Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.Gideon the Humble
I. At first sight the character of Gideon is a very inconsistent one. It seems to be composed of two opposite sides—towering aspiration and drooping humility. Was there not imposed upon him a great, a responsible destiny—a destiny which he must not seek to evade. Was he not bound to become the Saviour of Israel. So speaks the one side of his nature—the aspiring side. But there is another side. This same Gideon is the most humble of men, the most shrinking, the most cowering, the most timorous. That a man capable of lofty aspirings should be as mistrustful of himself as if he were a village rustic—this seems an unaccountable thing. But is the village rustic distrustful of himself. The rustic, in proportion as his rusticity is deep, is increasingly removed from humility. Humility is incompatible with absolute ignorance. There is then no contradiction but a beautiful harmony between the two sides of Gideon's character. So far from interfering with his humility his aspirations are the cause of his humility. It is the brightness of his ideal that makes him shrink in dismay. II. When Gideon has set himself right he proceeds to set right his people. Where does he begin? By changing their ideal of God. A man's religion is the root of his whole conduct. The first step to Gideon's success is effected not by material force, but by the power of spirit. When the worshippers of Baal come to the shrine in the morning, they find this sanctuary in ruins. They have no doubt that the perpetrator of the sacrilege is Gideon. Why then do they not put him to death? It is the very ruin of the shrine of Baal that makes them despise their idol. They cannot adore weakness even in their God. The effect of this silencing of Baal is the assembling of multitudes round the banner of Gideon. His ranks swell from day to day, till his adherents number thirty-two thousand. He reduces them to three hundred. He is jealous for God, jealous for the manifestations of the Divine power. He will not suffer human agencies to bear the credit of that help which he refers to God alone.
III. Every religious man wants to have the experience of strength from above. Gideon wished to have this experience. It was this that made him reduce his thirty-two thousand to three hundred. Here is a great paradox—humility made a source of confidence! but it is a paradox that has its ground in truth. Timid men are humble; but humble men need not be timid. There is a humility which makes us bold—Christian humility.
—G. Matheson, Representative Men of the Bible, p. 150.
It is not merely for being redeemed that we are called on to feel thankful, but for being redeemed by the blood of the God-man Jesus Christ, which He poured out for us on the cross. So it was not simply as God that Jehovah was to be worshipped by the Jews; but as the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the house of bondage, whose voice they had heard and lived, who had chosen them to be His people, and had given them His laws, and a land flowing with milk and honey.
The last sentence has suggested a query of some importance. Out of the house of bondage: What says the advocate of colonial slavery to this? That the bondage was no evil? That the deliverance of a people from personal slavery was not a work befitting God's right hand?... To those religious men who are labouring for the emancipation of the , amid the various doubts and difficulties with which every great political measure is beset, it must needs be an inspiring thought that to rescue a race of men from personal slavery, and raise them to the rank and self-respect of independent beings is, in the strictest sense of the word, a Godlike task; inasmuch as it is a task which, God's book tells us, God Himself has accomplished.
—Hare, Guesses at Truth (1st Series).
What shifts nature will make to live! O that we could be so careful to lay up spiritual food for our souls, out of reach of those spiritual Midianites! We could not but live in despite of all adversaries.
References.—VI. 11.—J. Sherman, Penny Pulpit, vol. v. p. 313. VI. 11-13.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii. p. 171.
Though a great and momentous truth is involved in the saying, that when need is highest, then aid is nighest, this comfort belongs only to such as acknowledge that man's waywardness is ever crossed and overruled by a higher power.
—Hare, Guesses at Truth (2nd Series).
'We are therefore,' writes Burke in his 'First Letter on a Regicide Peace,' 'never authorized to abandon our country to its fate, or to act or advise as if it had no resource. There is no reason to apprehend, because ordinary means threaten to fail, that no others can spring up. Whilst our heart is whole, it will find means or make them. The heart of the citizen is a perennial spring of energy to the state. Because the pulse seems to intermit, we must not presume that it will cease instantly to beat. The public must never be regarded as incurable.'
References.—VI. 12, 13.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 374. VI. 14.—Ibid., Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i. p. 130.
How the good man disparages himself! Bragging, and height of spirit, will not carry it with God. None have ever been raised by Him, but those which have formerly dejected themselves: none have been confounded by Him, that have been abased in themselves.
After his return from India, as a young officer, in ill-health and depression, Nelson declares that, 'I felt impressed with a feeling that I should never rise in my profession. My mind was staggered with a view of the difficulties I had to surmount, and the little interest I possessed. I could discover no means of reaching the object of my ambition. After a long and gloomy reverie, in which I almost wished myself overboard, a sudden glow of patriotism was kindled within me, and presented my king and country as my patron. "Well, then," I exclaimed, "I will be a hero! And, confiding in Providence, I will brave every danger."'
References.—VI. 19.—J. W. Atkinson, Penny Pulpit, No. 1052. VI. 22-24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1679.
Peace may be sought in two ways. One way is as Gideon sought it, when he built his altar in Ophrah, naming it, 'God send peace,' yet sought this peace that he loved, as he was ordered to seek it, and the peace was sent in God's way:—'The country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.' And the other way of seeking peace is as Menahem sought it, when he gave the King of Assyria a thousand talents of silver, that 'his hand might be with him'. That is, you may either win your peace or buy it—win it, by resistance to evil; buy it, by compromise with evil.
—Ruskin in The Two Paths.
References.—VI. 24.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Judges, p. 225.
Jdg 6:30; Jdg 8:27
Where thou findest a Lie that is oppressing thee, extinguish it. Lies exist there only to be extinguished; they wait and cry earnestly for extinction. Think well, meanwhile, in what spirit thou wilt do it: not with hatred, with headlong selfish violence; but in clearness of heart, with holy zeal, gently, almost with pity. Thou wouldst not replace such extinct Lie by a new Lie, which a new Injustice of thy own were; the parent of still other Lies? Whereby the latter end of that business were worse than the beginning.
—Carlyle, French Revolution.
They thronged after him and now professed themselves believers in Jehovah. They were not hypocrites. They really believed now, after a fashion, that Baal could not help them. Their fault was that they believed one thing one day and another thing the next.
—W. Hale White, Miriam's Schooling, p. 7.
References.—VI. 36-40.—E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 430. VI. 37.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Judges, p. 233. VII. 1-8.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Judges, p. 236.
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.
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;
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.
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.
And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
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;
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;
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.
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.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
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.
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?
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.
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
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.
But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
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.
And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
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.
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.
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.
And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.