The story of Gideon is found in the Old Testament book of Judges. Gideon translates to either “Destroyer” or “Mighty Warrior,” which speaks to his eventual call as a warrior for God’s people; used by God to destroy His (and their) enemies. He is a type of Christ. In addition to his deeds, there are other elements of Gideon’s story that foreshadow the person of Christ. Yet, as is the case with all “types of Christ,” they are not Christ. Jesus is the better Christ—always.
In examining this scripture with a strong desire to see its association with Christ, I share some possible allusions within it that may be “stretches.” These possible allusions, however, do not alter the character of Christ that is more explicitly stated within scripture, nor do they compromise His message or purpose. Thus, I have decided to share my thoughts with the belief that they do not compromise either Christ’s character or message—only sharing, at worst, how much I strive to see my Lord throughout His Word.
Gideon’s story within scripture starts as an angel of the Lord comes to him while he is beating out wheat in a wine press—not wanting his enemies, the Midianites, to find it (Judges 6:11). Already a possible allusion to Christ is presented within his story. To protect the wheat from his enemies, Gideon beat it on a winepress—hewn from rock—a solid foundation for separating the chaff from the wheat (Psalm 62:2; Matthew 3:12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). And when Gideon provides an offering to God, laying it on a rock—an offering of meat (flesh) and unleavened bread—it is consumed in fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). Protection and sacrifice for salvation through a foundation that is Christ!
The angel appears to Gideon during a period of struggle and oppression for the Israelites. After enjoying forty years of peace—brought about by Deborah’s victory over Canaan (Judges 4,5) —the Israelites once again turned away from God in disobedience. Subsequently, God allows the Midianites, Amalekites, and other neighboring peoples to oppress them. And the people having forgotten their Lord, worship false idols. His own father, Joash, has an idol built to the false god, Baal!
And consider Gideon’s initial reaction when encountered by the angel of the Lord? First, he expresses doubt, because of his current circumstances. He questions how the Lord could be with the Israelites when they are currently being oppressed by their surrounding enemies (Judges 6:12-13). The following discourse between Gideon and the angel of the Lord intrigues me:
14 The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” 15 He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” 16 But the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” 17 So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.”
19 Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, he said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 The Lord said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace (Judges 6:14-24, NASB).
Given the first-person nature of the response from the Lord’s angel, it makes me wonder if this angel of the Lord is actually Christ speaking with Gideon. Could the offering of meat and unleavened bread be a subtle allusion to the Last Supper, with the Lord commissioning Gideon to bring peace to his people? Also, with names in scripture so often reflecting deeper meaning of purpose, is it just happenstance that Gideon names the altar he builds for the Lord, “The Lord is Peace?” Was the angel with whom he spoke the Prince of Peace?
Gideon has other reasons to doubt the Lord’s command. Remember, unlike us, Gideon doesn’t have a copy of the bible available to him in numerous translations. And as the youngest in his father’s household, from a family that is the least in Manasseh, why should he expect to be called by the Lord to save His people? Yet, continually, the Lord calls upon those who are perceived to be weak, and demonstrates His strength through them:
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB).
In building an altar to the Lord—as commanded—Gideon also tears down his father’s altar to Baal, and the Asherah pole beside it. However, fearful of how the men of the city would respond if seeing him tear down the altar during the day, he tears down the altar to Baal during the dark of night (Judges 6:27). Come the morning, when the men of the city see the altar of Baal destroyed, and the Asherah pole cut down, they seek to kill Gideon. The men call for Joash to give them his son. The response Joash provides the men of the city is beautiful in what it communicates:
30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” 32 Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar (Judges 6:30-32, NASB).
Joash’s words bestow wisdom to all of us that succumb to false idols. God is sovereign and omnipotent—His power is real. That which we place as idols in our life possess no true power—only that which we falsely attribute to them.
Further, the destruction of Baal’s altar and the Asherah pole, and the reaction of the city’s men provides another allusion to the story of Christ. Jesus tears down false idols (Pharisees and Scribes) and seeks to restore the temple of God during Passover, and the people turn on Him for his righteous action. Likewise, Gideon acts righteously in tearing down false idols and restoring rightful worship towards God, and his people seek to kill him for it!
I believe another allusion to Christ occurs through the signs God provides to Gideon through a wool fleece:
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, 37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” 38 And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” 40 God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground (Judges 6:36-40, NASB).
Maybe this is a stretch, but when I first read this passage, I thought of Jesus representing the lamb of God—the perfect sacrifice—and the dew on the fleece as a visual foreshadowing of Jesus sweating beads of blood as He prays to His Father for another way:
39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground (Luke 22:39-44, NASB).
…and it was on that third day, after two nights of doubt, that Gideon arose early in accordance to God’s will (Judges 7:1).
As Jesus is the “living water,” who separates those who are of God from those who are not—God ultimately selects Gideon’s men based on how they receive the “living water.” Moreover, it reflects Christ’s words at the end of His wedding feast parable, when He says, that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14, ESV)—originally 22,000 men were called, yet only 300 were chosen to restore the Israelites:
4 Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but every one of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” 6 Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home.” 8 So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley (Judges 7:4-8, NASB).
While I posit that many of us probably read this scripture and knowing the outcome already, treat this event matter-of-factly, consider how much faith Gideon needed to exhibit to fight his enemies with only three hundred men? And consider how brave the three hundred men chosen must have been; especially when it is never communicated that they receive direct commands from God—it is only written about Gideon. Yet, they follow him (dare I say, another allusion to Christ?).
There is definitely much allusion in how Gideon and the three hundred men combat the Midianites and Amalekites. First, let us start by considering the Lord’s encouragement to Gideon prior to handing over his enemies:
9 Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, 11 and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. 12 Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” 14 His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand” (Judges 7:9-14, NASB).
Paul provides clarification to this scripture allusion throughout his second letter to the Corinthians. There are many parallels. The barley loaf represents resurrection, of his people—through Christ:
9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9, NASB).
14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you (2 Corinthians 4:14, NASB).
The sword represents the Word of God:
17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 2:17, NASB).
2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 4:2, NASB).
After hearing the Midianite’s dream, Gideon understood what he was to do, and praised God immediately. And in accordance to God’s will, conquered His enemies:
15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands.” 16 He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. 17 He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian (Judges 7:15-23, NASB).
The pitchers are likely earthen vessels made of clay, representing our frail flesh—our earthly bodies. And though our earthly bodies may break, the light—the Spirit within our hearts—will shine throughout the darkness:
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB).
6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6, NASB).
16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16, NASB).
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1, NASB).
And the trumpet represents the word of the Israelites testimony:
5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5, NASB).
Thus, led by the Spirit, and armed with the Word of God, the word of their testimony led to confusion to those who are not of God (their enemies)—causing their demise; while those of God enjoy resurrection.
Once the Israelites conquer all their enemies, they ask Gideon to become their king. It is here where Gideon follows a good decision with a poor one:
22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” 24 Yet Gideon said to them, “I would request of you, that each of you give me an earring from his spoil.” (For they had gold earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 They said, “We will surely give them.” So they spread out a garment, and every one of them threw an earring there from his spoil. 26 The weight of the gold earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the neck bands that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made it into an ephod, and placed it in his city, Ophrah, and all Israel played the harlot with it there, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his household (Judges 8: 22-27, NASB).
Gideon wisely rejects the earthly throne of Israel, just as Jesus does during His first coming. Rather, Gideon tell the Israelites to give all the glory to God—that God is sovereign and shall rule over His people. Though, in the next breath (or so I assume), he asks for a portion of each man’s spoil. From what is provided, Gideon creates an ephod—an ornate robe (see picture below)—which ultimately becomes a false idol for the Israelites. Thus, after forty years of peace, the Israelites were once again worshipping Baal (Judges 8:33)…
Thus, in summation, Gideon reflects Christ in that:
- God appoints him to do His work
- He tears down false idols
- His people turn on him for acting righteously
- He turns to God for guidance to overcome fear
- He serves as a civil leader of God’s people
- He conquers God’s enemies
- He rejects the earthly throne of Israel
Yet, Gideon is a lesser type of Christ in that:
- Gideon continually needs to ask for signs to overcome his doubt in God’s will. Christ, being in perfect union with God the Father, never questions his Father’s will
- He is afraid of what the men of the city would do to him (and hides from men), while Jesus only fears God’s wrath
- His people seek to kill him for a righteous action, but he is not without sin—and he does not sacrifice himself for his people. Jesus was sinless, yet allowed himself to be killed by his people—taking on the sin of His people for their salvation
- While he rejects rule on the earthly throne of Israel, he fails as a religious leader of Israel—creating for them a false idol to worship. Jesus fulfills the role of civil and religious leader of God’s people
- Those who the Lord defeats through Gideon and his three hundred men rise up against His people again. Jesus’ victory over sin is forever