6:1 [Judges records the repeated cycles of apostasy, judgment, and deliverance of the Israelites] Again [for the fourth time in Judges, the Israelites fell into sin; someone defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing but expecting different results] the Israelites [refers to all the tribes of Israel; failed to learn the importance of faithfulness to the Lord from the previous and recent periods of apostasy in their history] did evil in the eyes of the Lord [ God is familiar with all our ways (cf. Ps. 139:3); we never do anything “behind the Lord’s back”], and for seven years He gave them into the hands [cf. Ps. 119:67a] of the Midianites [nomads from the region east and southeast of the Dead Sea].
6:2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds.
6:3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.
6:4 They [“Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples” (cf. 6:3)] camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.
6:5 They came up with their livestock and the tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded [this annual destruction should have served as a wake-up call concerning the need for repentance] the land to ravage it.
6:6 Midian so impoverished [left them without adequate food for another year] the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help [distress and difficulty have a way of eventually turning our focus heavenward].
6:7 When the Israelites cried to the Lord because of Midian [how often we cry to the Lord for understanding concerning our difficulties without realizing our role in inviting such difficulties to visit us],
6:8 He [indicates that God heard the cries of the Israelites] sent them a prophet [unnamed], who said [the prophet pinpointed the cause of the oppression], “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
6:9 I [God had released them from Egypt’s slavery] snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land.
6:10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the god of the Amorites [used generally to refer to all the inhabitants of Palestine], in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to Me [they disobeyed God].”
6:11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah [a town located west of the Jordan River (exact location uncertain)] that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress [a pit carved out of rocky ground; ordinarily, the threshing of wheat was done in exposed areas where the wind could blow away the chaff] to keep it [to hide the wheat and himself] from the Midianites.
6:12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon [someone wisely noted that God does not always call the qualified, but He always qualifies the called], he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty [means “prevail,” “have strength,” or “be great”] warrior [Gideon had no record of distinguished military service; a prophetic statement of what God would make out of this fearful man secretly threshing wheat in a pit; God often uses fearful and unlikely people to do His work — people who would not qualify for service by the world’s standards (see 1 Cor. 1:26-27)].”
6:13 “But sir [a term of respect; suggests he did not know his visitor was the angel of the Lord],” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said [Gideon had heard wonderful stories about the Lord’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt], ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us [the truth of the matter was not that the Lord had forsaken Israel but that Israel had forsaken the Lord] and put us into the hand of Midian.”
6:14 The Lord [the angel is here identified as “the Lord”] turned to him and said, “Go [the Lord called and commissioned Gideon for an important task, just as He had called and commissioned Moses before him (Ex. 3:12)] in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
6:15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked [Moses too, was reluctant (Ex. 3:11)], “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest [God often uses the weak and most unlikely candidates to do His work (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-27)] in Manasseh, and I am the least [youngest] in my family.”
6:16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you [if God is with us, who can resist us (cf. Rom. 8:31)], and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”
6:17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign [the first of three signs he asked for] that it is really you talking to me.
6:18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”
6:19 Gideon went in, [note that Gideon prepared a substantial meal for his heavenly guest, especially in light of the scarcity of food] prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.
6:20 Then the angel of the Lord said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock [perhaps part of the winepress.], and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so.
6:21 With the top of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming [an indication that Gideon’s offering was accepted] the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared.
6:22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
6:23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace [an indication that the Lord had the welfare of Gideon and Israel uppermost in His heart]! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
6:24 So Gideon built an altar [to commemorate the Lord’s promise] to the Lord there and called it The Lord is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
6:25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down [since Baal worship was popular, this act would require that Gideon exercise courage (cf. 6:27); Gideon had to practice his faith at home before practicing it away from home; he had to face opposition at home before facing opposition on the battlefield] your father’s altar to Baal [worship of Baal was prohibited by God in His Law (see Ex. 34:12-13; Deut. 7:5) and allowed for the stoning of those who worshiped Baal (cf. Deut. 13)] and cut down the Asherah pole [dedicated to the worship of the goddess Asherah] beside it.
6:26 Then build [must tear down altar to false gods before we build altar to God] a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height [perhaps a bluff or stronghold]. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
6:27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime [an indication of his fear].
6:28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!
6:29 They asked each other, “Who did this [Gideon’s actions aroused the anger of the community]?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”
6:30 The men of the town [ironically, according to God’s Law, the “men of the town” should have been slain (cf. Deut. 13:6-9)] demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
6:31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar [if Baal was indeed a god, he was capable of defending himself].”
6:32 So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal [“Baal’s antagonist” (a derogatory name)], saying, “Let Baal contend with him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.
6:33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces [according to Jud. 8:10, the Midianite coalition numbered more than 135,000] and crossed over [for their annual invasion] the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
6:34 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon [clothed; to strengthen him for the task (cf. Zech. 4:6)] Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites [the men of his hometown] to follow him.
6:35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali [the four tribes who lived nearest the Valley of Jezreel and who would be affected the most by the invading Midianites; 32,000 men responded to Gideon’s call (cf. Jud. 7:3)], so that they too went up to meet them.
6:36 Gideon [got cold feet before leading the people into battle] said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised —[Gideon asked God for two more signs before going into battle; he requested a sign from God that would reaffirm God’s promise to him…]
6:37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.
6:38 And that is what happened. [God stooped to Gideon’s weakness and reaffirmed His promise…] Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew — a bowlful of water.
6:39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”
6:40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.