Understanding the Old Testament

Gideon Is Called By God

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

When the Israelites again turned to idolatry and the evil it produced, the Lord allowed them to be oppressed by the Midianites for seven years. (Judges 6:1) The Midianites lived east and southeast of the Dead Sea. These oppressors were not so much conquerors as nomadic raiders. Using domesticated camels, which permitted long-distance raids, the Midianites and their allies—the Amalekites, and “the sons of the east”—descended upon the Israelites periodically like a swarm of locusts and stole their food and livestock. (Judges 6:4-5)

Once again the Israelites cried to God for help and He sent them an unlikely deliverer: Gideon, from the tribe of Manasseh.

When we first meet Gideon, he is hardly the picture of courage—threshing wheat in a wine press to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11) An angel appeared and hailed him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12) Gideon’s reply can only be characterized as insolent and rude: he accused God of abandoning His people, and asked, “Where are all His miracles?” (Judges 6:13) It would not be the last time he would test God's patience.

When the angel told him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon echoed Moses’ reluctance: “How shall I deliver Israel?,” pointing out that his youth and the insignificance of his family made him an unlikely candidate for such a calling. (Judges 6:15) But of course, God does not take “No” for an answer. So when Gideon requested a sign, the angel gave him one, producing fire from a rock to consume Gideon’s offering of meat and bread. (Judges 6:17-21) That prodded him to action.

Sneaking around at night for fear of his father and the townspeople, Gideon and ten of his servants destroyed his father’s altar to the god Baal. Then he built an altar to God on top of it, burning a wooden idol as fuel for his own burnt offering. (Judges 6:25-27) When the townspeople demanded that he be executed for this offense, his father unexpectedly came to his defense: "If [Baal] is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar." (Judges 6:31)

Gideon escaped punishment for demolishing his father’s idols, but he still had the Midianites to contend with. They soon assembled a huge army in the valley of Jezreel in central Palestine. (Judges 6:33) Judges does not tell us whether this happened in response to what Gideon had done or was just another of many raids. But either way, Gideon's doubt would again be on full display, after which would come a remarkable test of his faith in God.

Question to ponder or discuss: Gideon was an unlikely deliverer. But God often chooses the weak and meek rather than the mighty—such as His choice of the Israelites rather than a powerful people like the Egyptians, Babylonians, or Romans, and His choice of the shepherd boy David to become king of Israel. Why do you think He does that?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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