Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Midian - See Gen 25:2 note. They were remarkable not only for the vast number of their cattle Jdg 6:5; Num 31:32-39, but also for their great wealth in gold and other metal ornaments, showing their connection with a gold country. (Compare Num 31:22, Num 31:50-54, with Jdg 8:24 :26.) At this time they were allies of the Amalekites and of the Arabian tribes called collectively "the children of the East" Jdg 6:3. They seem to have extended their settlements to the east of Jordan, and to have belonged to the larger section of Arabs called Ishmaelites Jdg 8:24.
The word rendered "dens" is only found in this passage. It is best explained of ravines hollowed out by torrents, which the Israelites made into hiding-places.
Gaza indicates the extreme point south to which they spread their devastations, crossing the Jordan near Bethshan (Scythopolls), and entering by the valley of Jezreel, and sweeping along the whole of the maritime plain or Shephelah.
Grasshoppers - Rather locusts (compare Exo 10:4-6, Exo 10:14-15; Joel 1; 2; Psa 78:46)
A prophet - His name is not given. (Compare 1 Kings 13.) This message is somewhat similar to that of the Angel, Jdg 2:1-3. The reference to Exo 20:2 is plain, and supposes the people to whom the prophet addresses these words to be familiar with the facts recorded in that text.
A similar use of the name Amorite, instead of the more usual name Canaanite, occurs in Jos 24:15, Jos 24:18. Perhaps a special reason may be found for the use of Amorite, if the prophet was addressing those who dwelt in the mountains, where the Amorites chiefly dwelt. The idolatries of the Amorites seem, too, to have been preeminently abominable (see Kg2 21:11; Kg1 21:26). It should be observed that the prophet's language, as it traces the misery of Israel to their sins, so also intimates the necessity of repentance and of breaking off their sins - especially the sin of idolatry - as preliminary to any deliverance. In exact accordance with this view, Gideon commences his work by throwing down the altar of Baal, and building up the altar of Yahweh Jdg 6:24-25.
An oak - "The oak," indicating it as a well-known tree, still standing in the writer's days.
There was another Ophrah in Benjamin Jos 18:23. This Ophrah was in Manasseh, and was the village of Joash, the head, apparently, of the family of Abiezer, which was one of the families of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh Num 26:30.
Thou mighty man of valor - Known to God to be such, though as yet not known to be such either by himself or his countrymen (compare Luk 1:28, Luk 1:30).
The extreme bitterness of the national sufferings under the Midianite occupation breaks out in Gideon's language. The Angel's words, suitable to times of prosperity, seemed to be a mockery, when it was evident the Lord was not with them. (Compare Deu 31:17.)
The Lord looked upon him - That gracious look conferred immediate strength (compare Eph 6:10; Co2 12:9; Joh 20:22; Act 3:6) The change of phrase from "the angel of the Lord" to "the Lord" is remarkable. When messages are delivered by the Angel of the Lord, the form of the message is as if God Himself were speaking (compare Jdg 2:1).
The sending implied a valid commission and sufficient powers. Compare Exo 3:10; Isa 44:26; Eze 2:3; Zac 2:11; Mal 3:1; Luk 10:3; Joh 20:21; and the term APOSTLE, as applied to our Lord Heb 3:1 and to the Twelve.
Gideon now perceived that the Lord was speaking to him by His angel. He saw, however, no qualifications in himself, or in his family or tribe, for the office of saviour to his people. He therefore desires some assurance that the message he had just received was indeed from God, and not a mere dream or delusion. He asks as a sign Jdg 6:18 that his mysterious visitor should tarry under the oak until he should return to Him with his gifts and offerings.
A sign - If the Angel ate of Gideon's present it would be a conclusive proof of the reality of the vision. (Compare Joh 21:9-13; Luk 24:37-43; Act 10:41.) It would also be a token of God's goodwill to Gideon. Compare Gen 18:3.
My present - My Minchah: the word used regularly, though not exclusively, for the meat and drink offering (Lev 2:1 note). Its double sense of an offering to God, and of a gift to man, suits the doubt in Gideon's mind as to who his visitor might be.
Unleavened cakes - As being much more quickly baked (compare Gen 19:3) (and as connected with the meat offering). An ephah, containing 3 measures, was the quantity of flour commonly used at one baking Gen 18:6; Exo 16:16.
Presented it - A word especially, though not exclusively, proper for offerings to God. See Amo 5:25, where the same word is rendered offered.
Pour out the broth - Libations were a very ancient form of offering (compare Gen 35:14). The drink offerings of wine under the Levitical law were poured upon the altar Exo 30:9. The pouring of the broth upon the rock was evidently of the nature of a libation. It might also, like the water poured by Elijah upon his sacrifice, make the miracle of the fire that consumed the sacrifice more apparent. (Compare Kg1 18:33.)
Alas, O Lord GOD! - Compare Jos 7:7. "because I have seen an angel of the Lord" Compare the marginal references, in which the notion that it was death for mortal man to see God appears clearly. The same notion prevailed among the pagan.
Gideon's naming the altar which he built, in commemoration of the words of peace spoken by the Angel, is very similar to what we read of Abraham Gen 22:14, and of Moses (Exo 17:15, when he named the altar Jehovah-nissi).
Even - Rather, as in the margin, and. Two bullocks are spoken of. The labor of both would be required for pulling down and removing the altar of Baal, and for bringing the materials for building the altar of Yahweh.
The grove by it - Rather, "the idol upon it," the Asherah, the wooden image of Astarte Jdg 3:7.
In the ordered place - See the margin. "Build an altar, etc., with the materials," "the wood laid in order" (compare Gen 22:9), that, namely, which he would find ready to hand in the altar of Baal which he was to throw down.
The wood of the grove - "The (blocks of) wood of the idol," i. e. the image of Astarte. The command from God Himself to build an altar, and sacrifice upon it, is analogous to Elijah's sacrifice 1 Kings 18, and was doubtless caused by the extraordinary circumstance of the defection of the Israelites from the worship of the true God. Possibly, too, the Midianite invasion had made the worship at Shiloh impossible at this time.
The mention of the "men of the city" by the side of Gideon's "father's household" suggests the probability of their being a remnant of the Canaanite population, and the special patrons of Baal-worship.
From the boldness of Joash in defending his son, it is likely that the majority of the Abi-ezrites sided with him against "the men of the city," and already felt drawn toward Gideon as their national and religious leader Jdg 6:34. Joash appears as the chief magistrate of Ophrah.
Will ye plead ...? will ye save? - The emphasis is upon ye, as much as to say, What business is it of yours?
He called him - i. e. "He was called" Jerubbaal, as being the person against whom it was popularly said that Baal might strive. See margin.
A fresh invasion, and the last, of Midianites Amalekites, and Arabs (see Jdg 6:3). But the Israelites, instead of hiding in dens and caves, and tamely leaving all their substance as pIunder to the invaders, now rally around their leader.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon - See the margin. The word contains a striking thought. It is different from that used in the case of Othniel Jdg 3:10, Jephthah Jdg 11:29, and Samson Jdg 13:25; Jdg 14:6, Jdg 14:19.
His own tribe, Manasseh, and the three northern tribes of Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali hastened to join him. Issachar was probably unable to do so, because the Midianites were encamped in the heart of their country. Asher no longer "abode in his breaches," as in the time of Jabin Jdg 6:17, perhaps ashamed of their former backwardness, and stung by the rebuke of Deborah; perhaps, too, from feeling the Midianite yoke much more galling than that of Jabin.
The caution of Gideon, desirous of being assured that he really had a promise from God, does not imply doubts as to God's faithfulness or power to fulfill His promise. Of such doubts there is not a trace in Gideon's character. He is a worthy example of faith Heb 11:32.
The threshing floors were and still are under the open air, and usually circular. The second sign Jdg 6:40, would be more convincing than the former, because it is the nature of fleeces to attract and retain moisture.