The pattern repeats itself. The people do something to piss God off, so He punishes them by giving them to another nation – this time Midian, for seven years. “And it was, when Israel had sown, that Midian came up, and Amalek, and those of the east; and they came up upon it (Judges 6:3).” We haven’t heard about Amalek in a while, but they’re the ultimate enemy, so things must be really bad at this point. Amalek is destroying the land, and Israel is subject to Midian – all in all, not a good situation. So they cry to God, and He sends them a new prophet. “That the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, and he said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, God of Israel; I brought you up from Egypt, and I brought you out of the house of bondage (Judges 6:8).'” God made promises to the people, but they were conditional promises, and the people failed to keep up their end of the bargain.
God sends an angel to Gideon, who God sees as a man of valor. Gideon asks why all of the tragedy that the people are currently suffering has come to pass, saying that God has forsaken the people. “And the Lord turned toward him and said, ‘Go, with this your strength, and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you (Judges 6:14)?'” Just as Moses, the ultimate prophet, protested his mission, Gideon also shows hesitation. His worry is that he is the youngest member of the poorest house in his tribe, and will not be able to save Israel. Also just as with Moses, God reassures him that He will be with him. Gideon asks for a sign that all of this is real, and his request is granted. He recognizes the angel of God, and commits to his mission.
God tells Gideon to destroy the altar of Baal. But not just any altar. He is to destroy the altar that his own father has created, and to put an altar to God in its place. “And Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had spoken to him. Now it was, because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, to do it by day, that he did it by night (Judges 6:27).” This reminds me of the midrash about Abraham smashing his father’s idols once he encountered God. I wonder if this is the story that midrash is based on, because I don’t recall any similar text from the Abraham saga. This seems to be the ultimate show of obedience to God, while rejecting the sinful culture surrounding the people at that time.
The locals freak out, and tell Joash, Gideon’s father, that he must die. However, Joash tells them that Baal, not the people, should contend with Gideon if he sees fit. The people back off, and Gideon begins to gather troops. God provides signs, and Gideon prepares for battle.