Notes on Judges 6:1-10

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 6:1, KJV And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.


Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:2), Midian and his five brothers were sent away from Abraham into the “east country (Genesis 25:6). His descendants became known as Midianites and they are mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament, sometimes good and sometimes evil. Jethro/Reuel was the priest of Midian (Exodus 3:1), but whether he was a priest of the God of Abraham is not certain.

Later, relations between Midian and Israel definitely worsened. Apparently the elders of Moab were allied with Balak, king of Moab, in their desire to see Balaam curse Israel (Numbers 22). Some of the Midianite women joined with Moabite women to seduce Israelite men (Numbers 25). One man, of the tribe of Simeon, even brought a Midianite woman into his tent (the specific reason is not given). The result of this was that 24,000 Israelites paid with their lives for this sin.

Now Midian was in power over Israel and remained in power for seven years.

2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: (and) because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which (are) in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.

This is incredible: the Israelites had been living in cities, towns, villages, in peace and safety when they worshiped and served the God of Israel. Again they rejected Him and now they were being forced out of their cities and had little choice, it seems, except to live where they could: caves, dens in the mountains, etc. Oddly enough, the text does not say that the Midianites or others actually lived in the cities of Israel.

Contrast this, a result of sin, with the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11:38. The saints who are mentioned there also lived where they could while they were persecuted for their faith.

3 And (so) it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; (for) both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.

Here the writer of Judges speaks that the Midianites were not alone. Now they were allied with the Amalekites and other “children of the east” whose identity is not revealed here.

The writer also mentions “when Israel had sown” which is most likely spring time; crops would naturally grow and mature until harvest time. What the Midianites and others did was not specified, except they “came up against them” then later basically destroyed anything the Israelites were trying to grow.

Gaza was a city on the Mediterranean coast, not too far from the border with Egypt in south-west Israel. At this time it was probably under Philistine control but it does give a glimpse of widespread devastation caused by the Midianites and others.
Alternately, this may mean that the Midianites were not at war with the Philistines and made no attempt to place them under their control.

The mention of tents and cattle is puzzling: they could have moved into the

cities, but apparently did not do this. Perhaps they were simply stealing Israel’s produce in order to feed their own livestock.

At any rate, Israel was in serious trouble. Incredibly, they seemed to remain in this condition for seven years. Had they remained true to God, they would not have suffered any of this.

6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

It is not stated when the Israelites cried unto the LORD.
No doubt Israel was greatly impoverished: the enemy came in and either ate or destroyed all that Israel had tried to grow and harvest,

7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,

Finally the Israelites cried unto the LORD. “It came to pass” may mean they were in the seven-year period of Midianite control, maybe even near the end of this time. Why didn’t they call out to God earlier?

8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;

Several times in the Old Testament, it is written that the LORD told the Israelites HE was the One Who had brought them out of Egypt and bondage or slavery. Examples: Exodus 20:2, Deut. 5:6, and Joshua 24:17. Ironically Israel was in bondage or oppression again due to the Midianites and the others.

9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;

In this verse the LORD reminds the Israelites of what He had done for Israel at the Exodus and in the original conquest of Canaan. It is not very likely that any of the Israelites who had left Egypt with Moses or remembered the conquest of Canaan were alive by this point, but the history never completely left Israel.

This does not mean that God gave the land of Egypt to Israel, rather, the LORD is reminding them of Gilead (the land of Og, king of Bashan, e.g. See Numbers 32:33) and Canaan itself. Joshua had spoken of this in his farewell address in Joshua 24. Edom, Moab, and Ammon, all tried to oppress Israel but God forbade Israel to conquer any of the land He had promised them (Deut. 2:5, 2:9, 2:19, respectively).

10 And I said unto you, I (am) the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.

Note that this prophet gave a three-verse message to the Israelites. Oddly enough, there is no mention of any reaction whatsoever to this message by the Israelites. Did any of them repent? How many, if any, got rid of the idols or other items of false religion?

The prophet remains anonymous but his words are still true today. Believers may not be living in the land of Israel, or under the oppression of a foreign power, but no one will ever experience God’s blessings if that person lives in defiance of God’s Word. David would later write in Psalm 66:18 that if he “regarded iniquity in (his) heart”, God would not hear him. That principle was just as valid then as now.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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