Judges 6

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1 The children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh: and Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.

2 The hand of Midian prevailed against Israel; and because of Midian the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves, and the strongholds.

3 So it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east; they came up against them;

4 and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, until you come to Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor donkey.

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

6 Israel was brought very low because of Midian; and the children of Israel cried to Yahweh.

7 It happened, when the children of Israel cried to Yahweh because of Midian,

8 that Yahweh sent a prophet to the children of Israel: and he said to them, "Thus says Yahweh, 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 who oppressed you, and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land;

10 and I said to you, "I am Yahweh your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell." But you have not listened to my voice.'"

11 The angel of Yahweh came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

12 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him, and said to him, "Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valor!"

13 Gideon said to him, "Oh, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Didn't Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?' But now Yahweh has cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian."

14 Yahweh looked at him, and said, "Go in this your might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Haven't I sent you?"

15 He said to him, "O Lord, how shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."

16 Yahweh said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."

17 He said to him, "If now I have found favor in your sight, then show me a sign that it is you who talk with me.

18 Please don't go away, until I come to you, and bring out my present, and lay it before you." He said, "I will wait until you come back."

19 Gideon went in, and prepared a young goat, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of meal. He put the meat in a basket and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out to him under the oak, and presented it.

20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth." He did so.

21 Then the angel of Yahweh stretched out the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire went up out of the rock, and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of Yahweh departed out of his sight.

22 Gideon saw that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, "Alas, Lord Yahweh! Because I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!"

23 Yahweh said to him, "Peace be to you! Don't be afraid. You shall not die."

24 Then Gideon built an altar there to Yahweh, and called it "Yahweh is Peace." To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 It happened the same night, that Yahweh said to him, "Take your father's bull, even the second bull seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is by it;

26 and build an altar to Yahweh your God on the top of this stronghold, in an orderly way, and take the second bull, and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down."

27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as Yahweh had spoken to him: and it happened, because he feared his father's household and the men of the city, so that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.

28 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 bull was offered on the altar that was built.

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

30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your 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 Joash said to all who stood against him, "Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? He who will contend for him, let him be put to death while [it is yet] morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has broken down his altar."

32 Therefore on that day he named him Jerub-Baal, saying, "Let Baal contend against him, because he has broken down his altar."

33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east assembled themselves together; and they passed over, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel.

34 But the Spirit of Yahweh came on Gideon; and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered together after him.

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

36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have spoken,

37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there be dew on the fleece only, and it be dry on all the ground, then shall I know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have spoken."

38 It was so; for he rose up early on the next day, and pressed the fleece together, and wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.

39 Gideon said to God, "Don't let your anger be kindled against me, and I will speak but this once. Please let me make a trial just this once with the fleece. Let it now be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew."

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

  

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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