Notes on Judges 6:11-24

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

[Judges 6:11, KJV: And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which (was) in Ophrah, that (pertained) unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide (it) from the Midianites.

Abiezer was in the western half of Manasseh (Joshua 17:2). The exact location is not certain. Gideon would later confirm he was from the tribe of Manasseh in verse 15.

Oaks are mentioned often in the Old Testament: Jacob buried all the idols and other items at a certain oak at Bethel (near Shechem, Gen. 35:4) and soon after, Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah, died and was buried near another oak near Bethel (Gen. 35:8). Joshua also wrote a copy of God’s Law and placed a great stone near an oak in Shechem (Joshua 24:25-26). Later, Isaiah wrote in a satire of how idols were created (Isaiah 44).

It seems unlikely there was only one of these trees on Joash’s land (. . . an oak. . . ). At one time, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh was apparently thickly forested (Joshua 17:15-18) but the types of trees are not specified.

The location of the winepress is not given but that is where Gideon threshed wheat. He did this as secretly as possible so that the Midianites wouldn’t steal it. How many other Israelites were reduced to doing the same thing, in order to survive?

12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD (is) with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

This is one of the few times when people saw the Angel of the LORD. He appeared to Hagar in Genesis 16, spoke to Abraham when he was on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:11, 15); and to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). Balaam, and his donkey, saw the Angel many years later (Numbers 22:22-35). The last time before this was when the Angel spoke to Israel, asking them why they had not followed the LORD and His commands completely (Judges 2:1-3). There are other instances in the Old Testament.

The words, “The LORD is with thee. . . “ were not just a greeting, apparently. The Angel claimed to be the LORD Himself when He appeared to Gideon!

13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where (be) all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

Gideon uses two different names for God in this verse. “Lord”, here, is a translation of the Hebrew word “Adon” or “Adonai”, different from the word “LORD” in all capitals (or, small caps), a rendering of the Divine Name sometimes written as “YHWH” or “:Jehovah”. Here it seems he’s addressing the Angel of the LORD as “Lord”. Gideon may not have truly realized just Who this Person really was.

Now Gideon asks a series of questions which may be as a result of his personal anguish. Surely Gideon would have known about Israel’s spiritual condition, and how the sins of the nation caused God’s punishment to happen. He did recall the miracles God had done as well as God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, but that memory stood in contrast to the reality of Gideon’s time.

14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

The Angel of the LORD, here called the LORD, looked at Gideon and spoke the words Gideon may never have expected to hear: I chose you to save Israel—haven’t I (Myself) sent you (paraphrased)?

15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family (is) poor in Manasseh, and I (am) the least in my father's house.

Gideon is still addressing the Angel as “Lord” here as he asks the Angel another question. Note how this situation is a close, though not exact, parallel to Moses’ seeming reluctance to do God’s will (Exodus 3).

Why Gideon is concerned with his family being poor, and why he claimed to be the “least in (his) father’s house” is nowhere explained. One thought is that the other Judges had some military skills (like Shamgar and the ox-goad; Ehud and his dagger, Deborah and Barak with the 10,000 soldiers, e.g.,) but Gideon didn’t seem to have much skill except in farming.

Many years later, Paul would write that God chooses the weak things and other things—including people—to make His Will happen on this earth (1 Cor. 1:26-29, paraphrased).

16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Again the Angel is called “the LORD”. He told Gideon first, “I’ll be with you” and “you will smite the Midianites as one man” but the exact meaning of the last phrase in not clear. The idea seems to be that Gideon was going to defeat Midian soundly with God’s help.

17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

Why Gideon would ask for a sign, when the Angel was already there, is not certain.

18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set (it) before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.

Now he asks the Angel to remain until Gideon brought a “present”. Hospitality was very important in that day and age.

19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought (it) out unto him under the oak, and presented (it).

Compare this with the meal which Abraham prepared for the Three Guests in Genesis 18. There was only one Guest here, the Angel, but still Gideon sacrificially prepared a “kid”—where did he get the grass or food for it?—and the cakes of unleavened bread, made from flour which was apparently scarce, too. Gideon and any number of Israelites had been reduced to threshing wheat in secret, trying to keep their (limited?) produce away from the Midianites and other invaders.

Gideon also prepared some broth, perhaps something like soup, gravy or dipping sauce. This was a kind thing to do for his Guest.

Oddly enough, nothing is mentioned about what the Angel was provided to drink!

20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay (them) upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.

Now the Angel is called “the Angel of God”. He asks Gideon to do something that seems strange. He asks Gideon to basically waste the food Gideon had prepared by placing on a special rock and to pour out the broth. To his credit, Gideon did exactly that. This may have been a test of obedience.

21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that (was) in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.

There was no wood or kindling or anything else which the Angel used to start the fire, which came out of the rock itself. Everything Gideon had prepared for the Angel was consumed, most likely a sign that God was pleased with Gideon’s offering or present.

How the Angel disappeared is not specified and is not really relevant. It is important to know that the Angel, as other angels, could appear when necessary and disappear quickly.

22 And when Gideon perceived that he (was) an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.

Gideon was afraid that since he had seen the Angel of the LORD, he had therefore seen the LORD in person, and was going to die. God had told Moses that nobody could see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20), but here, the Angel appeared in basically human form and Gideon was not going to die at this particular time.

23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace (be) unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

The LORD spoke to Gideon even though He was no longer visible. He gave Gideon the encouraging words that Gideon would not die. Compare this encounter with Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of the LORD in Genesis 32

24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it (is) yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

This may be the only altar Gideon ever built. “Jehovahshalom” means “the LORD is peace” and Gideon certainly knew about God’s peace. He was one of the few people to ever see the LORD in person and live to tell about it, and he was one of the many to whom God spoke peace.

“Unto this day” means unto the day that this part of Judges was written. This altar may or may not be still standing in the land of Manasseh today. It may, however, have been destroyed as part of the establishment of idol-worship established either later in Judges, or, after the 10 northern tribes split from Judah and Benjamin in the period after Solomon’s reign. Still another possibility is that the altar was destroyed during any number of enemy occupations of Israel’s promised territory.

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

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