Discussion starters – Judges 6-8

  1. In Judges 6:13 Gideon asks, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Who today might be feeling the same?
  2. As soon as Gideon receives his commission from the Lord, he finds himself in conflict with his immediate family (6:25). In what ways do you find that your Christian faith brings you into conflict with those close to you? How do you deal with that?
  3. As with Moses (Exodus 3 &4), Gideon is reluctant to do what the Lord wants him to do (Judges 6:15). He asks for signs that the Lord really is with him (vv17-23; 36-40). Do you think it is OK for us to seek the Lord’s guidance or reassurance in this way?
  4. In chapter 7 we learn that God uses a small number of ill-prepared and poorly-equipped soldiers to win a victory. In what ways is it still true today that God uses unpromising material to achieve his aims? Why do you think this is so?
  5. What evidence can you see in chapter 7 that Gideon is relying on the Lord, but in chapter 8 he is relying on his own strength and skill? How can we today avoid the danger of beginning in God’s strength, but then continuing in our own?


Chapter precis

For seven long years the people of Israel had been raided and robbed by the Midianites.

For seven long years their crops had been destroyed and their animals killed.

For seven long years the Israelites had been reduced to hiding from their enemies, in caves and clefts and mountain shelters.

Then someone had a bright idea. “Perhaps we should ask the Lord to help us.”

The Lord responded to their cry for help by sending a prophet. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: I am the God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt. I am the God who brought you safely into this land. I warned you not to worship false gods. But you have not listened to me, and that is why all this calamity has fallen on you.”

No doubt the Israelites needed to hear that message, but it didn’t do very much to rescue them from their enemies. One day, however, the angel of the Lord appeared to a man called Gideon. “The Lord is with you,” said the angel.

“But if the Lord is with us,” replied Gideon, “what is he going to do about these Midianites who keep making our lives so unbearable?”

“Ah, yes. Actually, the Lord wants you to lead the fight against the Midianites.”

“What, me? But I’m the least important member of the weakest family in my tribe. I’m just a nobody.”

“But the Lord will be with you, and you will be victorious over your enemies.”

“Well, I’m not sure. Can you give me a sign that you really are who you seem to be?”

Gideon went off and prepared an offering of bread and meat and brought it back. Then the angel of the Lord touched the food with the tip of his staff, and the food burst into flames.

“OK, I’m convinced,” said Gideon.

Then the angel said to Gideon, “Now you must tear down the altar your father has built to the false god Baal, and replace it with an altar to the true God.”

So Gideon destroyed the altar to Baal, and built a new altar to the God of Israel. But he did this at night-time because he was terrified of what his family and the men of the town might do to him.

In the morning, the men of the town saw that Baal’s altar had been torn down and they were furious when they learned that it was Gideon who had done it. They would have killed him. But Gideon’s father stood up for him, and said, “If Baal really is a god, then he can look after himself without your help.” And at that, they left Gideon alone.

Now the Midianites were getting ready to attack the Israelites again. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and Gideon blew a trumpet, and called the Israelites together to fight against their enemies.

But Gideon was getting a little nervous again. So he said to the Lord, “Please may I have another sign? Supposing I leave this wool fleece on the floor overnight? If in the morning there is dew on the fleece, but the floor is dry, then I’ll be really sure that you will give us victory.” And the Lord did just as Gideon asked.

But Gideon was still feeling nervous, so he said again to the Lord, “Can I check this out with you just one more time? Supposing I leave the fleece out again tonight, but this time in the morning the fleece is dry and the floor around it is wet with dew? Then I’ll be really, really, sure.” And again, the Lord did just as Gideon asked.

And at last Gideon felt ready to lead the Israelites against the Midianites, confident now that the Lord would give them the victory he had promised.

Judg 6:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.

Judg 6:2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.

Judg 6:3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country.

Judg 6:4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys.

Judg 6:5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.

Judg 6:6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.

Judg 6:7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian,

Judg 6:8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Judg 6:9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land.

Judg 6:10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

Judg 6:11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

‘Like Moses [Ex 3], [Gideon] received his call while he was in hiding from the enemy, doing menial work to keep his family alive (11). Like Moses, he was told that the Lord was sending him on a mission (14). He protested, as Moses did, that he was inadequate for the task (15). He received the same promise as Moses received, ‘I will be with you’ (16), and, like Moses, he received a sign to confirm his call (17). Finally, miraculous fire signalled God’s presence (21), as it did in the call of Moses. So the message is clear: Gideon was to be used by God to save Israel from the Midianites, just as Moses was used to save Israel from the Egyptians. The God of the exodus has come to Israel’s rescue again.’ (NBC)

Judg 6:12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judg 6:13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

Judg 6:14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Judg 6:15 “But Lord, ” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judg 6:16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judg 6:17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.

Judg 6:18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”

Judg 6:19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

Judg 6:20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so.

Judg 6:21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared.

Judg 6:22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

Judg 6:23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

Judg 6:24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Judg 6:25 That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.

“Tear down your father’s altar to Baal”– ‘Gideon’s enlistment by the Lord immediately projected him into a head-on confrontation with his own family and clan, for they had become Baal worshippers, something that the Lord would not tolerate. The Lord’s altar and Baal’s altar could not stand side-by-side, for this was a direct contradiction of the very first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods besides me’ (Ex. 20:3; niv mg.) Parallels to this kind of predicament are often found today when people’s commitment to Christ sets them against their families’ wishes or principles.’ (NBC)

Judg 6:26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Judg 6:27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

Judg 6:28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

Judg 6:29 They asked each other, “Who did this?” When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

Judg 6:30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

Judg 6:31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”

Judg 6:32 So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal, ” saying, “Let Baal contend with him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar.

Judg 6:33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.

Judg 6:34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.

Judg 6:35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them.

Judg 6:36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised–

Judg 6:37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”

Judg 6:38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew–a bowlful of water.

Judg 6:39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.”

Judg 6:40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

‘God’s positive response to Gideon’s repeated experiment with the fleece was a gracious concession to his weak faith rather than an indication that God was pleased with him for seeking reassurance in this way. Similar actions by Christians today should not be necessary, but God in his mercy sometimes responds to such calls for reassurance.’ (NBC)