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Bible Commentaries
Judges 6

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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.

The Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian. Untaught by their former experiences, the Israelites again apostatized, and new sins were followed by fresh judgments. Midian had sustained a severe blow in the time of Moses (Numbers 31:1-18). They were then greatly reduced in numbers, and their country desolated, that those who had saved themselves by flight might not be attracted to return. But in the course of 200 years they had increased in population as well as in power, and the memory of that disaster no doubt inflamed their resentment against the Israelites, whom they attacked on the north and east so successfully that they overcame the inhabitants of those parts in Palestine, and kept them in a state of painful subjection for seven years.

Verse 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.

Because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains ...

Palestine is a mountainous country, and, from the limestone character of its rocks, abounds in caverns, natural and artificial. Of the former instances occur frequently in the sacred history (Genesis 19:30; Genesis 23:9; Genesis 25:9; Joshua 10:16; 1 Samuel 22:1; 1 Samuel 24:4); and of the latter, profane historians and travelers have given ample details (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 14:, ch. 15:; 'Jewish Wars,' b. 1:, ch. 16:; Strabo, b. xvi; Tavernier, 'Voyage de Perse' part 2:, ch. 4:; 'Maundrell,' p. 118). Many of these caves are very large, capable of holding 4,000 people. And there is reason to conclude that they were formed for the use of the living, and not of the dead. The Horites on mount Seir were Troglodytes; and mention is made in the Koran, (Judg. 15,26 ) of the Arabian tribe of Thamud, 'who hewed houses out of the mountains to secure themselves.' At the period of their national history to which this chapter refers, the Israelites appear greatly to have increased the number of these mountain grottoes, and to have become, at least in the eastern parts of Judea, to so great an extent a Troglodyte people, that the remembrance of this means of safety was never forgotten; and in times of public panic they resorted to their subterranean hiding places (1 Samuel 13:6).

Verse 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;

The Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, [ bªneey (H1121) qedem (H6924)] - Arab tribes, Ishmaelites, called "children of the east," from their occupying the territory east of the Red Sea, contiguous to Moab. Amalekites (see the note at Genesis 14:7; Exodus 17:8). These nomads were on this occasion joined in alliance with the Midianites. The destructive ravages they are described as at this time committing in the land of Israel are similar to those of the Bedouin Arabs, who harass the peaceful cultivators of the soil, and unless a composition is made with them, return annually at a certain season, when they carry off the grain, seize the cattle and other property, and even life itself is in jeopardy from the attacks of those prowling marauders. So unchanged are the habitudes and relations of Oriental nations, the description in this chapter of the wandering tribes who live by plunder applies accurately in the present day (see instances of Arab raids in Rogers' 'Domestic Life in Palestine,' pp. 177, 178). But the vast horde of Midianites that overran Canaan made them the greatest scourge which had ever afflicted the Israelites.

Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

They came as grasshoppers for multitude [ kªdeey (H1767) 'arbeh (H697) laarob (H7230) They came as grasshoppers for multitude, [ kªdeey (H1767) 'arbeh (H697) laarob (H7230), according to the abundance of the locust for multitude; Septuagint, kathoos akris eis pleethos].

Verses 6-7

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

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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 sent a prophet. This prophet exercised the pastoral office only. Like the man of God commissioned to reprove Eli (1 Sam. 11:27-29 ), he was the bearer of a specific message, but not the utterer of prophetic sayings. His function was to rouse the Israelites to a sense of their sin in apostatizing from God. The national calamity is authoritatively traced to their infidelity as the cause.

Verses 9-10

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;

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

There came an angel of the Lord. The Vulgate renders it, the Lord (himself). He appeared in the character and equipments of a traveler (Judges 6:21), who sat down in the shade to enjoy a little refreshment and repose, and, entering into conversation on the engrossing topic of the times-the grievous oppression of the Midianites-began urging Gideon to exert his well-known prowess on behalf of his country. Gideon, in replying, addresses him at first in a style equivalent (in Hebrew) to 'sir,' but afterward gives to him the name usually applied to God.

An oak - Hebrew, the oak, as famous in after-times.

Ophrah - a city in the tribe of Manasseh, about 16 miles north of Jericho, in the district belonging to the family of Abiezer (Joshua 17:2).

His son Gideon threshed wheat by the wine-press. This incident tells emphatically the tale of public distress. The small quantity of grain he was thrashing, indicated by his using a flail instead of the customary treading of cattle-the unusual place, near a wine-press, under a tree, and on the bare ground, not a wooden floor, for the prevention of noise-all these circumstances reveal the extreme dread in which the people were living. 'So now, as the Bedouins come from beyond Jordan every year, just after the winter rains are over, when the grain is springing up, the people in Palestine do not venture to cultivate more land than they hope to be able to protect.' (Rogers' 'Domestic Life in Palestine,' p. 177).

Verse 12

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

If the Lord be with us. Gideon's language betrays lack of reflection, because the very chastisements that God had brought upon His people showed His presence with, and His interest in them.

Verse 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?

Go in this thy might ... have not I sent thee? The command and the promise made Gideon aware of the real character of his visitor; and yet, like Moses, from a sense of humility, or a shrinking at the magnitude of the undertaking, he excused himself from entering on the enterprise. And even though assured that, with the divine aid, he would overcome the Midianites as easily as if they were but one man, he still hesitates, and wishes to be better assured that the mission was really from God. He resembles Moses also in the desire for a sign; and in both cases it was the rarity of revelations in such periods of general corruption that made them so desirous of having the fullest conviction of being addressed by a heavenly messenger. The request was reasonable, and it was graciously granted.

Verses 15-17

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Until I ... bring ... my present - Hebrew, my minchaah, or meat offering; and his idea probably was to prove, by his visitor's partaking of the entertainment, whether or not he was more than man.

Verse 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.

The flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot - (see the note at Genesis 18:1-33.) The flesh seem to have been roasted, which is done by cutting it into kobeb - i:e., into small pieces, fixed on a skewar, and put before the fire. The broth was for immediate use; the other, brought in a hand-banket, was intended to be a future supply to the traveler. The miraculous fire that consumed it, and the vanishing of the stranger, not by walking, but as a spirit in the fire, filled Gideon with awe. A consciousness of demerit fills the heart of every fallen man at the thought of God, with fear of His wrath; and this feeling was increased by a belief prevalent in ancient times, that whoever saw an angel would forthwith die. The acceptance of Gideon's sacrifice betokened the acceptance of his person; but it requital an express assurance of the divine blessing, given in some unknown manner, to restore his comfort and peace of mind.

Verses 20-24

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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:

And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him. The transaction in which Gideon is here described as engaged was not entered on until the night after the vision.

Take thy father's ... second bullock. The Midianites had probably reduced the family herd; or, as Gideon's father was addicted to idolatry, the best may have been fattened for the service of Baal; so that the second was the only remaining one fit for sacrifice to God.

Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath - standing upon his ground, though kept for the common use of the townsmen. Cut down the grove that is by it - dedicated to Ashtaroth. With the aid of 10 confidential servants he demolished the one altar, and raised on the appointed spot the altar of the Lord; but, for fear of opposition, the work had to be done under cover of night. A violent commotion was excited next day, and vengeance vowed against Gideon as the perpetrator. 'Joash, his father, quieted the mob in a manner similar to that of the town-clerk of Ephesus. It was not for them to take the matter into their own hands. The one, however, made an appeal to the magistrate; the other to the idolatrous god himself' (Chalmers).

Verses 26-31

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 32

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

Therefore ... he called him - not Joash, but the people, so that it is equivalent to 'he was called.'

Jerubbaal i:e., with whom Baal contends; or Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21), i:e., with whom the idol contends [Septuagint, ekalesen auto Ierobaal, called it, namely, the altar, Jerubbaal].

Verse 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.

All the Midianites ... pitched in ... Jezreel. Jezreel means 'God sows.' The confederated troops of Midian, Amalek, and their neighbours, crossing the Jordan to make a fresh inroad on Canaan, encamped in the extensive and fertile plain of Esdraelon (anciently Jezreel). The southern part of the Ghor lies in a very low level, so that there is a steep and difficult ascent into Canaan by the southern wadies. Keeping this in view, we see the reason why the Midianite army, from the east of Jordan, entered Canaan by the northern wadies of the Ghor, opposite Jezreel.

Verse 34

But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abi-ezer was gathered after him.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Called in this sudden emergency into the public service of his country, he was supernaturally endowed with wisdom and energy commensurate with the magnitude of the danger and the difficulties of his position. His war summons was enthusiastically obeyed by all the neighbouring tribes. On the eve of a perilous enterprise he sought to fortify his mind with a fresh assurance of a divine call to the responsible office. The miracle of the fleece was a very remarkable one, especially considering the copious dews that fall in his country. The divine patience and condescension were wonderfully manifested in reversing the form of the miracle. Gideon himself seems to have been conscious of incurring the displeasure of God by his hesitancy and doubts; but He bears with the infirmities of His people.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/judges-6.html. 1871-8.
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