And it came to pass the same night
The night which followed the day in which the angel appeared to Gideon as he was threshing:
that the Lord said unto him;
perhaps in a dream, since it was in the night: take thy father's young bullock: or "the bullock, the ox" F16; a bullock which was a large grown ox, and was not only his father's property, but what his father designed and set apart for the service of Baal; and though it was his father's, yet having a divine warrant for it, it was sufficient for him to take it without his leave, and especially as it was designed for such an ill use:
even the second bullock of seven years old;
which, according to Hesiod
F17 is in its prime and full strength at nine years old, and lives much longer. In Homer F18, one of five years old is said to be sacrificed: this further describes what he was to take, the second that stood in the stall of the bullocks, or that drew in the second row at plough, or the second in age and value, or the second that was set apart for the service of Baal; though the words may be rendered, "and the second bullock" F19; besides that of his father's, he was to take another, which perhaps belonged to the people, and was the second in birth or age with respect to the former, being seven years old; or, as the Targum is, that had been fatted seven years, and had been so long preparing for the sacrifice of Baal; which was as long as the tyranny of the Midianites over them, and was occasioned by the idolatry of the people of Israel; and such a bullock was ordered to be taken with respect to that, and to show that it would end with the sacrifice of this creature:
and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath;
upon his ground, in some part of his possessions, and perhaps built at his own expense, though for public use:
and cut down the grove that is by it;
or "about it", as the Vulgate Latin version; it being usual with the Heathens to plant groves near or around their altars and temples where religious worship was performed; partly to make them more pleasant and venerable, and partly for the commission of deeds which would not bear the light; or "over it", for they were commonly tall trees which grew over the altar they erected. Some render it, "upon it" F20, and understand by it an idol placed on it: so the Arabic version is,
``cut down the female idol Asira (perhaps the same with Astarte), which is upon the same altar;''and so the Syriac version to the same purpose, which calls it the idol Estere, set upon the altar.
F16 (rwvx rp) "juvencum bovem", Drusius; "juvencum adultiorem", Junius & Tremellius.
F17 Opera & dies, l. 2. ver. 54. 55.
F18 Iliad. 2. ver. 403. & Iliad. 7. ver. 35.
F19 (rpw) "et juvencum alium", Tigurine version; "et alterum taurum", V. L. "et juvencum secundum", Pagninus, Montanus.
F20 (wyle) (ep' anto) , Sept. "super illud", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius.