Home » Various Sermons » Good thing our God is Yahweh not Ba’al: Judges 6.28-40

Good thing our God is Yahweh not Ba’al: Judges 6.28-40

“Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”  And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.  Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”  And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.” – Judges 6.36-40

Gideon within the previous part of the narrative was approached by Yahweh’s messenger and called to be a deliverer and within the same day he was also given a task, that was to destroy the altar to Baal.  Something which Gideon did in secrecy of night.  Within the next movement of the story, we find that Gideon is quickly found out and pushed closer to his task of delivering his people, from their oppressors all the while testing God again and again.  Within this portion while we may see a leader who may seem a little wishy-washy, we see a God who is has extreme power over all things, notably the dew of nature here.

So while Gideon may not still seem the perfect candidate to be a part of God’s chosen leaders, we still see that we can faith in God, though it may not seem like it.

“When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built.  And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.”  Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.”  But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”  Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.” – Judges 6.28-32

Despite Gideon doing all of his work in secret it doesn’t take long for him to be found out.  For we found out quickly that the men of the town woke up early, and found out the deed that had been done, and then as we see within a few sentences later, already know who has done it[1].

We see twice in this verse, the phrase “this thing”, “thing” comes from the Hebrew word dābār, which has the idea of a word to thing, including an action, thus a “deed,” it is repeated twice here, to be “emphasized”, but also for “effect[2].”  The people of the town are angry and it is because Gideon has just destroyed what to them meant hope for “prosperity and fertility[3].”  After all if one remembers they were indeed already experiencing great hardship due to their oppressors, and sadly since they had put their trust in the wrong things, which were now destroyed, their hope was failing.

As a side note, there are two idols mentioned within this passage, Baal and Asherah, both of whom were rather important gods of the Canaanite pantheon.  There has been debate over what exactly the Asherah was, it seems to be a “wooden pole,” “tree,” or “an idol,” the object, whatever it was signified the goddess.  The goddess seems to be equated the Athirat, who was consort of El, and the Mother Goddess so to speak[4].  Some wonder if at times the Israelites in their syncretism of Yahweh placed Asherah in that position.  Baal is the Storm god, and was the go to god when one needed help with their crops, he would seem to be equated with Hadad, a well known Middle Eastern Strom God, with Baal perhaps being only a title[5]. (Ba’al means lord in Hebrew).

In a way in verse thirty we see why Gideon was afraid, for the townsfolk upon seeing the destruction of their religious item, were angered enough to kill him, in a sad way it reveals how far the people have moved away from Yahweh, for they would kill Gideon, for the destruction of a false idol, instead of praising him for upholding the true God[6].

Joash refuses to allow the townspeople to bring any harm upon his son, something which shows that though the people might be bad, they aren’t as bad as the actions of another judge[7].  Joash begins to ask certain questions, to defend his son’s life, and although he may be seen as “confident [in] that Baal can take care of himself,” he does bring up a good point[8].  Joash makes a theological statement of sorts, namely, if Baal was a God, then he would be able to defend his own name, note though, Joash doesn’t say that Baal isn’t a god, but does begin to question, moreover one could note that Joash has now distanced himself from the altar, whereas in 6.25, Yahweh said it was Gideon’s “father’s” altar, here, it is Baal altar.  As one reads this, one might really ponder, why should a man defend his a god’s honor, need to save his own god, rather it would seem a good god could defend his own honor, and save himself[9].

Gideon is given another name, Jerubaal, but ironically, Gideon might have tore down an altar, but he really didn’t challenge Baal, Joash, the idol’s owner did[10].  Yet on another note it be might be stated, that Gideon has here, also ironically earned himself a name after another god, Baal, for doing the work of Yahweh.  Moreover the ironies abound in his name, for while Gideon contended more so not with Baal, but Yahweh’s angel[11].  Still, one can note, despite all this that it does bring to heart again, that Baal couldn’t defend his own name, even against Gideon, who was if anything a “timid contender,” and thus as Yahweh moves into action in the latter part of the narrative, it begs the question of why the Israelites would want to place their trust in this idol[12]?

When Gideon destroyed the altar, in a way he called Baal to action, but no action came from the idol.  So often we can put out faith into a bunch of different things.  We make our own Baals and Asherahs easily.  But the fact of the matter is that Yahweh is the only one who we out to place out faith in.  Moreover, while Baal couldn’t lift a finger to do anything, we know that Yahweh moves and does act.  He acts to the point that Jesus came to this earth as our savior.  When the things that we place our trust in, prove to be the wrong things, we can realize that we do have a real God whom we can place our trust in and in whom it will not be shattered.

“Now  all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and they crossed the Jordan and encamped in  the Valley of Jezreel.  But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.  And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him.  And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.” – Judges 6.33-35

Verse thirty-three begins and we once again reminded of the various oppressors which had been harming the Israelites.  There re-mention, reminds us of the predicament the Israelites were in, but also tells us of the “gravity of the situation,” which they were facing[13].  The Oppressors have taken their place in a rather strategic spot, one which is seen in other battles, one could note 1 Samuel 29, but also Yahweh makes mention in Hosea 1.5[14] that “And on that day  I will break the bow of Israel  in the Valley of Jezreel.””  Moreover the enemy isn’t just coming closer; they are within the very “heart,” of the territory of Manasseh and are a stone’s throw away from Gideon’s own city.  Things, are indeed looking grim at this point[15].

While other judges, namely Othniel, Jephthah, and Samson all have interactions with the Spirit of Yahweh, Gideon is the only one said to be “clothed,” by it.  Othniel for instances it is said in Judges 3.10 “The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”  This clothing gives him a sort of “divine power,” and to “summon[s] him to battle… as the Commander[16].”

Like Deborah and Barak, Gideon calls up together other tribes to his in the upcoming battle, yet the tribes of different, and unlike the previous deliverers, there is no mention of any refusing Gideon’s banner[17].  Some of the tribes which Gideon call to battle would have been far away from his territory, such as Asher and Naphtali and thus one would have thought that these would be like Deborah’s and Barak’s tribe which didn’t come[18].  It should be noted that each deliverer within the book which calls a tribe to help them, doesn’t call all of the tribes, but specific ones, and its only in Deborah’s and Barak’s tale where the tribes who weren’t called or didn’t come considered to have done wrong[19].

While there has been some side story, explaining God’s chosen leader and his back story we are bought suddenly back to view of the enemy and what Yahweh has exactly called Gideon to do.  We are reminded of course of the dire situation that the people were in and the very true fact of that needed divine intervention to help bring them out of it.  Luckily their god was Yahweh and not Baal and thus were in a lot better position than they could be.

As we come into those dark times in our life, we should hopefully remember that our god is a god able to help us through those times.  Of course it might not be in the way we would want, but it will be in the way we need.  As we face those dark times, it would do us good to rely on Yahweh and not the various Baals which we were so apt to face instead.  Morever like Gideon we have God’s holy spirit within us to help us at all times.  Although unlike Gideon the Holy Spirit is with us to stay, and to be our constant helper for more thing then winning a needed battle or two.

“Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”  And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.  Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”  And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.” – Judges 6.36-40

Right when we would have expected to see the battle, instead we see Gideon questioning God once more and showing either a timid faith or an outright lack of it[20].  And it is at this crux, of when one would have expected the battle to start, that Gideon’s disappearing conviction is all the more highlighted.  Jerubaal, after wants to be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Yahweh will be with him in this upcoming battle.  In a way this returns to the previous portion of the narrative with Yahweh’s angel waiting for Gideon to bring the food, and we see here in a sense Yahweh waiting patiently for Gideon to trust that Yahweh really did call him[21].

Again, Gideon “tests” God, and as he does so this time, he dictates what the test will and where it will be.  Again, it’s on the threshing floor, and we see that with Gideon he does anything but thresh, upon the threshing floor.  As Schneider puts it, “Gideon did nothing in the appropriate places[22].”  Gideon who was the origination of the test, sees that his test has been completed and done as exactly as he had requested, yet he’s not pleased for some reason[23].  While Gideon should have been happy that God passed and thus go on his way, he needed more.   And so he comes to again to God, asking him not to be angry, as he tests God once more.

The reason for a double test, might perhaps be because, the first one to Gideon might not have seem something hard, after all, if the fleece was absorbent enough it could very well be wet even after the ground seem dry, (especially if it was laid on rock, which could have dried up quite quickly) but this second test would prove to be a test which couldn’t be explained away, except divine intervention[24].  Thus it would then stand to reason that the while the first test should have been enough, the second one was “the true miracle[25].”

With the second test successful completion, Gideon is at last happy to go along with God’s plan it would seem.

God proved himself to Gideon and did so in an air of patience it would seem.  Though Gideon should have gone to battle after calling together the troops, instead, he questions God.  At points in our life it seems that though we know what we ought to do, we still find the need to question God.  Of course, we can’t and really shouldn’t do the sort of things which Gideon had done for God, yet when in doubt we do have our own courses of actions which we are able to take.  For instance, we have prayer and the bible which we can look at readily.  When in doubt we have provided to us the words of God, to help guide of our decision and know what it is that God wants to do.

In Conclusion:

We have the tools which we need to go through life, even in the dark and hard parts of life.  And while things may be tough indeed, we can rely on God and know he’s there.  We have can hope in that, hope in our living acting God.  Instead of having hope in false gods, hopes in our own Baal.


[1] 251 MH (If anyone really cares, I could eleborate and what all this stands for….

[2] B 135

[3] M86

[4] IVPOTH 140, 135

[5] 136-137

[6] S 108-9

[7] S 109

[8] B135

[9] D 141

[10] S 109

[11] M 87

[12] M 87

[13] B 138

[14] M 88

[15] MH 251

[16] M 88-9

[17] M 89

[18] MH 251

[19] S 109

[20] M 89

[21] B 140

[22] S 110

[23] S 110

[24] M 89 D 142

[25] B 141

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