Judges 6:26
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) Of this rock.—The word is not selah, as in Judges 6:20, or tsor, as in Judges 6:21, but malioz, “stronghold,” probably the citadel of Ophrah. The LXX. render it as a proper name (maoz), or in some MSS., on the top of this mountain.” The word only occurs elsewhere in Hebrew poetry.

In the ordered place.—The margin reads, “in an orderly manner;” but probably neither version is quite correct. The Hebrew word is bammaarachah (comp. Leviticus 24:6; 2Chronicles 2:4); and as the particle be is used of the materials with which a thing is built in 1Kings 15:22; some here render it, “with the materials.” That the Jews themselves were not quite certain of the meaning appears from the various versions. The LXX. render it, “in the arrangement,” and the Vulg., “on which you have before placed the sacrifice.” It means “with the Asherah pillar hewed down, and split up into firewood.” The Jews point out the peculiar features of this burnt offering: (1) It was not at Shiloh; (2) it was not offered by a priest; (3) it was offered at night; and (4) the fire was kindled with the unhallowed materials of an idol. The Divine command was, of course, more than sufficient to justify these merely ritual irregularities; and, indeed, it is clear that in these rude times, when the country was in the hands of the heathen, the Levitic order of worship became, for the time, impossible in many particulars. Prophets and those directly commissioned by heaven were tacitly regarded as exempt from the strict rules of outward ritual which were necessary for the mass of the nation.

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.

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.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.

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].

Upon the top of this rock; of which Judges 6:20,21. Heb. 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, i.e. in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built. Or,

in order, i.e. in such manner as I have appointed; for God had given rules about the building of altars.

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.

And build an altar to the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock,.... Where the provisions were laid, and out of which came forth fire that consumed them; and where the altar, called by the name of Jehovahshalom, had been built by him, near it very probably; and there might be room enough for both upon the top of the rock; for this seems to be a distinct altar from that that was erected as a monumental altar, in memory of the miracle there wrought, and in gratitude by Gideon for the preservation of his life, and the peace and prosperity there and then promised, and which altar was to continue, and did; but this was for sacrifice, and only for the present time; for the proper place for sacrifice was the tabernacle: and this was to be built in the ordered place; either in the place where Gideon was ordered to put the flesh and the unleavened cakes; or in an orderly way and manner, according as was commanded in the law, as that it should be of earth and unhewn stones, and so framed as that it might be fit to have the wood and sacrifice laid in order on it; or in a plain place, as Kimchi, upon the top of the rock, where he might lay in order the stones of the altar:

and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shall cut down; mention being made only of one bullock that was to be offered, has made some think that only one was ordered to be taken, namely, this second, which agrees with our version of Judges 6:25 for if two were taken, what became of the first, since only the second was ordered to be sacrificed? to which Kimchi makes answer, that he was ordered to take it away, that his father might not offer it to an idol, as he intended, and therefore this was done to prevent idolatry; and as this second bullock was to be a burnt sacrifice, and to be burned with the wood of the grove just cut down, it seems to confirm the sense of such versions and interpreters who understand it of an idol on the altar of Baal; since wood just cut down would not be fit to burn, whereas an idol of wood, that had been of some standing, would be very proper: everything ordered and done were different from the laws and usages directed to by Moses, and practised by the Jews. Gideon was no priest, and yet bid to offer sacrifice, and that on an altar of his own erecting, and not the altar of God; and upon the top of a rock, and not at the tabernacle; and the wood of a grove or idol was to be made use of, which in other cases was not allowed; and all this done in the night, which was not the time of sacrificing; but the divine warrant was sufficient for Gideon. The Jews say (u), there were eight things that were made free or allowed now, which were not at another time: and it was necessary, before Gideon acted the part of a deliverer, that he should become a reformer, and it was proper to begin at his own family.

(u) T. Bab. Temurah, fol. 28. 2. & 29. 1.

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 {l} grove which thou shalt cut down.

(l) Which grew about Baal's altar.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. build an altar unto the Lord] The present narrative tells another story about Gideon independently of what has gone before, Jdg 6:24.

this strong hold] Strictly ‘place of refuge’; but sometimes, as here and in Isaiah 17:9-10, the idea of strength is added. For Jehovah’s altar a new site is to be chosen.

in the orderly manner] The cognate verb is used in Numbers 23:4 of arranging altars, and elsewhere of arranging in order offerings or wood for sacrifice. The noun generally means a row or rank, esp. the ranks of an army, e.g. 1 Samuel 4:2; 1 Samuel 4:12 (‘army,’ marg. ‘array’); hence it may denote here the row or course of stones built into the altar. But the exact sense of the word is uncertain. The marg. may be ignored.

the second bullock] Probably the second has been introduced here and in Jdg 6:28 for the sake of verbal harmony with Jdg 6:25, where, however, the text is corrupt.

Verse 26. - This rock. Rather, the keep or stronghold of Ophrah, where also the high place was; just as the temple was in the stronghold of Zion, and the hold of the house of Baal-Berith at Shechem was in the citadel of the place (Judges 9:46). In the ordered place. The meaning of this phrase is uncertain. It may either be rendered as in the A.V., meaning on the levelled ground ordered and prepared for the building of the altar; or it may more probably be rendered with the arranged material, i.e. the stones which were laid in order at the bottom, and the wood which was laid in order upon the top of the altar (cf. Genesis 22:9). The material may either refer to that taken from the altar of Baal, which had been thrown down, and which was then ordered to be used in building the altar of the Lord, or to its own arranged material or superstructure, the wood of the asherah. Judges 6:26Gideon 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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