Judges 6

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1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Jehovah; and Jehovah delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.

2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites the children of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds.

3 And it came to pass when Israel sowed, that Midian came up, and Amalek, and the children of the east, and came up against them.

4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the produce of the land, until thou come to Gazah, and they left no sustenance in Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.

5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as locusts for multitude; both they and their camels were without number; and they entered into the land to destroy it.

6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian. And the children of Israel cried to Jehovah.

7 And it came to pass when the children of Israel cried to Jehovah because of Midian,

8 that Jehovah sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, Thus saith Jehovah the God of Israel: I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;

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

10 and I said to you, I am Jehovah your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. But ye have not hearkened to my voice.

11 And an angel of Jehovah came and sat under the terebinth that was in Ophrah, that [belonged] to Joash the Abi-ezrite. And his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, to secure [it] from the Midianites.

12 And the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him, and said to him, Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

13 And Gideon said to him, Ah my Lord, if Jehovah be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where are all his miracles that our fathers told us of, saying, Did not Jehovah bring us up from Egypt? And now Jehovah hath cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.

14 And Jehovah looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have not I sent thee?

15 And he said to him, Ah Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my thousand is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.

16 And Jehovah said to him, I will certainly be with thee; and thou shalt smite Midian as one man.

17 And he said to him, If now I have found favour in thine eyes, shew me a sign that it is thou who talkest with me.

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.

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

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

21 And the Angel of Jehovah 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. And the Angel of Jehovah departed out of his sight.

22 And Gideon perceived that he was an angel of Jehovah; and Gideon said, Alas, Lord Jehovah! for because I have seen an angel of Jehovah face to face ...

23 And Jehovah said to him, Peace be unto thee: fear not; thou shalt not die.

24 And Gideon built there an altar to Jehovah, and called it Jehovah-shalom. To this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites.

25 And it came to pass the same night, that Jehovah said to him, Take the young bullock, which thy father hath, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the Asherah that is by it;

26 and build an altar to Jehovah thy God upon the top of this strong place in the ordered manner, and take the second bullock, and offer up a burnt-offering with the wood of the Asherah that thou shalt cut down.

27 And Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as Jehovah had said to him. And it came to pass, because he feared his father's house, and the men of the city, if he did it by day, that he did it by night.

28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered up upon the altar that was built.

29 And they said one to another, Who has done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.

30 And the men of the city said to Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die, because he has broken down the altar of Baal, and because he has cut down the Asherah that was by it.

31 And Joash said to all that stood near him, Will *ye* contend for Baal? or will *ye* save him? he that contends for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning. If he be a god, let him plead for himself, because they have broken down his altar.

32 And on that day they called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead with him, because he has broken down his altar.

33 And all Midian and Amalek and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel.

34 And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon Gideon, and he blew the trumpet, and the Abi-ezrites were gathered after him.

35 And he sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were gathered after him; and he sent messengers to Asher, and to Zebulun, and to Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.

36 And Gideon said to God, If thou wilt save Israel by my hand, as thou hast said,

37 behold, I put a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if dew shall be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the ground, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by my hand, as thou hast said.

38 And it was so. And when he rose up early on the morrow, he pressed the fleece together, and wrung dew out of the fleece, a bowl-full of water.

39 And Gideon said to God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once! Let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it, I pray thee, be dry upon the fleece only, and upon all the ground let there be dew.

40 And God did so that night, and it was dry upon the fleece only, but on all the ground there was dew.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 6      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 6: The Midianites oppress Israel; the call of Gideon.

Chapters 6-8 of Judges tell the story of Gideon, who led the people of Israel against the Midianites. The Lord allowed the Midianites to oppress the children of Israel for seven years, because they had disobeyed His commandments once again. Israel fled to the mountain caves, and Midian starved the Israelites by destroying their crops and taking their livestock. When Israel cried out to the Lord for help, a prophet delivered the Lord’s message that He had always been with them, but they had kept disobeying.

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, who was threshing wheat in the winepress to hide this from the Midianites. The angel brought news that he would lead the fight against the Midianites. Gideon was stunned, and replied that his family was the least important in the tribe of Manasseh, and that he was the least in his family. Even so, the Lord assured him would be victorious, because the Lord was with him.

Gideon asked for a sign to be given him, and then went to prepare an offering of food. When he came back, the angel told him to place the meat and unleavened bread upon a rock. When the angel touched it with his staff, fire came up from the rock and burned up the food. The angel then departed.

The Lord told Gideon to break down his father’s altars to Baal, and to build an altar to the Lord on top of it, which he did by night. In the morning, the men of the city discovered what Gideon had done, and demanded that he be killed. But Gideon’s father, Joash, replied that Baal himself would take action, if he were really a god.

The Midianites and their allies gathered for battle, and Gideon called on his tribe of Manasseh, as well as Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, to prepare to fight. Before the battle took place though, Gideon asked for another sign from God. He put a woolen fleece on the threshing floor, and if God would use him to save Israel, the fleece would have dew on it, while the ground around it would be dry. And so it was the next morning. Once again, Gideon asked for a sign, this time with dew on the ground, but not on the fleece. And again, this came to pass.

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The spiritual meaning of the Midianites is understanding spiritual truths, but leading a life of sensory pleasure anyway, rather than one built on genuine goodness (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 7602). This is portrayed by the Midianites destroying all the crops which could be made into food, or spiritually, into what is good.

Threshing wheat and pressing wine are very similar processes; threshing wheat frees grain from the beaten husk, and pressing wine squeezes juice from a crushed grape. Both of these activities represent our spiritual determination to do what is good – the wheat for bread – because of the truth we have come to understand – the wine. Gideon’s name, meaning “to break apart”, and this passage are meant to show us that his strongest quality was determination to do good (Divine Providence 227[2]).

Gideon’s claim to be the least important of all demonstrates the place of genuine humility in our spiritual life. Acknowledging that the Lord brings about all good things is a sign of strength, not weakness (see Swedenborg’s work, Heaven and Hell 408).

The spiritual meaning of asking God for a sign – which Gideon did several times – is to confirm the validity of what we intend or understand. Paying attention to our internal state will show us the quality of our inner thoughts if we dare to listen, but ultimately, confirmation comes from the Word (see Swedenborg’s work, True Christian Religion 508[5]). The fire from the rock, which burned the meat, represents the power of love and truth to consume and sustain us.

The fascinating double sign involving the fleece has several layers of spiritual meaning: the threshing floor stands for the ground of our daily life and activity; the fleece, with its warmth and softness, stands for the principle of goodness; and the dew (water) stands for divine influx of truth into us from the Lord. These build the framework of the spiritual meaning. The dewy fleece on the dry ground means that we need to have the Lord’s truth in our mind, so we know how to lead a good life. Then, this needs to be reversed so that we feel the desire to do good, and then apply this in daily life (Arcana Caelestia 3579).

This sign is closely related to the spiritual meaning of the Midianites, the enemy to be overthrown. Simply knowing the Lord’s truths does not guarantee a good life; we must put these truths into practice.

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