Judges 6

CHAPTER VI

The Israelites again do evil, and are delivered into the hands

of the Midianites, by whom they are oppressed seven years,

1, 2.

Different tribes spoil their harvests, and take away their

cattle, 3-5.

They cry unto the Lord, and he sends them a prophet to reprehend

and instruct them, 6-10.

An angel appears unto Gideon, and gives him commission to

deliver Israel, and works several miracles, to prove that

he is Divinely appointed to this work, 11-23.

Gideon builds an altar to the Lord, under the name of

Jehovah-shalom; and throws down the altar of Baal, 24-27.

His townsmen conspire against him; he expostulates with them,

and they are pacified, 28-32.

The Midianites and Amalekites gather together against Israel;

Gideon summons Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, who

join his standard, 33-35.

The miracle of the fleece of wool, 36-40.

NOTES ON CHAP. VI

Verse 1. Delivered them unto the hand of Midian] The Midianites

were among the most ancient and inveterate of the enemies of

Israel. They joined with the Moabites to seduce them to idolatry,

and were nearly extirpated by them; Nu 31:1-12. The Midianites

dwelt on the eastern borders of the Dead Sea, and their capital

was Arnon.

Verse 2. Made them the dens which are in the mountains] Nothing

can give a more distressing description of the state of the

Israelites than what is here related. They durst not reside in the

plain country, but were obliged to betake themselves to dens and

caves of the mountains, and live like wild beasts, and were hunted

like them by their adversaries.

Verse 3. Children of the East] Probably those who inhabited

Arabia Deserta, Ishmaelites.

Verse 4. Encamped against them] Wandering hordes of Midianites,

Amalekites, and Ishmaelites came, in the times of harvest and

autumn, and carried away their crops, their fruit, and their

cattle. And they appear to have come early, encamped in the

plains, and watched the crops till they were ready to be carried

off. This is frequently the case even to the present day.

Till thou come unto Gaza] That is, the whole breadth of the

land, from Jordan to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Thus the

whole land was ravaged, and the inhabitants deprived of the

necessaries of life.

Verse 5. They came up with their cattle and their tents] All

this proves that they were different tribes of wanderers who had

no fixed residence; but, like their descendants the Bedouins or

wandering Arabs, removed from place to place to get prey for

themselves and forage for their cattle.

Verse 8. The Lord sent a prophet] The Jews say that this was

Phinehas; but it is more likely that it was some prophet or

teacher raised up by the Lord to warn and instruct them. Such were

his witnesses, and they were raised up from time to time to

declare the counsel of God to his rebellious people.

Verse 11. There came an angel of the Lord] The prophet came to

teach and exhort, the angel comes to confirm the word of the

prophet, to call and commission him who was intended to be their

deliverer, and to work miracles, in order to inspire him with

supernatural courage and a confidence of success.

Ophrah] Or Ephra, was a city, or village rather, in the half

tribe of Manasseh, beyond Jordan.

His son Gideon threshed wheat] This is not the only instance in

which a man taken from agricultural employments was made general

of an army, and the deliverer of his country. Shamgar was

evidently a ploughman, and with his ox-goad he slew many

Philistines, and became one of the deliverers of Israel.

Cincinnatus was taken from the plough, and was made dictator and

commander-in-chief of the Roman armies. There is a great

similarity between his case and that of Gideon.

Threshed wheat by the winepress] This was a place of privacy; he

could not make a threshing-floor in open day as the custom was,

and bring either the wheel over the grain, or tread it out with

the feet of the oxen, for fear of the Midianites, who were

accustomed to come and take it away as soon as threshed. He got a

few sheaves from the field, and brought them home to have them

privately threshed for the support of the family. As there could

be no vintage among the Israelites in their present distressed

circumstances, the winepress would never be suspected by the

Midianites to be the place of threshing corn.

Verse 12. The Lord is with thee] "The WORD of the Lord is with

thee, thou mighty man of valour."-Targum. It appears that Gideon

had proved himself, on former occasions, to be a man of courage

anti personal prowess; and this would naturally excite the

confidence of his countrymen. God chooses for his work those

instruments which, in the course of his operations in nature and

providence, he has qualified for his purpose. The instruments thus

chosen are generally unlikely, but they will be ever found the

best qualified for the Divine employment.

Verse 13. And Gideon said unto him] This speech is remarkable

for its energy and simplicity; it shows indeed a measure of

despondency, but not more than the circumstances of the case

justified.

Verse 14. Go in this thy might] What does the angel mean? He had

just stated that Jehovah was with him; and he now says, Go in THIS

thy might, i.e., in the might of Jehovah, who is with thee.

Verse 15. Wherewith shall I save Israel?] I have neither men nor

money.

Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh] , Behold, my

thousand is impoverished. Tribes were anciently divided into tens,

and fifties, and hundreds, and thousands; the thousands

therefore marked grand divisions, and consequently numerous

families; Gideon here intimates that the families of which he made

a part were very much diminished. But if we take alpey for

the contracted form of the plural, which is frequently in Hebrew

nouns joined with a verb in the singular, then the translation

will be, "The thousands in Manasseh are thinned;" i.e., this tribe

is greatly reduced, and can do little against their enemies.

Verse 16. Thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.] Thou

shalt as surely conquer all their host as if thou hadst but one

man to contend with; or, Thou shalt destroy them to a man.

Verse 17. Show me a sign] Work a miracle, that I may know that

thou hast wisdom and power sufficient to authorize and quality me

for the work.

Verse 18. And bring forth my present] My minchah; generally an

offering of bread, wine, oil, flour, and such like. It seems from

this that Gideon supposed the person to whom he spoke to be a

Divine person. Nevertheless, what he prepared and brought out

appears to be intended simply as an entertainment to refresh a

respectable stranger.

Verse 19. Made ready a kid-the flesh he put in a basket, and he

put the broth in a pot] The manner in which the Arabs entertain

strangers will cast light on this verse. Dr. Shaw observes:

"Besides a bowl of milk, and a basket of figs, raisins, or dates,

which upon our arrival were presented to us to stay our appetite,

the master of the tent fetched us from his flock according to the

number of our company, a kid or a goat, a lamb or a sheep; half of

which was immediately seethed by his wife, and served up with

cucasoe; the rest was made kab-ab, i.e., cut to pieces and

roasted, which we reserved for our breakfast or dinner next day."

May we not suppose, says Mr. Harmer, that Gideon, presenting some

slight refreshment to the supposed prophet, according to the

present Arab mode, desired him to stay till he could provide

something more substantial; that he immediately killed a kid,

seethed part of it, and, when ready, brought out the stewed meat

in a pot, with unleavened cakes of bread which he had baked; and

the other part, the kab-ab, in a basket, for him to carry with him

for some after-repast in his journey. See Shaw's and Pococke's

Travels, and Harmer's Observations.

Brought it out unto him under the oak] Probably where he had a

tent, which, with the shade of the oak, sheltered them from the

heat of the sun, and yet afforded the privilege of the refreshing

breeze. Under a shade in the open air the Arabs, to the present

day, are accustomed to receive their guests.

Verse 20. Take the flesh, &c.] The angel intended to make the

flesh and bread an offering to God, and the broth a libation.

Verse 21. The angel-put forth the end of the staff] He appeared

like a traveller with a staff in his hand; this he put forth, and

having touched the flesh, fire rose out of the rock and consumed

it. Here was the most evident proof of supernatural agency.

Then the angel-departed out of his sight.] Though the angel

vanished out of his sight, yet God continued to converse with him

either by secret inspiration in his own heart, or by an audible

voice.

Verse 22. Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen] This is an

elliptical sentence, a natural expression of the distressed state

of Gideon's mind: as if he had said, Have mercy on me, O Lord God!

else I shall die; because I have seen an angel of Jehovah face to

face. We have frequently seen that it was a prevalent sentiment,

as well before as under the law, that if any man saw God, or his

representative angel he must surely die. On this account Gideon is

alarmed, and prays for his life. This notion prevailed among the

heathens, and we find an instance of it in the fable of Jupiter

and Semele. She wished to see his glory; she saw it, and was

struck dead by the effulgence. See the notes on Ex 33:20. We find

that a similar opinion prevailed very anciently among the Greeks.

In the hymn of Callimachus, ειςλουτρατηςπαλλαδος, ver. 100, are

these words:-

κρονιοιδωδελεγοντινομοι

οςκετιναθανατωνοκαμηθεοςαυτοςεληται

αθρησημισθωτουτονιδεινμεγαλω

"The laws of Saturn enact, that if any man see any of the

immortal gods, unless that god himself shall choose it,

he shall pay dearly for that sight."

Verse 23. Fear not: thou shalt not die.] Here the discovery is

made by God himself: Gideon is not curiously prying into forbidden

mysteries, therefore he shall not die.

Verse 24. Gideon built an altar-and called it Jehovah-shalom]

The words Yehovah shalom signify The Lord is my peace,

or The peace of Jehovah; and this name he gave the altar, in

reference to what God had said, Jud 6:23,

Peace be unto thee, shalom lecha, "Peace to thee;" which

implied, not only a wish, but a prediction of the prosperous issue

of the enterprise in which he was about to engage. It is likely

that this is the altar which is mentioned in Jud 6:26, and is

spoken of here merely by anticipation.

Verse 25. Take thy father's young bullock, even the second

bullock] There is some difficulty in this verse, for, according to

the Hebrew text, two bullocks are mentioned here; but there is

only one mentioned in Jud 6:26, 28. But what was this

second bullock? Some think that it was a bullock that was

fattened in order to be offered in sacrifice to Baal. This is very

probable, as the second bullock is so particularly distinguished

from another which belonged to Gideon's father. As the altar was

built upon the ground of Joash, yet appears to have been public

property, (see Jud 6:29, 30,) so this

second ox was probably reared and fattened at the expense of the

men of that village, else why should they so particularly resent

its being offered to Jehovah?

Verse 26. With the wood of the grove] It is probable that

Asherah here signifies Astarte; and that there was a wooden

image of this goddess on the altar of Baal. Baal-peor was the same

as Priapus, Astarte as Venus; these two impure idols were proper

enough for the same altar. In early times, and among rude people,

the images of the gods were made of wood. This is the case still

with the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, with the Indians of

America, and with the inhabitants of Ceylon: many of the images of

Budhoo are of wood. The Scandinavians also had wooden gods.

Verse 27. He feared his father's household] So it appears that

his father was an idolater: but as Gideon had ten men of his own

servants whom he could trust in this matter, it is probable that

he had preserved the true faith, and had not bowed his knee to the

image of Baal.

Verse 28. The second bullock was offered] It appears that the

second bullock was offered because it was just seven years old,

Jud 6:25, being calved about the time that the Midianitish

oppression began; and it was now to be slain to indicate that

their slavery should end with its life. The young bullock,

Jud 6:25, is supposed to have been offered for a

peace-offering; the bullock of seven years old, for a

burnt-offering.

Verse 29. Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.] They

fixed on him the more readily because they knew he had not joined

with them in their idolatrous worship.

Verse 30. The men of the city said] They all felt an interest in

the continuance of rites in which they had often many sensual

gratifications. Baal and Ashtaroth would have more worshippers

than the true God, because their rites were more adapted to the

fallen nature of man.

Verse 31. Will ye plead for Baal?] The words are very emphatic

"Will ye plead in earnest for Baal? Will ye really

save him? If he be God, Elohim, let him contend for

himself, seeing his altar is thrown down." The paragogic letters

in the words plead and save greatly increase the sense. Joash

could not slay his son; but he was satisfied he had insulted Baal:

if Baal were the true God, he would avenge his own injured honour.

This was a sentiment among the heathens. Thus Tacitus, lib. i., c.

73, A.U.C. 768, mentioning the letter of Tiberius to the consuls

in behalf of Cassius and Rubrius, two Roman knights, one of whom

was accused of having sold a statue of Augustus in the auction of

his gardens; and the other, of having sworn falsely by the name of

Augustus, who had been deified by the senate; among other things

makes him say: Non ideo decretum patri suo coelum, ut in perniciem

civium is honor verteretur. Nec contra religiones fieri quod

effigies ejus, utalia nu minum simulachra, venditionibus hortorum

et domuum accedant. Jusjurandum perinde aestimandum quam si Jovem

fefellisset: deorum injuriae diis curae-"That Divine honours were

not decreed to his father (Augustus) to lay snares for the

citizens; and if his statue, in common with the images of the gods

in general, was put up to sale with the houses and gardens, it

could not be considered an injury to religion. That any false oath

must be considered as an attempt to deceive Jupiter himself; but

the gods themselves must take cognizance of the injuries done unto

them." Livy has a similar sentiment, Hist. lib. x., c. 6, where,

speaking of some attempts made to increase the number of the

augurs out of the commons, with which the senators were

displeased, he says: Simulabant ad deos id magis, quam ad se

pertinere; ipsos visuros, ne sacra sua polluantur.-"They pretended

that these things belonged more to the gods than themselves; and

that they would take care that their sacred rites were not

polluted."

Verse 32. He called him Jerubbaal] That is, Let Baal contend;

changed, 2Sa 11:21, into

Jerubbesheth, he shall contend against confusion or shame; thus

changing baal, lord, into bosheth, confusion or ignominy. Some

think that Jerubbaal was the same with Jerombalus, who, according

to Sanchoniatho and Porphyry, was a priest of Jevo. But the

history of Sanchoniatho is probably a forgery of Porphyry himself,

and worthy of no credit.

Verse 33. Then all the Midianites] Hearing of what Gideon had

done, and apprehending that this might be a forerunner of attempts

to regain their liberty, they formed a general association against

Israel.

Verse 34. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon] He was endued

with preternatural courage and wisdom.

Verse 36. If thou wilt save Israel] Gideon was very bold, and

God was very condescending. But probably the request itself was

suggested by the Divine Spirit.

ON the miracle of the fleece, dew, and dry ground, Origen, in

his eighth homily on the book of Judges, has many curious and

interesting thoughts, I shall insert the substance of the whole:-

The fleece is the Jewish nation. The fleece covered with dew,

while all around is dry, the Jewish nation favoured with the law

and the prophets. The fleece dry, the Jewish nation cast off for

rejecting the Gospel. All around watered, the Gospel preached to

the Gentiles. and they converted to God. The fleece on the

threshing-floor, the Jewish people in the land of Judea,

winnowed, purged, and fanned by the Gospel. The dew wrung out

into the bowl, the doctrines of Christianity, extracted from the

Jewish writings, shadowed forth by Christ's pouring water into a

basin, and washing the disciples' feet. The pious father concludes

that he has now wrung this water out of the fleece of the book of

Judges, as he hopes by and by to do out of the fleece of the

book of Kings, and out of the fleece of the book of Isaiah or

Jeremiah; and he has received it into the basin of his heart,

and there conceived its true sense; and is desirous to wash the

feet of his brethren, that they may be able to walk in the way of

the preparation of the Gospel of peace.-ORIGEN, Op. vol. ii., p.

475, edit. Benedict.

All this to some will doubtless appear trifling; but it is not

too much to say that scarcely any pious mind can consider the

homily of this excellent man without drinking into a measure of

the same spirit, so much sincerity, deep piety, and unction,

appear throughout the whole: yet as I do not follow such

practices, I cannot recommend them. Of dealers in such small

wares, we have many that imitate Benjamin Keach, but few that

come nigh to Origen.

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