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Judges 6:30-32, Can Baal Act for Himself?



We saw a variety of verbs used to express the concepts of destruction or searching out in 6:26-30.  What is interesting is that in these verses for today, especially v 31, we will see the threefold appearance of the same verb in Recension B, while Recension A varies the verb.  Let’s quickly review the variety of verbs, especially for destroying and for searching out, in the two recensions of 6:25-30.


Destruction of altar and grove:


v. 25, Recension A καθαιρέω— demolish/tear down; ἐκκόπτω—cut down/cut off

         Recension B καθαιρέω— demolish/tear down; ολεθρεύω—destroy

v. 28, Recension A  κατασκάπτω—demolish/destroy; ἐκκόπτω—cut down/cut off

         Recension B  καθαιρέω— demolish/tear down; ολεθρεύω—destroy


v. 30 has the townspeople also talk of the subject, and they use similar verbs:

         Recension A  κατασκάπτω—demolish/destroy; κόπτω—cut down

         Recension B  καθαιρέω— demolish/tear down; ολεθρεύω—destroy


Searching for Gideon


v. 29 Recension A ανετάζω—examine; ἐκζητέω—search out/search

        Recension B επιζητέω—search for; εραυνάω—search for.


                                         The Discussion over Gideon’s Fate


Gideon follows the Lord’s command and demolishes the altar of Baal and cuts down the grove of nearby trees. Next morning all hell, figuratively speaking, breaks out because the men of the area find out what has happened to their altar and grove.  Verse 30 presents their response:


καὶ εἶπαν οἱ ἄνδρες τῆς πόλεως πρὸς Ιωας ἐξάγαγε τὸν υἱόν σου καὶ ἀποθανέτω ὅτι 
τὸ θυσιαστήριον τοῦ Βααλ καὶ ὅτι ἔκοψεν τὸ ἄλσος τὸ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ.


“And the men of the city said to Ioas, ‘Bring out your son, and let him die because he has destroyed the altar of Baal and cut down the nearby grove.’”


Though it never states how the men of the city got their intelligence (did they force, or cajole, one of the 10/13 to tell?), they are united in wanting Gideon’s death. Destruction of their god’s altar is a capital offense.  The next verse, v 31, presents a most interesting collection of thoughts about “justice,” with Recension A using three different verbs while Recension B uses the same verb three times.  Recension A:


καὶ εἶπεν Ιωας πρὸς τοὺς ἄνδρας τοὺς ἑσταμένους ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν μὴ ὑμεῗς νῦν δικάζεσθε 
περὶ τοῦ Βααλ ἢ ὑμεῗς σῴζετε αὐτόν ὃς ἀντεδίκησεν αὐτόν ἀποθανεῗται ἕως πρωί εἰ 
ἔστιν θεός αὐτὸς ἐκδικήσει αὐτόν ὅτι κατέσκαψεν τὸ θυσιαστήριον αὐτοῦ.


“And Ioas said to the men who were standing about him, ‘Will you make a judgment/act as judges concerning Baal’s matters? Or do you think you can save him? Whoever takes on the judgment of him/joins a suit against him (Gideon)—let him die in the morning. If he (Baal) indeed is a God, he will exact vengeance on him because he (Gideon) demolished his (Baal) altar.” 


Recension B has different forms of the same verb δικάζω in the three places where the δικ root appears in Recension A.  The translation of Recension B is similar: “Are you going to judge on Baal’s behalf? or will you save him (the future is used here while the present appears in Recension A)? Whoever brings a judgment against him (Gideon), let him die in the morning (because)  If he (Baal) is God, let him (Gideon) be judged by him (Baal), because he (Gideon) has destroyed his (Baal’s) altar.”  Note all the “he’s” in the last part of the verse in Recension B. At first they are hard to sort out, but should be read consistently with Recension A. 


The point of this interesting legal encounter is that if Baal is indeed a god, he can defend his own interests.  He doesn’t need humans to intervene for him.  This is a classic argument used elsewhere in the Old Testament against the power of idols.  They just stand there; they can’t harm anyone. It must mean they are impotent. So the same argument is used here. If Baal were powerful, he would defend his name.  Mere humans can’t “save” a deity. Note that the argument stays on the theological level—let Baal show his power, rather than on the personal or emotional level (‘He is my son, after all…’).  But Ioas wouldn’t have been the first, nor last, parent to use theological arguments to pursue very emotion-laden concerns.  Here he supports his son in this rather destructive act instead of supporting his companions.  Perhaps he does this a bit out of lingering guilt for “mixing” the worship of Yahweh with that of the local deity.


This part of the narrative ends with a kind of memorializing statement (verse 32):


καὶ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ Δικαστήριον τοῦ Βααλ ὅτι κατέσκαψεν τὸ 
θυσιαστήριον αὐτοῦ

“And he called it in that day ‘The Courthouse/Tribunal of Baal’ because he had demolished his altar.”


Recension B is fairly different:  “And he called it in that day ‘Jarbaal,” for he said, ‘Let Baal be judged in it because his altar was demolished.”


By the time we arrive at this point in the narrative we have a seemingly insignificant person chosen to lead the Israelites. His first act of obedience to the Lord is defended by his father.  But now the real tests will begin.

Judges 7:1-8

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