In Judges 6:34a we read that “the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” The LORD clothed Gideon in the Spirit of the LORD in order to qualify and equip him with the spiritual strength needed for the battle. The Spirit of the LORD would be his full suit of armour, his coat of mail, his shield and buckler, and his helmet. What the LORD does here shows His faithfulness and His wisdom. Because the battle is the LORD’S, the LORD would not send His servant, Gideon, into the battle against the Midianites poorly equipped. The LORD equips Gideon with His own Spirit and grace.
When the Spirit of the LORD was bestowed on Gideon for his position of deliverer and judge, we learn that Gideon blew a trumpet and sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali in order to gather together for battle against the Midianites. Many heeded Gideon’s call to battle. In so doing, they submitted to him as the God-appointed deliverer. Following the lead of Gideon, they gathered together to fight against the Midianites.
The number of those who gathered together was not large in comparison to the Midianites who had settled and camped in the valley of Jezreel. In fact we learn that there were also Amalekites and the children of the east with them as well. When Gideon surveyed this situation, there was an obvious difference. His troops numbered only 32,000 men in comparison to the Midianites, who numbered “as grasshoppers for multitude” (Judges 6:5).
In that troubling situation, Gideon sought Jehovah for a sign to strengthen his godly resolve to lead into battle the soldiers which Jehovah had provided. He needed this double sign to stimulate his faith in Jehovah, Who alone delivers His people out of all their troubles.
Gideon besought Jehovah that He would grant a sign to show that indeed He will save His people by the hand of Gideon (Judges 6:14,16). To show the certainty of that promise Gideon asks the LORD to give a sign by a piece of fleece.
“Fleece” is another word for wool from sheep. One of the outstanding characteristics of the fleece, which is important for this passage, is its ability to absorb water. It is a natural water absorber and does it very well.
Gideon would take a cloth of the fleece (like a hand towel) and would lay it on the ground. He asked the LORD that overnight while he slept the dew would appear only upon the fleece, and that the blades of grass and dirt around the fleece would remain completely dry.
The LORD heard the request of Gideon and answered. Behold, in the morning Gideon went and checked the fleece. Sure enough, the fleece was so full of dew that he wrung out a whole bowl full of water. However, after careful inspection, the ground around and all the grass around the fleece was completely dry. Not even one drop of dew was found around the spot where the fleece had lain.
After contemplating the sign, Gideon realized that it is the nature of the fleece to absorb water. Although it was indeed amazing how much water the fleece had absorbed, yet that was according to the nature of the fleece. Gideon realized that this sign by itself was not sufficient to bolster his spiritual trust and resolve. Thus, Gideon requested the second sign.
Gideon besought that the LORD not be angry with him for requesting this second sign. He pleas that the LORD be longsuffering towards him and patiently bear with the weakness of his faith. Gideon asked in verse 39b, “Let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.” This sign would also require a miracle. Such a sign would fully reveal truth about God’s Covenant faithfulness in an amazing work of God’s providence to make the fleece not absorb the dew. Only that, Gideon was convinced, would bolster his trust in Jehovah and confirm the promise.
God did so that night as Gideon requested. Gideon woke up the next morning and inspected the fleece. He picked it up, and it was light and dry while there was dew on his shoes, on the blades of grass nearby, and on the ground around the fleece. The LORD had answered Gideon’s request. With this double sign, he was ready to fight.
How did the signs of the wet fleece and then the dry fleece so confirm his faith that he with only 32,000 Israelites was ready to fight the huge host of the Midianites? What did those signs mean?
Some have interpreted the signs to mean that Gideon must be warm (wool) and overflowing (full of dew) with zeal while the other tribes and people were indifferent to the necessity to fight the Midianites. Then when those around him are full of excitement and impatience, Gideon must demonstrate coolness and dryness of heart so that Israel does not rush wildly into the battlefield. Others, as the Rev. G. Ophoff recorded in his commentary on this same passage, have interpreted this double sign as a type of the birth of Christ from the virgin Mary. However, these are not the correct interpretations of the passage.
The best and proper interpretation is found by interpreting this passage in light of other passages of Scripture. We find elsewhere in the Old Testament that dew was very significant. In the Old Testament, God said that when Israel would serve Him, Israel would receive from His hand “the dew of heaven” (Genesis 27:28). When Israel did not serve the LORD, God withheld that the dew of heaven as judgment upon their wickedness. In their disobedience, God caused the heavens to become as brass (Genesis 27:44). That judgment of God was what happened to Israel when they worshipped Baal. The LORD took away the “dew of heaven” by means of the Midianites who stripped the land of its good gifts and left the Israelites terribly oppressed. The LORD chastised His people and revealed His displeasure against a nation that forsook Jehovah.
In light of those passages, we understand that the fleece was a type of Israel, the ground around the fleece was a type of the surrounding nations, and the dew represented the earthly gifts which God gives to His people.
However, the dew represented more than just earthly gifts of Jehovah to His people. To the believing Israelite, the physical “dew of heaven” and all the earthly gifts of Canaan were a token of God’s Covenant goodness to them. They were signs of the spiritual gifts of the Covenant promise, and those earthly signs pointed them to the heavenly Canaan of perfect peace, prosperity, and fellowship with God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, when the believing Israelite enjoyed with his healthy family the food and abundance of the land, he looked beyond the earthly unto the heavenly reality. As the believing Israelite served the LORD in the fear of His Name, he was consciously aware of God’s Covenant blessings upon him.
When Gideon saw the first sign, he understood that at one time in Israel’s history, they were filled with the dew of heaven. The nation obeyed Jehovah. For example, while Joshua was leader in Israel, Israel served Jehovah faithfully. In that faithfulness, Israel enjoyed the bounty of the land of promise as tokens of God’s Covenant blessings upon them.
However, when Israel swiftly fell into apostasy in virtually one generation, the LORD visited His people in judgment. Then Israel was like the dry fleece. For a time she lacked the tokens of God’s Covenant blessings in the Old Testament type and shadow of prosperity in the land of Canaan. That was true of Manasseh under the oppression of the Midianites. For her idolatry, Israel was like the dry fleece. No doubt, that was difficult for the believing Israelites to endure. Under that oppression of the Midianites, it looked outwardly as though God had forsaken them. Gideon even thought so when the Angel of the LORD visited him.
However, would Jehovah forsake His people? Gideon knew that Jehovah, Who sovereignly withheld the earthly gifts, was in control over the nation as He was over the fleece those two nights. The Midianites did not oppress Israel apart from Jehovah’s control and for His eternal good pleasure. Because they were in God’s sovereign and righteous control, Gideon was assured that God could also remove the Midianites from the land and restore Israel as the wet fleece once again. Gideon learned in this double sign that his and Israel’s hope and help for peace and prosperity was solely in the Name of Jehovah. This Jehovah Who had spoken to Him would not forsake His people.
Of that same truth the child of God today may also be assured. By nature we are like the dry fleece. Because of our sin, we deserve to be void of God’s Covenant blessings. However, according to His eternal good pleasure, God fills us with His Covenant blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. God did that on the basis of forsaking Christ on the cross for us that we might never be forsaken and without His Covenant fellowship. The result is that since Christ has redeemed us, we are blessed by God with His Covenant blessings. The believer learns through his own life that all our salvation and the enjoyment of that salvation is wholly dependent upon the perfect and finished work of Christ upon the cross. Because of Him, we are like the drenched fleece from a spiritual viewpoint. God causes us to overflow with His abundant goodness. He blesses us with spiritual blessings in our family life, friendships, and worship with the saints on the Lord’s Day. Therefore, though we may be outwardly poor, yet in Christ we are very rich with the blessings of God’s Covenant goodness.
In the principle of that truth Gideon stood by faith. The future deliverance of Israel was solely in Jehovah’s Hand and in His strong Right Arm. Gideon stood convinced of the truth that those who put their trust in Him shall not be confounded. Jehovah shall deliver His people out of all their troubles. Therefore, Gideon was confident that as Jehovah was in control, so Jehovah would use him as one man against a thousand to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites.
Was that true? Was Gideon encouraged? We read in Judges 7:1, “Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon… rose up early.” In the encouragement of the double sign, he immediately leads the people into the battle. He was burdened in his heart with the work which the LORD had called him to do. He was willing and ready by faith to fulfill the work of the LORD.
Although Gideon was ready, yet the LORD was not ready for that army to go to the battlefield. What was the problem with Gideon’s army? Do you know?
We will answer that question next time, the Lord willing. ♦