The Agora
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Dew and the fleece, the

It would seem that Gideon was justified in asking a visible sign of God's favor, as were such men as Abraham (Gen 15:8), Moses (Exo 33:16-18), and Hezekiah (2Ki 20:8). Such requests do not indicate a lack of faith, but a strong faith; we have only to contrast the requests of the righteous men just mentioned with the indifferent and sarcastic rejection by Ahaz of a similar opportunity (Isa 7:11-13).

Such signs given to righteous men did more than demonstrate the great power of God; they also appealed to faith in the significance of the miracles. In the same manner Christ's miracles of healing were not just to show his physical power; they also manifested his moral excellence and the spiritual power of Deity to heal those who are "blind" to truth and "lame" because of sin.

Does the extraordinary miracle, or rather miracles, of Gideon's fleece have a similar spiritual or prophetic meaning? I believe that it does, and offer here the outline of an interpretation.


"And Gideon said unto God, 'If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and dry upon all the earth, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel...' " (Jdg 6:36,37).
Dew symbolizes the favor of the king, softly descending from the "heavens" upon the "earth" beneath (Pro 19:12). It is contrasted with the king's wrath, which is as the roaring of a lion. Dew is associated with the manna (Num 11:9), by which God brought the blessing of life to the wilderness wanderers. Like the dew, and like the mercies of God, the manna was new and fresh every morning (Lam 3:22,23). Dew is silent but irresistible, like the angelic army of Yahweh; the whole host of Midian could stand on the hills of Israel, their swords drawn and their shields raised, but the dew of heaven would descend just the same. Finally, and most important, the dew portrays the beauty and joy of resurrection:

"Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of lights" (Isa 26:19).

"In the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy birth" (Psa 110:3).
Fleece is the "fruit" of the sheep, or typically the perfect works of Christ, the lamb of God. The wool or fleece of the sheep becomes a garment for others, even as the righteousness of God in Christ becomes a covering for our "nakedness". This was prefigured in Yahweh's provision of garments for Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21); quite possibly the coats were of a lamb and included the fleece also. "As a sheep before her shearers" (Isa 53:7) was Christ before Pilate and the centurions -- perfectly silent and submissive to the Father's will in an unpleasant process.

"And it was so; for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water" (v 38).
Christ's rising up early in the morning produced the water of life, wrung out of his sacrificial experience as a "sheep before her shearers". Christ was from the beginning the manna that came down from heaven with the divine favor upon it. This divine favor was further intensified when God raised him from the dead with the dew of a renewed life, after a sacrificial submission to the shearing process.

The water was stored in a bowl. This is very similar to the storing of the manna in a vessel in the ark (Exo 16:33; Heb 9:4; cp Rev 2:17), a visible proof of the divine favor and deliverance. Perhaps Gideon used the water thus preserved as a tangible demonstration of God's promised blessing of the 300 warriors as they prepared for the ensuing battle.

"And Gideon said unto God, 'Let not Thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once; let me prove, I pray Thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.' And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground" (vv 39,40).
The first miracle saw the dew of divine favor and resurrection upon the "fleece" (Christ) only, for he was the firstfruits of them that sleep. But the second miracle finds the dew on all the ground, symbolic of the saints. The symbolism here is comparable to the blood sprinkled upon the altar (Christ -- Heb 13:10) and upon the ground round about (Lev 4:7; 5:9; etc), which represented the saints (Rev 6:9).

Since the ground upon which Gideon placed the fleece was the threshing-floor converted from a winepress (Jdg 6:11, RSV; Jdg 6:37), then there might still have been grain upon it; the dew upon the grain thus signifying the favorable ingathering of the harvest. (Both threshing and wine-pressing are figures of judgment.) The winepress/threshing-floor was a place of hiding from the Gentile armies (v 11), as will be the scene of resurrectional judgment in the future.

The two signs of the fleece and the dew are a logical part of the prophetic development of Gideon's career. These signs of resurrection are followed in Judges 7 by a "judgment" parable (with the selection of the 300 who lapped rather than bowing down), and at last by the typical overthrow of Midian the enemy of Israel.

The Fleece of Psalm 72:6

The word translated "fleece" (Hebrew "gizzah") is literally "that which is cut" -- whether it be wool, grass, or hair (from the root "gahzaz" = to cut or shear). The identical word appears in Psa 72:6, where it is translated "mown grass", but might just as well be "fleece". This brings us to consider this Messianic psalm of the kingdom as in some way related to the time of Gideon. Consider the following parallels:

Psa 72
Christ the true "One man", ruling in strength and wisdom, his saints with him as "one man" (1Co 12:12) in spirit and purpose, the anti-typical Gideon and his 300.
Jdg 6-8
"As one man" (6:16) -- the man of Yahweh, a man of valor (v 12): Gideon and his divinely-chosen army.
"Unto the king's son"
"As thou art... the children of a king"
"He shall judge"

Gideon was a judge
"Mountains shall bring peace"
Dwelling in mountains and dens
"The poor and needy" (cp vv 12-14)
"My family is poor"
"Break in pieces the oppressor"
The Midianite oppressors
Rain (not just dew) on the fleece and then on the earth (note the order).
Gideon's two miracles
"Bow... lick the dust..."
"...Subdued... lift up heads no more..."
Gold, presents of Sheba
Gold earrings of Ishmaelites
Handfuls of grain
Gideon threshing grain
"The fruit thereof shall shake like (the cedars of) Lebanon."
The meager "barley-cake" of Gideon and his 300 would multiply greatly in strength, (and other factors) to rout the Midianites.

Considering the epilogue of v 20 (and other factors), Psa 72 seems to be from David's last days. It might thus have been composed shortly after the incident recorded in 2Sa 24, where David numbered Israel -- possibly for military purposes. For this presumption David was punished, or more precisely the nation was punished severely. As He had done with Gideon's 32,000 (Jdg 7), so God did again, thinning the proud ranks of Israel's army. (In the latter-day campaigns of Israel, particularly the "Yom Kippur" War, might we not be seeing the same judgment a third time?) Thus God teaches us that He needs not man's numbers to effect deliverance, but can act as "One Man" (or with one man) when the occasion arises.

In 2Sa 24, an angel met David on Mount Moriah in a threshing-floor (just as an angel had met Gideon). And David (just as Gideon) built an altar and the threat against Israel was turned aside. We see then the parallel lesson in these two periods of history: we are never to trust in numbers, but rather in the "One Man", the mighty Yahweh, a majority of one! For the God of Israel can save by many or by few, or even by one -- the one man Christ: Christ was the preeminent lamb of God, the sheep before its shearers. Other men in the face of suffering either confessed their guilt (as David) or complained (as Job). Christ was the only man who remained perfectly silent at the prospect of "shearing" (Isa 53:7), leaving us an example (1Pe 2:21-23), and thereby providing a covering for all men.

And so David looked past his son Solomon to his greater son -- who will bring peace at last to a troubled world, peace and blessing as the abundant dew upon the fleece and upon the threshing-floor.

The Shearers

"A sheep before her (or his) shearers (or shearer)"? The perceptive reader will have noticed definite differences between the original statement in Isa 53:7 and its citation in Acts 8:32:

Isa 53:7
Sheep (Heb "rachel" = ewe)
Her (its: RSV)
Shearers (plural)
Isa 53:7 (LXX)
Lamb (Gr "amnos")
Shearer (singular)
Acts 8:32
Lamb (Gr "amnos")
His (its: RSV)
Shearer (singular)

The Old Testament prophecy definitely has the female gender: "Rachel" can mean only a ewe (cp Isa 53:7, NEB). Perhaps the female aspect simply stresses the passive nature of submission. Or perhaps a clue to its usage is in the sacrificial difference: The sin-offering for a ruler was a male kid, but the sin-offering for commoners was a female kid or lamb (Lev 4:23,32). The rulers of Israel were not to benefit from the humiliation and suffering they inflicted upon Christ, but the common people, who had heard him gladly (Mark 12:37), were to be cleansed by his offering for sin.

The Greek word "amnos" may refer either to male or female. In keeping with Isaiah's obvious intent, however, the female figure should predominate; as for pronouns, "her" or even "the" or "its" would be preferable to "his".

It appears also that "shearers" (plural) has a significance that the singular word does not, as we shall see. If so, then why are the Septuagint and the New Testament translations (AV, RSV, NEB) singular? Maybe it is only in a general sense, without regard to who or how many are performing the shearing. Therefore a better translation might be "a sheep before (in the face of) shearing" or "a sheep to be sheared".

The use of the plural -- "shearers" -- seems relevant when the other instances of the word are considered: Only four men in the Bible are said to have employed shearers. They are:

  1. Laban (Gen 31:19);
  2. Judah (Gen 38:12,13);
  3. Nabal (1Sa 25:2,4,7,11); and
  4. Absalom (2Sa 13:23,24).
Not one of the four was spoken of as a shearer personally, but each had shearers working for him. (The Jewish elite class was the "shearer" of Christ, but the actual operation was performed by the "employed" Romans.)

Not one of the four mentioned above was a righteous man. In fact, in each case the employer of the shearers had at the time of shearing some evil intention toward a protagonist: respectively, Jacob, Tamar, David, and Amnon. These malevolent designs never worked out quite as intended:

  1. Laban intended to cheat the promised seed of his rightful property, but Jacob finally left him, taking great wealth and Laban's two daughters.
  2. Judah sought only to satisfy his lusts with a harlot, but inadvertently fulfilled the Levirate function and fathered a son in the Messianic line.
  3. Nabal boldly and contemptuously denied the rightfully anointed king. For his arrogance, however, he lost his life, his wife, and his property.
  4. Absalom clothed his royal ambitions in the cloak of righteous vengeance, but the outcome of Amnon's murder was Absalom's own loss of favor and exile.
All of this reminds us very much of the antitypical "shearing" of Christ: Sheep-shearing was generally performed in the spring, at Passover time; it was a season of great rejoicing (1Sa 25:2-13; 2Sa 13:23-29).

But for a certain sort of man it was also the time for theft, lust, greed, and murder. And so the leaders of Israel, at the last true Passover of their nation, blindly plotted to fulfill this unnoticed Scriptural type of "shearing"; to steal from the Anointed One his rightful title, to fulfill the lusts of their flesh in attaining political supremacy, to protect their treasured gains, and to murder the supposed rival for the Father's affections. "Now shall the inheritance be ours!" But it could not be, and in the denouement of the tragedy and subsequent triumph, men like Peter and Stephen and Paul confronted the Jews with the foreordained outcome of their evil intentions:

"Him... ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain... (but now) let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:23,36).

"The Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers... (but now) I see... the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:52,56).

"And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead" (Acts 13:29,30).
The words of Joseph to his brethren might well have been those of Christ to his brethren: the lamb "sheared" by wicked hands, but upon whose "fleece" descended the "dew" of divine favor and resurrection:

"As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good... to save much people alive" (Gen 50:20).
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