Chapter 19: An Angel Sends Gideon to Deliver Them - Page 2 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Article 6.2: Terebinth Tree
Species: P. terebinthus
Binomial name: Pistacia terebinthus
Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus) also called turpentine tree is a species of Pistacia, native to the Mediterranean region from the western regions of Morocco, Portugal and the Canary Islands, to the eastern regions of Turkey and Syria.
It is a small deciduous tree or large shrub growing to 10 m tall. The leaves are compound, 10-20 cm long, odd pinnate with five to eleven opposite glossy oval leaflets, the leaflets 2-6 cm long and 1-3 cm broad. The flowers are reddish-purple, appearing with the new leaves in early spring. The fruit consists of small, globular drupes 5-7 mm long, red to black when ripe. All parts of the plant have a strong resinous smell.
John Chadwick believes that the terebinth is the plant called ki-ta-no in some of the Linear B tablets. He cites the work of a Spanish scholar, J.L. Melena, who had found "an ancient lexicon which showed that kritanos was another name for the turpentine tree, and that the Mycenaean spelling could represent a variant form of this word."
Terebinth is mentioned in the Bible (primarily the Hebrew Scriptures/Tanakh or Old Testament), for example in Isaiah 1:29, where the Hebrew word "el" or "elim" is often translated as oak or terebinth: "For you will be ashamed of the terebinths that you have taken pleasure in."
Terebinths are also mentioned in three successive chapters of Genesis (12:6, 13:18, 14:13) in reference to the places where Abram (later Abraham) camped.
There are at least a few references in Judges; Ch 4 (in reference to Heber, the Kenite, of the children of Hobab), Ch 6 (in reference to an angel of the Lord who came to visit Gideon. Most versions use 'oak'), and Ch 9 (in reference to the crowning of Abimelech, by the terebinth of the pillar that was in Shechem. Most versions use 'oak').
Terebinth is also referred to in Virgil's Aeneid, Book 10, line 136 where Ascanius in battle is compared to "ivory skilfully inlaid in ... Orician terebinth" ("inclusum... Oricia terebintho ... ebur")
It is used as a source for turpentine, possibly the earliest known source. The turpentine of the terebinth is now called Chian, Scio, or Cyprian turpentine.
The fruits are used in Cyprus for baking of specialty village bread. In Crete, where the plant is called tsikoudia, it is used to flavor the local variety of pomace brandy, also called tsikoudia. The plant is rich in tannin and resinous substances and was used for its aromatic and medicinal properties in classical Greece. A mild sweet scented gum can be produced from the bark, and galls often found on the plant are used for tanning leather. Recently an anti-inflammatory triterpene has been extracted from these galls.
And his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon is not introduced to us as a hero or an outstanding man. Do you know what he is doing? He is threshing wheat by the winepress (better translated “in the winepress,” RV, RSV, NASB, NIV). In other words, he was literally beating out the grain inside a winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites, fearing they would steal it and take it away, and deprive his father's family of their food, and that is what they wanted to do, wherever they could find it. Thus, in this opening scene we find Gideon afraid and hiding from the enemy.
Now the winepress is the key to this entire situation. You see, in that day the winepress was always put at the foot of the hill because they brought the grapes down from the vineyard. Naturally, they would carry the heavy grapes downhill; they carried them to the lowest place. In contrast, the threshing floor was always put up on the top of the hill, the highest hill that was available, in order to catch the wind which would drive the chaff away. Here we find Gideon, down at the bottom of the hill, threshing. Now that would be the place to take the grapes, but that is no place to take your crop in order to do your threshing. Can you see the frustration of this man? Why doesn’t he go to the hilltop? Well, he is afraid of the Midianites. He does not want them to see that he is threshing wheat. And you can imagine his frustration. There is no air getting to him down there, certainly no wind. So he pitches the grain up into the air. And what happens? Does the chaff blow away? No. It comes down around his neck and gets into his clothes making him very uncomfortable. There he is, trying his best to thresh in a place like that, and all the time
rebuking himself for being a coward, afraid to go to the hilltop. I think he looked up there rather longingly and thought, “Do I dare go to the hilltop?” Gideon was having a very frustrating experience, but God was going to use this man. We will see why God used this kind of a man.
It was at that time that the angel of the Lord, which many of us believe was none other than the pre–incarnate Christ, appeared to him. We are told:
1. This divine person appeared here to Gideon, and it is significant how he found him:
a. All alone. God often reveals himself to his people when they are out of the noise and hustle of this world. Silence and solitude help our communion with God.
b. Employed in threshing wheat, with a staff or rod (so the word signifies), such as they used in beating out fitches (dill) and cumin (used as a spice in cooking) (Isa. 28:27)21, but now used by Gideon for wheat; probably because he got just a few sheaves from the field, and brought them home to thrash them secretly for the support of the family, he did not need the oxen to tread it out and besides that, he feared that the bellowing of the oxen might lead to his discovery. He did not look upon doing the work of a husbandman as something beneath him, though he was a person of some importance and a mighty man of valour. He had many servants (6.2722
), and yet would not himself live in idleness. We are more likely to receive divine visits when we employ ourselves in honest business. Tidings of Christ’s birth were brought to the shepherds when they were keeping their flocks. The work he was about was an emblem of that greater work to which he was now to be called, as the disciples’ fishing was. From threshing corn he is fetched to thresh the Midianites, Isa. 41:1523
. This is not the only instance in which a man taken from agricultural employments was made general of an army, and the deliverer of his country. Shamgar was evidently a ploughman, and with his ox-goad he slew many Philistines, and became one of the deliverers of Israel. Cincinnatus was taken from the plough, and was made dictator and commander-in-chief of the Roman armies. There is a great similarity between his case and that of Gideon.
c. Distressed; he was threshing his wheat, not in the threshing-floor, the proper place, but by the wine-press, in some private unsuspected corner, for fear of the Midianites. He himself shared in the common calamity of his people, and now the angel came to animate him against Midian when he himself could speak so feelingly of the heaviness of their yoke. The day of the greatest distress is God’s time to appear for his people’s relief.
2. Let us now see what passed between the angel and Gideon, who did not know with certainty, till after he was gone, that he was an angel, but supposed he was a prophet.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. (KJV)
12The Messenger of the LORD appeared to Gideon and said, “The LORD is with you, brave man.”
Judges 6:12 (GW)
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him. He stayed awhile under the oak, and since Gideon was busy threshing wheat he took no notice of him until he came and stood before him. Then the angel entered into conversation on the engrossing topic of the times, the grievous oppression by the Midianites; he began urging Gideon to exert his well-known prowess on behalf of his country. Gideon, in replying, addresses him at first in a style equivalent (in Hebrew) to "sir," but afterwards gives to him the name usually applied to God. The Lord is with thee (That is, will assist you with your enemies)—"The WORD of the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor."—24
Targum. It appears that Gideon had proved himself, on former occasions, to be a man of courage and personal prowess; and this would naturally excite the confidence of his countrymen. God chooses for his work those instruments which, in the course of his operations in nature and providence, he has qualified for his purpose. The instruments thus chosen are generally unlikely, but they will be ever found the best qualified for the Divine employment.
And said unto him, the Lord is with thee. The gracious presence of God was with Gideon while he was threshing, and He was very probably giving consideration to the distressed state of Israel, and was deep in meditation about the affairs of the people of God, and conuplating how to deliver them. Now, when the angel said, “the Lord is with thee,” He might mean himself, who was none other than Jehovah, the eternal Word of God, who was present with him, and spake unto him; and so the Targum24
, “my Word is thy help.”