Gideon, Dew, and the Narrative-Geographical Shaping of Judges 6:33-40 -- By: John A. Beck
BSac 165:657 (January-March 2008) p. 28
Gideon, Dew, and the Narrative-Geographical Shaping of Judges 6:33-40
John A. Beck is a consultant with Bible World Seminars,
Selective reduction is a critical part of effective storytelling. Since an event consists of many more details than the story that flows from it, the biblical authors, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, practiced selective reduction, employing only those details from the historical event that would match their rhetorical and theological intentions. While this pro-cess of selection means that many details of the event were omitted, it also guarantees that every detail that makes the transition between event and account plays a role in delivering the message of the account. No detail, not even the mention of dew, should escape thoughtful consideration.
As Gideon was empowered by the Spirit of God (Judg. 6:34) and commissioned to lead the attack against invaders who had blanketed the agricultural fields of Israel, the reader encounters a scene drenched in dew. After mustering several tribes for battle, Gideon asked for a specific sign from God, a sign that involved the manipulation of dewfall. In the four verses that summarize this event from the life of Gideon (vv. 37–40), dew is mentioned four times. Given that emphasis, important questions follow. Why would Gideon have requested the manipulation of dew rather than some other sign? How does involvement of dew help deliver the message of this story? What does dew have to do with the request of Gideon?
Dew in Ancient and Recent Literature
Given all the books, commentaries, and articles written about Gideon, it is surprising to find this question largely unaddressed.
BSac 165:657 (January-March 2008) p. 29
An exception, however, was writers in the early church and the Middle Ages who provided fanciful interpretations for the mention of dew in this story. Using the allegorical method, early church fathers like Ambrose and Augustine said the dew represents the Word of God, which entered the fleece, the people of Israel. The disobedience of Israel led to the evaporation of this privilege, which was subsequently extended to the Gentiles, who are represented by the dew-drenched threshing floor. Others like Anthony of Padua taught that the dew entering the fleece symbolized the way Jesus entered the womb of the Virgin Mary.1
In contrast to the attention given to dew by these early Christian commentators, more recent commentators using diachronic approaches seldom touch the to...
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