Bible References: Judges Chapter 6
Heart of Story: God called Gideon to lead the Israelites to throw off the oppression of Midianites and allies. Gideon was the 5th judge over Israel in the Promised Land
Back Story: After Barak defeated Sisera, for forty years the Promised Land was at peace. Then, Israelites again worshiped idols. God delivered them into the hands of Midianites for seven years. When Israelites planted crops the Midianites, Amalekites, and other peoples of the east came and devoured their produce. These enemies didn’t just raid and leave; they came with tents and camped in the land every year. The situation was so dire that Israelites retreated to the mountains. Many lived in caves and other strongholds. Finally, the Israelites cried out to God.
Like many of the other stories in Judges, Israelite enemies were people relatives. Midian was a son of Abraham and his wife Keturah, who he married after Sarah died; thus; Israelites in the Promised Land and Midianites had a common ancestry. Midian was the land in northern western Arabia. When Moses fled Egypt, he went to Midian. There, he married Zipporah and had two sons. When Moses returned to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Zipporah and sons joined him after the exodus from Egypt.
Gideon was a member of the tribe of Manasseh. His father was Joash. The family lived near Ophrah in the tribal lands of West Manasseh.
Story Line: The call of Gideon began when Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide his activities from the Midianites. There, the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, naming Gideon a mighty man of valor. Gideon wanted to learn more from the angel so he prepared and set food before him. Rather than eat the food, the angel instructed Gideon to put the meat and unleavened cakes on a rock. Then, the angel touched the food with his staff, fire sprang up from it, and consumed the meat and bread. By this action, Gideon’s sacrifice was acceptable to God. The angel of the Lord disappeared from Gideon’s sight. While Gideon was lamenting that because he saw the angel of the Lord, he would die. God reassured Gideon that he wouldn’t die.
God told Gideon to remove the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole beside the altar from his town. Then, to build an altar to God and sacrifice a seven-year old bull on it. With the help of servants, Gideon did as God directed; however, he did so at night because he was afraid of his family and the men of his town. The next morning townsmen wanted to kill Gideon for his desecration of Baal’s altar. Gideon’s father convinced them that Baal would repay Gideon if repayment was required. Thus, Gideon was renamed Jerubbaal which means “let Baal contend against him.”
After these events, Midianites and peoples of the east again crossed the Jordan River, camped in the Jezreel Valley, and began to take crops grown by Israelites. This time the spirit of God came on Gideon. Gideon sounded a trumpet (probably a ram’s horn) and called his clan to follow him. At the same time Gideon sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to rally to him. These tribesmen went to meet Gideon.
What occurred next is labeled “The Sign of the Fleece.” Gideon said to God that if God intended to save Israel by his hand then a fleece of wool that Gideon lay on the threshing floor would be wet, but the floor would be dry. God caused that to happen; however, Gideon still wasn’t convinced that God wanted him to save Israel. He tested God another time by asking God to make the floor wet but the fleece dry. God caused that to occur. Finally, Gideon was convinced that God chose him to lead Israelites against the Midianites.
Pondering Relationships: When Gideon was named a might man of valor by the angel of the Lord, Gideon he was anything but a mighty man of valor. In Gideon’s own words he was the least in his father’s clan and the clan was the least in Manasseh. In Gideon’s view and perhaps the view of his family, Gideon was in no way valorous.
After Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal and nothing happened to Gideon, perhaps the men of Ophrah were convinced that Baal had no real power. Yet, the Bible gives no indication that these men turned to God worship.
Gideon rallied his clan and men from three other tribes to fight the Midianites; but, only after he tested God two more times. Gideon had grave doubts that God chose a seemingly insignificant man such as he to be the military leader over Israelites.
Judges 6:34 recorded that the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon. This is the first judge since Othniel that there is a record that the Spirit of the Lord imbued the judge. Notice also, how God initiate the call to Gideon. Gideon had no belief that he could really lead the Israelites.
Reflection: The Lord called Gideon and gave Gideon his Spirit to enact the job God gave to Gideon. Generally, we can do nothing in our own strength.
Copyright: June 15, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth
Please visit my website for books and Bible Studies on the Judges: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com