Matthew Poole's Commentary
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 Midianites oppress Israel, Judges 6:1-6. A prophet raised rebukes them, Judges 6:7-10. An angel calls Gideon to Israel’s deliverance, Judges 6:11-16; confirms him by a miracle, Judges 6:17-21. He builds an altar; calls it Jehovah-shalom; and offereth there. By God’s command he breaks down the altar of BAAL: his name Jerub-baal, Judges 6:22-32. The Midianites gather together to fight; and Gideon prepares against them: God strengthens and confirms him by a miracle, Judges 6:33-40.
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 afterwards 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 fit scourge for his people Israel when they transgressed.
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.In which they might secure their persons and provisions from the hands of the Midianites.
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 children of the east, i.e. the Arabians, who are commonly called the children of the east, as Genesis 29:1 Judges 8:10,11 Job 1:3 Ezekiel 25:4. Not all the Arabians, for in that were many and divers people; but in the eastern part of Arabia.
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.Till thou come unto Gaza, i.e. from the east, on which side they entered, to the west, where Gaza was near the sea; so they destroyed the whole land.
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.Without number, i.e. so many that it was not easy to number them. It is an hyperbole.
And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,No text from Poole on this verse.
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;No text from Poole on this verse.
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 text from Poole on this verse.
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.Fear not, i.e. do not serve or worship them.
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.In Ophrah, to wit, in Manasseh; for there was another Ophrah in Benjamin, Joshua 18:23. The Abi-ezrite; of the posterity of Abi-ezer; of whom see Joshua 17:2 1 Chronicles 7:18. See Judges 8:27,32.
Threshed wheat; not with oxen, as the manner was, Deu 25:4; but with a staff, to prevent discovery.
By the wine-press; in the place where the wine-press stood, not in the common floor.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.i.e. Will assist thee against thine and mine enemies.
Thou mighty man of valour; to whom I have given strength and courage for this end.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?The Lord looked upon him, with a settled and pleasant countenance, as a testimony of his favour to him, and of his readiness to help him.
Go in this thy might; or, go now, or at this time, in thy might; the strength which thou hast already received, and dost now further receive from me, is sufficient with my help.
Have not I sent thee? I do hereby give thee command and commission for this work, and therefore am obliged in honour to assist thee in it.
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.My family, Heb. my thousand; for the tribes were distributed into several thousands, whereof each thousand had his peculiar governor.
Poor, i.e. weak and contemptible.
I am the least either for age, or for wisdom, and fitness for so great a work.
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.As easily as if they were all but one man; or, thou shalt destroy them to a man, as he did, Jud 8.
And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.That it is thou, to wit, an angel or messenger sent from God, that appears to me, and discourseth with me; and not a fancy or delusion; that thou art in truth what thou seemest and pretendest to be, Judges 7:12. Or,
a sign of that which thou talkest with me, i.e. that thou wilt by me smite the Midianites.
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.My present; not a sacrifice, because neither was Gideon a priest, nor was this the place of sacrifice, nor was any altar here, nor was there any such sacrifice as here follows appointed by God; but a repast, or some food for the angel, which he thought to be a man, as appears by Judges 6:22. Compare Judges 13:15 Genesis 18:5.
Set it before thee, that thou mayst eat and refresh thyself.
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.Of an ephah of flour, to wit, out of 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 very superfluous, and improper to provide for and set before one man.
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 text from Poole on this verse.
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.By these things he showed himself to be no man that needed such provisions, but a true angel of God, or the Son of God; and by this instance of his omnipotency, gave the assurance that he both could and would consume the Midianites.
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.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; of which see Genesis 16:13 32:30 Exodus 33:20 Deu 5:25,26.
For because, or, for therefore, &c., i.e. therefore God hath showed me this sight as a presage of my death.
And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.The Lord spake by inward suggestion, rather than in a visible apparition.
Peace be unto thee; thou shalt receive no hurt by this vision, as thou fearest; but only peace, i. e. all the blessings needful for thy own happiness, and for the present work; for this is a very comprehensive phrase among the Hebrews.
Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.There, to wit, on the top of the rock, as is evident from Judges 6:20, and especially from Judges 6:26, where that which is here expressed only in general, and by anticipation, is more particularly described, according to the usage of the Scripture.
Jehovah-shalom, i.e. 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.
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:Even the second bullock: thus there was but one bullock, which was young, to wit, comparatively, but not simply, for it was seven years old; and of such this Hebrew word is used, Job 21:10; for these creatures are fruitful above seven years. Or thus,
thy father’s young bullock, and the second bullock: so there were two bullocks. But because there is but one of them mentioned both in the next verse, and in the execution of this command, Judges 6:28, it is probable it was but one; and the Hebrew particle vau, and, is put exegetically for even, or, to wit, as is very usual. And this he calls his father’s young bullock, both because his father was the owner of it, and because his father kept and fed it for a sacrifice to Baal. But because it is likely his father kept divers of these cattle of differing ages and statures for that use, either at his own or at the people’s charge, therefore he adds, by way of limitation, that he should not take the eldest and the greatest, but the second, to wit, in age, or stature, or goodliness, or in the order of sacrifice, that which was to have been sacrificed to Baal in the second place. And this he singled out because of its age; for being
seven years old, it began with the Midianitish calamity, and being now to be sacrificed, did fitly signify, that the period of that misery was now come.
That thy father hath; which thy father built in his own ground, though for the common use of the whole city, Judges 6:28-30.
The grove that is by it; planted by the altar for idolatrous or impure uses, as the manner of idolaters was. See Judges 3:7. This action might seem injurious to his father’s rights and authority; but God’s command was sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father’s superior, and was empowered, and authorized, and enjoined to root out all idolatry and superstition, and the instruments thereof.
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.Upon the top of this rock; of which Judges 6:20,21. Heb. 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, i.e. in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built. Or,
in order, i.e. in such manner as I have appointed; for God had given rules about the building of altars.
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.
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.Doubtless he had acquainted the ten men with his design, and the assurance of success in it, whereby they were easily induced to assist him, if not sincerely, yet for the expectation of advantage to themselves by it.
Because he feared; not so much lest he should suffer for it, for he knew very well the doing it by night with so many hands could not hinder the discovery, and consequently the punishment of it; but lest he should be prevented from doing it.
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.Not upon Baal’s altar, for which it was designed; but upon an altar erected in contempt of Baal.
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.Which they might easily conjecture, partly by his known aversion from the worship of Baal, and partly because no other person durst presume to do such a thing; but they might more certainly learn it from some of the persons employed in it, who through fear or favour might inform them.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Will ye plead for Baal? Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal, for the worship whereof you suffer such grievous calamities at this day, and from whom you have no help? It is plain that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal; either therefore he was now convinced by Gideon’s information and action, or he makes use of this pretence to preserve his son, being indeed indifferent in matters of religion; and therefore as he did worship Baal to comply with his neighbours, so now he deserts him to rescue his son.
He that will plead for him, let him be put to death; he that shall further plead for such a god as this, deserves to die for his folly and impiety. It is not probable that this was all that he said for his son’s defence; or that he would neglect to mention the call his son had from God to it, the apparition of an angel, the promise of deliverance; but it is usual in Scripture to give only some short hints of those things which were more largely discoursed.
Whilst it is yet morning, i.e. instantly, without delay; for it was now morning time, as appears from Judges 6:28, &c.
Let him plead for himself, as the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done to 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 courageous and resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the people’s fury; and it was drawn from him, partly by the sense of his son’s extreme danger, and partly by the confidence he had that God would plead his son’s cause, and use him for the rescue of his people.
Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.He called him, i.e. Joash called Gideon so, Judges 7:1, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand upon Baal.
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.Not that Jezreel in Judah, of which Joshua 15:56; but another in the borders of Manasseh and Issachar, Joshua 17:16 19:18, which is not far distant from Ophrah, where Gideon dwelt, and now was.
But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.Came upon Gideon, inspiring him with extraordinary wisdom, and courage, and zeal, to vindicate God’s honour and his country’s liberty. Compare 1 Chronicles 12:18 2 Chronicles 24:20.
Abi-ezer, i.e. the Abi-ezrites, his kindred, And their servants, and others; who finding no harm coming to him for the destroying of Baal, but rather a blessing from God, in giving him strength and courage for so great and dangerous an attempt, changed their minds, and followed him as the person by whose hands God would deliver them.
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.Throughout all Manasseh, on both sides of Jordan.
Unto Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; because these tribes were nearest to him, 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.
And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,Gideon said this in way of humble supplication, partly for the strengthening of his own faith, and partly for the greater encouragement of his soldiers in this great and strange attempt.
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.Upon all the earth beside, i.e. upon all that spot of ground which adjoineth to and encompasseth the fleece.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Which was more difficult and preternatural than the former instance, because if there be any moisture, such bodies as fleeces of wool are most likely to drink it up.
And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.No text from Poole on this verse.