Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 6: Gideon is appointed to wage war against Midian

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Chapter 6: Gideon is appointed to wage war against Midian

1. Midian rules over the Jewish people:

  • The Jewish people performed evil in the eyes of G-d, and as a result G-d placed them under the sovereignty of the Midianite Kingdom for seven years.
  • The hand of Midian overpowered the Jewish people, and due to their rule, the Jewish people built tunnels in the mountains, caves and fortresses in the forests.
  • When the Jewish people would seed the land, Midian and Amalek would come and destroy the produce. This occurred in all the fields from the beginning of the border until the city of Gaza. They also destroyed the cattle and farm animals of the Jewish people; sheep, oxen, and donkeys.
  • The Jewish people became famished, having no food left to eat, and they turned to G-d in prayer.

2. A new Judge and prophet are appointed:

  • When the Jewish people screamed to G-d in prayer regarding the atrocities of Midian, G-d sent them a prophet from amongst the Jewish people. [This prophet was none other than Pinchas.[1]]
  • The message of the prophet: The prophet told them that G-d has told him to relay the following message: “I am the G-d who took you out of Egypt, the house of slavery. I saved you from the hands of the Egyptians and the hands of all your oppressors [i.e. Sichon and Og and the Canaanite kings]. I banished your oppressors from the land and gave it you. I told you not to fear the G-d of the Emorites who dwell in your land, but you did not listen to Me.

3. Gideon is appointed to wage battle for the Jewish people against the Midianites:

  • An angel of G-d [i.e. Pinchas[2]] came and sat under the tree in Afra, which belonged to Yoash the son of Aviezer. Gideon, his son, was threshing wheat in the threshing floor in order to be able to flee from the Midianites.
  • The angel of G-d speaks to Gideon: The angel appeared before Gideon [on the day of Pesach[3]] and told him “Hashem is with you; you are a warrior.” Gideon replied to him “My Master, is G-d truly with us? If so, then why are we in such a downtrodden state? Where are all the miracles that our ancestors told us that G-d performed for us in Egypt? Has G-d not left us and handed us over to the hands of Midian?”
  • G-d Himself speaks to Gideon: G-d Himself[4] turned to Gideon and told him “Go with your strength [of having learned merit for the Jewish people[5]] and you will save the Jewish people from Midian. You are my emissary to do so.” Gideon replied, “My master, how can I save the Jewish people when I am one of the weakest warriors of my tribe of Menashe, and the youngest of my father’s household?” Hashem replied “I will be with you, and you will smite Midian like one man.” Gideon then asked [the angel] that if indeed he finds favor in G-d’s eyes, then let G-d show him a sign that it is indeed Him that he is speaking with.

4. Gideon offers G-d a sacrifice:

  • Gideon asked [the angel[6]] to not move from His area until he returns with an offering to bring to Him. G-d acquiesced to his request.
  • The offering is prepared: Gideon came and prepared a young goat as a sacrifice, and an Eipha of flour which he baked into Matzos. He placed the meat in a basket, and the gravy of the meat into a copper bucket. He brought the foods under the tree and offered it [to the angel]. The angel of G-d told him to take the meat and the Matzos and to place them by a certain rock, and that the gravy of the meat should be spilled, and he did so.
  • The foods are consumed by a fire: The angel stretched the edge of his staff towards the meat and Matzos, and a fire came out of the stone and consumed the meat and the Matzos, and the angel of G-d then disappeared from before his eyes.
  • G-d assures Gideon that he will not die: Gideon then understood that the angel was indeed an angel from G-d. Gideon then said [in fear] “Woe, that I have seen and angel of G-d face to face.” G-d assured Gideon that peace will be onto him and that he should not fear as he will not die.
  • Gideon then built an altar for G-d in that area and called it “Hashem Shalom.” It remains erect until this very day in the area of Afras, in the territory of Avi Haezri.

5. Gideon is sent on a mission to destroy the idolatry in the land:

  • G-d instructs Gideon to destroy the idolatry of his father and offer it to Him: On that night, G-d told Gideon to take the young bull [who was just born[7]] from his father, and to take a second bull which was raised [and fattened[8]] for seven years [to be offered to the idolatry of Baal[9]]. G-d also instructed him to destroy the altar of his father that was built for Baal and to chop down the Asheira tree used for the idolatry. Hashem then instructed him to build an altar for G-d on top of this rock [which Gideon was standing by and had the previous offerings consumed by flame[10]] and to then take the second bull and offer it on the altar using the wood of the chopped down Asheira tree to burn it. [There were no instruction given regarding the first bull, and it was simply stolen so it would not be used for idolatry by his father.[11] Now, although it is forbidden to benefit from items designated for idolatry, and it is certainly forbidden to offer it to G-d, nonetheless, this was a special case scenario where G-d permitted and instructed for it to be done.[12]]
  • Gideon destroys the idolatry and offers it to G-d: Gideon took with him ten men from his servants and performed that which he was commanded by G-d. However, he feared his father and the people of his city to do so during the day, and therefore he did it at night.
  • The people discover what was done and desire to kill Gideon: In the morning, the people of the city saw that their altar of Baal was destroyed, and the Asheira tree that was on it was chopped off. They also noticed that the second bull was offered on the newly built altar. They discussed the matter with each other and began an investigation to discover who could have performed this matter, and it became revealed that indeed it was Gideon the son of Yoash who did it. The people of the city confronted Yoash and demanded that he hand over his son to them so he be put to death for destroying their altar of Baal and destroying the Asheira tree that was on it.
  • Gideon is saved by his father: Yoash replied to them that there is no need for them to seek vengeance on behalf of Baal, and he does not need their help for his salvation. The person who fought against him, Baal will put to death by morning. After all, if he is a G-d then certainly he will wage his own battle against the man who destroyed his altar. On that day [Gideon] was called by the name Yerubaal, as if to say that Baal will fight him for destroying his altar.

6. Gideon prepares for war against Midian:

  • The entire Midian, Amalek and Bnei Kedem gathered together [to destroy Israel[13]] and they encamped by Emek Yizrael.
  • Gideon gathers the tribes for battle: The spirit of G-d [i.e. of bravery[14]] became invested within Gideon and he blew the Shofar and the family of Aviezer came to follow him. He sent messengers to the entire land of Menashe, and they also went to join him. He then sent messengers to the land of Asher, Zevulun, and Naftali, and they also went to join him.
  • Gideon asks G-d for a sign that he will be successful in battle: Gideon said to G-d that if He indeed will help save the Jewish people in battle, as He had spoken, then he asks of G-d to give him the following sign: I will place the shearing’s of wool in the threshing area [outside under the sky]. Now, if dew will fall only on the wool and not on anywhere else on the ground, which will remain dry, then I will know that you have agreed to save the Jewish people through my hand, as you have spoken.
  • The sign is fulfilled: Indeed, the next day when Gideon woke up he went outside and gathered the wool and pressed it, and dew squeezed out from the wool filling up an entire bucket of water.
  • Gideon asks G-d for a second sign: Gideon said to G-d: Do not be angry with me if I may speak with You one more time, and ask for a second sign that now the wool will be completely dry while the surrounding earth will be wet from dew. G-d indeed fulfilled this request that night, and the wool remained dry while the remaining ground was moist from dew.


[1] Rashi 6:8; Seder Olam 2

[2] See Ralbag 6:11; Rashi 6:8

[3] Rashi 6:13

[4] See Rashi 6:14

[5] Rashi 6:14

[6] See Metzudos David 6:16

[7] See Rashi 6:25

[8] Rashi 6:25

[9] Rashi ibid

[10] Metzudos David 6:26

[11] Radak 6:28

[12] Temurah 28b; Rashi 6:25

[13] Ralbag 6:33

[14] Rashi 6:34

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