Judges 6:11 The angel of Yahweh came and sat under the oak that was at Ophrah that belonged to Jehoash the Abiezrite; and Gideon his son was threshing wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites (LEB).
In the context of the so called Deuteronomic History (e.g., Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings) the fact that Gideon is hiding from the Midianites is telling. The Book of Deuteronomy had repeatedly stated that if the people remained faithful to the Covenant they would enjoy peace and relief from enemies; if they were unfaithful, they would be oppressed. As noted in yesterday’s post on Judges 2:11-19 this book has a recurring cyclical theme based on the teaching in Deuteronomy: (A) the people sin, usually by idolatry; (B) punishment (the covenant curses) descend upon them, usually in the form of oppressors; (C) the people cry out to God in repentance; (D) God responds with mercy, raising up a judge to save his people; (E) the judge is successful and peace reigns during his/her lifetime; (F) the cycle starts over again. The call of Gideon comes about because they people have offended God who, in response, allowed them to be oppressed (Judg 6:1-6). This oppression was intended to bring the people to repentance, back to relying upon and serving God, and it worked (Judg 6:6). God sent a prophet to upbraid the people (Judg 6:7-10), but he also raised up Gideon as a deliverer.
Judges 6:12 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said to him, “Yahweh is with you, you mighty warrior.”(LEB)
At the present moment in the narrative, the description of Gideon as a mighty warrior is hardly fitting; he is, after all, hiding in fear of the enemies of his people and, as he himself will note, his clan is the weakest in the entire tribe of Manasseh, and he the youngest member in his father’s household (verse 15). Here we meet a major theme in the Scripture: But the foolish things of the world God chose in order that he might put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world God chose in order that he might put to shame the strong, and the insignificant of the world, and the despised, God chose, the things that are not, in order that he might abolish the things that are, so that all flesh may not boast before God (1 Cor 1:27-29, LEB). God chose the least likely of Jesse’s sons, David, to lead his people Israel (1 Sam 16:1-13); and, humanly speaking, Simon Peter would hardly qualify as a rock on which to build anything, and yet…
Judges 6:13 Gideon said to him, “Excuse me, my lord. If Yahweh is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?’ But now Yahweh has forsaken us; he has given us into the palm of Midian.”
Judges 6:14 And Yahweh turned to him and said, “Go in this your strength, and you will deliver Israel from the palm of Midian. Did I not send you?”
Judges 6:15 He said to him, “Excuse me, my lord. How will I deliver Israel? Look, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”
Judges 6:16 And Yahweh said to him, “But I will be with you, and you will defeat Midian as if they are one man.” (LEB)
If Yahweh is with us. Note the plural “us”. In verse 12 the angel (really God appearing in angelic form as verse 14 suggests) had told Gideon that God was with “him.” His interpreting it in relation to the people as a whole indicates that he is as yet unaware of the significance of the theophany (divine appearance) he is witnessing.
(W)hy then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?’ But now Yahweh has forsaken us; he has given us into the palm of Midian.” God has not abandoned his people, they have abandoned him (Judg 6:1). Sometimes God is said to forsake his people, but God does not forsake or abandon them in an absolute sense, for his forsaking of the people is a sign of his presence, and of his desire that they present themselves to him as repentant. Punishment for infidelity (Deut 29:21-28) is followed by mercy for the repentant and the re-establishment of relations with him (Deut 30:1-10). This is part of the story cycle of Judges mentioned earlier.
As already mentioned (Judg 6:6-7), the people have cried out to the God Gideon thinks has abandoned them, and the call of Gideon is part of his response. As yet Gideon has not grasped this, or the significance of the words spoken to him in verses 12: The lord is with you, you mighty warrior. When God says “I am with you” in the context of a mission, it is not to be understood as merely a statement of the divine presence, rather, it is a promise and guarantee of divine help in the performance and accomplishment of that mission. It is this promise of help that constitutes Gideon-a member of the weakest clan in Manasseh, and the youngest in his father’s house-“a mighty warrior.”
All of this appears lost on Gideon and so the Lord says: “Go in this your strength, and you will deliver Israel from the palm of Midian. Did I not send you?” But like Moses before him (Ex 3:11-14, 4:1-17), and like Jeremiah (Jer 1:6) and Peter (Acts 10:9-23) after him, Gideon is reluctant and asks for a sign (see the following verses).
Judges 6:17 And he said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your eyes, show me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Judges 5:18 Please, do not depart from here until I come back to you and bring out my gift and set it out before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.”
Judges 6:19And Gideon went and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; he put meat in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and he brought them to him under the oak and presented them.
Judges 6:20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes and put them on this rock; pour the broth over it.” And he did so.
Judges 6:21Then the angel of Yahweh reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and he touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire went up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of Yahweh went from his sight.
Judges 6:22 And Gideon realized that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, “Oh, my lord Yahweh! For now I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face.”
Judges 6:23 And Yahweh said to him, “Peace be with you. Do not fear; you will not die.”
Judges 6:24 And Gideon built there an altar to Yahweh, and he called it “Yahweh is peace.” (LEB)
Gideon is presented as a sort of doubting Thomas. Note how he is characterized throughout this call narrative. In response to the words “the Lord is with you” (verse 12) he responds “if Yahweh is with us, then why has this happened to us? Where are all his wonderful deed…” (verse 13) When bidden to go and deliver the people (14) he asks “how?” (15). Now in verse 17 we see him asking for a sign. All of this should be seen against the background of Gideon’s upbringing, his father and the people of his town were devotees of Baal (Judg 6:25-30).
In spite of his apparently Baal oriented upbringing Gideon responds to the one true God, albeit reluctantly and hesitatingly. At the end of Matthew Gospel we read: “So the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated for them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” (LEB) Sometimes God chooses the foolish, weak, and insignificant things of the world to shame the world, but sometime it is all he has to work with; but his presence in power ensures success.