- The calamities of Israel by the Midianites, verse 1-6.
- The message God sent them by a prophet, verse 7-10.
- God's commission to Gideon, confirmed by a sign, verse 11-24.
- He breaks down the altar of Baal, verse 25-32.
- The preparation for war, and encouragement by another sign, verse 33-40.
Of Midian - For although the generality of the Midianites had been cut off by Moses about two hundred years ago, yet many of them doubtless fled into the neighbouring countries, whence afterwards they returned into their own land, and in that time might easily grow to be a very great number; especially, when God furthered their increase, that they might be a scourge for Israel when they transgressed. Let all that sin, expect to suffer: let all that turn to folly, expect to return to misery.
Children of the east - That is, the Arabians, who are commonly called the children of the east. Not all the Arabians; but the eastern part of them.
Unto Gaza - That is, from the east, on which side they entered, to the well, where Gaza was, near the sea: so they destroyed the whole land.
Without number - That is, so many that it was not easy to number them. And not in a regular army to engage, but in a confused swarm, to plunder the country. Yet Israel, being forsaken of God, had not spirit to make head against them; God fighting against them with those very terrors, with which otherwise he would have fought for them.
A prophet - We have reason to hope, God is designing mercy for us, if we find he is by his grace preparing us for it.
Not obeyed my voice - He intends to bring them to repentance. And our repentance is then genuine, when he sinfulness of sin, as disobedience to God, is that in it which we chiefly lament.
In Ophrah - In Manasseh: there was another Ophrah in Benjamin, Joshua 18:23. The Abi-ezrite - Of the posterity of Abiezer. Threshed - Not with oxen, as the manner was, Deuteronomy 25:4, but with a staff to prevent discovery. Wine-press - In the place where the wine-press stood, not in the common floor.
Is with thee - That is, will assist thee against thine enemies. Man of valour - To whom I have given strength and courage for this end.
With us - The angel had said, Peace be with Thee: but he expostulates for All: herding himself with all Israel, and admitting no comfort, but what they might be sharers in.
Looked - With a settled and pleasant countenance, as a testimony of his favour, and readiness to help him. Go - Or, go now, in thy might: in the strength which thou hast already received, and dost now farther receive from me. Have not I sent thee - I do hereby give thee command and commission for this work. God's fitting men for his work, is a sure evidence of his calling them to it.
My family - Heb. my thousand: for the tribes were distributed into several thousands, whereof each thousand had his peculiar governor. Is poor - That is, weak and contemptible. The least - Either for age, or fitness for so great a work.
As one man - As easily, as if they were all but one man.
That thou - That it is thou, an angel or messenger sent from God, that appears to me, and discourseth with me. Or, a sign of that which thou talkest with me; that is, that thou wilt by me smite the Midianites.
My present - A repast for the angel, whom he thought to be a man. Set it - That thou mayest eat and refresh thyself.
An ephah - The choicest part of a whole ephah; as also he brought to him the best part of a kid dressed; for a whole ephah, and a whole kid had been superfluous, and improper to provide for one man.
Consumed the flesh - By which, he shewed himself to be no man that needed such provisions, but the Son of God; and by this instance of his omnipotency, gave him assurance, that he both could, and would consume the Midianites.
Alas - I am an undone man: I must die, and that speedily; for that he feared, verse 23, according to the common opinion in that case.
Said unto him - Perhaps by an audible voice. Peace be to thee - Thou shalt receive no hurt by this vision; but only peace, that is, all the blessings needful for thy own happiness, and for the present work.
There - On the top of the rock, as is evident from verse 26, where that which is here expressed only in general, is more particularly described. Jehovah-shalom - That is, the Lord's peace; the sign or witness of God's speaking peace to me, and to his people: or the place where he spake peace to me, when I expected nothing but destruction.
The second bullock - He was to offer one for himself, the other for the sins of the people, whom he was to deliver. 'Till sin be pardoned thro' the great sacrifice, no good is to be expected. Thy father hath - Which thy father built in his own ground, tho' for the common use of the city. The grove - Planted by the altar for idolatrous uses, as the manner of idolaters was. This action might seem injurious to his father's authority; but God's command was a sufficient warrant, and Gideon was now called to be the supreme magistrate, whereby he was made his father's superior, and was authorized to root out all idolatry, and the instruments thereof.
Of this rock - Heb. of this strong hold: for in that calamitous time the Israelites retreated to such rocks, and hid and fortified themselves in them. Ordered place - That is, in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built. And offer - Gideon was no priest, nor was this the appointed place of sacrifice; but God can dispense with his own institutions, though we may not; and his call gave Gideon sufficient authority.
Ten men - Whom doubtless he had acquainted with his design, and the assurance of success in it, whereby they were easily induced to assist him. He feared - Not so much, lest he should suffer for it, as lest he should be prevented from doing it.
Was offered - Not upon Baal's altar, for which it was designed; but upon an altar erected in contempt of Baal.
They said - Probably some of the persons employed in it.
Will ye plead - Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal, for the worship whereof you suffer such grievous calamities at this day? It is plain, that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal: but probably he was now convinced by Gideon. He that will plead - He that shall farther plead for such a god as this, deserves to die for his folly and impiety. It is not probable, that this was all which he said for his son: but it is usual in scripture to give only short hints of things which were more largely discoursed. While it is morning - That is, instantly, without delay. Let him plead - As the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done him. But Baal hath now shewed, that he is neither able to help you, nor himself; and therefore is not worthy to be served any longer. This resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the peoples fury; and it was drawn from him, by the sense of his son's extreme danger; and by the confidence he had, that God would plead his son's cause, and use him for the rescue of his people.
He called - Joash called Gideon so, chap. 8:29, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand upon Baal. Jerub-baal - That is, Let Baal plead. It is a probable conjecture, that that Jerombalus, whom Sanchoniathon, (one of the most ancient of all the Heathen writers) speaks of as a priest of Jao, (a corruption of Jehovah) and to whom he was indebted for a great deal of knowledge, was this Jerub-baal.
Of Jezreel - Not Jezreel in Judah, but another in the borders of Manasseh and Issachar, which was not far distant from Ophrah, where Gideon dwelt.
The spirit came - Inspiring him with extraordinary wisdom, and courage, and zeal to vindicate God's honour, and his country's liberty. The Hebrew is, The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon; clothed him as a robe, to put honour upon him; clothed him as a coat of mail to put a defence upon him. Those are well clad that are thus clothed. Abiezer - That is, the Abiezrites, his kindred, and their servants, and others; who finding no harm coming to him for destroying Baal, but rather a blessing from God, in giving him strength and courage for so great an attempt, changed their minds, and followed him as the person by whose hands God would deliver them.
All Manasseh - On Both sides of Jordan. Unto Asher, &c. - Because these tribes were nearest, and so could soonest join with him; and were nearest the enemy also, verse 33, and therefore were most sensible of the calamity, and would in all reason be most forward to rescue themselves from it.
Gideon said - In a way of humble supplication, for the strengthening his own faith, and for the greater encouragement of his soldiers in this great attempt.
On all the earth - That is, upon all that spot of ground which encompasses the fleece.
On the ground - Which was more preternatural than the former instance, because if there be any moisture, such bodies as fleeces of wool are likely to drink it up.
And God did so - See how tender God is, even of the weak; and how ready to condescend to their infirmities! These signs were very expressive. They are going to engage the Midianites. Could God distinguish between a small fleece of Israel, and the vast floor of Midian? Yes, by this token it appears that he can. Is Gideon desirous, that the dew of divine grace might descend on himself in particular? He sees the fleece wet with dew, to assure him of it. Does he desire, that God will be as the dew to all Israel? Behold all the ground is wet!