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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Judges 6

Verse 1

CHAP. VI.

The Israelites are oppressed seven years by the Midianites: Gideon is raised up by the Lord for their deliverance. The miracle of the fleece of wool.

Before Christ 1267.

Judges 6:1. The hand of Midian See ch. Jdg 7:24-25 Judges 8:4. The Midianites were the ancient enemy of the Israelites; they joined with the Moabites to seduce them to idolatry, and were almost extirpated by them. See Numbers 31:0. But having now recruited themselves, and re-peopled their country, they were, no doubt, well disposed to take a sharp revenge of the Israelites, being joined for that purpose with some other people, Judges 6:3.

Verse 3

Judges 6:3. Children of the east Children of Kedem, i.e. Ishmaelites. Hiller. Onomastic, p. 534.

Verse 8

Judges 6:8. The Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel It is probable, that God, at this time, continued other prophets among the Israelites beside the high-priest to put them in mind of their duty, and to call them to repentance when they forsook him. We see an illustrious prophetess in the person of Deborah; which shews, that upon special occasions, at least, God raised up such persons among them.

Verse 11

Judges 6:11. There came an angel of the Lord, &c.— It is very evident from the context, that this Angel of the Lord was the same great Messenger of the Covenant, the JEHOVAH, of whose appearance we have so often spoken. See Judges 6:14, Judges 6:16, Judges 6:22, Judges 6:23, &c. Ophrah was a city of the half-tribe of Manasseh. Gideon's threshing corn gives us an idea of those old Romans who were called from the plough to the dictatorship, Dr. Shaw, speaking of the modern Arabs, says, "It is here no disgrace for persons of the highest character to busy themselves in what we should call menial employments. The greatest prince (like Gideon and Araunah of old) assists in the most laborious actions of husbandry; neither is he ashamed to fetch a lamb from his herd and kill it, whilst the princess his wife is impatient till she has prepared her fire and her kettle to seethe and dress it. In this manner we find Achilles and Patroclus employed, Hom. Iliad. xi. 205, &c.

"Achilles at the genial feast presides; The part transfixes, and with skill divides: Meanwhile Patroclus sweats the fire to raise." "POPE." See Travels, p. 237.

Verse 12

Judges 6:12. And said unto him, the Lord is with thee The Targum translates it, the word of the Lord is thy help; which shews, that the ancient Jews looked upon this Angel as the LORD himself, and this is confirmed by the Targum translation of the following verse; Is the SCHECHINAH of the Lord our help? whence, then, hath all this happened unto us? a paraphrase, which shews that they took the word of the Lord to be the same with the Schechinah of the Lord.

Verse 13

Judges 6:13. And Gideon said, &c.— There is rarely a faith so strong as to preserve and nourish hope under a lasting and powerful calamity. Great oppression and misery dazzle the eyes, and corrupt the memory, that it cannot call to mind what has been done in the like cases. It gave Gideon courage rather to expostulate with the angel, than to believe him, that the Lord would be with him: Oh my Lord, &c.

Verse 15

Judges 6:15. And I am the least in my father's house Thus God is often pleased to choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong. But the humility of those who know their own weakness, and confide in his strength, will never be any obstacle to their obtaining the victory over every enemy. Happy the man who, with Gideon, confesses himself least in his own sight! he shall be blessed with that encouraging promise of the Lord, surely I will be with thee, Judges 6:16. We need not point out the similarity of circumstances between the conduct of Gideon and that of Abraham on the like occasion. Genesis 18:0.

Verse 19

Judges 6:19. And Gideon—made ready, &c.— All roasted meat is a delicacy among the Arabs, and rarely eaten by them. Stewed meat likewise is only to be met with at their feasts and great tables, and is consequently a delicacy also; the common diet being only boiled meat, with rice, potage, and pilaw, stewed meat with the soup, &c. This soup, or something very much like it, we may believe was the broth which Gideon presented to the angel, whom he took for a mere mortal messenger of God. It may have been wondered, why he should bring out his broth, from an opinion that it would have been better kept within, and given to the poor after the supposed prophet should be withdrawn; but these passages explain the fact. The broth, as our translators imagine it, was, I conclude, the stewed savoury meat that he had prepared, with such sort of liquor as the eastern people at this day bring their stewed meat in to the most dignified and honourable persons. What then is meant by the flesh put into the basket? Dr. Shaw seems entirely to have cleared up the matter in p. 12 of his preface, where he says, "Besides a bowl of milk, and a basket of figs, raisins, or dates, which upon our arrival were presented to us, to stay our appetites, the master of the tent fetched us from his flock, (according to the number of our company) a kid or a goat, a lamb or a sheep; half of which was immediately seethed by his wife, and served up with cuscasooe: the rest was made kab-ab; i.e. cut to pieces, and roasted; which we reserved for our breakfast or dinner next day." May we not imagine, that Gideon, presenting some slight refreshment to the supposed prophet, according to the present Arab mode, desired him to stay till he could provide something more substantial; that he immediately killed a kid, seethed part of it, made kab-ab of another part; and when it was ready, brought out the stewed meat in a pot, with unleavened cakes of bread which he had baked; and the kab-ab in a basket, for his carrying with him, to serve him for some after-repast in his journey? Nothing can be more conformable to the present Arab customs, or a more easy explanation of the text; nothing more convenient for the carriage of the reserved meat than a light basket; as Thevenot informs us, he carried his ready-dressed meat with him in a maund. What others may think of the passage, I know not; but till I met with these remarks I never could account for Gideon's bringing out the meat to the angel in a basket. With respect to his leaving the supposed prophet under a tree while he was buried, (instead of introducing him to some apartment of his habitation,) and bringing the repast out to him there, I would here observe, that not only Arabs who live in tents, and their dependents, but those also who live in houses, as did Gideon, practise it still. Dr. Pococke frequently observed it among the Maronites, and was so struck with their conformity to ancient custom, that he could not forbear taking particular notice of it; laymen of quality and ecclesiastics, the patriarch and bishops, as well as poor obscure priests, treating their guests in the same manner. Travels, vol. 2: p. 95, 96. 104. See Observations on Scripture, p. 178.

Verse 21

Judges 6:21. Then the angel—put forth the end of the staff, &c.— This divine person, appearing, most probably, in the form of a traveller, with a staff in his hand, just touched the cakes and the flesh, &c. with that staff, when immediately fire arose up out of the rock and consumed them: a miracle, no doubt, as great as if fire had come down from heaven, as on the sacrifices which Moses, Elijah, and others offered. Thus the faith of Gideon was confirmed; he had no doubt of the Divinity of the person who appeared, and he placed an absolute reliance on his promises. It is said at the close of this verse, that the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight; but it is evident from the subsequent verses, that Gideon still stood before, and conversed with him. We must therefore suppose, that, though no longer visible, the Lord made Gideon know that he was still present with him, by speaking in an audible voice. With respect to the next verse, see Genesis 16:13.

Verse 24

Judges 6:24. Gideon built an altar Upon the rock where this miracle happened. This altar was not for sacrifice, which would have been directly contrary to the law; but as a memorial of the vision with which God had favoured him, and of the miracle wherewith it was accompanied. And he called it Jehovah-shalom; i.e. the Lord sent peace. Until this day, signifies that it was remaining when this Book of the Judges was written; i.e. most likely, till the time of Samuel. See Thesaur. Philolog. tom. 1: p. 418.

REFLECTIONS.—While God is leaving the people to ruminate upon the message that he had sent them, he begins to interpose for their deliverance by the hand of Gideon. To him the angel of the everlasting covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in a human form, as he was threshing wheat by the wine-press, to hide it from the Midianites; for such was the distress to which they were reduced, that the very bread they ate must be secreted. Note; When our case appears most desperate, then is the time that God chooses to glorify his power in saving us. Let us take a view of what passed between the angel of the Lord and Gideon. 1. The angel accosts him with a very comfortable salutation, the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. Probably, in mournful meditation over Israel's griefs, and fervent ejaculations for speedy help, Gideon was lifting up his heart to God, and now he is answered; this unexpected visitant assures him of God's presence with him. Note; However blest we may be with natural gifts, unless God be with us we possess them in vain. Without him, the valiant are weak, and the mighty soon brought low.

2. Gideon, indulging his melancholy views of the hard oppression that his people now suffered, doubts the truth of the message, and seems to call in question the former miracles which were recorded; because, for a time, as the just punishment for their sins, God had left them under the power of Midian. Note; (1.) It is sometimes difficult to reconcile afflictive experiences with great and specious promises, and not to say, "If this be true, why am I thus?" (2.) We are not to question the truth of past miracles because they continue not still to be wrought.

3. The Lord answers his doubts, by giving him orders to accomplish the people's deliverance from the hand of Midian. With a look of complacence, and with a solemnity which added weight to his word, He, who can qualify him for the service, bids him go, and assures him of success. Jehovah speaks; let Gideon hear and believe. Note; (1.) It is the Lord's work alone to fit us for that which he commands. (2.) Nothing inspires the heart with such earnestness to contend against our spiritual enemies, as the assurance that we shall at last be more than conquerors.

4. Gideon is not provided either with men or money to support a war against Midian; his family reduced, and himself inconsiderable, he hesitates at the command, and, through distrust of God, or rather modest diffidence of himself, expresses his apprehension of his inability for such an undertaking. Note; (1.) Those who are little in their own eyes, God delights to exalt. (2.) When we find our own weakness, and spread it in prayer before God, then shall we, like Gideon, out of weakness be made strong.

5. God can give us no greater confirmation than his word of promise. Therefore, he repeats it, for Gideon's satisfaction, with a solemn asseveration, Surely, I will be with thee; and then his poverty, or his want of human help, shall be no bar to his complete victory over the host of Midian. Note; If God be for us, it is of no consequence who are against us; the day is ours.

6. As the commission was extraordinary, for his own and others' satisfaction, he asks a sign, as an assurance of the truth of what was said to him; and begs him to stay whilst he sent him some refreshment, and treated him as a messenger from God. The angel consents to stay; the plain repast is quickly provided, and Gideon returns with it from his father's house. Note; (1.) They who follow the comfort of communion with God, or fellowship with his saints, will contrive to prolong the visit. (2.) Christians must use hospitality, and break their bread with cheerfulness to the hungry. (3.) They who give but a cup of cold water, with regard to God, shall in no wise lose their reward.

7. Instead of spreading the table for repast, this divine stranger enjoins him to lay the meat on a rock near them, and pour the broth upon it. Gideon without hesitation obeys; when, lo! the sign he asked, appears: the angel, who seemed like a traveller, with his staff gently touched the provision as it lay, when instantly fire bursts forth, and consumes the offering; and thereupon Jehovah disappears, leaving Gideon the strongest evidence of the truth of what he had told him.
8. Gideon, though a man of valour, and though from every circumstance he might conclude the gracious design of all that he had seen and heard, trembles at the thought of having seen the angel of the Lord; and, as Jacob before, and Manoah after, fears that he shall die.
9. The Lord silences his fears by an audible voice: though he could not see him, he could hear him say, Thou shalt not die, fear not. Note; Though every message from the world of spirits justly makes man, as a sinner, to tremble; yet, when by faith our hearts have rested on God's promises, we have from thenceforth nothing to fear, but every thing to hope for.

Lastly, Gideon sets up an altar on this rock for a memorial, and calls it very properly, Jehovah-Shalom; for the Lord had spoken peace to him when he was troubled, had brought him a message of peace for his afflicted brethren, and would give him peace from all their enemies round about. Note; They who have God at peace with them are happy indeed, bound to erect the grateful altar, and offer him the sacrifices of never-ending praise.

Verse 29

Judges 6:29. They said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing There seems to be no doubt, from God's choice of him, that Gideon was no worshipper of Baal; and therefore the people, knowing this, very readily concluded that he had been guilty of this sacrilege as they deemed it, and consequently was worthy of death, Judges 6:30.

Verse 31

Judges 6:31. Joash said unto all that stood against him That is, against his son. There is something rational and noble in this apology which Joash makes; and it seems very likely, that the reason which he here uses had influenced his own mind; for it appears from Jdg 6:31 that he was an idolater, till convinced by this indignity which his son offered to Baal, that the latter was a wretched idol unable to help himself. Joash, in his indignation, observes, that so far from putting Gideon to death for dishonouring Baal, the man who should be so absurd as to plead for him, ought immediately himself to be put to death; since it was evident that he could be no god, by his not avenging his own cause. While it is yet morning, Houbigant renders, whoever shall defend his cause till the morning, let him die; which order the Syriac and Arabic follow.

REFLECTIONS.—To proceed in our review of this beautiful history.—Before God will advance Gideon as judge in Israel, he will put his piety as well as his courage to the test. Therefore,

1. The same night after he had appeared to him at the wine-press, he speaks to him in a vision on his bed, and commands him to overthrow the altar of Baal, which his father had erected, and at which the men of the city paid their devotions; to cut down the grove around it, or perhaps the image upon it; then build an altar on the rock where the Lord had caused the fire to break forth, and offer there his father's young bullock, designed for Baal, the second in the stall; or, and the second, another of seven years old, the two best of the herd; and this with the wood of the grove, or image, which he had cut down. Note; (1.) God often chooses unlikely instruments, as now in raising up an eminent reformer out of a house devoted to idolatry. (2.) When the blood of atonement is shed, there are comfortable hopes that the sin will be pardoned, and the affliction will end. (3.) Christ is both our rock and altar; those will be acceptable sacrifices which are offered through him. (4.) It is a wise improvement of the unrighteous mammon, when, like these monuments of idolatry, we can make it subservient to the work and service of God.

2. Gideon no sooner hears than he obeys. The same hour, probably, he arose; and, as the night best favoured his designs, and prevented interruption, before the morning, by the help of his faithful servants, whom he summoned to attend him, Baal's altar was laid in the dust, and God's new raised altar smoking with the grateful sacrifice. Note; (1.) In an idolatrous house, some are often found who bow not the knee to Baal, but, though in secret, cleave unto the Lord their God. (2.) He feared not his father's nor the people's displeasure: where the fear of God is, it swallows up every other concern. (3.) When we are called to God's work, it becomes us to make haste, and delay not. What thou doest, do quickly.

3. The morning soon disclosed the scene. The men of Baal, hasting to their devotions, are surprised to find their grove and altar ruined. Gideon soon bears the suspicion, from his known disaffection to their God: enraged even to madness, nothing will satisfy them but his blood. To this end, they call on Joash, his father, to deliver him into their hands. Note; (1.) They who will be zealous for God against men's sins, must still put their life in their hands. (2.) How early was Baal's altar visited? Shall not their false worship rise up in judgment against those who neither early nor late bow their knees before the true God?

4. Joash boldly refuses to comply with so cruel and unreasonable a request: Whether out of natural affection for his son, or, more probably, convinced of the evil of the abominable idolatry in which he had lived. He, therefore, justly rebukes them for pleading for Baal, in opposition to the Divine command; and, instead of giving up his son, justly threatens (for which he might plead the express law of God,) the person who should dare speak a word for this idol with instant death. He also contemptuously challenges Baal, if he were a god, to plead for himself; in order to convince the people, from Baal's impotence, of their folly as well as sin in trusting in him. Note; (1.) If we have been zealous in a bad cause, we should with greater zeal seek to amend what we have done amiss, by our open appearance for the truth. (2.) Nothing must prevail on us to give up the innocent, whoever combine to destroy them. (3.) Though it may be highly dangerous to reprove a wicked people, we must do our duty, and trust God with the event.

Verse 32

Judges 6:32. He called him Jerubbaal Houbigant renders this, and perhaps more nearly to the Hebrew, Nomen fecerunt ei Jerubbaal; On that day they gave him the name of Jerubbaal; for he supposes, that his countrymen, not his father, gave him that name; the meaning of which is expressed in the next words. The Phoenicians call him Jerombalus, as appears from Sanchoniathon; and Porphyry says, that he received certain commentaries from Jerombalus, the priest of the god Jevo, which can be nothing but the Book of Moses, as Bishop Huet has fully shewn in his Demonst. Evang. Prop. iv. c. 2.

Verse 34

Judges 6:34. The spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon Or, according to the Hebrew and the LXX, the spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon. He was replenished with courage and all other qualities necessary for a great commander.

Verse 36

Judges 6:36, &c. And Gideon said unto God, &c.— This request, no doubt, was made to God in prayer, and was rather for the confirmation of their faith who joined Gideon, than from any incredulity or doubt in himself. The first miracle was certainly striking; but, in order to obviate any objection drawn from the quality inherent in wool to imbibe moisture, Gideon humbly requests that the miracle may be reversed; and the wool being dry, notwithstanding the ground round about it was wetted by a copious dew, contrary to its known quality of imbibing moisture, was such a miracle as his confederates could not resist.

REFLECTIONS.—The harvest being ready for reaping, we have here, as during the preceding years,

1. An inroad made by the confederate hosts of Midian, Amalek, and the Arabians, who, confident of success, were come to collect the spoil. Thus emboldened by success, the sinner usually advances, till God, from the pinnacle of his felicity, hurls him down into the depths of misery.
2. God stirs up Gideon to oppose them; the spirit of the Lord came upon him, or clothed him; a spirit of unusual courage roused him with zeal to bestir himself. He blows the trumpet, invites all volunteers to his standard; and those who would have stoned him yesterday, are to-day the first to follow his orders. Of Manasseh chiefly he composed his army, though Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali also generously lent their assistance. Note; (1.) In a common cause, we should be ready to share the danger with our brethren. (2.) In the men of Abiezer, we see what changes God can work. Thus has Divine Grace, often at a stroke, changed persecutors into preachers, and the most abandoned into converts of truth and holiness. (3.) When God gives us a spirit of grace and courage, however strong our corruptions within, or spiritual enemies without, he will subdue them under our feet.

3. Gideon hereupon, for the confirmation of his own faith, or rather, perhaps, for the encouragement of those who were with him, asks of God a sign, to assure him of victory over the numerous hosts of the Midianites. God consents to it: Gideon lays the fleece on the floor, and on the morrow, according to his own proposal, the fleece is filled with water, and the ground dry around it. Note; It is a blessed token for good in a minister's labours, when his own soul, like Gideon's fleece, is replenished with the dew of divine grace.—Once more he presumes to ask, ashamed of his own boldness, and begging pardon for his request: let the sign be inverted; the fleece dry, the floor wet. God consents, and it is done; thus silencing every doubt of the certainty of his success.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/judges-6.html. 1801-1803.