And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
Midian - See Genesis 25:2 note. They were remarkable not only for the vast number of their cattle Judges 6:5; Numbers 31:32-39, but also for their great wealth in gold and other metal ornaments, showing their connection with a gold country. (Compare Numbers 31:22, Numbers 31:50-54, with Judges 8:24 :26.) At this time they were allies of the Amalekites and of the Arabian tribes called collectively "the children of the East" Judges 6:3. They seem to have extended their settlements to the east of Jordan, and to have belonged to the larger section of Arabs called Ishmaelites Judges 8:24.
And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
The word rendered "dens" is only found in this passage. It is best explained of ravines hollowed out by torrents, which the Israelites made into hiding-places.
And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them;
And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
Gaza indicates the extreme point south to which they spread their devastations, crossing the Jordan near Bethshan (Scythopolls), and entering by the valley of Jezreel, and sweeping along the whole of the maritime plain or Shephelah.
For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
A prophet - His name is not given. (Compare 1 Kings 13.) This message is somewhat similar to that of the Angel, Judges 2:1-3. The reference to Exodus 20:2 is plain, and supposes the people to whom the prophet addresses these words to be familiar with the facts recorded in that text.
And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
A similar use of the name Amorite, instead of the more usual name Canaanite, occurs in Joshua 24:15, Joshua 24:18. Perhaps 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. The idolatries of the Amorites seem, too, to have been preeminently abominable (see 2 Kings 21:11; 1 Kings 21:26). It should be observed that the prophet's language, as it traces the misery of Israel to their sins, so also intimates the necessity of repentance and of breaking off their sins - especially the sin of idolatry - as preliminary to any deliverance. In exact accordance with this view, Gideon commences his work by throwing down the altar of Baal, and building up the altar of Yahweh Judges 6:24-25.
And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
An oak - "The oak," indicating it as a well-known tree, still standing in the writer's days.
There was another Ophrah in Benjamin Joshua 18:23. This Ophrah was in Manasseh, and was the village of Joash, the head, apparently, of the family of Abiezer, which was one of the families of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh Numbers 26:30.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
Thou mighty man of valor - Known to God to be such, though as yet not known to be such either by himself or his countrymen (compare Luke 1:28, Luke 1:30).
And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
The extreme bitterness of the national sufferings under the Midianite occupation breaks out in Gideon's language. The Angel's words, suitable to times of prosperity, seemed to be a mockery, when it was evident the Lord was not with them. (Compare Deuteronomy 31:17.)
And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
The Lord looked upon him - That gracious look conferred immediate strength (compare Ephesians 6:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; John 20:22; Acts 3:6) The change of phrase from "the angel of the Lord" to "the Lord" is remarkable. When messages are delivered by the Angel of the Lord, the form of the message is as if God Himself were speaking (compare Judges 2:1).
The sending implied a valid commission and sufficient powers. Compare Exodus 3:10; Isaiah 44:26; Ezekiel 2:3; Zechariah 2:11; Malachi 3:1; Luke 10:3; John 20:21; and the term APOSTLE, as applied to our Lord Hebrews 3:1 and to the Twelve.
And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.
Gideon now perceived that the Lord was speaking to him by His angel. He saw, however, no qualifications in himself, or in his family or tribe, for the office of saviour to his people. He therefore desires some assurance that the message he had just received was indeed from God, and not a mere dream or delusion. He asks as a sign Judges 6:18 that his mysterious visitor should tarry under the oak until he should return to Him with his gifts and offerings.
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
A sign - If the Angel ate of Gideon's present it would be a conclusive proof of the reality of the vision. (Compare John 21:9-13; Luke 24:37-43; Acts 10:41.) It would also be a token of God's goodwill to Gideon. Compare Genesis 18:3.
Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
My present - My Minchah: the word used regularly, though not exclusively, for the meat and drink offering (Leviticus 2:1 note). Its double sense of an offering to God, and of a gift to man, suits the doubt in Gideon's mind as to who his visitor might be.
And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.
Unleavened cakes - As being much more quickly baked (compare Genesis 19:3) (and as connected with the meat offering). An ephah, containing 3 measures, was the quantity of flour commonly used at one baking Genesis 18:6; Exodus 16:16.
Presented it - A word especially, though not exclusively, proper for offerings to God. See Amos 5:25, where the same word is rendered offered.
And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
Pour out the broth - Libations were a very ancient form of offering (compare Genesis 35:14). The drink offerings of wine under the Levitical law were poured upon the altar Exodus 30:9. The pouring of the broth upon the rock was evidently of the nature of a libation. It might also, like the water poured by Elijah upon his sacrifice, make the miracle of the fire that consumed the sacrifice more apparent. (Compare 1 Kings 18:33.)
Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
Alas, O Lord GOD! - Compare Joshua 7:7. "because I have seen an angel of the Lord" Compare the marginal references, in which the notion that it was death for mortal man to see God appears clearly. The same notion prevailed among the pagan.
And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
Gideon's naming the altar which he built, in commemoration of the words of peace spoken by the Angel, is very similar to what we read of Abraham Genesis 22:14, and of Moses (Exodus 17:15, when he named the altar Jehovah-nissi).
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
Even - Rather, as in the margin, and. Two bullocks are spoken of. The labor of both would be required for pulling down and removing the altar of Baal, and for bringing the materials for building the altar of Yahweh.
The grove by it - Rather, "the idol upon it," the Asherah, the wooden image of Astarte Judges 3:7.
And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
In the ordered place - See the margin. "Build an altar, etc., with the materials," "the wood laid in order" (compare Genesis 22:9), that, namely, which he would find ready to hand in the altar of Baal which he was to throw down.
The wood of the grove - "The (blocks of) wood of the idol," i. e. the image of Astarte. The command from God Himself to build an altar, and sacrifice upon it, is analogous to Elijah's sacrifice 1 Kings 18, and was doubtless caused by the extraordinary circumstance of the defection of the Israelites from the worship of the true God. Possibly, too, the Midianite invasion had made the worship at Shiloh impossible at this time.
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
The mention of the "men of the city" by the side of Gideon's "father's household" suggests the probability of their being a remnant of the Canaanite population, and the special patrons of Baal-worship.
And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.
And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.
And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.
From the boldness of Joash in defending his son, it is likely that the majority of the Abi-ezrites sided with him against "the men of the city," and already felt drawn toward Gideon as their national and religious leader Judges 6:34. Joash appears as the chief magistrate of Ophrah.
Will ye plead ...? will ye save? - The emphasis is upon ye, as much as to say, What business is it of yours?
Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
He called him - i. e. "He was called" Jerubbaal, as being the person against whom it was popularly said that Baal might strive. See margin.
Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.
A fresh invasion, and the last, of Midianites Amalekites, and Arabs (see Judges 6:3). But the Israelites, instead of hiding in dens and caves, and tamely leaving all their substance as pIunder to the invaders, now rally around their leader.
But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon - See the margin. The word contains a striking thought. It is different from that used in the case of Othniel Judges 3:10, Jephthah Judges 11:29, and Samson Judges 13:25; Judges 14:6, Judges 14:19.
And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.
His own tribe, Manasseh, and the three northern tribes of Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali hastened to join him. Issachar was probably unable to do so, because the Midianites were encamped in the heart of their country. Asher no longer "abode in his breaches," as in the time of Jabin Judges 6:17, perhaps ashamed of their former backwardness, and stung by the rebuke of Deborah; perhaps, too, from feeling the Midianite yoke much more galling than that of Jabin.
And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
The caution of Gideon, desirous of being assured that he really had a promise from God, does not imply doubts as to God's faithfulness or power to fulfill His promise. Of such doubts there is not a trace in Gideon's character. He is a worthy example of faith Hebrews 11:32.
Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
The threshing floors were and still are under the open air, and usually circular. The second sign Judges 6:40, would be more convincing than the former, because it is the nature of fleeces to attract and retain moisture.
And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.