Judges 6:1 - 8:3
The Midianites Fight Israel
Again the Israelites did what the Lord said was wrong. So for seven years the Lord allowed the Midianites to defeat the Israelites. The Midianites were very powerful and were cruel to the Israelites. So the Israelites made many hiding places in the mountains. They hid their food in caves and places that were hard to find. They did that because the Midianites and Amalekites from the east always came and destroyed their crops. They camped in the land and destroyed the crops that the Israelites had planted. They ruined the crops of the Israelites as far as the land near the city of Gaza. They did not leave anything for the Israelites to eat. They did not even leave them any sheep, cattle, or donkeys. The Midianites came with their families, animals, and tents. They were like a swarm of locusts! They and their camels were too many to count. They came into the land and ruined it. The Israelites became very poor because of the Midianites. So the Israelites cried to the Lord for help.
The Midianites did all these bad things, so the Israelites cried to the Lord for help. The Lord sent a prophet to them. He said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘You were slaves in the land of Egypt. I made you free and brought you out of that land. I saved you from the powerful Egyptians. Then the Canaanites hurt you, so I saved you again. I made them leave their land. And I gave their land to you.’ Then I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You will live in the land of the Amorites, but you must not worship their false gods.’ But you did not obey me.”
The Angel of the Lord Visits Gideon
One time the angel of the Lord came to a place called Ophrah and sat under an oak tree. This oak tree belonged to a man named Joash from the Abiezer family. His son Gideon was beating some wheat in a winepress. He was hiding so that the Midianites could not see the wheat. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord be with you, brave soldier.”
Then Gideon said, “Pardon me, sir, but if the Lord is with us, why are we having so many troubles? We heard that he did wonderful things for our ancestors. They tell us that the Lord took them out of Egypt. But now it seems the Lord has left us and is letting the Midianites defeat us.”
The Lord turned toward Gideon and said, “Then use your great power and go save the Israelites from the Midianites. I am sending you to save them.”
But Gideon answered and said, “Pardon me, sir. How can I save Israel? My family group is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the youngest one in my family.”
The Lord answered Gideon and said, “I will be with you, so you can defeat the Midianites as easily as if they were only one man.”
Then Gideon said to him, “If you would, please give me some proof that you really are the Lord. Please wait here. Don’t go away until I come back to you. Let me bring my offering and set it down in front of you.”
And the Lord said, “I will wait until you come back.”
So Gideon went in and cooked a young goat in boiling water. He also took about 20 pounds of flour and made bread without yeast. Then he put the meat into a basket and the broth from the meat into a pot. He brought out the meat, the broth, and the bread without yeast and gave them to the Lord under the oak tree.
The angel of God said to Gideon, “Put the meat and the bread on that rock over there. Then pour the broth on it.” Gideon did as he was told. The angel of the Lord had a walking stick in his hand. He touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick, and fire jumped up out of the rock and burned up the meat and the bread. Then the angel of the Lord disappeared.
Then Gideon realized that he had been talking to the angel of the Lord. So he shouted, “Oh, Lord God! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
But the Lord said to Gideon, “Calm down! Don’t be afraid! You will not die!”
So Gideon built an altar there to worship the Lord and named it “The Lord is Peace.” It still stands in the city of Ophrah, where the Abiezer family lives.
Gideon Tears Down the Altar of Baal
That same night the Lord said to Gideon, “Choose your father’s best bull, the one that is seven years old. First, use it to pull down the altar your father built to worship Baal. Also, cut down the Asherah pole beside the altar. Then build the right kind of altar for the Lord your God. Build it on this high ground. Then kill and burn the bull on this altar. Use the wood from the Asherah pole to burn your offering.”
So Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the Lord had told him to do. But Gideon was afraid that his family and the men of the city might see what he was doing, so he did it all at night, not in the daytime.
The men of the city got up the next morning and saw that the altar for Baal had been destroyed! They also saw that the Asherah pole had been cut down. It had been sitting next to the altar for Baal. They also saw the altar that Gideon had built. And they saw the bull that had been sacrificed on that altar.
The men of the city looked at each other and asked, “Who pulled down our altar? Who cut down our Asherah pole? Who sacrificed this bull on this new altar?” They asked many questions and tried to learn who did this.
Someone told them, “Gideon son of Joash did this.”
So the men of the city came to Joash and said, “You must bring your son out. He pulled down the altar for Baal, and he cut down the Asherah pole that was beside it. So your son must die.”
Then Joash spoke to the crowd that was standing around him. Joash said, “Are you going to take Baal’s side? Are you going to rescue Baal? If anyone takes Baal’s side, let him be put to death by morning. If Baal really is a god, let him defend himself when someone pulls down his altar.” Joash said, “If Gideon pulled Baal’s altar down, let Baal argue with him.” On that day Joash gave Gideon a new name. He called him Jerub-Baal.
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
The Midianites, Amalekites, and other people from the east joined together to fight against the Israelites. They went across the Jordan River and camped in the Jezreel Valley. The Spirit of the Lord filled Gideon. So Gideon blew a trumpet to call the family of Abiezer to follow him. He sent messengers to all the people of the tribe of Manasseh and told them to get their weapons and prepare for battle. Gideon also sent messengers to the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. The messengers took the same message to them. So they also went up to meet Gideon and his men.
Then Gideon said to God, “You said that you would help me save the Israelites. Give me proof. I will put a sheepskin on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the sheepskin, while all the ground is dry, I will know that you will use me to save Israel, as you said.”
And that is exactly what happened. Gideon got up early the next morning and squeezed the sheepskin. He was able to drain a bowl full of water from it.
Then Gideon said to God, “Don’t be angry with me. Let me ask just one more thing. Let me test you one more time with the sheepskin. This time let the sheepskin be dry, while the ground around it gets wet with dew.” That night God did that very thing. Just the sheepskin was dry, but the ground around it was wet with dew.
Early in the morning Jerub-Baal (Gideon) and all his men set up their camp at the spring of Harod. The Midianites were camped in the valley at the bottom of the hill called Moreh, north of Gideon and his men. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “I am going to help your men defeat the Midianites, but you have too many men. I don’t want the Israelites to forget me and brag that they saved themselves. So make an announcement to your men. Tell them, ‘Anyone who is afraid may leave Mount Gilead and go back home.’” At that time 22,000 men left Gideon and went back home, but 10,000 still remained.
Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take the men down to the water, and I will test them for you there. If I say, ‘This man will go with you,’ he will go. But if I say, ‘That one will not go with you,’ then he will not go.”
So Gideon led the men down to the water. There the Lord said to him, “Separate the men like this: Those who drink the water by using their tongue to lap it up like a dog will be in one group. And those who bend down to drink will be in the other group.”
There were 300 men who used their hands to bring water to their mouth and lapped it like a dog does. All the other people bent down and drank the water. The Lord said to Gideon, “I will use the 300 men who lapped the water like a dog. I will use them to save you, and I will allow you to defeat the Midianites. Let the other men go home.”
So Gideon sent the other men of Israel home. He kept the 300 men with him. Those 300 men kept the supplies and the trumpets of the other men who went home.
The Midianites were camped in the valley below Gideon’s camp. During the night the Lord spoke to Gideon and said, “Get up. I will let you defeat the Midianite army. Go down to their camp. If you are afraid to go alone, take your servant Purah with you. Go into the camp of the Midianites. Listen to what they are saying. After that you will not be afraid to attack them.” So Gideon and his servant Purah went down to the edge of the enemy camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites, and all the other people from the east were camped in that valley. There were so many people that they seemed like a swarm of locusts. It seemed like they had as many camels as there are grains of sand on the seashore.
Gideon came to the enemy camp, and he heard a man talking. That man was telling his friend about a dream that he had. He was saying, “I dreamed that a round loaf of bread came rolling into the camp of the Midianites. That loaf of bread hit the tent so hard that the tent turned over and fell flat.”
The man’s friend knew the meaning of the dream. He said, “Your dream can only have one meaning. Your dream is about that man from Israel. It is about Gideon son of Joash. It means that God will let Gideon defeat the whole army of Midian.”
After he heard the men talking about the dream and what it meant, Gideon bowed down to God. Then Gideon went back to the camp of the Israelites and called out to the people, “Get up! The Lord will help us defeat the Midianites.” Then Gideon divided the 300 men into three groups. He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar with a burning torch inside it.
Then Gideon told the men, “Watch me and do what I do. Follow me to the edge of the enemy camp. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do. You men surround the enemy camp. I and all the men with me will blow our trumpets. When we blow our trumpets, you blow your trumpets too. Then shout these words: ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”
So Gideon and the 100 men with him went to the edge of the enemy camp. They came there just after the enemy changed guards. It was during the middle watch of the night. Gideon and his men blew their trumpets and smashed their jars. Then all three groups of Gideon’s men blew their trumpets and smashed their jars. The men held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands. As they blew their trumpets, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and a sword for Gideon!” Gideon’s men stayed where they were. But inside the camp, the men of Midian began shouting and running away.
When Gideon’s 300 men blew their trumpets, the Lord caused the men of Midian to kill each other with their swords. The enemy army ran away to the city of Beth Shittah, which is toward the city of Zererah. They ran as far as the border of the city of Abel Meholah, which is near the city of Tabbath. Then soldiers from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and all of Manasseh were told to chase the Midianites.
Gideon sent messengers through all the hill country of Ephraim. The messengers said, “Come down and attack the Midianites. Take control of the river as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan River. Do this before the Midianites get there.”
So they called all men from the tribe of Ephraim. They took control of the river as far as Beth Barah. The men of Ephraim caught two of the Midianite leaders named Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at a place named the Rock of Oreb and Zeeb at a place named the Winepress of Zeeb. They continued chasing the Midianites, but first they cut off the heads of Oreb and Zeeb and took the heads to Gideon. Gideon was at the place where people cross the Jordan River.
The men of Ephraim were angry with Gideon. When they found him, they asked, “Why did you treat us this way? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight against the Midianites?”
But Gideon answered the men of Ephraim, “I have not done as well as you. You people of Ephraim have a much better harvest than my family, the Abiezers. At harvest time you leave more grapes in the vineyard than my family gathers! Isn’t that true? In the same way you have a better harvest now. God allowed you to capture Oreb and Zeeb, the leaders of Midian. How can I compare my success with what you did?” When the men of Ephraim heard Gideon’s answer, they were not as angry as they had been.
Holy Bible, English Standard Version,
as arranged in chronological order by F. Legard Smith