|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
Called also Jerubbaal (Judges 6:29, 32), was the first of the judges whose history is circumstantially narrated (Judges 6-8). His calling is the commencement of the second period in the history of the judges. After the victory gained by Deborah and Barak over Jabin, Israel once more sank into idolatry, and the Midianites (q.v.) and Amalekites, with other "children of the east," crossed the Jordan each year for seven successive years for the purpose of plundering and desolating the land. Gideon received a direct call from God to undertake the task of delivering the land from these warlike invaders. He was of the family of Abiezer (Joshua 17:2; 1 Chronicles 7:18), and of the little township of Ophrah (Judges 6:11). First, with ten of his servants, he overthrew the altars of Baal and cut down the asherah which was upon it, and then blew the trumpet of alarm, and the people flocked to his standard on the crest of Mount Gilboa to the number of twenty-two thousand men. These were, however, reduced to only three hundred. These, strangely armed with torches and pitchers and trumpets, rushed in from three different points on the camp of Midian at midnight, in the valley to the north of Moreh, with the terrible war-cry, "For the Lord and for Gideon" (Judges 7:18, R.V.). Terror-stricken, the Midianites were put into dire confusion, and in the darkness slew one another, so that only fifteen thousand out of the great army of one hundred and twenty thousand escaped alive. The memory of this great deliverance impressed itself deeply on the mind of the nation (1 Samuel 12:11; Psalm 83:11; Isaiah 9:4; 10:26; Hebrews 11:32). The land had now rest for forty years. Gideon died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of his fathers. Soon after his death a change came over the people. They again forgot Jehovah, and turned to the worship of Baalim, "neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal" (Judges 8:35). Gideon left behind him seventy sons, a feeble, sadly degenerated race, with one exception, that of Abimelech, who seems to have had much of the courage and energy of his father, yet of restless and unscrupulous ambition. He gathered around him a band who slaughtered all Gideon's sons, except Jotham, upon one stone. (see OPHRAH.)
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
gid'-e-un (gidh`on, "cutter down," "feller" or "hewer"):
1. His Family and Home:
Also named Jerubbaal (Judges 6:32) and Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21), youngest son of Joash, of the clan of Abiezer in the tribe of Manasseh. His home was at Ophrah, and his family an obscure one. He became the chief leader of Manasseh and the fifth recorded judge of Israel. The record of his life is found in Judges 6-8.
Joash was an idolater, and sacrifices to Baal were common among the entire clan. Gideon seems to have held this worship in contempt, and to have pondered deeply the causes of Israel's reverses and the injuries wrought upon his own family by the hand of the Midianites.
2. The Midianite Oppression:
The Midianites under Zebah and Zalmunna, their two greatest chiefs, accompanied by other wild tribes of the eastern desert, had gradually encroached on the territory of Israel in Central Palestine. They came first as marauders and pillagers at the time of the harvests, but later they forcibly took possession of lands, and thus inflicted permanent injury and loss, especially upon Manasseh and Ephraim. The conflicts became so numerous, the appropriation of land so flagrant, that the matter of sustenance became a serious problem (Judges 6:4). The multitude of these desert hordes and the cruelty of their depredation rendered defense difficult, and, lacking in the split of national unity, the Israelites were driven to dens, caves and rocky strongholds for safety (Judges 6:2). After seven years of such invasion and suffering Gideon comes upon the scene.
3. The Call of Gideon:
It is probable that Gideon had already distinguished himself in resistance to the Midianites (Judges 6:12), but he now receives Divine commission to assume the leadership. Having taken his own little harvest to a secret place for threshing, that it might escape the greed of the Midianites, he is surprised while at work by a visit from the Lord in the form of an angel. However this scene (Judges 6:11) and its miraculous incidents may be interpreted, there can be no question of the divineness of Gideon's call or that the voice which spoke to him was the voice of God. Neither the brooding over the death of his brothers at Tabor (Judges 8:18) nor the patriotic impulses dwelling within him can account for his assumption of leadership. Nor did he become leader at the demand of the people. He evidently had scarcely thought of himself as his country's deliverer. The call not only came to him as a surprise, but found him distrustful both of himself (Judges 6:15) and of his people (Judges 6:13). It found him too without inclination for the task, and only his conviction that the command was of God persuaded him to assume leadership. This gives the note of accuracy to the essential facts of the story. Gideon's demand for a sign (Judges 6:17) being answered, the food offered the messenger having been consumed by fire at the touch of his staff, Gideon acknowledged the Divine commission of his visitor, and at the place of visitation built an altar to Yahweh (Judges 6:19).
4. His First Commission:
The call and first commission of Gideon are closely joined. He is at once commanded to destroy the altars of Baal set up by his father at Ophrah, to build an altar to Yahweh at the same place and thereon to offer one of his father's bullocks as a sacrifice (Judges 6:25 f). There is no reason to look on this as a second version of Gideon's call. It is rather the beginning of instruction, and is deeply significant of the accuracy of the story, in that it follows the line of all revelation to God's prophets and reformers to begin their work at home. Taking ten men, under the cover of darkness, Gideon does as commanded (Judges 6:27). The morning revealed his work and visited upon him the wrath of the people of Ophrah. They demand of Joash that he put his son to death. The answer of Joash is an ironical but valid defense of Gideon. Why should the people plead for Baal? A god should be able to plead his own cause (Judges 6:28). This defense gained for Gideon the name Jerubbaal (yerubba`al, i.e. yarebh bo ha-ba`al, "Let Baal plead," Judges 6:32 the King James Version).
The time intervening between this home scene and the actual campaign against the Midianites cannot definitely be named. It is probable that it took months for Gideon even to rally the people of his own clan. The fact is that all the subsequent events of the story are somewhat confused by what looks like a double narrative in which there are apparent but not vital differences. Without ignoring this fact it is still possible to get a connected account of what actually transpired.
5. Gideon's Army:
When the allied invaders were in camp on the plain of Jezreel, we find Gideon, having recruited the Abiezrites and sent messengers to the various tribes of Israel (Judges 6:34 f), pitching his camp near the Midianites. The location of the various camps of Gideon is difficult, as is the method of the recruiting of the tribes. For instance, Judges 6:35 seems to be in direct contradiction to 7:23, and both are considered of doubtful origin. There was evidently, however, a preliminary encampment at the place of rallying. While waiting here, Gideon further tested his commission by the dry and wet fleece (6:37) and, convinced of God's purpose to save Israel by his leadership, he moves his camp to the Southeast edge of the plain of Jezreel nearby the spring of Harod. From his point of vantage here he could look down on the tents of Midian. The account of the reduction of his large army from 32,000 to 300 (7:2) is generally accepted as belonging to a later tradition, Neither of the tests, however, is unnatural, and the first was not unusual. According to the account, Gideon at the Lord's command first excused all the fearful. This left him with 10,000 men. This number was reduced to 300 by a test of their method of drinking. This test can easily be seen to evidence the eagerness and courage of men for battle (Jos).
6. The Midianites' Discomfiture and Flight:
Having thus reduced the army and having the assurance that the Lord would deliver to him and his little band the forces of Midian, Gideon, with a servant, went by night to the edge of the camp of his enemy, and there heard the telling and interpretation of a dream which greatly encouraged him and led him to strike an immediate blow (Judges 7:9). Again we find a conflict of statement between Judges 7:20 and 7:22, but the conflict is as to detail only. Dividing his men into three equal bands, Gideon arranges that with trumpets, and lights concealed in pitchers, and with the cry, "The sword of Yahweh and of Gideon!" they shall descend and charge the Midianites simultaneously from three sides. This stratagem for concealing his numbers and for terrifying the enemy succeeds, and the Midianites and their allies flee in disorder toward the Jordan (7:18). The rout was complete, and the victory was intensified by the fact that in the darkness the enemy turned their swords against one another. Admitting that we have two narratives (compare 7:24; 8:3 with 8:4) and that there is some difference between them in the details of the attack and the progress of the conflict, there is no need for confusion in the main line of events. One part of the fleeing enemy evidently crossed the Jordan at Succoth, being led by Zebah and Zalmunna. The superior force followed the river farther south, toward the ford of Bethbarah.
7. Death of Oreb and Zeeb
Gideon sent messengers to the men of Ephraim (7:24), probably before the first attack, asking them to intercept the Midianites, should they attempt to escape by the fords in their territory. This they did, defeating the enemy at Beth-barah and slaying the princes Oreb and Zeeb ("the Raven" and "the Wolf"). As proof of their victory and valor they brought the heads of the princes to Gideon and accused him of having discounted their bravery by not calling them earlier into the fight. But Gideon was a master of diplomacy, as well as of strategy, and won the friendship of Ephraim by magnifying their accomplishment in comparison with his own (8:1).
Gideon now pursues Zebah and Zalmunna on the East side of the river. The people on that side are still in great fear of the Midianites and refuse even to feed his army. At Succoth they say to him, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thy hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?" (Judges 8:6). At Penuel he meets with the same refusal (Judges 8:8). Promising to deal with Succoth and Penuel as they deserve when he is through with his present task, Gideon pushes on with his half-famished but courageous men, overtakes the Midianites, defeats them, captures Zebah and Zalmunna, and, returning, punishes, according to his promise, both Succoth and Penuel (Judges 8:7, 9, 13).
8. Death of Zebah and Zalmunna:
Thus was the power of the Midianites and the desert hordes broken in Canaan and a forty years' peace came to Israel. But the two Kings of Midian must now meet their fate as defeated warriors. They had led their forces at Tabor when the brothers of Gideon perished. So Gideon commands his young son Jether to slay them as though they were not worthy of death at a warrior's hand (Judges 8:20). The youth fearing the task, Gideon himself put them to death (Judges 8:21).
9. Gideon's Ephod:
The people clamored to make Gideon king. He refused, being moved possibly by a desire to maintain theocracy. To this end he asks only the jewelry taken as spoil in the battles (Judges 8:24), and with it makes an ephod, probably an image of Yahweh, and places it in a house of the Lord at Ophrah. By this act it was later thought that Gideon contributed to a future idolatry of Israel. The narrative properly closes with Judges 8:28.
10. His Death:
The remaining verses containing the account of Gideon's family and death (Judges 8:30) and the record of events immediately subsequent to Gideon's death (Judges 8:33) come from other sources than the original narrators.
C. E. Schenk
Gideon (45 Occurrences)
Hebrews 11:32 What more shall I say? For the time would fail me if I told of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets; (WEB WEY ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:11 The angel of Yahweh came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:12 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him, and said to him, "Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (See NIV)
Judges 6:13 Gideon said to him, "Oh, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying,'Didn't Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?' But now Yahweh has cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:17 He said to him, "If now I have found favor in your sight, then show me a sign that it is you who talk with me. (See NAS NIV)
Judges 6:19 Gideon went in, and prepared a young goat, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of meal. He put the meat in a basket and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out to him under the oak, and presented it. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth." He did so. (See NIV)
Judges 6:22 Gideon saw that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, "Alas, Lord Yahweh! Because I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:24 Then Gideon built an altar there to Yahweh, and called it " Yahweh is Peace." To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as Yahweh had spoken to him: and it happened, because he feared his father's household and the men of the city, so that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:29 They said one to another, "Who has done this thing?" When they inquired and asked, they said, "Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:34 But the Spirit of Yahweh came on Gideon; and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered together after him. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have spoken, (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 6:39 Gideon said to God, "Don't let your anger be kindled against me, and I will speak but this once. Please let me make a trial just this once with the fleece. Let it now be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod: and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:2 Yahweh said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying,'My own hand has saved me.' (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.'" And Gideon tested them; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained. (DBY RSV)
Judges 7:4 Yahweh said to Gideon, "The people are still too many. Bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. It shall be, that of whom I tell you,'This shall go with you,' the same shall go with you; and of whoever I tell you,'This shall not go with you,' the same shall not go." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:5 So he brought down the people to the water; and Yahweh said to Gideon, "Everyone who laps of the water with his tongue, like a dog laps, you shall set him by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:7 Yahweh said to Gideon, "By the three hundred men who lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, each to his own place." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:8 So the people took food in their hand, and their trumpets; and he sent all the men of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men: and the camp of Midian was beneath him in the valley. (See NAS NIV)
Judges 7:9 It happened the same night, that Yahweh said to him, "Arise, go down into the camp; for I have delivered it into your hand. (See NIV)
Judges 7:13 When Gideon had come, behold, there was a man telling a dream to his fellow; and he said, "Behold, I dreamed a dream; and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:14 His fellow answered, "This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has delivered Midian into his hand, with all the army." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:15 It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped; and he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise; for Yahweh has delivered the army of Midian into your hand!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and shout,'For Yahweh and for Gideon!'" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:19 So Gideon, and the hundred men who were with him, came to the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and broke in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:20 The three companies blew the trumpets, and broke the pitchers, and held the torches in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands with which to blow; and they shouted, "The sword of Yahweh and of Gideon!" (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against Midian, and take before them the waters, as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan!" So all the men of Ephraim were gathered together, and took the waters as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 7:25 They took the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian: and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:1 The men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you treated us this way, that you didn't call us, when you went to fight with Midian?" They rebuked him sharply. (See NIV)
Judges 8:4 Gideon came to the Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men who were with him, faint, yet pursuing. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:7 Gideon said, "Therefore when Yahweh has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:11 Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and struck the army; for the army was secure. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:13 Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle from the ascent of Heres. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Rise and fall on us; for as the man is, so is his strength." Gideon arose, and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescents that were on their camels' necks. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you, and your son, and your son's son also; for you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:23 Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. Yahweh shall rule over you." (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:24 Gideon said to them, "I would make a request of you, that you would give me every man the earrings of his spoil." (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Judges 8:27 Gideon made an ephod of it, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel played the prostitute after it there; and it became a snare to Gideon, and to his house. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:28 So Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more. The land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:30 Gideon had seventy sons conceived from his body; for he had many wives. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Judges 8:32 Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:33 It happened, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and played the prostitute after the Baals, and made Baal Berith their god. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Judges 8:35 neither did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shown to Israel. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)