“Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod.”
In the previous chapter, the whining coward Gideon was challenged by the Angel of the Lord to tear down his own father’s altar to the foreign god, Baal. And in keeping with his cowardice, Gideon took his posse out to the altar and tore it down. At night. When nobody would see him. Obviously, people were going to see it when they got up the next morning, and it didn’t take these Sherlock Holmes characters too long to deduce that Gideon was guilty of this crime.
As is usually the case when one assaults a false god, its followers react with extreme violence. The men of the town wanted to kill Gideon, and they would have if his father hadn’t intervened. Ironically, Gideon’s father ended up exposing the fact that Baal was a no-god-at-all when he suggested that Baal should be able to fend for himself. Baal shouldn’t need the town hooligans to defend him if he’s so powerful, right? This obvious truth held back the wolves, but they did have one recourse: call Gideon a bad name (Jeubbaal). Basically, they were saying, “Gideon, Baal is gonna getchya…”
This is what makes the above verse so compelling to me: the biblical writer embraced this derogatory name as a sort of badge of honor, not a threat to be taken seriously. It’s as if he’s enjoying this new Gideon, this complaining coward who finally stepped up and confronted the object of Israel’s adulterous affections. Let Baal contend! Let the deceiving, false gods threaten and posture all they want! Those clothed in the Spirit of God (chapter 6) have no reason to be concerned. We have a different way of seeing the world (right?).
Where do we stand? Are we willing to assault the idols in our own households? Are we willing to confront idols that are dear to the hearts of those closest to us? If we’re like Gideon, we may gather support from our brethren and launch a “group effort” sneak attack. If we’re like Jesus – the true and better Gideon – we’ll win our victory publicly as our closest friends abandon us. The Angel of the Lord still shows up and challenges people hiding in wine presses…