Judges 6:6-10, Enter Gideon
Just about this time in the story we should expect the people to realize how bad their
situation is and then do something about it. That “something” is a cry to the Lord in
distress, a cry which the Lord hears and answers. It is really the Book of Psalms worked
out in the realm of history. Right on cue, Israel responds (6:6):
καὶ ἐπτώχευσεν Ισραηλ σφόδρα ἀπὸ προσώπου Μαδιαμ καὶ ἐκέκραξαν οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ πρὸς κύριον,
“And Israel was reduced to exceedingly impoverished straits in Midian’s presence and the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.”
The verb for “crying out” is κράζω in A but βοάω in B, but one would be hard pressed to limn a difference between the two. One thing we know from the Psalms and from the earlier history of Israel is that when the children of Israel cry to God, God is always there to hear the cry. Ah, we have the first real textual difference emerging in verse 7. The “problem” is created by repetition in A. It has (6:7):
καὶ ἐγένετο ἐπεὶ ἐκέκραξαν οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ πρὸς κύριον διὰ Μαδιαμ
“And it happened that when the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord because of Midian. .”
The words of verse 7 aren’t strictly necessary, and they don’t really advance the story. They largely repeat the words of verse 6. So, what happened in Recension B? The eleven words of verse 7 are reduced to three words, which are tacked on to verse 6 in meaning, so that verses 6b-7 in B reads, “And the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord from before Midian.” There seems to be an intentional act of shortening by B.
The Coming of a “Prophet”
Well, what happens when the people cry out? Somewhat unsurprisingly, God answers. Rather surprisingly the person who is sent is not either a judge or a person who delivers Israel. The person sent is called a “prophet” (6:8):
καὶ ἐξαπέστειλεν κύριος ἄνδρα προφήτην πρὸς τοὺς υἱοὺς Ισραηλ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῗς
τάδε λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς Ισραηλ ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἀναβιβάσας ὑμᾶς ἐξ Αἰγύπτου καὶ
ἐξήγαγον ὑμᾶς ἐξ οἴκου δουλείας,
“And the Lord sent a man, a prophet, to the sons of Israel and he said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel says these things, ‘I am the one who by bringing you out of Egypt also brought you from the house of slavery/bondage,’"
Thus, it is a προφήτην who is first sent, and if we think about it for a moment, this makes sense. The people are in need of interpreters as well as deliverers, and the prophet will place the current dilemma in the history of God’s dealing with the people. Both A and B are almost identical; the content of the prophet’s speech rehearses the familiar narrative of the divine delivery of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
The Story of Israel’s Deliverance
The story continues in verse 9:
καὶ ἐξειλάμην ὑμᾶς ἐκ χειρὸς Αἰγύπτου καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς πάντων τῶν θλιβόντων ὑμᾶς καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτοὺς ἐκ προσώπου ὑμῶν καὶ ἔδωκα ὑμῗν τὴν γῆν αὐτῶν,
“And I plucked you out/delivered you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of all those who are oppressing you, and I cast them out from before you and I gave you their land.”
The only difference between A and B in this verse is that B uses εκρύομαι instead of ἐξαιρέω to describe the deliverance of God. In A God “plucks them out” whereas in B God “delivers/rescues them out” of Egypt. It is interesting and even wonderful to see the wheels of the translators’ minds working as they try to render the underlying וָאַצִּל in Hebrew. Both Greek verbs can easily be seen as derived from the underlying Hebrew, without any need to posit a dependence or even awareness of the other. We are familiar with this narrative of deliverance and gift—deliverance from bondage and gift of the land of Canaan.
Then, in verse 10, we get to God’s “complaint” as it were:
καὶ εἶπα ὑμῗν ἐγὼ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν οὐ φοβηθήσεσθε τοὺς θεοὺς τοῦ Αμορραίου ἐνοἷς ὑμεῗς ἐνοικεῗτε ἐν τῇ γῇ αὐτῶν καὶ οὐκ εἰσηκούσατε τῆς φωνῆς μου,
“And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You shall not reverence/hold in awe the God’s of the Amorites, among whom you dwell—in their land. But you didn’t hear/listen to my voice.”
Recension B gives us an almost identical translation of the Hebrew, though instead of using ἐνοικέω, or “I dwell in” to describe the Hebrew occupation of the land, Recension B has καθήσεσθε, which comes from the verb for “sitting down.” Dwelling, of course, and sitting down share the same universe of meaning.
The story is unfolding in an interesting fashion. Israel does evil, is overrun by the enemy, calls out to God, and God starts the wheels in motion for deliverance. The interesting thing theologically is that a prophet is sent first of all to inform the people of how their current act of disobedience fits into the history of the people (they didn’t hear the divine voice). Then, the deliverer will be sent. The interesting thing literarily is that the Recensions are very similar but B on occasion tries to be more economical in its use of words than A, especially in verse 7. The author has skillfully prepared us for one of the more dramatic episodes in Israel’s early history in the land.
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