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Judges chapter 6

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11And 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. 12And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 13And 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. 14And 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? 15And 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. 16And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. 17And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 18Depart 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. 19And 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. 20And 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. 21Then 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. 22And 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. 23And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. 24Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25And 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: 26And 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. 27Then 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. 28And 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. 29And 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. 30Then 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. 31And 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. 32Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.

What does Judges chapter 6 mean?

The pattern of Israel's faithlessness and God's judgment repeats once more. After 40 years of peace, Israel returns to the evil practices of serving Baal and other false gods of the Canaanites. As promised, God turns Israel over to oppression. This period of hardship comes in a form much different than earlier struggles.

Israel's subjugation under the Midianites is not like prior conquests. Israel is not occupied by their enemies, nor enslaved by them. Rather, Midian and their allies from east of the Jordan River invade the land every year at harvest time. They arrive with countless camels and tents and overwhelming numbers of soldiers and take all the crops and livestock away from Israel, leaving them with almost nothing. Israel's enemies lay waste to the land and then leave until the next harvest season (Judges 6:1–5).

After seven years, Israel is completely crushed. The phrasing used in this passage implies more than military defeat. Israel is humiliated, despairing, and miserable. The nation is just as emotionally and spiritually ruined as they are helpless. Finally, they beg God for rescue (Judges 6:6).

This time, God does not immediately raise up a deliverer. First, He sends a prophet. That messenger reminds the people that He is their Provider and Savior. They are suffering because they did not obey Him (Judges 2:11–19). This prophet is not named. Neither does Scripture say, exactly, whether the people responded to his message in any way (Judges 6:7–10).

When the Lord raises up a new judge, he selects an improbable man. The Angel of the Lord—likely Christ in a pre-incarnate form—appears to a man named Gideon. This son of Joash is processing grain in a winepress. Normally this work would have been done in a roomy meadow. Because of Midianite raids, Gideon is hiding as he does the work of a servant. Still, the Angel refers to Gideon as if he were an established warrior. Gideon objects that he is the least of an unimportant clan. Yet God insists Gideon will save Israel because the Lord will be with him. Gideon asks for and receives miraculous evidence that this message is truly from the Lord God (Judges 6:11–24).

The Lord's plans for Gideon do not wait. That same night, Yahweh commands Gideon to dismantle an altar to Baal and an Asherah pole on his father's land. These were artifacts used in the worship of the false gods of that region. Gideon is told to replace those with an altar to the One True God of Israel, and to sacrifice one of his father's bulls. Gideon obeys—at night, with as much secrecy as possible. As expected, the men of the town quickly discover what he has done. Gideon's father, Joash, saves Gideon from the mob. He vows to kill anyone who kills Gideon. He also points out that the neighbors' own beliefs about Baal imply that Baal should be able to defend himself. Gideon's second name becomes Jerubbaal, reminding the people of his contention with the Canaanite deity (Judges 6:25–32).

As promised, the Spirit of the Lord comes on Gideon. This inspires his clansmen, and fellow tribesmen. People of the surrounding tribes answer the call to follow Gideon into battle against the Midianites. The enemy is once more camped in the Valley of Jezreel. As they prepare for their attack, Israel's forces begin to assemble (Judges 6:33–35).

Despite seeing many confirmations, Gideon seems to have yet another crisis of faith. Though he seems to realize he's being presumptuous, Gideon asks God to respond to a test. Gideon's request is meant to prove that a supernatural God is the one giving him these commands. Gideon uses a furry animal skin to create this test. When God successfully completes the miracle, Gideon unbelievably asks God to do another, this time in reverse. God graciously does this, as well. These moments are the source of the phrase "putting out a fleece," meaning to ask God for some unreasonably narrow sign to prove He is speaking. This incident might suggest just how fearful Gideon was—which makes his obedience and eventual success even more admirable (Judges 6:36–40).
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