Gideon Asks for Signs - Part 1 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Chapter 18.2.d: Gideon Asks for Signs
37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Gideon doubted God’s promise. Did God really want him to lead God’s army? What did he know about warfare? After all, he was only an ordinary farmer, and there were others in the tribe who could do a much better job. So, before he led the attack, he asked God to give him two more signs.
37Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.--Judges 6.37 (KJV)
37 I'll place some wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the wool while all the ground is dry, then I'll know that you will rescue Israel through me, as you said.”--Judges 6.37 (GW).
On the eve of a perilous enterprise, he sought to fortify his mind with a fresh assurance of a divine call to lead the Jewish nation in battle against a far superior opponent. The miracle of the fleece was a very remarkable one -- especially, considering the abundant dews that fall in his country.
Behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the floor; on the floor where he was threshing, where the angel first appeared to him, and which lay exposed to the open air so that the dew might easily fall upon it and if the dew be on the fleece only; that is, upon the fleece and upon that spot of ground which lies underneath the fleece: that would be miraculous since the dew that falls from heaven in the night, should lie on both the floor and fleece till morning:
and it be dry upon all the earth beside; meaning not upon all the world, nor even upon all the land of Israel, but upon all the floor about the fleece: then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by my hand, as thou hast said; because the dew will be a token of divine favor; 1(Hosea 14:5) it would show that Gideon would be a recipient of it, while his enemies would be dry and desolate, and ruin and destruction would be their part.
Gideon was very bold, and God was very condescending. But probably the request itself was suggested by the Divine Spirit within him.
1(Hosea 14:5) “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.” God promises to heal their backsliding (on which they were hooked, cf. 11:7a). God’s anger will be turned away from Israel because Israel will have repented (vs. 4). God promises to be as the dew unto Israel; and this will result in Israel’s growth as a lily, which was noted both for its beauty and productivity. In addition, Israel will put down roots like the cedars of Lebanon, which were known for their stability and durability.
38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.--Judges 6:37(KJV)
38 And that is what happened. The next morning Gideon got up early. He squeezed out a bowl full of water from the wool. Judges 6:37(GW)
And it was so—The Lord decided to work this miracle for the confirmation of Gideon’s faith, and for the encouragement of those that were with him;
the fleece was wet with the dew of heaven, and all the ground about it dry:
for he rose up early in the morning; being eager to know whether his request would be granted or not, and the condition of the fleece:
and thrust the fleece together; to satisfy himself whether the dew had fallen on it, and if there was any moisture in it, which he would find out by squeezing it together:
and wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water; so that it appeared that the dew had not only fallen on it, but it had absorbed a large quantity of it; the Targum calls it a flagon.
Adam Clarke's Commentary has the following to say “on the miracle of the fleece, dew, and dry ground, Origen, in his eighth homily on the book of Judges, has many curious and interesting thoughts; I shall insert the substance of the whole:—the fleece is the Jewish nation. The fleece covered with dew, while all around is dry, the Jewish nation favored with the law and the prophets. The fleece dry, the Jewish nation cast off for rejecting the Gospel. All around watered, the Gospel preached to the Gentiles. And they converted to God. The fleece on the threshing-floor, the Jewish people in the land of Judea, winnowed, purged, and fanned by the Gospel. The dew wrung out into the bowl, the doctrines of Christianity, extracted from the Jewish writings, shadowed forth by Christ's pouring water into a basin and washing the disciples' feet. The pious father concludes that he has now wrung this water out of the fleece of the book of Judges, as he hopes by and by to do out of the fleece of the book of Kings, and out of the fleece of the book of Isaiah or Jeremiah; and he has received it into the basin of his heart, and there conceived its true sense; and is desirous to wash the feet of his brethren, that they may be able to walk in the way of the preparation of the Gospel of peace.—ORIGEN, Op. vol. ii., p. 475, edit. Benedict. All this to some will doubtless appear trifling; but it is not too much to say that scarcely any pious mind can consider the homily of this excellent man without drinking into a measure of the same spirit, so much sincerity, deep piety, and unction, appear throughout the whole: yet as I do not follow such practices, I cannot recommend them. Of dealers in such small wares, we have many that imitate Benjamin Keach, but few that come nigh to Origen.”
39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.--Judges 6:39 (KJV)
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Don't be angry with me. But let me ask one more thing. Let me make one more test with the wool. Let the wool be dry while all the ground is covered with dew.”--Judges 6:39 (GW)
The next day Gideon went back (and I am of the opinion that he intended to do this all along regardless of the outcome of the first test because if you put out a fleece in some places such as in California it would be damp, whereas the ground would be dry). He gave a two–way test that could not be refuted. He said, “Now, Lord, I will put out the fleece again. If You are really in this thing, put the dew around everywhere else and let the fleece remain dry.” I am glad he did it that way because, frankly, I would be skeptical enough to believe it “just happened” the first time. Or let us say that it was natural for it to happen one way, but it was supernatural for it to happen the other way. This man asked God to put dew on the fleece and then for God not to put dew on the fleece. How gracious God was to Gideon. We will find that God will gradually school this man until He brings him to the place where Gideon can see that there is nothing in him. Then God will use him to win a mighty battle.