Gideon’s Present Consumed by Fire - Page 5 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The second bullock—He was to offer one for himself, the other was for the sins of the people, whom he was to deliver. However, 'Till sin be pardoned thro' the great sacrifice, no good is to be expected.

and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath. His orders are to destroy the alter built by his father at his own expense, and made available for public use. In the next verse, we will find that God is making a major change in how sacrifices are to be carried out. God had solemnly communicated the procedure for offering a sacrifice. "The offering of sacrifice to God had been committed to the priests, and had been restricted to the altar at Chiloh; but He who had established the ritual service, and to whom all its offerings pointed, had the power to change its requirements." ( Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets p. 547.) This time Gideon would stand in for a priest.

Having convinced Gideon of His power, God now instructed him to sacrifice his father’s young bullock unto the Lord Jehovah. In addition, he was to throw down the altar of Baal that belonged to his father. This incident reveals the strange and inconsistent situation that prevailed in Israel. Though they claimed to worship the Lord, they had mixed the true religion of Yahweh with the offbeat religion of the Canaanites. Gideon’s father’s name, Joash, means “Yahweh has given.” Yet, he was apparently a priest of Baal, since he maintained a Baal altar as well as the grove (probably a mistranslation of Asherah, the Canaanite female deity). This situation gives us a glimpse into the terrible spiritual condition of the people of Israel just one century after entering the Promised Land. They were not only willing to compromise with pagan religion but now their own religion had become totally confused with it.

and cut down the grove that is by it; or "about it", as given in the Vulgate Latin version; it was the usual practice for heathens to plant groves near or around their altars and temples where religious worship was performed; partly to make them more lovely and revered, and partly to hide the commission of deeds which would not bear an audience; or "over it", for they were commonly tall trees which grew over the altar they erected. Some render it, "upon it", and their understanding is that an idol was placed on it.

11the grove Planted by the altar for idolatrous uses, which was the custom of idolaters. This action, the destruction of the grove and alter by Gideon, might seem injurious to his father's authority; but God's command was sufficient authorization, 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, as well as the instruments of the same.

26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top 12of this rock (Heb. strong place), in the ordered place {"proper arrangement."}. (NKJV}, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.--Judges 6:26 (KJV)
26 Then, in the proper way, build an altar to the LORD your God on top of this fortified place. Take this second bull and sacrifice it as a burnt offering on the wood from the Asherah pole that you have cut down.”--Judges 6:26 (GW)

And build an altar to the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock; where the provisions were laid, and out of which fire came that consumed them; and where the altar, called by the name of Jehovahshalom, had been built by him. The new alter ordered by the Lord God was very probably built near it; and there might be room enough for both upon the top of the rock; for this seems to be a distinct altar from that that was erected as a monumental altar, in memory of the miracle done there, and in addition the alter would express the gratitude of a grateful Gideon for the preservation of his life, and the peace and prosperity the Lord promised there and then. This altar was to continue for a long time, and it did, but this particular altar was for sacrifice, and only for the present time; for the proper place for sacrifice was the tabernacle. But this one was to be built in the ordered place; either in the place where Gideon was ordered to put the flesh and the unleavened cakes; or in an orderly way and manner, according to how it is commanded in the law, and it should be made of earth and unhewn stones, and it was to be constructed so that have the wood and sacrifice could be laid in order on it.

in the ordered place; that is, in a plain and smooth part of the rock, where an altar may be conveniently built.

and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shall cut down; mention is made only of one bullock that was to be offered, this has made some think that only one was ordered to be taken, namely, this second, which agrees with our version of (Judges 6:25 ) for if two were taken, what became of the first, since only the second was ordered to be sacrificed? Kimchi has an answer for this question; Gideon was ordered to take it away so that his father might not offer it to an idol, as he intended, and therefore this was done to prevent idolatry. And since this second bullock was to be a burnt sacrifice, and to be burned with the wood of the grove just cut down, it seems to confirm the logic of such versions and interpreters who say that it was an idol on the altar of Baal that was used for the fire; since wood just cut down would not be fit to burn, whereas an idol of wood, that had been around for a long time, would be very proper. Notice that everything ordered and done was different from the laws and usages directed by Moses, and practiced by the Jews. Gideon was no priest, and yet he was ordered to offer sacrifice, and to do it on an altar that he erected, and not the altar of God; and upon the top of a rock, and not at the tabernacle; and the wood of a grove or an idol was to be made use of for firewood, which in other cases was not allowed; and all this was done in the night, which was not the time for sacrificing; but the divine word was sufficient for Gideon. The Jews say, there were eight things allowed at this time, which were not permitted previously: and it was necessary, before Gideon acted the part of a deliverer, that he should become a reformer, and it was proper, to begin with, his own family.

It is probable that ‏אשרה‎ Asherah (see the God’s Word version) here signifies Astarte; and that there was a wooden image of this goddess on the altar of Baal. Baal-peor was the same as Priapus, Astarte as Venus; these two impure idols were proper enough for the same altar. In early times, and among rude people, the images of the gods were made of wood. This is the case still with the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, with the Indians of America, and with the inhabitants of Ceylon: many of the images of Budhoo are of wood. The Scandinavians also had wooden gods.

Ball’s grove, or image, or whatever it was that was the sacredness or beauty of his altar, must not only be burnt, but must be used as fuel for God’s altar, to signify not only that whatever sets up itself in opposition to God shall be destroyed, but that the justice of God will be glorified in its destruction. Gideon was ordered by God to tear down both the altar to Baal and the pillar of Asherah and to replace it with an altar unto the LORD … in the ordered place, i.e., with stones laid in the proper order. Why?
1. To test his zeal for religion, which was necessary before he took the field to give proof of his bravery?
2. So that some steps might be taken towards Israel’s restoration, which must prepare the way for their deliverance. Sin, the cause, must be taken away; how else could the trouble, which was the result of sin, come to an end? And it might be hoped that this example of Gideon’s, who was now shortly to appear as a great a man, would be followed by the rest of the cities and tribes, and the destruction of this one altar of Baal would lead to the destruction of many.
12Of this rock — Heb. of this stronghold: for in that calamitous time the Israelites retreated to such rocks, and hid and fortified themselves in them.

27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.-- Judges 6:27 (KJV)
27 Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the LORD had told him to do. However, he didn't do anything during the day. He was too afraid of his father's family and the men of the city, so he did it at night.--Judges 6:27 (GW)

Gideon is still hesitant. God has to overcome the fear, develop courage and faith in him, and strengthen Gideon’s feeble knees; it will be a patient, long ordeal. The next step is to fill this man with His Spirit—God has always given a filling of the Spirit to the man that He uses.

Gideon was obedient to the heavenly vision. He that was to command the Israel of God must be subject to the God of Israel, without disputing, and, as a type of Christ, must first save his people from their sins, and then save them from their enemies.
1. He had servants of his own, whom he could confide in, who, we may suppose like him, had kept their integrity, and had not bowed the knee to Baal, and therefore was willing to assist him in destroying the altar of Baal.

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