We left off Chapter 5 with forty years of peace after the triumph of Deborah and Barak over Sisera.
1 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
This time, they weren’t “sold”, but God still “delivered them”, which is an active not passive action. In spite of this, it must have been one of the worst times for Israel up to that point. This time, God delivered Israel to the Midianites.
2 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.
~ Jdg 6:2
This must have been a pretty brutal oppression in order for the people to take refuge in caves and the like.
Sometimes, people question that if the Bible is true, then what about cavemen? Well, this instance isn’t the first, nor is it the last, episode we see people taking refuge in caves. We first see cave dwellers after Lot and his daughters escape Sodom. They first flee to Zoar (Ge 19:19-23). However, for reasons that aren’t stated, Lot becomes afraid to live in Zoar, so he moves his household up into the mountain caves (v 30). It should be noted, however, that just because that is the first recorded instance doesn’t mean it is the first to take place in history.
In vv 3 – 5, we see that the Amalekites joined in as well, and that between the Midianites and Amalekites, Israel could keep neither harvest nor livestock because of the plunder of the land. They invaders are described as coming “as grasshoppers for multitude”.
Israel is “impoverished” (v 6) because of the affliction and cry out to God.
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
8 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;
9 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;
10 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.
So, Israel cries out, and God answers initially by sending a prophet.
Deborah was a prophetess, and now we see a prophet being sent. “Prophet”, or “nabiy’”, on one level simply means spokesman or speaker. The word can be applied to false prophets (Balaam) as well as to true ones. However, the speaker was not one who delivered his or her own words, but that of a deity or spirit.
It is somewhat odd that we don’t typically think of Abraham as a prophet, but the Bible makes it clear that he was one (Ge 20:7). God gave him many promises. However, we don’t see him making predictions upon peoples and nations like some of the other OT prophets did. Our modern notion that a prophet sees into the future isn’t necessarily the case.
However, for one to speak of behalf of another, the speaker must have somehow been told what to say. Indeed, Abraham did speak to and with God on more than one occasion. That would mean, then, that Moses and Aaron were prophets as well. Joshua was spoke to by God (Jos 1:1), and he was approached by a man who stated he was the “captain of the LORD’s host” (Jos 5:14).
Deborah was a prophetess but also a judge. She held a title of authority in the civil government. However, this unnamed prophet in chapter 6 doesn’t seem to have a title at all.
As Gesenius’s Lexicon (at Blue Letter Bible) states, “A prophet, who as actuated by a divine afflatus, or spirit, either rebuked the conduct of kings and nations, or predicted future events….”
Throughout the Bible, we see prophets rebuking kings and priests alike. They, like many of the Judges we are studying, were raised up by God independently to give a message. When the kings failed, the priests should have been there to restrain evil still. When the priests failed, the kings should have done the same. When both failed, God often raised up a prophet to rebuke one or both.
In addition, the prophet often dealt directly with the people. Jeremiah certainly fit this role. Ezekiel acted out God’s symbolism in front of the people.
So, this calls into question the entire notion that a prophet is a “rank”. Who was he subservient to? Not the king. Not the priest.
28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Since we have “first” and “secondarily”, etc., aren’t these ranks? How can that be unless there the ranks of apostle and prophet exist today?
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
~ Ep 4:11
We see again, that some are apostles. Look around! There are no apostles today. There are no prophets today. If these were part of the required governmental structure of the Church, then why would God cripple the Church by not filling those roles?
Notice, though, back in 1Co 12, something even more interesting. This is one of the few passages that actually have the word “government” in them. In 1Co 12:28, the Greek word is “kybernesis”, which means governing or government, but Thayer’s goes on to say it means “wise counsels”. “Wise counsel” is a gift, just as miracles and healings are gifts.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Government is not the goal. It is the means to an end. The goal is a family relationship with our God and with each other. Government is simply a way to organize and maintain the harmony that people using God’s Spirit will create. And, your NT says that good government is a “gift”! Are all gifts the same? All healings exactly alike? All miracles come from the same cookie cutter? Of course not.
It starts with people being guided by God’s Spirit. It starts with the individual. And, that is what the Book of Judges is all about. The people lacked internal controls, lacked submissive control to God’s Spirit and lacked sufficient external controls to stop the spread of evil.
External control by human beings will bring you nothing unless both those in power and those under their rule are willing to submit to God’s authority. Substance trumps form. Form is show. Substance is real. Christ will work with someone who hasn’t hardened their heart towards Him and obey Him. Preconceived notions of how He will govern will only get in the way. He is King, and He gets to decide how and when things will get done.
God sends a prophet to the people to chastise them. For what? Having the wrong form of government? No! For disobedience!
That is followed up by a visit from the Angel of the LORD. As we discussed before, and I’ve mentioned in prior articles, “Angel of the LORD” is usually capitalized (in the Companion Bible, at least) because it is typically the appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.
11 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.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Here is a man hiding and behind closed doors because he is afraid the Midianites will steal his wheat, and a spirit being comes to call him a “mighty man of valor”. The irony of the situation must’ve gone through Gideon’s mind instantaneously.
13 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
This verse makes you wonder if anyone was listening to the prophet in vv 8 – 10. The answer was in his message. However, like so many other messages by other prophets, the message was ignored.
14 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?
15 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.
The passage now reads “And the LORD looked upon him” instead of addressing Him as the “Angel of the LORD”. This is further proof that this was Jesus. “Have I not sent thee?”
Gideon wonders aloud how it can be he. His “family is poor in Manasseh”. Actually, this is an odd thing to say. Benjamin was a small tribe in Israel. Manasseh, however, was a half tribe that was large enough to often be referred to as a tribe in its own right. Perhaps Gideon is concentrating upon the “poor” aspect of it, though. He is “least in my father’s house”, meaning he was the youngest. He was not the firstborn. We see overtones of that in v 25.
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
~ Jdg 6:16
If anyone knew about being “one” in unity, it would be Jesus Christ. Here, we see a very small glimpse into how Jesus is “one” with the Father.
Gideon feels obligated to offer a sacrifice, and he begs the Angel of the LORD to wait for him to prepare one.
Gideon prepares a meal, but he boiled the meat (v 19). However, the “Angel of God” tells Gideon to place it upon a rock, and:
21 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
The Angel of the LORD turns the offering into a burnt offering, wholly consumed by fire. There was nothing left. Some offerings allowed the offerer and the priests to partake of portions of the offerings. A burnt offering is intended as an offering solely for God.
As was common, Gideon became afraid once he realized he was face-to-face with God. God responds by telling him, “Fear not” (v 23) because he would not die. Over and over, we see God reassuring Gideon every step of the way.
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:
~ Jdg 6:25
This one is easy to read over. I certainly did a number of times until someone point a couple of things out to me. First off, the bullock was seven years old. Ordinarily, calves of a year or less would be expected to be offered. Certainly, it wouldn’t have made a good fellowship offering due to the toughness of the meat. Seven is the number of completion of a cycle, the number of the Sabbath and the number of years of the current oppression (v 1).
Second, it is the “second bullock” and not the firstborn. Like Gideon, God wasn’t working with the expected firstborn.
Simply put, the bull symbolized freedom from oppression at Gideon’s hand.
Third, it was his father’s altar. Most likely, this meant his father was prominent, and this was likely a shared grove for the immediate community. This becomes evident later.
Gideon carries out God’s instructions, but he does so at night so he won’t get caught. Again, the irony rings in one’s ears of the “mighty man of valor”.
Again, God has a sense of humor. Yet while this is somewhat humorous, it is also an important thing to note. We are nothing, and we will come to nothing, but were it for God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
So, Gideon tears down the altar, chops up the grove and offers a sacrifice. The next morning, “the men of the city” awaken to find the altar and grove destroyed. Now, if it were just for the family, this shouldn’t have upset them, so this must’ve been something akin to community property. Most likely, the grove was shared and the altar was built by Gideon’s father.
They inquire around and find out Gideon destroyed it.
30 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.
31 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.
32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
In an interesting twist, Joash stands up for his son, and thus Gideon takes on a new name.
The enemy starts to gather and stir, and so does God’s Spirit within Gideon. He blows the trumpet and gathers the nearby tribes of Israel together for war.
Next is the famous incident of putting out the fleece, but it actually fits better in context of chapter 7, so we’ll pick it up next time in v 36 and into Chapter 7.