good (Romans 12:9).  But I have not hearkened to His voice; I have

forgotten His love, and despised His grace; I have disbelieved His word, and

have believed the lying promises of sin; I have loved the world; I have been

the slave of my own lusts, and the subject of my own passions; I have turned

aside with the multitude of evil-doers, and I am now EATING THE FRUIT

OF MY OWN DOINGS!   (I recommend Proverbs ch14 v14 – Spurgeon Sermon –

How a Man’s Conduct Comes Home to HimCY – 2012)  I have forsaken God,

and so God has forsaken me.”

 

11 “And there came an angel of the LORD,” -  Rather, the angel of the Lord,

otherwise called “the angel of His presence” (Isaiah 63:9). In vs.14,16,23, for the

angel of the Lord we have simply the Lord (see ch.2:1, note) -“and sat under an

oak” - Rather the oak, or terebinth, as it should be rendered. It was doubtless a

well-known tree still standing in the writer’s time (see v. 19).  Compare the mention

of the oak (terebinth) at Shechem (Genesis 35:4); the great oak (terebinth) in which

Absalom was caught (II Samuel 18:9); Deborahs palm tree (ch. 4:5, where see note).

Observe the simple way in which the ministration of the angel is introduced, as if it were

a matter of course in the eyes of Him who is the Lord of the millions of the heavenly

host, those ministers of His who do his pleasure. Human skepticism, the twin sister

of human selfishness, would blot out all creation except itself -  “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.”

These graphic touches give a lively picture of the straits to which the Israelites were

reduced by the Midianite occupation.

 

12 “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him,

The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.”  Angels were not always

visible when present (see Numbers 22:31; II Samuel 24:17; II Kings 6:19).

 

13 “And Gideon said unto Him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us,

why then is all this befallen us?” - The utter dejection caused by the

Midianite oppression breathes in every word spoken by Gideon. But how

reassuring the angel’s words were - “and where be all His miracles

which our fathers told us of,” -  This is a distinct reference to the national

traditions, which are elsewhere alluded to (compare Exodus 12:26-27; Psalm 44:1;

78:3-5; Jeremiah 16:14) - “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.” 

 

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?”

 

15“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.”  Compare the unwillingness of Moses (Exodus 3:11; 4:10, 13),

of Saul (I Samuel 10:21-22), of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), of Amos (Amos 7:14-15),

and of  Peter (Luke 5:8). Also in ecclesiastical history that of Ambrose, Gregory

the Great, and others. The least fit are usually the most forward, the most fit the

most backward, to undertake great offices (ch.9:8-15). True humility is the usual

companion of true greatness (see II Corinthians 2:16; 3:5).

 

 

The call of Gideon (vs. 11-15)

 

The call of Gideon was unexpected by himself and undreamt of by the nation. The

whole land is given over to IDOLATRY and WRETCHEDNESS  but God is

at no loss to find His servant Gideon, a strong man, a hero and ignominiously

concealed.  Gideon is a symbol of Israel’s helplessness.

 

  • THE PERSONALITY AND RELATIONS OF GIDEON ARE ALIKE,

A REBUKE TO ISRAEL, A VINDICATION OF THE SOVEREIGN

WILL OF GOD, AND A REVELATION OF THE SOURCE OF ALL

TRUE POWER. He is the youngest scion of an insignificant family in a

secondary tribe. Not only has he had no special religious or political training,

he is an idolater, or at any rate belongs to an idolatrous family.. And he is

addressed whilst acting in a manner of which he must have felt ashamed.

Hidden, helpless, a skeptic regarding Divine existence or intervention. The

culture and religion of Israel are ignored. So God always chooses whom He

will to act, to preach: to suffer. There was no danger that Gideon would be

credited with the work of deliverance as an achievement of his own

originality and innate power.

 

  • THE OCCASION WAS SIGNIFICANT OF THE HELP GOD

INTENDED TO GIVE. He comes when things are at the worst. It was a

sign that He would work out a radical deliverance. Not partial help, but

complete salvation would be due to Him.

 

  • GIDEON IS AN INSTANCE OF THE POWER OF RELIGIOUS

KNOWLEDGE. He has heard in some way or another of God’s works in

his nation’s history. Evidently his thoughts have been occupied with them.

A rough interpretation has been arrived at, helping him to grasp the

meaning of the situation. His was not total ignorance, but a knowledge

preparing for higher revelations and corresponding achievements. Truth

smolders in the mind UNTIL IT BURSTS INTO FLAME!  Inward

impressions and realiZations of sacred knowledge prepare for THE

DIVINELY ARRANGED CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE,  

critical moments, and HEAVENLY VISITATIONS!

 

  • GOD’S MANNER OF DEALING WITH THE DIFFICULTIES

AND OBJECTIONS OF HIS INTENDED SERVANT IS VERY

INSTRUCTIVE. He accommodates Himself to the thoughts passing

through Gideon’s mind. By His words He drives the brooding mind into

distressful paradox. The past achievements of Gideon are remembered,

and a corresponding respect shown him. The revelation of Himself is

gradual.   He is considerate, gracious, and painstaking with the heart He

intends to make His own. “Have not I sent thee” (v.14) is sufficient

guarantee for God’s servant. There ought to be no misgiving WHEN

THAT ASSURANCE HAS BEEN GIVEN!  “If God be for us, who

can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)  “All things are possible to them

 that believe.” (Mark 9:23)

 

16 “And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou

shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”

 

17 “And he said unto Him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then

shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.” -  that it is indeed thou thyself that

speakest to me, even God, and that there is no illusion.

 

18  Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring

forth my present,” - Minehah means sometimes a present made to man, as in

 ch. 3:18; but it more commonly means a sacrificial offering (Genesis 4:3-5), which

seems to be its meaning here, as explained vs. 19-20. When coupled with zevach,

the animal sacrifice, minchah means the meat and drink offering - “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” –

(Genesis 19:3; I Samuel 28:24).  The necessary haste gave no time for the use of

leaven, which is one explanation of the unleavened bread at the passover (Exodus

12:33-34, 39) - “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.”  Presented it. A word specially used of sacrifices and offerings

(Amos 5:25).

 

20 “And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the

unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock,  (as upon an altar),

and pour out the broth.” As a drink offering or a libation (see Judges 13:19).

“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.” - The consuming of the sacrifice by fire from heaven

was the token of its being accepted (compare ch.13:20,23; also I Kings 18:23,33,38;

I Chronicles 21:26).  “Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his

sight.”  In the very similar case of the angel who appeared to Manoah (ch.13:15-20),

the angel ascended in the flame of the altar. It is probable that He did so in the present

instance, though it is not expressly stated how He disappeared (compare Acts 8:39).

 

22 “And when Gideon perceived” - Gideon’s suspicious were now turned

into a certainty. It was indeed God that had spoken to him by His angel (v. 17) –

that He was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O LORD God!” –

Gideon speaks thus in terror of the death which he thought must be the penalty

of seeing the angel of the Lord (see ch.13:22, and note) - “for because I have

seen an angel of the LORD face to face.”  Because. Rather, therefore, or

to this end, viz., that I should die.

 

23 “And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee;” -  Compare

Daniel 10:19, and John 20:21, 26; Luke 24:36-39. Hence the name of the altar,

Jehovah-shalom“The Lord is peace,” IS AT PEACE WITH ME! –

fear not: thou shalt not die.”

 

24 “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it

Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”

For naming altars built in commemoration of particular events see Genesis

22:14; 31:47-49; 33:20; Joshua 22:34.

 

 

      Jehovah Shalom, or Spiritual Forebodings Stilled (vs. 22-24)

 

The religious experience of one is often of help to others. At all times has the

commerce of man with the unseen taken place; it is a necessary element in his s

piritual life. The test of true religion is the sentiment thus awakened.

 

  • THE NATURAL FEAR OF GOD, AND ITS CAUSE. The sentiment

expressed by Gideon a general one, but peculiar to Israelites. The Greek

knew not this fear, because his conception of the nature of the gods was

different. They were but as men, only more glorious and powerful. To the

Israelite God was the Supreme in holiness and authority. Reverence for the

character of God deepened into fear, because of the tradition that a

visitation such as he now received meant death, either immediate or

near at hand, and because of the sense of sin  (Hebrews 12:29).  No man

could see God and live. (Exodus 33:20)  We have the remnant and echoes

of this belief still among us, in the fear of supernatural appearances and

intimations. It is the dread of the simple, ABSOLUTE HOLINESS

AND GOODNESS OF GOD deepened by OUR SENSE OF

SINFULNESS!  The culprit trembles in presence of the judge. Had

Israel rightly served God, this dread would have disappeared. Were

men’s hearts right with Him, they would welcome His presence

 and prize His visitations.

 

  • THE WHISPER OF PEACE. It is a token of good-will. The terror

which overcame the strong man is allayed. Christ gives a deeper

tranquility. He fills the breast with the sense of spiritual reconciliation —

the peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians

4:7).  And THIS PEACE IS FELT IN THE TRIAL HOURS OF

LIFE and in the AGONY OF DYING!  It steadies and evens the

spirit amidst the most afflicting circumstances. In conversion the fear of

the sinner under conviction is OFTEN INTENSE. But who shall

tell THE RAPTURE WHEN PEACE IS FOUND?

 

  • THE MEMORIAL. How fitting that it should be commemorated,

and by such a symbol! The altar is the meeting-place of man and God. The

monument is the church. It told to others of an individual, secret transaction

and experience. Here was won a victory over self, a triumph of duty more

signal than Marathon, Bannock-burn, or Morgarten. It is well TO TELL

MEN OF GOD’S MERCIES TO US and this intimation is AN

ELOQUENT APPEAL TO MEN TO DRAW NEAR AND RECEIVE

A LIKE BLESSING!

 

25 “And it came to pass the same night,” -  The iron was hot; it was time to

strike.  As regards what follows, there are two ways of understanding the verse.

One, that of the Authorized Version, supposes that only one bullock is spoken of,

and that “the young bullock” belonging to Joash is further described as “even the

second bullock of seven years old;” to which it is objected that a bullock of

seven years old is not “a young bullock,” “the bullock of an ox,” as the

Hebrew phrase is, and that there is no explanation of the meaning of “the

second bullock;” and that the Hebrew manifestly describes two bullocks:

 

  • Joash’s young bullock, and
  • the bullock of seven years old.

 

The other supposes two bullocks, and instead of even the more natural

rendering and. The only objection to this, by far the most natural rendering,

is that Gideon is not told what to do with the first bullock. But it is a

simple explanation that the two bullocks were used in the laborious work

of demolishing the altar of Baal, and removing the earth and the stone to

build the altar of the Lord, and that when the work was finished one of the

bullocks — the seven-year-old — was sacrificed - “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:”  The grove. See ch.3:7. The size

of the asherah is indicated by the order in v. 26 to use it for the altar fire.

 

26 “And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this

rock,” - Rather, the keep or stronghold of Ophrah, where also the high

place was; just as the temple was in the stronghold of Zion, and the hold of

the house of Baal-Berith at Shechem was in the citadel of the place (ch. 9:46) -

in the ordered place,” - The meaning of this phrase is uncertain. It may

either be rendered as in the A.V., meaning on the leveled ground ordered

and prepared for the building of the altar; or it may more probably be rendered

with the arranged material, i.e. the stones which were laid in order at the

bottom, and the wood which was laid in order upon the top of the altar

(compare Genesis 22:9). The material may either refer to that taken from the

altar of Baal, which had been thrown down, and which was then ordered to be

used in building the altar of the Lord, or to its own arranged material or

superstructure, the wood of the asherah. and take the second bullock,

and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt

cut down.”

 

27 “Then” -  i.e. the next night. He would have done it the next day; but even

his father’s household, as well as the men of Ophrah generally, were so

 infected with the idolatry of the times, that he was afraid of  being

interrupted by violence -“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.”

 

28 “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,” - The grove. See v. 25 -  and the second bullock” - There

must be some special meaning in this description, the second. Can it refer to

his place in the team, the young bullock being the leader, the first, and the

seven-year-old the wheeler, the second? -“was offered upon the altar that

was built.”

 

29 “And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when

they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done

this thing.”  No doubt one of the ten servants (v.27) employed by him had

spoken about it.  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.”

 

 

Who Hath Done this Thing? (vs. 29-30)

 

This is a frequent question in the world.  It is natural to trace up to causes; a religious

rancor — to visit punishment upon the author.

 

  • THE WORLD TAKES NOTE OF THE ACTIONS AND LIVES OF

THE RIGHTEOUS. The effects of religion are ever an astonishment, a

delight or a vexation. There is something in them that piques curiosity and

rouses interest. Men tried to explain CHRIST!   Religious questions are

ever the most keenly discussed.

 

  • THE REASON OF THIS IS IN THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF

THE QUESTIONS INVOLVED. Temporal convenience and interests

are compromised. Note the craftsmen of Diana inEphesus (Acts 19:24-41).

Life and death eternal depend upon our conduct and choices here. Jesus

said, “What shall if profit a man if he gain the whole world and

lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)  Christians are a reproof to the

unfruitful works of darkness.  (I John 3:12)

 

  • IT IS WELL WHEN OUR DEEDS ARE INQUIRED ABOUT

THAT THEY SHOULD BE GOOD, AND NOT EVIL (Matthew

5:16).  The detective usually tracks the criminal. How much better so to

act that we shall not fear when men discover our works. So act that when

revelation comes “they may be ashamed who falsely accuse our

 good conversation in Christ” (I Peter 3:16).  To our own Master we

stand or fall. In that day we shall not heed the judgments of men.

(Neither should we here! – CY – 2012)

 

31 “And Joash said unto all that stood against him,” -  The words describe

their hostile, menacing, attitude, clamouring to have Gideon brought out that they

might kill him -“Will ye plead for Baal?” -  The emphasis is on the ye. Joash

met and silenced their pleading by threatening death to any that should plead for

Baal. Baal shall plead for himself. Joash’s courage was rising under the

influence of his son s brave deed -“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,” -  i.e. Jarou Baal,

let Baal plead. In ch.7:1; 8:29,35; 9:1, Jerubbaal is used as the synonym of

Gideon, just as in English history Coeur de Lion is used as a synonym for

Richard the Lionheart. The name Jerubbaal appears as Jerubbesheth;

 besheth or bosheth, meaning shame, i.e. a shameful idol, being substituted

for Baal, as in the name Ishbosheth, for Eshbaal (see II Samuel 2:8;

I Chronicles 8:33) -“saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he

hath thrown down his altar.”

 

 

The Work of God through Gideon (vs. 25-32)

 

Idolatry was the evil which Israel had done in the sight of the Lord.

Idolatry was the sin which had brought upon Israel the terrible Midianite

servitude. The hour of deliverance had come, but it must be the hour of

repentance too. And repentance must be in deed, not in word. Baal must be

cast off before the Lord would go forth with their armies. The first blow in

the great contest that was coming on must be a blow struck against

BAAL WORSHIP and then the Lord would strike a blow against

MIDIAN. And so we see Gideon, the mighty man of valor, who had been

prepared for his work by his interview with the angel of the Lord, and who

was to sweep the Midianite locusts from off the soil of his beloved country,

commence his work as a BOLD RELIGIOUS REFORMER!   How could

he fight the battles of Israel while the altar of Baal crowned the heights

of his native city? How could he call upon the Lord to help him while

 the shameful abomination stood up to testify against his own flesh and

blood? While men were asleep, little dreaming of what was about to

happen, he rose from his bed, called ten of his servants to him, and,

marching straight up to the altar of Baal, surrounded as it was with awe

and superstition, he threw it down. He cut down the statue or pillar of

Ashtoreth, and before the morning light shone upon Ophrah, THE ALTAR

OF JEHOVAH WAS SMOKING WITH ITS WHOLE BURNT

OFFERING AS CONSPICUOUSLY as the altar of Baal had done.

It was with amazement that the men of the city saw the great altar of their god

leveled to the ground, and a new altar standing in the sacred enclosure. But

Gideon nearly paid for his holy boldness with his life, and his great work

 was well-nigh nipped in the bud; for when it transpired that he had thrown

down the  altar, there arose a cry for his blood. The angry idolaters surrounded

 the house of Joash, and demanded that Gideon should be brought out to them,

that they might slay him and avenge the insult done to their god. It was a critical

moment, and Gideon’s life hung upon a thread. But God had a work for

him to do, just as he had for Peter when Herod put him in prison and

sought to kill him (Acts ch. 12) but Gideon was not suffered to fall into their

hands. His father’s happy word, Let Baal plead for himself, was caught up by the

people, and all thoughts of punishing Gideon seem to have gone out like a

candle before a puff of wind. He was now free to pursue his great

enterprise. But here we may pause for a moment to read some great

lessons to ourselves. We dare not enter upon any work for God while any

known sin is casting its deadly shade upon us. Are you seeking to do

something for God? Begin by plucking out the right eye that offends, by

throwing down the altar of the false god within you. Boldness of action

springing from deep conviction of truth is the surest presage of success.

How mighty the work was Gideon had wrought at once appeared from its

effects. His father is won over, and so argues for him that the Abiezrites

are first silenced, and then converted. The nickname of Gideon (Jerubbaal)

showed the process of the change.

 

Let us learn to be courageous in every good thing; not flinching from dangers,

or shirking consequences, or hanging back in cowardly delay, when once our

judgment is clear of what is right to be done. Then may we hope to lead others

and to stir up many to help in the good cause of truth and righteousness.

Enthusiasm, decision, and courage, coupled with a sound mind (like Gideon),

are among the great needs of our day.

 

33 “Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the

East” - See ver. 3, note - “were gathered together, and went over,” - i.e.

Crossed the Jordan. It appears from vs. 3-5 that these invasions were repeated

at certain seasons. When they had plundered all they could get, and eaten up

all the produce of the land, they would go back for a while to their own

country east of Jordan, and then return again. So they did now, but they

met with a different reception this time - “and  pitched in the valley

of Jezreel.”  Rather, the plain, “the great plain of  Esdraelon,” as the

Book of Judith styles it (Judith 1:8; see ch.4:13, note).   The great plain of Jezreel,

or Esdraelon (which is the Greek form of the name),  through which the Kishon

flows, is eight hours in length from east to west, and five hours (twelve miles) in

breadth from north to south. It is described as “a very extensive and fertile plain

shut in between the mountain ranges of Samaria and Mount Carmel on the south,

and of Galilee on the north,” and extending from the Mediterranean at the Gulf of

Caipha, or Haipha, to the valley of the Jordan. The access to it from the fords of

Jordan in the neighborhood of Bethshan (or Beishan, called by the Greeks

Scythopolis) made it the natural place for invasion by the wild tribes east of Jordan,

as it is to this day. Particular parts of this great ,plain are called “the valley, of

Megiddo and “the plain of Samaria.”  (It is here that the last great battle of

the earth is to be fought – CY – 2012)

 

34 “But the Spirit of the LORD” – (See ch.3:10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6,19; compare

Isaiah 11:2; 61:1; John 20:22; Acts 13:2; 20:28; and I Corinthians 12:4) - “came

upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.”

Abi-ezer. His own family (v.11; see Joshua 17:2). In Numbers 26:30 the name

appears as Jeezer, by a very defective transliteration — Aiezer represents the

Hebrew letters. The b has probably fallen out by accident. Here we have the

immediate fruit of Gideon s daring in the cause of God. The whole family of

Abi-ezer, numbering probably thousands, sprang to his side.

 

35 “And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was

gathered after him: and he sent messengers  unto Asher, and unto

Zebulun, and unto Naphtali;” -  -  Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and

Naphtali were the adjacent tribes — Manasseh (i.e. the half tribe of

Manasseh, west of Jordan) on the south, Asher on the west, and Zebulun

and Naphtali on the north. Three of these were the very tribes who had

fought under Barak, and it is pleasing to see Asher now joined with them

instead of abiding in his breaches. This ready compliance with the call was

the consequence of the Spirit of the Lord being upon Gideon - “and they

came up to meet them.” -  i.e. Gideon and the Abi-ezrites.

 

36 “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand,

as thou hast said,” - There is something touching in Gideon’s diffidence of

himself, even now that he found himself at the head of a large force. The thought

that he was “the least in his father’s house” seems still to possess him, and

he can hardly believe it possible that he is to save Israel. In his humility he craves

a sign that he is indeed chosen and called.

 

37 “Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be

on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then

shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast

said.  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.  39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against

me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this

once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and

upon all the ground let there be dew.  40  And God did so that night:

for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.” 

It is difficult to guess what led to this somewhat quaint sign which Gideon asked.

Possibly the dews were usually heavy upon the hill of Gilead (ch.7:3, note) where

Gideon was encamped, as they seem to have been on Mount Gilboa (II  Samuel

1:21) and on Hermon (Psalm 133:3), and sheep-skins may have been a common

Protection against the cold nights, as in Afghanistan; and he may have noticed how

often in the morning both the skin that covered him, and the ground around, was

wet with the heavy dew. And this may have suggested the double test, by which

his faith was, through God’s condescending mercy, confirmed and established.

 

 

    The Divine Side of Human History (vs. 33-40)

 

This section reveals an extraordinary change in the whole aspect of things

in Israel. At the beginning of the chapter we see the people utterly cowed

before their enemies, skulking in caves and dens and hiding-places, while

their insolent masters take possession of their land, their food, their

substance, and all that they had. For seven years had this state of things

endured. It had become a matter of course that, when the season came, the

Midianites and their allies should swarm across the Jordan, cover the land,

devour everything, stay as long as they pleased, and then return unresisted

to their own country. But at the close of the chapter a change, like the

sudden melting of the snow in the spring, has taken place. There are indeed

the same Midianite hosts, “like grasshoppers for multitude, and their

camels without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude”

(ch.7:12); there are the same kings in all their pride of power, and the same

princes as greedy as ravens for their prey, and as hungry as wolves in pursuit

of the spoil (Ibid. v.25, note). But when they have reached the well-known plain

of Jezreel, instead of tame submission, instead of the frightened people running

like rabbits to their holes, they find a nation in arms. Manasseh was up and

in the field; Naphtali and Zebulun had flocked armed to the national standard;

Asher had answered the call of the trumpet; and 32,000 men were at the feet of

their leader. Instead of running, hiding, and yielding, there was arming, and combining,

and defiance throughout the land. Now what was the cause of this great change?

The respective numbers of the Midianites and Israelites were the same, the

respective qualities of the nations were the same, the shape of the ground was

the same, the resources of the two peoples were the same; whence the difference?

The difference lay in the motive power of THE WILL OF GOD!  Before, His

will was to give Israel up into the hands of Midian to punish their idolatry; now,

His will was to deliver them on their true repentance. It is just the lesson taught by

the prophet Isaiah in the sublime message which he delivered to Sennacherib:

“Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times,

 that I have formed it? Now have I brought it to pass that thou shouldest

 be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants

were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the

grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the house-tops,

 and as corn blasted before it be grown up” (Isaiah 37:26-27).  What

regulates the world is the motive power of the will of God acting upon and

through the wills and the capacities of men. There are in the men virtue, courage,

sagacity, ability, prudence, wisdom, counsel, on the one hand; or meanness,

cowardice, blindness, weakness, rashness, folly, inconsequence, on the other;

and these qualities have each their own proper force and momentum; but IT

IS THE WILL OF GOD WHICH GIVES TO THEM THEIR

DIRECTION AND RESULTS!   It is to be noted too that God in His

providence raises the instruments and gives the qualities which are to

accomplish His will. As was observed before, God’s agents are reasonable

men, and it is by their great qualities that they accomplish the work

committed to them. But who gives them those great qualities? How came

Abraham, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel, and David, and Judas

Maccabeus to appear on the world’s stage just when they did? It is very

true that Abraham’s faith, and Joseph’s prudence, and the wisdom of Moses,

and the integrity of Samuel, and the heroism of David and Judas Maccabeus

accomplished those great results at critical moments in their country’s

history which have made their names famous for ever. And if we are

looking at events on their human side, it is quite true to say that Abraham

founded the Hebrew race, and that David founded the Jewish monarchy,

and Judas Maccabeus rescued his country from destruction. But it is of

 SUPREME IMPORTANCE FOR US TO SEE GOD IN HISTORY,

 and in the history of our own times in particular, to recognize in the sages, and

heroes, and reformers, and also in the philosophers, and discoverers, and inventors,

whose several laborrs have changed the aspect of the world at particular epochs,

(Especially in the 19th and 20th Centuries in America – the were basically

fulfilling the second of God’s commands in the Garden of Eden – “SUBDUE

THE EARTH” [find out its secrets] – Genesis 1:28 - CY – 2012)   God’s

special instruments sent for that very thing; and to recognize in the changes

brought about, not merely the action of those instruments, but the results

of the will of God. AS LONG AS GOD IS PLEASED TO PRESERVE

A NATION IN GREATNESS AND POWER, HE CONTINUES TO

RAISE UP AMONG THEM WARRIORS, DIVINES, MEN OF

GENIUS AND STATESMEN. When the set time of decadence is

come there arise no great men among them; their mighty men become

as women (Isaiah 3:12; Jeremiah 51:30), and counsel perishes from the wise

(Ibid.18:18).  (Is not this happening in Washington, D.C. and across the land

in state capitols.  Oh, there are a few high spots in some states, but generally

America seems to be IN DECLINE! – CY – 2012)   In applying these truths

to our own Church and country it behoves us to remember that WE OWE

ALL OUR OWN NATIONAL PROSPERITY, BOTH IN SPIRITUAL

AND TEMPORAL THINGS,  TO THE UNDESERVED MERCY OF

GOD; THAT THE CONTINUANCE OF THAT PROSPERITY

DEPENDS UPON THE CONTINUANCE OF HIS FAVOR; AND

THAT THE ONLY WAY BY WHICH TO PRESERVE THAT FAVOR

IS TO WALK IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GODLINESS!  Unless God wills

to maintain our power and greatness among the nations, ALL THE

COURAGE AND POLICY IN THE WORLD WILL NOT SUFFICE TO

DO SO  and even courage and policy may cease to grow among us. The

example of Gideon further teaches us that boldness on God’s side is the prelude

of triumph over foes, and that what makes leaders of the right stamp is THEIR

INVESTURE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.  (AND TO THINK OF

THE FUTILITY OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP ATTEMPTING TO DO

SO [as the Apostle Paul decribes them in Ephesians 2:12] “WITHOUT CHRIST…

STRANGERS FROM THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE, HAVING

NO HOPE, AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD:” – CY – 2012)

 

 

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