Notes on Judges 6:25-32
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 6:25 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that (is) by it:
This is the second and even more important test of obedience on Gideon’s part. The first test had just happened when the Angel burned up the food which Gideon had brought. Gideon had then built an altar to the LORD calling it “Jehovah shalom” or “The LORD is peace”. Now the LORD tells him to do something very daring at that time, namely, to destroy the altar of Baal which his father had. It is not stated that Gideon’s father had actually built the altar of/to Baal but only that it was on his land.
The next thing, part of the first test, is to cut down the “grove”. It is not certain what a “grove” is, in this context, but apparently it was made of wood, else, it couldn’t be cut down. It was not an altar but it was somehow connected with the altar and God told Gideon to get rid of it.
One irony is that the Israelites first chose a golden calf, or young bull, as their first idol once they left Egypt. Now God tells Gideon to take his own father’s young bullock to destroy a pagan altar!
26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
Gideon had only built one altar to the LORD, as mentioned in verse 24. Now God is telling him to build another altar to the LORD, then to offer a sacrifice using his father’s second bullock and the wood from the grove which Gideon had been commanded to cut down.
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.
Gideon was later known as a man of faith but here he showed fear of his father’s household (his own family?) and the men of the city. He did tear down the altar but he did so by night, with the help of 10 servants. Praise God for those who remain faithful to Him even when so many rejected God.
28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that (was) by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar (that was) built.
This must have been a surprise to the men of Abiezer, seeing the altar destroyed, the “grove” cut down, and a bullock offered on a different altar. Perhaps some of the ashes had remained on or near the altar. Gideon had been told to offer the bullock as a burnt sacrifice so this was most likely a burnt offering where the entire animal was consumed following the instructions in Leviticus 1.
Bullocks were among the animals God directed the Israelites to use for burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:5), offerings for unintentional sin (Lev. 4:3), sin offerings (Lev. 8:2), peace offerings (Lev. 9:4), and for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16).
29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
Sadly, it seems the men of the city were more concerned with whoever had destroyed the altar of Baal than returning to the worship of the LORD, the God of Israel. They found out Gideon had done this. When someone does God’s Will, it’s almost a given that that person will be identified and perhaps suffer persecution for doing so.
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.
This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Israelites, who had rejected the God of Israel for Baal, were now demanding Gideon be put to death because he had torn down the altar to Baal. The reverse of this would have been in order, back when Baal worship had begun (see Deuteronomy 13).
Another thought is, why follow Baal if he could not protect his own altar?
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.
Joash, Gideon’s father, now took a stand against the people who wanted to kill Gideon. At the very least, he did not rebuild the altar of Baal nor did he turn Gideon over to the people who wanted to kill him.
The question still unanswered is whether or not Joash renounced Baal worship. On the one hand, he did permit an altar to Baal be erected on his property, but on the other hand, there is no record he ever performed any worship to Baal. Additionally, he stood firm against anyone trying to punish or attack Gideon after he had torn down Baal’s altar.
32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
“He” may mean Joash, who gave the name (nickname?) “Jerubbaal” to Gideon. Again, Joash’s spiritual condition, whether he worshiped the God of Israel or Baal, is not clear here.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).