There is an interesting note in the New Geneva Study Bible (to which Waltke and other contributed) which states the following. “Each major judge except for Othniel verbally acknowledges God’s control in Israel’s victory (4:14; 7:15; 11:21-30; 15:18; 16:28).” (337) This is odd for those who are so called pro-Judah, and hold up Othniel as the best example of a judge we have in the book! Chapter six begins by highlighting Israel’s desperate state, for again departing from the LORD. They planted but their enemies reaped. When they cry out to the LORD, again he sends them a prophet, someone who will deliver what was of first importance – his word. This prophet again reiterated the history of the LORD’s mighty acts of deliverance in their history (vv. 8-9). Their bondage was due to their not obeying his voice (v. 10). Into this context the LORD raised up Gideon (v. 11).
The Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, which is not something that could be said of the previous judges. Gideon was smart in threshing grain in a winepress, because his enemies would have found him out otherwise. The one that some so-called exegetes call among the worst of the judges is addressed by the Angel of the LORD as a “mighty man of valor!” (v. 12) He appears to be one of the few who actually reflected back upon the nations history, and he immediately also acknowledges that the LORD had indeed forsaken them (v. 13). The LORD, we are told, turned to him, not just an angel. He delivers to Gideon a call, and tells him that he is being sent (v. 14). Then, in what is a central motif in the book, he states that he is the least in his fathers house, and his clan “is the weakest in Manasseh” (v. 15). This is an important admission on his part, for it is the book’s central motif.
Gideon seems to apprehend what those before him gave no direct mention of – God uses the least to shame those who think they are great, achieving victories in their own power. Waltke found it amazing that the Gideons named their organization after Gideon, but I am amazed that Waltke could miss something so central and obvious to this book, and indeed to the whole of salvation history, especially of the godly remnant seed! Through the godly leadership of Gideon they would fight “as one man” (v. 16). Many view Gideon’s desire to bring an “offering” as weak faith, but we are not told this. This could very well be Gideon’s desire to confirm that this was indeed the LORD speaking to him, and calling and sending him, which he rejoices in the confirmation (vv. 22-23). He then built an altar there to the LORD there, because now he knew it would not be idolatrous (v. 24).
Some suggest that Gideon was a coward in following the command of the LORD to tear down the Baal altar at night. However, although he did indeed fear, it is also true that the LORD in fact came to him at night, and the point is he obeyed, despite the fact that it was his father’s idol (vv. 25-27). This forced his father to decide that moment who he would fear the most, and so began those who followed Gideon, the ten servants and his father also. They could let Baal fight for himself, or they could go up against Gideon and the LORD. They chose wrongly! (vv. 28-33). “But the Spirit of the LORd came upon Gideon, and he again seeks confirmation of the word promised, which is given (34-40). Again, it seems odd that if this was a sinful act, that the LORD would indeed confirm the signs (plural)! Gideon indeed is showing himself to be a mighty man of valor, for with him the word confirmed takes precedence.