1Once again the people of Israel sinned against the LORD, so he let the people of Midian rule them for seven years. 2The Midianites were stronger than Israel, and the people of Israel hid from them in caves and other safe places in the hills. 3Whenever the Israelites sowed any seed, the Midianites would come with the Amalekites and the desert tribes and attack them. 4They would camp on the land and destroy the crops as far south as the area round Gaza. They would take all the sheep, cattle, and donkeys, and leave nothing for the Israelites to live on. 5They would come with their livestock and tents, as thick as locusts. They and their camels were too many to count. They came and devastated the land, 6and Israel was helpless against them.
7Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help against the Midianites, 8and he sent them a prophet who brought them this message from the LORD, the God of Israel: “I brought you out of slavery in Egypt. 9I rescued you from the Egyptians and from the people who fought against you here in this land. I drove them out as you advanced, and I gave you their land. 10I told you that I am the LORD your God and that you should not worship the gods of the Amorites, whose land you are now living in. But you did not listen to me.”
11Then the LORD's angel came to the village of Ophrah and sat under the oak tree that belonged to Joash, a man of the clan of Abiezer. His son Gideon was threshing some wheat secretly in a winepress, so that the Midianites would not see him. 12The LORD's angel appeared to him there and said, “The LORD is with you, brave and mighty man!”
13Gideon said to him, “If I may ask, sir, why has all this happened to us if the LORD is with us? What about all the wonderful things that our fathers told us the LORD used to do — how he brought them out of Egypt? The LORD has abandoned us and left us to the mercy of the Midianites.”
14Then the LORD ordered him, “Go with all your great strength and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I myself am sending you.”
15Gideon replied, “But LORD, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family.”
16The LORD answered, “You can do it because I will help you. You will crush the Midianites as easily as if they were only one man.”
17Gideon replied, “If you are pleased with me, give me some proof that you are really the LORD. 18Please do not leave until I bring you an offering of food.”
He said, “I will stay until you come back.”
19So Gideon went into his house and cooked a young goat and used ten kilogrammes of flour to make bread without any yeast. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, brought them to the LORD's angel under the oak tree, and gave them to him. 20The angel ordered him, “Put the meat and the bread on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” Gideon did so. 21Then the LORD's angel reached out and touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick he was holding. Fire came out of the rock and burnt up the meat and the bread. Then the angel disappeared.
22Gideon then realized that it was the LORD's angel he had seen, and he said in terror, “Sovereign LORD! I have seen your angel face to face!”
23But the LORD said to him, “Peace. Don't be afraid. You will not die.” 24Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it “The LORD is Peace”. (It is still standing at Ophrah, which belongs to the clan of Abiezer.)
25That night the LORD told Gideon, “Take your father's bull and another bull seven years old, tear down your father's altar to Baal, and cut down the symbol of the goddess Asherah, which is beside it. 26Build a well-constructed altar to the LORD your God on top of this mound. Then take the second bull and burn it whole as an offering, using for firewood the symbol of Asherah you have cut down.” 27So Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the LORD had told him. He was too afraid of his family and the people of the town to do it by day, so he did it at night.
28When the people of the town got up early the next morning, they found that the altar to Baal and the symbol of Asherah had been cut down, and that the second bull had been burnt on the altar that had been built there. 29They asked each other, “Who did this?” They investigated and found out that Gideon son of Joash had done it. 30Then they said to Joash, “Bring your son out here, so that we can kill him! He tore down the altar to Baal and cut down the symbol of Asherah beside it.”
31But Joash said to all those who confronted him, “Are you standing up for Baal? Are you defending him? Anyone who stands up for him will be killed before morning. If Baal is a god, let him defend himself. It is his altar that was torn down.” 32From then on Gideon was known as Jerubbaal, because Joash said, “Let Baal defend himself; it is his altar that was torn down.”
33Then all the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the desert tribes assembled, crossed the River Jordan, and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34The Spirit of the LORD took control of Gideon, and he blew a trumpet to call the men of the clan of Abiezer to follow him. 35He sent messengers throughout the territory of both parts of Manasseh to call them to follow him. He sent messengers to the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they also came to join him.
36Then Gideon said to God, “You say that you have decided to use me to rescue Israel. 37Well, I am putting some wool on the ground where we thresh the wheat. If in the morning there is dew only on the wool but not on the ground, then I will know that you are going to use me to rescue Israel.” 38That is exactly what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the wool and wrung enough dew out of it to fill a bowl with water. 39Then Gideon said to God, “Don't be angry with me; let me speak just once more. Please let me make one more test with the wool. This time let the wool be dry, and the ground be wet.” 40That night God did that very thing. The next morning the wool was dry, but the ground was wet with dew.
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
1One day Gideon and all his men got up early and camped beside the Spring of Harod. The Midianite camp was in the valley to the north of them by Moreh Hill.
2The LORD said to Gideon, “The men you have are too many for me to give them victory over the Midianites. They might think that they had won by themselves, and so give me no credit. 3Announce to the people, ‘Anyone who is afraid should go back home, and we will stay here at Mount Gilead.’ ” So 22,000 went back, but 10,000 stayed.
4Then the LORD said to Gideon, “You still have too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will separate them for you there. If I tell you a man should go with you, he will go. If I tell you a man should not go with you, he will not go.” 5Gideon took the men down to the water, and the LORD said to him, “Separate everyone who laps up the water with his tongue like a dog, from everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” 6There were 300 men who scooped up water in their hands and lapped it; all the others got down on their knees to drink. 7The LORD said to Gideon, “I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites with the 300 men who lapped the water. Tell everyone else to go home.” 8So Gideon sent all the Israelites home, except the 300, who kept all the supplies and trumpets. The Midianite camp was below them in the valley.
9That night the LORD commanded Gideon, “Get up and attack the camp; I am giving you victory over it. 10But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11You will hear what they are saying, and then you will have the courage to attack.” So Gideon and his servant Purah went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12The Midianites, the Amalekites, and the desert tribesmen were spread out in the valley like a swarm of locusts, and they had as many camels as there were grains of sand on the seashore.
13When Gideon arrived, he heard a man telling a friend about a dream. He was saying, “I dreamt that a loaf of barley bread rolled into our camp and hit a tent. The tent collapsed and lay flat on the ground.”
14His friend replied, “It's the sword of the Israelite, Gideon son of Joash! It can't mean anything else! God has given him victory over Midian and our whole army!”
15When Gideon heard about the man's dream and what it meant, he fell to his knees and worshipped the LORD. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, “Get up! The LORD is giving you victory over the Midianite army!” 16He divided his 300 men into three groups and gave each man a trumpet and a jar with a torch inside it. 17He told them, “When I get to the edge of the camp, watch me, and do what I do. 18When my group and I blow our trumpets, then you blow yours all round the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon!’ ”
19Gideon and his hundred men came to the edge of the camp a short while before midnight, just after the guard had been changed. Then they blew the trumpets and broke the jars they were holding, 20and the other two groups did the same. They all held the torches in their left hands, the trumpets in their right, and shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21Every man stood in his place round the camp, and the whole enemy army ran away yelling. 22While Gideon's men were blowing their trumpets, the LORD made the enemy troops attack each other with their swords. They ran towards Zarethan as far as Beth Shittah, as far as the town of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
23Then men from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and both parts of Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. 24Gideon sent messengers through all the hill country of Ephraim to say, “Come down and fight the Midianites. Hold the River Jordan and the streams as far as Bethbarah, to keep the Midianites from crossing them.” The men of Ephraim were called together, and they held the River Jordan and the streams as far as Bethbarah. 25They captured the two Midianite chiefs, Oreb and Zeeb; they killed Oreb at Oreb Rock, and Zeeb at the Winepress of Zeeb. They continued to pursue the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was now east of the Jordan.
The Final Defeat of the Midianites
1Then the men of Ephraim said to Gideon, “Why didn't you call us when you went to fight the Midianites? Why did you treat us like this?” They complained bitterly about it.
2But he said, “What I was able to do is nothing compared with what you have done. Even the little that you men of Ephraim did is worth more than what my whole clan has done. 3After all, through the power of God you killed the two Midianite chiefs, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I done to compare with that?” When he said this, they were no longer so angry.
4By this time Gideon and his 300 men had come to the River Jordan and had crossed it. They were exhausted, but were still pursuing the enemy. 5When they arrived at Sukkoth, he said to the men of the town, “Please give my men some loaves of bread. They are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the Midianite kings.”
6But the leaders of Sukkoth said, “Why should we give your army any food? You haven't captured Zebah and Zalmunna yet.”
7So Gideon said, “All right! When the LORD has handed Zebah and Zalmunna over to me, I will beat you with thorns and briars from the desert!” 8Gideon went on to Penuel and made the same request of the people there, but the men of Penuel gave the same answer as the men of Sukkoth. 9So he said to them, “I am going to come back safe and sound, and when I do, I will tear your tower down!”
10Zebah and Zalmunna were at Karkor with their army. Of the whole army of desert tribesmen, only about 15,000 were left; 120,000 soldiers had been killed. 11Gideon went along the road by the edge of the desert, east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the army by surprise. 12The two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, ran away, but he pursued them and captured them, and caused their whole army to panic.
13When Gideon was returning from the battle by way of Heres Pass, 14he captured a young man from Sukkoth and questioned him. The young man wrote down for Gideon the names of the 77 leading men of Sukkoth. 15Then Gideon went to the men of Sukkoth and said, “Remember when you refused to help me? You said that you couldn't give any food to my exhausted army because I hadn't captured Zebah and Zalmunna yet. Well, here they are!” 16He then took thorns and briars from the desert and used them to punish the leaders of Sukkoth. 17He also tore down the tower at Penuel and killed the men of that city.
18Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What about the men you killed at Tabor?”
They answered, “They looked like you — every one of them like the son of a king.”
19Gideon said, “They were my brothers, my own mother's sons. I solemnly swear that if you had not killed them, I would not kill you.” 20Then he said to Jether, his eldest son, “Go ahead, kill them!” But the boy did not draw his sword. He hesitated, because he was still only a boy.
21Then Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, “Come on, kill us yourself. It takes a man to do a man's job.” So Gideon killed them and took the ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.
22After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler — you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites.”
23Gideon answered, “I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The LORD will be your ruler.” 24But he went on to say, “Let me ask one thing of you. Every one of you give me the earrings you took.” (The Midianites, like other desert people, wore gold earrings.)
25The people answered, “We'll be glad to give them to you.” They spread out a cloth, and everyone put on it the earrings that he had taken. 26The gold earrings that Gideon received weighed nearly twenty kilogrammes, and this did not include the ornaments, necklaces, and purple clothes that the kings of Midian wore, nor the collars that were round the necks of their camels. 27Gideon made an idol from the gold and put it in his home town, Ophrah. All the Israelites abandoned God and went there to worship the idol. It was a trap for Gideon and his family.
28So Midian was defeated by the Israelites and was no longer a threat. The land was at peace for forty years, until Gideon died.
The Death of Gideon
29Gideon went back to his own home and lived there. 30He had seventy sons, because he had many wives. 31He also had a concubine in Shechem; she bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. 32Gideon son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, at Ophrah, the town of the clan of Abiezer.
33After Gideon's death the people of Israel were again unfaithful to God and worshipped the Baals. They made Baal-of-the-Covenant their god, 34and no longer served the LORD their God, who had saved them from all their enemies round them. 35They were not grateful to the family of Gideon for all the good that he had done for Israel.