Welcome to the #BAM #InYoFaceDevil Bible Study!
August 3, 2018
Israel does evil, and serves Midian for seven years. The angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, and tells him he will deliver the Israelites from the Midianites. Gideon is initially suspicious, because he is from Manasseh, the least of the tribes. As a sign, fire shoots from a rock and cosumes Gideon’s offering of meat and bread. Gideon builds an altar at the place, Ophrah. Gideon destroys an altar of Baal-Berith at night, and replaces it with an altar to God. Gideon is found out, but his father says that Baal-Berith himself should plead against him if he is offended. Gideon thus acquires the name Jerubbaal, meaning ‘Let Baal plead’. Gideon gathers an army. Gideon seeks signs – he puts a fleece on the floor, and asks for there to be dew only on the fleece, but not on the ground. This is done. Then Gideon asks for the ground to be bedewed, and the fleece dry. This is done also.
Gideon gathers Israelite men to fight. God is anxious lest victory is ascribed to the Israelites’ might, rather than to Him. All those who are afraid are commanded to go home – this reduces the number to 10,000 from 32,000. The number is further reduced to 300 by a test by a river – all those who drink by lapping like a dog, or on their knees, are dismissed. Gideon spies on the Midian camp with his servant Purah. Gideon hears a man relating a dream of a loasf of barley bread striking his tent and causing it to fall. The dream is interpreted as meaning that the Midianites will be given up to Gideon. Gideon divides the company into three groups – upon his signal, the company are to blow their trumpets and shout, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!’ When this is done, the Midianites in a panic kill each other. Two Midianite kings are killed.
The men of Ephraim complain that they were not asked to fight with Gideon. Gideon replies, ‘What was I able to do in comparison to you?’ and their anger subsides. The men of Succoth and Penuel deny support for Gideon. Two Midianite kings and their armies are destroyed, then takes revenge on Succoth and Penuel. Gideon refuses to be made king, saying that the Lord will rule the Israelites. Gideon amasses a fortune by taking golden earrings as spoils. Gideon inappropriately uses some of the gold to make an ephod, assuming the role of religious leadership, despite the fact that the tabernacle is actually at Shiloh. Israel has peace 40 years. Gideon has seventy sons, and many wives. One of Gideon’s sons is called Abimelech. After Gideon’s death, however, the Israelites turn from God once more.
Abimelech convinces his brothers to support him. They give him silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and then he kills them all, apart from Jotham, who hides. Jotham’s parable: worthy trees (olivem fig and vine) do not wish to become the king of the trees, so the role is assumed by the bramble, who promises he will destroy with fire any who oppose him. The parable is applied to Abimelech. Abimelech having reigned three years, the Shechemites, headed by Gaal the son of Ebed, conspire against him. Zebul, governor of the city, apprises Abimelech of the insurrection, so Abimelech assaults the city, takes, beats it down, and sows it with salt. Several of the Shechemites take refuge in the temple of Baal-Berith; Abimelech sets fire to it, and destroys in it about one thousand men and women. He afterwards besieges and takes Thebez; but while he is assaulting the citadel, a woman throws a piece of millstone upon his head, and kills him. Abimelech asks his armourbearer to kill him, lest it be known that he was killed by a woman. Thus God requited him and the men of Shechem for their wickedness, and their ingratitude to the family of Gideon.
Tola and Jair judge Israel. Israel forgets God and serves many gods. Israelites serve the Philistines and Ammonites. Israel cries to God for help. God’s patience is sorely tested after the repeated cycles of idolatry, servitude and deliverance. Israel lacks a leader.