Home » Various Sermons » Judges 6.11-27: Calling Gideon

Judges 6.11-27: Calling Gideon

(Sorry to all three of you who read this ^.^ for having uploaded this one so late… should have been here a week ago… Ack!)

“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”  And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”  And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”  And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”  And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks with me.” – Judges 6.12-17

In the previous story we saw the Israelites were doing wrong again Yahweh’s sight.  In so doing Yahweh brought about a harsh punishment to bring them back to him.  But he also showed mercy in sending them a prophet to call the people to repentance and to return back to the god of their forefathers.  Now we come to Yahweh, again showing mercy toward his people as he calls Gideon, to be their deliverer.  In meeting Gideon we will get to meet one of the more complicated men of the book of Judges, a man who at point is worthy of emulation, but at other point is an example of what not to be.  Even still Gideon’s calling is a story which helps to highlight this very thing

With Gideon who will on one hand do what Yahweh has called him to do, but on the other hand will shrink in fear, when he ponders the wrath of his family.

“Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash  the Abiezrite, while his son  Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”  And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”” Judges 6.11-13

Gideon’s Story opens up to us and we see that, despite God sending a prophet, in the previous verses, it seems that either his message hasn’t been listened too, or that the prophet’s message helped to prepare the people for the coming of Yahweh’s new Deliverer[1].  Gideon’s call is different from the other deliverers of the book, namely in the way that we see Yahweh’s direct actions in his calling.[2] Yahweh’s angel, or messenger, comes to a place called Ophrah, which though it is uncertain where it is, it is thought to be in the Jezreel Valley, which is in the territory of Manasseh[3].  It’s been suggested that the “terebinth,” is something akin to Deborah’s palm tree in the previous narrative, however sadly here, the tree would be for Baal, and not Yahweh[4].

Gideon’s name means something like “hewer” or “hacker,” which he is aptly named, as his actions will later show[5].  At the moment however, we see that Gideon, is a man who is “living in fear,” like his fellow kinsmen, for he is hiding his activities from his oppressors[6].  It is in this time of “fear,” that Yahweh’s Messenger comes to Gideon, to deliver a message.  The Messenger appears to Gideon, at the “threshing floor,” albeit an unusual one, the threshing floor is a place of interest, one which has its importance to other biblical characters, such as Ruth and David[7].  The way that the Messenger addresses Gideon as a “mighty man of valor,” shows that there is place great confidence upon Gideon for the task that is to come, but also a sort of ironic title, as Gideon is seen hiding, playing the sort of trickster role at the moment[8].

When Gideon addresses the Angel, he does so politely, “Please sir[9].”  But even still he does ask a poignant question, if Yahweh is really with his people, why are they under so much turmoil[10]?  Moreover Gideon though he may be asking something politely, still asks a question which is in a very real sense “arrogant,” as he asks about where are the deeds of old he had been told about, and in a way he could be saying “what has God done lately for me[11].”  How ironic though, that he’s asking this question directly, so to speak, to Yahweh himself.  Gideon however has partly missed the point, he brings out the “us,” the whole of the Israelite community in this discussion, but the messenger only spoke to Gideon, when saying “Yahweh was with you.[12]

Even when times seem the darkest, and when God doesn’t seem to be around, he is acting.  Gideon was only a few generations removed from the time of the Exodus and God’s great miracles and yet he was having doubts, doubts per say if those actions of God’s had ever occurred.  Even when times seem the darkest, and when God doesn’t seem to be around, he is acting.  Gideon may have doubted, but still God came to him.  God’s actions had occurred in the past, and we still occurring, even in the darkness that Gideon was still in.  As God’s actions are still now occurring, even though the world may seem to be in a very dark place, God still moves and still acts.  There are reasons sure, for why bad things may happen, the Israelites were the cause of their problem, but God’s controlling hand was in all of it.  And even as Gideon questioned his God, God did not back down (as seen in the following verses) and even moves to show himself, and to prove that he acts.  Therefore even now as we might question, do not think that God is backing away from us, for he proves himself even still today.

“And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”  And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”  And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”” – Judges 6.14-16

At this point, Yahweh’s messenger fades into background, as Yahweh himself enters the conversation, Gideon is now in a three party conversation, and yet doesn’t even realize it, nor does he realize yet, that he is speaking to someone more than human[13].  Yahweh then begins to challenge Gideon that perhaps it was his time for leadership, in a Mosaic sort of fashion.  Yahweh tells Gideon to go, and do that which the people wanted, namely deliverance from Midian, in Gideon’s “strength,” (something as unclear to us, as it was Gideon) and moreover he even states “Do not I send you?,” that is in a way that Gideon was to become a new messenger for Yahweh[14]?

As Gideon makes up excuses for why he cannot be a leader, (as did Moses), it seems to fall on deaf ears, for when Yahweh responses to him, he merely says “I will be with you.”  Yet these words are almost the same words he used in Exodus 3.12 when dealing with Moses[15].  “He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you:” – Exodus 3.12b  Gideon claimed that he was the least, or youngest in his family and he see this is a reason for why he shouldn’t have any sort of claim to a leadership role, but as his story goes on, we’ll find this issue raised again, but here it should be noted that Yahweh choose who he will, no matter their family ranking[16].  Despite Gideon’s protest, Yahweh merely repeats, his words and says that Gideon will defeat the Midianites[17].

God calls who he will, be they the least in their house, or someone with a lack of faith.  Moreover as God called even Gideon, he has called us too, to certain task.  Did not Jesus commission all those that believed in him to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” – Matthew 28.19-20.  It doesn’t matter who we are God can and will use us for his purposes.  Moreover as God promised Gideon that he was with him, we too have this promise, for again didn’t Jesus promise us at the end of his commission that he was with us “always?”

“And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks with me.  Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them.  And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so.  Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes.  And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight.  Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”  But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”  Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.” Judges 6.17-24

Gideon wants some sort of sign to “confirm,” what this messenger, and by extension Yahweh has been telling him[18].  He doesn’t know who the messenger is quite yet, and moreover he may not exactly trust in the power of Yahweh, as evidence by his earlier comments[19].  Gideon want to be sure, after all that Yahweh really would be with him, and that the person he was speaking too wasn’t just some nut.  And this moreover continues the similarities with Gideon’s call and that of Moses, as now signs are preformed to prove to the appointed leader, that yes Yahweh is with them[20].  And that yes, His power is sufficient, what the task which has appointed them to.

In a sense this whole bit of the story is a little comical, as Gideon gets up to leave, he in an indirect sort of way, “orders” Yahweh’s Messenger to stay put[21].  Then as Boling notes the response of “I will wait,” by the Messenger is one which is of the Messenger being “wryly” compliant[22], it almost “comical” how the Messenger, waits to show that the words of God are true to Gideon[23].  Moreover that Gideon has just given a direct command in a way to God himself.  Gideon brings to this messenger food, and at this time of force famine, this doubly valuable and thus a very precious thing that he brings to the Messenger[24].

Moreover it would almost seems that Gideon perhaps gives more so then he needed, as needed, as an ephah of flour is makes enough bread for a dinner with a bull, and Gideon only sacrificed for a goat[25].  It been noted though, that Gideon seems to go overboard on many different things.  When Gideon returns, we see that phrase of “Yahweh’s Angel” pops up back into view.  (Although the Messenger has yet to leave, it could also be noted that in the LXX the Messenger doesn’t drop out in verses 14 and 16).  In a quick movement, the Messenger burns up the food and follows that by suddenly disappearing[26].  Yahweh’s messenger sudden disappearance, is literally he “walked away from his sight,”  it is from this point that Gideon will deal directly with Yahweh, no longer his messenger, and also when he suddenly realizes who he had been speaking to[27].

At the Messenger’s disappearance, Gideon, at last fully realizes that he wasn’t talking to any normal persons, but instead to the Angel of Yahweh, and thus fears, rightly for his life[28].  Although Yahweh’s Angel might have left the scene, Yahweh himself, is still here, as he responses to Gideon, assuring him directly of his safety, it should also be noted this is the first time in the book, where a character did not realize he who he was in contact with[29].

It is now clear to Gideon that he had been called to do Yahweh’s work, and that he was not going to get off from doing it, and so Gideon acknowledges this by building an altar where he was.  Sadly, while the altar is built as a devotion tool, it will later become a tool for “idolatry and corruption[30].”  Gideon calls the Altar, Yahweh-Shalom, Yahweh is peace, and this harkens back to verse twenty-three where Yahweh calls to Gideon “peace to you[31].”  However there is a bit irony here in that while after seeing the display of Yahweh’s Messenger, and building this altar, Gideon will show fear in tearing one down in just a few sentences to come[32].

Yahweh in this whole section shows himself to be the patience God that he is, (and this is only the beginning test that Gideon gives to him).  We can from this though see that God is truly a patience person, even when he has called Gideon, he allowed him a little time to seek the truth.  While God doesn’t audible call us, or answer our questions, he had given us his words via the scriptures.  In seeking to follow him, we can turn to the scriptures and seek to know what he has in store for us, moreover we should have an ample supplies of fellow Christians to help us along the way, and older wise one to help in seeking what God’s will might really be for us.

“That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down  the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the  stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.”  So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.” – Judges 6.25-27

The same night that God calls Gideon, he also give him a task, one which also confirms the actual sin of the people, idolatry (again), that task is simple, to tear down the altar meant for Baal[33].  It is also suddenly brings to light the fact that Gideon’s family might not be as low, as Gideon had said before, for they not only own the altar to Baal, but also have an Asherah beside it!  Gideon does the action, but his response of it “seems mixed,” after all though he does the deed, he does so with the help of ten servants,(again his having ten servants showed his family was not so lowly as he had made it out) and he does so also by night hidden from his village, instead of broad daylight[34].

Gideon has done the deed, as he has been called too, but we see at the end of this section also a sort of comment on his leadership.  While yes he did the deed that was Yahweh asked of him, but because of fear, he did it by night, in the beginning of the book of Judges, the deliverers did their job because of a commitment to Yahweh and right actions, but by Gideon, he does his job only after being called by Yahweh himself, and still only at night[35].

In Conclusion:

At looking at the story of Gideon we can something very true about the character of God and that is namely that even when it seems that he isn’t active within our lives he is, and moreover that he may present himself in ways we may not even realize.  Times were dark for Israelites when Yahweh called Gideon, to the point when Gideon even questioned the validity of the claims concerning Yahweh and God showed up and showed that he was able to do those claims.  Even now when things may seem dark, and God nowhere near is he there.

Moreover, God can and will use who he will, as evidenced by Gideon, who seems anything but the best choice for God’s deliverer.  Yet, even still as will be seen later on Gideon does what needs to be done and proves again that God’s controlling hand is in all.


[1] Schneider 103

[2] Matthews 83

[3] S 103

[4] S 103

[5] Boling 130

[6] Davis 139

[7] M 83

[8] M 84

[9] Boling 131

[10] Davis 140

[11] S 104

[12] B 130-1

[13] B131

[14] S 104-5

[15] S 105

[16] S 105

[17] S 105

[18] B 132

[19] S 104

[20] M84

[21] S105

[22] B 132

[23] M 84

[24] D 140

[25] B 133

[26] S106

[27] B 133

[28] D140

[29] S 107

[30] M85

[31] B 134

[32] S 107

[33] S 107

[34] S 107-8

[35] S 108

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