Gideon’s Present Consumed by Fire - Page 7 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

He was now in peril of losing his life for doing it. But Gideon, when he had finished the job, did not want to conceal any of it, nor could it be hid, for the men of the city rose early in the morning, to say their morning prayers at Baal’s altar, and thus to begin the day with their god, such as he was. It is a shame to those who say the true God is their God, and yet, in the morning, they do not pray to him, or even look up.

30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.--Judges 6:30 (KJV)
30 Then the men of the city told Joash, “Bring your son out. He must die. He has torn down the Baal altar and cut down the Asherah pole that was beside it.”--Judges 6:30 (GW)

Then the men of the city said unto Joash. There was a violent commotion the next day, and vengeance vowed against Gideon as the perpetrator. While the mob raged, the principal inhabitants of the place met together and in a body went to Joash their chief magistrate, to have justice done in this case. They all felt an interest in continuing the heathen rites in which they had often received many sensual gratifications. Baal and Ashtaroth would have more worshippers than the true God because their rites were more adapted to the fallen nature of man.

bring out thy son, that he may die; they do not ask to have the charge tried by him, to hear what proof they had to back the charge, or what Gideon had to say in his own defense; nor do they wait for the sentencing of Joash, but they determine themselves that Gideon was guilty, and they called for the delinquent to be given up to them, so that they might put him to death. It was a strange request for Israelites to make, whose law judged no man before it heard him; and besides, according to that, the worshippers of Baal, and not the destroyers of him, and his altars, were already dead in their sins and trespasses, which shows how strangely mad and infatuated these people were; that they would forget Israel’s God and all He has done for them. It was because they had turned away from the true God to worship dead idols that the men came to his father and demanded that Gideon be put to death for what he had dared to do.

because he hath cut down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it; they do not mention the bullock (or bullocks) which he had taken and offered, and which seems to confirm the idea that it was his father's property, because if it was the people's property, they would have accused him of theft as well as sacrilege.

31 And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.--Judges 6:31 (KJV)
31 But Joash said to everyone standing around him, “You're not going to defend Baal, are you? Do you think you should save him? Whoever defends him will be put to death in the morning. If he's a god, let him defend himself when someone tears down his altar.”--Judges 6:31 (GW)

Gideon having been found guilty of the charge made against him by these degenerate Israelites, who decided on their own that the law must declare the punishment for this crime, is death. And then, they require his own father, who, by patronizing their idolatry, had given them a reason to expect he would comply with them by giving over his son to them: Bring out thy son, that he may die. I find this circumstance astonishing; that by the law of God the worshippers of Baal were to die, but these wicked men impiously turn the penalty upon the worshippers of the God of Israel. How strikingly mad they were for their idols! Wasn’t it enough to offer the choicest of their bullocks to Baal, must they sacrifice the bravest youth of their city to that dunghill-deity? How rapidly idolaters become persecutors!

Gideon was rescued out of the hands of his persecutors by his own father.
1. There were those that took a stubborn stand against Gideon; they not only appeared at first to demand his death, but they also insisted on it and would have him put to death. In spite of the heavy judgments they were under for their idolatry, they hated to be reformed and walked contrary to God even when He was walking contrary to them.
2. Yet then Joash stood-up for him; he was one of the chief men of the city. Those that have power may do a great deal to protect an honest man and an honest cause, and when they use their power in this way they are ministers of God for good.

And Joash said unto all that stood against him: that was the accusers and adversaries against his son, and required him to be given up to them, that they might put him to death:
1. This Joash had patronized Baal’s altar, yet now he protects him that had destroyed it:
a. Out of natural affection for his son, and perhaps he held a particular appreciation for him as a virtuous, valiant, valuable, young man, and he never thought worse of him for not joining with him in the worship of Baal. Many that do not have enough courage to maintain their own integrity, yet they have enough conscience left to make them love and esteem those that do. If Joash had a compassion for Baal, yet he had a greater compassion (love) for his son. Or—
b. Out of a care for the public peace. The mob grew riotous, and, he feared, they would become even more out of control, and therefore, as some think, he bestirred himself to repress the tumult: "Let it be left to the judges; it is not for you to pass sentence upon any man;’’ he that offers it, let him be put to death: he means not as an idolater, but as a disturber of the peace, and the mover of sedition. Under this same color Paul was rescued at Ephesus from those that were as zealous for Diana as these were for Baal, Acts 19:40 . Or—
c. Out of a conviction that Gideon had done well. His son, perhaps, had reasoned with him, or God, who has all hearts in his hands, had secretly and effectually influenced him to appear against the advocates for Baal, though he had formerly joined with them in the worship of Baal. Note, it is good to appear for God when we are called to do it, though there are just a few or none to second us, because God can incline the hearts of those we do not expect to stand by us to take up our cause and stand with us. Let us do our duty, and then trust God with our safety.

will ye plead for Baal? Thus turning the mob motivation around from the previous verse. However, his father, taking note of his son’s unusual (and perhaps unexpected) act of bravery, defended his son by asking the townspeople if they would plead for Baal. The words are very explicit "Will ye plead in earnest for Baal? Will ye ‏really save him? If he be God, ‏Elohim, let him defend himself, seeing that it was his altar that is ruined." The paragogic letters in the words plead and save greatly increase the sense. Joash could not slay his son; but he was convinced he had insulted Baal: if Baal were the true God, he would avenge his own injured pride. This was a sentiment understood by the heathens.

2. Joash urges two things:
a. That it was absurd for them to plead for Baal. "Will you that are Israelites, the worshippers of the one only living and true God, plead for Baal, a false god? Will you be so sottish, so senseless? Those whose fathers’ god was Baal, and who never knew any other, are more excusable in pleading for him than you are, that are in covenant with Jehovah, and have been trained up in the knowledge of him. You that have been hurt so much for worshipping Baal, and have brought all this mischief and calamity upon yourselves by it, will you yet plead for Baal?’’ Note, It is bad to commit sin, but it is great wickedness indeed to plead for it, especially to plead for Baal, that idol, whatever it is, which possesses that room in the heart which God should have.
b. That it was needless for them to plead for Baal. If he were not a god, they could have nothing to say for him; if he were, he was able to plead for himself, as the God of Israel had often done by fire from heaven or some other judgment against those who put contempt upon him. Here is a fair challenge to Baal to do either good or evil, and the result convinced his worshippers of their foolishness in praying to one to help them that could not avenge himself; after this Gideon remarkably prospered, and thereby it appeared how unable Baal was to maintain his own cause.

It is plain, that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal: but probably he was now convinced by Gideon.
will ye save him? Will you take it upon yourselves to save your god! Cannot he save himself? He ought to save both himself and you, if he is a god, and you should not need to save him: “If Baal cannot save himself, how do you expect him to save you?” is the real implication of Joash’s reply.

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