top of page

Judges 6:17-19: Gideon's Request for a Sign

Verse 17:[1] And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then (Ex. 4:1-8; Judg. 6:36, 37; 2 Kings 20:8; Ps. 86:17; Is. 7:11) shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

[That thou art the one that speakest to me (thus Munster, Junius and Tremellius)] Or, that thou speakest with me (Tigurinus), understanding, in the name of God (Tigurinus Notes, Martyr); or, that thou art Jehovah, who has spoken with me. There is an Ellipsis of certain words in the same member of the oration (Glassius’ “Sacred Grammar” 706) [various examples of which the Author produces there]. Demonstrate thyself to be him, whom thou professest thyself to be, namely, an Angel of God (Bonfrerius). Show thyself to be such, in whose promises confidence ought to be had (Menochius, Tirinus). Moreover, that he asks for a sign, was not out of unbelief, but prudence (Bonfrerius). It is characteristic of the pious man to prove the spirits.[2] He asks for a sign, lest he should think himself deceived by an apparition or phantasm (Martyr).

A sign that thou talkest with me: That it is thou, to wit, an angel or messenger sent from God, that appears to me, and discourseth with me; and not a fancy or delusion; that thou art in truth what thou seemest and pretendest to be, Judges 7:12. Or, a sign of that which thou talkest with me, that is, that thou wilt by me smite the Midianites.

Verse 18:[3] (Gen. 18:3, 5; Judg. 13:15) Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present (or, meat offering[4]), and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.

[Bringing a sacrifice] Hebrew: a gift/tribute. For Gideon thought not of sacrifice (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Estius, Menochius). For, 1. sacrifice was to be offered to God alone (Estius, Bonfrerius). 2. He was not a Priest, neither was this place designated for sacrifices; and God had not yet dispensed. 3. No altar was erected here. 4. He would not have previously cooked or boiled flesh to be consumed on the altar (Bonfrerius). This only was on the mind of Gideon, that he might set food before his guest (Menochius, Bonfrerius, Lapide). He did not know that he was an Angel[5] (Lapide, Estius).

My present; not a sacrifice, because neither was Gideon a priest, nor was this the place of sacrifice, nor was any altar here, nor was there any such sacrifice as here follows appointed by God; but a repast, or some food for the angel, which he thought to be a man, as appears by Judges 6:22. Compare Judges 13:15; Genesis 18:5. Set it before thee, that thou mayst eat and refresh thyself.

Verse 19:[6] (Gen. 18:6-8) And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid (Heb. a kid of the goats[7]), and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.

[He cooked a kid, גְּדִי־עִזִּים] A kid of the goats. Thus it is often called, and not simply גְּדִי, a kid. Question: Why is it so? Responses: 1. διακριτικῶς/ diacritically, so that it might be distinguished from a גְּדִי of the sheep; for גְּדִי is a name common to sheep and to goats (Kimchi in Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals). But neither do the Hebrews, nor the Syrians, nor the Arabs, ever use גְּדִי of sheep. 2. I agree more with Ibn Ezra,[8] who maintains that this was said, because it is yet in need of she-goats, that is, because, while it is yet tender, it was not yet able to do without its mother. Although not even this is satisfactory, since שְׂעִיר עִזִּים and צְפִיר עִזִּים, he-goat of the she-goats, is also used, in Danliel 8:5[9] and elsewhere. But by he-goat there a kid is not able to be understood; 1. for it is horned; 2. it attacks the horned ram, and prostrates it. 3. Could it be that, because שְׂעִיר signifies, first hairy, then he-goat, they used שְׂעִיר עִזִּים, a hairy on of the she-goats, as it were, διακριτικῶς/diacritically, so that it might be known that not a hairy thing in general, but a he-goat, is indicated? According to which pattern צְפִיר עִזִּים and גְּדִי עִזִּים are also used, although the homonymy does not match (Bochart’s Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:52:632).

[Of a modius[10] of flour unleavened cakes, וְאֵיפַת־קֶ֣מַח מַצּ֔וֹת] And a modius (an Ephah[11] [Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Septuagint], a measure [Jonathan], a satum[12] [Syriac], four modii [Arabic]) of flour of unleavened (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus). He used a whole Ephah: not because this meal required it, for an Omer, the tenth part of an Ephah, was sufficient for a man, Exodus 16:16; but either because he had decided to feast with the Angel, or, so that he might show the liberality of his soul to his guest, or, so that he might load his departing guest with bread. Here an example of hospitality and liberality toward strangers is set before us, since it did not trouble Gideon to make for one Angel so much bread as was able to be sufficient for the daily sustenance of forty-five persons: For it is evident that one chœnix[13] was formerly the diet of one austere shepherd among the Romans, but one Ephah was made up of forty-five of these, that is, one and a half pound units or the smallest, which also might be called the chœnices of shepherds (Waser’s[14] Concerning the Ancient Measurements of the Hebrews[15] 1:5). He baked unleavened loaves, as easier to prepare, since all fermentation requires a longer delay (Bonfrerius). He was afraid that the Angel would depart on account of the delay (Lapide).

Of an ephah of flour, to wit, out of the choicest part of a whole ephah; as also he brought to him the best part of a kid dressed; for a whole ephah and a whole kid had been very superfluous, and improper to provide for and set before one man.

[And placing the broth of the meat in a pot (similarly Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Montanus, Septuagint, Jonathan), וְהַמָּרַק וגו״[16]] He put refined[17] wine into a flask (Syriac); pouring pure wine into a half-pint (Arabic).

[And he presented it[18]] [Thus almost all interpreters.] And he approached (Septuagint). And he came near: Thus Pagnine (says Drusius) incorrectly. For hec confuses וַיַּגַּשׁ[19] with וַיִּגַּשׁ[20] (Drusius). [But Drusius errs, for Pagnine in his version has obtulit, he presented.]

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אִם־נָ֛א מָצָ֥אתִי חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ וְעָשִׂ֤יתָ לִּי֙ א֔וֹת שָׁאַתָּ֖ה מְדַבֵּ֥ר עִמִּֽי׃

[2] 1 John 4:1.

[3] Hebrew: אַל־נָ֙א תָמֻ֤שׁ מִזֶּה֙ עַד־בֹּאִ֣י אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְהֹֽצֵאתִי֙ אֶת־מִנְחָתִ֔י וְהִנַּחְתִּ֖י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אָנֹכִ֥י אֵשֵׁ֖ב עַ֥ד שׁוּבֶֽךָ׃

[4] Hebrew: מִנְחָתִי.

[5] See Hebrews 13:2.

[6] Hebrew: וְגִדְע֣וֹן בָּ֗א וַיַּ֤עַשׂ גְּדִֽי־עִזִּים֙ וְאֵיפַת־קֶ֣מַח מַצּ֔וֹת הַבָּשָׂר֙ שָׂ֣ם בַּסַּ֔ל וְהַמָּרַ֖ק שָׂ֣ם בַּפָּר֑וּר וַיּוֹצֵ֥א אֵלָ֛יו אֶל־תַּ֥חַת הָאֵלָ֖ה וַיַּגַּֽשׁ׃

[7] Hebrew: גְּדִי־עִזִּים.

[8] Abraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1089-1164) was a renowned Spanish Rabbi. At the heart of his work is his commentary on the Hebrew Bible. He commented on most of the books, and his exegesis manifests a commitment to the literal sense of the text, even at the expense of traditional interpretations.

[9] Daniel 8:5: “And as I was considering, behold, an he goat (צְפִיר־הָעִזִּים) came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat (וְהַצָּפִיר) had a notable horn between his eyes.”

[10] A modius was approximately two dry gallons.

[11] An ephah was approximately eight dry gallons.

[12] A satum contains about a modius and a half.

[13] A chœnix was a little less than a quart.

[14] Gasper Waser (1565-1625) was a minister, and a philologist specializing in Oriental languages. He was Professor of Hebrew (1596), and later of Greek (1607), at Zurich. He was eventually promoted to the chair of theology (1611).

[15] De Antiquis Mensuris Hebræorum.

[16] Here מָרָק is being treated as meat-broth.

[17] Here מָרַק is being related to the verb מָרַק, to scour or polish.

[18] Hebrew: וַיַּגַּשׁ. נָגַשׁ signifies to draw near; in the Hiphil, as here, to cause to come near, or to present.

[19] In the Hiphil.

[20] In the Qal.

6 views1 comment

1 Comment

Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Apr 10, 2018

Matthew Henry: 'Gideon desires to have his faith confirmed touching this commission; for he would not be over-credulous of that which tended so much to his own praise, would not venture upon an undertaking so far above him, and in which he must engage many more, but he would be well satisfied himself of his authority, and would be able to give satisfaction to others as to him who gave him that authority. He therefore humbly begs of this divine person, whoever he was, [1.] That he would give him a sign, Judges 6:17. And, the commission being given him out of the common road of providence, he might reasonably expect it should be confirmed by some act of Go…

bottom of page