King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

Judges > Old Testament > Home

Judges 6

Israel oppressed by Midianites. (1-6) Israel rebuked by a prophet. (7-10) Gideon set to deliver Israel. (11-24) Gideon destroys Baal’s altar. (25-32) Signs given him. (33-40)

Judges 6 Audio:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Israel oppressed by Midianites

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.

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.

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;

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.

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.

6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

Israel rebuked by a prophet

7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,

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;

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;

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.

Gideon set to deliver Israel

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.

12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

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 hands of the Midianites.

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?

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.

16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Gideon destroys Baal’s altar

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:

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.

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.

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.

29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.

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.

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.

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

Signs given him

33 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.

34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.

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.

36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

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.

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.

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.

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

« »

G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Madian. This nation had formerly been almost extirpated by Moses. Num. xxxi. 7, &c. H. — But they had re-established themselves, and dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Moabites, whom they had assisted. They new made a league with Amalec, and other eastern nations, (C.) in order to revenge themselves upon the Israelites. H. — Madian was a descendant of Abraham by Cetura. Gen. xxv. 2. The shortness of the servitude, which the Israelites had to suffer from them, was compensated by its severity. M.

Ver. 2. Resist is not expressed in Heb. neither did Israel dare to encounter the enemy. They retreated into the strongest holds, to rescue their goods and persons from the depredations of the Madianites. H.

Ver. 3. Amalec was formerly widely dispersed through Arabia. Some dwelt to the south of the promised land. Ex. xvii. Num. xiii. 3. 1 K. xv. 6. and xxxi. 1. But these inhabited the eastern countries, concerning whom Balaam spoke, Num. xxiv. 20. The Amalecites were scattered from Hevila upon the Euphrates, as far as the Red Sea and Sur, which is near Egypt. 1 K. xv. 7. and xxvii. 8. The other eastern nations denote those who inhabited the desert Arabia, the Moabites, Ammonites, Idumeans, Cedarenians, &c. Isai. xi. 14. Jer. xlix. 28. Ezec. viii. 7.

Ver. 4. Blade. Heb. “the increase of the earth.” They waited till the corn was almost ripe, and what they could not carry off they destroyed. C. — It seems they had allowed Gedeon time to gather in some corn, (v. 11.) and other Israelites would seize their opportunity, and perhaps cut the corn before it was perfectly ripe, which the Vulg. may insinuate by mentioning the blade.Gaza. They ravaged the whole country from east to west. H. — This method of warfare is, in effect, more cruel than any other. — Asses. They left no cattle, nor animals that they could take, wherewith the Isrealites might cultivate the earth. C. — In the extremity of famine, the flesh of asses would have been used to sustain life, as the text insinuates. H.

Ver. 5. Locusts. This comparison shews the rapacity and devastation of the enemy. Locusts in those countries often obscure the air with their numbers, and presently eat up every green thing. They proceed in regular order like a great battalion, and it is reported that they send some before to explore the country. S. Jer. Joel ii. Bochart. C. Gen. x. 4.

Ver. 8. A prophet. The people no sooner repent, than God shews them mercy. H. — The name of this prophet is unknown. The Jews say it was Phinees; others think it was an angel in human shape: but he might be one divinely commissioned on this occasion, to make an exhortation to the people, assembled on some of the great festivals, (see C. ii. 1. C.) though he might continue to exercise his authority afterwards. M. — S. Aug. (q. 31,) thinks that the angel (v. 11,) is here called a prophet, because he appeared in human form. W.

Ver. 10. Fear not. Idols can do you no hurt, if you continue faithful to me. H. — Shew them no respect or worship. The fear of Isaac means the God (C.) whom Isaac worshipped, Gen. xxxi. 42. Idolatry owed its rise to a groundless fear: primos in orbe deos fecit timor. Lucret. The pagans offered sacrifice to Paventia, to fear and paleness, &c. that they might be secure from them. Lactan. H.

Ver. 11. Angel; Michael. M. — Some think it was the prophet who had addressed the people, or Phinees, according to the Rabbins. See S. Aug. q. 31. Others believe it was the Son of God, who takes the name of Jehovah. Broughton and other Protest. — But the most natural opinion is, that a real angel was sent, in the name of God, like that which appeared to Moses, and assumed the incommunicable name, as the ambassador of God. Gedeon took him for a man, and presented him a noble feast, without designing to offer sacrifice to him. Maimonides and Grotius seem to suppose that all this passed in a dream; but the sequal refutes this opinion. — Ephra, a city of the half tribe of Manasses, on the west side of the Jordan, of which Joas was the richest citizen. He was of the family of Ezri, and a descendant of Abiezer. 1 Par. viii. 18. Heb. might be rendered, “Joas, the Abiezerite.” C. viii. 32. and xiii. 2. — Madian. Not having the convenience of cleansing the wheat in the open field, Gedeon was doing it privately, with a design to carry it off, at the approach of the enemy, and to support himself and family in some cavern. Heb. takes no notice of cleaning: “Gedeon threshed wheat, by the wine press, to hide it, or to flee,” &c. He probably used a flail, or some smaller sticks, such as were employed to beat out olives. Isai. xxviii. 27. Ruth ii. 17. C. — The wheat harvest was about Pentecost, that of barley was at Easter. It seems the Madianites had been later than usual this year, in making their incursions, v. 33. H.

Ver. 12. Is. We should naturally translate, be with thee, if the answer of Gedeon did not shew (C.) that it is to be taken as an assertion, that the Lord was already reconciled to Israel, and had made choice of this valiant man to rescue his people from slavery, though he was not of the first nobility, v. 15.

Ver. 13. My lord. This he says out of respect, supposing that he was addressing a prophet, (H.) or some virtuous person, of whom he desires to know what reasons could be given for the assurance of divine favour, which he held out. He speaks not out of distrust. M.

Ver. 14. Lord, Jehova. H. — The Chal. and Sept. have, “the angel of the Lord,” as the best interpreters understand it. C. — Upon him, with benevolence and an air of authority, that he might know that he was speaking to some one more than man. H. — Strength, with which I have endued thee. M. — Though Gedeon was naturally brave, he was no more disposed to attack the Madianites than the rest of his dispirited countrymen; and, even after he was strengthened from above, he was so conscious of his own inability to effect so great a deliverance, that he stood in need of the most convincing miracles, to make him act as the judge of Israel. H.

Ver. 15. The meanest in Manasses, &c. Mark how the Lord chooses the humble (who are mean and little in their own eyes) for the greatest enterprises. Ch. — Heb. and Sept. lit. “My millenary is poor, or lowly,” &c. This term means a great family, from which many others spring, or a city inhabited by such. Bethlehem was of this description in Juda. Mic. v. 2. Ephra and the family of Abiezer were not the first in Manasses. Grotius observes, that Gedeon and Cincinnatus were called to the highest offices, when they least expected it.

Ver. 17. Thou, the Lord, or his angel, capable of fulfilling these great promises; or be pleased, by some sign, to manifest thyself to me. C. — He began to perceive that he was talking with some person of authority: (H.) yet still he did not suspect that it was a spirit, otherwise he would not have offered food, nor would he have been so such surprised and afraid, only when the angel disappeared so suddenly, v. 22.

Ver. 18. A sacrifice, or some provisions to present unto thee. Heb. mincha, is taken for a present, particularly of flour and wine. It is used to denote those presents which were made by Jacob to Esau, and Joseph, and by Aod to the king of Moab. C. iii. 15. Gen. xliii. 14. C. — To sacrifice, often means to kill things for a feast, Mat. xxii. 4. What Gedeon brought, was afterwards turned into a sacrifice by the angel, v. 21. M. — Gedeon was not a priest, nor was there any altar prepared for a sacrifice. If Gedeon had intended to offer one, he would not have boiled nor baked the food, which he presented before his guest. C.

Ver. 19. Measure. Heb. “epha,” containing ten gomors, each of which was sufficient for the daily maintenance of a man; so that Gedeon brought as much as would have sufficed for ten men. Abraham presented no more before the three angels, Gen. xviiii. 6. The magnificence of the ancients consisted rather in producing great abundance, than in multiplying dishes. — Broth. Syr. and Arab. translate, “a good (old) wine.”

Ver. 20. Thereon. Thus he would shew Gedeon that he had no need of food. He would exercise his obedience, and manifest a greater miracle, as the flesh and bread would be less apt to take fire, when the angel touched them, even though some might imagine that he caused a spark to come from the rock. For the like purpose, Elias ordered thrice four buckets of water to be poured on the bullock, which fire from heaven would miraculously consume. 3 K. xviii. 34. H. — This broth might serve to anoint the altar, (Ex. xl. 10. M.) or answer instead of the usual libations. A. Montan.

Ver. 22. Alas. He makes this exclamation, concluding that he should soon die. Ex. xxxiii. 20. Callimachus says that “it was a law of Saturn, that the man who saw an immortal, unless the god himself chose to shew him that favour, should pay dearly for it.” Grot. — This opinion was groundless; and it is wonderful that it should prevail among the Israelites, (H.) since so many had seen angels without receiving any harm. M.

Ver. 23. Said to him, as he was ascending into heaven, (M.) or the following night. C. — It seems that Gedeon heard the angel’s proclamation of peace, and shewed his gratitude by forming the rock, or stone, into a kind of rough altar, which he entitled Yehova shalom, “God’s peace,” (H.) for doing which he received an order, v. 26. M. — Others erect altars, in various places; but they must be authorized by God. C. — Ezri. Prot. “unto this day it is yet in Ophra, of the Abiezrites.” Sept. is ambiguous. “He, or it, being yet in Ephra,” &c. H.

Ver. 25. And another, or “the second.” Only one seems to have been sacrificed; (v. 28. Cajetan) though others think that the second bullock was designed for a peace-offering. Bonfrere. Some infer that it had been fattened for Baal. Sept. observe, that the first bullock or “calf was fattened:” but it does not appear for what purpose. C. — Seven years, in memory of the duration of the slavery. M. — Before that age, bulls were not deemed so fit for yoking. Hesiod would have them to be nine years old. — Altar. We may render the Heb. “Cut down the idol which is upon the altar; or, Break in pieces the ashera,” &c. This is the title of the idol of the grove, Astare or Asteroth. Syr. and Arab. The Sept. is favourable to this explanation. C. — But the groves themselves were to be cut down, where an altar of God was to be erected. It seems this altar and the grove belonged to Joas, who is hence supposed to have joined in the worship of Baal. If he did formerly, his eyes were now opened, and he boldly approved of the conduct of his son, (v. 31. H.) who had probably never been infected. M.

Ver. 26. Top. Heb. “on the to of this fortress, (Mawz. Dan. xi. 38. Sept.) on the platform, (C.) or place appointed.” H. — Offer. Though Gedeon was not a priest, he was authorized to offer sacrifice. M. — God can dispense with his own laws. H.

Ver. 27. House, his relations and fellow-citizens, (C.) who were addicted to idolatry. Prudence dictated that he should do this privately, lest he might be prevented by them. They would soon perceive the weakness of their idols. Yet some of the servants, or others who had been on the watch, disclosed to the idolaters that Gedeon had done the daring deed, unless perhaps they accused him on suspicion, as his enmity to that worship could not be concealed. H.

Ver. 30. Bring. Parents took cognizance of the evil actions done in their family. The citizens require Joas to punish his son, or to deliver him up to them. On the same principle, the Israelites insisted that the tribes of Benjamin should not neglect to punish the citizens of Gabaa; and the Philistines demand Samson. C. xv. 12. and xx. 13. Cato advised that Cæsar should be given up to the Germans, whom he had unjustly invaded; and the Gauls would not be satisfied, unless the Fabii should be abandoned unto them. Grot. Jur. ii. 21. 4. H.

Ver. 31. His, Baal’s, or rather my son’s adversary; (C.) let him die before this morning be spent, as the Heb. insinuates. Joas represents to the men of the city, who looked upon him with a degree of respect, (H.) as the first in power and riches among them, (C.) how ill it became the Israelites to vindicate an idol. If Baal were truly so powerful, as they seemed to imagine, (H.) and so eager to revenge himself, he could never be restrained from bringing his adversary to condign punishment. “Let the gods punish those who injure them,” said Tacitus, Ann. i. “They would take care that their sacred things were not abused.” Livy x. This argumentation would suit the idolaters, who supposed that their gods were animated with the same sentiments and eagerness for revenge as themselves. But the true God, who can feel no such impressions, bears for a long time with the impiety of men, though he requires that those who are in power should punish notorious offenders. The magistrate is the instrument of God’s justice, and must stop, as much as possible, the growth of vice and irreligion. C. — It seems the citizens of Ephra acquiesced to the reason or authority of Joas, and even enlisted under the banners of Gedeon. H.

Ver. 32. Altar. Prot. “Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.” Sept. Alex. says that he then styled it (auto, the altar,) “the judgment-seat of Baal,” Dikasterion Baal. But the Vat. copy leaves Terobaal; and this title rather belonged to Gedeon. H. — David, out of horror for the name of Baal, calls him Jeruboseth, 2 K. xi. 21. “Let confusion plead,” &c. For the same reason, Esbaal and Meribaal are called Isboseth and Miphiboseth in Scripture. We read that Sanconiathon consulted “Jerombaal, priest of the god Jao,” concerning the antiquities of Phœnicia, which has led some to conclude that he had seen Jerobaal. The work, however, of that author is generally supposed to be a fabrication of Porphyrius, and was unknown to Josephus. It contains a multitude of fabulous accounts, intermixed with some truths, which might be taken from the Bible. Gedeon was no priest, and we may suppose little concerned about the Phœnician affairs or antiquities. C.

Ver. 33. Jezrael. The crossed the Jordan, probably at Bethsan, expecting to find rich booty in this most fertile vale, where it is reported that grass, or the plants, grow to such a size, that a man on horseback can scarcely be seen! They met with a defeat near Endor and Mount Thabor. C. viii. 18. Ps. lxxxii. 11. C.

Ver. 34. Him. He first calls his relations, and then the neighbouring tribes, to march against the enemy. He had before declared God’s orders, and was recognized as judge and deliverer of Israel; so that no one objects to his exercising this act of sovereignty.

Ver. 35. Him. Heb. “them.” M. — The people readily obey the summons, though many of them had not got the better of their fears. C. vii. 3. H.

Ver. 38. So. Gedeon besought the Lord to confirm his mission, in order to raise the drooping spirits of his soldiers. If he had not believed that he was chosen for the purpose of rescuing Israel, he would never have exposed himself, by destroying the idol and grove of Baal, and by calling the people to arms. Yet he might fear at present, lest he might be destitute of some of the necessary qualifications, and might entertain some apprehensions, lest the promises of God might by only conditional. The readiness with which God grants his requests, shews that he was inspired to act as he did, and his faith is greatly commended, Hebrews xi. 32. Other great saints have asked for a miraculous confirmation of what was promised. Ex. iv. 1. Jos. v. 13. Luc. i. 34. C. — Vessels. Heb. sephel, Sept. lecane, “a dish.” Syr. “a basin.” The dew in Chanaan is very copious, resembling a shower of rain, insomuch that the roads are rendered extremely slippery. Roger. i. 2. C.

Ver. 40. Ground. In these two miracles the Fathers observe, that the fleece represented the Jewish nation, favoured with so many graces, while the rest of the world was dry and barren; and that, when the latter was watered with dew from heaven, by the coming of Jesus Christ, the Synagogue was deprived of those favours. Orig. hom. viii. Theod. q. 14. S. Jer. ad Paulin. S. Aug. &c. — In the first miracle we may also contemplate, the incarnation of our Saviour in the womb of the most pure Virgin. Ps. lxxi. 6. S. Bern. serm. S. Jer. epist. Paul. C.