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Then once again the Israelites started disobeying the Lord, so he let the nation of Midian control Israel for seven years. The Midianites were so cruel that many Israelites ran to the mountains and hid in caves.

Every time the Israelites would plant crops, the Midianites invaded Israel together with the Amalekites and other eastern nations. 4-5 They rode in on their camels, set up their tents, and then let their livestock eat the crops as far as the town of Gaza. The Midianites stole food, sheep, cattle, and donkeys. Like a swarm of locusts,[a] they could not be counted, and they ruined the land wherever they went.

6-7 The Midianites took almost everything that belonged to the Israelites, and the Israelites begged the Lord for help. 8-9 Then the Lord sent a prophet to them with this message:

I am the Lord God of Israel, so listen to what I say. You were slaves in Egypt, but I set you free and led you out of Egypt into this land. And when nations here made life miserable for you, I rescued you and helped you get rid of them and take their land. 10 I am your God, and I told you not to worship Amorite gods, even though you are living in the land of the Amorites. But you refused to listen.

The Lord Chooses Gideon

11 One day an angel from the Lord went to the town of Ophrah and sat down under the big tree that belonged to Joash, a member of the Abiezer clan. Joash’s son Gideon was nearby, threshing grain in a shallow pit, where he could not be seen by the Midianites.

12 The angel appeared and spoke to Gideon, “The Lord is helping you, and you are a strong warrior.”

13 Gideon answered, “Please don’t take this wrong, but if the Lord is helping us, then why have all of these awful things happened? We’ve heard how the Lord performed miracles and rescued our ancestors from Egypt. But those things happened long ago. Now the Lord has abandoned us to the Midianites.”

14 Then the Lord himself said, “Gideon, you will be strong, because I am giving you the power to rescue Israel from the Midianites.”

15 Gideon replied, “But how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest one in Manasseh, and everyone else in my family is more important than I am.”

16 “Gideon,” the Lord answered, “you can rescue Israel because I am going to help you! Defeating the Midianites will be as easy as beating up one man.”

17 Gideon said, “It’s hard to believe that I’m actually talking to the Lord. Please do something so I’ll know that you really are the Lord. 18 And wait here until I bring you an offering.”

“All right, I’ll wait,” the Lord answered.

19 Gideon went home and killed a young goat, then started boiling the meat. Next, he opened a big sack of flour and made it into thin bread.[b] When the meat was done, he put it in a basket and poured the broth into a clay cooking pot. He took the meat, the broth, and the bread and placed them under the big tree.

20 God’s angel said, “Gideon, put the meat and the bread on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” Gideon did as he was told. 21 The angel was holding a walking stick, and he touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick. Flames jumped from the rock and burned up the meat and the bread.

When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. 22 Gideon realized that he had seen one of the Lord’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.”[c]

23 “Calm down!” the Lord told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.”

24 Gideon built an altar for worshiping the Lord and called it “The Lord Calms Our Fears.” It still stands there in Ophrah, a town in the territory of the Abiezer clan.

Gideon Tears Down Baal’s Altar

25 That night the Lord spoke to Gideon again:

Get your father’s second-best bull, the one that’s seven years old. Use it to pull down the altar where your father worships Baal and cut down the sacred pole[d] next to the altar. 26 Then build an altar for worshiping me on the highest part of the hill where your town is built. Use layers of stones for my altar, not just a pile of rocks. Cut up the wood from the pole, make a fire, kill the bull, and burn it as a sacrifice to me.

27 Gideon chose ten of his servants to help him, and they did everything God had said. But since Gideon was afraid of his family and the other people in town, he did it all at night.

28 When the people of the town got up the next morning, they saw that Baal’s altar had been knocked over, and the sacred pole next to it had been cut down. Then they noticed the new altar covered with the remains of the sacrificed bull.

29 “Who could have done such a thing?” they asked. And they kept on asking, until finally someone told them, “Gideon the son of Joash did it.”

30 The men of the town went to Joash and said, “Your son Gideon knocked over Baal’s altar and cut down the sacred pole next to it. Hand him over, so we can kill him!”

31 The crowd pushed closer and closer, but Joash replied, “Are you trying to take revenge for Baal? Are you trying to rescue Baal? If you are, you will be the ones who are put to death, and it will happen before another day dawns. If Baal really is a god, let him take his own revenge on someone who tears down his altar.”

32 That same day, Joash changed Gideon’s name to Jerubbaal, explaining, “He tore down Baal’s altar, so let Baal take revenge himself.”[e]

Gideon Defeats the Midianites

33 All the Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern nations got together and crossed the Jordan River. Then they invaded the land of Israel and set up camp in Jezreel Valley.

34 The Lord’s Spirit took control of Gideon, and Gideon blew a signal on a trumpet to tell the men in the Abiezer clan to follow him. 35 He also sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, telling the men of these tribes to come and join his army. Then they set out toward the enemy camp.

36-37 Gideon prayed to God, “I know that you promised to help me rescue Israel, but I need proof. Tonight I’ll put some wool on the stone floor of that threshing-place over there. If you really will help me rescue Israel, then tomorrow morning let there be dew on the wool, but let the stone floor be dry.”

38 And that’s just what happened. Early the next morning, Gideon got up and checked the wool. He squeezed out enough water to fill a bowl. 39 But Gideon prayed to God again. “Don’t be angry at me,” Gideon said. “Let me try this just one more time, so I’ll really be sure you’ll help me. Only this time, let the wool be dry and the stone floor be wet with dew.”

40 That night, God made the stone floor wet with dew, but he kept the wool dry.

Early the next morning, Gideon and his army got up and moved their camp to Fear Spring.[f] The Midianite camp was to the north, in the valley at the foot of Moreh Hill.[g]

The Lord said, “Gideon, your army is too big. I can’t let you win with this many soldiers. The Israelites would think that they had won the battle all by themselves and that I didn’t have anything to do with it. So call your troops together and tell them that anyone who is really afraid can leave Mount Gilead[h] and go home.”

Twenty-two thousand men returned home, leaving Gideon with only ten thousand soldiers.

“Gideon,” the Lord said, “you still have too many soldiers. Take them down to the spring and I’ll test them. I’ll tell you which ones can go along with you and which ones must go back home.”

When Gideon led his army down to the spring, the Lord told him, “Watch how each man gets a drink of water. Then divide them into two groups—those who lap the water like a dog and those who kneel down to drink.”

Three hundred men scooped up water in their hands and lapped it, and the rest knelt to get a drink. The Lord said, “Gideon, your army will be made up of everyone who lapped the water from their hands. Send the others home. I’m going to rescue Israel by helping you and your army of three hundred defeat the Midianites.”

Then Gideon gave these orders, “You three hundred men stay here. The rest of you may go home, but leave your food and trumpets with us.”

Gideon’s army camp was on top of a hill overlooking the Midianite camp in the valley.

That night, the Lord said to Gideon. “Get up! Attack the Midianite camp. I am going to let you defeat them, 10 but if you’re still afraid, you and your servant Purah should sneak down to their camp. 11 When you hear what the Midianites are saying, you’ll be brave enough to attack.”

Gideon and Purah worked their way to the edge of the enemy camp, where soldiers were on guard duty. 12 The camp was huge. The Midianites, Amalekites, and other eastern nations covered the valley like a swarm of locusts.[i] And it would be easier to count the grains of sand on a beach than to count their camels. 13 Gideon overheard one enemy guard telling another, “I had a dream about a flat[j] loaf of barley bread that came tumbling into our camp. It hit the headquarters tent,[k] and the tent flipped over and fell down.”

14 The other soldier answered, “Your dream must have been about Gideon, the Israelite commander. It means God will let him and his army defeat the Midianite army and everyone else in our camp.”

15 As soon as Gideon heard about the dream and what it meant, he bowed down to praise God. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Let’s go! The Lord is going to let us defeat the Midianite army.”

16 Gideon divided his little army into three groups of one hundred men, and he gave each soldier a trumpet and a large clay jar with a burning torch inside. 17-18 Gideon said, “When we get to the enemy camp, spread out and surround it. Then wait for me to blow a signal on my trumpet. As soon as you hear it, blow your trumpets and shout, ‘Fight for the Lord! Fight for Gideon!’”

19 Gideon and his group reached the edge of the enemy camp a few hours after dark, just after the new guards had come on duty.[l] Gideon and his soldiers blew their trumpets and smashed the clay jars that were hiding the torches. 20 The rest of Gideon’s soldiers blew the trumpets they were holding in their right hands. Then they smashed the jars and held the burning torches in their left hands. Everyone shouted, “Fight with your swords for the Lord and for Gideon!”

21 The enemy soldiers started yelling and tried to run away. Gideon’s troops stayed in their positions surrounding the camp 22 and blew their trumpets again. As they did, the Lord made the enemy soldiers pull out their swords and start fighting each other.

The enemy army tried to escape from the camp. They ran to Acacia Tree Town, toward Zeredah,[m] and as far as the edge of the land that belonged to the town of Abel-Meholah near Tabbath.[n]

23 Gideon sent word for more Israelite soldiers to come from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and both halves of Manasseh[o] to help fight the Midianites. 24 He also sent messengers to tell all the men who lived in the hill country of Ephraim, “Come and help us fight the Midianites! Put guards at every spring, stream, and well, as far as Beth-Barah before the Midianites can get to them. And guard the Jordan River.”

Troops from Ephraim did exactly what Gideon had asked, 25 and they even helped chase the Midianites on the east side of the Jordan River. These troops captured Raven and Wolf,[p] the two Midianite leaders. They killed Raven at a large rock that has come to be known as Raven Rock, and they killed Wolf near a wine-pit that has come to be called Wolf Wine-Pit.[q]

The men of Ephraim brought the heads of the two Midianite leaders to Gideon.

Footnotes

  1. 6.4,5 locusts: Insects like grasshoppers that travel in swarms and cause great damage to crops.
  2. 6.19 thin bread: Bread made without yeast, since there was no time for the dough to rise.
  3. 6.22 Now I’m going to die: The Hebrew text has “I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” Some people believed that if they saw one of the Lord’s angels, they would die (see 13.22).
  4. 6.25 sacred pole: Or “sacred tree,” used as a symbol of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility.
  5. 6.32 Jerubbaal. . . take revenge himself: In Hebrew, “Jerubbaal” means “Let Baal take revenge.”
  6. 7.1 Fear Spring: Or “Harod Spring.”
  7. 7.1 Moreh Hill: About 5 miles north of Fear Spring.
  8. 7.3 Mount Gilead: Usually “Gilead” refers to an area east of the Jordan River, but in this verse it refers to a place near Jezreel Valley west of the Jordan.
  9. 7.12 locusts: See the note at 6.4,5.
  10. 7.13 flat: Or “moldy.”
  11. 7.13 the headquarters tent: Or “a tent.”
  12. 7.19 a few hours after dark, just. . . duty: The Hebrew text has “at the beginning of the second watch, just. . . duty.” The night was divided into three periods called “watches,” each about four hours long, and different guards would come on duty at the beginning of each watch. The first watch began at sunset, so the beginning of the second watch would have been shortly after 10:00 (P.M.)
  13. 7.22 Zeredah: Some Hebrew manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts “Zererah” ; these may be different names for the town of Zarethan in the Jordan River valley.
  14. 7.22 Acacia Tree Town. . . Zeredah. . . Abel-Meholah near Tabbath: These were places east of the Jordan River.
  15. 7.23 both halves of Manasseh: Half of Manasseh lived east of the Jordan River, and the other half lived on the west.
  16. 7.25 Raven and Wolf: Or “Oreb and Zeeb.”
  17. 7.25 Raven Rock. . . Wolf Wine-Pit: Or “Oreb Rock. . . Zeeb Wine-Pit.”

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