Judges 6:25
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:
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(25) The Lord said unto him.—Luther rightly observes that by such expressions we are not at all meant to understand a voice in the air. It is useless, and therefore undesirable, to speculate as to the exact manner in which the Divine intimation came to him. When God speaks it is not possible for man to mistake His voice. It was distinctly revealed to Gideon that he must be an iconoclast before he could be a deliverer.

Even the second bullock.—It has been disputed whether the true rendering is “even” or “and.” Ewald makes it mean “even,” and explains shani (second) to mean “old” (Gesch. ii.498). The LXX., the Vulgate, Luther, &c, render it “and,” as in the margin of our version. This seems to be the right rendering; for (1) the labour of two bullocks would not be too much for the task before Gideon; (2) a bullock (shor) of seven yeàrs old would hardly be called a young bullock: literally, “a heifer (par), son of an ox.”

Of seven years old.—The Chaldee renders it, “which has been fattened for seven years,” and there is very possibly an allusion to the seven years of the Midianite oppression (Judges 6:1). The law had not prescribed any fixed age for burnt offerings. Why the bullock is called the second bullock” is very uncertain, but this minute and unexplained detail shows that we are not moving in the region of legend. The first bullock is said to belong to Joash, and we must, therefore, probably suppose that the second was Gideon’s own. Possibly in this circumstance we may see an explanation of these minute directions, and the significance which they were intended to bear. The first bullock had been intended by Joash as a sacrifice to Baal, and is used in the destruction of his altar; the second had, perhaps, been reserved by Gideon as a sacrifice to the Lord when better times should come—a votive offering, which was being fattened for the longed-for day of deliverance. This bullock is sacrificed to Jehovah, and the fact that it, too, has been used for the destruction of the Canaanite idols is a sign to Gideon that the day for which he had hoped has come.

Throw down.—As commanded in Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 7:5.

The altar of Baal.—Rather, of the Baal, i.e., of that particular Phœnician idol which your father worships. (Comp. 1Kings 16:32.)

That thy father hath.—This shows that Joash had joined with other Israelites in the apostasy, which had provoked the Midianite oppression. The words are literally, which is to thy father, as in the previous clause; and the pointed repetition of these words tends to confirm the conjecture mentioned in the previous note. It is called especially Joash’s altar because, though used by the whole city (Judges 6:28), he was the head of the Abi-ezrites.

The grove.—Rather, the Asherah, as in Judges 3:7. Baal, the sun,” and the nature goddess Asherah—who is often confused with Astarte—were worshipped in conjunction (1Kings 16:31-32; 2Kings 13:6; 2Kings 18:16; 2Kings 24:3-6).

That is by it.—Rather, that is upon it. No mention is made of the image of Baal. Possibly the sun was worshipped at this altar without any idol, and the Asherah—perhaps a mere wooden pillar or gross emblem of phallic nature-worship—was placed upon it. It was the first law of God’s worship that He was one God and therefore “jealous” against that easy combination of idolatries which is common to all forms of Polytheism. “Baal’s altar must be overthrown before God’s altar is built.”

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.

6:25-32 See the power of God's grace, that he could raise up a reformer; and the kindness of his grace, that he would raise up a deliverer, out of the family of a leader in idolatry. Gideon must not think it enough not to worship at that altar; he must throw it down, and offer sacrifice on another. It was needful he should make peace with God, before he made war on Midian. Till sin be pardoned through the great Sacrifice, no good is to be expected. God, who has all hearts in his hands, influenced Joash to appear for his son against the advocates for Baal, though he had joined formerly in the worship of Baal. Let us do our duty, and trust God with our safety. Here is a challenge to Baal, to do either good or evil; the result convinced his worshippers of their folly, in praying to one to help them that could not avenge himself.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.

25. Take thy father's … second bullock—The Midianites had probably reduced the family herd; or, as Gideon's father was addicted to idolatry, the best may have been fattened for the service of Baal; so that the second was the only remaining one fit for sacrifice to God.

throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath—standing upon his ground, though kept for the common use of the townsmen.

cut down the grove that is by it—dedicated to Ashtaroth. With the aid of ten confidential servants he demolished the one altar and raised on the appointed spot the altar of the Lord; but, for fear of opposition, the work had to be done under cover of night. A violent commotion was excited next day, and vengeance vowed against Gideon as the perpetrator. "Joash, his father, quieted the mob in a manner similar to that of the town clerk of Ephesus. It was not for them to take the matter into their own hands. The one, however, made an appeal to the magistrate; the other to the idolatrous god himself" [Chalmers].

Even the second bullock: thus there was but one bullock, which was young, to wit, comparatively, but not simply, for it was seven years old; and of such this Hebrew word is used, Job 21:10; for these creatures are fruitful above seven years. Or thus,

thy father’s young bullock, and the second bullock: so there were two bullocks. But because there is but one of them mentioned both in the next verse, and in the execution of this command, Judges 6:28, it is probable it was but one; and the Hebrew particle vau, and, is put exegetically for even, or, to wit, as is very usual. And this he calls his father’s young bullock, both because his father was the owner of it, and because his father kept and fed it for a sacrifice to Baal. But because it is likely his father kept divers of these cattle of differing ages and statures for that use, either at his own or at the people’s charge, therefore he adds, by way of limitation, that he should not take the eldest and the greatest, but the second, to wit, in age, or stature, or goodliness, or in the order of sacrifice, that which was to have been sacrificed to Baal in the second place. And this he singled out because of its age; for being

seven years old, it began with the Midianitish calamity, and being now to be sacrificed, did fitly signify, that the period of that misery was now come.

That thy father hath; which thy father built in his own ground, though for the common use of the whole city, Judges 6:28-30.

The grove that is by it; planted by the altar for idolatrous or impure uses, as the manner of idolaters was. See Judges 3:7. This action might seem injurious to his father’s rights and authority; but God’s command was sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father’s superior, and was empowered, and authorized, and enjoined to root out all idolatry and superstition, and the instruments thereof.

And it came to pass the same night,.... The night which followed the day in which the angel appeared to Gideon as he was threshing:

that the Lord said unto him; perhaps in a dream, since it was in the night: take thy father's young bullock: or "the bullock, the ox" (p); a bullock which was a large grown ox, and was not only his father's property, but what his father designed and set apart for the service of Baal; and though it was his father's, yet having a divine warrant for it, it was sufficient for him to take it without his leave, and especially as it was designed for such an ill use:

even the second bullock of seven years old; which, according to Hesiod (q) is in its prime and full strength at nine years old, and lives much longer. In Homer (r), one of five years old is said to be sacrificed: this further describes what he was to take, the second that stood in the stall of the bullocks, or that drew in the second row at plough, or the second in age and value, or the second that was set apart for the service of Baal; though the words may be rendered, "and the second bullock" (s); besides that of his father's, he was to take another, which perhaps belonged to the people, and was the second in birth or age with respect to the former, being seven years old; or, as the Targum is, that had been fatted seven years, and had been so long preparing for the sacrifice of Baal; which was as long as the tyranny of the Midianites over them, and was occasioned by the idolatry of the people of Israel; and such a bullock was ordered to be taken with respect to that, and to show that it would end with the sacrifice of this creature:

and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath; upon his ground, in some part of his possessions, and perhaps built at his own expense, though for public use:

and cut down the grove that is by it; or "about it", as the Vulgate Latin version; it being usual with the Heathens to plant groves near or around their altars and temples where religious worship was performed; partly to make them more pleasant and venerable, and partly for the commission of deeds which would not bear the light; or "over it", for they were commonly tall trees which grew over the altar they erected. Some render it, "upon it" (t), and understand by it an idol placed on it: so the Arabic version is,"cut down the female idol Asira (perhaps the same with Astarte), which is upon the same altar;''and so the Syriac version to the same purpose, which calls it the idol Estere, set upon the altar.

(p) "juvencum bovem", Drusius; "juvencum adultiorem", Junius & Tremellius. (q) Opera & dies, l. 2. ver. 54. 55. (r) Iliad. 2. ver. 403. & Iliad. 7. ver. 35. (s) "et juvencum alium", Tigurine version; "et alterum taurum", V. L. "et juvencum secundum", Pagninus, Montanus. (t) , Sept. "super illud", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius.

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock {k} of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:

(k) That is, as the Chaldea text writes, fed seven years.

25. the same night] Not the night after the events related in 11–24, for the reasons just given. Moore suggests the night after the prophet delivered his message, 7–10. It is safer to say that the original connexion is lost.

thy father’s bullock and the second bullock of seven years old] The text is unintelligible and corrupt. The ‘bullock’ (lit. ‘the steer of the ox’) and ‘the second bullock’ are probably doublets; ‘the second bullock’ in Jdg 6:26; Jdg 6:28 must be derived from the corrupt form here. The LXX, cod. A and Luc, reads ‘the fatted calf’ instead of ‘the steer of the ox’; but no satisfactory emendation has been proposed. Probably the text originally contained a direction to take a young bullock for the purpose of a sacrifice.

the altar of Baal that thy father hath] To mark the resemblance to the previous clause, render thy father’s altar of Baal: this means that Joash was not merely the custodian but the proprietor of the altar, contrast Jdg 6:11. But the altar appears to belong to the village; the inhabitants are furious when they find it destroyed. Hence thy father’s (lit. ‘which belongs to thy father’) is probably a corrupt repetition of the same words in the sentence before. So Lagrange.

the Asherah that is by it] The sacred pole which stood beside the altar of Baal; see on Jdg 3:7.

25–32. Gideon overthrows the altar of Baal and receives the name Jerub-baal. This story has no connexion with the preceding narrative Jdg 6:11-24; for after Gideon had built the altar Jehovah-shalom (Jdg 6:24), it is not likely that he would have been told to build another altar at once and in the same place (Jdg 6:26). So far as any antecedents of the story exist they are to be found in Jdg 6:7-10, which denounce the worship of Canaanite (‘Amorite’) gods.

Verse 25. - The grove. See Judges 3:7. The size of the asherah is indicated by the order in ver. 26 to use it for the altar fire.

CHAPTER 6:25-32 Verse 25. - The same night, etc. The iron was hot; it was time to strike. As regards what follows, there are two ways of understanding the verse. One, that of the A.V., supposes that only one bullock is spoken of, and that "the young bullock" belonging to Joash is further described as "even the second bullock of seven years old;" to which it is objected that a bullock of seven years old is not "a young bullock," "the bullock of an ox," as the Hebrew phrase is, and that there is no explanation of the meaning of "the second bullock;" and that the Hebrew manifestly describes two bullocks:

(1) Joash's young bullock, and

(2) the bullock of seven years old.

The other supposes two bullocks, and instead of has the more natural rendering and. The only objection to this, by far the most natural rendering, is that Gideon is not told what to do with the first bullock. But it is a simple explanation that the two bullocks were used in the laborious work of demolishing the altar of Baal, and removing the earth and the stone to build the altar of the Lord, and that when the work was finished one of the bullocks - the seven-year-old - was sacrificed. For the grove see Judges 3:7, note. Judges 6:25Gideon Set Apart as the Deliverer of His People. - In order to be able to carry out the work entrusted to him of setting Israel free, it was necessary that Gideon should first of all purify his father's house from idolatry, and sanctify his own life and labour to Jehovah by sacrificing a burnt-offering.

Judges 6:25-26

"In that night," i.e., the night following the day on which the Lord appeared to him, God commanded him to destroy his father's Baal's altar, with the asherah-idol upon it, and to build an altar to Jehovah, and offer a bullock of his father's upon the altar. "Take the ox-bullock which belongs to thy father, and indeed the second bullock of seven years, and destroy the altar of Baal, which belongs to thy father, and throw down the asherah upon it." According to the general explanation of the first clauses, there are two oxen referred to: viz., first, his father's young bullock; and secondly, an ox of seven years old, the latter of which Gideon was to sacrifice (according to Judges 6:26) upon the altar to be built to Jehovah, and actually did sacrifice, according to Judges 6:27, Judges 6:28. But in what follows there is no further allusion to the young bullock, or the first ox of his father; so that there is a difficulty in comprehending for what purpose Gideon was to take it, or what use he was to make of it. Most commentators suppose that Gideon sacrificed both of the oxen-the young bullock as an expiatory offering for himself, his father, and all his family, and the second ox of seven years old for the deliverance of the whole nation (see Seb. Schmidt). Bertheau supposes, on the other hand, that Gideon was to make use of both oxen, or of the strength they possessed for throwing down or destroying the altar, and (according to Judges 6:26) for removing the מערכה and the האשׁרה עצי to the place of the new altar that was to be built, but that he was only to offer the second in sacrifice to Jehovah, because the first was probably dedicated to Baal, and therefore could not be offered to Jehovah. But these assumptions are both of them equally arbitrary, and have no support whatever from the text. If God had commanded Gideon to take two oxen, He would certainly have told him what he was to do with them both. But as there is only one bullock mentioned in Judges 6:26-28, we must follow Tremell. and others, who understand Judges 6:25 as meaning that Gideon was to take only one bullock, namely the young bullock of his father, and therefore regard שׁ שׁ השּׁני וּפר as a more precise definition of that one bullock (vav being used in an explanatory sense, "and indeed," as in Joshua 9:27; Joshua 10:7, etc.). This bullock is called "the second bullock," as being the second in age among the bullocks of Joash. The reason for choosing this second of the bullocks of Joash for a burnt-offering is to be found no doubt in its age (seven years), which is mentioned here simply on account of its significance as a number, as there was no particular age prescribed in the law for a burnt-offering, that is to say, because the seven years which constituted the age of the bullock contained an inward allusion to the seven years of the Midianitish oppression. For seven years had God given Israel into the hands of the Midianites on account of their apostasy; and now, to wipe away this sin, Gideon was to take his father's bullock of seven years old, and offer it as a burnt-offering to the Lord. To this end Gideon was first of all to destroy the altar of Baal and of the asherah which his father possessed, and which, to judge from Jdg 6:28, Judges 6:29, was the common altar of the whole family of Abiezer in Ophrah. This altar was dedicated to Baal, but there was also upon it an asherah, an idol representing the goddess of nature, which the Canaanites worshipped; not indeed a statue of the goddess, but, as we may learn from the word כּרת, to hew down, simply a wooden pillar (see at Deuteronomy 16:21). The altar therefore served for the two principal deities of the Canaanites (see Movers, Phnizier, i. pp. 566ff.). Jehovah could not be worshipped along with Baal. Whoever would serve the Lord must abolish the worship of Baal. The altar of Baal must be destroyed before the altar of Jehovah could be built. Gideon was to build this altar "upon the top of this stronghold," possibly upon the top of the mountain, upon which the fortress belonging to Ophrah was situated. בּמּערכה, "with the preparation;" the meaning of this word is a subject of dispute. As בּנה occurs in 1 Kings 15:22 with בּ, to denote the materials out of which (i.e., with which) a thing is built, Stud. and Berth. suppose that maaracah refers to the materials of the altar of Baal that had been destroyed, with which Gideon was to build the altar of Jehovah. Stud. refers it to the stone foundation of the altar of Baal; Bertheau to the materials that were lying ready upon the altar of Baal for the presentation of sacrifices, more especially the pieces of wood. But this is certainly incorrect, because maaracah does not signify either building materials or pieces of wood, and the definite article attached to the word does not refer to the altar of Baal at all. The verb ערך is not only very frequently used to denote the preparation of the wood upon the altar (Genesis 22:9; Leviticus 1:7, etc.), but is also used for the preparation of an altar for the presentation of sacrifice (Numbers 23:4). Consequently maaracah can hardly be understood in any other way than as signifying the preparation of the altar to be built for the sacrificial act, in the sense of build the altar with the preparation required for the sacrifice. This preparation was to consist, according to what follows, in taking the wood of the asherah, that had been hewn down, as the wood for the burnt-offering to be offered to the Lord by Gideon. האשׁרה עצי are not trees, but pieces of wood from the asherah (that was hewn down).

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