And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
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Ambrose of Milan
But what does this mean: “Until the day on which the Lord shall send rain on the earth”? except that he, too, “shall come down like rain upon a fleece, and like the drops that water the earth.” In this passage the mystery of the old history is disclosed where Gideon, the warrior of the mystic conflict, receiving the pledge of future victory, recognized the spiritual sacrament in the vision of his mind, that that rain was the dew of the divine Word, which first came down on the fleece, when all the earth was parched with continual drought, and by a second true sign, moistened the floor of all the earth with a shower, while dryness was upon the fleece. - "Concerning Widows 3.18"
Someone perhaps will enquire whether Gideon does not seem to have been lacking in faith, seeing that after being instructed by many signs he asked [for] still more. But how can he seem to have asked as if doubting or lacking in faith, who was speaking in mysteries? He was not doubtful then, but careful so that we would not doubt. For how could he be doubtful whose prayer was effectual? And how could he have begun the battle without fear, unless he had understood the message of God? For the dew on the fleece signified the faith among the Jews, because the words of God come down like the dew. - "On the Holy Spirit 1, Prologue 6"
Nor was it without a reason that he put the fleece neither in a field nor in a meadow, but in a threshing floor, where the harvest of the wheat is: “For the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few;” because, through faith in the Lord, there was about to be a harvest fruitful in virtues. - "On the Holy Spirit 1, Prologue 10"
Nor, again, was it without a reason that he dried the fleece of the Jews and put the dew from it into a basin, so that it was filled with water, yet he did not himself wash his feet in that dew. The prerogative of so great a mystery was to be given to another. He was being waited for who alone could wash away the filth of all. Gideon was not great enough to claim this mystery for himself, but “the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister.” Let us, then, recognize in whom these mysteries are seen to be accomplished. Not in holy Gideon, for they were still at their commencement. Therefore the Gentiles were surpassed, for dryness was still upon the Gentiles, and therefore did Israel surpass them, for then did the dew remain on the fleece.
Let us come now to the gospel of God. I find the Lord stripping himself of his garments and girding himself with a towel, pouring water into a basin, and washing the disciples’ feet. That heavenly dew was this water, this was foretold, na...
“And he shall come down like rain into a fleece, and like drops distilling upon the earth.” He has reminded and admonished us that what was done by Gideon the judge has its end in Christ. He asked the Lord for a sign, that a fleece laid on the floor should alone be rained upon and the floor should be dry; and again, that the fleece alone should be dry and the floor should be rained upon; and so it happened. This dry fleece, which lay upon a floor in the midst of the whole round world, signified the former people Israel. Therefore, Christ came down like rain upon the fleece while the floor remained dry; concerning this he said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” There [in Israel] he selected a mother through whom he would receive the [bodily] form of a servant in order to appear to humanity: there he gave this command to the disciples, saying, “Don’t go in the direction of the nations or enter into the cities of the Samaritans: go first to the lost sheep of the ...
But some, like the Jews in former times, both wish to be called Christians, and—still ignorant of God’s righteousness—desire to establish their own, even in our own times of open grace, of the full revelation of grace that was previously hidden, that is, in the times of grace now manifested in the floor, which had before lay hidden in the fleece.… Gideon, one of the righteous men of old, asked for a sign from the Lord, and said, “I pray, Lord, that this fleece which I put on the floor would be wet with dew, and that the floor would be dry.” And it was so. The fleece was wet with dew while the whole floor was dry. In the morning he wrung out the fleece in a basin—since grace is given to the humble—and you know what the Lord did to his disciples [with water] in a basin. He asked for yet another sign: “O Lord, I [pray] that the fleece would be dry, and the floor wet with dew.” And it was so. Consider how, in the time of the Old Testament, grace was hidden in a cloud, as the rain in the fl...
What did Gideon’s fleece signify? It is like the nation of the Jews in the midst of the world, which had the grace of sacraments, not indeed openly manifested, but hidden in a cloud or in a veil, like the dew in the fleece. The time came when the dew was to be manifested in the floor; it was manifested, no longer hidden. Christ alone is the sweetness of dew: him alone you do not recognize in Scripture, for whom Scripture was written. But yet, “they have heard all the words of your mouth.” - "Explanations of the Psalms 138.7"
Again on this subject it is written: “For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the law, the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.” When he says “made manifest” he shows that it had existed but was like the dew for which Gideon asked; then it was not visible on the fleece, but now it is made manifest on the ground around. Therefore, since law without grace could only strengthen rather than kill sin—as it is written: “The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law”—and as many flee to grace for refuge from the face of sin which had been so enthroned, to grace lying manifest, as it were, on the ground, so at that time few fled to it [grace] for refuge, invisible as it were, on the fleece. Indeed, this division of times belongs to the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God, of which it is said: “How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” - "Letter 177"
Now, although Gideon was brave and confident, still he sought fuller proofs of victory from the Lord, saying, “If indeed you are going to save Israel through me, as you promised, O Lord, I am putting this woolen fleece on the threshing floor. If dew comes on the fleece, while all the ground is dry, I shall know that you will save the people through me, as you promised.” That is what took place. Afterwards, he added that the second time dew should pour over all the ground and only the fleece be dry; and so it happened. The dew on the fleece was faith in Judea, for the words of God descend as dew; for this reason Moses says, “May my discourse be awaited like the rain, and my words descend like the dew.” Thus, when the whole world was dried up from the unproductive heat of Gentile superstition, then there was the dew of a heavenly visitation upon the fleece, that is, in Judea. However, after “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (foreshadowing, I think, the figure of the fleece of the J...
Ground. In these two miracles the Fathers observe, that the fleece represented the Jewish nation, favoured with so many graces, while the rest of the world was dry and barren; and that, when the latter was watered with dew from heaven, by the coming of Jesus Christ, the Synagogue was deprived of those favours. (Origen, hom. viii.; Theodoret, q. 14.; St. Jerome, ad Paulin.; St. Augustine;)
In the first miracle we may also contemplate, the incarnation of our Saviour , Psalm lxxi. 6. (St. Bernard, serm.; St. Jerome, epist. Paul.) (Calmet)
The truth of the Lord reaches even to the clouds. The clouds are the apostles and prophets; to them he gave the command not to rain upon Israel. This is in agreement with history as recorded in the book of Judges, where it speaks of the fleece that was dry while rain fell upon the rest of the world. It means that Israel is dry and the rain is pouring down over the whole world. - "Homilies on the Psalms 24 (Ps 96)"
Rightly, then, do we compare Mary with fleece—she who conceived the Lord in such a way that she absorbed him with her whole body; nor did she undergo a rending of that same body, but she was tender in submission and firm in chastity. Rightly, I say, is Mary compared with fleece—she from whose offspring saving garments are woven for the people. Clearly Mary is fleece since from her tender womb came forth the Lamb who himself, bearing his mother’s wool (that is, flesh), covers the wounds of all peoples with a soft fleece. For every wound of sin is covered with the wool of Christ, tended by the blood of Christ, and, so that it may receive health, clothed in the garment of Christ. - "Sermon 97.3"