For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

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.”

The sorry cycle keeps repeating itself.  Israel is not long delivered until she forgets the God Who delivered her, and turns again to the sin which brought the chastisement in the first place.

This time the enemy used by God to be the instrument of His chastisement is Midian, meaning contention: strife, and the character of his oppression was that Israel was robbed of her proper food, just as under Jabin (representative of worldly wisdom) she was deprived of weapons.  It is the Word known and obeyed that is a sword in the hand of the believer, and when the wisdom of the world is substituted for the knowledge of God’s Word, the believer is left defenseless.

But the Word is the believer’s food as well as his weapon, and famine is the concomitance of strife and contention.  When “Midian” rules, God’s people go hungry, for strife and contention are inimical to the atmosphere of study and meditation, apart from which two exercises the believer has neither food for his own soul, nor does he have anything to share with others.  The condition of Christendom today advertises all too clearly that the “Midianite” rules.

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.”

Israel’s sorry condition becomes the more apparent when it is realized that dens are the homes of animals, and caves (employed frequently as burying places) are used in Scripture as symbols of death.  Strife and contention soon reduce God’s people to a state that is aptly portrayed by the animals, for animals, like men, have bodies and souls, but unlike men, they do not have spirits.  The Midianite reduces the spiritual life to a state of virtual nonexistence.  Spiritual activity all but ceases.

Nor is it necessary to elaborate on the significance of the cave.  Where there are strife and contention, believers are reduced to virtually the same state as marked them prior to conversion when they were spiritually dead in trespasses and sins.

The “strong holds” were simply remote fortresses into which the people withdrew in their attempts to escape from the enemy.  Many a local church is the spiritual equivalent of such a strong hold.  The believers are forced to devote to the solution of problems arising from strife and contention, time and energy that ought to have been directed to the spread of the Gospel, and the building up of the household of faith.

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;”

Amalek, meaning people of lapping (or licking up), was related to Israel, for he was a grandson of Esau; and as has been noted already, he represents the lusts of the flesh.  Nor is it strange to find these two joined together in their suppression of Israel, for strife and contention, and the lusts of the flesh, are rarely found apart.  Since the east is always connected with sin and departure from God, these “children of the east” represent all who are found in opposition to God and His people. 

While sowing is almost always used symbolically of the sowing of the good seed of the Gospel, the present context indicates that here it is more likely to be the sowing of the Word in teaching, for clearly it was Israel’s food that was being taken away, and their literal food is but the symbol of the Word as our spiritual food.

Strife and contention, indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, and general departure from God, always have the same results: they tend to nullify the effects of the teaching that is designed to build up believers and preserve them from these very evils.

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.”

The enemy’s “encamping” against Israel implies a prolonged concerted campaign rather than just one quick incursion.  Strife and contention are not things of but a moment.  The effects are long lasting.

Gaza, meaning she was strong, was a Philistine city, but the Philistine represents apostate Christianity, and Gaza portrays the strength and power of the great harlot system which heads up that apostasy.  The lesson is easily read.  The enemy doesn’t attack one of his staunchest allies.  Genuine faith has no more powerful foe than the apostate system masquerading as the true church, the bride of Christ.  As the enemy forces carried off Israel’s food, so will the evil spiritual forces they represent carry off the be­liever’s spiritual food, i.e., they will deprive him of the ability to find spiritual nourishment in the Scriptures, for essential to an understanding of them is the illumination of the Holy Spirit.  Strife and contention, and indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, however, make His ministry impossible.

In addition to carrying away the food of the people, the enemy also carried off the food of Israel’s animals, and in this God would show us the continuing evil effects of contention and strife, and the indulgence of the flesh. 

Without food the sheep and the oxen would die or become weak and sick, but the sheep represents the obedient submission that ought to mark us as believers; and the ox, type of patient service, represents that willing service which we should render to God.  The death or illness of these animals therefore becomes the symbolic announcement that the result of strife and contention, and the indulgence of the flesh, is that submission and service are weakened, or made to cease  altogether.

The ass, on the other hand, represents the natural body as the servant of the old nature: the wild ass portraying the body’s unrestrained indulgence of the lusts of the flesh, while the bridled ass portrays the body governed by the restraints of morality, social custom, etc.  Since the ass would also die of hunger, this would seem to speak of the death of the physical body, reminding us that in the Corinthian church this very same judgment had fallen upon some of them, “For this cause (unjudged sin) many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Co 11:30).  It is obvious, however, that not all the domestic animals would die.  Some would be able to find enough to keep themselves alive, but they would be weak and sickly, and of little use to man.  It is the same with us.  We may not actually die as a result of allowing strife and contention in our midst, but we will be so weakened spiritually as to be virtually as useless to God as if we were physically dead.

The camel is another type of the body, but as the servant of the new nature, for as the camel traverses the desert as the servant of its master, so are believers to present their bodies in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, traversing the spiritual desert of this world on the Master’s business.  Significantly, there is no mention of camels here, and the truth being declared is that these disobedient Israelites represent believers who have ceased to present their bodies to God. 

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 is significant that here camels are listed among the animals owned by the enemy.  No message could be clearer.  Contention and strife, and fleshly lusts, cause “the camel” (the believer’s body) to come under the control of the enemy.  And the phenomenal number of their camels points to the equally great number of believers who have fallen prey to the enemy represented by this evil coalition.

Some Biblical symbols have an evil as well as a good connotation, the context indicating which applies, and here there is no doubt that the cattle and tents and camels, as things belonging to the enemy, represent the things of the world, so that the intrusion of these things into the land which God had given Israel, speaks of the things of the world crowding into the believer’s life and usurping the time and energy that should be given to spiritual things.  Few will deny that this is the present condition of much of Christendom.

Since cattle furnished the animals used for sacrifice, their being found here in the possession of the enemy, reminds us that the world is by no means irreligious.  It too has what it calls worship; and the tent (symbol of the pilgrim lifestyle), but here also belonging to the enemy, would teach us that the world too has its religious equivalent of true separation; while the camel in the possession of the enemy, declares that the world, according to its own standards, would also render what it calls religious service.

The phenomenal numbers, “like grasshoppers,” would remind us that the world has an abundance of all of these equivalents of spiritual things, and Satan is a master in the use of them to lure us out of the path of obedience.  And it is to be further noted that none of these things was in itself bad.  God had also given  Israel these same things.  The lesson isn’t difficult to read.  In his subtlety Satan distracts us with things that are not in themselves evil, knowing full well that few believers can be tempted by obvious wrong.  The “weights” are just as effective in impeding spiritual progress as are the sins, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).

A word of explanation is offered here in regard to the tent.  It is not only the symbol of the pilgrim life, but it declares also the transitoriness of natural life.  Believers and unbelievers alike are passing through this world on their way to eternity, the one to dwell for ever in heaven; the other, to dwell for ever in the torment of the lake of fire.

The ominous truth is that “they entered into the land to destroy it.”  The things of the world will destroy the believer’s spiritual life, and ruin his testimony, for the land, in Scripture, is the symbol of profession, genuine or false.

6:6.  “And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord.”

Spiritual Israel, the Church, is similarly “impoverished” by the spiritual equivalents of the Midianites, Amalekites, and the children of the east, and her deliverance will come only when she too cries unto the Lord in genuine repentance.

6:7.  “And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites,”

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;

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:”

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 first step in their deliverance was that they must hear the voice of God, and the principle remains the same today.  If we would be delivered from our present bondage, we must hear and obey the Word of God.  His sending a prophet would teach us that God often uses a human instrument to expose sin, and exhort to repentance - and for an obvious reason: the backslider himself, having abandoned God’s Word, rarely turns back to it himself.  If he is to be recovered, it is almost invariably through the ministry of another.

The prophet reminded them of what God had done for them in the past.  He had freed them from Egyptian bondage, delivered them from the pursuing tyrant, and from all who had oppressed them, driving out the Canaanites, and giving Israel their land.  And obedience on their part was all that was needed to guarantee His continued blessing, but they had chosen instead to disobey.

The formula for recovery remains the same.  Note for example, the exhortation to the Ephesian church in Re 2:5, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent....”  If the remembrance of God’s past goodness doesn’t beget repentance, nothing will.

The reference to the Amorite, meaning a sayer, is significant.  He represents the mere professor, who in spite of a verbal acknowledgement of Christianity, is nevertheless an unbeliever; and it is to be remembered that the strife and contention represented by Midian, is that which comes from those professing to be believers.  The spiritual counterparts of the Midianites are those who mingle with God’s people, but who have never been born again.  Spiritually they are both Midianites and Amorites.  They will generate contention and strife in spite of professing to be also the people of God.  Israel’s having been warned not to fear the gods of the Amorites reminds us that we are not to bow down to the gods of the spiritual Amorites in our midst.  We are not to worship money, pleasure, fame, ease, worldly wisdom, etc.

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.”

Ophrah means dustiness: fawn-like (from its color); Joash, Jehovah has become man; Abiezer, father of help; and Gideon, the cutter down.

Frequently in Scripture, the mention of a tree, such as here, is intended to speak of Calvary, and since clearly this angel was the Lord Himself, his sitting under this oak is meant to remind us that God’s blessings to Israel were in anticipation of Calvary, as His blessings to us are based on the work perfectly completed there.  Apart from the work of Christ on that tree, there could be no blessing for man in any age, or under any circumstances.  All of us deserved to die. 

But its being in Ophrah dustiness, reminds us that disobedience brings death, as our disobedience brought Christ “into the dust of death” (Ps 22:15).  Ophrah represents this world: the place of death (dustiness).  Even in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, for which they should have died, God having Calvary in view, could draw near to give deliverance and blessing, if the people would but repent and return to Him.  Nor has the principle changed.  Those, who because of sin, lie in the dust of death, can be delivered and blessed if they will but repent and trust in Him, Who on Calvary’s tree, was brought into the dust of death as our Substitute, dying there the death we should have died.

The second meaning fawn-like points to Christ as the innocent One Who willingly assumed responsibility for our sins.

Joash, in the meaning of his name, Jehovah has become man, was the witness to the truth that there could be no redemption for men apart from the Lord Jesus Christ’s becoming man, so that He might die in man’s guilty place; while Abiezer, in the meaning of his name, father of help, is the witness that God is that Father.  Without His “help” all men must have perished.

Like all the judges, Gideon the cutter down is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the meaning of his name reminds us that at Calvary He “cut down” Satan by the seemingly impossible means of submitting Himself to death on man’s behalf.  The poet has expressed it very beautifully:

In weakness and defeat He won the meed and crown.

Trod all His foes beneath His feet

By being trodden down.

Gideon’s occupation is instructive.  The land might be under the heel of the Midianite plunderer ready to seize whatever Israel had harvested, but Gideon would secure what he could for himself even if it meant threshing the wheat in a very unsuitable place.  The winepress in Scripture speaks of judgment.  It is unclear whether he himself was innocent of idolatry, but the fact remains that he must share in the judgment of the guilty nation of which he was a part.  So is it today.  Those who seek to walk obediently cannot escape the spiritual famine that has settled upon the professing church because of the disobedience of the majority, but even in the midst of that famine they can, like Gideon, secure a portion for themselves, though it entails “threshing by the winepress,” that is, studying the Word and meditating upon it in the midst of sorrow and suffering, and with much all around to discourage.

The crying need of the hour is for more Gideons: men who will give themselves to the study of Scripture, no matter what the cost.

6:12.  “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.”

Certainly at the time the angel spoke to him there was little to indicate that he was “a mighty man of valor,” but the Lord could make this announcement in view of what He Himself was going to do with Gideon.  The statement was based also on what precedes, “The Lord is with thee.”  That is all that is needed to invest any man with the character of a Gideon, for it implies the obedience that makes it possible for God to walk with us, and “If God be for us who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31).  The Lord will not walk with the disobedient.

It is to be noted, however, that Gideon’s threshing wheat sets before us in symbol a prerequisite of service: he who would do God’s work must be devoted to the study of God’s Word.

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 hand of the Midianites.”

There is a sense in which the Lord is always with His own, but obedience is a necessity if He is to be with us in blessing.  Israel’s disobedience had forfeited His presence in that sense, as it does also with us.  Their sin was that of worshiping the Baals of Canaan; ours is of worshiping the gods of our modern world: money, pleasure, ease, power, worldly knowledge, etc.

Gideon’s question, “Where be all his miracles?” finds an echo in many a heart today, the question itself declaring lack of knowledge regarding God’s ways.  In the OT age His miracles of blessing were in response to obedient faith; those of judgment, in response to disobedience.  And in the OT age His miracles were tangible.  During this present age, they are not, but the same principle applies.  He works His intangible miracles of blessing in response to obedient faith, and His intangible miracles of judgment in response to disobedience.  He, however, who looks for literal tangible miracles during this age of grace will be disappointed.  Such phenomena are not for this present age.  

Gideon’s reference to God’s having delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage has its present day counterpart in His having delivered the believer from the bondage to sin, Satan, and death.  That God had forsaken Israel, however, was not correct.  The very judgment that had evoked their cry of supplication, was evidence that He hadn’t forsaken them.  He had permitted it in order to bring them back to the place where He could bless them.  It is the same today, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb 12:6-8). 

Had it not been for Israel’s disobedience, Midian couldn’t have touched them.  It is our disobedience that has brought into our midst the strife and contention which Midian represents, and which is robbing us of spiritual food, as Midian robbed Israel of literal food.

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?”

That the might was God’s is beyond question, for clearly Gideon had none, nor do we.  The truth is that obedience makes God’s might available to us, for He will not use a disobedient vessel.  That might or power is available to all who will confess that in themselves there is nothing but weakness, for God assures us, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul continues, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Co 12:9-10).

The implication of “Have not I sent thee?” is unmistakable.  There can be no failure in the work to which God sends a man.  The failures come when men, sent by men, presume to put their hands to a spiritual work to which God hasn’t called them, and for which He hasn’t endowed them.

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.”

The contemplation of our own abilities must evoke the same question in every honest heart, but the man who would do exploits for God must have his eye, not on self, but on Him Who by a word called the universe into existence.  Then all difficulties disappear, for nothing is impossible to God.  The great danger, and also the assurance of defeat, lie in the presumptuous spirit which imagines that man himself can do something.  The man who would be an instrument in the hand of the Almighty must be such a man as Gideon - one willing to confess his poverty and his littleness.

Our encouragement lies in remembering that in this, as in everything else, the Lord Jesus Christ is our supreme Example.  It was by just such an attitude, by His willingness to take the place of a servant, that He accomplished the mightiest victory time or eternity have ever known, or ever will.  The Lord’s earthly family was also poor; and He Himself despised.

It is significant that Gideon was a Manassite meaning causing to forget, and speaking of that principle essential to victorious Christian living, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13).  Occupation with the past, either its failures or its victories, is one of the great hindrances to spiritual progress, for the one will discourage us, and the other fill us with pride and false confidence.

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

This is the all-sufficient answer to Gideon’s objections regarding his own ability, as it is also to ours.  God with us assures victory, for none can stand against Him.

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

Some have seen this as faithlessness on Gideon’s part, and certainly it may have been, but it may be seen also as an indication of the godly fear that hesitates to act in self-will, that is reluctant to run without being sent.  That spirit is conspicuously absent today, and in its place reigns a spirit of brash boldness that doesn’t hesitate to speak and act without having the assurance that the speech and action are being prompted by the Holy Spirit. 

As the vindication of Gideon’s divine call was revealed in the miraculous consumption of his offering, by the fire out of the rock, so was the Lord’s ministry vindicated by the miracles He performed.

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.”

Just exactly what kind of sign Gideon expected isn’t clear, but it seems to have been connected in some way with the offering he intended bringing, though it is doubtful that he anticipated anything as dramatic as the consumption of the sacrifice by fire out of the rock.  That he was given such a spectacular sign, however, reminds us that God always does for us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ep 3:20).  Nor could there have remained any doubt in Gideon’s mind that the Lord had indeed called him.  Much of the havoc in the assemblies today results from the activity of those, who had they waited for clear indication of a call from God, would have found that no such call had been given them.

The offering represents worship, and inasmuch as Gideon offered it before he did anything else, God would teach us that worship comes before service, and true worship consists of an obedient life.  If I am not walking obediently I cannot serve.

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.”

As noted already, it is unclear whether Gideon had ever bowed to the Baals of Canaan, though there is no doubt that Joash his father did (see verse 25), and it is highly unlikely that his son could have escaped the contagion.  If so, then this offering would mark the turning point in his life corresponding to conversion.  The kid is a type of Christ as our Sin offering, and the cakes are figures of us as accepted in Him, for the truth is that at conversion we not only present Christ to God as our Sin offering, but we also present ourselves for His use, our lives being now no more our own, but His, “Ye are not your own” (1 Co 6:19).  “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.... For the body is not one member but many.... Now ye are the body of Christ....” (1 Co 12:12-27).

In his putting the flesh in a basket, and the broth in a pot, God bids us see the symbolic announcement of the fact that the Lord’s body and blood must be separated in death to make atonement for man’s sin - the flesh in the basket speaking of his life as a sacrifice to God; and the broth in the pot, the pouring out of that life at Calvary. 

His presentation of his offering is also a figure of worship, for the essence of worship is the presentation of Christ to God, and as noted already, the constituents of Gideon’s offering are all figures of Christ.  His presenting the offering “under the oak” reminds us that as our life begins at Calvary, so also does our worship center around that same tree, and will for all eternity.  Our service must also begin there, being rendered out of love and gratitude for the price paid there to redeem our souls.

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.”

The flesh, which was that of a kid of the goats (the Sin offering) represents Christ “made sin for us” (2 Co 5:21), while the unleavened cakes speak of us as men in Christ.  This command to place the cakes on the rock doesn’t contradict the truth declared in verse 19, for we can’t present Christ in worship unless we also present ourselves by living obedient lives.  The rock upon which they were laid is also a figure of Christ, for that rock speaks of the solid foundation upon which our eternal security rests.  The placing of the flesh and the cakes on the same rock reminds us of how completely we are identified with Christ in His death.  We have died vicariously in Him, God imputing His death to us.  The poured out broth, as noted already, speaks of His precious blood, apart from the shedding of which there could be no remission of sin.

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.”

Since the staff is generally recognized as a type of the Word of God, its touching the sacrifice reminds us that the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ were the fulfillment of Scripture, while the rising up of “fire out of the rock” reminds us that it was through the Holy Spirit that He offered Himself without spot to God (Heb 9:14), for fire is one of the Scriptural symbols of the Holy Spirit.  Our complete identification with Christ continues to be emphasized in that the flesh and cakes lay on the same rock altar; each was touched by the same staff; and each was consumed by the flame out of the rock.

The fact that they were touched by the end of the staff declares the truth that Christ was the fulfillment of all that was written in Scripture.  He ended the need to present those symbolic sacrifices which had been offered “year by year continually,” the need to repeat them advertising their inadequacy to do more than cover sin temporarily.  His sacrifice needs no repetition.

A practical lesson to be gleaned from this is that our worship must be according to the written Word (the staff), and at the impulse of the Holy Spirit (the fire).  Much that is called worship today lacks the authority of the one, and the power of the other.  It is frequently forgotten that Christ Himself said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24), and that He said also, “... thy word is truth” (Jn 17:17).

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.”

6:23.  “And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.”

This in no way contradicts what is written in Ex 33:20, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”  A theophany, the visible manifestation of a deity (often in human form) is not to be confused with the actual appearance of God, for, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn 1:18).  One of the blessings promised the redeemed is that in a coming day, “They shall see his face....” (Re 22:4).

The assurances given Gideon are given also to us,  “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro 5:1); and there is no longer need to fear God on account of sin.  All our sins have been blotted out by Christ’s blood, as it is written, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).

“Thou shalt not die” is also the assurance given us.  Death may cause our bodies to “sleep,” but only until the moment of the Lord’s return when those sleeping bodies will awake to a glorious resurrection and transformation that will see them “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Php 3:21).

6:24.  “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom; unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezerites.”

Gideon’s building this altar declares him to be a worshiper, reminding us that worship and victorious Christian living can’t be separated.  Since, however, worship is our giving something to God, the lesson being taught is that acceptable worship begins with the presentation of ourselves to Him, for without that obedience, every other expression of worship is but an empty form.

Jehovah-shalom means God is peace.  Only the obedient believer enjoys that peace which passeth understanding.  Only he knows God as the “God of peace.”

Its being said that that altar continued until the date of writing (a date unknown), declares that Gideon’s work was no fleeting thing, but rather a work of relative permanence.  Since that work, however, is but a figure of Christ’s, it points also to the eternal efficacy of that work accomplished at Calvary.  And as noted already, since Ophrah is a picture of this world, the presence of Gideon’s altar in Ophrah reminds us that it is here on earth that an altar has been set up to God’s glory as a result of Christ’s redemptive work.  And that worship which ascends from grateful redeemed hearts here on earth will continue eternally.

It is to be noted too, that this was the first of two altars set up by Gideon: the second is mentioned in verse 26.  The first speaks of Christ’s presentation of an obedient life; the second, of the offering up of that perfect life in death at Calvary.  We wont be able to worship at the Lord’s table if we haven’t first presented God with the sacrifice of an obedient life during the preceding week.

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:”

While others slept, God spoke to Gideon.  It is during the world’s spiritual night, while men “sleep,” that God speaks to His own.  And God’s order for all time is declared in that Gideon’s worship was followed by his being commissioned to serve.  We come in on the first day of the week to worship, and then go out to serve.

God’s revelation of His will to Gideon at night reminds us that the revelation of His will is hidden from the natural man, for he is still in nature’s darkness.  It reminds us too, that even the disciples didn’t understand fully until after the Lord’s resurrection.

Scholars disagree as to whether the reference is to one, or two bullocks - a young one, and another of seven years old, though the following verse seems to indicate that there were two.  Whether one or two, the animal or animals were to be used to tear down the altar of Baal, but since the bullock is a type of Christ the mighty Servant, the lesson being taught is that it is He and He alone Who overcomes the forces of evil; and though He may deign to use human instruments, all the power is His. 

The grove is literally the images, and the lesson is that anything which would take the place of Christ in the believer’s life is to be put away.  There are many such “gods” subtly vying for our loyalty and worship, e.g., money, pleasure, fame, etc.

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.”

That rock, literally strong place, is a figure of Christ and His work so perfectly completed at Calvary, the solid Foundation upon which everything else rests.  It is He Who is not only the basis, but also the substance of our worship, and it is significant that the worship of Baal was to be replaced with the worship of Jehovah.  Man is either saved or lost.  He worships the gods of this world, or he worships God, but he cannot worship both.

The “ordered place” is literally in an orderly manner, reminding us that God is to be worshiped, not as each man pleases, but, “in spirit and in truth,” i.e., as guided by the Holy Spirit, and according to the manner prescribed in Scripture.

The second bullock, offered as a burnt sacrifice, reminds us that Christ is the essence of worship.  It is He Whom we present to God the Father in worship.  Its being a burnt sacrifice reminds us also that the sacrifice of Christ was first for the glory of the Father, and then for the redemption of a ruined creation - man, and the earth upon which he lives.  (An interesting point relative to the second bullock of seven years is that the Canaanites considered seven, the Biblical number of perfection or completeness, to be an unlucky number, while the Israelites held it to be virtually sacred, thus, as another has commented, “Offering the second bullock of seven years old to Yahweh was a deliberate denial of the power of Baal and was an assertion of the victory of Yahweh over Baal”.

And as noted already, the first altar set up by Gideon stresses the Lord’s presentation of a sinless life, while this second emphasizes the offering up of that perfect life in death.

The destruction of the altar of Baal, together “with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down” declares that the moment of conversion should correspond with the end of our worship of the false gods of earth, and the beginning of our worship of the only true God.  It is that deliverance from our former bondage that evokes our present worship.

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.”

Since ten is the number that speaks of God as the Governor, Gideon’s taking these ten men to throw down the altar of Baal, speaks of the obedience to God’s government that ought to mark us as redeemed men and women.  There is perhaps additional significance connected with these ten men, for the hand which is the symbol of service, and the foot which is the symbol of our walk or manner of life, are both related to this number: we have ten fingers, and ten toes.  All our members are to be used for God’s glory.

Since Christ is the true Gideon, the ten serves to remind us of His perfect obedience to His Father’s will.

“... and did as the Lord said unto him.”  The command was no sooner given than it was obeyed.  It would be well if the same ready obedience marked us in relation to God’s commands.

His obedience was not without fear of the men of his father’s household, and the men of the city, but in spite of his fear, he obeyed.  He feared God more than he did man.  The same wholesome fear ought to govern us, for it is written, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Pr 29:25); but, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 11:10).

It is instructive to note that “he could not do it by day.”  It would appear that he was governed, not only by fear, but also by reality.  He recognized that he was outnumbered by his opponents, and since he couldn’t accomplish his task under their eyes, he used discretion, and did it while they slept.  (This in no way negates the fact that had God commanded him to do it by day, He would have given also the power.  It is to be noted, however, that Gideon’s doing it by night, and obviously by God’s permission, furnishes us with a beautiful little picture of Calvary.  The victory won there, and foreshadowed in that of Gideon, was also accomplished in the darkness which enveloped the scene from the sixth to the ninth hour).  God expects us also to use discretion, but it is to be noted that God’s command was obeyed.  Discretion is not to be used to excuse disobedience.  Gideon’s fear apparently was not for himself (he knew he’d have to face these men in the morning), but fear that he might be unable to carry out God’s command.

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.”

The light of morning revealed the completeness of Gideon’s obedience.  All that God had commanded had been done.  In Scripture the morning is frequently associated with judgment, reminding us that only on that “morning” when Christ comes in power and glory as the sun of righteousness, will the world see the fullness of the victory won by Him at Calvary.  It should remind us also of that morning when we will stand at the judgment seat of Christ.  Our prayer should be for the wisdom to so live here on earth that that morning might bear similar testimony to our obedience.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Gideon, like all the judges, is a type of Christ, so that his obedience in connection with the destruction of the altar of Baal, is a figure of the perfect obedience of the Lord in connection with the destruction of all that pertains to Satan.  That work too was perfectly done, so that before Calvary He could say, “I have finished the work thou hast given me to do,” and with His last breath declare in triumph, “It is finished.”  Nor should we miss the significance of the fact that Gideon’s work was done in the darkness of night.  It was during the three hours of darkness that the type was fulfilled, and the greater work accomplished by the true Gideon.  But it was by morning light (the resurrection morning) that the completeness of Christ’s victory was revealed.  He stood revealed as the Victor over death, hell and the grave.

And in Gideon’s fear we have the foreshadowing of the dread that filled the heart of Christ on the night before Calvary, when His blood became as “great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” and He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

That second bullock offered for a burnt offering is also a type of Christ, for it reminds us that it was by the offering of Himself without spot to God, that God’s great work was done.

That altar to Jehovah, which replaced the one formerly used in connection with the worship of Baal, would teach us that perpetual worship should be the response of every redeemed heart for that perfectly completed work that has first glorified the Father, but that has also secured the redemption of our souls.

The second bullock offered as a burnt offering represents the worship that celebrates the great work so perfectly accomplished at Calvary.

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.”

The Jews were equally ignorant of the identity of the One Who had done God’s work at Calvary. 

Inasmuch as Joash means God has become man, we find in the link between Gideon and his father the symbolic picture of the link between the Lord and His Father.  He Who stooped to become Son of man, never ceased to be God the Son.  He was “God manifest in flesh” (1 Tim 3:16).  In Christ we see fulfilled what is foreshadowed in the meaning of Joash’s name God has become man.

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.”

Almost invariably in connection with those who are OT types of Christ, we find that they were slain, or risked death, or underwent death symbolically, e.g., Moses in the Nile; Isaac bound on the altar; Joseph in the pit; Daniel in the lions’ den, etc.  Gideon also, in doing God’s work, risked death; and significantly it was the men of his own city who sought his life.  Nor should we fail to note that it was for doing good, for obeying God.  So was it also with Christ.  It was His own people the Jews who sought His life, but He didn’t just risk His life, He gave it a ransom for your soul and mine.

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.”

It would appear that Joash was one of the first to be won back to God as a result of his son’s work, he concluding rightly that he was no God who couldn’t protect his own altar.

The phrase “while it is yet morning” would remind us that frequently in Scripture, the morning is not only indicative of spiritual illumination, but that it is also associated with judgment, two things which are inseparable, for it is only spiritual enlightenment that enables us to judge rightly, while the ultimate judgment of all men will be in the all-revealing light of God’s presence.  Joash, now enlightened, is able to judge correctly the worthlessness of Canaan’s Baals, and the error of those who would contend for Baal.

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

Jerubbaal means Baal will be contended with: Baal will be taught, and as the new name given Gideon, identifies him as the one who has successfully contended with Baal, and who will teach Baal that the power of God is infinitely superior to that of Satan.  As always in Scripture, a new name signifies a new relationship with God.  This marks a new beginning for Gideon, whose victory of course is against Satan, for as Paul reminds us, “... an idol is nothing ... there is none other God but one” (1 Co 8:4), “But ... the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils....” (1 Co 10:20).  In worshipping the Baals, they were in reality worshipping Satan.  It was he with whom Gideon had contended.  It was he who would be taught the superiority of God, for Gideon was simply the instrument in the hand of the Almighty, and as noted already, Gideon’s victory is but the foreshadowing of the greater victory won at Calvary.

6:33.  “Then all the Midianites and Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.”

Midian, as noted already, represents the spirit of contention and strife, and as the literal Midianite ravaged Israel, so has the spirit which he represents wrought havoc in the professing church.

Amalek people of lapping (or licking up), more by what is recorded of him in Scripture than by the meaning of the name, is clearly shown to be the representative of the old nature and the flesh through which it works.  The Amalekites were the first to attack Israel after her deliverance from Egypt, and the type is fulfilled in experience, for invariably the first attack upon the new convert comes from the old nature still within him.  The declaration of God concerning this enemy is, “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.... Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:14-16).  Nothing is more destructive of spirituality than the activity of the old nature, a truth symbolically demonstrated in the malicious activity of the Amalekites against Israel.

That the warfare between the flesh and the spirit is lifelong, is declared, not only in the direct language of the NT, but here in the symbolic language of the Old: it is perpetual, it will be “from generation to generation.”

With the Midianites and the Amalekites were “the children of the east.”  They represent the forces of evil in general, for contrary to what is generally taught, the east is synonymous, not with good, but with sin and departure from God.  Not one Biblical reference to the east has a good connotation.

Their coming over, and pitching “in the valley of Jezreel” has also a spiritual message.  Jezreel, meaning it will be sown of God, is in the same general vicinity as Esdraelon and Megiddo or Armageddon, an area associated with numerous famous battles, and the place where the final battle will be fought between the Lord and the rebel armies associated with the beast at the end of the Tribulation.

As a place associated with conflict, it is a fitting picture of this warring world, but its meaning it will be sown of God, reminds us that it is in this same place of conflict that the good seed of the Gospel is being sown.  Pertinent to that sowing is the question of our own obedience to the command of Christ, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  The sad truth is that that sowing has all too often been abandoned under the influence of the evils represented by Midian, Amalek, and the children of the east.

Our individual delinquency however, will not prevent the sowing of that good seed.  Others, wiser than we, will be found willing to obey the Lord’s command, their obedience winning them the crown forfeited by our disobedience (Re 3:11).

We shouldn’t miss the significance of the gathering of the enemy in this particular valley, for it is meant to remind us that what they represent is inimical to all that is of God, particularly Gospel work, and the truth is that the spreading of the Gospel is the very foundation of our spiritual well-being.  The believer who is busy in sowing that good seed is very unlikely to fall victim to the enticements of the flesh.

We might note also in passing that the valley is symbolic of the place of fruitfulness.  We are responsible to be fruitful for God, first, in producing the “fruits of the Spirit” (Ga 5:22), and secondly, the fruits of the Gospel, i.e., the begetting of spiritual sons and daughters, men and women led to the Savior.  Small wonder that Israel’s sorry history records with alarming frequency the fact that the enemy was found “in the valley,” for that history is but the prewritten history of the professing church written in symbolic language.

6:34.  “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.”

The might of the enemy is great, but as John assures us, “... greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4).  Gideon alone was nothing, but Gideon, with the Spirit of the Lord upon him, was invincible, for the Spirit’s being upon him signifies his perfect submission to God.  Nothing can stand against the obedience that makes the believer simply an instrument in the hand of the Holy Spirit.  If we but grasped that truth the record of our lives would be one of victory rather than what is: almost invariably one of defeat.

His blowing the trumpet was to gather God’s people together - always the work of the Holy Spirit.  It was to unify them against the common enemy, and one lesson at least being taught is that as God’s redeemed people, we are to present a united front to the enemy.

First to respond to the summons of Gideon’s trumpet was Abiezer father of help, the family branch of Manasseh to which he himself belonged.  We too belong to that same spiritual family, for the God Who rules the universe is our Father, of Whom the Psalmist has written, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear....” (Ps 46:1-2).  As Abiezer responded to the call of Gideon, so does our Father respond to our every cry.

It is significant that the Abiezrites were the first to respond to Gideon’s summons, for we have noted already that his father “Joash the Abiezrite” (v. 11) appears to have been his first convert (vv. 31-32).  But God requires more than just words.  As James reminds us, “... faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Jas 2:17).  Joash demonstrated that he was prepared to confirm his faith by his works.  He would take up the sword against the enemy.

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.”

In these tribal names God shows us the character of those He will use to do His work.  Manasseh, meaning causing to forget, would teach us that once a man has put his hand to the plough, there is to be no looking back (Lk 9:62), as Paul declares, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14).

Asher happy reminds us that another prerequisite of useful service is that the man be happy in the work God has given him to do.  There is no place in God’s harvest field or vineyard for the reluctant servant.

Zebulun dwelling declares that he who would render effective service is he who dwells “in the secret place of the most High” (Ps 91:1).  The reader is advised to read all of this Psalm to acquaint himself with the power available to the man who abides in that same secret place.  He is attempting the impossible who attempts to render service without being prepared to spend much time alone with God.

Naphtali my wrestling: my tortuosity reminds us that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).

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

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.”

Any covering speaks of righteousness, either mere self-righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer, and since a fleece comes from a sheep or lamb, the fleece here appears to be the righteousness of Christ.

Since the removal of the animal’s fleece didn’t entail its death, as did the removal of its skin, Gideon’s having the fleece designates him as one who had the righteousness of Christ, i.e., he was a believer.  His having the fleece, rather than the skin, however, declares that his faith, like that of all OT believers, was a faith which anticipated that Christ would die, whereas that of the NT saint believes that Christ has died.

Since water is a symbol of the Word, its being only in the fleece declares that only Christ has the water of life, for as John declares “In Him was life” (Jn 1:4).  Its being dry everywhere else, reminds us that all other men are without that spiritual life, for “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23). 

The use of the fleece to ascertain God’s will, declares that His will can be known only through the written Word, and only by the man who knows Christ as Savior, for the natural man “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co 2:14).

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.”

The wringing out of the fleece may be viewed as a figure of the Lord’s death.  The water of life was in Him, and the wringing out represents His death, the bowl full of water from the wrung-out fleece portraying the truth that it is by His death that the water of life has been made available to men. 

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.”

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

Here the water on the ground, and not on the fleece, may speak of Christ’s life being poured out at Calvary so that the water of life might be made available to men.

[Judges 7]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough