Many people have heard of Gideon, or at least they have heard of Gideon’s Bible, but they really don’t know much about him.
We are initially intruduced to him in the Book of Judges. The Israelites had turned away from God, evoking his displeasure. They had embraced false gods, like Baal, and God gave them over to the Midianites, who lived in the desert east of Israel.
The Midianites defeated two of tribes of Israel from the middle of the country, Ephraim and Manasseh. For seven years the Midianites came in at the harvest and took away all of their crops, leaving the Israelites without food for themselves and their livestock.
The Midianites also brought in their own cattle and animals that ate the grass that was left over. The Israelites were driven out of their villages and forced to take refuge in caves. Any crops they could raise and salvage needed to be protected, so they would burry them, or place them in empty wine presses.
Angel comes to Gideon
An Angel of the Lord visited Gideon, who was busy threshing out wheat in a hidden place. The angel said something remarkable:
“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
Israelites must turn away from false gods
But there was an important task the Lord wanted completed. God wanted the Israelites to turn away from worshiping their false gods, Baal and Asherah. Even Gideon’s father, Joash, had built an alter to Baal.
Gideon took a group of men out at night and destroyed the alters to the false gods and replaced them with alters to the one true God.
Gideon’s father, upon seeing the destruction of the alter he built, spoke to the rest of the clan, who were furious and demanding Gideon’s death. Joash suggested they let Baal kill him. When Ball was unable to kill Gideon, the people began to turn back to God.
When the Midianites heard of this, a large army was assembled to take revenge. Gideon himself had a large army, but God told him to thin out his ranks and send away those who were afraid. Some went home, but the Lord told Gideon that the army was still too large.
Taking the Lord’s instruction, he led the army to a body of water. Some through down their swords and shields, went to their knees and drank, while others held on to their swords and shields, reaming ready for attack.
Those who remained ready for the attack were the ones Gideon kept to go into battle, only about 300 men to take on an opposing army of 10,000.
God had other plans
The men were ready for a great battle, but God had other plans. The Midianite army was camped out. Gideon took one of his men and went to the edge of the camp, where he overheard a discussion.
One of the Midaniates told a fellow solider that he had a dream that Gideon, a man of Israel, would come down and destroy this army, because the Lord God has given all of us into his hands. This was welcomed news for Gideon.
Even though the Midianite army was much larger, they were afraid of Gideon. He didn’t need a large army, just enough men to do exactly what they were told to do.
A pitcher and a trumpet
Gideon gave each man a lamp, a pitcher and a trumpet. The lamps were lighted and placed inside the pitchers, so they could not be seen.
He divided his men into three companies and led them down to mountain to the Midianite camp and ordered them to surround the camp. At the precise moment, a great shout from the 300 men came down:
“The sword of the Lord and Gideon!”
Then came the crash of the pitchers breaking and a flash of light from every direction.
Midianites destroyed themselves
The Midianites were terrified. They tried to escape without fighting, but in every direction, there were Gideon’s men with swords drawn. The Midianites trampled each other trying to flee.
Every Midianite was killed while trying to run to the Jordan River. Gideon anticipated the Midianites trying to turn towards their homeland, but he cut them off.
Those who did escape would soon encounter the Ephraminites and many more were killed. Never again would the Midianites venture off their lands to take on the tribes of Israel.
The Ephraminites, who occupied the center of the land, were very powerful. They were not pleased with Gideon and wanted to know why Gideon did not seek their help. But Gideon gently told them that they had killed thousands of Midianites. He added:
“What could my men have done without your help?”
Gideon reminded them that they had taken the Midianite princes Oreb and Zeeb in the battle. His words were well received.
Gideon became judge over Israel
After this event, as long as Gideon lived, he was a judge over Israel. They wanted to make him king, but Gideon said no and told them:
“The Lord God is King of Israel. No one but God shall be king over these tribes.”
Gideon was the fifth of 15 judges to rule over Israel and regarded as having the most wisdom, courage and faith in God. Gideon is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a man of great faith.
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