Gideon 2: Was God nicer in Exodus than in Judges?

During the time of Gideon, YHWH gave the Israelites into the hands of the Midianites who brutally oppressed them.  As we can see from this life-like portrayal on the left (image from The Brick Testament), the Israelites cried out to YHWH for help.

So, YHWH sent them a prophet (Judg. 6:7-10; if you’re interested most of this section is missing from an important Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript, 4QJudgA, hmm…).  While the message to Israel from YHWH through this anonymous prophet appear to be an answer to prayer, there isn’t much comfort.  YHWH reviews  history (“I led you up from Egypt…I gave you their land”), he identifies himself (“I am YHWH your God”) and he rebukes them (“But you have not listened to my voice”).

However, there is no comfort.  No promise to help them.  No “I will be with you.”  The Israelites are being impoverished by Midian.  They have no food, no crops, no animals, nothing, nada.  The Midianites are taking everything.

We know that eventually, God is going to call Gideon to deliver them, but why doesn’t God give them a glimmer of hope at this point in time?   Are they supposed to somehow find hope in this prophetic message?  Does God work like this today, rebuke us when were down?

When the Israelites cried out for help from their Egyptian oppressors in Exodus, the text says God heard their groans, remembered his covenant, looked upon them and took notice of them (Exo. 2:24-25).  God sure seems a lot nicer back in Exodus.

Do you think God was more compassionate toward the Israelites in Egypt, than he was in Canaan?  If so, why? 

 

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3 comments

  1. God is the Same yesterday, today and forevermore. The gravity of their Sin in forsaking the Lord; brought about their deep depression and forsakeness. The period of time until deliverance under Gideon’s leadership reminds me of the period of time that Jesus drank of the cup of God’s Divine wrath, the forsakeness that Jesus experienced. That period of time of forsakenness by God that the isrealites experienced before Gideon deliverance, pales in comparison to Jesus drinking the cup of God’s will on the Cross.

  2. First, thanks for the blog posts – I’m enjoying discovering them and engaging in the questions you pose. It’s a good way for me to do Bible stuff.
    I was interested in this because I’d never seen that ‘anonymous prophet’ bit before – I’d kind of assumed it was just describing what Gideon was about to do, rather than a precursor to Gideon.

    Here’s my stab at a response about why God gives rebuke but no hope yet. With fresh perspective as a new mum, I wondered if it’s the equivalent of a divine ‘time out’. They’re in trouble, and it’s important that they know why they’re in trouble, which is what God’s doing in the rebuke – giving them a theological rather than political reason. But there’s a gap between the rebuke and the rescue, which is the ‘you need to think a bit about what you’ve done’ bit! I could see that, given the pattern of Judges and the spiral of repeated sin, they might need a bit of a gap to really have a sense of repentance before they get rescued by YHWH.

    But that leaves me with a puzzle. Although the anonymous prophet has given an explanation of their punishment, Gideon still asks the Angel ‘why has all this happened to us?’ Does that mean that Israel hadn’t really ‘got it’ and repented? And God doesn’t answer that question, although it would make more sense to repeat the words of the anonymous prophet, he just says he’s sending Gideon to rescue Israel. Had he given up on them understanding why they were being invaded and rescuing them anyway?

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