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Judges 6-7 Listen
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.
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.
3 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;
4 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.
5 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.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
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.
Here they are doing "evil in the sight of the Lord" again. What do you suppose they were doing? What else? Going after strange gods (we see this in verse 27). For 7 years they are bullied by the Midianites - like one kid at school stealing another kid's lunch...every day! Their harvests, cattle and everything else of value were scooped up before they could enjoy the fruits of their own labor. The mention of Gaza on the southwest coast of Israel is probably given to emphasize how thorough the devastation from these nomadic tribes was...all the way from the eastern-most part of Israel to the Mediterranean Sea. And, given the fact that the tribes which Gideon calls upon to assist in the battle (northern tribes) down in verse 35 (see below), this was most certainly an aggression against all of the Tribes of Israel.
Israel gets the word from God through a special unnamed prophet (verses 8-11): Your affliction befalls you because you have not obeyed God.
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.
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.
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.
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
18 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.
19 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.
20 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.
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.
22 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.
23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
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:
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.
27 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.
The "angel of the Lord" visits Gideon while hiding food from the Midianites at the time. Who was this angel? Gideon addresses him with the word "Lord" from the Hebrew "aw-done´" as well as "LORD" from the Hebrew "Yahweh" aka "Jehovah." However, any doubt as to his identity is settled in verses 14, 16 and 23 when we are told that it is definitely the "LORD" ("Yahweh/Jehovah") talking to Gideon. This is a pre-incarnate manifestation of God in human form i.e. Jesus himself. I'm convinced that the only physical body that God ever had or will have is that of Jesus Christ (see notes on John 1:1-14).
So, here Gideon gets the fight-for-God call but insists on a sign from God first...and gets one. Gideon lays his sacrifice out on a rock and the "angel of the LORD" supernaturally consumes it with fire after simply touching it with his staff (verse 21). He names this new altar in verse 24 "Jehovahshalom," a name which means "Jehovah is peace." That naming is in response to the guarantee in verse 23, "Peace be unto thee," being the equivalent of "all is well." He's convinced - now for the marching orders. Step one: tear down that altar to Baal and build one for God - which, incidentally, he does at night for fear of the wrath of his own family and local neighbors. They loved their Baal! The Hebrew word for the KJV rendering, "grove," is "Asherah" - the female counterpart to Baal and another of the gods they worshipped. Asherah appears frequently through the Old Testament; she was considered to be a Canaanite goddess represented by a wooden cult object. He tore down that one as well and used the wood to build his altar to God
28 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.
29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
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.
33 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.
34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
35 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.
Who tore down our favorite altar to pagan gods...and where's Asherah? Gideon's neighbors are steamed; they want to kill Gideon, but Gideon's papa (Joash) has the best idea. If your god, Baal, is so supernatural, let him kill Gideon. That leads him to come up with a nickname for Gideon - Jerubbaal. It means "let Baal plead for himself." Hey...aren't nicknames supposed to be shorter than your real name? Practically speaking, when people called Gideon "Jerubbaal," they were calling him "Baal fighter." The Midianites call for reinforcements from the Amalekites and other "children of the east [of the Jordan River]" who subsequently cross over the Jordan and set up camp in the valley of Jezreel (15 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee). Gideon calls up troops from the Northern Tribes of Manasseh (his own tribe), Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. The stage is set for battle.
Incidentally, you will notice that Gideon did not call upon Ephraim to supply troops for this battle. That omission is taken as a tribal insult in a verbal confrontation between Gideon and Ephraim's leadership in Judges 8:1-3 (see notes).
36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
37 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.
38 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.
39 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.
40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Gideon devises a test for God. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit - don't need a fleece. Gideon takes a fleece of wool and spreads it out on the ground in the open air; if God wants him to lead this battle, he should make the fleece wet with dew while the ground around remains dry. That's exactly what happens, but Gideon is not altogether satisfied. He requests that God reverse it the next night - dry fleece, wet ground. Bingo! That's it; he's convinced; we're going to battle!
1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.
8 So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
What a way to select your SPECIAL FORCES! Gideon starts with 32,000; 22,000 say they are afraid and are given draft exemption, leaving only 10,000. Incidentally, being fearful was a valid basis for exemption according to Deuteronomy 20:8 (see notes). Still too many! God tells Gideon that the people will think they did it on their own with 10,000 troops going to battle. How about a test to pare it down? This is the who-drinks-water-like-a-dog test. In other words, if you lap water like a dog, go home! Those who cup their hand and dip water are invited to stay. Gideon ends up by God's command with an army of only 300. A funny test - don't you agree? When the battle is over, the people must know it was God's deliverance and not by their own hand.
Why the lap-water test? Opinions differ. Most students of the Bible assume that those who cupped their hands and dipped water for drinking were chosen because they were careful and deliberate. The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, conjectured that those who lapped like a dog were fearless and that those who dipped their hands in the water were cowards. His conjecture is that God used the 300 cowards to defeat the enemy. We aren't actually told in scripture why this test was used.
9 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.
10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
11 And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.
12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
13 And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.
14 And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
15 And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
16 And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
18 When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
Okay, Gideon, what's the battle plan? Do what...Gideon! Do you realize that there are thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers down there? Let's review verse 12, "And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude." BUT GIDEON HEARD A DREAM! That's right; that very night the LORD had sent Gideon over to eavesdrop on the enemy when Gideon overheard a dream that included in the interpretation by his fellow soldier Gideon himself prevailing in battle; it's a battle plan devised from hearing a guy tell scary stories around a camp fire. Emboldened and oozing with confidence after discovering that the enemy troops were authentically frightened at the thought of engaging Israel in battle, Gideon heads back to his own camp, rouses the troops and goes over the strategy. So...here's the battle plan: With 3 platoons of 100 each we're going to scare them with lanterns and trumpets. YOU CALL THAT A PLAN! That's almost as ridiculous as marching around Jericho seven times. If this works, there's no question - it's God!
Note: One hand with a lantern and the other with a horn. That's both hands accounted for. With which hand do they wield their swords? Therein lies the miracle; they won't be needing swords. God will do the work for them.
19 So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
22 And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
23 And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
25 And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.
It's around midnight ("beginning of the middle watch") and the enemy is all bedded down for the night - big day planned for tomorrow. Suddenly the trumpets blow, the lanterns flash on from every side and they hear Gideon's troops cry out, "The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon." That was one confused bunch of math-challenged Midianites. In their confusion, they turned on each other with their swords. Gideon then calls for the Israelite reinforcements to come in and finish off the job. Ephraim jumps into the conflict at this point, rounding up Midianite fugitives fleeing Gideon and his army. They captured and slew two of the Midianite "princes," Oreb and Zeeb. These princes of the Midianites lost their heads - literally. I love it when a plan comes together! And God did it all with only an army of 300.
Well, the battle is over, but Ephraim's leadership is a little miffed that they were involved at such a late date. They'll have something to say to Gideon about this in Judges 8:1-3 (see notes).