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Bible Commentaries
Judges 6

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2748. B.C. 1256.

The calamities of Israel by the Midianites, Judges 6:1-6 . The message God sent them by a prophet, Judges 6:7-10 . God’s commission to Gideon, confirmed by a sign, Judges 6:11-24 . He breaks down the altar of Baal, Judges 6:25-32 . His preparation for war, and encouragement by another sign, Judges 6:33-40 .

Verse 1

Judges 6:1. And the children of Israel did evil The Israelites, having forgot the signal deliverance which God had wrought for them by Deborah and Barak, were condemned to a new state of misery and oppression, compared to which that under Jabin may almost be called freedom, Deborah being then allowed to judge Israel in the face of the sun; whereas now they were not only destitute of a judge, but were often without habitations, except those they were forced to seek for among the clefts and caverns of rocks, and in some few strong holds or fortresses, Judges 6:2; and if they found time and convenience for sowing their lands, their enemies poured in upon them, and wrested from them the fruits of their labour. Into the hand of Midian For although the generality of the Midianites had been cut off by Moses about two hundred years ago, yet many of them doubtless fled into the neighbouring countries, whence afterward they returned into their own land, and in that time might easily grow to be a very great number; especially when God furthered their increase, that they might be a scourge for Israel when they transgressed. Let all that sin, expect to suffer; let all that turn to folly, expect to return to misery.

Verses 3-5

Judges 6:3-5. The children of the east Probably the Ishmaelites, or Arabians, especially the eastern part of them. Unto Gaza That is, from the east, on which side they entered, to the west, where Gaza was, near the Mediterranean sea. So that they destroyed the whole land. Without number That is, so many that it was not easy to number them. And not in a regular army to engage, but in a confused swarm, to plunder the country. Yet Israel, being forsaken of God, had not spirit to make head against them; God fighting against them with those very terrors with which otherwise he would have fought for them.

Verse 8

Judges 6:8 . The Lord sent a prophet We have reason to hope God is designing mercy for us, if we find he is by his grace preparing us for it.

Verse 10

Judges 6:10. Ye have not obeyed my voice And therefore all these evils are come upon you. This is said to bring them to repentance. And our repentance is then genuine when the sinfulness of sin, as disobedience to God, is that which we chiefly lament.

Verse 11

Judges 6:11. And there came an angel of the Lord It is probable that many of the Israelites laid the prophet’s message to heart, and began to repent and reform, and that therefore God had compassion upon them, and sent an angel to appoint them a deliverer. In Ophrah In Manasseh; there was, however, another Ophrah in Benjamin, Joshua 18:23. Joash, the Abi- ezrite Of the posterity of Abi-ezer. Thrashed Not with oxen, as the manner was, (Deuteronomy 25:4,) but with a staff, to prevent discovery. Wine-press In the place where the wine-press stood, not in the common floor, because none would suspect that he was there so employed.

Verse 12

Judges 6:12. The Lord is with thee That is, to guide and strengthen thee, to animate and support thee. He is with thee, giving thee a commission to go out against the enemies of Israel, communicating to thee all necessary qualifications for the execution of this commission, and assuring thee of success therein. The Chaldee interprets it, The Word of the Lord is thy help, “which shows,” says Dr. Dodd, “that the ancient Jews looked upon this angel as the Lord himself, which is confirmed by the Targum translation of the following verse. Is the Shechinah of the Lord our help? Whence then hath all this happened unto us? A paraphrase which shows that they took the Word of the Lord to be the same with the Shechinah of the Lord.” Thou mighty man of valour To whom I have given courage and strength for the work to which I have called thee. Gideon, though a mighty man, could bring nothing to pass without the presence of God. But as that presence is enough to make any man mighty in valour, and to give him courage at any time, so it is all in all to our prosperity, whatever we do.

Verse 13

Judges 6:13. If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? All this trouble and distress from the incursions of the Midianites? All this loss, and grief, and dismay? Where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of? We are too apt to conclude, that those instances of God’s power which have not been exerted for a long time will never be renewed. Gideon seems here to have given way to this common weakness of our nature and tendency to unbelief and distrust of God’s power, and love, and faithfulness. And we frequently find the prophets expostulating with the people for thinking that the hand of the Lord was shortened, or that he could not exert the same wonderful power, producing the same glorious effects for them which he had formerly exerted and produced for their fathers. The angel had spoken to him in particular, The Lord is with THEE: but he pleads and expostulates for all, If the Lord be with US Associating himself with the thousands of Israel, and admitting no comfort but what they might be sharers in. Gideon does not seem yet to have had any idea that the person that spoke to him was an angel or heavenly being; but appears to have taken him only for some respectable person, or at most a prophet, for the expression, my Lord, with which he addresses him, was no more than was generally used toward persons of respectability.

Verse 14

Judges 6:14. The Lord looked upon him With a settled, pleasant, and animating countenance, as a testimony of his favour and readiness to help him. And said, Go in this thy might In the power of this commission which I have now given thee; and in the strength which thou hast already received, and dost now further receive from me. Have not I sent thee? Have not I hereby given thee a commission, a command to do this work? God’s fitting men for this work is a sure evidence of his calling them to it.

Verse 15

Judges 6:15. Behold, my family Hebrew, my thousand. For the tribes were distributed into several thousands, whereof each thousand had its peculiar governor; is poor Weak and contemptible. I am the least in my father’s house Either for age or qualifications for such a work. It is no proof that a person is unfit for an important work, because he thinks himself so. Before honour is humility. Indeed God delights to advance the humble, and often chooses to do great things by those that are little, especially that are so in their own eyes. “He chooseth the weak things of the world to confound the wise, and things that are despised, and things that are not, to bring to naught the things that are; that no flesh may glory in his presence.”

Verses 16-17

Judges 6:16-17. Thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man As easily as if they were all but one man. Show me a sign This Gideon desired, that he might be sure the commission was divine, and that God, who called him to his work, would give him success in it. This is one proof among many others which might be produced, that a sign or miracle was esteemed in those days both as a necessary and a sufficient evidence of a divine commission. And from hence we may learn that we have abundant reason to be satisfied and assured respecting the ground of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he was most abundantly approved of God, by signs, and miracles, and wonders, which God wrought by him, in the sight of all men. That thou talkest with me By authority from God: or, that thou art a messenger from him, that discoursest with me. Or, a sign of the accomplishment of that, concerning which thou talkest with me; that is, that by me thou wilt smite the Midianites.

Verses 18-19

Judges 6:18-19. Until I bring forth my present A repast for the angel whom he thought to be a man; and set it before thee That thou mayest eat and refresh thyself. An ephah of flour The choicest part of a whole ephah; as also he brought to him the best part of a kid dressed; for a whole ephah and a whole kid had been superfluous and improper to provide for one man.

Verse 20

Judges 6:20. Lay them upon this rock Undoubtedly it gave Gideon some surprise, to be commanded to dispose thus of the refreshments which he had so hospitably prepared; but as he had doubtless by this time conceived a high opinion of this unknown person, (though he had not discovered him to be an angel,) so he readily obeyed his command.

Verses 21-24

Judges 6:21-24. There rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh By which he showed himself not to be a man that needed such provisions, but the Son of God; and by this instance of his omnipotency, gave him assurance that he both could and would consume the Midianites. Alas, O Lord God I am an undone man: I must die, and that speedily; for that he feared, (Judges 6:23,) according to the common opinion in that case. The Lord said unto him Perhaps by an audible voice, for it does not seem as if the angel spoke these words; Peace be to thee Thou shalt receive no hurt by this vision, but only peace; that is, all the blessings needful for thy own happiness, and for the present work. Gideon built an altar there On the top of the rock, as is evident from Judges 6:26, where that which is here expressed only in general, is more particularly described. Jehovah-shalom That is, the Lord’s peace; the sign or witness of God’s speaking peace to me, and to his people: or the place where he spake peace to me, when I expected nothing but destruction.

Verse 25

Judges 6:25. The same night the Lord said unto him Most likely in a dream; Take the second bullock Houbigant and some others suspect that there is a deficiency in the text here, as nothing is said of the first bullock. Perhaps he was to offer both bullocks, one for himself, and the other for the sins of the people whom he was to deliver. For, till sin was pardoned through sacrifice offered for it, no good was to be expected. Dr. Dodd, however, conjectures that there is a false reading in the Hebrew, and that פר השׁור , par-hasshor, which is the expression in the first clause, and is rendered, young bullock, has, by the mistake of transcribers, been written, פר השׁני , par hassheni, second bullock, in the next clause. He therefore proposes to render the passage, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the young bullock of seven years old; the Hebrew phrase, פר השׁור , par- hasshor, implying no more than the offspring of a bull. Perhaps what some commentators have observed is more fanciful than just, namely, “that as this bullock was calved when the oppression of the Midianites began, so it was now ordered to be sacrificed in token that the oppression should end with this bullock’s death.” Throw down the altar of Baal Thus God commands Gideon to begin his heaven-appointed task with the destruction of the altar of Baal, the fatal source of Israel’s defection and punishment; and to expiate their crime by a sacrifice, in the place where they had rendered divine honours to that despicable deity of the Midianites. That thy father hath made Which was in his ground, and perhaps erected at his expense, though it was for public use, as appears from Judges 6:28. Cut down the grove planted by the altar for idolatrous uses, as the manner of idolaters was. That is by it Or, upon it. Perhaps by אשׁרה , Asherah, which we translate grove, may be meant the image in the grove, and which was placed on the altar. This, Mr. Seldon conjectures, with great probability, was the image of Ashtaroth, or Astarte, for she was worshipped together with Baal. There could be no hope of deliverance till religion was reformed, with which God therefore orders Gideon to begin. This action of Gideon might seem injurious to his father’s authority; but God’s command was a sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father’s superior, and was authorized to root out all idolatry, and the instruments thereof.

Verse 26

Judges 6:26. Upon the top of this rock Hebrew, of this strong hold. For in that calamitous time the Israelites retreated to such rocks, and hid and fortified themselves in them. In the ordered place That is, in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built; and offer a burnt-sacrifice Gideon was no priest, nor was this the appointed place of sacrifice; but God can dispense with his own institutions, though we may not; and his call gave Gideon sufficient authority.

Verse 27

Judges 6:27 . Then Gideon took ten men Whom doubtless he had acquainted with his design, and the assurance of success in it, whereby they were easily induced to assist him. He feared Not so much lest he should suffer for it, as lest he should be prevented from doing it.

Verses 28-29

Judges 6:28-29. The bullock was offered Not upon Baal’s altar, for which it was designed, but upon an altar erected in contempt of Baal. When they inquired, they said Probably some of the persons employed in it.

Verse 31

Judges 6:31. Joash said, Will ye plead for Baal? Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal for whose worship you suffer such grievous calamities at this day? It is plain that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal, having gone with the stream, as we find the altar of Baal on his estate; but probably he was now convinced of his sin and folly by Gideon, being made acquainted with the appearance of the angel to him, and of the divine commission which he had received. Hence he resolutely declares himself on the side of the God of Israel, and when the people demanded that his son should be put to death for casting down the altar of Baal, he boldly demands, according to the law of Moses, that whatever man should plead for Baal should be put to death, idolatry being a capital offence. While it is yet morning That is, immediately; for it was in the morning, as we learn from Judges 6:28, that this tumult was made. If he be a god, let him plead for himself As the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done him. But Baal hath now showed, that he is neither able to help you nor himself; and therefore is not worthy to be served any longer. This resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the people’s fury; and it was drawn from him by the sense of his son’s extreme danger, and by the confidence he had that God would plead his son’s cause, and use him for the rescue of his people. It is probable that, by what Joash now said, the eyes of the people were opened, to see how impotent the god was whom they had worshipped; as, by comparing it with what they had heard the God of Israel had frequently done in vindication of his honour, they might well conclude how inferior he was to Jehovah, the one living and true God, or rather, in the language of Scripture, that he was nothing, a mere nonentity.

Verse 32

Judges 6:32. He called his name Jerubbaal That is, Let Baal plead. The meaning is, either that Joash called Gideon so, Judges 8:1, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand on Baal; or that his countrymen gave him this name. For, as Houbigant observes, the Hebrew may be rendered, On that day they gave him the name of Jerubbaal. It is a probable conjecture, that that Jerombalus, whom Sanchoniathon (one of the most ancient of all the heathen writers) speaks of as priest of Jao, (a corruption of Jehovah,) and to whom he was indebted for a great deal of knowledge, was this Jerubbaal.

Verses 33-34

Judges 6:33-34. Then all the Midianites were gathered together, &c. As was their usual custom every year, that they might waste the country. And pitched in the valley of Jezreel Not Jezreel in Judah, but another place of that name in the borders of Manasseh and Issachar, which was not far distant from Ophrah, where Gideon dwelt. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon Inspiring him with extraordinary wisdom, and courage, and zeal, to vindicate God’s honour and his country’s liberty. The Hebrew is, The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon; clothed him as a robe, to put honour upon him; clothed him as a coat of mail, to put a defence upon him. Those are well clad that are thus clothed. Abi-ezer That is, the Abi- ezrites, his kindred, and their servants, and others; who, finding no harm coming to him for destroying Baal, but rather a blessing from God, in giving him strength and courage for so great an attempt, changed their minds, and followed him as the person by whose hands God would deliver them.

Verse 35

Judges 6:35. All Manasseh On both sides of Jordan. Unto Asher, &c. Because these tribes were nearest, and so could soonest join with him; and were nearest the enemy also, (Judges 6:33,) and therefore were most sensible of the calamity, and would in all reason be most forward to rescue themselves from it.

Verse 39

Judges 6:39. Gideon said In a way of humble supplication, for the strengthening his own faith, and for the greater encouragement of his soldiers in this great attempt. On all the earth That is, upon all that spot of ground which encompasses the fleece. On the ground Which was more preternatural than the former instance, because, if there be any moisture, such bodies as fleeces of wool are likely to drink it up.

Verse 40

Judges 6:40. And God did so See how tender God is even of the weak; and how ready to condescend to their infirmities! These signs were very expressive. They are going to engage the Midianites. Could God distinguish between a small fleece of Israel and the vast floor of Midian? Yes, by this token it appears that he can. Is Gideon desirous that the dew of divine grace might descend on himself in particular? He sees the fleece wet with dew, to assure him of it. Does he desire that God will be as the dew to all Israel? Behold all the ground is wet!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 6". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/judges-6.html. 1857.
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