“And the Angel of Yahweh came to sit under the Terebinth which is in Ophrah of Joash, father of the Ezrites, and Gideon, his son, was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide from the presence of the Midianites.”
The terebinth is a type of evergreen tree that grows to large sizes, which makes it an ideal landmark to which people can refer. For us, thousands of years later, it is perhaps not helpful to talk about a really big tree on so-in-so’s property, but in the time and day in which this was written, it gave a precise location that people could cross-reference for authenticity. When I was a youth, my parents’ property backed up against a large area of woodland and the other boys on the block and I had the area mapped out…there was the “big rock”, “the fallen tree limb”, “the swamp”, and “the stream.” To people outside of our little woodland playground, these terms did not mean a lot, but to we who knew the woods, these landmarks provided a precise map that we could follow. The same principle holds true regarding the Terebinth tree that happened to be on the property of Joash, which scholars place in the tribal region of Issachar.
What we find, then is that the Angel of the Lord comes to that place to make a statement that God is about to do a remarkable thing. While we do not know exactly where the winepress is located, but we can presume it is relatively near. The tree is a point of reference and maybe even a point of local meetings; the winepress is the destination of the Angel, who, as we have discussed before, is the pre-incarnate Son of God. Here, we discover Gideon, Joash’s son, beating out the wheat to make bread, but in hiding.
Gideon is often given a great deal of grief for his hiding, but it is likely the kind of thing that everyone was doing in his day and age — seeking to hide from the Midianite hordes. And before we lay blame on him, let us remind ourselves of how often we are guilty of essentially doing the same…keeping our heads down and our faith private because of the fear of challenges that would come from others in our communities. Yet, shall we fear God or fear man? That is the question we must be willing to confront…often on a daily basis.