James Gray - Concise Bible 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.Judges 6:1-8:35
GIDEON AND THE MIDIANITES
The old story of sin and suffering is repeated after the death of Deborah. The Midianites occupied territory on the south and east, contiguous to Moab, and were wandering herdsmen like the modern Bedouins, who, in connection with the Amalekites, harassed Israel at every opportunity with the results indicated in Jdg 6:1-6.
God sends a prophet to His people in this case before He sends a Savior (Jdg 6:7-10), for they must be brought to repentance before deliverance can be vouchsafed.
GIDEON CALLED (Jdg 6:11-24)
“An angel of the Lord” (Jdg 6:11), should read “The angel,” for the context shows this to be another manifestation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Study the context for evidences of this. Observe Gideon’s consciousness of it, the angel’s assumption of it (Jdg 6:14; Jdg 6:16), and its final demonstration (Jdg 6:21-23). Note Gideon’s modesty and diffidence (Jdg 6:15), suggesting Moses at the burning bush. His request for a sign (Jdg 6:17) is neither wrong nor unreasonable as the event shows. Although the acceptance of his sacrifice meant the acceptance of himself (Jdg 6:21), yet so deep-seated is fear in the heart because of sin (Jdg 6:22), that he needs a special assurance from Jehovah to restore his peace after he has become conscious of the Divine Presence (Jdg 6:23).
THE ENSIGN RAISED (Jdg 6:25-32)
Immediately upon his call Gideon enters upon service (Jdg 6:25). The “second bullock” of his father is named probably because the first had been stolen by the enemy. The father was an idolator like the rest, it would appear, and the altar on his ground may have been one for public use. Secrecy is necessary in destroying this altar (Jdg 6:27), as the commotion following evidences (Jdg 6:28-30). Joash’s defense of his son suggests Elijah on Matthew Carmel (1 Kings 18), and, in another sense, Gamaliel before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5), or the town clerk at Ephesus (Acts 19).
THE BATTLE ARRAYED (Jdg 6:32-40)
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” (Jdg 6:34). The margin of the Revised Version says, “The Spirit of the Lord clothed Himself with Gideon,” an Old Testament way of speaking of the filling of the Spirit of which the New Testament so often speaks in connection with Christian experience (see Ephesians 5:18). No wonder that Gideon could “do exploits” (Daniel 11:32), under such circumstances. This explains the gathering of the people to Gideon’s standard (Jdg 6:35).
And yet Gideon’s weak faith calls for another sign two of them indeed (Jdg 6:36-39) For he has reached a second crisis in his career, and God condescends to manifest it (Jdg 6:38; Jdg 6:40).
THE VICTORY WON (Jdg 7:1-23)
This must be God’s victory and not man’s, therefore, although 32,000 men (Jdg 7:3) were few enough against an army “as grasshoppers for multitude” (Jdg 6:5), they must be reduced still further. For the first test (Jdg 7:3), compare Deuteronomy 20:8, the second (Jdg 7:4-7) was unique. Wandering tribes in Asia, when in haste, do not stoop deliberately on their knees to drink water, but only bend forward to bring their hand in contact with the stream, and throw up the water rapidly and with great expertness into their mouths. The Israelites who chose to do so on this occasion were the earnest and energetic ones fitted for the expedition God now had in mind.
What a trial of faith to attach an overwhelming force with only three hundred men! No wonder Gideon needed another sign to reassure him for the engagement, which God now vouchsafed to him.
Observe the expression in Jdg 7:9 : “Arise, get thee down unto the host.” The latter were in the valley and attention to this is of importance to understand something of what follows. The dream and its interpretation in their effect on Gideon require no explanation. They were God’s way of animating the little band of Israelites and they had such result.
But if the smallness of the army is astonishing, what shall we say of the foolishness of their armament (Jdg 7:16-18)? Compare 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. The pitchers concealed the lamps, which were what we call torches, and being earthenware were easily broken. The three hundred men were divided into three bands that they might seem to be surrounding the camp. Suddenly, in the darkness and stillness of the night, a loud echo of trumpets is heard, followed by a mighty shout from every side; a blaze encircles the camp, and the sleepers started from their rest and supernaturally alarmed as they doubtless were, run tumultuously hither and thither, not knowing friend from foe, and soon precipitately flee (Jdg 7:19-22). “The men of Israel” who pursued after them, were either the 10,000 or the 32,000 who had lingered near the scene and were now ready to join in the fight when everything appeared so hopeful.
THE CAMPAIGN EXTENDED (Jdg 8:1-21)
Jdg 8:1-4 require little comment, but should not be passed over without observing Gideon’s modesty and greatness in soothing the wounded pride of Ephraim (compare Proverbs 15:1 and Php 2:4).
“The men of Succoth” (Jdg 8:5) and those of Penuel (Jdg 8:8), were of the tribe of Gad, but one would hardly think they were of Israel at all by the way they acted in this case. They were afraid of the Midianitish kings, and doubted Gideon’s ability to overcome them. Verse 14 shows that it was the chief men of these places that had treated him thus, and whom he now returns to punish. “He taught the men” (Jdg 8:16) means according to the margin that he threshed them. The method was placing thorns and briers on the naked body and pressing them down by heavy implements of some kind. Cruel torture, but we can say nothing more about it than in the cases of cruelty mentioned earlier.
The Midianitish kings had slain Gideon’s brothers (Jdg 8:18-19) and it was his duty as nearest of kin to take requital, although he offered the honor to his son (Jdg 8:20). Jether failing in the premises, Gideon acted the part (Jdg 8:21).
END OF GIDEON’S LIFE (Jdg 8:22-32)
The tribes would have made Gideon king (Jdg 8:22) had not the latter showed his loyalty to God, and to them also by declining the offer (Jdg 8:23). He would be judge, but Jehovah must be King. And yet he made a mistake, though not intentionally perhaps, in what follows (Jdg 8:24-27). In other words, there seems no reason to believe that he had idolatry in view in what he did, although after his decease it worked that way (Jdg 8:33). What he had in mind apparently was an ephod for his use as a civil magistrate as in David’s case later (1 Chronicles 15:27).
1. Where were the Midianites located with reference to Israel?
2. How many signs in all does God grant Gideon?
3. To what tribe did the men of Succoth belong?
4. Give two or three illustrations of Gideon’s modesty.
5. How long did he judge Israel?