Walter Breuggemann begins his chapter in “A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament,” on the “Rise of the Monarchy,” by discussing the story of Gideon. In our American History, our ancestors compared themselves to the ancient Hebrews.
There are interesting corollaries and the story of Gideon is one of them. There are also clear distinctions. The Canaanites were the economically superior culture, although in the Hebrew telling, morally inferior. Our Native Americans were still hunter-gatherers, inferior in Western thinking, but in all so many ways, truly morally superior. This writer is Scotch-Irish/German.
Gideon plays the role of George Washington and plays it well. Gideon tells God, “Please, Kyrie, how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” Judges 6:25 mentions the altar of Gideon’s father and the asherah beside it. Implied is that it is his father’s asherah.
Judges 6:27 tells us how Gideon has ten servants. This is the first clue that Gideon and his family were not the poorest people in Manasseh. They had at least ten servants, presumably poorer than they were.
Gideon had 70 sons, and many wives. This can make one poor, but it also presupposes he had the financial ability to take care of this extended family. Judges 7:1 and Judges 8:29 and verse 35 also tell us how Gideon’s real name was Jerubbaal. That is, “Warrior of Baal.” “Hannibal,” from Carthage who wages war with the Romans is John/Graciousness of Baal.” This tells us something of the religion of Gideon’s father as well. “Gideon” also means warrior. After his transformational experience, Gideon translates his name to remove “Baal.”
Gideon chops down the proverbial cherry tree. This gives another clue as to his family finances. His father does not complain about the loss of the tree. The neighbors do. This must have been one huge oak tree. Its loss disgruntled the whole neighborhood. Terebinth is a type of oak tree. It also takes ten men to cut the stupid thing down. The story has striking corollaries to Abraham and the angels in Genesis 18. He is by his oak tree, a fatted calf is sacrificed, and Gideon displays considerable negotiation skills for a member of the poorest family in Manasseh.
This brings us to another example of how Gideon is so much like George Washington. George Washington did not want to be commander in chief of the American Army, but went to the continental congress everyday with his uniform on. Gideon does not want to be king, but names his son “Abimelech,” “My Dad is king,” two short verses later.
This brings us to another place where Israel at the time of King Saul and King David were so much like our own. Walter Breuggemann in his chapter on the “Rise of the Monarchy,” in “A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament,” mentions how times were changing during the time of King Saul and King David.
On page 229 of the text, Walter Breuggemann gives us a chart with some very interesting dates, 1961 and 1993. The first date is the date John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President. The second date is the date Bill Clinton became President. Like each of these two presidents, King David had a great domestic policy, and a not so good home life. JFK and King David also had great foreign policies.
Mr. Breuggemann does not discuss these dates. He discusses the reigns David becomes king/ melech at Hebron and over all Israel. King David takes the reins of power at the end of the late Bronze Age. He dies in the beginning of the Iron Age. Mr. Breuggemann relates how during the reins of Gideon and King/Molech Saul, the main enemies were city-states. King David must wage war with nation states. Nation states did exist before King Saul. We need look no further than Egypt and the Hittites.
Mr. Breuggemann is correct in pointing out how the times were changing and Israel would have to change with them if they were to survive. In addition, the early ‘60s were a time of great change. Because of World War II and its aftermath, America found itself in the role of major world power in geo-politics. The world was watching as the students said in Chicago in ’68.