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Israel Oppressed by Midian

Then the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years. The [powerful] hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens (hideouts) which were in the mountains, and the caves and the [mountain] strongholds. For it was whenever Israel had sown [their seed] that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the people of the east and go up against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the crops of the land as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, and they would come in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were innumerable. So they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the Israelites cried out to the Lord [for help].

Now it came about when they cried out to the Lord because of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land, 10 and I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.” But you have not listened to and obeyed My voice.’”

Gideon Is Visited

11 Now the [a]Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, and his son Gideon was beating wheat in the wine press [instead of the threshing floor] to [hide it and] save it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O brave man.” 13 But Gideon said to him, “Please my lord, if the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us? And where are all His wondrous works which our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” 15 But Gideon said to Him, “Please Lord, how am I to rescue Israel? Behold, my family is the least [significant] in Manasseh, and I am the youngest (smallest) in my father’s house.” 16 The Lord answered him, “I will certainly be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites as [if they were only] one man.” 17 Gideon replied to Him, “If I have found any favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speaks with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come back to You, and bring my offering and place it before You.” And He said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Then Gideon went and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket and the broth in a pot, and he brought the food to Him under the oak (terebinth) and presented it. 20 The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth [over them].” And he did so. 21 Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire flared up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the Angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 When Gideon realized [without any doubt] that He was the Angel of the Lord, he declared, “[b]Oh no, Lord God! For now I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face [and I am doomed]!” 23 The Lord said to him, “Peace to you, do not be afraid; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah, of the Abiezrites.

25 Now on that same night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down [c]the Asherah that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on top of this mountain stronghold [with stones laid down] in an orderly way. Then take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice using the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” 27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did just as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his father’s household (relatives) and the men of the city to do it during daylight, he did it at night.

The Altar of Baal Destroyed

28 Early the next morning when the men of the city got up, they discovered that the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. 29 So they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” When they searched about and inquired, they were told, “Gideon the son of Joash did it.” 30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, so that he may be executed, because he has torn down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you [d]plead for Baal? Will you save him? Whoever pleads for Baal shall be put to death while it is still morning. If Baal is a god, let him defend himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” 32 Therefore on that day he named Gideon Jerubbaal, [e]meaning, “Let Baal plead,” because he had torn down his altar.

33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east assembled together; and they crossed over [the Jordan] and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 So the Spirit of the Lord [f]clothed Gideon [and empowered him]; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together [as a militia] to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout [the tribe of] Manasseh, and the fighting men were also called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to [the tribes of] Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

Sign of the Fleece

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If You are going to rescue Israel through me, as You have spoken, 37 behold, I will put a fleece of [freshly sheared] wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece, and it is dry on all the ground [around it], then I will know that You will rescue Israel through me, as You have said.” 38 And it was so. When he got up early the next morning and squeezed the dew out of the fleece, he wrung from it a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let your anger burn against me, so that I may speak once more. Please let me make a test once more with the fleece; now let only the fleece be dry, and let there be dew on all the ground.” 40 God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and there was dew on all the ground [around it].

Gideon’s 300 Chosen Men

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him got up early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was north of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.

Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are too many people with you for Me to hand over Midian to them, otherwise Israel will boast [about themselves] against Me, saying, ‘My own [g]power has rescued me.’ So now, proclaim in the hearing of the people, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men returned [home], but ten thousand remained.

Then the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many people; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water, and the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels down to drink.” Now the number of those who lapped [the water], putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men, but all the rest of the people kneeled down to drink water. And the Lord told Gideon, “With the three hundred men who lapped I will rescue you, and will hand over the Midianites to you. Let all the other people go, each man to his home.” So the three hundred men took people’s provisions [for the journey] and their trumpets [made of rams’ horns] in their hands. And Gideon sent [away] all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but kept the three hundred men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

Now on that same night the Lord said to Gideon, “Arise, go down against their camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down [by yourself], go with Purah your servant down to the camp, 11 and you will hear what they say; and afterward [h]you will have the courage to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the [i]outposts of the army that was in the camp. 12 Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying [camped] in the valley, as countless as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon arrived, [j]there was a man telling a dream to his friend. And he said, “Listen carefully, I had a dream: there was a loaf of [k]barley bread tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” 14 And his friend replied, “This [dream] is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has given Midian and the entire camp into his hand.”

15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down in worship. Then he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hand.” 16 He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me, then do likewise. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet (ram’s horn), then all around the camp you also blow the trumpets and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”

Confusion of the Enemy

19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the [l]middle watch, when the guards had just been changed, and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 When three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow, and they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Then each stood in his place around the camp; and the entire [Midianite] army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When Gideon’s men blew the three hundred trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one [Midianite] against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were summoned together from [the tribes of] Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.

24 Then Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of [the tribe of] Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and take [control of] the waters before them [thereby cutting off the Midianites], as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan [River].” So all the men of Ephraim were assembled together and they took control of the waters, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. 25 Then the men of Ephraim took the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, and pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.

Footnotes

  1. Judges 6:11 “Angel” has been capitalized here to reflect the likelihood that it is God appearing in a visible form (see note Gen 16:7).
  2. Judges 6:22 Lit Alas.
  3. Judges 6:25 I.e. a wooden pole set up to honor a pagan goddess.
  4. Judges 6:31 Lit contend.
  5. Judges 6:32 Lit to say.
  6. Judges 6:34 I.e. came upon.
  7. Judges 7:2 Lit hand.
  8. Judges 7:11 Lit your hands will be strengthened.
  9. Judges 7:11 Lit end of the battle lines.
  10. Judges 7:13 Lit behold.
  11. Judges 7:13 Barley was the cheapest grain, and in the dream it probably represented the fact that Gideon’s force was small and unimpressive.
  12. Judges 7:19 At this time of night (10 p.m.) most of the men in the camp would be sleeping.

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