What’s the deal with Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6:36-40? This passage is one of those strange ones in the Old Testament that makes you wonder how we are to apply it to our lives. Here’s the summary:
Midian and other pagan nations gather together, cross the Jordan River, and camp at the Jezreel Valley. The battle is set between this pagan nation and God’s people, Israel. The Spirit of the Lord is empowering Gideon and God’s people gather when Gideon sounds the trumpet and sends messengers to bring them in. This is going to be a big battle!
You would think that Gideon would be fully confident because God already told him that He would save Israel through Gideon. But instead, Gideon asks for another sign (God has already been gracious to give some) that God would do what He said He would do. He asks him twice to perform a sign with a fleece he lays down. First, to put all of the dew on the fleece and not on the ground around it. Second, all the dew on the ground but not on the fleece.
Gideon is testing God. And that was a sin. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16, ESV). Gideon must have known this because he asks the Lord in verse 39 to not be angry with him! In fact, there is only one time the Lord says it’s okay to test him, and that is with bringing in the tithe and seeing God’s blessing (Malachi 3:10).
This passage is an example of a descriptive passage (explaining what happened, not necessarily endorsing it), not a prescriptive passage (command). We know it is a descriptive passage because Gideon is committing a sin and he even knows it.
Some people ask the Lord for a supernatural sign of some kind before stepping out in faith. But He has already given us His Word! The whole time someone might be asking for a sign, the Lord has already given guidance for the right things that are to be done. Some believe that there will be a new revelation from God, something outside of his already-complete Scripture (the 66 books of the Bible), and they cherish that false idea more than the truth that God has already given to them.
Just because Gideon put out a fleece and God answered his request to make it wet and the ground dry does not mean that this is how God speaks to everyone. Don’t think that you need the Bible and your fleeces (or just your fleeces) to hear God speak. God was gracious to Gideon–his was a very specific situation of a timid servant needing some reassurance.
Let’s put our trust in the Lord and His Word and not in signs.