The Bible is not just a book of laws, stories, or pronouncements. It is also a piece of art. You will see it plainly in the poetry books, but as the story of Gideon begins, you can see it here plainly. Already, in the story of Deborah, we have been introduced to the notion of pairings: Deborah and Barak were paired against Jabin and Sisera. The story of Deborah is told twice, once in prose; again in poetry.
In the story of Gideon, you will notice that he has two names, tests God twice with fleece, faces Oreb and Zeeb on the west side of the Jordan and Zeba and Zalumma on the east side, builds two altars and makes two sacrifices. Two cities in the story are treated with vengance.
Why does God tell us the story this way?
Perhaps one reason is to test whether we are paying attention. It’s one thing to read the story. It is another to notice all the nuances that go with it. As with any relationship, the beginning is a matter of events. But as time goes on, other things, little things that give it color and make the relationship dear, interesting and memorable enter in. So it is with the Bible text.
The Gideon story is pivotal in this book. For the first time, a “judge” story begins with the rebuke of a prophet. Gideon’s background is less than stellar. His father is an idolator. He is the most faithless judge we have seen thus far and, though Israel returns to faithfulness after the work of the first four judges, she returns to idolatry after Gideon. In fact, he is the cause of the idolatry. Gideon is held up in the New Testament as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:32), but no one reading the story of Gideon critically would ever think of him as “faithful.”
Why the disconnect?
Jesus once commented that if we had an amount of faith the size of a mustard seed, we would be able to do the impossible. Though Gideon can be criticized for many things, he had at least that much faith. It shows us how patient and forgiving God can be, and comparing our lives with his, we can have hope.