Bible: What Does Judges 6-8 Teach Us About Gideon?
The Angel of the LORD
Gideon's Other Name
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At the Winepress
Yet more conflict follows a period of peace. Midian drives God's people into the mountains, and dominates them for seven years (vv. 1-2).
Along with the Amalekites and other eastern people, Midian attacks Israel's livelihood—agriculture—by bringing their own livestock into the land (vv. 3-5).
In response to their cry for deliverance, Yahweh sends His people a prophet who chides them for not obeying His voice when He told them not to fear the gods of the Amorites (vv. 6-10).
[Israel always seemed to need a refresher course on who their God was/is, and on what He had done for them and their forebears (see vv. 8, 9).
Their memory loss is not at all different from that of the Church of today].
With verse eleven begins the Gideon material (6:11-8:35).
The first scene finds Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress, attempting to keep it safe from Midianite confiscation (v. 11).
Yahweh's Messenger (a Christophany) appears to him, and announces God's choice of Gideon as judge (v. 12).
(1) Apparently, the Angel inconspicuously sits under Joash's tree, so that He would not draw attention to Himself;
(2) He addresses Gideon not as what he was then (diffident and hesitant), but as what he would become (a mighty warrior).
God knows that when (and because) He is "with" a believer, the obedient saint possesses great potential for good].
Unaware at this time that he is speaking to the LORD, Gideon complains bitterly, questioning God's treatment of Israel and the absence of any supernatural intervention (v. 13).
[Note: Gideon misconstrues God's assertion. The Angel says, "God is with you" (i.e., Gideon), but the man replies, "If the LORD is with us . . ." (i.e., Israel)].
Instead of rebuking Gideon for his impertinence, Yahweh shows supernatural patience, knowing that the young man is one who needs to be convinced that he is, in fact, "doing business" with God.
[In what ways does He show patience?
First, the LORD does not bother to correct Gideon's flawed logic, nor his slights against God's goodness.
He simply comes to the point and tells him, as His sent-one, to save Israel (v. 14).
Second, He responds to Gideon's perceived inferiority not with a cutting remark about his self-pity, but with a positive assertion of His ability, "Surely I will be with you" (vv. 15-16).
Third, the Angel not only waits for Gideon to return with his offering, but He also graciously answers his request for a sign (i.e., miracle) [vv. 17-21].
Fourth, God mercifully does not strike Gideon dead for seeing Him face-to-face, taking into account that he did not spiritually perceive who his Visitor was until after the sign (vv. 22-23)].
After Gideon builds an altar to Yahweh on that spot, the LORD commands him to employ his father's young bull to pull down the latter's altar of Baal together with its image (vv. 24-25).
What’s more, He tells him that he should set up another altar to God in its place, and use the wood from the image to offer up a sacrifice (v. 26).
Although Gideon obeys the commands, his faith is by no means perfect (v. 27).
[Starting here, “the fear of man” appears as a significant feature in the Gideon material].
When the idolaters learn who destroyed their idol, they demand that Joash hand over Gideon to be put to death (vv. 28-30).
But good father that Joash is, he denies their pleas, retorting, "Let Baal defend his own honor" and then gives Gideon the honorable name, Jerubbaal (vv. 31-32).
[Joash made the right choice between love for his son and love for whatever benefit having an idol of Baal brought to him].
Whether Gideon's actions set off a revival in Israel or not, many tribes now support him in his campaign against the Midianites and the Amalekites (vv. 33-35).
Still, Gideon needs Yahweh's assurance that he will, indeed, defeat his enemies.
The famous "fleece" tests ensue; God again shows extraordinary tolerance of Gideon's growing, but still immature, faith (vv. 36-40).
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Only thirty-two thousand Israelites stand with Jerubbaal in opposition to an innumerable hoard of Midianites (v. 1; cf. vv. 3, 12).
[Does the author have a reason for calling Gideon Jerubbaal here?]
To protect His people from falling into pride once they defeat this enemy (v. 2), Yahweh takes two steps to reduce His forces to a mere three hundred:
First, He instructs Gideon to give the fearful an opportunity to avoid battle altogether (v. 3; cf. the theme of fear in 6:27; 7:10; 8:20; 9:21).
This decision whittles the army down to 10,000.
Second, the LORD tests those left by a watering hole, allowing the more cautious soldiers (in number, 300) to follow Gideon while sending the rest away (vv. 4-8).
That night God sends a now terrified Gideon (undoubtedly, God's military strategy escaped him!) and his servant Purah to eavesdrop on a certain conversation taking place at the outpost of the enormous Midianite camp (vv. 9-12).
He hears two men discussing an odd dream about a barley loaf flattening the bivouac (v. 13).
Their interpretation, however, encourages Gideon, for it confirms what God had been saying all along: that he would deliver Israel from Midian (vv. 14-15).
Fully persuaded now, Gideon assembles his warriors into three groups of one hundred each; afterwards, he gives every man a trumpet and a lighted pitcher (v. 16), and instructs each one to mimic his actions (vv. 17-18).
Late at night Gideon approaches the outpost (v. 19).
When the time is ripe, he blows his trumpet and breaks his pitcher, and the others follow suit (v. 20).
Their combined actions cause such a general panic among the Midianites that they turn on each other with their swords, and later flee the camp (vv. 21-22).
Several tribes then pursue those who escape (v. 23), while Ephraim takes back certain Midianite watering places (v. 24).
This army captures, kills, and then decapitates two of Midian's more prominent rulers (v. 25).
After Ephraim's leaders reprimand Gideon for not involving them initially in the fight against Midian, the latter humbles himself and replies softly, thereby quenching their rage (vv. 1-3; cf. Prov. 15:1).
[This section relates to the previous one in chapter seven.
Perhaps the compiler placed this account in chapter eight because the scenes here also demonstrate how Gideon handled interpersonal/international conflict.
On another point, questions arise: Why did not Gideon tell his detractors that God narrowed down the number of His own warriors?
How could he, then, call on another tribe for help?]
As Gideon pursues Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, he requests hospitality from two towns, Succoth and Penuel.
Both communities, however, refuse to help him and his three hundred weary soldiers (vv. 4-9).
His words for them are not as gracious as those which he had for Ephraim (vv. 7, 9).
After winning an astounding victory over these two rulers of Midian (300 men against 15,000) [vv. 10-12], Gideon captures a man of Succoth, and learns the names of that town's officials (vv. 13-14).
[It is also rather amazing that this young man should remember and know the names of seventy-seven elders and leaders in his town]!
Then he follows through on his threats against both Succoth and Penuel (vv. 15-17).
When Gideon learns from Zebah and Zalmunna that they had killed his brothers, he orders his firstborn to execute the kings (vv. 18-20a).
Afraid, the youth backs off, leaving Gideon to answer the taunt of his enemies to finish the work (vv. 20b-21a).
This task he accomplishes expeditiously, and then confiscates some precious camel ornaments (v. 21b).
Although Gideon rightly refuses the people's choice of him to be their king (vv. 22-23), he does ask his men to give him a share of their plunder so that he can fashion an ephod for himself (vv. 24-27a).
[This priestly garb later becomes an idol, and causes trouble for Gideon and his house (v. 27b)].
The victory over Midian gives Israel forty more years of rest (v. 28).
The author concludes his account of Gideon's life by mentioning his seventy sons (especially the one which a concubine from Shechem bore him: Abimelech) [vv. 29-31], his death and burial (v. 32), and the almost immediate apostasy of the people after his demise (v. 33).
Not only does Israel forget God's salvation (v. 34), but they dishonor the house of Jerubbaal (v. 35).
© 2013 glynch1