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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Judges 6

 

 

Introduction

Judges 6-8. Gideon Delivers Israel from the Midianites.—The next war was waged, not against disciplined soldiers, but against a horde of nomads from the eastern desert. The Midianites are represented in the OT sometimes as peaceful shepherds (Exodus 2:15 f.*), sometimes as caravan traders (Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:36), and sometimes as Bedouin marauders. It was in the last of these rôles that they became a plague to the Israelites, especially to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The hero chosen to deliver the nation from them was the Manassite Gideon, who was impelled by various motives—patriotism, for he identified himself with his oppressed people (Judges 6:13); personal revenge, for some of his own brothers had been murdered by the raiders (Judges 8:19); and, above all, the consciousness of a Divine vocation and inspiration (Judges 6:14; Judges 6:34). The memory of his victory became a proudly cherished tradition, and centuries afterwards a reference to "the Day of Midian" still reminded Israel how "the yoke of his (Israel's) burden, and the staff of his shoulder, and the rod of his oppressor" had been broken (Isaiah 9:4; cf. Isaiah 10:26, Psalms 83:9). Time added picturesque details to the original story, and editors attempted, without complete success, to fuse the various elements into a literary whole.


Verses 1-6

Judges 6:1-6. The Depredations of the Midianites.—D, whose phrases occur in Judges 6:1 f., Judges 6:6, sees in the ebb and flow of Israel's fortune an index of their moral and spiritual condition. National suffering he regards as the punishment of national sin; the hand of Midian is in a sense the hand of God; yet, while he blames, he cannot help sympathising.

Judges 6:2. Dens, caves, and mountain fastnesses were the only refuges for peaceful citizens, fleeing in terror from hearth and home (cf. 1 Samuel 13:6, Hebrews 11:38). The invaders swarmed like locusts, which devour every green thing and turn a fertile, smiling country-side into a bare waste. The spoilers left no "sustenance" for man or beast in Israel. [Observe that the ass was at this time used for food in Israel, cf. 2 Kings 6:25. It is still eaten by the Arabs and Persians. It is forbidden in Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14.—A. S. P.]

Judges 6:5. "They came unto the land to destroy it," as the Huns in the fourth century overran France and Italy, and the Germans in the twentieth century devastated Belgium.


Verses 7-10

Judges 6:7-10. A second writer (probably E) introduces a prophet who reproves Israel for disloyalty and ingratitude to Yahweh their God. The brief speech is a torso. Reflective rather than prophetic, it opens impressively, but ends abruptly, like a sermon without application; and then one of the main traditions begins.


Verses 11-24

Judges 6:11. On the angel of Yahweh see Judges 2:1, Genesis 16:7*. For "oak" read "terebinth." While the primitive Semites were animists, the Israelites came to associate Yahweh's own presence with sacred trees (p. 100, Genesis 18:1).

Judges 6:12. With the assurance "Yahweh is with thee" cf. the faith grandly expressed in the name Immanuel, "God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14). On hearing the words "Yahweh is with thee," Gideon replies, "Oh, my lord, if Yahweh is with us" (used five times in Judges 6:13). He cannot detach himself from the community. He becomes heroic because he has a public soul.

Judges 6:14. "Looked upon him" is better than "turned towards him." Thus far Yahweh's angel is to Gideon a Traveller Unknown, though His glance is so searching. His tones so commanding. He has more faith in Gideon than Gideon in himself. "Go in this thy might" is an injunction to a hero to realise himself. He is to go in the strength of his manhood—with all his physical and moral force, native and acquired.

Judges 6:15. Gideon has that humility which is praiseworthy if it remembers, blameworthy if it forgets, the Great Companion. He keenly feels his insufficiency, till Yahweh, at once rebuking and reassuring him, promises, "Surely I will be with thee" (cf. Exodus 3:13, 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Judges 6:17-24. Gideon prepares a meal, which to his astonishment becomes a sacrifice. When the stranger touches the food with the tip of his staff, a supernatural fire leaps from the rock, and consumes the food. Realising at length that he has seen Yahweh's angel face to face, Gideon fears death (cf. Judges 13:22). [The rock may have had one or more cup-holes on the surface, into which the broth would be poured. Many examples have been discovered in Palestine of rocks in which cup-like holes had been carved, some of them of considerable size. They date back in many instances to the pre-Semitic cave-dwellers of the Neolithic period. An easily accessible account is given in Handcock's The Archaeology of the Holy Land.—A. S. P.]

Judges 6:21. The departure of Yahweh's angel is mentioned too soon, for he still speaks in Judges 6:23. The words have probably been misplaced from the end of Judges 6:23.


Verses 25-32

Judges 6:25-32. The Destruction of the Altar of Baal.—We have seen that after the Conquest Yahweh was reverently and innocently called the Baal (Lord) of the land, and that loyal Israelites gave their children Baal names. The present section, in which the Baal of Ophrah is distinguished from Yahweh, and regarded as a heathen god, must have been written after the time of Hosea, who was the first to condemn the practice of applying the name Baal to the God of Israel (Hosea 2:17). The point of the story is that Baal, who, if worth his salt, should be able to "plead for himself," is challenged to do so, and found to be impotent. Baal has fallen on evil days, when any daring spirit can laugh at him with impunity as Elijah mocked the Phœnician Baal (1 Kings 18:27).

Judges 6:32. It need not be said that originally the name Jerubbaal, given to a son by a father who worshipped Yahweh as Baal, had a different meaning from what is suggested here, being another form of Jeremiah, i.e. "Baal (or Yahweh) founds."


Verses 33-40

Judges 6:33-40. The Midianite Raid, and the Sign of the Fleece.—The broad and deep Vale of Jezreel, lying between Gilboa and Moreh, leads up from Jordan to the Great Plain.

Judges 6:34. Gideon now felt the Divine impulse—the spirit of Yahweh came upon him, lit "clothed itself with him," put him on like a garment, possessed him, inspired him. He then blew his trumpet to awaken others. It was his own Abiezer clansmen who answered his call, and they apparently became his famous three hundred.

Judges 6:36-40. The sign of the fleece is probably the record of a dream. Gideon had often seen the heavy dew fall on a summer night upon the hills of Manasseh, and his perceptions wove themselves into mysterious visions, in which he seemed to have power to bend the Divine will to his own. He thus became more than ever convinced that Yahweh designed to save Israel by his hand.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Judges 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/judges-6.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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