2nd Era of Judges: Gideon

Discovery for Teachers

2nd Era of Judges: Gideon

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Judges 6:1 through 12:15

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.” (Judges 6:39-40)

BACKGROUND

The period of the Judges forms an important link in the history of the Israelites, carrying on the history of God’s chosen people through a period of roughly three centuries — the era from the death of Joshua to when Saul became Israel’s first king. The Book of Judges also demonstrates that defecting from God incurs severe punishment. Only by turning back to God can restoration be enjoyed. The judges were notable leaders, able to motivate the Israelites to turn back to God, and were used by God to deliver His chosen people. Only by heeding the judge’s Spirit-directed message and following it in withstanding their enemies could restoration be accomplished.

These Old Testament judges performed two functions. By divine power and Spirit-anointed leadership, they delivered the Israelites from enemy oppression. Having secured the freedom for these people, they then ruled over them and governed them in the name of Israel’s God. Although there were several judges during this period in history, Scripture provides details of only a few — Gideon being one of them.

The cycle of victory-apostasy-punishment-deliverance covered in this portion of text had lasted for seven years. Occurring more than a century after Joshua had conquered the land, this generation had not experienced the miracles of the past. Still, they cried out to God for deliverance from the invading desert horde.

Gideon, the man chosen by God to bring about deliverance, was also known as Jerubbaal. He was the youngest son of Joash, of the clan of Abiezer in the tribe of Manasseh. His home was at Ophrah, and his family an obscure one. Gideon was called to leadership through the message of an angel. Though slow to be convinced of his call and his ability to perform what God required, Gideon was persuaded through divine means, and eventually obeyed. He became the chief leader of Manasseh and the fifth recorded judge of Israel. He is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. Who was oppressing the Israelites as detailed in Chapter 6 of Judges? How did they execute their oppression?

    The Midianites, along with the Amalekites, were oppressing the nation of Israel. Midian was south of Edom, near the Gulf of Acaba. They were desert nomads who had learned to domesticate camels and were using them for the purpose of long-distance raids into more settled areas. The implication is that the Midianites made annual raids on the agricultural produce of the Israelites. They destroyed their crops and allowed their cattle and herds to overcome the land thus causing widespread poverty throughout the land of Israel.
  2. What indication is given as to why the Midianites may have been allowed to oppress the Israelites? Judges 6:1

    The Israelites were not following God’s will and did evil in the sight of the Lord. God, in His divine mercy, sometimes allows difficulties to come a person’s way to cause him to realize his spiritual need. Discussion could lead to ways in which God gets a person’s attention today — illness, financial reversals, persecution, etc.
  3. Why do you think Gideon asked God to let him put out a fleece? (Judges 6:37-40) For what purpose should a fleece be used?

    Gideon wanted to be very sure that he correctly understood God’s will. The second fleece confirmed what he already knew in his heart. Allow your students to discuss the carefulness needed in the use of a fleece. Guide them to understand that if one is used at all, a fleece should be used to confirm God’s will, rather than to find it. The error of using a fleece is that we run the risk of manipulating the fleece to bring an answer in accordance with our personal desires.
  4. In God’s use of Gideon to defeat the Midianites, how large was Israel’s “original” army? (Judges 7:3) What measure did God use to whittle down this number to ten thousand? Why do you suppose this was an issue to God?

    The original army numbered 32,000. This number was whittled down to 10,000 when those who were fearful and afraid were told to go home. Answers to the final question may include that God needs people who will believe in His power to deliver. The faithless and unbelieving rarely benefit from the blessings of God.
  5. What final test did the Lord direct Gideon to use to determine which of the remaining ten thousand would go into battle against the Midianites? (Judges 7:5-6) What possible explanation could be given for this separation?

    Those that lapped (drank) by putting their hands to their mouth were chosen — not those who bowed down on their knees and lapped directly from the water like a dog. Possibly, the 9,700 who got down on their knees to drink were lax in their attitude. They were heading into battle, but were more concerned with getting a good drink of water rather than remaining watchful and alert, as the three hundred were able to do by lapping water from their hand.
  6. Why do you think God wanted Gideon to use such a small army to go against the very large Midianite army, and to employ such an unorthodox battle plan?

    The use of such a small army made sure that the victory (against such tremendous odds) was credited to God, and not to the army. A possible class activity would be to have students list in two columns the pros and cons of such a battle plan when compared to the Midianite military strength. The point should be made that with God, all things are possible, and His plans are guaranteed to work.
  7. How is our fight against the devil much like Gideon’s fight against the Midianites?

    Similarities could include: We are not able to overcome the devil in our own strength, but if we rely on God, He will cause us to prevail. We must remain on the alert. We must not let incredible odds against us cause us to despair and fall short of the victory.

CONCLUSION

God does not depend on large numbers of people to accomplish His goals. As in the case of Gideon and the Midianites, all spiritual victories occur because of God’s power, not our power.