Mar 21, 2011

Judges Chapters 6-8, Gideon, February 14 and March 7, 2011

Chapter 6
When we met Deborah the prophet in Jud 4:4-5, she was sitting under a palm tree, communing with the word of God and adjudicating laws for people.  And she is able to deliver the Israelites.  Now, however, YHVH has to send a prophet/angel to dig up a deliverer.  And what does the angel/ YHVH find?  Gideon, whose father is faithfully worshipping at the altar of Baal and the wood of the Asherah.  Gideon bewails his poor family and insignificant birth and repeatedly requires YHVH to provide signs that YHVH is truly a God.  Are these mighty miracles like the plagues and the parting of the Sea of Reeds?  (remember, these are the signs and wonders that cause even non-Israelites like Rehav to be in awe of YHVH).  No.  The first sign is that YHVH causes the food that Gideon prepares to go up in flames. This is enough to embolden Gideon to accept his first task: tearing down his father’s alter to Baal.  But when YHVH asks Gideon to engage in battle, Gideon requires further proof.  First dew on the fleece and dry on the ground, and then dry on the fleece and dew on the ground.

Chapter 7
YHVH will prove
zir (not a typo – this is a non-gendered pronoun in common use) might by winning the next battle with only 300 warriors.  This will prove that the conquest is a miracle from YHVH’s hands.  Gideon, true to form, will not lead the battle until he has yet one more sign from YHVH.  This comes in the form of being led to overhear a dream and its interpretation by the enemy (Jud 7:13-14).   This seems like a parody of dreams like Joseph’s.  A barley cake tumbles into the Midian camp, rolls into a tent, turns it upside down and leaves it flat.  By this, the Midianite knows that he has seen the sword of Gideon, into whose hand YHVH has delivered the Midianites.   I think anyone would know that a cake of barley is like Gideon’s sword and indicates they will lose a battle.
So, there is a battle, with horns and torches, and the enemy running around turning their swords on each other.  Again we have this parody-like, humorous event which suggests the low level to which humanity has fallen. 

Chapter 8
Nevertheless, Gideon gets credit for saving the Israelite’s from the dreaded Midianites.  (This is sort of sad, though.  Remember, Zipporah, wife of Moses, was a Midianite, as was her father, the righteous Jethro).  The men of Israel ask Gideon to rule over them (Jud 8:22).  He refuses, saying that YHVH will rule over them.
Note, the root for rule is m-sh-l.  If they asked him to be king, the root would be m-l-k.  In Deut 33.5, it says that YHVH will be melek in Jesrun.
Gideon, rather than ruling, gathers up the gold which the Israelites took as booty and makes an ephod.  In and of itself, this would not seem to be a bad thing to do, but the text says this will be a snare to Gideon’s house (Jud 8:27).  We pondered over the word snare.   Mokesh.  Turns out to mean lure or bait – elsewhere associated with covenanting with the people of the land and worshipping their gods (see Ex 34:12).   So even though an ephod is part of the priestly vestments, the text indicates Gideon makes a mistake creating the ephod.  Perhaps because he doesn’t have a priest at hand?  When we study Micah and his priest, perhaps this will be illuminated.
As chapter 8 ends, Gideon dies and he people go astray again.  They will forget to honor his house.  (Jud 8:35).

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