Judges 6
Benson Commentary
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.
Jdg 6:1. And the children of Israel did evil — The Israelites, having forgot the signal deliverance which God had wrought for them by Deborah and Barak, were condemned to a new state of misery and oppression, compared to which that under Jabin may almost be called freedom, Deborah being then allowed to judge Israel in the face of the sun; whereas now they were not only destitute of a judge, but were often without habitations, except those they were forced to seek for among the clefts and caverns of rocks, and in some few strong holds or fortresses, Jdg 6:2; and if they found time and convenience for sowing their lands, their enemies poured in upon them, and wrested from them the fruits of their labour. Into the hand of Midian — For although the generality of the Midianites had been cut off by Moses about two hundred years ago, yet many of them doubtless fled into the neighbouring countries, whence afterward they returned into their own land, and in that time might easily grow to be a very great number; especially when God furthered their increase, that they might be a scourge for Israel when they transgressed. Let all that sin, expect to suffer; let all that turn to folly, expect to return to misery.

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.
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;
Jdg 6:3-5. The children of the east — Probably the Ishmaelites, or Arabians, especially the eastern part of them. Unto Gaza — That is, from the east, on which side they entered, to the west, where Gaza was, near the Mediterranean sea. So that they destroyed the whole land. Without number — That is, so many that it was not easy to number them. And not in a regular army to engage, but in a confused swarm, to plunder the country. Yet Israel, being forsaken of God, had not spirit to make head against them; God fighting against them with those very terrors with which otherwise he would have fought for 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.
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;
Jdg 6:8. The Lord sent a prophet — We have reason to hope God is designing mercy for us, if we find he is by his grace preparing us for it.

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.
Jdg 6:10. Ye have not obeyed my voice — And therefore all these evils are come upon you. This is said to bring them to repentance. And our repentance is then genuine when the sinfulness of sin, as disobedience to God, is that which we chiefly lament.

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.
Jdg 6:11. And there came an angel of the Lord — It is probable that many of the Israelites laid the prophet’s message to heart, and began to repent and reform, and that therefore God had compassion upon them, and sent an angel to appoint them a deliverer. In Ophrah — In Manasseh; there was, however, another Ophrah in Benjamin, Joshua 18:23. Joash, the Abi- ezrite — Of the posterity of Abi-ezer. Thrashed — Not with oxen, as the manner was, (Deuteronomy 25:4,) but with a staff, to prevent discovery. Wine-press — In the place where the wine-press stood, not in the common floor, because none would suspect that he was there so employed.

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
Jdg 6:12. The Lord is with thee — That is, to guide and strengthen thee, to animate and support thee. He is with thee, giving thee a commission to go out against the enemies of Israel, communicating to thee all necessary qualifications for the execution of this commission, and assuring thee of success therein. The Chaldee interprets it, The Word of the Lord is thy help, “which shows,” says Dr. Dodd, “that the ancient Jews looked upon this angel as the Lord himself, which is confirmed by the Targum translation of the following verse. Is the Shechinah of the Lord our help? Whence then hath all this happened unto us? A paraphrase which shows that they took the Word of the Lord to be the same with the Shechinah of the Lord.” Thou mighty man of valour — To whom I have given courage and strength for the work to which I have called thee. Gideon, though a mighty man, could bring nothing to pass without the presence of God. But as that presence is enough to make any man mighty in valour, and to give him courage at any time, so it is all in all to our prosperity, whatever we do.

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.
Jdg 6:13. If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? — All this trouble and distress from the incursions of the Midianites? All this loss, and grief, and dismay? Where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of? — We are too apt to conclude, that those instances of God’s power which have not been exerted for a long time will never be renewed. Gideon seems here to have given way to this common weakness of our nature and tendency to unbelief and distrust of God’s power, and love, and faithfulness. And we frequently find the prophets expostulating with the people for thinking that the hand of the Lord was shortened, or that he could not exert the same wonderful power, producing the same glorious effects for them which he had formerly exerted and produced for their fathers. The angel had spoken to him in particular, The Lord is with THEE: but he pleads and expostulates for all, If the Lord be with US — Associating himself with the thousands of Israel, and admitting no comfort but what they might be sharers in. Gideon does not seem yet to have had any idea that the person that spoke to him was an angel or heavenly being; but appears to have taken him only for some respectable person, or at most a prophet, for the expression, my Lord, with which he addresses him, was no more than was generally used toward persons of respectability.

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?
Jdg 6:14. The Lord looked upon him — With a settled, pleasant, and animating countenance, as a testimony of his favour and readiness to help him. And said, Go in this thy might — In the power of this commission which I have now given thee; and in the strength which thou hast already received, and dost now further receive from me. Have not I sent thee? — Have not I hereby given thee a commission, a command to do this work? God’s fitting men for this work is a sure evidence of his calling them to it.

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.
Jdg 6:15. Behold, my family — Hebrew, my thousand. For the tribes were distributed into several thousands, whereof each thousand had its peculiar governor; is poor — Weak and contemptible. I am the least in my father’s house — Either for age or qualifications for such a work. It is no proof that a person is unfit for an important work, because he thinks himself so. Before honour is humility. Indeed God delights to advance the humble, and often chooses to do great things by those that are little, especially that are so in their own eyes. “He chooseth the weak things of the world to confound the wise, and things that are despised, and things that are not, to bring to naught the things that are; that no flesh may glory in his presence.”

And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
Jdg 6:16-17. Thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man — As easily as if they were all but one man. Show me a sign — This Gideon desired, that he might be sure the commission was divine, and that God, who called him to his work, would give him success in it. This is one proof among many others which might be produced, that a sign or miracle was esteemed in those days both as a necessary and a sufficient evidence of a divine commission. And from hence we may learn that we have abundant reason to be satisfied and assured respecting the ground of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he was most abundantly approved of God, by signs, and miracles, and wonders, which God wrought by him, in the sight of all men. That thou talkest with me — By authority from God: or, that thou art a messenger from him, that discoursest with me. Or, a sign of the accomplishment of that, concerning which thou talkest with me; that is, that by me thou wilt smite the Midianites.

And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
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.
Jdg 6:18-19. Until I bring forth my present — A repast for the angel whom he thought to be a man; and set it before thee — That thou mayest eat and refresh thyself. An ephah of flour — The choicest part of a whole ephah; as also he brought to him the best part of a kid dressed; for a whole ephah and a whole kid had been superfluous and improper to provide for one man.

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.
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.
Jdg 6:20. Lay them upon this rock — Undoubtedly it gave Gideon some surprise, to be commanded to dispose thus of the refreshments which he had so hospitably prepared; but as he had doubtless by this time conceived a high opinion of this unknown person, (though he had not discovered him to be an angel,) so he readily obeyed his command.

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.
Jdg 6:21-24. There rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh — By which he showed himself not to be a man that needed such provisions, but the Son of God; and by this instance of his omnipotency, gave him assurance that he both could and would consume the Midianites. Alas, O Lord God — I am an undone man: I must die, and that speedily; for that he feared, (Jdg 6:23,) according to the common opinion in that case. The Lord said unto him — Perhaps by an audible voice, for it does not seem as if the angel spoke these words; Peace be to thee — Thou shalt receive no hurt by this vision, but only peace; that is, all the blessings needful for thy own happiness, and for the present work. Gideon built an altar there — On the top of the rock, as is evident from Jdg 6:26, where that which is here expressed only in general, is more particularly described. Jehovah-shalom — That is, the Lord’s peace; the sign or witness of God’s speaking peace to me, and to his people: or the place where he spake peace to me, when I expected nothing but destruction.

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.
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.
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:
Jdg 6:25. The same night the Lord said unto him — Most likely in a dream; Take the second bullock — Houbigant and some others suspect that there is a deficiency in the text here, as nothing is said of the first bullock. Perhaps he was to offer both bullocks, one for himself, and the other for the sins of the people whom he was to deliver. For, till sin was pardoned through sacrifice offered for it, no good was to be expected. Dr. Dodd, however, conjectures that there is a false reading in the Hebrew, and that פר השׁור, par-hasshor, which is the expression in the first clause, and is rendered, young bullock, has, by the mistake of transcribers, been written, פר השׁני, par hassheni, second bullock, in the next clause. He therefore proposes to render the passage, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the young bullock of seven years old; the Hebrew phrase, פר השׁור, par- hasshor, implying no more than the offspring of a bull. Perhaps what some commentators have observed is more fanciful than just, namely, “that as this bullock was calved when the oppression of the Midianites began, so it was now ordered to be sacrificed in token that the oppression should end with this bullock’s death.” Throw down the altar of Baal — Thus God commands Gideon to begin his heaven-appointed task with the destruction of the altar of Baal, the fatal source of Israel’s defection and punishment; and to expiate their crime by a sacrifice, in the place where they had rendered divine honours to that despicable deity of the Midianites. That thy father hath made — Which was in his ground, and perhaps erected at his expense, though it was for public use, as appears from Jdg 6:28. Cut down the grove planted by the altar for idolatrous uses, as the manner of idolaters was. That is by it — Or, upon it. Perhaps by אשׁרה, Asherah, which we translate grove, may be meant the image in the grove, and which was placed on the altar. This, Mr. Seldon conjectures, with great probability, was the image of Ashtaroth, or Astarte, for she was worshipped together with Baal. There could be no hope of deliverance till religion was reformed, with which God therefore orders Gideon to begin. This action of Gideon might seem injurious to his father’s authority; but God’s command was a sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father’s superior, and was authorized to root out all idolatry, and the instruments thereof.

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.
Jdg 6:26. Upon the top of this rock — Hebrew, of this strong hold. For in that calamitous time the Israelites retreated to such rocks, and hid and fortified themselves in them. In the ordered place — That is, in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built; and offer a burnt-sacrifice — Gideon was no priest, nor was this the appointed place of sacrifice; but God can dispense with his own institutions, though we may not; and his call gave Gideon sufficient authority.

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.
Jdg 6:27. Then Gideon took ten men — Whom doubtless he had acquainted with his design, and the assurance of success in it, whereby they were easily induced to assist him. He feared — Not so much lest he should suffer for it, as lest he should be prevented from doing it.

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.
Jdg 6:28-29. The bullock was offered — Not upon Baal’s altar, for which it was designed, but upon an altar erected in contempt of Baal. When they inquired, they said — Probably some of the persons employed in it.

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.
Jdg 6:31. Joash said, Will ye plead for Baal? — Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal for whose worship you suffer such grievous calamities at this day? It is plain that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal, having gone with the stream, as we find the altar of Baal on his estate; but probably he was now convinced of his sin and folly by Gideon, being made acquainted with the appearance of the angel to him, and of the divine commission which he had received. Hence he resolutely declares himself on the side of the God of Israel, and when the people demanded that his son should be put to death for casting down the altar of Baal, he boldly demands, according to the law of Moses, that whatever man should plead for Baal should be put to death, idolatry being a capital offence. While it is yet morning — That is, immediately; for it was in the morning, as we learn from Jdg 6:28, that this tumult was made. If he be a god, let him plead for himself — As the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done him. But Baal hath now showed, that he is neither able to help you nor himself; and therefore is not worthy to be served any longer. This resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the people’s fury; and it was drawn from him by the sense of his son’s extreme danger, and by the confidence he had that God would plead his son’s cause, and use him for the rescue of his people. It is probable that, by what Joash now said, the eyes of the people were opened, to see how impotent the god was whom they had worshipped; as, by comparing it with what they had heard the God of Israel had frequently done in vindication of his honour, they might well conclude how inferior he was to Jehovah, the one living and true God, or rather, in the language of Scripture, that he was nothing, a mere nonentity.

Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
Jdg 6:32. He called his name Jerubbaal — That is, Let Baal plead. The meaning is, either that Joash called Gideon so, Jdg 8:1, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand on Baal; or that his countrymen gave him this name. For, as Houbigant observes, the Hebrew may be rendered, On that day they gave him the name of Jerubbaal. It is a probable conjecture, that that Jerombalus, whom Sanchoniathon (one of the most ancient of all the heathen writers) speaks of as priest of Jao, (a corruption of Jehovah,) and to whom he was indebted for a great deal of knowledge, was this Jerubbaal.

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.
Jdg 6:33-34. Then all the Midianites were gathered together, &c. — As was their usual custom every year, that they might waste the country. And pitched in the valley of Jezreel — Not Jezreel in Judah, but another place of that name in the borders of Manasseh and Issachar, which was not far distant from Ophrah, where Gideon dwelt. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon — Inspiring him with extraordinary wisdom, and courage, and zeal, to vindicate God’s honour and his country’s liberty. The Hebrew is, The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon; clothed him as a robe, to put honour upon him; clothed him as a coat of mail, to put a defence upon him. Those are well clad that are thus clothed. Abi-ezer — That is, the Abi- ezrites, his kindred, and their servants, and others; who, finding no harm coming to him for destroying Baal, but rather a blessing from God, in giving him strength and courage for so great an attempt, changed their minds, and followed him as the person by whose hands God would deliver them.

But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
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.
Jdg 6:35. All Manasseh — On both sides of Jordan. Unto Asher, &c. — Because these tribes were nearest, and so could soonest join with him; and were nearest the enemy also, (Jdg 6:33,) and therefore were most sensible of the calamity, and would in all reason be most forward to rescue themselves from it.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
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.
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.
Jdg 6:39. Gideon said — In a way of humble supplication, for the strengthening his own faith, and for the greater encouragement of his soldiers in this great attempt. On all the earth — That is, upon all that spot of ground which encompasses the fleece. On the ground — Which was more preternatural than the former instance, because, if there be any moisture, such bodies as fleeces of wool are likely to drink it up.

And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Jdg 6:40. And God did so — See how tender God is even of the weak; and how ready to condescend to their infirmities! These signs were very expressive. They are going to engage the Midianites. Could God distinguish between a small fleece of Israel and the vast floor of Midian? Yes, by this token it appears that he can. Is Gideon desirous that the dew of divine grace might descend on himself in particular? He sees the fleece wet with dew, to assure him of it. Does he desire that God will be as the dew to all Israel? Behold all the ground is wet!

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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