The Midianites Fight Israel
6 Again the Israelites did what the Lord said was wrong. So for seven years the Lord allowed the Midianites to defeat the Israelites.
2 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. 3 They did that because the Midianites and Amalekites from the east always came and destroyed their crops. 4 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. 5 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. 6 The Israelites became very poor because of the Midianites. So the Israelites cried to the Lord for help.
7 [a] The Midianites did all these bad things, so the Israelites cried to the Lord for help. 8 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. 9 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.’ 10 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
11-12 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[b] 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.”
13 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.”
14 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.”
15 But Gideon answered and said, “Pardon me, sir.[c] 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.”
16 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.”
17 Then Gideon said to him, “If you would, please give me some proof that you really are the Lord. 18 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.”
19 So Gideon went in and cooked a young goat in boiling water. He also took about 20 pounds[d] 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.
20 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.
21 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.
22 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!”
24 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
25 That same night the Lord said to Gideon, “Choose your father’s best bull, the one that is seven years old.[g] First, use it to pull down the altar your father built to worship Baal. Also, cut down the Asherah pole beside the altar. 26 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.”
27 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.
28 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.
29 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.”
30 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.”
31 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.” 32 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.[h]
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
33 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. 34 The Spirit of the Lord filled Gideon. So Gideon blew a trumpet to call the family of Abiezer to follow him. 35 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.
36 Then Gideon said to God, “You said that you would help me save the Israelites. Give me proof. 37 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.”
38 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.
39 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.”
40 That night God did that very thing. Just the sheepskin was dry, but the ground around it was wet with dew.
- Judges 6:7 These verses do not appear in the oldest Hebrew copy of the book of Judges, the Dead Sea Scroll fragment, 4QJudgesA.
- Judges 6:11 beating some wheat That is, separating the grains of wheat from the hulls. Usually this is done near the top of a hill.
- Judges 6:15 sir Or “Lord,” a title for God.
- Judges 6:19 20 pounds Literally, “1 ephah” (22 l).
- Judges 6:23 Calm down Literally, “Peace.”
- Judges 6:23 You will not die Gideon thought he would die because he had seen the Lord face to face.
- Judges 6:25 Choose … seven years old This translation follows one ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “Take the bull of the bull[s], the second bull, the seven-year-old one.” Adding different vowels to the Hebrew text gives a meaning similar to that in the translation above.
- Judges 6:32 Jerub-Baal This is like the Hebrew words meaning “Let Baal argue.” The same verb is translated “take one’s side” and “defend” in verse 31.