Judges Ė Lesson 7

 

Judges Chapter 6:1-40

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

In chapter 5, we saw Deborah and Barak leading the people to battle and winning the battle against the Canaanites.  Most of the tribes came forth to help, yet others stayed back, apparently unconcerned or unwilling to help.  We discussed last week that we should all be willing to help in the battle if it is Godís battle.   And there is a war going on everyday to decide who wins control over our mind.  Satan wants to control our thought process, and we need to be sure that he does not win that battle.

 

I.                   The Fourth Apostasy and Servitude

 

It has been 40 years since Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites with Sisera the captain.  For 40 years, there was peace.  It appears that Deborah and Barak had died by this time.

 

Judg 6:1  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.

 

Once again the nation of Israel does evil in the sight of God.  This time they fall into the hands of the Midianites.   We talked about this pattern when we began this study.   The people would do evil, fall into sin, and God would punish them by allowing them to be defeated and taken over.  When they could do nothing to save themselves, they would repent and turn back to God, and He would raise up a judge or a Deliverer.  This time they were under bondage for 7 years.

 

Judg 6:2  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.

 

The Midianite oppressions was worse than the other times of servitude for Israel.  They are driven to living in dens in the mountains. 

 

 

Judg 6:3  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;

Judg 6:4  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.

 

From these verses, there is a record that the Midianites were assisted by two other groups, the Amalekites and the people of the East.  It also mentions this in Chapter 7 in verse 12.

 

Judg 7:12  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.

 

The people of the East were a people of the desert that came from Southern Canaan.  We read earlier that the Amalekites were the nomadic tribes that attacked Israel when they first came out of Egypt.  

 

Exo 17:8  Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

Exo 17:9  And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

Exo 17:10  So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

Exo 17:11  And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

Exo 17:12  But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Exo 17:13  And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Exo 17:14  And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

Exo 17:15  And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:

Exo 17:16  For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

 

Judg 6:5  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.

 

It appears that the Midianites did not come and continue to occupy the land for the seven years of oppression.  It seems that they only invaded the land once a year, at the time of harvest, to take the harvested crop of the Israelites.  All that the people did about it for the next 6 years was to hide their crops.  They did not try to fight back against the robbery.  And if you donít stand up for your rights, you can be sure that the oppressor will continue to take advantage of you.  This really demonstrated their weakness.  When you are Godís people, you should not fear man.

 

II.                The Appearance of  a Prophet

 

Judg 6:6  And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

 

When Israel cries to God, the Lord cares and responds to the people.  Iím glad that God cares for his own.  But sometimes deliverance may not come immediately when we do wrong.

 

Judg 6:7  And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,

Judg 6:8  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;

 

The Lord responds by sending a prophet unto them. He declares that his message is what God says.  That is always the words of a true prophet.  He begins by reminding them how He brought them out of the house of bondage there in Egypt.  He tells them that he delivered them out of the hand of all who oppressed them.  God had driven out all of those who had been before them that would harm the people.

 

Judg 6:9  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;

Judg 6:10  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.

 

The prophet declares to them that God had claimed Israel as His people.  Today, the Jews are still Godís chosen people, but they are far from Him in their hearts.  The day of the Gentile is in place.  But one day soon, when Jesus returns, that nation will be reborn in a day.  And those that would never admit that Jesus was the Messiah will indeed see Christ for who He is.   In verse 10, the prophet says that the people have not obeyed God.  The prophet is not identified as to who he is or from what tribe he came from.  God uses all kinds of people in his service, and those that may have no big name in this world may be the ones most trusted by God to do great works.    It appears that this prophetís job was to get the people ready to react properly to Gideon.  This sure looks similar to how John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness preparing the people for the one who would come after him, Jesus Christ.  Exactly what part of the land he went to is not clear, but it was most likely to the area where the oppression was the worst.  The Midianites came into the Jezreel valley and went south all the way to Gaza.  It appears that the prophets main job was to point out that the reason the people were suffering was because they did not obey the Lord.  When bad times come in our lives, sometimes it is due to us doing wrong and being corrected by our Heavenly Father.   Be sure not every bad thing is a result of sin in our lives, but it is one of the ways that God does correct us.

 

III.             Gideon, the Sixth Judge 

 

Judg 6:11  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.

 

Gideonís story includes the record of when God called him to service.  God called Gideon by sending the angel of the Lord.

 

Judg 6:12  And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

 

We can see that the angel of the Lord did not appear any different than man.  We can tell from how Gideon spoke that he did not realize this was an angel.  The bible tells us to be careful, that we may be entertaining angels unawares.

 

Heb 13:1  Let brotherly love continue.

Heb 13:2  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

 

Gideon lived in Ophrah, in the grain-growing Esdralon Plain, and his crop was a target for the Midianites.  Gideon was threshing his wheat by the winepress which was probably an out of the way place where he was hidden from Midianites . The first thing the angel told him was that the Lord was with him, and then says he is a might man of valour.

 

Matthew Henry mentioned in his commentary that his may have been Christ.

 

The person that gave him the commission was an angel of the Lord; it should seem not a created angel, but the Son of God himself, the eternal Word, the Lord of the angels, who then appeared upon some great occasions in human shape, as a prelude (says the learned bishop Patrick) to what he intended in the fulness of time, when he would take our nature upon him, as we say, for good and all. This angel is here called Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God (v. 14, 16), and he said, I will be with thee.

This divine person appeared here to Gideon, and it is observable how he found him, (1.) Retiredóall alone. God often manifests himself to his people when they are out of the noise and hurry of this world. Silence and solitude befriend our communion with God. (2.) Employed in threshing wheat, with a staff or rod (so the word signifies), such as they used in beating out fitches and cummin (Isa. 28:27), but now used for wheat, probably because he had but little to thresh, he needed not the oxen to tread it out. It was not then looked upon as any diminution to him, though he was a person of some account and a mighty man of valour, to lay his hand to the business of the husbandman. He had many servants (v. 27), and yet would not himself live in idleness. We put ourselves in the way of divine visits when we employ ourselves in honest business.  [1]

 

 

Judg 6:13  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.

 

Gideon responds with a good question... If the Lord is with them, then why has all of this evil befallen them?  It takes a mature Christian to deal with all the trials that come our way and not give in to the tricks of Satan.  If everything works to our good, and God is a sovereign God (and He is), we should acknowledge that God has allowed this to happen for a reason.  Perhaps it is for correction, possibly for molding, or preparation for something even greater coming down the road.  David was not in the palace of the king before he first was a man of war, and he didnít fight Goliath as a youth until he had fought the lion and the bear.  What may appear to be an obstacle that is almost immovable may be just a stone in the path that God is bringing you along to mold you for His service today.   

 

Gideon asks if God is with them, where are all the miracles that our forefathers told us about?  He felt the Lord had forsaken them and delivered them into the hands of the enemy.  We know from what we have read that they had been delivered into the Midianites hands because of doing evil before the Lord... not because God had forsaken his own people.  You know, complaint is a sin among Godís people even today which is all too common. God is not pleased with us if we give up at the first signs of a struggle.  We are to stay after it, and keep on keeping on.  Paul didnít give up when things went against him.  And few of us have his credentials to back us up.

 

2 Cor 11:22  Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.

2 Cor 11:23  Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

2 Cor 11:24  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

2 Cor 11:25  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

2 Cor 11:26  In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

2 Cor 11:27  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

2 Cor 11:28  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

2 Cor 11:29  Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

2 Cor 11:30  If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

 

Do you want to please the Lord... be like Paul.. Glory in your weakness.  Give God the credit when you do the right things.  That is reality, not false humility.  Paul learned to trust God, and to look to him in all things.    Gideon had not reached this level of maturity, but the angel did not rebuke him for his lack of faith.

 

Judg 6:14  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?

 

The angel tells him to go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel.  The key words here are ďHave not I sent thee?Ē

 

John 17:18  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

John 17:19  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

 

We are sent into the world having Jesus as our example.

 

Judg 6:15  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.

 

An important ingredient in Gideon is found in verse 15... humility.  He speaks of himself as being the least in his fatherís house.  By this he was probably referring to the fact that the other household members considered him so because he had been standing by himself against their Baal-approving desire.

 

Judg 6:16  And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

 

God promises that he will send His presence with Him.  This would give him the victory.

 

IV.              The Sign of the Burning Food

 

Judg 6:17  And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then show me a sign that thou talkest with me.

Judg 6:18  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.

Judg 6:19  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.

Judg 6:20  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.

Judg 6:21  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.

Judg 6:22  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.

Judg 6:23  And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

 

Gideon asked for a sign from the angel of the Lord.  When Gideon brought the food out to the angel of the Lord he instructed him to put it on a rock.  The angel of the Lord places his staff on the food, and  fire comes out of the rock and consumes it.  Food was precious during this time of Midianite oppression.  It was at this time that Gideon realized he had been talking with the angel of the Lord, and he feared he would die.

 

V. The Fear of Gideon Moves Him to Worship God

 

Judg 6:24  Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Judg 6:25  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:

Judg 6:26  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.

Judg 6:27  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.

Judg 6:28  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.

Judg 6:29  And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.

Judg 6:30  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.

Judg 6:31  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.

Judg 6:32  Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.

 

Gideon builds an altar unto the Lord and calls it Jehovah-shalom.  This means  ďThe Lord is Peace.Ē  YAHWEH being the Lord.   With the call given, Godís first assignment to Gideon was not to directly attack the enemy but  to destroy the offending evidence of Baal Worship in the community.  There is a lesson there for us.  If we want to clean up America, letís start at home, in our church, in our place of worship.  Clean up our hearts, then we can help clean up others.  Gideon was told to destroy the Baal altar and cut down the grove which was on Gideonís Fatherís property.  Gideon not only heard the orders, but he fulfilled them.  It took great courage.   He was to offer two of his fatherís bullocks on a new alter he was to build in the place God directed him.   He used 10 of his personal servants to do this.  He did the work at night to skip the opposition of the towns people.  There was an immediate inquiry as to who had done this.  The men of the city came to the father of Gideon and asked permission to take Gideonís life.  Gideonís father tells them that if a person had offended Baal, then Baal should be the one to bring the vengeance upon the person.  The people were impressed with his words and did as was advised.  Gideonís name was changed to Jerubbaal which meant ďLet Baal contendĒ  All of this was negative to the people, but Gideon trusted God and he became a great leader by doing what God said for him to do.

 

VI.               Gideonís Uncertainty

 

Judg 6:33  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.

Judg 6:34  But the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.

Judg 6:35  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.

Judg 6:36  And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

Judg 6:37  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.

Judg 6:38  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.

Judg 6:39  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.

Judg 6:40  And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

 

When the Midianites heard of Gideonís victory over Baal they gathered to go out against him.  The spirit of the Lord come upon Gideon in verse 34, and he blew a trumpet.  This was a call for men to assemble for war.  He sends men to Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.   Gideon asks for a sign to prove God is in it, but he should have just believed God.  But God proved himself to Gideon more than once.  Unbelief on Gideonís part caused God to be put to the test.

 

J. Vernon McGee said this about the fleece test.

 

 

The next day Gideon went back (and I am of the opinion that he intended to do this all the time regardless of the outcome of the first test because if you put out a fleece here in California it would be damp, whereas the ground would be dry). He gave a two-way test that could not be gainsaid. He said, ďNow, Lord, I will put out the fleece again. If You are really in this thing, put the dew around everywhere else and let the fleece remain dry.Ē I am glad he did it that way because, frankly, I would be skeptical enough to believe it ďjust happenedĒ the first time. Or let us say that it was natural for it to happen one way, but it was supernatural for it to happen the other way. This man asked God to put dew on the fleece and then for God not to put dew on the fleece. How gracious God was to Gideon. We will find that God will gradually school this man until He brings him to the place where Gideon can see that there is nothing in him. Then God will use him to win a mighty battle.

Now, looking back at verses 34 and 35, we see that men for his army had come to him from everywhere. When a trumpet is blown in Israel, it means war. And frankly, friend, he was the last man you would want to gather around. He certainly was not a man prepared to lead them into battle. So God begins to move in this manís life in a definite way, as we shall see in chapter 7.

 

 

J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

 

 

 

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[1]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.