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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Judges 6

 

 

Verse 1

MIDIANITE OPPRESSION, Judges 6:1-10.

1. Israel did evil — Though, on account of their sins, the kings of Mesopotamia, Moab, and Hazor successively overran and oppressed the land, and though, after long years of servitude and sorrow, they repented and had deliverance from God, they profited not by their bitter experiences. Again and again they did evil, and thereby brought upon their own necks the yoke of other heathen powers.

The hand of Midian — The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah, (Genesis 25:2,) and dwelt in the country east and southeast of the Moabites and Ammonites. They were a nomadic people, and roamed over a vast tract of country. Among them Moses found a home when he fled from Pharaoh, and Horeb and a part of the Sinaitic peninsula seem to have been possessed by them. Exodus 2:15; Exodus 3:1. But when the Israelites approached the borders of Canaan, and had conquered Sihon and Og, the Midianites contiguous to the Moabites joined with the latter in seeking their overthrow. Numbers 22:4; Numbers 22:7. They were a wily people, and did much to injure Israel, (Numbers 25:8;) and one of the last acts of Moses was to make war with them and utterly defeat and spoil them. Numbers 31:1-12. Now after a lapse of two hundred years they had recovered strength, and God used them as the rod of his anger to scourge his guilty people.

Seven years — Though this oppression was not as long as previous ones, it was more severe.


Verse 2

2. The dens which are in the mountains — The recesses, fissures, and hollow places which had been worn by the water-courses in the mountain sides.

Caves — Such as abound all through the hill country of Palestine.

Strong holds — Mountain fastnesses not easily accessible to the foe. It seems that the Midianites cared not to exterminate the Israelites, but to occupy their rich pastures.


Verse 3

3. So it was — Constantly for the seven years. Judges 6:3-6 picture the ordinary state of the land during all this Midianite oppression.

The Amalekites — Also a nomadic race, who had dwindled into a band of robbers, and were ready to join with any stronger tribe in a predatory adventure. See on Judges 3:13, and compare Genesis 14:7; Exodus 17:8.

Children of the east — A general name applied indiscriminately to all the tribes that occupied the deserts east of Palestine. Compare Judges 8:10.

The east kedem — was a term naturally and appropriately given by the early Israelites to the vast range of desert country that lay before them toward the rising sun, as they gazed from the hills on the east of the Jordan.


Verse 4

4. Till thou come unto Gaza — Even to the southwestern quarter of the land. “As the enemy invaded the land with their camels and flocks, and on repeated occasions encamped in the Valley of Jezreel, (Judges 6:33,) they must have entered by the main road which connects the countries on the east with Palestine on the west, crossing the Jordan near Beisan, and passing through the Plain of Jezreel; and from this point they spread over Palestine to the seacoast of Gaza.” — Keil. Hence it was that the Manassites, to whom Gideon belonged, and whose lot on the west of the Jordan lay in the Plain of Jezreel, were special sufferers from these invasions.


Verse 5

5. As grasshoppers — Or locusts, a specimen of whose desolating and all-devouring march is depicted in Joel 1:4; Joel 2:1-11. They come in such numbers as to darken all the land, and speedily consume every green thing.


Verse 6

6. Israel was greatly impoverished — Driven from their pastures and robbed of their flocks, (Judges 6:4,) what else could be the result? The oppression of these children of the East may be inferred from the exacting habits of their modern Bedouin descendants, whose chiefs will extort tribute upon tribute from their own subjects until they become utterly impoverished and ruined.


Verse 8

8. The Lord sent a prophet — Before providing a deliverer God sends a messenger to reprove them for their sins, and impress them with the thought that all their woes were a punishment for idolatry. This is the only specific mention of a prophet in the history of the Judges. The special age of prophets was yet future.


Verse 10

10. Gods of the Amorites — The word Amorites is here, as in Genesis 15:16, and Joshua 24:15, put for the whole of the Canaanitish tribes. Their idol gods they were not to fear. “Perhaps in this case a special reason may be found for the use of Amorite, if the prophet was addressing those who dwelt in the mountains where the Amorites chiefly dwelt.” — Hervey.


Verse 11

CALL OF GIDEON, Judges 6:11-24.

11. There came an angel Judges 6:14; Judges 6:16; Judges 6:22-23, show that this Angel was the manifestation of Jehovah himself, the Angel of the Covenant, who so often appeared in human form to the worthies of the Old Testament, and thus partially anticipated the incarnation of a later age, the man Christ Jesus. The prophet (Judges 6:8) came to reprove the people and show them the cause of their woes; the Angel came to commission their deliverer.

Sat under an oak — Literally, the oak; a well-known tree hard by Gideon’s wine-press. The Angel took the form of a wayfaring man with a staff in his hand. Judges 6:21. Compare note on Judges 2:1.

Ophrah — A village in the tribe of Manasseh, belonging to the family of Abi-ezer, but famous only in connection with the history of Gideon. It lay, probably, among the hills on the east of the great Plain of Esdraelon, but its exact location is unknown.

Joash the Abi-ezrite — Abi-ezer was a descendant of Manasseh, (Joshua 17:2,) and his family, of whom Joash was probably now the head, was small in that tribe. Judges 6:15.

Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress — Knocked or beat out the wheat with a stick, in distinction from threshing by means of oxen or by instruments used on the large open threshing floors of the country.

To hide it from the Midianites — This was why he threshed by the winepress. “The summer threshing floors are in the open country, and on an elevated position, to catch the wind when winnowing the grain, and would be altogether unsafe at such a time; while the vineyards are hid away in the wadies, and out on the wooded hills, and thus adapted for concealment. I myself have seen grain thus concealed in this same country during the lawless days of civil war.” — Thomson.


Verse 12

12. The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour — These inspiring words were designed to be a source of comfort and strength to Gideon. He is called a mighty hero, not because he has already distinguished himself by great deeds of valour, but in reference to what he is yet to do, all which was known to this Angel.


Verse 14

14. The Lord looked upon him — This clearly shows that this Angel was the manifestation of Jehovah himself and this looking upon him was an impressive gaze which made him conscious of the Divine Presence, and imparted to him a divine power.

In this thy might — The might and strength which I herewith impart.

Have not I sent thee — Language of divine assurance. Compare marginal references.


Verse 15

15. My family is poor in Manasseh. — Literally, my thousand. For convenience in government Israel was divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25. A thousand in this technical sense might become greater or smaller in the course of time. Its numbers, like those of a regiment of an army, might become much diminished, and yet the old title of thousand remain. That thousand in Manasseh to which Gideon belonged had become feeble, though its exact numerical strength might not have been known.


Verse 16

16. As one man — As if all the Midianitish host was a single individual, and he were executed at a stroke.


Verse 17

17. Show me a sign — Give me some miraculous evidence that this is no illusion, and that Jehovah really speaks to me. Gideon’s several answers show a trembling heart and a wavering faith.


Verse 18

18. My present — The original word, minchah, “does not mean a sacrifice in the strict sense, nor merely a gift of food, but a sacrificial gift in the sense of a gift presented to God, on the acceptance of which he hoped to receive the sign which would show whether the person who had appeared to him was really God. This sacrificial gift consisted of such food as they were accustomed to set before a guest whom they wished especially to honour.” — Keil. The sign by which Gideon would judge of the character of his guest was probably, as Henry says, “if he ate of it as common meat he would suppose him to be a man, a prophet; if otherwise, as it proved, he should know him to be an angel.”


Verse 19

19. A kid… cakes — Compare the similar meal which Abraham prepared for his divine guests under the oak of Mamre. Genesis 18:5-8.

An ephah — A measure of about four and one half pecks.

Flesh he put in a basket… broth in a pot — “The Orientals do not, as we do, use broth in which meat has been boiled as a soup. But they do use stews, such as the pottage for which Esau sold his birthright, and such as the sons of the prophet were preparing when they put into it by mistake some poisonous herb. Thus, we apprehend, part of the kid was prepared, and this was the part brought out in the pot. While this was in preparation over the fire, the other part had been cut up into slips and roasted before the fire upon skewers, in which way meat is very rapidly dressed in the East into what is called kaboobs, which stand in the same place as chops and steaks with us, only that the pieces are very much smaller. This, we apprehend, was what was brought in the basket.” — Kitto.


Verse 20

20. Angel of God — This expression is used here instead of Angel of Jehovah, as in Judges 6:11. The reason for the change is not easy to explain. Cassel thinks it is because “the nature of the angel, as a divine being, here begins to declare itself,” and Elohim is used instead of Jehovah to indicate “how the angel in his individual appearance can contain in himself the power of God.”


Verse 21

21. The staff that was in his hand — Hitherto the Angel had appeared like a wayfaring man.

Fire out of the rock — Most startling and impressive miracle, showing beyond all possibility of doubt that this was indeed Jehovah’s Angel.

Departed out of his sight — Vanished. “The expression does not warrant the assumption that time Angel ascended to heaven in this instance, as in Judges 13:20, in time flame of the sacrifice.” — Keil.


Verse 22

22. Because I have seen an angel — The wavering faith that asked for a sign now trembles and despairs because a sign is given. Gideon was awed and astonished at his divine commission to save Israel. To strengthen his faith he asked a sign, and so overwhelming in majesty and power was the sign granted that he trembled before it, and, forgetful of his divine commission, he began to fear that he must die. This whole narrative shows up Gideon as a man of sudden and strong emotions, yet unaspiring and simple, and honest in his modesty. Prevalent and strong was the conviction among the ancients that no man could behold the face of Jehovah and live. Compare Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22.


Verse 23

23. The Lord said — After having vanished to convince Gideon of his divinity, the Angel returns again to assure his heart. The Angel probably appeared and spoke again just as he did at the beginning of their interview.


Verse 24

24. Jehovah-shalom — That is, Jehovah is peace. He erected this altar both in gratitude to God for his mercy in remembering Israel, and as a memorial and witness of the blessed peace which was in that spot granted unto him. That revelation to Gideon was a sign and pledge that God was about to remove the rod of his anger from Israel, and be again at peace with them. That altar, with its sacred associations, long remained, and when this book of Judges was written, it was yet in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites, still called by its old name. This altar must not be confounded with the one which Gideon was commanded to build on the top of the stronghold, (Judges 6:26,) in the place of the altar of Baal.


Verse 25

25. The same night — The same night on which he had seen the manifestation of the Lord. It was probably evening, perhaps after sunset, that Gideon threshed his wheat. For the darkness, no less than the seclusion of the winepress, (Judges 6:11,) would help to hide him from the Midianites. The interview with the Angel, and the building of the Jehovah-shalom altar, occupied the first part of the night; but after that miraculous scene it was not proper that Baal’s altar should see the rising of another sun. And, further, he feared to do it by day. Judges 6:27. All Gideon’s triumphs were partly owing to rapid and sudden onsets.

The Lord said — That is, the same covenant Angel who had manifested himself to Gideon that night. He doubtless gave this commandment to overthrow the altar of Baal before he left him under the oak.

Even the second bullock — Second in age among the bullocks that belonged to Joash. Gideon’s father had, probably, lost most of his cattle by the Midianite conquerors, (compare Judges 6:4,) so that it was easy to designate what he had left by giving to each particular epithets. The Hebrew indicates two bullocks. Literally, the ox-bullock, which belongs to thy father, and the second bullock. But as no mention is afterward made of the ox-bullock, many expositors understand that only one bullock is intended, and the second bullock is only an explanatory clause, as the English version makes it by translating ו, even. This explanation seems best to suit the context; though it is possible that two bullocks were offered, and that only the one seven years old receives particular notice.

Of seven years old — Its age covered exactly the period of Midianite oppression, (Judges 6:1,) and it would seem that for this reason its age is designated. The fact was a noticeable one.

The grove that is by it — Rather, the Asherah that is upon it; that is, the pillar or wooden statue of Asherah, the female divinity of the Canaanites, as Baal was the male divinity. See notes on Judges 2:13; Judges 3:7. This verse shows how sadly the family of Joash had fallen into idolatry, and yet his family was only one of many in Israel similarly fallen.


Verses 25-32

OVERTHROW OF THE ALTAR OF BAAL, Judges 6:25-32.

Having built the Jehovah-shalom altar on the rock where Jehovah had manifested himself to him, Gideon is next commissioned to tear down the Baal altar, which had too long dishonoured his native mountain height, and erect in its place another altar to Jehovah. We must not fall into the error of several commentators, of confounding this altar with the one just mentioned in Judges 6:24. It was built in another place, and largely for another purpose.


Verse 26

26. Upon the top of this rock — Rather, the top of this stronghold. The reference is to the fortified summit of the mountain or hill on which Ophrah stood, not the rock on which Gideon had already built his Jehovah-shalom altar.

In the ordered place — Rather, as in the margin, in an orderly manner; literally, with the arrangement; that is, with that order, arrangement, and disposition which becomes a thing so sacred as an altar to Jehovah. Some, without sufficient reason, understand the Hebrew word to refer to the materials of the overthrown altar of Baal, out of which the new altar was to be built; others to the pieces of wood at the Baal altar which were lying there in readiness for use in the idol sacrifices.

The wood of the grove — Rather, the wood of the Asherah; that is, of the wooden statue mentioned in the preceding verse.


Verse 27

27. He feared his father’s household — He knew their devotion to the Baal worship, and that they would regard the overthrow of Baal’s altar as most impious sacrilege.

He could not do it by day — He had reason to expect that he would be hindered from doing it if he attempted it by daylight. The angel did not command him to do it that same night; but, for the reason here given, he himself decided to set about it at once.


Verse 28

28. Behold… the second bullock was offered — Its carcass was not yet consumed, but was smoking and burning still, when the men of the city arose; for it was probably near morning when Gideon and his ten men finished their work.


Verse 29

29. They said, Gideon — Who said? The answer is uncertain. Perhaps some of the ten servants who assisted Gideon reported his deed, or else the men of the city may have suspected Gideon because of some well-known opposition of his to the prevalent idolatry.


Verse 30

30. That he may die — Such sacrilege, in their judgment, deserved immediate death.


Verse 31

31. Joash said — The father stands up bravely for his son. The son’s bold act seems to have inspired Joash with a kindred zeal, and, possibly, Gideon may have informed his father of his interview with the angel.

Whilst it is yet morning — Literally, until the morning. But עד, until, here has the force of while, during, as in Judges 3:26; and so the English version gives the true sense. Keil makes until the morning an independent clause, referring to the morning of the following day, and exclaims: “Let us wait until to-morrow, and give Baal time to avenge the insult which he has received!” But this thought is not conveyed by the words of the text.

If he be a god, let him plead for himself — Wise and all-sufficient argument. A poor god that, which in a case like this was unable to defend himself.


Verse 32

32. He called him Jerubbaal — The Baal-fighter. The subject or the verb called is indefinite — one called him, like the subject of cast down in the preceding verse. The idea is, that from that day Jerubbaal became Gideon’s common but honourable name. “When it became apparent to the people that Baal could not do him any harm, Jerubbaal became a Baal-fighter, one who had fought against Baal.” — Keil.


Verse 33

PREPARATIONS FOR WAR, Judges 6:33-35.

33. Pitched in the valley of Jezreel — For purposes of plunder and oppression, as is explained in Judges 6:3-6. This was a fresh invasion.


Verse 34

34. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon — Literally, clothed him; wrapped him round as with a garment, or a strong coat of mail, so as to make him secure against his foes. Compare the same expression in 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:20; Luke 24:49.

Blew a trumpet — The customary signal for calling troops together, or collecting an army. Comp. Judges 3:27.

Abi-ezer was gathered — That is the family or descendants of Abi-ezer, who dwelt in Ophrah. His own kindred were the first to rally around him; next his tribe, and then other tribes.


Verse 35

35. Manasseh… Asher… Zebulun… Naphtali — These tribes were near at hand, and could be easily summoned; but why other tribes were not also notified does not appear. Subsequently the Ephraimites were summoned to head off the flying Midianites, (Judges 7:24,) but for all that took offence. Judges 8:1.

They came up to meet them — That is, the men of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali came to meet the Manassites.


Verses 36-40

THE SIGN OF THE FLEECE, Judges 6:36-40.

Having assembled the thousands of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, Gideon prays for one more sign from heaven, not so much for strengthening his own faith, (though that may have wavered again when he saw the vast host of the enemy in the plains below,) as for inspiring with confidence and holy heroism the hearts of those who rallied to his standard.


Verse 37

37. A fleece of wool — A homely sign, indeed, but none the less natural and appropriate among a simple, nomadic people. Jehovah’s condescension in using a sign so simple, and yielding to this seemingly presumptuous request of Gideon, affords two lessons: 1. That he makes the weak things of the world confound the mighty, (1 Corinthians 1:27;) 2. That he never ignores the prayer of the humble.

The floor — The threshing floor, a small plot of ground in the open air, smoothed down and beaten hard. See on Ruth 3:2.


Verse 38

38. A bowl full of water — Heavy dews are wont to fall in Palestine, especially on the highlands, and wool naturally absorbs much dew. Kitto says, that while travelling in some parts of western Asia he “often found cloaks of sheepskin, exposed to the open air, as heavy with dew as if they had been dipped in water.” The preternatural sign in this case of Gideon lay in the fact implied, but not stated, that, while the fleece was so heavy with dew, the ground all around was dry.


Verse 39

39. Dry only upon the fleece — This of the two was the more astounding miracle, for that the wool, which so naturally absorbs dew, should be dry, and all the earth around wet with the dews of night, was an all-controlling evidence in this case that God would save Israel by Gideon’s hand.

This sign of the fleece has been thought to have its typical significance. Dew may well represent the grace and blessings of Almighty God. According to Origen, the fleece wet with dew while all around was dry represented the Israelitish people blessed with the Covenants and Law, while all surrounding nations were left without them. The reversed sign, of the fleece dry and dew on all the ground, prefigured the coming time when Israel for unbelief would be rejected, and all the Gentiles receive the dews of heavenly grace. Others have given the signs a slightly different reference. But we may better make the allusion more general, and say that this double miracle symbolizes the course of the Divine Government in the history of nations. That Almighty Power that wrought these miracles will ever, in his government of the world, bestow or withhold his grace according to his infinite wisdom and the deserts of men and nations. If Israel, or any other nation, honour his Name and Law, they shall receive the blessings of his heavenly grace and power; but if they reject him, vengeance is his, and they may not hope to escape the rod of his anger.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Judges 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/judges-6.html. 1874-1909.

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