Gideon the Judge: Words of Heresy

Gideon #3 (Judges 6:13)

Today, after a long break I opened Judges 6 and read again the story of Gideon. It made me think about Heresy and how wrong we get it. But it also made me think how important it is to appreciate the time we are given.

I cannot believe that it has been over two months since my last post. Where did the time go? It seems to take its own pace, much faster than I can notice. I have many reasons why I wasn’t writing: I have been travelling, I needed to settle in a new place, I was tired. But these are all excuses. Normally, I am disciplined, but when I let go, even for a short while, it is nearly impossible to go back to routine, to keep myself motivated, to continue in my spiritual path. No wonder sloth is among the seven deadly sins. I hope that now that I have settled for a while in Finland, I can revitalise my discipline and start writing regularly again.

So today we continue with the story of Gideon. In verse 12 we saw that he met an Angel of God, who greeted him “God is with you, brave man of valour” Gideon’s reply, full of skepticism – nearly heresy – is as relevant to our lives today as it was at the time of Gideon.

As it is a long verse, I will cover it in a few posts.

The original text and English translation of Judges 6:13, in which Gideon, not yet a judge, utter words of heresy. He does not believe in the protection of God.


Gideon does not bow or fall to the ground to show respect or fear. He is not aware that he is talking to God’s angel. Even though painters and artist could not resist the wings, apparently, like in many Biblical encounters, this angel looks just like a normal man. Gideon simply answers politely, the way a young man would answer an older person בִּי אֲדֹנִי, (Please my lord.)

And he continues, “if there were God with us,” Gideon does not believe that despite God’s promise He still protects his people, the Israelites. He feels that God has left them. It is only a few hundred years after the Exodus from Egypt, but for Gideon God is not real. It is a story he has been told, something he that has no relevance to his life, something he finds hard to believe in.

And he continues, if there were God with us, how come we experience all this pain and suffering under the oppression of Midian.

Gideon is about to become a judge of Israel. But he does not know it yet – we never know what awaits us around the corner. At this moment he is a simple man, a man who suffers under heavy oppression. He is a man full of doubt and heretic thoughts, which he expresses, openly and without fear, to a total stranger.

Like most of us, he does not see cause and effect. He does not know why his people are being punished. He does not even know they are being punished. All Gideon knows that they are suffering, and that the God of his fathers and forefathers is not there to protect them.

This, of course, is a normal behaviour for any person, then as well as now. We feel that bad things keep happening, and we can be angry or perplexed why God is not here to help us. And yet, we forget to look and see if we follow His ways – so we doubt. This is our easiest way out. We do not need to look at how wrong we are, how sinful our lives are when we doubt. We can put the blame somewhere else, everywhere but not with us.  

But we know that Gideon is to become one of the greatest judges. He is not punished for his heresy. God seems to like people who challenge him, people who argue with him. Free speech is allowed, even encouraged, even if we disagree with God. What we do, the way we act, is what matters to Him. God often chooses those who disagree with him. Moses and Abraham are two obvious examples. Maybe because people who doubt and argue (and not people who blindly obey) are people who think and therefore make good leaders.

Judge Gideon: the Vav that Inverts Time

Gideon #2 (Judges 6:12)

Continuing from verse 11, we see how the angel of God is revealing himself to Gideon, addressing him as a ‘brave man’. As this verse is straight forward and easy to understand, I do not see the need for any deeper analysis beyond the translation. Therefore, this time, instead of focusing on the content, I will focus on a common Biblical Hebrew point that many students of the Hebrew Bible find confusing. This is ו’ ההיפוך (the Vav of Tense Inversion)

Translation of the story of Gideon in the Hebrew Bible. (Judges 6:11). As this verse is straight forward, this time in the discussion, I focused on a grammar point, Tense Inversion, rather than the content of the verse.

Vav of inversion

Vav (ו) is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It can have one of two sounds. The first is the sound of the English letter V, the second sounds like O, U or W.

When Vav appears at the beginning of another word, it normally means and.  For instance, מכתב (Mich-Tav) means a (postal) letter, so ומכתב  (Ve-Mich-Tav) means and a letter.  Unlike modern English, which tries to avoid starting a sentence with and. This is a most common way to start a sentence in the Bible.  In our short verse alone, this structure appears twice.

וַיֵּרָא Va-Ye-Ra – and he made himself visible

וַיֹּאמֶרVa-Yo-Mer – and he said

This is the way it works in both modern and Biblical Hebrew. But in Biblical Hebrew Vav at a beginning of a sentence also inverses the tense of the sentence. That is, past becomes future and future becomes past. For example, without the Vav, the first sentence of our verse would be:

יֵּרָא אֵלָיו, מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה –God’s angel will show himself to him.

But with the Vav we get,

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו, מַלְאַךְ יְהוָהand God’s angel showed himself to him.

Some interpret this form as the Bible’s way to tell us that every story about the past is also a story about the future, or a prophecy. That is, that the Bible is eternally valid. Others consider it as a grammatical construction a deeper meaning. This is a long discussion that I may cover in a separate post. Regardless, this is a very common grammatical construction that anyone who reads Biblical Hebrew must be familiar with.  

While the above description is correct, it is a bit simplified. More advance students should be aware that, arguably, Biblical Hebrew does not have a real future tense, but rather uses the imperative form to refer to the future. This is a more advanced topic, which I bring here to ensure precision. Otherwise, everything above is valid and correct

Gideon the Judge: Facing God’s Angel

Gideon #2 (Judges 6:11)

In chapter 6 the land is occupied by the Midianites, the people of Midian. They destroy the land and rob its produce. In verse 11 we meet the Angel of God, and we meet Gideon.

We have seen in the previous post, that the land of Israel is repeatedly occupied by foreign powers. Then, God chooses a Judge, who is really a military leader rather than what we call Judge today, to free the people of Israel. The Judge leads them into a war and helps them win. The people of Israel repent, go back to God and for forty years the land is quiet. Then the next generation forgets God, sins, God sends a new enemy, and the cycle continued for 300 years.

This time it is Gideon’s turn to save the people of Israel.

Hebrew and translation of the Bible book of Judges, chapter 6 verse 11. In this chapter we meet Gideon and the angel of God


In verse 11 we are introduced to the story of Gideon. In this verse we learn about the background for the story and the characters. We also learn that the Midianites were robbing the people of Israel off their produce. 

But first we meet the messenger, or angel of God.

In Hebrew we call him מַלְאַךְ; in English it is translated to an angel, but I still prefer to use the word messenger.

When we use the word angel, we tend to imagine a winged being with halos and aura. But this is not what a messenger is in the Bible, clearly not in the Old Testament. The first thing we need to understand is that the word מַלְאַךְ does not have to refer to God’s messenger, as the Bible often uses the word to describe a human employed as a messenger by another human.

This, obviously, is not the case here. Here it specifically says מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה, God’s messenger. But as we will soon see in the next verses, this messenger looks exactly like any other human. That is, you could not recognise him by his look. This is important whenever we read about a meeting with an angel, may it be Abraham, Lot, or Jacob.

When people meet God’s angels, they cannot tell that the ‘people’ they are meeting are angels, until the angels decide to reveal themselves, give a sign, or show their powers. When angels appear to us, they look just like us. This, of course, raises the question: if angels look just like us, can they be living among us today?


אֵלָה is a common name for a family of trees in the land of Israel.  Terebinth tree is the common translation, but there are other trees in the family that carry the same name. We are not sure exactly what tree the Bible refers to here.


עָפְרָה is a town in the land of Menashe, about 30km (20 miles) north of Jerusalem.


The last point worth thinking about in this verse is why Gideon is beating wheat in the winepress, and how does it hide it from the Midianites?

In the land of Israel, the time of harvesting wheat is straight after the Passover festival – which falls around March, April or May. The harvesting lasts until the harvest festival Shavuot seven weeks later. On the other hand, the harvesting season for grapes, ends in the Sukkot festival, around September. This is a little hint our verse gives us.

Beating out wheat in the winepress so effectively tells us two things. The first is of the habit of the Midianite to rob people. They would clearly take the harvest if they knew he was beating the wheat. The second hint tells us when the story takes place. That is, in the middle of spring, somewhere around April. This is the time when winepresses are idle. Not a place for the Midianites to look for harvest until the harvest of the Autum. A safe place to hide your produce.

In this one verse, we are given a full introduction to the story, the protagonist, the background and the time of year. In verse 12 the plot will begin.



In our short video episodes of 50 Days of Genesis we will delve into one verse of each chapter of Genesis. Join and explore less-known ways of reading the Bible



Today we will discuss Genesis 19:17


Why did Lot’s wife look back to Sodom? Was her death a punishment given by God?

This episode was recorded in Sodom, in the middle of the desert day, in similar weather and temperatures experienced by Lot and his family. This helps me understand how stressful they must have been when they escaped. It was beyond any difficulty that most have experienced. Can we feel compassion for them?

Lot's wife transformed into a pillar of salt in front of Sodom on fire. Why did she look back? Was her death a punishment given by God?
By The original uploader was Lysis at German Wikipedia. – Dom von Monreale, Sizilien, Public Domain,

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You can see here the text of the Bible both in Hebrew and in English:



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Today we will discuss Genesis 18:20+21


Why does God, himself, need to go down to Sodom, before He destroys the city? What does the Bible teach us about the way judgement should be done?

Why does God, himself, need to go down to Sodom, before He destroys the city? What does the Bible teach us about the way judgement, a fair trial should be done?
By Humbert de Superville, David (1770-1849) –, CC BY 4.0,

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The Book of Judges: Gideon, the 5th judge – the rise of a powerful leader

Gideon #1 – introduction to Judges (Judges 6:1-10)

Gideon (Book of Judges) leads he people of Israel to win against the Midianites

I love the Book of Judges. So, let’s start with an introduction to the book. It will give us the background we need for the story of Gideon.

In the twenty-one chapters of the book, we discover a pattern that will characterise the people of Israel for generations – even until today. It is a pattern of a cycle that repeats endlessly.

First, the people of Israel forget God and His ways. For example, in Judges 2:10

וְגַם כָּל-הַדּוֹר הַהוּא, נֶאֶסְפוּ אֶל-אֲבוֹתָיו; וַיָּקָם דּוֹר אַחֵר אַחֲרֵיהֶם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ אֶת-יְהוָה, וְגַם אֶת-הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל

And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, that knew not about God, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.

Second, once sin and the wrong ways have been established, God, removes his protection from the people of Israel, letting them experience the hardship of the world without His protection. For instance, in Judges 2:14

וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיִּתְּנֵם בְּיַד-שֹׁסִים, וַיָּשֹׁסּוּ אוֹתָם; וַיִּמְכְּרֵם בְּיַד אוֹיְבֵיהֶם, מִסָּבִיב, וְלֹא-יָכְלוּ עוֹד, לַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי אוֹיְבֵיהֶם

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.

Only then, in times of pain and suffering, the people rediscover God and the covenant they made with Him. They repent. And God, eternally patient, true to His word, remains loyal to the covenant, forever, as we can see in the Book of Judges 2:1

וַיֹּאמֶר אַעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם, וָאָבִיא אֶתְכֶם אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם, וָאֹמַר, לֹא-אָפֵר בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם לְעוֹלָם

And he said: ‘… I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said: I will never break My covenant with you;

Finally, God chooses a seemingly ordinary person and raises him to become a JUDGE, a temporary leader to fight the enemy and save Israel.

For a single generation the people of Israel manage to remember the grace of God and follow His ways. But it never lasts more than one generation. The next generation, raised in times of peace and prosperity, forgets God again. Once more, they need to go through pain and suffering to remember.

This cycle lasts in the book for twelve judges and for over 300 years (~1350-1014 BC), all the way until the first king, King Saul.  In this series of blog posts, I will cover the story of the fifth judge, Gideon. (~1191-1151 BC.) which starts Judges 6:5.

Final note about the Book of Judges

Just by looking at the general pattern in the book of Judges, we can learn so much about the people of Israel, who forget the ways of God so often. We learn about God and his eternal patience, and we learn about the relationship between God and the people of Israel, and how despite the infinite number of times that the people of Israel have disappointed God and left His way, God is committed to this relationship forever.

We also learn why suffering is necessary.

We have short memory, and most of us can learn only from our personal experience and never from the experience of others. When we live in a good time, we attribute it to ourselves, our power, and our talent. We become conceited, arrogant. We feel that we are the masters of the world.  God has no place in our hearts and takes no part in our decisions.  It is only at time of hardship and suffering that we realise we are not in control. Only then can we clearly see that each moment of our lives is a precious gift given to us. It is not created by us.

This is what Judges is repeating over and again, so we can learn from the experience of others and not have to go through suffering ourselves. Just like the story of Abraham negotiating with God, the Book of Judges is a guidebook that teaches us and gives us an opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Yet, we always fail to follow.

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In our short video episodes of 50 Days of Genesis we will delve into one verse of each chapter of Genesis. Join and explore less-known ways of reading the Bible



Today we will discuss Genesis 13:8, 9, 15, 17


Who can be a leader? Was Abraham a born leader? What did he have to do to become a leader, a father of a nation and of three religions?

Who can be a leader? Was Abraham a born leader? What did he have to do towards leadership, to be able to become a father of a nation and of three religions?
By Ephraim Moses Lilien – The Books of the Bible, German edition, Public Domain,

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The Story of Sodom: Why Shouldn’t They Look Back?

Sodom and Gomorrah #22 (Genesis 19:17)

In verse 16 we saw Lot’s pain and his hesitation before he left his home forever. The angels could see it, too, and with compassion took Lot, his wife, and the two daughters by the hand and led them outside the city. In verse 17 the angels tell them the last instruction how to stay alive – don’t look back.

The Hebrew Bible, Translation and transliteration of Genesis 19:17.  The Angels give Lot his last instructions before he leaves Sodom forever

Looking back – two schools of thought

It is important that we get familiar with the two opposing schools of thought about the relationship between us, human, and the word of God. In our verse this question arise when the angel tells Lot and his family not to look back.

Why is it important?

Because each school of thought leads to a different explanation for the death of Lot’s wife. Each way of thinking also paints a different image of God.

The first school of thought believes that Lot’s wife felt compelled to look back because she could not let go of her past. She did not trust God enough to follow His words. According to this interpretation, God creates a path for us, and our duty is to follow this path, while our devotion is constantly being tested. Not to look back was another test for Lot and his family.

You may ask, why they are being tested? After all, didn’t Lot bring the angels in, despite the risk to himself and his family? Wasn’t he protecting them from the crowd outside? Weren’t these tests enough?

But we also have to remember that years of living in Sodom could have corrupted Lot and his family in many subtle ways. After all, living with other people changes our ways and biases our judgment. Suddenly, things that until not long ago used to be unacceptable, creep into our lives to become part of us. God needed to ensure that Lot and his family deserved saving.  Unfortunately, Lot’s wife looking back proved that she did not trust God enough, and therefore her punishment was rightly deserved.

When I read this text with this interpretation in mind, I can’t help but think of a completely different story. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice from the Greek mythology. If you are not familiar with the story, here is a brief summary:

Like Lot, who was the only righteous person in Sodom, Orpheus had a special talent. He was the most gifted of all musicians. The Gods themselves could not have enough of his music. So when his beloved wife, Eurydice, died, using his music he convinced Hades, the God of the underworld, to let him take Eurydice back to the world of the living. But like in Lot’s case, there was a condition. Orpheus had to walk before Eurydice, without looking back at her, the wife he had been missing for so long, until they came out of the underworld.

The place was silent. Being the first human to ever walk up along this corridor, Orpheus could not hear Eurydice’s steps behind. He could not be sure she was there, and he started doubting Hades’ promise. He decided to have a quick look back to make sure that indeed she was stepping behind him.

She had been.

But to his and her great dismay as he looked back, demon appeared and started pulling her back toward the underworld. His lack of trust killed his wife for the second time.

The similarity between this interpretation of Lot’s story and the story of Orpheus cannot be ignored. In both cases a person with special talent was rewarded by God, under the condition of total obedience. In both cases the smallest of disobedience put the person back with the with the rest of humanity: Lot’s wife to die with the people of Sodom, and Orpheus with every other human, who cannot reunite in their lifetime with those they have lost.   

While the above way of thinking is prevalent, it is not the only one. The second school of thought sees the events in exactly the opposite light. According to this way of thinking, God is not punishing people, but rather trying to save them. His words are warning, not threats. He warns us from risks along our path, the risks that we are facing and those we will be facing. But other than warnings, God does not interfere with our decisions. He makes sure we know, but He lets us make our own choices. And when we do not follow, we do not suffer punishment, but the natural consequences of our own doing.

I do not know what was in the fire that destroyed Sodom. But God knew that looking into it will result in death. Lot’s wife made her choice, and like all of us who ignore warnings, she suffered the consequence. She was not punished.

Which of the two interpretations do you believe is the right one for Lot’s story? Was God giving a command that had to be followed, or was it a warning by God, who other than forcing us, does all He can do to save us? Which is the God you believe in?

The Garden of Eden, a Transient Safe Place

The story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 has always bothered me. It is not because Adam and Eve sinned; it is not because a snake could talk; it is not even because of the severe, out of proportion, punishment humanity has, allegedly, suffered as a result. It mostly disturbed me because the story I heard over and again, often from proud believers, diminished God and made him either cruel or incompetent – neither I could accept.

Image of Adam and Eve surrounded my animals in the Garden of Eden by Johann Wenzel Peter  1745-1829
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The Story of Sodom: Compassion in time of Tragedy

Sodom and Gomorrah #21 (Genesis 19:16)

The fire of hell is about to hit the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. An entire land is to be wiped out. Whenever I read this part of the Bible, I cannot stop sadness from gnawing inside me. Sadness not only for the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are to be incinerated.  For me deep sadness also raises its head when I realise how rare compassion is among those who read this passage together with me.

So many of the discussions about the passage are about things like the exact nature of the sin of the people of the Sodom; how little of it is thinking about Lot and how he must have felt when he had to evacuate and leave everything behind. Wasn’t he a man? A human?

If we, the Bible followers, fail to feel compassion when reading about a tragedy at the comfort of our own homes, will we fell compassion towards others when we ourselves are facing hardship?  Can we even feel it at all?  Moreover, is compassion a luxury when a mass tragedy takes place? Verse 16 comes to teach us that our compassion is never a luxury, it must always have place in our hearts.

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