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When the people of Israel again did what the Eternal One considered evil, He made them serve the Midianites for seven years. The power of Midian prevailed over Israel so that the Israelites built for themselves hiding places in the mountains, in caves, and in safe strongholds. Whenever the Israelites planted seed, the soldiers of Midian, Amalek, and others from the east would rise up against them and destroy their farms and fields as far as Gaza in the west, leaving them nothing to eat and no livestock. They would come up with their tents and their livestock, as thick as a cloud of locusts. They and their camels were so numerous they could not be counted, and they left the land desolate behind them.

So the people of Israel were impoverished because of the Midianites, and they cried out to the Eternal One for help. When the people of Israel cried to the Eternal for relief from the Midianites, He sent a prophet to them.

Prophet: Here are the words of the Eternal God of Israel: “I brought you out from slavery in Egypt. I delivered you from the Egyptians, from all who would have oppressed you. I drove the Canaanites out before you and delivered their land into your care. 10 But I said to you, ‘I am the Eternal One, your True God, and you must not worship the gods of the Amorites, those people in whose land you settle.’ And you have not listened to Me.”

This unnamed messenger brings a familiar message, one we find coming from both well-known and unknown prophets in the Scriptures: “I am the Eternal God, and I have done many things for you. You swore to be My people, but you have turned away from Me and turned toward other gods.”

God has brought the patriarch Abraham out of the east and initiated a relationship with him. Later the people of God make a covenant with Him, a sacred contract that both sides are expected to honor. When they are faithful to God and God’s laws, the people of Israel prosper. Whenever the Israelites fall away from true belief and true practice, God withdraws His blessing from them. This messenger is simply reminding them of what they already know—as prophets sometimes must.

11 Now in Ophrah, the Eternal’s messenger sat under an oak tree that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Gideon, the son of Joash, was beating out wheat in the winepress so that the Midianites could not see what he was doing. 12 The Eternal’s messenger appeared to Gideon.

Times are so bad that even when processing the wheat, one has to be quiet about it so that the Midianites do not notice and seize the food.

Messenger of the Eternal One: The Eternal One is with you, mighty warrior.

Gideon: 13 Sir, if He is with us, then why has all this misfortune come on us? Where are all the miracles that our ancestors told us about? They said, “Didn’t the Eternal deliver us out of Egypt?” But now He has left us. He has made us servants of the Midianites.

14 The Eternal turned to Gideon and addressed him.

Eternal One (speaking through His messenger): Go out with your strength and rescue Israel from the oppression of Midian. Do you understand that I am the one sending you?

Gideon: 15 But, Lord, how am I supposed to deliver Israel? My family is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least of my family.

Eternal One: 16 Go. I will be with you, and you will totally destroy the forces of Midian as one man.

Gideon: 17 If You do look on me with favor, then give me a sign that I’m really hearing from You. 18 Wait here until I return and bring out my offering and place it in front of You.

Eternal One: I will stay here until you return.

19 So Gideon went into his house, cooked a young goat, and made cakes of unleavened bread from half a bushel of flour. He then put the meat into a basket, poured the broth into a pot, and brought the food out to present it to Him under the oak.

Eternal One: 20 Put the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour out the broth.

Gideon did as he was told. 21 Then the Eternal’s messenger touched the meat and bread with the tip of the staff he carried. Fire raged out of the rock and consumed the food, and the Eternal’s messenger vanished from sight.

22 Then Gideon realized that he had been speaking to the Eternal’s messenger.

Gideon: Have mercy on me, my Lord, the Eternal, since I have seen Your messenger face-to-face!

Eternal One (speaking after the messenger had departed): 23 Don’t be afraid, Gideon. Be at peace. You will not die.

Gideon expects sure death after conversing and looking on a divine manifestation of the Lord.

24 Afterward Gideon built an altar to the Eternal there and called it “The Eternal One is Peace.” It still stands at Ophrah in the land of the Abiezrites.

25 That night, the Eternal spoke to Gideon.

Eternal One: Take your father’s bull, the second bull, seven years old, and pull down your father’s altar that has been consecrated to Baal. Then cut down the image of Asherah made of wood that is beside the altar. 26 Then build correctly an altar to the Eternal One, your True God, on the top of this stronghold. Build a fire using the wood from the image; then take your father’s bull and offer a burnt offering to Me.

27 So Gideon took 10 of his servants and did as the Eternal had told him; but since he was worried about what his family and the people of the town might think, he did it at night while they all slept. 28 Early the next morning, when the townspeople left their homes and saw the altar of Baal destroyed, the wooden image cut down, and the second bull offered on the new altar, 29 they asked each other, “Who did this?”

After the investigation, it became clear that it was Gideon, the son of Joash, 30 so they went to Joash’s home and called for him.

People: Send out your son Gideon. He has torn down the holy altar of Baal and the Asherah image beside it, and he must die!

31 Joash stood up as the angry crowd lined up against him.

Joash (to the crowd): Will you fight in place of Baal himself? Can you save him? Anyone daring to say such a thing will be put to death by morning! If Baal is indeed a god, then let him stand up for himself, because his is the altar that has been torn down.

32 From that time on, Gideon was also called “Jerubbaal” (“Let Baal fight against him”), because he pulled down Baal’s altar.

33 At that time, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other people of the east had come together, crossed the Jordan, and camped in the valley of Jezreel.

34 Then the Spirit of the Eternal touched Gideon; he sounded his trumpet, and the Abiezrites all gathered behind him. 35 Gideon sent messengers to the members of the tribe of Manasseh and called them also to follow him. He also sent messengers to the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they, too, gathered at his call.

36 Then Gideon spoke to the True God.

Gideon: So that I can know if it’s true that You plan to use me to rescue Israel, 37 I am going to lay out a wool fleece on the threshing floor. Tomorrow morning, if it is wet with dew while the floor around it is dry, then I will know You are going to use me to deliver Israel, as You have told me.

38 So the next morning, that was what he found. In fact, Gideon wrung enough water out of the fleece to fill a bowl, while the floor around it remained dry. But Gideon still was not satisfied.

Gideon (to the True God): 39 Please don’t be angry with me, and I will ask this one thing more. Please let me use the fleece again to prove that You are with me. But this time, let me lay out the fleece, and let it remain dry while all the floor around it is wet with dew.

40 God did as he asked that night. The next morning, the fleece was completely dry, while all the floor around it was wet with dew. Gideon knew that God was calling him to deliver Israel.