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36 And Gideon [Gid'on] said unto Elohim, If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand [Yisroel by my yad], as Thou hast said,
The case of Gideon is peculiarly interesting.
In his days,
"Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord."
The first response to Israel's cry was a message by a prophet, upbraiding them with their disobedience. But next (for Yahweh is merciful) "there came an angel of Yahweh, and sat under an oak," at a spot in Ophrah, where Gideon was threshing wheat in concealment from the Midianites. The angel saluted Gideon with these words:
"Yahweh is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."
Gideon, not knowing his visitor was an angel, but supposing he was only a man, asked why evil had befallen them if Yahweh were with them, and where all the miracles were, of which their fathers had told them. Whatever answer (not recorded) may or may not have been given to this question, the angel informed Gideon that he (Gideon) was to effect Israel's deliverance from the Midianites. The intimation filled Gideon with surprise, on account of his smallness and family obscurity. The angel rejoined in Yahweh's name,
"Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite Midian as one man."
Gideon, realising the character of his visitor, desired some evidence of the reality of the matter, that he might be sure his senses did not deceive him:
"Show me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee and bring forth my present."
The angel consented to wait, and Gideon went into his house and got ready a meal of cakes, meat and broth, to set before the angel. On his return with the food prepared, he found the angel sitting in the same position (under the oak). The angel directed him to put the flesh and cakes on an adjacent rock, and to pour out the broth. Gideon did so, and the angel then touched the articles of food with the end of a staff he had in his hand, upon which an instant and complete combustion of the whole occurred.
The cakes, flesh, and broth disappeared in flame, and the angel disappeared at the same moment. The object of this wonder was powerfully attained. Gideon, whose faith it was necessary thus to fortify as the instrument of the impending deliverance of Israel,
"perceived that he (his visitor) was an angel of Yahweh,"
and he instantly set to work to take the necessary measures for achieving the work assigned to him. As the result of those measures,
"all the Midianites, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east gathered together."
Gideon also gathered the Israelites; but his force was so small compared with the mustering masses of the well-appointed enemy, that he naturally felt a twinge of misgiving, and a desire to have some further guarantee that there was no mistake about the divine origin and support of his enterprise.
37 Behold [Hinei], I will put a fleece of wool in the floor [ goren (threshing floor)]; and if the dew [tal] be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth [ha'aretz] beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel [Yisroel] by mine hand [yad], as thou hast said.
38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust [squeezed] the fleece together, and wringed the dew [tal] out of the fleece, a bowl full of water [mayim].
God is not unreasonable: He desired Gideon to be quite certain that the angelic message was a reality. Therefore He complied with Gideon's request. Early on the morrow Gideon, going out to the fleece, found it drenched with moisture, while the ground on which it lay was dry. He wrung out of it a bowlful of water. But Gideon had again a misgiving. Perhaps some one overheard his prayer, and wet the fleece in water and put it on the ground. He would like to make assurance doubly sure. If he could have the sign reversed-if the ground might be wetted while the fleece should remain dry (he knew no man could do that)-but he was afraid to propose it...
39 And Gideon [Gid'on] said unto Elohim, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove [test], 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 [tal].
40 And Elohim did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew [tal] on all the ground.
There is no more distinct illustration of the object of miracle in all the Scriptures than this. It is either to make His power known, as in the case of the Egyptian plagues, or (as in this) it is to give warranty of the divinity of any work in which God proposes to employ the voluntary cooperation of man.
Visible Hand of God Ch 21