Judges 6:31, 32: Joash's Defense of Gideon

Verse 31:[1] And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.


[Surely ye are not avengers of Baal? הַאַתֶּ֣ם׀ תְּרִיב֣וּן לַבַּ֗עַל] Surely ye will not plead Baal? (Montanus), or, for Baal? (Pagnine, similarly the Syriac, Junius and Tremellius). That is, Ought ye to plead? surely ye ought not to be his defenders? (Vatablus). Will ye plead the cause of Baal? (Munster, Tigurinus). Will ye avenge Baal? (Jonathan, Arabic).


Will ye plead for Baal? Why are you so zealous in pleading for that Baal, for the worship whereof you suffer such grievous calamities at this day, and from whom you have no help? It is plain that Joash had been a worshipper of Baal; either therefore he was now convinced by Gideon’s information and action, or he makes use of this pretence to preserve his son, being indeed indifferent in matters of religion; and therefore as he did worship Baal to comply with his neighbours, so now he deserts him to rescue his son.


[He that is his adversary, let him die, אֲשֶׁ֙ר יָרִ֥יב ל֛וֹ יוּמַ֖ת] [They translate and explain it in a variety of ways.] He that acted against him, let him be killed (Munster); he that challenged (Castalio). He that opposes him, it is altogether just that he die: but that does not concern you, nor is it appropriate for you to pursue his cause: if he is God, he will vindicate himself (Bonfrerius). That is to say, Do not be concerned; Baal himself will not the sacrilegious to live to tomorrow (Menochius). If Baal is God, let him kill that one this night, before it begins to dawn. Thus he derides their foolishness, and restrains their presumption: which he was easily able to do, since he was their lord. That is to say, By your action ye show that ye do not believe that Baal is God; otherwise ye would not think that he would suffer the injury inflicted upon him to go unpunished (Munster). Others: He that will have contended, or will have pled, for him, let him be killed (Pagnine, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Dutch, English, similarly Tigurinus, etc.). He that will take such a thing upon himself that he would dare to plead for him, let him be killed (Vatablus). He sets forth this edict as if he were a Magistrate: Whoever proceeds to move sedition, wills to contend for Baal, as it were, punishment shall be exacted speedily by me from him, as from a turbulent citizen (Martyr).


He that will plead for him, let him be put to death; he that shall further plead for such a god as this, deserves to die for his folly and impiety. It is not probable that this was all that he said for his son’s defence; or that he would neglect to mention the call his son had from God to it, the apparition of an angel, the promise of deliverance; but it is usual in Scripture to give only some short hints of those things which were more largely discoursed.


[Before tomorrow’s light comes, עַד־הַבֹּקֶר] Unto the morning (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus), that is, tomorrow morning: that is to say, he shall be killed, but not before tomorrow. The manner of speaking is to be observed, before morning (Vatablus). Before tomorrow morning (Castalio); yet this morning (Dutch); while it is yet morning (English); before day dawns (Tigurinus).


Whilst it is yet morning, that is, instantly, without delay; for it was now morning time, as appears from verse 28, etc.


[Let him avenge himself upon the one that toppled his altar (similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio), יָ֣רֶב ל֔וֹ כִּ֥י נָתַ֖ץ אֶֽת־מִזְבְּחֽוֹ׃] Others translate it: he will contend against him, because he pulled down the altar (Junius and Tremellius, Dutch). Others: let him plead for himself (that is, let him plead his own cause, for he does not need man’s help), because (understanding, one [English]) pulled down, or overthrew, his altar (Pagnine, Vatablus, English), that is, because his altar was destroyed (Vatablus). This is an argument in appearance probable, and ad hominem (because they had this opinion of Baal), but actually feeble in itself; both because God often conceals His vengeance upon injustice in this life, and differs unto the next life; and because He constitutes Magistrates to judge and avenge injuries inflicted upon Himself (Lapide). [But this argument does not appear so weak, at least in that time and state of the Church, in which the God of the Israelites had both more expressly and clearly foretold rewards and punishments in this life, and was wont more certainly and swiftly to bestow them, then it now happens: And so, if Baal had been the true God, he would not have borne so great an injury without retribution.]


Let him plead for himself, as the God of Israel hath often done when any indignity or injury hath been done to him. But Baal hath now showed that he is neither able to help you nor himself, and therefore is not worthy to be served any longer. This courageous and resolute answer was necessary to stop the torrent of the people’s fury; and it was drawn from him, partly by the sense of his son’s extreme danger, and partly by the confidence he had that God would plead his son’s cause, and use him for the rescue of his people.


Verse 32:[2] Therefore on that day he called him (1 Sam. 12:11: 2 Sam. 11:21, Jerubbesheth, that is, Let the shameful thing plead;[3] see Jeremiah 11:13;[4] Hos. 9:10[5]) Jerubbaal (that is, Let Baal plead[6]), saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.


[He was called…Jerubbaal, יְרֻבַּעַל] He that pleads with Baal (Lapide), or, the adversary of Baal; or, he to whom Baal ought to direct his suit (Bonfrerius). Hebrew: he called him,[7] etc., that is, Gideon’s father called him; not as a reprimand, but as a monument (Malvenda out of Junius). Joash was an idolater, but one less zealous, inasmuch as to him the life of his son was more important than the honor of the idol. Although it is likely that Gideon informed him of this, by whose authority and government he undertook this (Bonfrerius). From this is the Ἱερόμβαλος/Jerombalos in the history of the Phœnicians (Drusius). Sanchuniathon[8] is said to have written his Annals from Jerombalos, Priest of the God Iao, says Porphyry[9] in his Against the Christians 4. Now, the Greeks express the name Jehovah in this way. The God of the Jews is called Iao, says Diodorus, Historical Library 1:59. He is the greatest of the Gods to thee, whose name is Iao: Macrobius, Saturnalia 1. Jerombalos is the same as יְרֻבַּעַל/ Jerubbaal, with one of the two Β’s changed into an Μ; as in the case of Sambuca, from the Syriac סבכא/Sabbeca.[10] You will say that Gideon was not a Priest of God, nor a Levite, but a Manassite. I acknowledge that; but it is not strange that he that established an Ephod, etc., Judges 8:27, is held to be a Priest by a Heathen, not very skillful in Jewish affairs (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Canaan” 2:17:858).


He called him, that is, Joash called Gideon so, Judges 7:1, in remembrance of this noble exploit, and to put a brand upon Baal.


[Let Baal avenge himself of him[11]] Hebrew: Let him plead בּוֹ, with him (Pagnine), against him; that is to say, Let him kill him (Vatablus). The verb הֵרִיב, to strive, is constructed with עִם/with, and with אֶת/with, and with ב/in/ on, and with ל/to/for. But with the ל it signifies to contend for someone (Drusius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יוֹאָ֡שׁ לְכֹל֩ אֲשֶׁר־עָמְד֙וּ עָלָ֜יו הַאַתֶּ֣ם׀ תְּרִיב֣וּן לַבַּ֗עַל אִם־אַתֶּם֙ תּוֹשִׁיע֣וּן אוֹת֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֙ר יָרִ֥יב ל֛וֹ יוּמַ֖ת עַד־הַבֹּ֑קֶר אִם־אֱלֹהִ֥ים הוּא֙ יָ֣רֶב ל֔וֹ כִּ֥י נָתַ֖ץ אֶֽת־מִזְבְּחֽוֹ׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָא־ל֥וֹ בַיּוֹם־הַה֖וּא יְרֻבַּ֣עַל לֵאמֹ֑ר יָ֤רֶב בּוֹ֙ הַבַּ֔עַל כִּ֥י נָתַ֖ץ אֶֽת־מִזְבְּחֽוֹ׃


[3] Hebrew: יְרֻבֶּשֶׁת.


[4] Jeremiah 11:13: “For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing (לַבֹּשֶׁת), even altars to burn incense unto Baal.”


[5] Hosea 9:10: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame (לַבֹּשֶׁת); and their abominations were according as they loved.”


[6] Hebrew: יְרֻבַּעַל.


[7] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָא־לוֹ.


[8] Sanchuniathon is a Phœnician author, almost as old as Moses. His works, including material on creation and the history of the gods, survive only in fragments. His history of Phœnicia was translated by Philo of Byblos circa 100 AD, fragments of which are preserved in Eusebius’ Preparation of the Gospel.


[9] Porphyry (c. 232-c. 304) studied in Rome under Plotinus. He endeavored to make the obscure Neoplatonism of Plotinus intelligible to the popular reader.


[10] See Daniel 3:5: “That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut (סַבְּכָא/sabbecha; σαμβύκης/sambukes, in the Septuagint), psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up…”


[11] Hebrew: יָ֤רֶב בּוֹ֙ הַבַּ֔עַל.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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