And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said to him, Take your father's young bullock…
The idolatrous altar and false worship of one's own, clan, of one's own family — these need courage to overturn, and more than courage — a ripeness of time and a Divine call. A man must be sure of himself and his motives, for one thing, before he takes upon him to be the correcter of errors that have secured truth to his fathers and are maintained by his friends. Suppose people are actually worshipping a false god — a world-power which has long held rule among them. If one would act the part of iconoclast the question is, by what right? Is he himself clear of illusion and idolatry? Has he a better system to put in place of the old? He may be acting in mere bravado and self-display; flourishing opinions which have less sincerity than those which he assails. There were men in Israel who had no commission and could have claimed no right to throw down Baal's altar, and taking upon them such a deed would have had short shrift at the hands of the people of Ophrah. And so there are plenty among us who, if they set up to be judges of their fellow-men and of beliefs which they call false, even when these are false, deserve simply to be put down with a strong hand. There are voices, professing to be those of zealous reformers, whose every word and tone are insults. The men need to go and learn the first lessons of truth, modesty, and earnestness. And this principle applies all round — to many who assail modern errors as well as to many who assail established beliefs. On the one hand are men anxious to uphold the true faith. It is well. But anxiety and the best of motives do not qualify them to attack science, to denounce all rationalism as godless. We want defenders of the faith who have a Divine calling to the task in the way of long study and a heavenly fairness of mind, so that they shall not offend and hurt religion more by their ignorant vehemence than they help it by their zeal. On the other hand, by what authority do they speak who sneer at the ignorance of faith and would fain demolish the altars of the world? It is no slight equipment that is needed. Fluent sarcasm, confident worldliness, even a large acquaintance with the dogmas of science, wilt not suffice. A man needs to prove himself a wise and humane thinker; he needs to know by experience and deep sympathy those perpetual wants of our race which Christ knew and met to the uttermost.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: It happened the same night, that Yahweh said to him, "Take your father's bull, even the second bull seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is by it;