Chapter 6 is the story of Gideon, the reluctant and rather timid judge. This time, the Israelites are overpowered by the Midianites. Verses 3-4 tell us that whenever they planted crops, the Midianites and Amalekites would come and “devour” the land, leaving no sustenance – not even livestock. They hid in caves and were terrified. But this time when they cried out to the Lord, He sent a prophet to rebuke them for their apostasy (verses 7-10). And we soon learn the depths that their apostasy and idol worship have reached are great. It is no wonder the anger of God is burning against them!
The angel of the Lord then appears to Gideon, the son of Joash the Abiezrite. Abiezer was part of the tribe of Manasseh that settled west of the Jordan River (Joshua 17:1-2). Gideon shows a low opinion of himself in verse 15, but asks for “a sign that it is you who speak with me.” The angel of the Lord gives him one in verse 21, and vanishes. Afterward, the Lord commands him to take his father’s bulls and pull down the altar of Baal that his father has, and the Asherah beside it. The Asherah probably refers to sacred wooden poles erected to worship the goddess Asherah. He was too afraid of his family and the others to do in the daytime, so he took 10 servants and destroyed it by night.
When the men of the town found what he had done the next day, they wanted to kill him. This is a chilling illustration of how low they have gone. But Joash intervenes in verse 31 and tells them that they should let the “powerful ” Baal contend for himself. Gideon, clothed with the spirit of the Lord (verse 34) called out the Abiezrites, sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. But he asks for another sign – the sign of the fleece in verses 36-40 – not once, but twice, clearly knowing he was wrong in testing the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:16). But God lets him have it anyway, maybe from knowing the boy was weak and needed confidence to perform such a great task. The task was for God to save Israel by his hand.
Is he ready now?
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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