Gedeon the Faithful Servant
Sermon: Gedeon the Faithful Servant
START POINT: GOD COMMANDS YOU TO ____________.......SO WE ACT IN FAITH
6:14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Obstacle of Faith: the Rebellious Israelites (6:1,10)
Obstacle of Faith: the Oppressive Midianites (6:2-6)
The Mercy of God (6:7-10)
God’s Surprising Choice (6:11-12)
The Lack of Faith (6:13)
The Call to Exercise Faith (6:14-16) God’s command accompanied by God’s Promise
The Lack of Faith (6:15)
The Promises of God (6:16)
The Lack of Faith (6:17-21)
The Lack of Faith (6:22-23)
The Call to Exercise Faith (6:24-26)
Baby steps of Faith: his family (6:27)
Unexpected Encouragement from God (6:28-32)
Spiritual Assistance from God (6:33-35)
The Lack of Faith (6:36-37)
The Lack of Faith (6:38-40)
Obstacle of Faith: Gideons’ army is too big (7:1-3)
Obstacle of Faith: Gideon’s army still too big (7:4-8)
The Promise of God (7:9)
The Lack of Faith (7:10)
The Encouragement from God (7:10-14)
Via Purah his servant (7:10b)……Via Enemy’s dream (7:11-14)
Faith in Action (7:15-25)
Awaken the men (17:16)
Divide the men (17:16)
Equip the men (17:16)
Instruct the Men (17:17-18)
The Timing of the Attack (17:19)
The Attack (17:20-21)
Divine Assistance (17:22)
Human Assistance (17:23-25)
Obstacle of Faith: Ephraim (8:1-4)
Obstacle of Faith: Succoth (8:5-7)
Obstacle of Faith: Peniel (8:8-9)
Exercise of Faith (8:10-21)
Exercise of Faith (8:22-23)
Obstacle of Faith: Materialism (8:24-27)
Forgotten Faith (8:28-35)
Sermon: Gedeon the Faithful Servant (Judges 6-8)
START POINT: GOD COMMANDS YOU TO ____________.......SO WE ACT IN FAITH
6:14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Matt.14:16 You give them something to eat.”
Obstacle of Faith: the Rebellious Israelites (6:1,10)
6:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them [handed them over, delivered them] into the hands of the Midianites.
10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to [obeyed] me.”
Obstacle of Faith: the Oppressive Midianites (6:2-6)
2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive [cruel], the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it [stripped it bare, destroyed it] . 6 Midian so impoverished [reduced to starvation] the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
The Mercy of God (6:7-11)
7 When the Israelites cried to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I [it was I] who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery [bondage]. 9 I snatched [rescued] you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to [obeyed] me.” 11 The “angel of the Lord” came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep [hide] it from the Midianites.
God Surprising Choice of Faith (6:12)
12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” [mighty hero, valient warrior]
Jn.1:42 Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). God sees you as the finished product
Gideon’s lack of Faith (6:13)
13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders [miracles] that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt? But now the Lord has abandoned [forsaken] us & put us into the hand of Midian
God’s call to Exercise Faith (6:14)
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save [rescue] Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” [I myself am sending you?]
Phil.4:13 I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me
WHAT IS GOD CALLING YOU TO DO?
Gideon’s lack of Faith (6:15)
15 “But Lord [Adonay],” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in [the whole tribe of] Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
God’s Commands are always accompanied by His Promises (6:16)
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” [you shall defeat Midian as if you were fighting one man]
Gideon’s lack of Faith (6:17-23)
17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. [If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me.] 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” 19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah [bushel] of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. 20 The angel of God [Angel of Elohim] said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth [over it].” And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the Lord [Angel of Yhwh] touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed [cried out], “Ah, Sovereign Lord! [I’m doomed] I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
Faith leads to Worship……..Faith is an Act of Worship (6:24)
24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord is Peace [Yahweh-Shalom]. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
God’s call to Exercise Faith (6:25-26)
25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole [wooden image] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using [as fuel] the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
Gideons “Baby Steps” of Faith (6:27-30)………his fear didn’t prevent his obedience!
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was [too] afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime. 28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and [in their place] the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar! 29 They asked each other, “Who did this?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.” 30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down [destroyed] Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
God’s Unexpected Encouragement of Faith (6:31-32)
31 But Joash replied [shouted] to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead [defend] Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him [argues his case] shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal,” saying, “Let Baal contend with [against] him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.
Supernatural Assistance to do God’s work (6:34)
33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces [formed an alliance] and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon [took possession of] Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning [calling] the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them. [and all of them responded] Z Zech 6:4 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord
Gedeon’s lack of Faith (6:36-38)
36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand [if you are truly going to use me] as you have promised 37 look, [prove it to me this way] I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor [tonight]. If there is dew only on the fleece [in the morning] and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said. [promised]” 38 And that is [just] what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.
Gedeon’s lack of Faith (6:39-40)
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me [don’t let your anger burn against me]. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so [as Gideon asked]. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Obstacle of Faith: Gideons’ army is too big (7:1-3) …….enemy had 135,000 (cf 8:10)
1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod [lit: trembling]. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, [saying, my own power had delivered me] 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear [who is afraid and trembling] may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while [only] ten thousand remained [willing to fight].
Obstacle of Faith: Gideons’ army is too big (7:4-6)
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift [test] them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” [with their mouths in the stream] 6 [only] Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
Our Faith is sustained by His Promises (7-8) His Promise & Commands go hand in hand
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” [send all the others home] 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. John Wesley may have been thinking of Gideon’s army when he said, “Give me a 100 men who fear nothing but sin & love nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell!”
God’s Unexpected Encouragement of Faith (7:9-14)
9 During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. [I have given you victory over them] 10 [But] If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah 11 and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be [greatly] encouraged [and eager, your hands will be strengthened] to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts [edge] of the camp. 12 The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the [grains of] sand on the seashore [too many to count]. 13 Gideon arrived [crept up] just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” [knocked it flat] 14 His friend responded, “[this dream can mean only one thing] This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given [victory over] the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
Faith leads to Worship (7:15)……Faith is an act of Worship
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he [bowed and] worshiped God.
Faith in Action (7:15-21)…….where did he get the strategy? …..from God!
Awaken the men (17:16)….with a confident message
Divide the men (17:16)…..into 3 groups
Equip the men (17:16)…with the trumpets & torches
Instruct the Men (17:17-18)….follow my example
The Timing of the Attack (17:19) …..changing of the guard
The Attack (17:20-21)…..for the Lord
15 He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” 16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets [ram’s horns] and empty [clay] jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. 17 “Watch me,” [keep your eyes on me] he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ 19 Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch [10 p.m], just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke [smashed] the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the [blazing] torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran [around in a panic], crying out as they fled [to escape].
The Lord gives the Victory in our Faith Battles (7:22-25)
22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused [made] the men [warriors] throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. 22 The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued [joined in chasing] the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters [cut off the shallow crossings] of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan.
Obstacle of Faith: Ephraim (8:1-3)
8:1 Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they criticized him sharply [reprimended, argued with him]. 2 But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? [Aren’t even the leftover grapes of Ephraim’s harvest better than the entire crop of my little clan of Abiezer?] 3 God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided.
Prov.15:1 Gentle answer turns away wrath / la respuesta amable calma el enojo
Obstacle of Faith: Succoth (8:4-7)
4 Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. 5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” [Catch Zebah and Zalmunna first, and then we will feed your army] 7 Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the Lord has [given me victory] given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.”
Obstacle of Faith: Peniel (8:8-9)
8 From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Succoth had. 9 So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”
Follow through on Faith (8:10-21)…..finish the task!
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen [been killed]. 11 Gideon went up [circled around] by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and fell upon the unsuspecting army [by surprise]. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. 13 Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of Succoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials [leaders] of Succoth, the elders of the town. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Succoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’ ” 16 He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Succoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. 17 He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town. 18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?” “Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.” [resembling the son of a king] 19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” 20 Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’ [be a man and kill us yourself]” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the [crescent] ornaments off their camels’ necks
Words of Faith (8:22-23)
22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”
Obstacle of Faith: Materialism (8:24-29)
24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels [43 pounds], not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains [neck bands] that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod [a linen pouch worn by the priests on their chests], which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare [trap] to Gideon and his family. 28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. [That is the story of how the people of Israel defeated Midian, which never recovered] During Gideon’s lifetime, the land enjoyed peace forty years. 29 Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live.
Obstacle of Faith: Wrong Relationships (8:30-31)……to many Loves
30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech.
Forgotten Faith (8:32-35)
32 Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to [worshipped] the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and 34 did not remember [they forgot] the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. 35 They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them.
Hebrews 11:32-34 [HERO OF FAITH] And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Marvel at God’s patience …….in growing us in our faith
Faith is obeying God in spite of what we see, how we feel, or what the consequences might be ….God grew Gedeon’s faith to this point
Marvel at God power……….,. how he accomplishes his work thru people like Gideon (us)
Marvel at God’s wisdom …….in His choice of servants & choice of Tasks
Sermon: Gedeon the Faithful Servant (Judges 6-8)
STARTING PT: GOD COMMANDS YOU TO ____________.......SO WE ACT IN FAITH
6:14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
Matt.16:14 …denles ustedes de comer
Obstáculos de Fe: La Rebelia de Israel (6:1,10)
6:1 Los hijos de Israel hicieron lo malo ante los ojos de Jehová; y Jehová los entregó en mano [al poder] de Madián por siete años…. 10 y les dije: Yo soy Jehová tu Dios; no teman a los dioses de los amorreos, en cuya tierra habitan; pero no han obedecido a mi voz [no me hiceron caso].
Obstáculos de Fe: La Maldad de Madían (6:2-6)
2 Y la mano [poder] de Madián prevaleció contra Israel. Y los hijos de Israel, por [temor] causa de los madianitas, se hicieron cuevas en los montes, y cavernas, y lugares fortificados [difíciles de alcanzar]. 3 Pues sucedía que cuando Israel había sembrado, subían los madianitas y amalecitas y los hijos del oriente contra ellos; subían y los atacaban. 4 Y acampando contra ellos destruían los frutos [las cosechas] de la tierra, hasta llegar a Gaza; y no dejaban [nada] qué comer en Israel, ni ovejas, ni bueyes, ni asnos. 5 Porque subían ellos y sus ganados, y venían con sus tiendas en grande multitud como langostas; ellos y sus camellos eran innumerables; así venían a la tierra para devastarla. 6 De este modo empobrecía Israel [paso por mucha miserias] en gran manera por causa de Madián; y los hijos de Israel clamaron a Jehová.
La Misericordia de Dios (6:7-11)
7 Y cuando los hijos de Israel clamaron a Jehová, a causa de los madianitas, 8 Jehová envió a los hijos de Israel un varón profeta, el cual les dijo: Así ha dicho Jehová Dios de Israel: Yo los hice salir de Egipto, y los saqué de la casa de servidumbre [esclavos]. 9 Los libré de mano de los egipcios, y de mano de todos los que os afligieron, a los cuales eché de delante de usteedes, y les di su tierra; 10 y les dije: Yo soy Jehová tu Dios; no teman a los dioses de los amorreos, en cuya tierra habitan; pero no han obedecido a mi voz [no me hiceron caso]. 11 Y vino el ángel de Jehová, y se sentó debajo de la encina que está en Ofra, la cual era de Joás abiezerita; y su hijo Gedeón estaba sacudiendo el trigo en el lagar, para esconderlo de los madianitas.
La Selección de Dios: una Sorpresa de Fe (6:12)
12 Y el ángel de Jehová se le apareció, y le dijo: Jehová está contigo, varón esforzado [fuerte] y valiente [guerrero].
Jn.10:42 Tú eres Simón, hijo de Juan, pero tu nombre será Cefas (que significa: Pedro)
La Falta de Fe de Gedeón (6:13)
13 Y Gedeón le respondió: Ah, señor mío, si Jehová está con nosotros, ¿por qué nos ha sobrevenido todo esto? ¿Y dónde están todas sus maravillas [milagros], que nuestros padres nos han contado, diciendo: ¿No nos sacó Jehová de Egipto? Y ahora Jehová nos ha desamparado [abandonado], y nos ha entregado en mano de los madianitas.
El mandato Dios para ejercer la Fe (6:14)
14 Y mirándole Jehová, le dijo: Ve con esta tu fuerza [usa la fuerza que tienes], y salvarás a Israel de la mano de los madianitas. ¿No te envío yo? [yo soy el que te envia]
Phil.3:10 todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece
¿Te esta mandando Dios hacer algo?
La Falta de Fe de Gedeón (6:15)
15 Entonces le respondió: Ah, señor mío, ¿con qué salvaré yo a Israel [como voy a salvar a Israel]? He aquí que mi familia es pobre en Manasés, y yo el menor [más pequeño] en la casa de mi padre.
Las Promesas de Dios sostiene la Fe (6:16) sus Mandmientos acompanan sus Promesas
16 Jehová le dijo: Ciertamente yo estaré contigo [pódras hacerlo porque yo estaré contigo], y derrotarás a los madianitas como a un solo hombre.
La Falta de Fe de Gedeón (6:17-23)
17 Y él respondió: Yo te ruego que si he hallado gracia delante de ti, me des señal de que tú has hablado conmigo [dame una prueba de que realmente eres tú quien habla conmigo] 18 Te ruego que no te vayas de aquí hasta que [yo vuelva con una ofrenda que te quiero presentar] vuelva a ti, y saque mi ofrenda y la ponga delante de ti. Y él respondió: Yo esperaré hasta que vuelvas. 19 Y entrando Gedeón, preparó un cabrito, y panes sin levadura de un efa [viente litros] de harina; y puso la carne en un canastillo, y el caldo en una olla, y sacándolo se lo presentó debajo de aquella encina. 20 Entonces el ángel de Dios le dijo: Toma la carne y los panes sin levadura, y ponlos sobre esta peña, y vierte [derrama] el caldo. Y él lo hizo así. 21 Y extendiendo el ángel de Jehová el báculo [punto del bastón] que tenía en su mano, tocó con la punta la carne y los panes sin levadura; y subió fuego de la peña, el cual consumió la carne y los panes sin levadura. Y el ángel de Jehová desapareció de su vista. 22 Viendo entonces Gedeón que era el ángel de Jehová, dijo: Ah, Señor Jehová [Dios], que he visto al ángel de Jehová cara a cara. 23 Pero Jehová le dijo: Paz a ti; no tengas temor, no morirás. [¡Quédate tranquilo! No temas. No vas a morir.]
La Fe conduce a la Adoracion de Dios (6:24)……La Fe es acto de adoracion
24 Y edificó allí Gedeón altar a Jehová, y lo llamó Jehová-salom [el Señor es la paz]; el cual permanece hasta hoy en Ofra de los abiezeritas.
El mandato para ejercer la Fe (6:25-26)
25 Aconteció que la misma noche le dijo Jehová: Toma un toro del hato [ganado] de tu padre, el segundo toro de siete años, y derriba el altar de Baal que tu padre tiene, y corta también la imagen de Asera que está junto a él; 26 y edifica altar a Jehová tu Dios en la cumbre de este peñasco en lugar conveniente [apropiado]; y tomando el segundo toro, sacrifícalo en holocausto con la madera de la imagen de Asera que habrás cortado.
Los Primeros Pasos de Fe de Gedeon (6:27-30)…....his fears didn’t prevent obedience
27 Entonces Gedeón tomó diez hombres de sus siervos, e hizo como Jehová le dijo. Mas temiendo hacerlo de día, por la familia de su padre y por los hombres de la ciudad, lo hizo de noche. 28 Por la mañana, cuando los de la ciudad se levantaron, he aquí que el altar de Baal estaba derribado, y cortada la imagen de Asera que estaba junto a él, y el segundo toro había sido ofrecido en holocausto sobre el [nuevo] altar edificado. 29 Y se dijeron unos a otros: ¿Quién ha hecho esto? Y buscando e inquiriendo, les dijeron: Gedeón hijo de Joás lo ha hecho. Entonces los hombres de la ciudad dijeron a Joás: 30 Saca a tu hijo para que muera, porque ha derribado el altar de Baal y ha cortado la imagen de Asera que estaba junto a él.
Dios anima la fe de Gedeon (6:31-32)
31 Y Joás respondió a todos los que estaban junto a él: ¿Contenderéis vosotros por Baal? ¿Defenderéis su causa? [¿Van ustedes a defender a Baal, y a pelear en su favor? ] Cualquiera que contienda por él, que muera esta mañana. Si [Baal] es un dios, contienda por sí mismo con el que derribó su altar. 32 Aquel día Gedeón fue llamado Jerobaal, esto es: Contienda Baal contra él, [que Baal se defienda de él] por cuanto derribó su altar.
Ayuda Sobrenatural para hacer la obra de Dios (6:34)
33 Pero todos los madianitas y amalecitas y los del oriente se juntaron a una, y pasando [cruzaron el rio] acamparon en el valle de Jezreel. 34 Entonces el Espíritu de Jehová vino sobre Gedeón, y cuando éste tocó el cuerno [la trompeta], los abiezeritas se reunieron con él. 35 Y envió mensajeros por todo [el tribu de] Manasés, y ellos también se juntaron con él; asimismo envió mensajeros a [los tribos de] Aser, a Zabulón y a Neftalí, los cuales salieron a encontrarles [a unirse con él].
La Falta de Fe de Gedeon (6:36-38)
36 Y Gedeón dijo a Dios: Si has de salvar a Israel [de veras vas a salvar a Israel] por mi mano, como has dicho, 37 he aquí que yo pondré un vellón de lana en la era; y si el rocío estuviere en el vellón solamente, quedando seca toda la otra tierra, entonces entenderé que salvarás a Israel por mi mano, como lo has dicho [voy a poner el cuero lanudo de una oveja en el lugar donde se trilla el trigo. Si por la mañana la lana está mojada de rocío, pero la tierra está seca, sabré que de veras vas a usarme para salvar a Israel, como tú mismo has dicho.”] . 38 Y aconteció así, pues cuando se levantó de mañana, exprimió el vellón [cuero lanudo] y sacó de él el rocío, un tazón lleno de agua.
La Falta de Fe de Gedeon (6:39-40)
39 [Sin embargo, Gedeón dijo: “No te enojes conmigo si vuelvo a insistir. Pero quiero hacer una sola prueba más] Mas Gedeón dijo a Dios: No se encienda tu ira contra mí, si aún hablare esta vez; solamente probaré ahora otra vez con el vellón. Te ruego que solamente el vellón quede seco, y el rocío sobre la tierra. 40 Y aquella noche lo hizo Dios así; sólo el vellón quedó seco, y en toda la tierra hubo rocío.
Obstaculo de Fe: El ejercito de Gedeon es demasiado grande (7:1-3)
1 Levantándose, pues, de mañana Jerobaal, el cual es Gedeón, y todo el pueblo que estaba con él, acamparon junto a la fuente de Harod; y tenía el campamento de los madianitas al norte, más allá del collado de More, en el valle. 2 Y Jehová dijo a Gedeón: El pueblo que está contigo es [demasiada] mucho para que yo entregue a los madianitas en su mano, no sea que se alabe [jacte] Israel contra mí, diciendo: Mi mano me ha salvado. [ mi propia fuerza me ha librado] 3 Ahora, pues, haz pregonar en oídos del pueblo, diciendo: Quien tema y se estremezca, madrugue y devuélvase desde el monte de Galaad. [Por eso, dile a la gente que cualquiera que tenga miedo puede irse a su casa] Y se devolvieron de los del pueblo veintidós mil, y quedaron diez mil…………… cf 8:10 enemy had 135,000
Obstaculo de Fe: El ejercito de Gedeon todavía es demasiado grande (7:4-6)
4 Y Jehová dijo a Gedeón: Aún es mucho [demasiado numeroso] el pueblo; llévalos a las aguas, y allí te los probaré; y del que yo te diga: Vaya éste contigo, irá contigo; mas de cualquiera que yo te diga: Este no vaya contigo, el tal no irá. 5 Entonces llevó el pueblo a las aguas; y Jehová dijo a Gedeón: Cualquiera que lamiere las aguas con su lengua como lame el perro, a aquél pondrás aparte; asimismo a cualquiera que se doblare sobre sus rodillas para beber. 6 Y fue el número de los que lamieron llevando el agua con la mano a su boca, trescientos hombres; y todo el resto del pueblo se dobló sobre sus rodillas para beber las aguas.
Las Promesas de Dios sostienen nuestra Fe (7:7-8)
7 Entonces Jehová dijo a Gedeón: Con estos trescientos hombres que lamieron el agua los salvaré, y entregaré [derrotare] a los madianitas en tus manos; y váyase toda la demás gente cada uno a su lugar [a su casa]. 8 Y habiendo tomado provisiones para el pueblo, y sus trompetas, envió a todos los israelitas cada uno a su tienda, y retuvo a aquellos trescientos hombres; [acampando mas arriba] y tenía el campamento de Madián abajo en el valle.
Dios anima la Fe de Gedeon (7:9-14)
9 Aconteció que aquella noche Jehová le dijo [ordeno]: Levántate, y desciende al campamento [a atacar a los madianitas]; porque yo lo he entregado en tus manos. 10 Y si tienes temor de descender [para atacarlos], baja [primero] tú con Fura tu criado al campamento, 11 y oirás lo que hablan; y entonces tus manos se esforzarán [te sentiras con mas animo para atacarlos], y descenderás al campamento. Y él descendió con Fura su criado hasta los puestos avanzados de la gente armada que estaba en el campamento. 12 Y los madianitas, los amalecitas y los hijos del oriente estaban tendidos en el valle como langostas en multitud, y sus camellos eran innumerables como la arena que está a la ribera [orilla] del mar en multitud. 13 Cuando llegó Gedeón, he aquí que un hombre [soldado] estaba contando a su compañero un sueño, diciendo: He aquí yo soñé un sueño: Veía un pan de cebada que rodaba hasta el campamento de Madián, y llegó a [choco con] la tienda, y la golpeó de tal manera que cayó, y la trastornó de arriba abajo, y la tienda cayó. 14 Y su compañero respondió y dijo: Esto no es otra cosa sino la espada de Gedeón hijo de Joás, varón de Israel. Dios ha entregado en sus manos a los madianitas con todo el campamento.
La Fe conduce a la Adoración de Dios (7:15)
15 Cuando Gedeón oyó el relato del sueño y su interpretación, adoró [al Señor]…..
La Fe en Acción (7:15-21)…….where did he get this strange strategy?... God!
Awaken the men (17:16)….with a confident message
Divide the men (17:16)…..into 3 groups
Equip the men (17:16)…with the trumpets & torches
Instruct the Men (17:17-18)….follow my example
The Timing of the Attack (17:19) …..changing of the guard
The Attack (17:20-21)…..for the Lord
15………y vuelto al campamento de Israel, dijo: Levantaos [Arriba], porque Jehová ha entregado el campamento de Madián en sus manos. 16 Y repartiendo los trescientos hombres en tres escuadrones, dio a todos ellos trompetas en sus manos, y cántaros vacíos con teas [antorchas] ardiendo dentro de los cántaros. 17 Y les dijo: Miradme a mí [fíjense en mi], y hagan como hago yo; he aquí que cuando yo llegue al extremo del campamento, haran ustedes como hago yo. 18 Yo tocaré la trompeta, y todos los que estarán conmigo; y ustedes tocaran entonces las trompetas alrededor de todo el campamento, y diran [griten]: ¡Por Jehová y por Gedeón! 19 Llegaron, pues, Gedeón y los cien hombres que llevaba consigo, al extremo del campamento, al principio de la guardia de la medianoche, cuando acababan de renovar los centinelas [cambio de guardia]; y tocaron las trompetas, y quebraron los cántaros que llevaban en sus manos. 20 Y los tres escuadrones tocaron las trompetas, y quebrando los cántaros tomaron en la mano izquierda las teas [antorchas encendidas], y en la derecha las trompetas con que tocaban, y gritaron: [Guerra] ¡Por la espada de Jehová y de Gedeón! 21 Y se estuvieron firmes cada uno en su puesto en derredor del campamento; entonces todo el ejército echó a correr dando gritos y huyendo.
Dios da la Victoria en las Batallas de Fe (7:22-25)
22 Y los trescientos tocaban las trompetas; y Jehová puso [hizo] la espada de cada uno contra su compañero en todo el campamento. Y el ejército huyó hasta Bet-sita, en dirección de Zerera, y hasta la frontera de Abel-mehola en Tabat. 23 Y juntándose los de Israel, [Entonces se llamó a los israelitas ] de Neftalí, de Aser y de todo Manasés, siguieron a los madianitas. 24 Gedeón también envió mensajeros por todo el monte de Efraín, diciendo [ordenando]: Descended al encuentro de los madianitas, y tomad los vados de [los lugares por donde se podía cruzar el río en ] Bet-bara y del Jordán antes que ellos lleguen. Y juntos todos los hombres de Efraín, tomaron los vados de Bet-bara y del Jordán. 25 Y tomaron [capturaron] a dos príncipes de los madianitas, Oreb y Zeeb; y mataron a Oreb en la peña de Oreb, y a Zeeb lo mataron en el lagar de Zeeb; y después que siguieron a los madianitas, trajeron las cabezas de Oreb y de Zeeb a Gedeón al otro lado del Jordán.
Obstaculos de Fe: Efraín (8:1-3)
8:1 Pero los hombres de Efraín le dijeron: ¿Qué es esto que has hecho con nosotros, no llamándonos cuando ibas a la guerra contra Madián? Y le reconvinieron fuertemente. [se enojaron y discutieron con Gedeón, lo criticaron duramente, lo reprocharon severamente] 2 [¿No se dan cuenta de que ustedes hicieron más aún de lo que yo hice? Lo poco que ustedes hicieron vale más que lo mucho que hicimos nosotros.] A los cuales él respondió: ¿Qué he hecho yo ahora comparado con ustedes? ¿No es el rebusco de Efraín mejor que la vendimia de Abiezer? 3 Dios ha entregado en sus manos a Oreb y a Zeeb, príncipes de Madián; ¿y qué he podido yo hacer comparado con ustedes? Entonces el enojo de ellos contra él se aplacó [calmo, paso], luego que él habló esta palabra.
Prov.15:1 La respuesta amable calma el enojo
Obstaculos de Fe: Sucot (8:4-7)
4 Y vino Gedeón al Jordán, y pasó él y los trescientos hombres que traía consigo, cansados [rendidos de cansancio],, mas todavía persiguiendo. 5 Y dijo a los de Sucot: Yo les ruego que den a la gente que me sigue algunos bocados de pan; porque están cansados [agotados], y yo persigo a Zeba y Zalmuna, reyes de Madián. 6 Y los principales de Sucot respondieron: ¿Están ya Zeba y Zalmuna en tu mano [ya los has capturado], para que demos pan a tu ejército? 7 Y Gedeón dijo: Cuando Jehová haya entregado en mi mano a Zeba y a Zalmuna, yo trillaré [desgarraré] tu carne con espinos y abrojos [zarzas] del desierto.
Obstaculos de Fe: Peniel (8:8-9)
8 De allí subió a Peniel, y les dijo las mismas palabras. Y los de Peniel le respondieron como habían respondido los de Sucot. 9 Y él habló también a los de Peniel, diciendo: Cuando yo vuelva en paz, derribaré [echare abajo] esta torre.
La Fe termina lo que Empieza (8:10-21)
10 Y Zeba y Zalmuna estaban en Carcor, y con ellos su ejército como de quince mil hombres, todos los que habían quedado de todo el ejército de los hijos del oriente; pues habían caído [muerto] ciento veinte mil hombres que sacaban espada. 11 Subiendo, pues, Gedeón por el camino de los que habitaban en tiendas al oriente de Noba y de Jogbeha, atacó el campamento, porque el ejército no estaba en guardia [cuando ellos menos lo esperaban]. 12 Y huyendo Zeba y Zalmuna, él los siguió; y prendió [capturo] a los dos reyes de Madián, Zeba y Zalmuna, y llenó de espanto a todo el ejército. 13 Entonces Gedeón hijo de Joás volvió de la batalla [por el paso de Heres] antes que el sol subiese, 14 y tomó [capturo] a un joven de los hombres de Sucot, y le preguntó [lo interrogo]; y él le dio por escrito los nombres de los principales y de los ancianos de Sucot, setenta y siete varones. 15 [Entonces Gedeón fue a Sucot y les dijo a los de este pueblo: —¿Recuerdan cómo se burlaron de mí por causa de Zébah y de Salmuná? ¿Recuerdan que les negaron pan a mis hombres, que estaban rendidos de cansancio, diciéndonos que todavía no los teníamos cautivos? ¡Pues aquí los tienen!] Y entrando a los hombres de Sucot, dijo: He aquí a Zeba y a Zalmuna, acerca de los cuales me zaheristeis, diciendo: ¿Están ya en tu mano Zeba y Zalmuna, para que demos nosotros pan a tus hombres cansados? 16 Y tomó a los ancianos de la ciudad, y espinos y abrojos del desierto, y castigó con ellos a los [ancianos] de Sucot. 17 Asimismo derribó la torre de Peniel, y mató a los de la ciudad. 18 Luego dijo a Zeba y a Zalmuna: ¿Qué aspecto tenían aquellos hombres que mataron en Tabor? Y ellos respondieron: Como tú, [se parecían a ti] así eran ellos; cada uno parecía hijo de rey. 19 Y él dijo: Mis hermanos eran, hijos de mi madre. ¡Vive Jehová, que si les hubieran conservado la vida, yo no los mataría [ahora]! 20 Y dijo a Jeter su primogénito [su hijo mayor]: Levántate, y mátalos. Pero el joven no desenvainó [saco] su espada, porque tenía temor, pues era aún muchacho [un joven]. 21 Entonces dijeron Zeba y Zalmuna: Levántate tú, y mátanos; porque como es el varón, tal es su valentía [Al hombre se le conoce por su valentía!] . Y Gedeón se levantó, y mató a Zeba y a Zalmuna; y tomó los adornos de lunetas que sus camellos traían al cuello.
Palabras de Fe (8:22-23)
22 Y los israelitas dijeron a Gedeón: [Reina sobre nosotros] Sé nuestro señor, tú, y tu hijo, y tu nieto; pues que nos has librado de mano de Madián. 23 Mas Gedeón respondió: No seré señor sobre ustedes, ni mi hijo se señoreará: Jehová señoreará [reinara] sobre ustedes.
Obstaculos de Fe: Materialismo (8:24-29)
24 Y les dijo Gedeón: Quiero haceros una petición; que cada uno me dé los zarcillos [anillos] de su botín [de lo que capturaron] (pues [los soldados capturados] traían zarcillos de oro, porque eran ismaelitas [gente del desierto]. 25 Ellos respondieron: De buena gana [con mucho gusto] te los daremos. Y tendiendo un manto, echó allí cada uno los zarcillos de su botín. 26 Y fue el peso de los zarcillos de oro que él pidió, mil setecientos siclos [19 kilos] de oro, sin las planchas [adornos de media luna] y joyeles [joyas] y vestidos [tela] de púrpura que traían los reyes de Madián, y sin los collares que traían sus camellos al cuello. 27 Y Gedeón hizo de ellos un efod, el cual hizo guardar en su ciudad de Ofra; y todo Israel se prostituyó tras de ese efod [le fue infiel al Señor por causa del efod] en aquel lugar; y fue tropezadero [trampa, vino a ser ruina] a Gedeón y a su casa. 28 Así fue subyugado [sometido] Madián delante de los hijos de Israel, y nunca más volvió a levantar cabeza. Y reposó la tierra cuarenta años en los días de Gedeón. 29 Luego Jerobaal hijo de Joás fue y habitó en su casa.
Obstaculos de Fe: Muchos Amores (8:30-35)
30 Y tuvo Gedeón setenta hijos que constituyeron su descendencia, porque tuvo muchas mujeres. 31 También su concubina que estaba en Siquem le dio un hijo, y le puso por nombre Abimelec.
La Fe Olvidada (8:32-35)
32 Y murió Gedeón hijo de Joás en buena vejez [de edad avanzada], y fue sepultado en el sepulcro de su padre Joás, en Ofra de los abiezeritas. 33 Pero aconteció que cuando murió Gedeón, los hijos de Israel [abandonaron a Dios] volvieron a prostituirse yendo tras los baales, y escogieron por dios a Baal-berit. 34 Y no se acordaron [se olvidaron] los hijos de Israel de Jehová su Dios, que los había librado [salvado] de todos sus enemigos en derredor [que los rodeaban]; 35 ni se mostraron agradecidos con la casa de Jerobaal, el cual es Gedeón, conforme a todo el bien que él había hecho a Israel.
Hebrews 11:32-34 ¿Qué más voy a decir? Me faltaría tiempo para hablar de Gedeón, de Barac, de Sansón, de Jefté, de David, de Samuel y de los profetas. 33 Por la fe conquistaron países, impartieron justicia, recibieron lo que Dios había prometido, cerraron la boca de los leones, 34 apagaron fuegos violentos, escaparon de ser muertos a filo de espada, sacaron fuerzas de flaqueza y llegaron a ser poderosos en la guerra, venciendo a los ejércitos enemigos.
Amazed at God’s patience …….in growing us in our faith
Amazed at God power……….,. how he accomplishes his work thru people like Gideon (us)
Amazed at God’s wisdom …….in His choice of servants & choice of Tasks
JM - 6:1 Midian. These wandering herdsmen from E of the Red Sea had been dealt a severe blow in Moses’ time (Num. 31:1–18) and still resented the Israelites. They became the worst scourge yet to afflict Israel.6:8 the Lord sent a prophet. He used prophets in isolated cases before Samuel, the band of prophets Samuel probably founded (1 Sam. 10:5), and later such prophets as Elijah, Elisha, and the writing prophets—major and minor. Here the prophet is sent to bring the divine curse because of their infidelity (v. 10).6:11 the Angel. This angel (lit. “messenger”) of the Lord is identified as “the Lord” Himself (vv. 14, 16, 23, 25, 27). Cf. Gen. 16:7–14; 18:1; 32:24–30 for other appearances. See note on Ex. 3:2. Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress … to hide it. This indicated a situation of serious distress; also it indicated a small amount of grain. This is clear because he is doing it rather than having cattle tread it. It is on bare ground or in the winepress rather than on a threshing floor made of wood, and is done remotely under a tree out of view. The fear of the Midianites caused this.6:13 Gideon’s language here indicates a weak theology. The very chastisements of God were proof of His care for and presence with Israel.6:17 Like Moses (Ex. 33), Gideon desired a sign; in both incidents revelation was so rare and wickedness so prevalent that they desired full assurance. God graciously gave it.6:18–23 In the realization of the presence of God, the sensitive sinner is conscious of great guilt. Fire from God further filled Gideon with awe and even the fear of death. When he saw the Lord, he knew the Lord had also seen him in his fallenness. Thus he feared the death that sinners should die before Holy God. But God graciously promised life (v. 23). For a similar reaction to the presence of God, see Manoah in 13:22, 23 (cf. Ezek. 1:26–28; Is. 6:1–9; Rev. 1:17).6:27 he feared. Very real human fear and wise precaution interplays with trust in an all-sufficient God.6:32 Jerubaal (lit. “let Baal contend”) became a fitting and honorable second name for Gideon (7:1; 8:29; 9:1, 2). This was a bold rebuke to the non-existent deity, who was utterly unable to respond.6:36–40 Gideon’s two requests for signs in the fleece should be viewed as weak faith; even Gideon recognized this when he said “do not be angry with me” (v. 9) since God had already specifically promised His presence and victory (vv. 12, 14, 16). But they were also legitimate requests for confirmation of victory against seemingly impossible odds (6:5; 7:2, 12). God nowhere reprimanded Gideon, but was very compassionate in giving what his inadequacy requested. In 7:10–15, God volunteered a sign to boost Gideon’s faith. He should have believed God’s promise in 7:9 but needed bolstering, so God graciously gave it without chastisement.7:2 The people … are too many. Those of faith, though inadequate by human weakness, gain victory only through God’s power (cf. 2 Cor. 3:5; 4:7; 12:7–9). Three hundred men win against an incredible Midianite host (Judg. 7:7, 16–25). God gains the glory by making the outcome conspicuously His act, and no sinful pride is cultivated.7:5 Everyone who laps. Soldiers who lapped as a dog, scooping water with their hands as a dog uses its tongue, were chosen; while those who sank to their knees to drink were rejected. No reason for such distinction is given, so that it showed nothing about their ability as soldiers. It was merely a way to divide the crowd. Their abilities as soldiers had no bearing on the victory anyway since the enemy soldiers killed themselves and fled without engaging Gideon’s men at all.7:10 if you are afraid. God sensitively recognized Gideon’s normal fear since he was the commander. God encouraged him to take his servant as protection. See note on 6:36–40.7:15 Arise. God said this in 7:9. Infused with courage, Gideon is in step with the Lord.7:16 Trumpets and torches at first concealed within clay pitchers were suddenly displayed at the most startling moment. The impression caused by blaring noise, the always terrible shouts of Israel (cf. Num. 28:21), and sudden lights surrounding the sleeping hosts and shattering the stillness conveyed one idea: Each light could mean a legion behind it, so that they believed an incredible host had moved in to catch the awaking army in a death trap.7:18 The sword of the Lord and of Gideon! Here was the power of God in harmony with the obedience of man. Such shouts reminded the enemies that the threat of the sword of Gideon and of God was for real. The impression was one of doom and terror.7:19 beginning … middle watch. About 10 p.m.7:22 every man’s sword against his companion. Panic followed shock. Every soldier was on his own, in desperate retreat. In the darkness and crash of sounds the soldiers were unable to distinguish friend from enemy, and with their swords they slashed a path of escape through their own men.8:2 gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim. Ephraim resented being slighted in the call to battle but was placated by Gideon’s compliment. His figures of speech implied that Ephraimite capital punishment of the two fleeing Midianite leaders (7:25) was “the vintage of Ephraim,” to use an image drawn from their grape horticulture. It played a more strategic role than taking part in “the vintage of Abiezer,” the suicide of the enemy under Gideon’s leadership (cf. v. 3).8:7 thorns. Gideon’s threatened discipline of Succoth’s leaders for refusing to help their brothers came due. He had them dragged under heavy weights over thorns and briers, which painfully tore their bodies. This was a cruel torture to which ancient captives were often subjected. He did it on his return, not wanting to delay the pursuit (v. 16).8:9 tower. They probably had defiantly boasted of their strength and defensibility because of the tower. He kept his promise and more (v. 17).8:20 Jether … kill them. Gideon desired to place a great honor on his son by killing the enemies of Israel and of God.8:21 killed Zebah and Zalmunna. The earlier Midianite scourge inflicted on Israel was the worst, so this victory lived long in their minds (cf. Ps. 83:11).8:22, 23 Rule over us. Israelites sinned by the misguided motive and request that Gideon reign as king. To his credit, the leader declined, insisting that God alone rule (cf. Ex. 19:5, 6).8:24 Ishmaelites. Synonymous with Midianites (cf. Gen. 37:25, 28).8:24–27 Gideon made … an ephod. This was certainly a sad end to Gideon’s influence as he, perhaps in an expression of pride, sought to lift himself up in the eyes of the people. Gideon intended nothing more than to make a breastplate as David did (1 Chr. 15:27) to indicate civil, not priestly rule. It was never intended to set up idolatrous worship, but to be a symbol of civil power. That no evil was intended can be noted from the subduing of Midian (v. 28), quietness from wars (v. 28), and the fact that idolatry came after Gideon’s death (v. 33) as well as the commendation of Gideon (v. 35).8:26 the weight of the gold. The total was about 42 lbs.8:30, 31 many wives. Gideon fell severely into the sin of polygamy, an iniquity tolerated by many but which never was God’s blueprint for marriage (Gen. 2:24). Abimelech, a son by yet another illicit relationship, grew up to be the wretched king in Judg. 9. Polygamy always resulted in trouble.
BKC - the deliverance by gideon from the oppression of the midianites (6:1-8:32) The defection of Israel (6:1a)6:1a. The downward cycles (see the sketch near 2:11-15) of apostasy (again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; cf. 3:7, 12; 4:1) and deliverance continued in the case of Gideon whose judgeship receives the most extensive narration in the Book of Judges (100 verses comprising three chapters). The story of Samson is comparable, consisting of 96 verses in four chapters. The distress under the Midianites (6:1b-6) 6:1b-6. The seven years of oppression under the hands of Midianites was divine chastening for Israel’s idolatry and evil practices. This relatively brief period of oppression was sandwiched in between two 40-year periods of peace (5:31; 8:28). The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2) and were defeated by Israel during the wilderness wanderings (Num. 22:4; 25:16-18). They were a nomadic people who came from near the Gulf of Aqabah and ranged throughout the Arabah and Transjordania, apparently at this time subduing the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites as they crossed the Jordan into Canaan as far north as the Jezreel Valley (Jud. 6:33), and as far south and east as Gaza (v. 4), perhaps moving westward across the Jezreel Valley and southward along the coastal plain. The strength of Midianite oppression forced the Israelites to hide themselves and their produce in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds. However, this was not a continual occupation (like the preceding one of the Canaanites) but a seasonal invasion at harvesttime, whenever the Israelites planted their crops. The Midianites’ major goal was the appropriation of the crops for themselves and their animals. But the cumulative effect of these invasions on Israelite agriculture and food cycles was devastating. Midianite allies included the Amalekites (from south of Judah; cf. 3:13) and other eastern peoples, a general term for the nomads of the Syrian desert, possibly including some Ammonites and Edomites. On these annual predatory invasions, in typical nomadic style, the oppressors camped on the land in such numbers and with such devastation that they were compared to swarms of locusts (cf. 7:12). The Midianites and their allies traveled on innumerable camels (cf. 7:12) whose range of distance and speed (as high as 100 miles per day) made them a formidable long-range military threat. This is the first reference to an organized raid using camels (cf. Gen. 24:10-11). The impoverishment that came to Israel drove her to cry out to the Lord for help. This cry does not seem to have been an indication of repentance for sin because they apparently were not aware of the moral cause behind the enemy’s oppression until the Lord sent a prophet to point this out (cf. Jud. 6:7-10).The deliverance by Gideon (6:7-8:27) (1) The censure of Israel by a prophet.6:7-10. The Lord . . . sent an unnamed prophet (the only prophet mentioned in the book besides the Prophetess Deborah) to remind Israel of her covenant obligations to the Lord, who had delivered them from Egypt (cf. Ex. 34:10-16; Deut. 7; Jud. 3:5-6), not to worship the gods of the Amorites. The prophet rebuked them for their continued disobedience (But you have not listened to Me [God]). This message is similar to that from the Angel of the Lord at Bokim (cf. 2:1-3).(2) The call of Gideon by the Angel of the Lord (6:11-24).6:11-12a. The story of Gideon is introduced not by an affirmation that “God raised up a deliverer named Gideon,” but rather by a narration of how God raised him up. Gideon’s call or commission resulted from a confrontation with the Angel of the Lord (who is “the Lord,” v. 14; cf. comments on 2:1), who appeared to him as a sojourning stranger and sat down under the oak in Ophrah. Since Gideon’s father Joash was an Abiezrite (a clan of Manasseh, Josh. 17:2), this Ophrah was not the place located in Benjamin but rather a northern site possibly near the border of Manasseh in the Jezreel Valley. Possible site identifications are el-Affula (six miles east of Megiddo) or et-Taiyiba (Hapharaim, eight miles northwest of Beth Shan). Gideon’s act of threshing wheat in a winepress reflected both his fear of discovery by the Midianites and the smallness of his harvest. Normally wheat was threshed (the grain separated from the wheat stalks) in an open area on a threshing floor (cf. 1 Chron. 21:20-23) by oxen pulling threshing sledges over the stalks.6:12b-13. The Angel’s introductory remark affirmed the Lord’s presence with Gideon (you is sing.) and described Gideon as a mighty warrior (“mighty man of valor”; kjv; the words gibbôr ḥāyil are also applied to Jephthah, 11:1; and to Boaz, Ruth 2:1). Though this description may have been spoken in satire (at this point Gideon was anything but a mighty warrior!), it probably reflected Gideon’s potentiality through divine enablement, as well as expressing his notable rank in the community.
Gideon’s initial response ignored the singular pronoun “you” (Jud. 6:12), for he replied, If the Lord is with us (pl. pronoun). Gideon questioned the divine promise in view of his people’s present circumstances. He correctly concluded, however, that the Lord had put them into the hand of Midian.6:14. “The Angel of the Lord” (vv. 11-12) now spoke as the Lord and commissioned Gideon to Go . . . and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. The words the strength you have perhaps assumed the divine presence previously mentioned (v. 12).6:15. But, Gideon objected, My clan is the weakest . . . and I am the least. This objection might have stemmed from typical Near-Eastern humility, but perhaps it also reflected a good amount of reality.6:16. God’s reassurance reaffirmed His presence with Gideon (I will be with you) and the ease with which he would accomplish victory over the Midianites (as if they were but one man).6:17-21. Gideon requested a sign to confirm the Lord’s promise. This request was granted (cf. v. 21). Meanwhile Gideon’s uncertainty regarding the exact identity of his supernatural Visitor prompted him to offer typical Near-Eastern hospitality. The word for offering or gift (minḥâh), which he proposed to set . . . before the Visitor, could refer to a freewill offering in Israel’s sacrificial system, or it could refer to tribute offered as a present to a king or other superior (cf. 3:15). The large amount of food prepared by Gideon—goat’s meat and broth, and bread made from an ephah (one-half bushel) of flour—reflected both his wealth in a destitute time and the typical excessiveness of Near-Eastern hospitality. He no doubt planned to take the leftovers home for his family! But the Angel of the Lord touched the food offering with the tip of His staff and consumed it by fire, thus providing the sign Gideon had requested (6:17; cf. Lev. 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38). Then the Angel . . . disappeared.6:22-24. Gideon’s consternation probably reflected his fear of impending death because of seeing the divine presence (cf. Ex. 33:20). When the Lord assured Gideon he was not going to die . . . Gideon built an altar and named it the Lord is Peace.(3) The destruction of Baal’s altar by Gideon (6:25-32).6:25-26. The Lord gave Gideon a test of obedience. If Gideon was to deliver Israel from the Midianites, he must not only achieve military victory over the enemy but also must remove the cause of idolatry which initially led the Lord to give His people over to the Midianites (cf. v. 1). Therefore God commanded Gideon to destroy his father’s altar to Baal with its accompanying Asherah pole (a cult object probably representing Asherah, Ugaritic goddess of the sea; cf. comments on 3:7). Gideon was then to construct a proper kind of altar to the Lord, kindle a fire with the wood of the Asherah pole, and offer one of his father’s bulls (probably intended originally as a sacrificial animal for Baal) as a burnt offering to the Lord.
6:27. Gideon’s obedience to God’s command should not be minimized by his use of 10 . . . servants (dismantling a Canaanite altar was a massive task), or by the fact that he did it at night (the Baal-worshipers would obviously have prevented it if he had tried to do this during the day).
6:28-32. The resultant hostility of the community against Gideon was defused by his father’s sage advice. Their investigation of the overnight vandalism quickly implicated Gideon, whose execution they demanded. But Joash, perhaps repentant and inspired by his son’s remarkable actions, wisely proclaimed, If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself. Perhaps this implied that the people should not overstep Baal’s prerogative of self-defense (cf. Elijah’s irony about Baal, 1 Kings 18:27). This wise advice appealed to the people who then called Gideon by the name of Jerub-Baal, meaning Let Baal contend. Though they apparently applied the name derogatively, it might have later assumed an honorable signification as a witness against Baal’s inability to defend himself (cf. Jud. 7:1; 8:29; and comments on Jerub-Baal in 9:1).(4) The preparation of Gideon for battle.6:33-35. Gideon’s commission by the Lord seems to have preceded the next (and final) annual invasion of the Midianites and their allies. They crossed . . . the Jordan River not far south of the Sea of Kinnereth and camped in typical Bedouin fashion in the rich agricultural area of the Jezreel Valley. The Lord’s deliverance of His people through Gideon began as the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon (cf. 3:10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14), providing divine enablement through the Holy Spirit’s personal presence. Gideon immediately began to muster men, summoning his Abiezrite clan (cf. 6:11, 24) with a trumpet and the rest of the tribe of Manasseh along with the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali by means of messengers.(5) The signs concerning the fleece of Gideon.6:36-40. Gideon’s apparent lack of faith in seeking a miraculous sign from God (cf. Matt. 12:38; 1 Cor. 1:22-23) seems strange for a man who is listed among the heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32). In fact Gideon already had a sign from God at the time of his commission (Jud. 6:17, 21). It is noteworthy, however, that Gideon was not using the fleece to discover God’s will, for he already knew from divine revelation what God wanted him to do (v. 14). The sign related to a confirmation or assurance of God’s presence or empowerment for the task at hand. God condescended to Gideon’s weak faith and saturated the wool fleece with dew, so much so that Gideon wrung out . . . a bowlful of water. Perhaps Gideon had second thoughts about the uniqueness of this event since the surrounding threshing floor might naturally dry before the fleece. So he requested the opposite—This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew. God patiently did so, and Gideon was reassured to continue his assignment.(6) The reduction of the army of Gideon (7:1-8a).7:1-2. Gideon . . . camped at the spring of Harod (probably En Harod at the foot of Mount Gilboa, a spring that winds eastward to the Jordan River through the Harod Valley) with all his men, who numbered 32,000 (v. 3). The Midianite force of 135,000 (cf. 8:10) was camped three or four miles north of them at the foot of the hill of Moreh, the prominent hill rising like a sentinel to guard the eastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley. God, whose strength does not depend on numbers (cf. Ps. 33:16), purposed to deliver Midian to Israel through a few men so Israel would not boast that they had won the battle themselves. Gideon was no doubt perplexed by God’s words, You have too many men.7:3-6. The means by which the size of Gideon’s force was reduced was twofold: (a) 22,000 fearful recruits were summarily dismissed (in harmony with Deut. 20:8) and allowed to return to their homes; and (b) 9,700 apparently less-watchful men who failed a simple test were also discharged (Jud. 7:4-8; or at least were granted a leave of absence; cf. v. 23).The permission to leave Mount Gilead is puzzling since Gilead was across the Jordan River to the east. Some scholars view “Gilead” as an early copyist’s error for “Gilboa,” the mount near Gideon’s army. Or another Mount Gilead may have been nearby, since some of Gilead’s descendants lived on the western side of Jordan. Though the test given to the 9,700 seems simple enough, the words describing it are somewhat ambiguous. As the men drank from the spring, Gideon was to separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink. But how does one “lap . . . like a dog” without “kneel[ing] down” to place his face near the water? Some writers have suggested that a “non-kneeler” scooped the water up in one hand (holding his weapon in the other) from which he lapped the water with his tongue. Others have suggested that each used his hand to bring the water to his mouth much as a dog uses his tongue to bring water to his mouth. Whatever the explanation, the test probably identified those who were watchful, though some think it was strictly an arbitrary test for reducing the number of men. Historian Josephus even believed the 300 men who passed the test were less watchful, which resulted in a greater recognition of God’s power.7:7-8a. Now with just a few fighters, Gideon was again reassured by a divine promise: With the 300 men . . . I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands (cf. 6:14). Gideon’s 300 men acquired the provisions and trumpets of those who returned to their tents.
(7) The encouragement of Gideon concerning victory (7:8b-15).7:8b-11a. In spite of all the encouragement and assurance previously given Gideon, the Lord knew that he was afraid to attack, so God provided two further means of encouragement: (a) a direct divine word (go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands; cf. vv. 7, 14-15), and (b) a providentially planned dream narrated by a Midianite and overheard by Gideon (vv. 13-14).
7:11b-15. Gideon and Purah his servant stalked the outskirts of the Midianite camp with its innumerable tents spread out in the valley like locusts (cf. 6:5), tents which were outnumbered only by the myriads of camels (cf. 6:5). A beautiful demonstration of God’s providence was exhibited: Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream about a round loaf of barley bread which came tumbling into the Midianite camp and overturned a tent which it struck. The other Midianite responded, perhaps in jest, that this must refer to the sword of Gideon . . . the Israelite into whose hands God has given us Midianites. However, the divinely intended symbolism is clear (barley bread aptly described the poverty-stricken Israelites, and the tent referred to the nomadic Midianites). Gideon correctly understood it as an encouragement from the Lord that Israel would be victorious over Midian. Spontaneously worshiping God after this message, Gideon returned to the Israelite camp and proceeded immediately to marshal his forces, passing on to them the same assurance God had given him—The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands (cf. 7:7, 9, 14).(8) The victory over the Midianites by Gideon.
7:16-22. Gideon divided his small band into three companies of men, whose strategic but strange weapons were trumpets and empty jars . . . with torches inside. They arrived at the edge of the Midianite camp at the providential time of the beginning of the middle watch (10:00 p.m.), just after they had changed the guard (when the retiring guards would still be milling about their tents). In Gideon’s day the first watch was from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; the middle watch was from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and the morning watch started at 2 a.m. and went to 6 a.m.
At this critical moment the Israelites blew their trumpets and broke the jars (both making a terrible noise and revealing the glowing torches), and shouted loudly, A sword for the Lord and for Gideon! This battle cry indicated their confidence in the Lord to give them victory and also identified them to the Midianites and aroused fear in them. The word for trumpets is šôp̱ārôṯ, “made from animal horns”; they gave a sharp, shrill sound. The jars were pitchers probably made of clay. The confusion in the Midianite camp was unbelievable as they imagined a much larger Israelite force attacking them and as they perhaps mistook their own retiring guards for Israelites. This divinely planned confusion caused the Midianites to turn on each other with their swords while the Israelites apparently watched in safety around the camp. The Midianite army fled to the southeast to Beth Shittah (an immediate field site) and Abel Meholah toward the Jordan River. Abel Meholah was perhaps Tell Abu Sus, about 24 miles south of the Sea of Kinnereth (Galilee). (Abel Meholah was where Elisha was living when Elijah called him to be his protégé, 1 Kings 19:16.) The army apparently fled in that direction in order to cross the Jordan to reach Zererah (possibly Zarethan or Tell es-Saidiya) and Tabbath (Ras Abu T>albat).(9) The summons of Gideon for reinforcements.7:23-24a. Gideon summoned reinforcements from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh to pursue the fleeing Midianites. Those who responded probably included the earlier contingents of Gideon’s men who had been dismissed. Gideon also requested aid of the Ephraimites, who were well situated, to cut off the Midianites at strategic locations, preventing them from fording the Jordan River.(10) The capture of Oreb and Zeeb by the Ephraimites.7:24b-25. The men of Ephraim quickly secured the fords of the Jordan (the site of Beth Barah is currently unknown) and also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb (meaning “raven”) and Zeeb (meaning “wolf”), whose heads they brought to Gideon according to typical Near-Eastern military practice.(11) The diplomacy of Gideon toward the Ephraimites.8:1-3. However, the Ephraimites . . . criticized Gideon sharply for not inviting them to participate in the initial conflict near the Hill of Moreh (7:1). The “gentle answer” of Gideon (cf. Prov. 15:1) demonstrated his tactful diplomacy in the face of Ephraimite jealousy and averted intertribal warfare (cf. Jud. 12:1-6 where Jephthah reacted adversely to Ephraimite jealousy). In Gideon’s parable the full grape harvest of Abiezer seems to refer to the initial victory in the camp of Midian (Gideon was an Abiezrite, 6:11) and the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes (affirmed as a greater victory) then refers to the “mopping up” operations which included slaying the two Midianite leaders.(12) The pursuit of the Midianites into Transjordan (8:4-21).8:4-9. Though the Israelite reinforcements destroyed many of the fleeing Midianites, a sizable group, including two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, escaped beyond the Jordan in a southeasterly direction. They were rapidly pursued by Gideon and his 300 men who sought food from the men of Succoth (v. 5) and the men of Peniel (vv. 8-9), two Israelite cities in the Transjordan territory of Gad (cf. Gen. 32:22, 30; Josh. 13:27). Both communities refused aid to Gideon, perhaps through fear of reprisal by the Midianites. However, this was tantamount to allying themselves with the Midianites against the Lord and His chosen deliverer. Therefore similar to the earlier curse on the city of Meroz in Deborah’s time (cf. Jud. 5:23), Gideon threatened to punish them in retribution for their virtual hostility. To the people of Succoth he said, I will tear (lit., “thresh”) your flesh with desert thorns and briers (cf. 8:16). This may mean he would drag them over thorns like a threshing sledge over grain, or “thresh” them by drawing threshing sledges over them. Whatever the exact meaning, death seemed the inevitable result. To the people of Peniel he gave the threat, I will tear down this tower (cf. v. 17). The tower was possibly a fortress where people went for safety, like the tower of Shechem (9:46-49) or the tower of Thebez (9:50-51).8:10-12. The two Midianite kings (Zebah and Zalmunna) arrived with a surviving force of only 15,000 men at Karkor, an unidentified site thought to be near the Wadi Sirhan well east of the Dead Sea. The 15,000 was a mere 11 percent of the total Midianite force of 135,000. Gideon followed a caravan route . . . east of Nobah (perhaps Quanawat in eastern Bashan) and Jogbehah (modern el-Jubeihat 15 miles southeast of Peniel) and launched a surprise attack on the Midianites, captured the two kings, and routed their army.8:13-17. Returning northwest to the Pass (“ascent”) of Heres (an unidentified site) Gideon forced a young man of Succoth to write down the names of the city’s 77 officials. Gideon then carried out his previous threat to punish the elders of the city (cf. v. 7). He also fulfilled his threat to punish the city of Peniel (cf. v. 9).8:18-21. With the two Midianite kings in hand, Gideon interrogated them regarding an otherwise unrecorded incident—the slaying of several brothers of his at Tabor, the conical small mountain just north of the Hill of Moreh. It is not stated whether this took place in the current invasion or on a previous Midianite invasion of the Jezreel Valley. Since Gideon felt obligated by the duty of blood revenge (cf. Deut. 19:6, 12), probably his brothers were murdered in their homes or fields, not in battle. Gideon asked Jether his oldest son to kill them. This was an honor that the boy was not prepared to undertake, though it would have been a fitting insult to the kings to be slain by an untried opponent. They bravely invited Gideon to fulfill the revenge himself, considering it an honor to be slain by the courageous Gideon. Gideon obliged them and took the ornaments (probably moon-shaped) off their camels’ necks (cf. Jud. 8:26) as the spoils of war.(13) The refusal of kingship by Gideon.8:22-23. Following this significant victory, the Israelites turned to Gideon with the request that he rule as king over them, that is, establish a ruling dynasty (you, your son, and your grandson). Gideon declined both the rule and the dynasty (but one of his sons, Abimelech, would later speak for himself; cf. 9:1-6). Probably Gideon spoke words more significant than he realized when he affirmed the theocratic kingship of Yahweh—The Lord will rule over you.(14) The snare of the ephod of Gideon (8:24-27).8:24-26. Though he rejected kingship, Gideon did take occasion to indulge in a form of virtual taxation by requesting a share of the plunder in the form of gold earrings, the total weight coming to about 43 pounds. The term Ishmaelites originally referred to another nomadic tribe descended from Hagar (Gen. 16:15) but the term apparently took on a broader usage so that it is here applied to the Midianites.8:27. Gideon took the gold he received and made an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. Whatever Gideon’s intentions were in this act, the people worshiped this ephod, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. The nature of this ephod is not clear. It may have been patterned after the short outer garment worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:6-30; 39:1-21; Lev. 8:7-8). But rather than being worn as a garment, Gideon’s golden ephod was apparently erected and became an idol. In some sense he may have usurped the function of the priest and/or established a rival worship center to the tabernacle. In the end Gideon seems to have returned to the syncretistic society out of which God had called him to deliver Israel.
The duration of peace (8:28)8:28. As a result of Gideon’s rout of the Midianites the land enjoyed peace 40 years. This is the last period of peace recorded in the Book of Judges. The subsequent activities of Jephthah and Samson did not seem to produce an interim of peace or delay the nation’s decline. The death of Gideon (8:29-32)8:29-32. Though Jerub-Baal (i.e., Gideon; cf. 6:32; 7:1) declined the kingship, he generally lived like a king (he had many wives who bore him 70 sons). He also had a concubine . . . in Shechem (who characteristically lived with her parents’ family) who bore him a son . . . named Abimelech. This set the stage for the next downward spiral in Israel’s history of apostasy, a spiral which began in earnest after the death of Gideon. It may be significant that none of the judgeships recorded in the rest of the Book of Judges resulted in a designated period of peace (contrast 3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28). This seems to fit the general pattern of progressive political and social decline and moral degeneration in the book. The event that launched the declining phase of the period of the Judges was the abortive kingship of Abimelech. Abimelech, a son of Gideon by a concubine, was not called a judge. In fact his rule included some elements of oppression which were eliminated only by his death and by the subsequent positive judgeship of Tola (who lived in the same general area of the central highlands). The defection of Israel (8:33-35) 8:33-35. As though they had been waiting for it with expectancy, Gideon’s death triggered Israel’s immediate return to idolatry (cf. 2:19). Instead of worshiping Yahweh with thanksgiving for all His deliverances, they set up Baal-Berith as their god, who had a central shrine at Shechem (9:3-4) where he was also worshiped as El-Berith (9:46). Their accompanying failure to show gratitude to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon; cf. 6:32; 7:1; 8:29) may have accounted for the apparent ease with which his sons were soon slain by Abimelech (9:5).
*Wiersbe JUDGES 6 God’s Man in Manasseh You have a garden, and you work hard all spring and summer to make that garden produce abundantly. But every year, just about the time you’re ready to gather in the harvest, your neighbors swoop down and take your produce away from you by force. This goes on year after year, and there’s nothing you can do about it.If you can imagine that scenario, then you’ll have some idea of the suffering the Jews experienced every harvest when the Midianites made their annual raids. For seven years, God allowed the Midianites and their allies to ravage “the land of milk and honey,” leaving the people in the deepest poverty.
About the time of the eighth Midianite invasion, God called a farmer in Manasseh named Gideon to become the deliverer of His people. Gideon started his career as somewhat of a coward (Jdg. 6), then became a conqueror (7:1–8:21), and ended his career as a compromiser (8:22–35). But more space is devoted to Gideon in the Book of Judges (100 verses) than to any other judge; and Gideon is the only judge whose personal struggles with his faith are recorded. Gideon is a great encouragement to people who have a hard time accepting themselves and believing that God can make anything out of them or do anything with them.But before the Lord could use Gideon in His service, He had to deal with four doubts that plagued him and were obstacles to his faith. These doubts can be expressed in four questions.
1. “Does God really care about us?” (Jdg. 6:1–13)
“The Lord has forsaken us!” was Gideon’s response to the Lord’s message (v. 13); and yet the Lord had given Israel proof of His personal concern. He had chastened them (vv. 1–6). “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11–12; Heb. 12:5–11). Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord does not permit His children to sin successfully.” God is not a “permissive parent” who allows His children to do as they please, for His ultimate purpose is that they might be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The Father wants to be able to look at each member of His spiritual family and say, “This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5). Chastening is evidence of God’s hatred for sin and His love for His people. We can’t conceive of a holy God wanting anything less than His very best for His children, and the best He can give us is a holy character like that of Jesus Christ. Obedience to the Lord builds character, but sin destroys character; and God cannot sit idly by and watch His children destroy themselves. Israel had already experienced forty-three years of suffering under the harsh rule of the neighboring nations, but they hadn’t yet learned their lesson and turned away from the heathen idols. Unless our suffering leads to repentance, it accomplishes no lasting good; and unless our repentance is evidence of a holy desire to turn from sin, not just escape from pain, repentance is only remorse. Chastening assures us that we are truly God’s children, that our Father loves us, and that we can’t get away with rebellion. The Midianites organized a coalition of nations to invade the land (Jdg. 6:3), and all that Israel could do was flee to the hills and hide from the enemy. When the Jews returned to their homes, they found only devastation; and they had to face another year without adequate food. He had rebuked them (vv. 7–10). Previous to this, an angel of the Lord, probably the Son of God, had come to Bochim to reprove Israel for her sins (2:1–5); and now an unnamed prophet came to repeat the message. Often in the Old Testament, when the Lord denounced His people for their disobedience, He reminded them of the wonderful way He had delivered them from Egypt. He also reminded them of His generosity in giving them the land and helping them overcome their enemies. If the Jews were suffering from Gentile bondage, it wasn’t God’s fault! He had given them everything they needed.When you read the New Testament epistles, you can’t help but notice that the apostles took the same approach when they admonished the believers to whom they wrote. The apostles repeatedly reminded the Christians that God had saved them so that they might live obediently and serve the Lord faithfully. As God’s children, they were to walk worthy of their high and heavenly calling (Eph. 4:1) and live like people who were seated with Christ in glory (Col. 3:1ff). The motive for Christian living is not that we might gain something we don’t have but that we might live up to what we already have in Christ.The purpose of chastening is to make God’s children willing to listen to God’s Word. Often after spanking a child, parents will reassure the child of their love and then gently admonish the child to listen to what they say and obey it. God speaks to His children, either through the loving voice of Scripture or the heavy hand of chastening; and if we ignore the first, we must endure the second. One way or another, the Lord is going to get our attention and deal with us. Now He came down to help them (vv. 11–13). The people were crying out to the Lord for help (6:7), as people usually do when they’re in trouble. The Israelites gave no evidence of real repentance, but their affliction moved God’s loving heart. “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9). “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10). God in His mercy doesn’t give us what we do deserve; and in His grace, He gives us what we don’t deserve.When you consider the kind of man Gideon was at this time, you wonder why God selected him; but God often chooses the “weak things of this world” to accomplish great things for His glory (1 Cor. 1:26–29). Gideon’s family worshiped Baal (Jdg. 6:25–32), although we have no reason to believe that Gideon joined them. When Gideon called himself “the least in my father’s house” (v. 15), he may have been suggesting that his family treated him like an outcast because he didn’t worship Baal. Gideon wasn’t a man of strong faith or courage, and God had to patiently work with him to prepare him for leadership. God is always ready to make us what we ought to be if we’re willing to submit to His will (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:12–13).Gideon’s negative response to the Lord’s words indicates his lack of faith and spiritual perception. Here was Almighty God telling him that He was with him and would make him a conqueror, and Gideon replied by denying everything God said! God would have to spend time with Gideon turning his question marks into exclamation points. Gideon was living by sight, not by faith, and had he remained that way he would never have been named among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
2. “Does God know what He’s doing?” (Jdg. 6:14–24) Gideon’s first response was to question God’s concern for His people, but then he questioned God’s wisdom in choosing him to be the nation’s deliverer. The Lord’s statements recorded in verses 12 and 14 should have given Gideon all the assurance he needed, but he wouldn’t believe God’s Word. In this, he was like Moses (Ex. 3:7–12), whose story Gideon surely knew since he was acquainted with Hebrew history (Jdg. 6:13). It has often been said that “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” Once God has called and commissioned us, all we have to do is obey Him by faith, and He will do the rest. God cannot lie and God never fails. Faith means obeying God in spite of what we see, how we feel, or what the consequences might be. Our modern “practical” world laughs at faith without realizing that people live by faith all day long. “If there was no faith, there would be no living in this world,” wrote humorist John Billings nearly a century ago. “We couldn’t even eat hash with safety.”Gideon’s statement about the poverty of his family is a bit perplexing in the light of the fact that he had ten servants who assisted him (v. 27). It may be that the clan of Abiezer, to which Gideon’s family belonged, was not an important clan in Manasseh; or perhaps Gideon’s statement was simply the standard way to respond to a compliment, as when people used to sign their letters “Your Obedient Servant.” In any event, Gideon seemed to think that God could do nothing because he and his family were nothing. Once God has revealed His will to us, we must never question His wisdom or argue with His plans. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” (Rom. 11:34; Isa. 40:13, 1 Cor. 2:16) “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7) A.W. Tozer wrote, “All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” That being true, who are we to question Him?
When you review God’s gracious promises to Gideon, you wonder why this young man wavered in his faith. God promised to be with him. God called him a “mighty man of valor” and promised that he would save Israel from the Midianites and smite them “as one man.” God’s Word is “the word of faith” (Rom. 10:8), and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But Gideon didn’t receive that Word and needed assurance beyond the character of Almighty God. Gideon asked for a sign to assure him that it was really the Lord who was speaking to him (1 Cor. 1:22), and the Lord was gracious to accommodate Himself to Gideon’s unbelief. Gideon prepared a sacrifice, which was a costly thing to do at a time when food was scarce. An ephah of flour was about a half a bushel, enough to make bread for a family for several days. It probably took him an hour to dress the meat and prepare the unleavened cakes, but God waited for him to return and then consumed the offering by bringing fire from the rock.
The sudden appearance of the fire and disappearance of the visitor convinced Gideon that indeed he had seen God and spoken to Him, and this frightened him even more. Since the Jews believed it was fatal for sinful man to look upon God, Gideon was sure he would die. The human heart is indeed deceitful: Gideon asked to see a sign, and after seeing it, he was sure that the God who gave him the sign would now kill him! There is always “joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13), but unbelief brings fear and worry. God had to give Gideon a message of peace to prepare him for fighting a war. Unless we’re at peace with God, we can’t face the enemy with confidence and fight the Lord’s battles. It was customary for the Jews to identify special events and places by putting up monuments, so Gideon built an altar and called it “The Lord is peace.” The Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom) means much more than a cessation of hostilities but carries with it the ideas of well-being, health, and prosperity. Gideon now believed the Lord was able to use him, not because of who he was but because of who God was. Whenever God calls us to a task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not to ourselves. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God asked Abraham (Gen. 18:14); and the answer comes, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2), and Jeremiah admitted that there was nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told His disciples, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26); and Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
3. “Will God take care of me?” (Jdg. 6:25–32) What kind of a day did Gideon have after his dramatic meeting with the Lord? Remember, he belonged to a family that worshiped Baal; and if he challenged the Midianites in the name of the Lord, it meant defying his father, his family, his neighbors, and the multitudes of people in Israel who were worshiping Baal. My guess is that Gideon had his emotional ups and downs that day, rejoicing that God was planning to deliver Israel, but trembling at the thought of being named the leader of the army. Knowing that Gideon was still afraid, God assigned him a task right at home to show him that He would see him through. After all, if we don’t practice our faith at home, how can we practice it sincerely anyplace else? Gideon had to take his stand in his own village before he dared to face the enemy on the battlefield. Before God gives His servants great victories in public, He sometimes prepares them by giving them smaller victories at home. Before David killed the giant Goliath in the sight of two armies, he learned to trust God by killing a lion and a bear in the field where nobody saw it but God (1 Sam. 17:32–37). When we prove that we’re faithful with a few things, God will trust us with greater things (Matt. 25:21). The assignment wasn’t an easy one. God told him to destroy the altar dedicated to Baal, build an altar to the Lord, and sacrifice one of his father’s valuable bullocks, using the wood of the Asherah pole for fuel. Jewish altars were made of uncut stones and were simple, but Baal’s altars were elaborate and next to them was a wooden pillar (“grove,” Jdg. 6:26; “Asherah pole,”) dedicated to the goddess Asherah, whose worship involved unspeakably vile practices. Since altars to Baal were built on high places, it would have been difficult to obey God’s orders without attracting attention. Gideon had every right to destroy Baal worship because this is what God had commanded in His Law (Ex. 34:12–13; Deut. 7:5). For that matter, he had the right to stone everybody who was involved in Baal worship (Deut. 13), but God didn’t include that in His instructions. Gideon decided to obey the Lord at night when the village was asleep. This showed his fear (Jdg. 6:27); he wasn’t sure God could or would see him through. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). After all the encouragements God had given him, Gideon’s faith should have been strong; but before we judge him, we’d better look at ourselves and see how much we trust the Lord. It’s worth noting that true believers can’t build an altar to the Lord unless first they tear down the altars they’ve built to the false gods they worship. Our God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5) and will not share His glory or our love with another. Gideon had privately built his own altar to the Lord (Jdg. 6:24), but now he had to take his public stand; and he had to do it without compromise. Before he could declare war on Midian, he had to declare war on Baal. When ten other men are involved, it’s not easy to keep your plans a secret; so it wasn’t long before the whole town knew that Gideon was the one who had destroyed his father’s idols. The men of the city considered this a capital offense and wanted to kill Gideon. (According to God’s law, it was the idol-worshipers who should have been slain! See Deut. 13:6–9.) Gideon was no doubt wondering what would happen to him, but God proved Himself well able to handle the situation. Joash, Gideon’s father, had every reason to be angry with his son. Gideon had smashed his father’s altar to Baal and replaced it with an altar to Jehovah. He had sacrificed his father’s prize bull to the Lord and had used the sacred Asherah pole for fuel. (See Isa. 44:13–20.) But God so worked in Joash’s heart that he defended Gideon before the town mob and even insulted Baal! “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even defend himself?” asked Joash. (Elijah would take a similar approach years later. See 1 Kings 18:27.) “What kind of a god is Baal that he can’t even plead his own cause?” Joash asked. Because of this, the men of the town gave Gideon the nickname “Jerubbaal,” which means “let Baal contend” or “Baal’s antagonist.”Often the unbelieving world gives demeaning nicknames to faithful servants of God. D.L. Moody was known as “Crazy Moody” when he was building his famous Sunday School in Chicago, but nobody would call him that today; and Charles Spurgeon was frequently lampooned and caricatured in the British press. If we are given nicknames because we honor the name of Jesus, then let’s wear them like medals and keep on glorifying Him! Gideon learned a valuable lesson that day: If he obeyed the Lord, even with fear in his heart, the Lord would protect him and receive the glory. Gideon needed to remember this as he mustered his army and prepared to attack the enemy.
4. “Does God keep His promises?” (Jdg. 6:33–40) The Midianites and their allies made their annual invasion about that time as more than 135,000 men (8:10; 7:12) moved into the Valley of Jezreel. It was time for Gideon to act, and the Spirit of God gave him the wisdom and power that he needed. (See Jdg. 3:10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14.) As we seek to do God’s will, His Word to us is always, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit” (Zech. 4:6). When a group of British pastors was discussing the advisability of inviting evangelist D.L. Moody to their city for a crusade, one man asked, “Why must it be Moody? Does D.L. Moody have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” Quietly one of the other pastors replied, “No, but it’s evident that the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on D.L. Moody.” Gideon blew the trumpet first in his own hometown, and the men of Abiezer rallied behind him. Gideon’s reformation in the town had actually accomplished something! Then he sent messengers throughout his own tribe of Manasseh as well as the neighboring tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. These four tribes were near the Valley of Jezreel, and therefore the invading army affected them most. Thus at Gideon’s call, 32,000 men responded. But what chance did 32,000 men have against an army of 135,000 men plus numberless camels? (Jdg. 7:12) This is the first mention in the Bible of camels being used in warfare, and certainly they would have given their riders speed and mobility on the battlefield. The Jews were outnumbered and would certainly be outmaneuvered, except for one thing: Jehovah God was on their side, and He had promised them victory.Nevertheless, Gideon doubted God’s promise. Did God really want him to lead the Jewish army? What did he know about warfare? After all, he was only an ordinary farmer; and there were others in the tribes who could do a much better job. So, before he led the attack, he asked God to give him two more signs.The phrase “putting out the fleece” is a familiar one in religious circles. It means asking God to guide us in a decision by fulfilling some condition that we lay down. In my pastoral ministry, I’ve met all kinds of people who have gotten themselves into trouble by “putting out the fleece.” If they received a phone call at a certain hour from a certain person, God was telling them to do this; or if the weather changed at a certain time, God was telling them to do something else.“Putting out the fleece” is not a biblical method for determining the will of God. Rather, it’s an approach used by people like Gideon who lack the faith to trust God to do what He said He would do. Twice Gideon reminded God of what He had said (6:36–37), and twice Gideon asked God to reaffirm His promises with a miracle. The fact that God stooped to Gideon’s weakness only proves that He’s a gracious God who understands how we’re made (Ps. 103:14). Who are we to tell God what conditions He must meet, especially when He has already spoken to us in His Word? “Putting out the fleece” is not only an evidence of our unbelief, but it’s also an evidence of our pride. God has to do what I tell Him to do before I’ll do what He tells me to do!Gideon spent two days playing the fleece game with God at the threshing floor. The first night, he asked God to make the fleece wet but keep the ground dry (in this incident the Bible uses “floor” and “ground” interchangeably) and God did it. The second night, the test was much harder; for he wanted the threshing floor to be wet but the fleece dry. The ground of a threshing floor is ordinarily very hard and normally would not be greatly affected by the dew. But the next morning, Gideon found dry fleece but wet ground.There was nothing for Gideon to do but to confront the enemy and trust God for the victory. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
JUDGES 7 Faith Is the Victory I don’t recall too many chapel messages from my years as a seminary student, but Vance Havner gave a message that has stayed with me and often encouraged me. Speaking from Hebrews 11, he told us that because Moses was a man of faith, he was able to “see the invisible, choose the imperishable, and do the impossible.” I needed that message then and I still need it today.What was true for Moses centuries ago can be true for God’s people today, but men and women of faith seem to be in short supply. Whatever our churches may be known for today, they’re not especially known for glorifying God by great exploits of faith. “The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). Christians are either overcome because of their unbelief or overcomers because of their faith. And remember, faith doesn’t depend on how we feel, what we see, or what may happen. The familiar and exciting account of Gideon’s wonderful victory over the Midianites is really a story of faith in action, and it reveals to us three important principles about faith. If we’re to be overcomers, and not be overcome, we need to understand and apply these principles.
1. God tests our faith (Jdg. 7:1–8) A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. Too often, what people think is faith is really only a “warm fuzzy feeling” about faith or perhaps just “faith in faith.” I recall being in a board meeting of an international ministry when one of the board members said enthusiastically, “We’re simply going to have to step out by faith!” Quietly another board member asked, “Whose faith?” That question made all of us search our hearts.
J.G. Stipe said that faith is like a toothbrush: Everybody should have one and use it regularly, but it isn’t safe to use somebody else’s. We can sing loudly about the “Faith of Our Fathers,” but we can’t exercise the faith of our fathers. We can follow men and women of faith and share in their exploits, but we can’t succeed in our own personal lives by depending on somebody else’s faith.
God tests our faith for at least two reasons: first, to show us whether our faith is real or counterfeit, and second, to strengthen our faith for the tasks He’s set before us. I’ve noticed in my own life and ministry that God has often put us through the valley of testing before allowing us to reach the mountain peak of victory. Spurgeon was right when he said that the promises of God shine brightest in the furnace of affliction, and it is in claiming those promises that we gain the victory. The first sifting (vv. 1–3). God tested Gideon’s faith by sifting his army of 32,000 volunteers until only 300 men were left. If Gideon’s faith had been in the size of his army, then his faith would have been very weak by the time God was through with them! Less than 1 percent of the original 32,000 ended up following Gideon to the battlefield. The words of Winston Churchill concerning the RAF in World War II certainly applies to Gideon’s 300: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so many by so few.”God told Gideon why He was decreasing the size of the army: He didn’t want the soldiers to boast that they had won the victory over the Midianites. Victories won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happened. “If you can explain what’s going on in your ministry,” Dr. Bob Cook used to remind us, “then God didn’t do it.” When I was serving in Youth for Christ, I often heard our leaders pray, “Lord, keep Youth for Christ on a miracle basis.” That meant living by faith. Too often, we’re like King Uzziah who was “marvelously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (2 Chron. 26:15–16). People who live by faith know their own weakness more and more as they depend on God’s strength. “For when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). In telling the fearful soldiers to return home, Gideon was simply obeying the law Moses originally gave: “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart” (Deut. 20:8). “The fearful and trembling man God cannot use,” said G. Campbell Morgan. “The trouble today is that the fearful and trembling man insists upon remaining in the army. A decrease that sifts the ranks of the Church of men who fear and tremble is a great, a gracious and a glorious gain.”Pride after the battle robs God of glory, and fear during the battle robs God’s soldiers of courage and power. Fear has a way of spreading, and one timid soldier can do more damage than a whole company of enemy soldiers. Fear and faith can’t live together very long in the same heart. Either fear will conquer faith and we’ll quit, or faith will conquer fear and we’ll triumph. John Wesley may have been thinking of Gideon’s army when he said, “Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell!” The second sifting (vv. 4–8). God put Gideon’s surviving 10,000 men through a second test by asking them all to take a drink down at the river. We never know when God is testing us in some ordinary experience of life. I heard about one leading minister who always took a drive with a prospective pastoral staff member in the other man’s car, just to see if the car was neat and if the man drove carefully. Whether or not neatness and careful driving habits are always a guarantee of ministerial success is debatable, but the lesson is worth considering. More than one prospective employee has ruined his or her chances for a job while having lunch with the boss, not realizing they were being evaluated. “Make every occasion a great occasion, for you can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.” That was said by a man named Marsden; and I’ve had the quotation, now yellow with age, under the glass on my desk for many years. Pondering it from time to time has done me good.What significance was there in the two different ways the men drank from the river? Since the Scriptures don’t tell us, we’d be wise not to read into the text some weighty spiritual lesson that God never put there. Most expositors say the men who bowed down to drink were making themselves vulnerable to the enemy, while the 300 who lapped water from their hands stayed alert. But the enemy was four miles away (v. 1), waiting to see what the Jews would do; and Gideon wouldn’t have led his men into a dangerous situation like that. One well-known preacher claims that the 300 men drank as they did so they could keep their eyes on Gideon, but the text doesn’t say that either. My assumption is that God chose this method of sifting the army because it was simple, unassuming (no soldier knew he was being tested), and easy to apply. We shouldn’t think that all 10,000 drank at one time, because that would have stretched the army out along the water for a couple of miles. Since the men undoubtedly came to the water by groups, Gideon was able to watch them and identify the 300. It wasn’t until after the event that the men discovered they had been tested. “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few”
(1 Sam. 14:6). Some churches today are mesmerized by statistics and think they’re strong because they’re big and wealthy, but numbers are no guarantee of God’s blessing. Moses assured the Jews that if they would obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand and two would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30). All Gideon needed was 27 soldiers to defeat the whole Midianite army of 135,000 men (Jdg. 8:10), but God gave him 300. It is clear from 7:14 that the Midianites knew who Gideon was, and no doubt they were watching what he was doing. I’ve often wondered what the enemy spies thought when they saw the Jewish army seemingly fall apart. Did it make the Midianites overconfident and therefore less careful? Or did their leaders become even more alert, wondering whether Gideon was setting them up for a tricky piece of strategy? God graciously gave Gideon one more promise of victory: “By the 300 men that lapped will I save you” (v. 7). By claiming this promise and obeying the Lord’s directions, Gideon defeated the enemy and brought peace to the land for forty years (8:28). The soldiers who departed left some of their equipment with the 300 men thus each man could have a torch, a trumpet, and a jar—strange weapons indeed for fighting a war.
2. God encourages our faith (Jdg. 7:9–15a) The Lord wanted Gideon and his 300 men to attack the camp of Midian that night, but first He had to deal with the fear that still persisted in Gideon’s heart. God had already told Gideon three times that He would give Israel victory (6:14, 16; 7:7), and He had reassured him by giving him three special signs: fire from the rock (6:19–21), the wet fleece (6:36–38), and the dry fleece (6:39–40). After all this divine help, Gideon should have been strong in his faith, but such was not the case. How grateful we should be that God understands us and doesn’t condemn us because we have doubts and fears! He keeps giving us wisdom and doesn’t scold us when we keep asking (James 1:5). Our great High Priest in heaven sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:14–16) and keeps giving us more grace (James 4:6). God remembers that we’re only dust (Ps. 103:14) and flesh (78:39). God encouraged Gideon’s faith in two ways. God gave Gideon another promise (v. 9). The Lord told Gideon for the fourth time that He had delivered the Midianite host into his hand. (Note the tense of the verb, and see Josh. 6:2.) Although the battle must be fought, Israel had already won! The 300 men could attack the enemy host confident that Israel was the victor.Some people have the idea that confident, courageous faith is a kind of religious arrogance, but just the opposite is true. Christians who believe God’s promises and see Him do great things are humbled to know that the God of the universe cares about them and is on their side. They claim no merit in their faith or honor from their victories. All the glory goes to the Lord because He did it all! It’s the unbelieving child of God who grieves the Lord and makes Him a liar (1 John 5:10).Hope and love are important Christian virtues, but the Holy Spirit devoted an entire chapter in the New Testament—Hebrews 11—to the victories of faith won by ordinary people who dared to believe God and act upon His promises. It may be a cliche to some people, but the old formula is still true: “God says it—I believeit—that settles it!” God gave Gideon another sign (vv. 10–14). It took courage for Gideon and his servant to move into enemy territory and get close enough to the Midianite camp to overhear the conversation of two soldiers. God had given one of the soldiers a dream, and that dream told Gideon that God would deliver the Midianites into his hand. The Lord had already told Gideon this fact, but now Gideon heard it from the lips of the enemy! In the biblical record, you often find God communicating His truth through dreams. Among the believers He spoke to through dreams are Jacob (Gen. 28, 31), Joseph (Gen. 37), Solomon (1 Kings 3), Daniel (Dan. 7), and Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matt. 1:20–21; 2:13–22). But He also spoke to unbelievers this way, including Abimelech (Gen. 20), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2, 4), Joseph’s fellow prisoners (Gen. 40), Pharaoh (Gen. 41), and Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19). However, we must not conclude from these examples that this is the Lord’s normal method of communicating with people or that we should seek His guidance in our dreams today. Dreams can be deceptive (Jer. 23:32; Zech. 10:2), and apart from divine instruction we can’t know the correct interpretation. The best way to get God’s guidance is through the Word of God, prayer, and sensitivity to the Spirit as we watch circumstances. Since barley was a grain used primarily by poor people, the barley-cake image of Gideon and his army spoke of their weakness and humiliation. The picture is that of a stale hard cake that could roll like a wheel, not a complimentary comparison at all! The man who interpreted the dream had no idea that he was speaking God’s truth and encouraging God’s servant. Gideon didn’t mind being compared to a loaf of stale bread, for now he knew for sure that Israel would defeat the Midianites and deliver the land from bondage. It’s significant that Gideon paused to worship the Lord before he did anything else. He was so overwhelmed by the Lord’s goodness and mercy that he fell on his face in submission and gratitude. Joshua did the same thing before taking the city of Jericho (Josh. 5:13–15), and it’s a good practice for us to follow today. Before we can be successful warriors, we must first become sincere worshipers.
3. God honors our faith (Jdg. 7:15b–25) “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith means more than simply trusting God; it also means seeking God and wanting to please Him. We don’t trust God just to get Him to do things for us. We trust Him because it brings joy to His heart when His children rely on Him, seek Him, and please Him. How did God reward Gideon’s faith? God gave him wisdom to prepare the army (7:15b–18). Gideon was a new man when he and his servant returned to the Israelite camp. His fears and doubts were gone as he mobilized his small army and infused courage into their hearts by what he said and did. “The Lord has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand,” he announced to the men (v. 15,). As Vance Havner said, faith sees the invisible (victory in a battle not yet fought) and does the impossible (wins the battle with few men and peculiar weapons). Gideon’s plan was simple but effective. He gave each of his men a trumpet to blow, a jar to break, and a torch to burn. They would encircle the enemy camp, the torches inside the jars and their trumpets in their hands. The trumpets were rams’ horns (the shofar) such as Joshua used at Jericho, and perhaps this connection with that great victory helped encourage Gideon and his men as they faced the battle. At Gideon’s signal, the men would blow the trumpets, break the pitchers, reveal the lights, and then shout, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” God would do the rest. Gideon was the example for them to follow. “Watch me....Follow my lead....Do exactly as I do” (v. 17). Gideon had come a long way since the day God had found him hiding in the winepress! No longer do we hear him asking “If—why—where?” (6:13) No longer does he seek for a sign. Instead, he confidently gave orders to his men, knowing that the Lord would give them the victory. It has been well said that the Good News of the Gospel is we don’t have to stay the way we are. Through faith in Jesus Christ, anybody can be changed. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus said to Andrew’s brother, “You are Simon [“a hearer”]....You shall be called Cephas [“a stone”]” (John 1:42,). “You are—you shall be!” That’s good news for anybody who wants a new start in life. God can take a weak piece of clay like Simon and make a rock out of him! God can take a doubter like Gideon and make a general out of him! God gave him courage to lead the army (vv. 19–22). Gideon led his small army from the Spring of Harod (“trembling”) to the Valley of Jezreel, where they all took their places around the camp. At Gideon’s signal, they all blew their rams’ horns, broke the jars, and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Finding themselves surrounded by sudden light and loud noises, the Midianites assumed that they were being attacked by a large army, and the result was panic. The Lord intervened and put a spirit of confusion in the camp, and the Midianites began to kill each other. Then they realized that the safest thing to do was flee. Thus they took off on the caravan route to the southeast with the Israelite army pursuing. God gave him opportunity to enlarge the army (vv. 23–25). It was obvious that 300 men couldn’t pursue thousands of enemy soldiers, so Gideon sent out a call for more volunteers. I’m sure that many of the men from the original army of 32,000 responded to Gideon’s call, and even the proud tribe of Ephraim came to his aid. To them was given the honor of capturing and slaying Oreb (“raven”) and Zeeb (“wolf”), the two princes of Midian. The story of Gideon began with a man hiding in a winepress (6:11), but it ended with the enemy prince being slain at a winepress. Gideon’s great victory over the Midianites became a landmark event in the history of Israel, not unlike the Battle of Waterloo for Great Britain, for it reminded the Jews of God’s power to deliver them from their enemies. The day of Midian was a great day that Israel would never forget (Ps. 83:11; Isa. 9:4; 10:26). The church today can also learn from this event and be encouraged by it. God doesn’t need large numbers to accomplish His purposes, nor does He need especially gifted leaders. Gideon and his 300 men were available for God to use, and He enabled them to conquer the enemy and bring peace to the land. When the church starts to depend on “bigness”—big buildings, big crowds, big budgets—then faith becomes misplaced, and God can’t give His blessing. When leaders depend on their education, skill, and experience rather than in God, then God abandons them and looks for a Gideon.The important thing is for us to be available for God to use just as He sees fit. We may not fully understand His plans, but we can fully trust His promises; and it’s faith in Him that gives the victory.
JUDGES 8 Win the War, Lose the Victory Be careful where you travel for business or vacation. You might pick a place that’s dangerous. According to an article in the June 25, 1993 issue of Pulse, there are fifty-six nations that have serious problems with land mines. Angola has 20 million mines waiting to maim or kill, Afghanistan 10 million, and Cambodia 4 1/2 million; and the expense of removing them is more than these nations can handle. The wars may be over, but the dangers haven’t vanished. The saintly Scottish Presbyterian pastor Andrew Bonar wasn’t thinking particularly about land mines when he said it, but what he said is good counsel for all of us: “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.” That was the counsel Gideon needed after he’d routed the Midianites, because his problems still weren’t over. He discovered some “mines” that were ready to explode. Thus far in our study of Gideon’s life, we’ve seen his responses to the Lord’s call to defeat the enemy. At first Gideon was full of questions and doubts; but then he grew in his faith, believed God’s promises, and led his army to victory. In Judges 8, the account focuses on Gideon’s responses to various people after he had won the battle; and it tells us how he handled some difficult situations.The chronology in chapter 8 seems to be as follows: Gideon’s pursuit of the two kings (vv. 4–12); his disciplining of the defiant Jews on his journey home (vv. 13–17); the protest of the Ephraimites after he arrived home (vv. 1–3); the slaying of the kings (vv. 18–21); and Gideon’s “retirement” (vv. 22–35). Each of these events presented a new challenge to Gideon, and he responded differently to each one
1. A soft answer for his critics (Jdg. 8:1–3) Why this paragraph is placed here is somewhat of a puzzle. It’s not likely that the men of Ephraim would complain to Gideon while they were capturing Oreb and Zeeb (7:24–25) and while he was pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna (8:12). Fighting the enemy would have consumed all their energy and attention, and Gideon’s reply in verse 3 indicates that the men of Ephraim had already captured and killed Oreb and Zeeb. Perhaps a delegation from the tribe waited on Gideon when the spoils of war were being distributed after he returned home, and that’s when they complained. Knowing that they were a large and important tribe, second only to Judah, the Ephraimites were a proud people. Gideon was from Manasseh, the “brother” tribe to Ephraim, and Ephraim was insulted because he didn’t call them to the battle. But why would such an important tribe want to follow a farmer into battle? They had assisted Ehud (3:26–29) and Deborah and Barak (5:13–14), but that was no guarantee they would help Gideon. When you reflect on the way the attack on Midian was handled, it was wisdom on Gideon’s part that he hadn’t called for volunteers from Ephraim. This proud tribe would have been incensed if Gideon had told the frightened men to go home, and their volunteers would not have tolerated his thinning out the ranks to only 300 soldiers! If Gideon had called them and then sent most of them back, they would have created a far worse problem before the battle than they did afterward. Ephraim was on hand to help in the “mopping up” operations, and that’s what really counted. Ephraim, however, missed out on acquiring some valuable spoils of war from over 100,000 soldiers, and this may have been what irritated them. (Usually when people criticize something you’ve done, there’s a personal reason behind their criticism; and you may never find out what the real reason was.) Since David’s unselfish law governing the dividing of the spoils of war hadn’t been established yet (1 Sam. 30:21–25), those who didn’t participate in the battle didn’t share in the loot. When the men of Ephraim should have been thanking Gideon for delivering the nation, they were criticizing him and adding to his burdens.As a victorious general, a national hero, and the people’s first choice for king, Gideon might have used his authority and popularity to put the tribe of Ephraim in its place, but he chose to use a better approach. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Perhaps Gideon’s immediate feelings weren’t that cordial, but he controlled himself and treated his brothers with kindness. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (16:32). Gideon proved that he could control not only an army, but also control his temper and tongue. It’s sad when brothers declare war on each other after they’ve stood together to defeat the enemy. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1) It didn’t cost Gideon much to swallow his pride and compliment the men of Ephraim. He told them that their capturing Oreb and Zeeb was a greater feat than anything the men had done from his hometown of Abiezer. Peace was restored and Gideon returned to the more important tasks at hand.And King Solomon wrote, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Prov. 17:14).
2. A stern warning for the skeptics (Jdg. 8:4–17) Gideon and his men were pursuing two of the Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, knowing that if they captured and killed them, the enemy’s power would be crippled and eventually broken. The army crossed over the Jordan to Succoth in Gad, hoping to find some nourishment; but the men of Succoth wouldn’t help their own brothers. The two and a half tribes that occupied the land east of the Jordan didn’t feel as close to the other tribes as they should have, and Gad had sent no soldiers to help either Deborah and Barak (5:17) or Gideon. While others were risking their lives, the people of Gad were doing nothing. The Ammonites and Moabites, relatives of the Jews through Lot, failed to help Israel with food; and God declared war on them (Deut. 23:3–6). Hospitality is one of the basic laws of the East, and custom demands that the people meet the needs of strangers as well as relatives. Hospitality was also an important ministry in the early church, for there were no hotels where guests might stay; and in times of persecution, many visitors were fleeing. (See Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 5:10; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9.) Indeed, helping a hungry brother is an opportunity to help the Lord Jesus (Matt. 25:34–40). The men of Succoth were skeptical of Gideon’s ability to defeat the fleeing Midianite army and capture the two kings. If Succoth helped Gideon and Gideon failed, then the Midianites would visit Succoth and retaliate. The men of Succoth didn’t think feeding a hungry brother was an opportunity to show love but was a risk they didn’t want to take, and they were rather impudent in the way they spoke to Gideon. Since Gideon received the same response from the men at Peniel (Penuel), he warned both cities that he would return and discipline them.
God gave Gideon and his men victory over the fleeing Midianite hosts and enabled him to capture the two enemy kings. Triumphantly he retraced his steps and kept his promise to the men of Succoth and Peniel. Providentially, he found a young man who was able to give him the names of the seventy-seven leaders in Succoth who had refused to help him and his army. He showed them the two kings whom the elders had said Gideon would never capture, and then he chastised them, apparently by beating them with thorny branches. He then went to Peniel and wrecked their tower, killing the men who had opposed him. Why didn’t Gideon show to the people of Succoth and Peniel the same kindness that he showed to the Ephraimites and simply forgive them their offenses? For one thing, their offenses were not alike. The pride of Ephraim was nothing compared to the rebellion of Succoth and Peniel. Ephraim was protecting their tribal pride, a sin but not a costly one; but Succoth and Peniel were rebelling against God’s chosen leader and assisting the enemy at the same time. Theirs was the sin of hardness of heart toward their brethren and treason against the God of heaven. Of what good was it for Gideon and his men to risk their lives to deliver Israel if they had traitors right in their own nation? Leaders must have discernment or they will make wrong decisions as they deal with different situations. Personal insults are 1 thing, but rebellion against the Lord and His people is quite something else
3. A solemn question for his enemies (Jdg. 8:18–21) When Gideon arrived back home at Ophrah, leading Zebah and Zalmunna captive, the procession must have been as exciting as a ticker-tape parade. Gideon was a true hero. With only 300 men, he had routed the enemy camp and then pursued the fleeing soldiers across the Jordan and as far south as Karkor. He had brought his royal prisoners back, plus whatever spoils the men had gathered along the way.
Gideon had a personal matter to settle with these two kings because they had been guilty of killing his brothers at Tabor. The text doesn’t tell us when this wicked act took place, but it must have occurred during one of the previous annual Midianite raids. How Gideon’s brothers became involved and why they were killed isn’t explained to us, but the suggestion is that the act was a unconscionable one. According to Mosaic Law, the family was to avenge crimes like this by killing those responsible for the murder. There was no police system in the land, and each family was expected to track down and punish those who had murdered their relatives, provided the culprit was guilty (see Num. 35:9–34). In the case of Zebah and Zalmunna, the culprits were not only murderers but also enemies of Israel. The two kings were shrewd in the way they answered Gideon, flattering him by comparing him and his brothers to princes. Someone has said that flattery is a good thing to taste but a bad thing to swallow, and Gideon didn’t swallow it! How could he spare these two evil men who had taken food from the mouths of Jewish women and children and had brutally killed Jewish men? In those days, how a soldier died was important to his reputation. Abimelech didn’t want to die at the hand of a woman (9:53–54), and King Saul didn’t want to fall into the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:1–6). For a child to kill a king would be the ultimate in humiliation thus Gideon told his young son Jether to execute the two criminals. By doing so, Jether would not only uphold the law of the land and humiliate the two kings, but he would also bring honor to himself. For the rest of his life, he would be known as the boy who executed Zebah and Zalmunna. But the lad wasn’t ready for either the responsibility or the honor. Even when people are guilty, enforcing justice in the land is a serious thing and must not be put into the hands of children. Because of his fear, Jether hesitated in avenging the murders of his uncles; so the two kings told Gideon to do it. There seems to be a bit of sarcasm in their words, which may be paraphrased, “You kill us, Gideon. Let’s see what kind of a man you are—or are you also just a child?” Zebah and Zalmunna didn’t want the inexperienced Jether to execute them because he would have muddled the whole thing and made their deaths much more painful. The kings deliberately aroused Gideon’s anger, knowing that he was a good swordsman and would dispatch them quickly, and that’s exactly what he did.
4. A puzzling reply for his friends (Jdg. 8:22–32) The narrative focuses on two requests, one from the people to Gideon and the other from Gideon to the people. The people request a king (vv. 22–23, 29–32). So popular was Gideon that the people asked him to set up a dynasty, something altogether new for the nation of Israel. This was one way they could reward Gideon for what he had done for them. But it was also somewhat of a guarantee that there would be a measure of unity among the tribes as well as the kind of leadership that would mobilize them against possible future invaders. Their request was a confession of unbelief; for as Gideon reminded them, God was their king. Gideon rejected their generous offer purely on theological grounds: He would not take the place of Jehovah God. Every Jew should have known that the mercy seat in the tabernacle was the throne of God from which He ruled in the midst of His people. “You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth” (Ps. 80:1). “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; He sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake” (99:1). To set up a rival throne would be to dethrone the Lord. Moses warned that Israel would one day want a king like the other nations and forget that they were a unique nation, unlike the Gentiles (Deut. 4:5–8; 14:2; 17:14–20; Ex. 19:4–5). What other nation had the Creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, as their King? What Gideon said was commendable, but what he did later on was very puzzling. After rejecting the throne, he lived like a king! Judges 8:29–32 describes the lifestyle of a monarch, not that of a judge or a retired army officer. Gideon was quite wealthy, partly from the spoils of battle and partly from the gifts of the people; and he had many wives and at least one concubine. His wives bore him seventy sons, his concubine bore him one. In fact, he named the son of the concubine Abimelech, which means “my father is a king”; and this son later tried to live up to his name and become ruler over all the land. Gideon also seems to have assumed priestly duties, for he made his own ephod and probably consulted it on behalf of the people.Nobody would deny that this courageous soldier-judge deserved honor and rewards, but his “retirement plan” seemed a bit extravagant. Gideon requests gold (vv. 24–28). The people were only too eager to share their spoils with Gideon. After all, he had brought peace to the land (v. 28) and had refused to become their king. Therefore, it was only right that he receive something for his labors. The Midianites wore gold crescents, either on the ear or the nose (Gen. 24:47), and the Israelite soldiers would have quickly taken these valuable items as they gathered the spoils. Gideon ended up with over forty pounds of gold, plus the wealth he took from Zebah and Zalmunna. No wonder he was able to live like a king! But at this point the man of faith led the people into idolatry; for Gideon made an ephod, and the people “played the harlot” with it (v. 27). This meant that they stopped giving their true devotion to the Lord and used the ephod for an idol. In Scripture, idolatry is looked upon as prostitution (Isa. 50:1–3; 54:6–8; Jer. 2:1–3; 3:1ff; Hosea 2; James 4:4; Rev. 2:4). Gideon may have made the ephod as a representation of Jehovah, to “help the people” in their worship, but a good motive can never compensate for a bad action. He knew it was wrong to make an idol (Ex. 20:4–6). Whether this ephod was an embellished version of the garment used by the high priest (28:6), or some kind of standing idol (see Jdg. 17:5; 18:14, 17), we can’t tell; but it was used in worship and became a snare to Gideon and the people (Ps. 106:36). Perhaps Gideon used it to determine the will of God and help the people with their problems. If the ephod was indeed a copy of the high priest’s garment, then Gideon was definitely out of God’s will in duplicating it and using it, because Gideon wasn’t a priest. If it was a standing idol, Gideon was disobeying God’s Law (Ex. 20:4–6) and corrupting the people as well, It was just a short step from worshiping the ephod to worshiping Baal (Jdg. 8:33).Gideon missed a great opportunity to bring reformation and perhaps revival to the land. He had torn down his father’s idols, but there were many households in Israel that were still devoted to Baal, and those idols needed to be destroyed as well. The great victory over Midian gave Gideon good reason to call the nation back to the Lord and obedience to His Law. But instead of using the occasion for God’s glory, he used it for his own profit; and the nation eventually lapsed into sin once again.With his vast wealth and his great national reputation, Gideon probably thought that his children were well provided for, but just the opposite proved true. Sixty-nine of his seventy sons were killed by their half-brother who himself was slain by a woman dropping a stone on his head. There is no security apart from the will of God. Had Gideon practiced Matthew 6:33, subsequent events might have been radically different. What caused Gideon’s spiritual decline? I think it was pride. Before the battle against Midian, Gideon humbly depended on the Lord. During the “mopping up” operations, however, he became authoritative and even vindictive. When he refused the kingship, he sounded pious (“the Lord shall rule over you”), but I have a suspicion that he had a hidden agenda in his heart. You don’t find Gideon honoring the Lord or calling the people together to make a new covenant to obey the Lord. Gideon started out as a servant, but now he was an important celebrity. The result was decline for him, his family, and his nation.It’s interesting and instructive to contrast Abraham and Gideon in the decisions they made after their respective victories (Gen. 14). Abraham took nothing for himself but made sure that others received their share of the spoils (Gen. 14:22–24). He especially refused to take anything from the heathen king of Sodom (Gen. 14:17, 21). Instead, Abraham fellowshipped with Melchizedek, King of Salem, a type of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 7–8); and in all that he said and did, Abraham gave glory to the Lord of heaven and earth. Andrew Bonar was right: “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.” After all, there may still be some land mines scattered around!
Nelson - 6:1–8, 32 The fifth judge was Gideon, who twice fought the Midianites, first under God’s instructions and later on his own initiative. Gideon’s story is the second major account in the Book of Judges. In this narrative—along with the subsequent tragedy of Abimelech that follows in ch. 9—we can see, in ways not evident previously, the continuing deterioration of Israel’s spiritual state. First, God now rebuked Israel when it called upon Him (6:7–10). Second, the judge himself contributed to the spiritual decline (8:24–27). Third, Israel’s tribes fought among themselves for the first time (8:16, 17; 9:23–54), prior to an even worse dissension later (12:1–6; 20:1–48). Despite God’s continued intervention and Gideon’s flashes of righteousness, Israel eroded spiritually and politically. 6:1 Midian was located in the Arabian peninsula, southeast of Israel and east of the Sinai peninsula. The Midianites were descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah (Gen. 25:1, 2), so they were distantly related to the Israelites. Midianites bought Joseph from his brothers (Gen. 37:25–36), welcomed Moses in the wilderness (Ex. 2:15–21), and hired Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22:7). Generally speaking, Israel counted Midian among its foes. In this account, the Midianites were menacing Israel, burning, looting, and leaving many near starvation (6:4, 5). 6:2 the dens, the caves: Caves were not used for permanent dwellings in Old Testament times. That the Israelites were forced to abandon their homes and live in caves indicates the desperate straits they were in. 6:3 The Amalekites were a nomadic people who lived in the Sinai desert and the Negev, the desert south of Israel. They were descendants of Esau (Gen. 36:12) and here joined the Midianites against Israel. People of the East were unspecified nomads who also plundered Israel. These easterners are also mentioned in several prophetic contexts (Is. 11:14; Jer. 49:28; Ezek. 25:4). 6:5 as numerous as locusts: Locust plagues were—and still are—a fairly common occurrence in the Middle East. In the prophet Joel’s day, such an attack would be prophesied as a punishment upon the land (Joel 1:4, 15–17; 2:1–11). 6:8 the Lord sent a prophet: Rather than sending a deliverer, God sent a prophet to condemn His people. This prophet reminded the Israelites of God’s faithfulness, and how the people had nevertheless rejected Him (vv. 8–10). 6:11–40 Gideon’s call is the centerpiece of ch. 6. It begins with the appearance of the Angel of the Lord to Gideon (vv. 11–24), followed by an account of Gideon’s destruction of an altar of Baal (vv. 25–35), after which we see Gideon’s wavering faith (vv. 36–40). Through it all, Gideon was ambivalent about being called to deliver Israel, much as Moses had been years earlier. 6:11 The Palestinian terebinth tree is a large tree with a thick trunk and heavy branches, sometimes confused with the oak. It can grow as high as 25 feet. The terebinth figures in the stories of Abraham, who pitched his tent near the terebinth trees of Mamre (Gen. 13:18; 18:1), and of Jacob, who hid a treasure beneath a terebinth tree (Gen. 35:4). The exact location of Ophrah is unknown, but it was a city somewhere in the territory of Manasseh. It is not the same as the Benjamite city of the same name (Josh. 18:23; 1 Sam. 13:17). Abiezrite: See v. 24. A winepress was a square or circular pit carved into rock in which grapes were crushed (Is. 16:10; Jer. 48:33). Wheat was usually separated on open threshing floors so the wind could carry away the chaff in the winnowing process (2 Sam. 24:18). The fact that Gideon was forced to thresh wheat hidden inside a winepress—despite the fact that he had access to a threshing floor (v. 37)—shows again the desperate state the Israelites were in. 6:13 My lord was a polite form of address, but the Lord is the personal name of God (Yahweh), the full meaning of which was revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 3:13–16). The Hebrew word for miracles means “wonderful things,” and it is translated elsewhere as wonders (Ex. 3:20; Josh. 3:5). 6:15 I am the least in my father’s house: Gideon’s objection is reminiscent of the words spoken by Moses (Ex. 3:11) and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:6). Clan (Heb. ˒eleph) (6:15, 1 Sam. 10:19) Strong’s #504: The word ˒elep has several distinct meanings in Hebrew. It may represent the number one thousand (Num. 35:4, 1 Chr. 18:4), or it may be rendered tribe or clan (6:15, 1 Sam. 10:19). Occasionally it designates a “region” or “district” (1 Sam. 23:23). This ambiguity has led to differing opinions over the number of people involved in certain Old Testament events, whether they involved literally “thousands” or simply “units” composed of an unspecified number of people (see Num. 1; Josh. 7:3–5). 6:16 I will be with you was God’s great promise of His presence that He had given to Moses and Joshua previously (Ex. 3:12; Josh. 1:5, 9). This should have greatly encouraged Gideon, but he still expressed doubts (vv. 17, 36–40). Often we are quick to judge those who doubt God even when they have firsthand evidence of His mighty works. But we all fail to trust God fully at times. God accomplished His will despite Gideon’s weakness, and He can do the same through us. 6:17 Gideon’s faith needed such bolstering that he asked God for a sign. Here as elsewhere, Gideon was slow to respond to God (vv. 39, 40). 6:19 An ephah of flour was two-thirds of a bushel, or about 20 pounds of flour. 6:22 Gideon perceived: When the Angel of the Lord vanished, then Gideon realized who it was and feared for his life. This reaction of fear appears to have been rooted in the knowledge that anyone who gazed upon God would die. In Ex. 33:20, God, speaking to Moses, says, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” The context of Ex. 33:18–23 suggests that it was the fullness of God’s glory that Moses could not see, since Moses did speak with God and know Him “face to face” (Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Deut. 34:10), and he even beheld the form of God Himself (Num. 12:8). Yet Gideon’s fear was a proper response for those who found themselves in the presence of God’s Angel. This was also Manoah’s reaction when the Angel visited him (13:21, 22). 6:24 To this day: This expression, especially common in the books of Joshua and Judges (1:21, 26; 15:19; Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 7:26), lends authenticity to the account. It is the author’s way of declaring to later generations that they could verify the story by going and seeing this altar themselves. Abiezrites were descendants of Joseph through his son Manasseh. They were part of the tribe of Manasseh that settled west of the Jordan River (Num. 26:30 (Jeezer); Josh. 17:1, 2). 6:25–35 Gideon’s first test was to topple the local shrines to Baal and Asherah, replacing them with an altar to the Lord. Gideon obeyed, but his fearfulness caused him to do this by night (v. 27). His forthcoming military tests are foreshadowed in the text (vv. 33–35). The battle he would lead would take place in the central highlands of northern Israel (Ophrah, Gideon’s hometown, was in the Jezreel Valley, southwest of the Sea of Galilee). 6:25 The Hebrew word for wooden image here is Asherah, the name of the Canaanite goddess. Sacred wooden poles were erected at places where she was worshiped. The widespread worship of this goddess is attested to in 3:7 and elsewhere (1 Kin. 15:13; 18:19). The second bull is not a second animal, but a phrase by which the Lord was specifying more clearly to Gideon which bull should be sacrificed. The need to specify the bull underscores Gideon’s continued reluctance (v. 17). 6:26 The wood of the image means literally “the wood of the Asherah” (vv. 28, 30). The proper sacrifice that Gideon was to offer would be burnt with the wood of the destroyed idol. 6:28 The phrase early in the morning occurs in Judges at 6:28, 38; 7:1; 9:33; 19:5, 8, 9; 21:4. 6:31 Would you plead for Baal: Joash’s questions are rhetorical. He refused to put his son to death, arguing that Baal should be able to take care of himself if he were indeed a god. Other examples of rhetorical questions in the Book of Judges are found at 9:2, 28; 11:25; 18:3; 20:28. 6:32 Gideon’s father called him Jerubbaal to deride those who would put their trust in Baal. The name means “Let Baal Plead,” and it echoes the question of v. 31. Thus Gideon became a living reminder of Baal’s impotence. 6:35 Gideon sent messengers through the territories of four northern tribes adjacent to each other: Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.6:36–40 Before the fight itself, Gideon asked for signs to “test” God’s guidance once more. 6:39 Let me test: The word translated test is the same one used when God tested Israel (2:22; 3:1). Gideon’s desire to test God’s sign could have been a violation of the law which prohibited people from testing God (Deut. 6:16; the Hebrew word translated tempt is the same word translated test here). Gideon himself was aware that he was doing something unwise, if not sinful, since he asked God not to be angry with him. 6:40 Despite Gideon’s lack of faith, God did so that night. That is, He accommodated both of his requests. Many people have relied on Gideon’s example as a way seeking guidance from the Lord, “putting out a fleece” in some way. Occasionally God has chosen to answer such requests, even as He did for Gideon. Nevertheless, Gideon already knew God’s will for his life (vv. 14–16, 36). His requests only made evident his weak faith. Isaiah modeled a proper response to God’s clearly revealed will: he said “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8). So too did the disciples, who dropped their nets immediately and followed Jesus (Mark 1:18–20). 7:1–8:3 God figures prominently in Gideon’s victory over the Midianites, especially in the amazing story of the 300 men who would subdue their numerically superior foes. The reassurances from God that Gideon had received before the encounter were now reinforced by a dream (7:9–15). The battle itself did not involve any significant combat, for God Himself provided the victory (7:16–25). The Israelites blew horns, broke jars, and shouted, causing the enemy to kill each other in their confusion. The survivors fled across the Jordan with the Israelites in pursuit. 7:2 lest Israel claim glory for itself: Right from the beginning, God made it clear that the glory for this victory was to be His. This makes even more incredible the Israelites’ request that Gideon rule over them because he had “delivered us from the hand of Midian” (8:22, 23). 7:3 When Gideon allowed those who were fearful to leave, more than two-thirds departed, leaving only ten thousand. Mosaic law allowed military exemptions for several classes of people, including those who had just built a home, those who had just planted a vineyard, those engaged to be married, and those who were fearful (Deut. 20:5–8). 7:4, 5 Gideon thinned his army even more by employing a strange distinction, namely, how his men drank water from a brook. Some commentators have suggested that the men who did not get down on their knees were maintaining a higher degree of military readiness by drinking out of their hands. However, they may be reading too much into the account, for the text does not indicate any reason for Gideon’s preference. The reference to the way a dog laps might even be derogatory since dogs were despised creatures in the ancient world (1 Sam. 17:43; 2 Kin. 8:13; Matt. 7:6). If so, God’s role in the victory becomes even more apparent, since the three hundred who were left were the ones who did not even have the common sense to drink in a normal fashion. God’s comment in v. 7 seems to reinforce this suggestion. Gideon’s Campaign With a force of three hundred Israelites Gideon attacked the Midianites and Amalekites near Mount Moreh. While in pursuit, he requested aid for his forces from Succoth and Penuel, but was denied. Nevertheless, Gideon’s army was able to capture the remaining Midianite kings in Karkor. 7:10 Ironically, Gideon himself was afraid, but he had not been dismissed to go home as had the other men (v. 3). 7:12 This verse notes again the strength of Israel’s enemies, including their intimidating numbers and their innumerable camels (6:3–5). 7:13 Tumbled in this context literally means “overturned.” The word is also used in Genesis to describe the sword “which turned every way” at the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:25, 29). Here, the loaf “overturned” the Midianite camp.7:14, 15 The sword of Gideon is the key to the interpretation of the dream. Coming from the mouth of one of Israel’s enemies, it provided the confirmation that Gideon needed, in light of his earlier fear (v. 10). As a result, he worshiped God for being so patient with his wavering faith (v. 15).7:16 The ram’s-horn trumpet was used as a signal call. See 3:27 and Josh. 6:5.7:19 middle watch: According to Jewish tradition the nighttime hours were divided into three watches, which would put the time of this attack at roughly 10:00 p.m. 7:20 The sword of the Lord and of Gideon: Here the full version of the war cry is given. A more literal rendering of the Hebrew is “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 7:23 The same tribes mentioned in 6:35 now pursued the Midianites, with the exception of Zebulun, which is not mentioned. Ephraim also joined in the pursuit (v. 24).7:24, 25 The watering places probably refer to small tributaries that flowed into the Jordan River. Seizing them would seal off the enemy’s escape routes. The other side of the Jordan is the east side of the Jordan, where the Israelites caught the enemy (Josh. 13:32; 18:7).8:1–3 The men of Ephraim complained to Gideon that they had been called out late (v. 1). Gideon’s flattering response had a calming effect on these men.8:4–28 Gideon followed up the victory with a second military campaign, one which contrasts dramatically with the first. He pursued the two Midianite kings until he caught and killed them, and he punished the towns of Succoth and Penuel. In this account, there is no indication of God’s involvement as there had been previously; rather, Gideon is merely settling a private score (vv. 18, 19). 8:5 Succoth was east of the Jordan, near the Jabbok River. Zebah and Zalmunna are unflattering names meaning “Victim” and “Protection Refused.” They may be wordplays on the real names of these kings, much like the name CushanRishathaim (3:8). Yet the author of Judges may have had more sympathy for these two kings than for Cushan-Rishathaim, since Gideon is cast in a poor light in this chapter.
8:11, 12 Gideon’s aggression contrasts sharply with the caution and fear so evident in ch. 6.
8:14 he wrote down for him the leaders: Literacy in early civilizations was at first limited to an educated elite, as in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Their writing systems were complex and only a tiny portion of the population could read and write. However, the spread of alphabetic systems vastly simplified the task of reading and writing. Hundreds of potsherds from throughout Palestine have simple inscriptions on them, indicating that some degree of literacy had become widely accessible by Gideon’s day. Even a youth whom Gideon happened upon wrote down for Gideon the names of 77 men.8:18 The killings to which Gideon refers do not appear anywhere else in the text. The answer from the two kings was flattering: As you are, so were they; they compared Gideon to the son of a king. Gideon, despite his refusal of a kingship, was not immune to the vanity that royalty encouraged. By naming one of his sons Abimelech, which means “My Father Is King” (v. 31), he may have succumbed to the temptation of exalting himself as a king over Israel.8:21 As a man is, so is his strength was a challenge to Gideon’s manhood, and Gideon responded by killing the two kings himself. Crescent ornaments have been found at many sites in Palestine, but they are mentioned again only one other time in the Bible (Is. 3:18).
8:22 Immediately following his execution of the two kings, Gideon’s men asked him to rule over them. This request, while understandable from a human perspective (v. 18), failed to acknowledge that it was God, not Gideon, who had delivered His people. 8:23 Gideon’s answer was theologically correct: the Lord shall rule over you. The word order of the Hebrew makes it clear that God’s claim was exclusive; it might be paraphrased, “It is the Lord, and no one else, who shall rule over you.” This statement is widely assumed to indicate that God intended that Israel should never have a king, but that He would be their only King. However, God had promised Abraham and his descendants that they would count kings among their descendants (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; 49:10). When the people of Israel asked Gideon to rule because of his military success, Gideon could only refuse, since their motivation was flawed and shortsighted. A king’s true role was to lead people to God; he would leave the issues of warfare to God. This was the critical mistake of the people when they asked for a king in Samuel’s day: they asked for a king to “judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:20). They wanted a king to do what the judges had done: lead them in battles. Yet the period of the judges was one of failure. 8:24–27 Despite Gideon’s theologically correct answer in v. 23, these verses show that he was not careful to lead Israel in true worship of the Lord. By making the ephod, he encouraged idolatry. The total weight of the offerings brought for making the ephod—one thousand seven hundred shekels—was impressive. Assuming the unit of weight here to be the shekel (it is not specified in the Hebrew text), the total weight was more than 42 pounds of gold (a shekel was about two-fifths of an ounce). The original ephod was an ornate ceremonial garment worn by the high priest (Ex. 28; 39). Some scholars believe that the ephod made by Gideon resembled an idol, but there is no clear indication here that this was the case. By placing the ephod in his own city, Gideon might have been “playing” at being judge. Perhaps tellingly, nowhere are we told that he “judged” Israel, whereas we read this of several of the other judges. After Gideon another man also made an ephod, with equally dismal results (17:5). It became a snare recalls the narrator’s introductory comment in 2:3. 8:29–32 This transitional section tells of Gideon’s death, but also introduces Gideon’s fateful legacy: his son Abimelech, whose violent story is told in ch. 9. 8:31 Although Gideon had seventy sons (v. 30), only Abimelech is mentioned by name. The name means “My Father Is King.” Some scholars argue that Gideon did, in fact, become king, at least in practice if not in name, for he gave his son a royal name and acted as the people’s leader (vv. 24–27).8:33 Baal-Berith means “Baal of the Covenant,” an ironic contrast to the covenant God of Israel whom the Israelites should have been worshiping. This god is also called “El-Berith” (9:46).
Open Bib – 6:1–8:35 See map “Israel’s Judges.”6:1–3 Midian: Located southeast on the Arabian peninsula. Their use of camels (7:12; 8:21) suggests they were a nomadic people. The Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern tribes allied themselves against Israel (see v. 33). 6:4 The attacks extended across all of southern Palestine as far as Gaza on the coast.6:11 winepress: A large vat for crushing grapes, located not on a hilltop like a threshing floor, but in a valley. Gideon was threshing in small quantities in an inconspicuous place, hoping to finish quickly and avoid detection by marauding bands.6:12–14 The Angel of the Lord: See note on Ex. 23:20, 21. mighty man of valor: In view of Gideon’s situation and his slowness to act, this is more a word of anticipation than a statement of fact. See chart “The Angel of the Lord.”6:15 The choice of one who appears to be the least is a pattern throughout the OT (see 1 Sam. 16:10, 11). 6:25 The shrine of Baal in this Israelite town belonged to Gideon’s own family. The Baal and Asherah were the male and female images of the fertility cult. The bull was a common fertility symbol.6:26 proper arrangement: A mound of earth or unhewn stones (see Ex. 20:24–26).6:30 The people’s reaction is an indication of how completely Baalism had saturated this Israelite society. 6:31 An adroit response. Let Baal take care of himself, if he is real, by striking dead the one who profaned his shrine. A son’s faith can encourage his father to be faithful.6:35 These were the northern territories.6:39 test: God does not object to being tested by one who intends to obey. But those who test Him to reinforce their doubt earn His anger (Ps. 95:8–11).7:1 Harod: Toward the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley.7:4–7 Apparently the ones who remained in an upright position and lapped water from the palm of their hand showed correct military alertness. The others put down their weapons and bent carelessly on hands and knees.7:9–15 If we are obeying even though afraid (v. 10), God gives further assurance. hands shall be strengthened: You will be encouraged (v. 11).7:19–22 The beginning of the middle watch would be 10:00 p.m. The first watch began at 6:00 p.m. The time of changing the watch in the Midianite camp would be a vulnerable moment. The trumpets’ blast, the loud clatter of breaking jars, and the blinding light caused such panic that the Midianites began swinging swords at each other.