The children of Israel had been oppressed by the Midianites for seven years since they had not obeyed the voice of the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord sent a prophet reminding them of their deliverance from Egypt and instructing them not to fear the gods of the Amorites. The Angel of the Lord then visited Gideon who was threshing wheat in the winepress to conceal his produce from the Midianites.
The Angel of the Lord spoke encouraging words to Gideon and stated that the Lord was with him and called him a mighty man of valour. Gideon immediately questioned whether the Lord was with them due to their predicament and oppression by the Midianites. Also, where were His miracles in Gideon’s time, relating to the deliverance from Egypt?
The Angel of the Lord is Messiah
The Angel of the Lord reassured Gideon commanding him to go in his might and save Israel from the Midianites since He had sent him. This is reminiscent of when the Angel of the Lord met Moses at the burning bush. Moses was commissioned to save Israel out of Egypt and Gideon was called to deliver Israel from the Midianites.
The Angel of the Lord would in no uncertain terms be with Moses (Exodus 3:12). The Lord promised Joshua that as He was with Moses, the Lord would be with him (Joshua 1:5). This was noticeable when the Commander of the army of the Lord strengthened and prepared Joshua before he took Jericho. In both events, they removed their sandals since they were standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:1-22; c.f. Joshua 5:13-15). The Angel of the Lord promised Gideon that the Lord would be with him too (Judges 6:12).
Gideon expressed his inability to perform this task since his clan Manasseh was the weakest tribe and he was the least in his father’s house. Therefore how could he be the one to save Israel from the Midianites? There is an astonishing parallel and messianic prophecy from Micah 5:2 (1) in that the Messiah, the One who would rule Israel would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah which was considered little and seemingly insignificant among the thousands of Judah. Nonetheless Bethlehem is the main setting for the book of Ruth and was also the birthplace of David. David’s greater Son (Matthew 1:1) was also born in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Matthew 2:1-12).
Another great messianic prophecy is Isaiah 7:14 whereby the Lord would provide a sign and the virgin would conceive and bear a Son and call His name Immanuel, meaning God with us. Instances of Messiah appearing in the Tanakh (Old Covenant) are known as Theophanies; though in the Brit Hadasha (New Covenant) the Lord Jesus was born to Mary, dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14) and for those who trust in Him, He will never leave them nor forsake them.
In this passage, the terms ‘the Angel of the Lord’ and ‘the Lord’ are used interchangeably throughout which mirrors when the Angel of the Lord met Moses in Exodus 3:1-22. Some commentators state that the Angel of the Lord is Metatron who speaks as an angelic ambassador with the authority of the Lord but it is clear from this text and numerous other ones that the Angel of the Lord in the Tanakh is the Lord. The Lord assures Gideon that He will be with him. In the Brit Hadasha (New Testament) although angels appear, they do not have the authority and are not referred to interchangeably in the text since the Angel of the Lord is Messiah in His preincarnate form.
Gideon sought a sign that it was the Lord who was speaking with him. He made an offering of a young goat, unleavened bread from an ephah of flour, put the meat in a basket and put the broth in a pot. The Angel of God commanded Gideon to take the meat and the unleavened bread, lay them on the rock and pour out the broth, which he did. Then the Angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with his staff and they were consumed by fire and the Lord departed.
What was the significance of Gideon’s offering being consumed by fire? When the priestly ministry began in Leviticus 9, Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, blessed the people and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people and fire came from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering. Hence the Lord displayed something of His glory and showed His approval. In Exodus 3 when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, He spoke from the burning bush. In Judges 13 when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s parents, He ascended in the flame of the altar of his offering. The fact that the Angel of the Lord appeared no more made Manoah cognizant that it was the Angel of the Lord (Judges 13:19-21). This disappearance greatly helped both Gideon and Manoah recognise the true identity of their heavenly visitor.
Not surprisingly when Gideon perceived who he had met, he was concerned that he might die but was reassured that he would survive (Judges 6:22-23). When Moses was hid in the cleft of the rock, he was permitted to see the back of God, since no man could see his face and live (Exodus 33:20-23). Meanwhile Moses was an exceptional prophet with whom God spoke with face to face (Numbers 12:3)! How can this be reconciled? When Jacob wrestled with the Lord, he was equally surprised that he had seen God and his life was preserved (Genesis 32:30) and the same was also true for Manoah (Judges 13:22). Moses, Gideon and Manoah all saw Messiah and lived.
Shalom Aleichem -Peace be with you
The Lord said to Gideon “Shalom aleichem,” “peace be with you” before telling him not to fear and that he would not die. Consequently Gideon built an altar and called it “The Lord is peace.” When the Lord Jesus rose from the grave he said to His disciples “Shalom aleichem,” “peace be with you.” He promised them a peace that he would leave with them and give them that would be different to that which the world gives (John 14:27). Yeshua is the Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), who brings peace with God through His personal sacrifice which brings atonement and everlasting peace with God.
The act of building an altar and/or stating something about the Lord whom Gideon met is a characteristic of Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 22:14 The Lord will Provide), Hagar who was astonished that she survived seeing the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 16:13 You are a God who sees), Isaac (Genesis 26:24-25), Jacob (Genesis 28:10-21; 32:30 Peniel- I have seen God face to face; El-Bethel God of the house of God 35:7) and Manoah (Judges 13:19-23). These titles teach us about the character and ways of the Lord and help us to remember, worship, serve and give glory to our Creator and Saviour.