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.
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.