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Judges 7-9 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

Gideon Wins the Battle Over the Midianites

Early in the morning Jerub-Baal and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon. The camp of Midian was north of Gideon’s camp. It was in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “I want to hand Midian over to you. But you have too many men for me to do that. Then Israel might brag, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ So here is what I want you to announce to the army. Tell them, ‘Those who tremble with fear can turn back. They can leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So 22,000 men left. But 10,000 remained.

The Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. So take them down to the water. There I will reduce the number of them for you. If I say, ‘This one will go with you,’ he will go. But if I say, ‘That one will not go with you,’ he will not go.”

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord said to him, “Some men will drink the way dogs do. They will lap up the water with their tongues. Separate them from those who get down on their knees to drink.” Three hundred men brought up the water to their mouths with their hands. And they lapped it up the way dogs do. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

The Lord spoke to Gideon. He said, “With the help of the 300 men who lapped up the water I will save you. I will hand the Midianites over to you. Let all the other men go home.” So Gideon sent those Israelites home. But he kept the 300 men. They took over the supplies and trumpets the others had left.

The Midianites had set up their camp in the valley below where Gideon was. During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up. Go down against the camp. I am going to hand it over to you. 10 But what if you are afraid to attack? Then go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what they are saying. After that, you will not be afraid to attack the camp.” So Gideon and his servant Purah went down to the edge of the camp. 12 The Midianites had set up their camp in the valley. So had the Amalekites and all the other tribes from the east. There were so many of them that they looked like huge numbers of locusts. Like the grains of sand on the seashore, their camels couldn’t be counted.

13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend about his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came rolling into the camp of Midian. It hit a tent with great force. The tent turned over and fell down flat.”

14 His friend replied, “That can only be the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash. Gideon is from Israel. God has handed the Midianites over to him. He has given him the whole camp.”

15 Gideon heard the man explain what the dream meant. Then Gideon bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel. He called out, “Get up! The Lord has handed the Midianites over to you.” 16 Gideon separated the 300 men into three fighting groups. He put a trumpet and an empty jar into the hands of each man. And he put a torch inside each jar.

17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Do what I do. I’ll go to the edge of the enemy camp. Then do exactly as I do. 18 I and everyone with me will blow our trumpets. Then blow your trumpets from your positions all around the camp. And shout the battle cry, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’ ”

19 Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the enemy camp. It was about ten o’clock at night. It was just after the guard had been changed. Gideon and his men blew their trumpets. They broke the jars that were in their hands. 20 The three fighting groups blew their trumpets. They smashed their jars. They held their torches in their left hands. They held in their right hands the trumpets they were going to blow. Then they shouted the battle cry, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each man stayed in his position around the camp. But all the Midianites ran away in fear. They were crying out as they ran.

22 When the 300 trumpets were blown, the Lord caused all the men in the enemy camp to start fighting one another. They attacked one another with their swords. The army ran away to Beth Shittah toward Zererah. They ran all the way to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. 23 Israelites from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher and all of Manasseh were called out. They chased the Midianites. 24 Gideon sent messengers through the entire hill country of Ephraim. They said, “Come on down against the Midianites. Take control of the waters of the Jordan River before they get there. Do it all the way to Beth Barah.”

So all the men of Ephraim were called out. They took control of the waters of the Jordan all the way to Beth Barah. 25 They also captured Oreb and Zeeb. Those men were two of the Midianite leaders. The men of Ephraim killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb. They killed Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They chased the Midianites. And they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon. He was by the Jordan River.

Zebah and Zalmunna

The men of Ephraim asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you ask us to help you when you went out to fight against Midian?” In anger they challenged Gideon.

But he answered them, “What I’ve done isn’t anything compared to what you have done. Ephraim’s grapes have been gathered. Isn’t what is left over better than all the grapes that have been gathered from Abiezer’s vines? God handed Oreb and Zeeb over to you. They were Midianite leaders. So what was I able to do compared to what you did?” After Gideon had said that, they didn’t feel angry with him anymore.

Gideon and his 300 men were very tired. But they kept on chasing their enemies. They came to the Jordan River and went across it. Gideon said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread. They are worn out. And I’m still chasing Zebah and Zalmunna. They are the kings of Midian.”

But the officials of Sukkoth objected. They said, “Have you already killed Zebah and Zalmunna? Have you cut their hands off and brought them back to prove it? If you haven’t, why should we give bread to your troops?”

Gideon replied, “The Lord will hand Zebah and Zalmunna over to me. When he does, I’ll tear your skin with thorns from desert bushes.”

From there Gideon went up to Peniel. He asked its men for the same thing. But they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, “I’ll be back after I’ve won the battle. Then I’ll tear down this tower.”

10 Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor. They had an army of about 15,000 men. That’s all that were left of the armies of the tribes from the east. About 120,000 men who carried swords had died in battle. 11 Gideon went up the trail the people of the desert had made. It ran east of Nobah and Jogbehah. He attacked the army by surprise. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna ran away. They were the two kings of Midian. Gideon chased them and captured them. He destroyed their whole army.

13 Then Gideon, the son of Joash, returned from the battle. He came back through the Pass of Heres. 14 He caught a young man from Sukkoth. He asked him about the elders of the town. The young man wrote down for him the names of Sukkoth’s 77 officials. 15 Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna. You made fun of me because of them. You said, ‘Have you already killed Zebah and Zalmunna? Have you cut their hands off and brought them back to prove it? If you haven’t, why should we give bread to your tired men?’ ” 16 Gideon went and got the elders of the town. Then he taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson. He tore their skin with thorns from desert bushes. 17 He also pulled down the tower at Peniel. He killed the men in the town.

18 Then he spoke to Zebah and Zalmunna. He asked, “What were the men like that you killed at Tabor?”

“Men like you,” they answered. “Each one walked as if he were a prince.”

19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers. They were the sons of my own mother. You can be sure that the Lord lives. And you can be just as sure that if you had spared their lives, I wouldn’t kill you.” 20 Then Gideon turned to his oldest son Jether. He said, “Kill them!” But Jether didn’t pull out his sword. He was only a boy. So he was afraid.

21 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come on. Do it yourself. ‘The older the man, the stronger he is.’ ” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them. Then he took the gold chains off the necks of their camels.

Gideon's Linen Apron

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us. We want you, your son and your grandson to be our rulers. You have saved us from the power of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you. My son won’t rule over you either. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 He continued, “I do ask one thing. I want each of you to give me an earring. I’m talking about the earrings you took from your enemies.” It was the practice of the people in the family line of Ishmael to wear gold earrings.

25 The Israelites said, “We’ll be glad to give them to you.” So they spread out a piece of clothing. Each of them threw a ring on it from what he had taken. 26 The weight of the gold rings Gideon asked for was 43 pounds. That didn’t include the moon-shaped necklaces the kings of Midian had worn. It didn’t include their other necklaces or their purple clothes. And it didn’t include the gold chains that had been on the necks of their camels. 27 Gideon made an object out of all the gold. It looked like the linen apron the high priest of Israel wore. Gideon placed it in Ophrah. That was his hometown. All the Israelites worshiped it there. They weren’t faithful to the Lord. So the gold object became a trap to Gideon and his family.

Gideon Dies

28 Israel brought Midian under their control. Midian wasn’t able to attack Israel anymore. So the land was at peace for 40 years. The peace lasted as long as Gideon was living.

29 Jerub-Baal, the son of Joash, went back home to live. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon. 30 He had 70 sons of his own. That’s because he had many wives. 31 And he had a concubine who lived in Shechem. She also had a son by him. Gideon named that son Abimelek. 32 Gideon, the son of Joash, died when he was very old. He was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah. Ophrah was in the territory that belonged to the family line of Abiezer.

33 As soon as Gideon had died, the Israelites began serving and worshiping gods that were named Baal. Israel wasn’t faithful to the Lord. They worshiped Baal-Berith as their god. 34 They forgot what the Lord their God had done for them. He had saved them from the power of their enemies all around them. 35 Jerub-Baal had done many good things for the Israelites. But they weren’t faithful to his family. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon.

Abimelek

Abimelek was the son of Jerub-Baal. He went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem. He spoke to them and to all the members of his mother’s family group. He said, “Speak to all the citizens of Shechem. Tell them, ‘You can have all 70 of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you. Or you can have just one man rule over you. Which would you rather have?’ Remember, I’m your own flesh and blood.”

The brothers told all of that to the citizens of Shechem. Then the people decided to follow Abimelek. They said, “He’s related to us.” They gave him 28 ounces of silver. They had taken it from the temple of the god named Baal-Berith. Abimelek used it to hire some men. They were wild and weren’t good for anything. They became his followers. Abimelek went to his father’s home in Ophrah. There on a big rock he murdered his 70 brothers. All of them were the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham escaped by hiding. He was Jerub-Baal’s youngest son. All the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo came together. They gathered at the stone pillar that was beside the large tree in Shechem. They wanted to crown Abimelek as their king.

Jotham was told about it. So he climbed up on top of Mount Gerizim. He shouted down to them, “Citizens of Shechem! Listen to me! Then God will listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to an olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my olive oil? It’s used to honor gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?’

10 “Next, the trees said to a fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit? It’s so good and sweet. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to a vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine? It cheers up gods and people alike. Should I give that up just to rule over the trees?’

14 “Finally, all the trees spoke to a bush that had thorns. They said, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “The bush asked the trees, ‘Do you really want to anoint me as king over you? If you do, come and rest in my shade. But if you don’t, I will destroy you! Fire will come out of me and burn up the cedar trees of Lebanon!’

16 “Did you act in an honest way when you made Abimelek your king? Did you really do the right thing? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you given him the honor he’s worthy of? 17 Remember that my father fought for you. He put his life in danger for you. He saved you from the power of Midian. 18 But today you have turned against my father’s family. You have murdered his 70 sons on a big rock. Abimelek is only the son of my father’s female slave. But you have made him king over the citizens of Shechem. You have done that because he’s related to you. 19 Have you citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo acted in an honest way toward Jerub-Baal? Have you done the right thing to his family today? If you have, may you be happy with Abimelek! And may he be happy with you! 20 But if you haven’t, let fire come out from Abimelek and burn you up! And let fire come out from you and burn Abimelek up!”

21 Then Jotham ran away. He escaped to a town named Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelek.

22 Abimelek ruled over Israel for three years. 23 Then God stirred up trouble between Abimelek and the citizens of Shechem. So they turned against Abimelek. They decided not to follow him anymore. 24 God made that happen because of what Abimelek had done to Jerub-Baal’s 70 sons. He had spilled their blood. God wanted to punish their brother Abimelek for doing that. He also wanted to punish the citizens of Shechem. They had helped Abimelek murder his brothers. 25 The citizens of Shechem didn’t want Abimelek to be their ruler anymore. So they hid some men on top of the hills. They wanted them to attack and rob everyone who passed by. Abimelek was told about it.

26 Gaal and his relatives moved into Shechem. Gaal was the son of Ebed. The citizens of Shechem put their trust in Gaal. 27 The people of Shechem went out into the fields. They gathered the grapes. They pressed the juice out of them by stomping on them. Then they held a feast in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelek. 28 Then Gaal, the son of Ebed, said, “Who is Abimelek? And who is Shechem? Why should we citizens of Shechem be under Abimelek’s rule? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son? Isn’t Zebul his helper? It would be better to serve the family of Hamor. He was the father of Shechem. So why should we serve Abimelek? 29 I wish these people were under my command. Then I would get rid of Abimelek. I would say to him, ‘Call out your whole army!’ ”

30 Zebul was the governor of Shechem. He heard about what Gaal, the son of Ebed, had said. So he was very angry. 31 Zebul secretly sent messengers to Abimelek. They said, “Gaal, the son of Ebed, has come to Shechem. His relatives have come with him. They are stirring up the city against you. 32 So come with your men during the night. Hide in the fields and wait. 33 In the morning at sunrise, attack the city. Gaal and his men will come out against you. Then take that opportunity to attack them.”

34 So Abimelek and all his troops started out at night. They went into their hiding places near Shechem. Abimelek had separated them into four fighting groups. 35 Gaal, the son of Ebed, had already gone out. He was standing at the entrance of the city gate. He had arrived there just as Abimelek and his troops came out of their hiding places.

36 Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, “Look! People are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul replied, “You are wrong. Those aren’t people. They are just the shadows of the mountains.”

37 But Gaal spoke up again. He said, “Look! People are coming down from the central hill. Another group is coming from the direction of the fortune tellers’ tree.”

38 Then Zebul said to Gaal, “Where is your big talk now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelek? Why should we be under his rule?’ Aren’t these the people you made fun of? Go out and fight against them!”

39 So Gaal led the citizens out of Shechem. They fought against Abimelek. 40 He chased Gaal from the field of battle. Abimelek chased them all the way to the entrance of the city gate. Many men were killed as they ran away. 41 Abimelek stayed in Arumah. And Zebul drove Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to work in the fields. Abimelek was told about it. 43 So he gathered his men together. He separated them into three fighting groups. Then he hid them in the fields and told them to wait. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he got up to attack them. 44 Abimelek and the men with him ran forward. They placed themselves at the entrance of the city gate. Then the other two groups attacked the people in the fields. There they struck them down. 45 Abimelek kept up his attack against the city all day long. He didn’t stop until he had captured it. Then he killed its people. He destroyed the city. He scattered salt on it to make sure that nothing would be able to grow there.

46 The citizens in the tower of Shechem heard about what was happening. So they went to the safest place in the temple of the god named El-Berith. 47 Abimelek heard that they had gathered together there. 48 He and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He got an ax and cut off some branches. He carried them on his shoulders. He ordered the men with him to do the same thing. “Quick!” he said. “Do what you have seen me do!” 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelek. They piled them against the place where the people had gone for safety. Then they set the place on fire with the people still inside. There were about 1,000 men and women in the tower of Shechem. All of them died.

50 Next, Abimelek went to Thebez. He surrounded it. Then he attacked it and captured it. 51 But inside the city there was a strong tower. All the people in the city had run to it for safety. All the men and women had gone into it. They had locked themselves in. They had climbed up on the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelek went to the tower and attacked it. He approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire. 53 But a woman dropped a large millstone on him. It broke his head open.

54 He quickly called out to the man carrying his armor. He said, “Pull out your sword and kill me. Then people can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” So his servant stuck his sword through him. And Abimelek died. 55 When the Israelites saw he was dead, they went home.

56 That’s how God punished Abimelek for the evil thing he had done to his father. He had murdered his 70 brothers. 57 God also made the people of Shechem pay for all the evil things they had done. The curse of Jotham came down on them. He was the son of Jerub-Baal.

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

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