Gideon and the Angel

Reposted from 2006

In Judges chapters 6 through 8, we find an interesting story about a man named Gideon who had an encounter with an angel. Gideon’s response to the angel showing up was unusual, to say the least… (This is part two of a Bible study about Gideon. Read Gideon Man of Valor for more of the story.)

1. Who did Gideon think the angel was?

Obviously he didn’t think he was an angel. We know some of who he didn’t think he was. He wasn’t a Midianite. Gideon would have been running, or attacking, or defending, something.

He didn’t think he was a neighbor. He knew all his neighbors, surely.

He didn’t think he was a long-lost relative. He didn’t think he was a visiting dignitary, or a friend-of-a-friend, or just a traveler passing through. How do we know? Because he would have made an effort to welcome him, honor him, take him home and feed him. He didn’t do any of the normal, every-day things he would do for a visitor.

So what’s left?

I believe Gideon thought he was just another run-of-the-mill itinerant prophet/preachers, somebody he didn’t hold in high esteem. He certainly didn’t think he was an angel who might strike him with a bolt of lightening for his disrespectful attitude.

2. What did the angel look like?

Well, he must have looked like a native. Not like you’d think an angel would look like, from other verses in the Bible. Not shiny, super tall, or cloaked in clouds. No shimmering garments or multiple arms or four faces or eight wings. No thundering voice, either.

If he’d looked like a foreigner, then he might have been an enemy — maybe a Midianite. But Gideon didn’t treat him like that, he treated him like he would somebody familiar, but unliked.

3. Why did the angel sit down under the tree for a bit, before he made himself visible to Gideon?

Maybe he wanted to watch Gideon for a few minutes, see how he acted, what his demeanor was like. Maybe Gideon’s attitude came out in the way he threshed the wheat. Angry, frustrated, feeling helpless — “Bam, take that, you foul Midianite!”

Or wallowing in self-pity — “Bam, how long do we have to hide out like criminals in our own land,” sniffle, sniffle.

I used to operate a huge paper-cutter made like a guillotine. Every time I sliced a ream of paper, I’d imagine somebody’s head rolling — somebody that had done me wrong, of course. Other times, I’d think it might as well be my head doing the rolling, things felt so bad.

Was the angel observing Gideon’s actions in order to get an idea of his attitude?

In Hebrews 13:2 we’re told not to be afraid to entertain strangers, for many have entertained angels unaware. If Gideon had known that fellow was an angel to start with, I bet he’d have behaved a little better, don’t you?

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