Gideon’s Call.[b] 1 The Israelites once again did what is evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of Midian for seven years. 2 The hand of Midian weighed heavy upon Israel, and because of the Midianites, the Israelites prepared refuges for themselves in mountain caverns, caves, and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites sowed their crops, the Midianites, the Amalekites and other peoples from the East would attack them. 4 They camped against them and devastated the produce of the land all the way up to Gaza. They did not leave a living thing in Israel, not a sheep, nor an ox, nor a donkey. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. They and their camels were impossible to count; they invaded the land and laid it waste.
6 The Midianites oppressed Israel so terribly that the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent the Israelites a prophet[c] who said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought you up from the land of Egypt, bringing you forth from the land of your slavery. 9 I delivered you out of the hands of the Egyptians, out of the hands of everyone who oppressed you. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, “I am the Lord, your God. Do not show reverence to the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” But you did not listen to my voice.’ ”
11 The angel came and sat under the oak in Ophrah[d] that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. It was there that Gideon, his son, was threshing wheat in a winepress to hide his activities from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared, he said, “The Lord is with you, O mighty warrior.” 13 Gideon said to him, “O my Lord, if the Lord is with us, then why has all of this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us into the hands of the Midianites.” 14 The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in your might and rescue Israel out of the hands of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” 15 But he said to him, “O Lord, how can I save Israel. My clan is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s household.” 16 The Lord said to him, “I will be with you,[e] and you will strike down the Midianites as if they were only one man.” 17 He answered him, “If I truly have found favor in your sight, then show me a sign that it is you speaking to me. 18 Please do not leave here until I return to you, bringing my offering that I will set before you.” He said, “I will wait here until you come back.”
19 Gideon went off and prepared a kid goat and unleavened bread made from an ephah of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to lay them down under the oak, presenting them to him. 20 The angel of God said, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, then pour out the broth.” He did these things. 21 The angel of the Lord stretched forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, touching the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire rose up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight.
22 When Gideon realized that it had been the angel of the Lord, he said, “Alas, O Lord God, for now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the angel of the Lord said to him, “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid; you will not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it, “The Lord is peace.” It is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites up to the present.
25 [f]Now that same night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s spare ox, the ox that is seven years old. Break down the altar to Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it. 26 Build a proper altar to the Lord, your God, on top of this rock. Offer up the spare ox as a burnt offering, using the wood from the Asherah you cut down.”
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the Lord had told him to do. Because he was afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city, he could not do it during the day; he did it at night.
28 Early in the morning the men from the city arose and saw the altar of Baal demolished and the Asherah alongside of it cut down. The spare ox had also been offered on the newly built altar. 29 They asked one another, “Who has done this?” When they carefully investigated it, they were told, “Gideon, the son of Joash, did this.” 30 The men from the city told Joash, “Bring your son out. He must die, because he demolished the altar to Baal and he cut down the Asherah that was alongside of it.” 31 But Joash said to all those who were confronting him, “Are you going to defend Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever defends his cause will be put to death by tomorrow morning. If he is really a god, then he can fight for himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 From that day on they called him Jerubbaal, saying, “Let Baal fight with him,” because he cast down his altar.
33 All of the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the peoples from the east gathered together. They crossed over the Jordan, and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
34 The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew his trumpet, summoning those who were in Abiezer to follow him.[g] 35 He sent messengers all throughout Manasseh, summoning them to follow him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, so that they too gathered around him.
36 Gideon said to God, “If you intend to save Israel by my hands, as you have told me, 37 then I will put a wool fleece on the floor. If there is dew on the fleece itself, but the ground around it is dry, then I will know that you are going to save Israel by my hands, as you said.” 38 Gideon got up early the next morning. He squeezed the fleece, and dew flowed out of the fleece, producing a bowl full of water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me if I make this request. Let me test the fleece one more time. This time let the fleece remain dry and the ground all around it be covered with dew.” 40 This is what God did that night. Only the fleece was dry, for there was dew on the ground that surrounded it.
- Judges 6:1 After establishing themselves in a territory and beginning to cultivate the fields, the Israelites are exposed to a twofold danger: sporadic raids by still nomadic neighbors from across the Jordan and assimilation by the native religions of the conquered country.
- Judges 6:1 The Midianites were nomadic tribes who were descended from Midian, a son of Abraham and Keturah (Gen 25:2-4), and lived southeast of the Dead Sea. The Amalekites (see Num 24:20) lived to the southwest of that sea. The peoples from the East are the Arabs in the eastern Transjordan.
- Judges 6:8 Sent . . . a prophet: throughout Scripture we hear that God sent prophets to warn and redirect those who had strayed the course. Some of them, as in this instance, remain unnamed.
- Judges 6:11 Ophrah: a place belonging to the tribe of Manasseh.
- Judges 6:16 I will be with you: Gideon received reassurance from the Lord with the same words said to Moses, Aaron, and others entrusted with leadership of the Israelites.
- Judges 6:25 It seems that an Israelite was employed to guard the pagan sanctuary of the village. Idolatry does not, strictly speaking, mean the suppression of the worship of the Lord, but rather participation also in other forms of worship. In Canaan, the worship of the Baals, the divinities of fruitfulness and the harvest, seduced the Israelites once they too had become farmers.
- Judges 6:34 Here is another reference to the divine empowerment of the ones God calls to lead his people. Although Gideon is promised victory over the Midianites, he still needs an outward sign from God (v. 37).