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After the Canaanite captivity, the land of Israel had rest for 40 years (Judges 5:31). But during that time, the Israelites again used their liberty as “an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). So we read in Judges 6:1,
1 Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.
This captivity was characterized mainly by foreign immigration by Midianites and Amalekites, for many Israelites found themselves displaced from their own land. Judges 6:4, 5 says,
4 So they would camp against them [Israel] and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it.
It appears that the Midianite population had increased to the point where their own land was insufficient to support their flocks and herds. Needing more land, they came into Israel and left no land for the Israelites’ animals. They even took over the Israelites’ houses in some cases, causing the Israelites to find refuge in “the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the [mountain] strongholds” (Judges 6:2).
The Israelites then “cried to the Lord on the account of Midian” (Judges 6:7). This time, instead of sending a deliverer, God sent them a prophet to teach them a history lesson. Judges 6:8-10 says,
8 that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and brought you out from the house of slavery. 9 And I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, 10 and I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not obeyed Me’.”
The written record of that prophet’s message ends here, but it implies that the people listened to him and repented. God had dispossessed the Amorites on account of their sin, and the Israelites had suffered a similar judgment by their impartial God. Deuteronomy 6:10-12 says,
10 Then it will come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you will eat and be satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
However, the following verses warn the Israelites that if they were to follow other gods, “He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”
Surely this was part of the message of the prophet sent to Israel during the Midianite captivity, for the people had forgotten the true God, much like the Canaanites had forgotten God prior to their judgment at the hands of Israel. Just as God gave Israel the fruit of the Canaanites’ labor, so also would God give others the fruit of the Israelites’ labor.
Such was the divine judgment when God raised up the Midianites to take land, houses, fruit, and crops that the Israelites had labored to produce. The same judgment that God brought upon Canaan was visited upon Israel. This shows that God did not simply give the Israelites the labor of others, as if to put other nations into slavery to Israel. Slavery is a divine judgment, and when men or nations sin against God, they incur a debt to the law. If they are unable to pay that debt, God sells them into slavery and takes their labor as payment.
This should not be viewed as the right to enslave others nor as the right to steal others’ labor. It should be viewed in terms of God’s impartial judgments for sin, for when the Israelites themselves were guilty, God treated them as He had treated the Canaanites earlier.
The prophet was thus sent to Israel to teach them history, and (hopefully) to teach them the laws and principles of their impartial God.
The biblical account goes abruptly from the message of the prophet to the call of Gideon in Judges 6:11,
11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.
Wooden-yoke captivities are mainly characterized by paying tribute (taxes) to those in dominion. Gideon was an ancient tax protester, not wanting to pay the high, unjust taxes to the Midianites. Hence, he was threshing wheat in a wine press.
Prophetically speaking, wheat harvest comes at the feast of Pentecost, and so this is a reference to Pentecost. The incongruity of threshing wheat in a wine press is as glaring as using a sickle to harvest grapes in Revelation 14:18. When we see such incongruities, we ought to take notice and look for spiritual meaning and prophetic significance.
Wheat is a prophetic type of the church under Pentecost (i.e., during the Age of Pentecost between the two comings of Christ). Hence, threshing wheat represents the church in tribulation. The divine purpose of tribulation, then, is to remove the chaff from the wheat, as John the Baptist proclaimed in Matthew 3:12. The wheat itself is saved, while the chaff is burned by the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Threshing wheat in a wine press suggests that this “wheat” represented those Spirit-filled believers who were being prepared for the feast of Tabernacles, the feast where they were to pour out the drink offering of new wine for seven days (Numbers 29:12, 16 KJV).
There were three first fruits offerings each year at the main feast days. The Passover first fruits offering was of barley, Pentecost’s offering was wheat, and at Tabernacles, they offered wine for seven days. Gideon’s unusual actions linked Pentecost to Tabernacles by threshing wheat in a wine press. When he finally delivered Israel, we again see the pattern of feast days emerge in prophetic symbolism.
Those Chosen to Deliver Israel
In Judges 7 we read a lengthy account about how God chose His army to deliver Israel. The initial call to battle brought 32,000 volunteers. Judges 7:2, 3 says,
2 And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me’. 3 Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, “Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead’.” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.
Those 32,000 first responders represent those who believe the (new) covenant, because 32 is the biblical number of covenant. Such New Covenant faith is the first thing that qualifies a person to be in the end-time army of God.
Second, they must be without fear, because fear undermines faith and is evidence that one’s faith is immature or imperfect. It is interesting that 22,000 men were fearful and returned home, because that is the number of Levites who redeemed the first-born sons of Israel in Numbers 3:39. The number 22 is the biblical number denoting the sons of God, or “sons of light.”
In Judges 7 we see these 22,000 as fearful sons. According to the laws of war, anyone who was afraid or who did not have faith were to be given opportunity to leave the battlefield (Deuteronomy 20:8). The priests were called to “perform the service” (Numbers 4:23 KJV), which literally means “to war the warfare.” Their job was to win the battle ahead of time in the spirit in order to ensure victory for the troops on the ground (Deuteronomy 20:2, 3, 4).
However, if any soldier was doubtful about the spiritual victory, or if he had doubts about the righteousness of the battle that Israel was facing, he was allowed to leave without penalty. In the story of Gideon, even those representing the sons of God were not qualified to fight that battle, and only 10,000 remained.
But God said in Judges 7:4, “the people are still too many.” So He brought them down to the brook to see how they would drink the water of the word. Those who bowed and kneeled down to drink were disqualified. Those who scooped up the water with their hands and put it to their mouth were qualified (Judges 7:6, 7). Only 300 men then remained.
The number ten is the number of the law which brings things into divine order. Putting it all together, we see that Gideon’s army, prophetically speaking, had three main tests to see who was qualified. First, they had to believe in the New Covenant, which made them sons of God; second, they had to be lawful. Third, they had to be discerning in how they drank the word of God.
Each test sent many good people home. It did not mean that they were unsaved or that they were not genuine sons of God. It was just that not all New Covenant believers, or sons of God, or even lawful believers were qualified to fight that battle. This is a prophetic story of our own end-time deliverance through the second set of feast days (as we will see shortly), so it is plain that very few today are called to engage directly in the spiritual warfare that is delivering the world from the present slavery.
Next time we will show how the battle of Gideon prophesied of the manner in which God is presently delivering the world through the second set of feasts: Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.