When I say the phrase “Bible Heroes,” who comes to mind? Daniel? David? Esther? Samson? Yeah, you know those historical figures that have been way over-taught and are way over-emphasized in Bible studies. Yeah well, for now forget about those guys. For now, they don’t matter because this study is about the underrated dudes and dudettes in Scripture that deserve more attention. The people that few know of in history or even know are in the Bible. In the spirit of this commentary series, the first study will be a study on the life, death, and legacy of Gideon. A man whose impact was so far reaching in the Bible that he is praised by the founding fathers of the church in the New Testament as a man of faith who served God diligently, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s look at some historical details to set the stage for this first installment in the Cribari Commentaries series: “Gideon, Get’Em!”
The majority of Gideon’s story is written in the book of Judges in the Bible. The author of Judges is most likely the Prophet Samuel, but that’s not for certain and is only attributed to Him because of Jewish tradition. Although the case can be made that it was a collaborative effort (see: 1 Chronicles 29:29). The author would have to have been someone who lived just after this period in history, about 1045-1000 B.C. and Samuel the Prophet fits this bill the best. Also of note, “the Book of Ruth was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in A.D. 450 it was removed to become a book of its own” (http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Judges.html). So the author of Judges may have been the same author of the Book of Ruth. Just something to chew on for a moment.
Background & Culture
The book of Judges is the Mad Max of the Bible and the time of the Judges in general. Outright anarchy, rebellion, vile wickedness, and all other things of that nasty sort. Then every once in awhile, God would handpick someone to be His vessel of honor to do His will in drawing His chosen people back to Him. Whether that be Deborah or Samson, God would pick out some nobody to do something absolutely magnificent in order to bring Israel back to Him. Israel at the time was a wreck and broken from the inside, as well as the outside with opposing nations seeking to annihilate them permanently.
As the book of Judges says itself in chapter 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Rightly so, because the people of Israel rejected the King of Kings and went their own way towards the wiles of the Devil. And this time period could be compared to an emergency room where one goes to die, yet lives. Where death and life clash. Where eternity and time cross paths. Often the times of Judges was a continual back and forth of resuscitation. Where Israel would spiritually die, God would resuscitate them, and then they would experience spiritual revival. This is where we start our study in the life of Gideon. Israel is dead and needs God. So God decides to use Gideon to get’em back to where they once were: alive in Him. Pick up with me in Judges 6:1-6….
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. The power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD.” (NASB Judges 6:1-6)
Notice how Israel is always in this continuous cycle of dependency for God and in-dependency from God. How in the previous chapter, “the land was undisturbed for forty years” (5:31b), completely dependent on God’s mercies and now after merely a generation are back to their evil ways. In chapter 6 we come to the second half of this vicious cycle of humanity’s relationship to God and His mercies: the independent stage. It’s a very dangerous stage. Full of volatile lifestyles and chaotic consequences on humanity’s part as God eagerly awaits to save His precious nation.
So because of this rebellion, God allows the Midianites to completely wreck the lands of Israel. The Midianites and Amalekites were Arabian nomad races: groups of people that wandered for resources with no homeland. They were from the east (modern day Middle East) and would continuously raid Israel of all its resources until they were full and then leave, while the Israelites would take shelter in caves, mountains, or strongholds to avoid conflict. Since their numbers were too many and the Israelites were no match for such mighty people groups like the Midianites and Amalekites, this continued for seven long years, season after season.
It’s usually during times of war when one finds out what they are made of. Whether that be physical, mental, or spiritual, warfare is the ultimate way of showing one’s true character. Or in this case, the character of the nation of Israel which was afraid and resistant to conflict. They showed their true colors. They let their enemies take anything they desired as they sat back in the shadows of fear. It was probably embarrassing for those who lived during the days of deliverance when Deborah and Barak faithfully did God’s will in ending the tyranny of Jabin the king of Canaan just forty years ago (4:4-6, 23-24). How sad it was to once again be in a trial such as this because of the evil that Israel did in these days. But Israel in their time of tribulation finally cries out to God and God in the following verses of Chapter 6 replies with some harsh words of correction that at the same time are comforting. Let’s pick right back up in Judges 6:7-10….
“Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. I delivered you from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not obeyed Me.”’”” (NASB Judges 6:7-10)
What a response am I right?! God sure knows how to make a response to remember. Anyways, let’s look at the key aspects of this passage. The sons of Israel (another way of saying Israel) are guilty for committing sin against God by disobeying His laws and doing their own thing. Now they are rightfully repenting of their sins and believing in the saving grace of God. So in response to their turning away of sins, God sends a prophet to speak on His behalf and speaks to the people of Israel. In His response, God says essentially “Did you forget who I am? What I’ve done for you? How I saved you from such calamity?” In other words, God is putting His foot down and showing who wears the pants in the relationship. What grace am I right? That even when Israel was in such rebellion (again) towards God, He still spares them and keeps His promises.
Although they have rightly repented and turned back to God, like always sin has lasting consequences that are harder to get rid of than the actual sin. In this case, the Amorites and the Midianites. The next step is to remove the cancer-like parasites that are destroying God’s chosen people. But how? They’re no match! The Israelites have nothing compared to the massive forces of the Amorites and the Midianites. Well, God has a plan of redemption and it begins with the heroes journey of one specific man: Gideon. Come back next week as we watch God raise up the next judge and begin His plan of redemption. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!