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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 6

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1 THE Israelites did what was wrong in the eyes of the LORD and he delivered them into the hands of Midian for seven years. 2The Midianites were too strong for the Israelites, who were forced to find themselves hollow places in the mountains, in caves and fastnesses. 3If the Israelites had sown seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and other eastern tribes would come up and attack Israel, 4pitching their camps in the country and destroying the crops as far as the outskirts of Gaza. They left nothing to support life in Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. 5They came up with their herds and their tents, swarming like locusts; they and their camels were past counting. They would come into the land and lay it waste. 6The Israelites, brought to destitution by the Midianites, cried to the LORD for help.

7When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of what they were suffering from the Midianites, 8he sent them a prophet who said to them, ‘These are the words of the LORD the God of Israel: I brought you up from Egypt, that land of slavery. 9I rescued you from the Egyptians and from all your oppressors, whom I drove out before you to give you their lands. 10I said to you, “I am the LORD your God: do not worship the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are settling.” But you did not listen to me.’

11The angel of the LORD came to Ophrah and sat under the terebinth which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. While Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat in the winepress, so that he might keep it out of sight of the Midianites, 12the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, ‘You are a brave man, and the LORD is with you.’ 13‘Pray, my lord,’ said Gideon, ‘if the LORD really is with us, why has all this happened to us? What has become of all those wonderful deeds of his, of which we have heard from our forefathers, when they told us how the LORD brought us up from Egypt? But now the LORD has cast us off and delivered us into the power of the Midianites.’

14The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go and use this strength of yours to free Israel from the Midianites. It is I who send you.’ 15Gideon said, ‘Pray, my lord, how can I save Israel? Look at my clan: it is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's family.’ 16The LORD answered, ‘I shall be with you, and you will lay low all Midian as one man.’ 17He replied, ‘If I stand so well with you, give me a sign that it is you who speak to me. 18Do not leave this place, I beg you, until I come with my gift and lay it before you.’ He answered, ‘I shall stay until you return.’

19So Gideon went in, and prepared a young goat and made an ephah of flour into unleavened bread. He put the meat in a basket, poured the broth into a pot, and brought it out to the angel under the terebinth. As he approached, 20the angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the bread, and put them here on the rock and pour out the broth.’ When he did so, 21the angel of the LORD reached out the staff in his hand and touched the meat and bread with the tip of it. Fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. 22Gideon realized it was the angel of the LORD and said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Then it is true: I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.’ 23But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace be with you! Do not be afraid; you shall not die.’ 24Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. It stands to this day at Ophrah-of-the-Abiezrites.

25That night the LORD said to Gideon, ‘Take a young bull of your father's, the yearling bull a 6:25 the yearling bull: prob. rdg; Heb. the second bull seven years old. ; tear down the altar of Baal belonging to your father, and cut down the sacred pole which stands beside b beside: or on. it. 26Then build an altar of the proper pattern c 6:26 of … pattern: or with the stones in rows. to the LORD your God on the top of this earthwork d earthwork: or stronghold or refuge. ; take the yearling bull and offer it as a whole-offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you cut down.’ 27Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had told him; but because he was afraid of his father's family and the people of the town, he did it by night and not by day. 28When the people rose early next morning, they found the altar of Baal overturned, the sacred pole which had stood beside it cut down, and the yearling bull offered up as a whole-offering on an altar which had been built. 29They asked among themselves who had done it, and, after searching enquiries, they declared it was Gideon son of Joash. 30The townspeople said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son. He has overturned the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it; he must die.’ 31But as they crowded round him Joash retorted, ‘Are you pleading Baal's cause then? Do you think it is for you to save him? Whoever pleads his cause shall be put to death at dawn. If Baal is a god, and someone has torn down his altar, let him take up his own cause.’ 32That day Joash named Gideon Jerubbaal e 6:32 Jerubbaal: that is Let Baal plead. , saying, ‘Let Baal plead his own cause against this man, for he has torn down his altar.’

33When all the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the eastern tribes joined forces, crossed the river, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel, 34the spirit of the LORD took possession of f 6:34 took possession of: lit. clothed itself with. Gideon. He sounded the trumpet to call out the Abiezrites to follow him, 35and sent messengers all through Manasseh; and they too rallied to him. He sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they advanced to meet the others.

36Gideon said to God, ‘If indeed you are going to deliver Israel through me as you promised, 37I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor, and if there is dew on the fleece while all the ground is dry, then I shall be sure that it is through me you will deliver Israel as you promised.’ 38And that is what happened. When he rose early next day and wrung out the fleece, he squeezed enough dew from it to fill a bowl with water. 39Gideon then said to God, ‘Do not be angry with me, but give me leave to speak once again. Allow me, I pray, to make one more test with the fleece. This time let the fleece be dry, and all the ground be covered with dew.’ 40God let it be so that night: the fleece alone was dry, and all over the ground there was dew.

Notes:

a 6:25 the yearling bull: prob. rdg; Heb. the second bull seven years old.

b beside: or on.

c 6:26 of … pattern: or with the stones in rows.

d earthwork: or stronghold or refuge.

e 6:32 Jerubbaal: that is Let Baal plead.

f 6:34 took possession of: lit. clothed itself with.

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