From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

("a hewer"), i.e. warrior, or the hewer down of Baal ( Isaiah 10:33). Of Manasseh; youngest son of Joash, of the Abiezrite family at Ophrah ( Judges 6:11;  Judges 6:15). Fifth of the judges of Israel, called by the angel of the Lord to deliver Israel from the seven years' yoke of the Midianite hosts, which like swarming locusts consumed all their produce except what they could hide in caves and holes ( Judges 6:2;  Judges 6:5-6;  Judges 6:11). There they fled, and "made" artificial caves besides enlarging natural caves for their purpose, God permitting them to be brought so low that their extremity might be His opportunity. Midian had long before with Moab besought Balaam to curse Israel, and through his counsel, by tempting Israel to whoredom with their and the Moabite women, had brought a plague on Israel, and had then by God's command been smitten sorely by Israel ( Numbers 25:17-18;  Numbers 31:1-16, etc.).

But now after 200 years, in renewed strength, with the Amalekite and other plundering children of the E. they were used as God's instrument to chastise His apostate people. Crossing Jordan from the E. they spread themselves from the plain of Jezreel to the sea coast of Gaza. Affliction led Israel to crying in prayer. Prayer brought first a prophet from Jehovah to awaken them to a sense of God's grace in their former deliverances and of their own apostasy. Next the Angel of Jehovah came. i.e. Jehovah the Second Person Himself. Former judges, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, had been moved by the Spirit of God to their work; but to Gideon alone under a terebinth in Ophrah, a town belonging to Joash, Jehovah appeared in person to show that the God who had made theophanies to the patriarchs was the same Jehovah, ready to save their descendants if they would return to the covenants.

His second revelation was in a dream, commanding him to overthrow his father's altar to Baal and to erect an altar to Jehovah and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the Asherah ("grove") or idol goddess of nature, probably a wooden pillar ( Deuteronomy 16:21). (See Ashtoreth ) In the first revelation Jehovah acknowledged Gideon, in the second He commanded Gideon to acknowledge Him. As God alone, Jehovah will not be worshipped along with Baal ( 1 Kings 18:21;  Ezekiel 20:39). Gideon at the first revelation was knocking out ( Habat ) with a stick wheat in the winepress, sunk in the ground or hewn in the rock to make it safe from the Midianites; for he did not dare to thresh upon an open floor or hardened area in the open field, but like poor gleaners ( Ruth 2:17) knocked out the little grain with a stick. The address, "Jehovah is with thee thou mighty man," seemed to Gideon, ruminating on the Midianite oppression which his occupation was a proof of, in ironical and sad contrast with facts.

"If Jehovah be with us why is all this befallen us?" alluding to  Deuteronomy 31:17. But God's words guarantee their own accomplishment. JEHOVAH (no longer under His character. "Angel of Jehovah," but manifested as JEHOVAH) replied, "Go in this thy might (the might now given thee by ME,  Isaiah 40:29), and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites; have not I sent thee?" Then followed the requested "sign," the Angel of the Lord with the end of the staff in His hand consuming with fire Gideon's "offering" ( Minchah ), not a strict sacrifice but a sacrificial gift), the kid and unleavened cakes (compare Genesis 18, the theophany to Abraham very similar). Compare and contrast the conduct of the angel and the acceptance of Manoah's sacrifice in  Judges 13:20. Gideon in gratitude built an altar and called it "Jehovah Shalom," a pledge of "Jehovah" being now at "peace" with Israel again ( Jeremiah 29:11;  Jeremiah 33:16).

The "second" in age of Joash's bullocks, "seven years old," was appointed in the dream for an offering to Jehovah, to correspond to Midian's seven years' oppression because of Israel's apostasy. Gideon with ten servants overthrew Baal's altar and Asherah in the night, for he durst not do it in the day through fear of his family and townsmen. Joash, when required to bring out his son to die for the sacrilege, replied, "Will ye plead for Baal? .... he that will plead for him shall be put, to death himself, let us wait until the morning (not 'shall be put to death while it is yet morning') and see whether Baal, if he be a god, will plead for himself." So Gideon got the surname "Jerubbaal," "Let Baal fight," i.e. vindicate his own cause on the destroyer of his altar; and as the Jews in contempt changed Baal in compounds to besheth, "Jerubbesheth," "Let the shameful idol light." Then the Spirit of God "clothed" Gideon as his coat of mail ( 1 Chronicles 12:18;  2 Chronicles 24:20;  Luke 24:49;  Isaiah 61:10).

His own clan the Abiezrites, Manasseh W. of Jordan, Zebulun, and Naphtali followed him. At his prayer the sign followed, the woolen fleece becoming saturated with dew while the earth around was dry, then the ground around being wet while the fleece was dry. Dew symbolizes God's reviving grace: Israel was heretofore the dry fleece, while the nations around were flourishing; now she is to become filled with the Lord's vigor, while the nations around lose it. The fleece becoming afterward dry while the ground around was wet symbolizes Israel's rejection of the gospel while the Gentile world is receiving the gracious dew. Afterward Israel in its turn shall be the dew to the Gentile world ( Micah 5:7). Gideon pitched on a height at the foot of which the fountain Harod ("the spring of trembling," now perhaps Ain Jahlood) sprang ( 2 Samuel 23:25). Midian pitched in the valley of Jezreel ( Judges 6:33).

The timid were first thinned out of Gideon's army ( Deuteronomy 20:8). In  Judges 7:3, "whosoever is fearful let him return from mount Gilead," as they were then W. of Jordan, the mount in eastern Palestine cannot be meant; but the phrase was a familiar designation of the Manassites. To take away still further all attribution of the victory to man not God, the army was reduced to 300 by retaining those alone whose energy was shown by their drinking what water they lifted with their hands, not delaying to kneel and drink (compare as to Messiah  Psalms 110:7). Then followed Gideon's going with Phurah his servant into the Midianite host, and hearing the Midianite's dream of a barley cake overturning the tent, that being poor men's food, so symbolizing despised Israel, the "tent" symbolizing Midian's nomadic life of freedom and power. The Moabite stone shows how similar to Hebrew was the language of Moab, and the same similarity to the Midianite tongue appears from Gideon understanding them.

Dividing his 300 into three attacking columns, Gideon desired them in the beginning of the middle watch, i.e. at midnight (this and the morning watch dividing the night into three watches in the Old Testament), after him to blow the trumpets, break the pitchers, and let the lamps in their left hand previously covered with. the pitchers (a type of the gospel light in earthen vessels,  2 Corinthians 4:6-7), suddenly flash on the foe, and to cry "the sword of Jehovah and of Gideon," and to stand without moving round about the Midianite camp. A mutual slaughter arose from panic among the Midianites (a type of Christ's final overthrow of antichrist,  Isaiah 9:4-7), each trumpet holder seeming to have a company at his back. The remnant fled to the bank of the Jordan at Abelmeholah, etc. (See Abelmeholah .)

Then the men of Asher, Naphtali, and all Manasseh, who had been dismissed, returned to join in the pursuit. Gideon requested Ephraim to intercept the fleeing Midianites at the waters of Bethbarah and Jordan, namely, at the tributary streams which they would have to cross to reach the Jordan. A second fight ensued there, and they slew Oreb (the raven) and Zeeb (the wolf). Conder (Palestine Exploration, July, 1874, p. 182) observes that the nomadic hordes of Midian, like the modern Beni Suggar and Ghazawiyeh Arabs, come up the broad and fertile valley of Jezreel; their encampment lay, as the black Arab tents do now in spring, at the foot of the hill March (Nebi Dahy) opposite to the limestone knoll on which Jezreel (Zer'ain) stands. The well Harod, where occurred the trial which separated 300 men of endurance from the worthless rabble, was the Ain Jalud, a fine spring at the foot of mount Gilboa, issuing blue and clear from a cavern, and forming a pool with rushy banks and a pebbly bottom, 100 yards long.

The water is sweet, though slightly tasting of sulphur, and there is ample space for gathering a great number of men. Concealed by the folds of the rolling ground the 300 crept down to Midian's camp in the valley. The Midianite host fled to Bethshittah (the modern village Shatta), in Zererath (a district connected with Zerthan or Zeretan, a name still appearing in Ain Zahrah, three miles W. of Beisan), and to the border of Beth Meholah (wady Maleh), a course directly down the main road to Jordan and Beisan. Thus, Midian fled ten or fifteen miles toward the Jordan. A systematic advance followed. Messengers went S. two days' journey to Ephraim; the lower fords of Jordan at Bethbarah were taken (Bethabara of the New Testament). Meantime Gideon, having cleared the Bethshan valley of Midianites, crossed at the southern end of Succoth (now Makhathet Abu Sus), and continued the pursuit along the eastern bank.

The Midianites followed the right bank S. toward Midian, intending to cross near Jericho. Here the men of Ephraim met them and executed Oreb and Zeeb, and sent their heads to Gideon "on the other side." Thus, "the Raven's Peak" and "the Wolf's Den" seem identical with Ash el Ghorab and Tuweil el Dhiab. Gideon's victory over self was still greater than that over Midian; by a soft answer he turned aside Ephraim's proud and unreasonable wrath at his not summoning them at the first: "is not the gleaning of grapes of Ephraim (their subsequent victory over the fleeing Midianites) better than the vintage of Abiezer?" than my first victory over them ( Isaiah 10:26;  Proverbs 15:1;  Proverbs 16:32). Contrast the unyielding temper of Jephthah ( Judges 12:1, etc.). Then followed the churlish unpatriotic cowardice of Succoth and Penuel, in answer to his request for provisions, through fear of Midian and disbelief of God's power to make victorious so small and so "faint" a force as Gideon's 300.

Coming unexpectedly on the host which thought itself "secure" amidst their Bedouin countrymen at Karkor, in a third battle he defeated them and slew Zebah and Zalmunnah the two kings (emirs) after battle, in just retribution for their having slain his kingly brothers in cold blood at Tabor; then he taught by corporal punishment with thorns the elders of Succoth to know their error, and beat down the tower of Penuel. Of 120,000 Midianites only 15,000 survived. Declining the proffered kingdom because Jehovah was their king, Gideon yet made a gorgeous jeweled ephod with the golden rings the Israelites had got as booty, besides the ornaments (verse 21, golden crescents or little moons), and collars (ear pendants), and purple raiment, and collars about their camels' necks.

The ephod had the breast-plate ( Choshen ) and Urim and Thummim. Gideon "kept" it in his city Ophrah; wearing the breast-plate, he made it and the holy 'lot his means of obtaining revelations from Jehovah whom he worshipped at the altar. His sin which became a "snare" (means of ruin) to him and his house was his usurping the Aaronic priesthood, and drawing off the people from the one lawful sanctuary, the center of theocratic unity, and so preparing the way for the relapse to Baal warship at his death.

But his unambitious spirit is praiseworthy; he, the great Baal fighter, "Jerubbaal," instead of ambitiously accepting the crown, "went and dwelt in his own house" quietly, and died "in a good old age," having secured for his country "quietness" for 40 years, leaving, besides 70 sons by wives, a son by a concubine, Abimelech, doomed to be by ambition as great a curse to his country as his father was in the main a blessing.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

GIDEON . The son of Joash, a Manassite; he dwelt in Ophrah, a place hitherto unidentified, which belonged to the clan of the Abiezrites. Gideon has also the names of Jerubbaal (  Judges 6:32 ) and Jerubbesheth (  2 Samuel 11:21 ). After the victory of the Israelites, under the guidance of Deborah, over the Canaanites, the land had rest for forty years (an indefinite period). Apostasy from Jahweh again resulted in their being oppressed, this time by the neighbouring Bedouin tribes, the Midianites and Amalekites. The underlying idea is that, since the Israelites did not exclusively worship their national God, He withdrew His protection, with the result that another nation, aided by its national god, was enabled to overcome the unprotected Israelites. A return to obedience, and recognition of Jahweh the national God, ensures His renewed protection; relief from the oppressor is brought about by some chosen instrument, of whom it is always said that Jahweh is ‘with him’; this is also the case with Gideon (  Judges 6:18 ).

The sources of the story of Gideon, preserved in  Judges 6:1 to   Judges 8:35 , offer some difficult problems, upon which scholars differ considerably; all that can be said with certainty is that the narrative is composite, that the hand of the redactor is visible in certain verses ( e.g.   Judges 6:20 ,   Judges 7:6 ,   Judges 8:22-23 ), and that the sources have not always been skilfully combined; this comes out most clearly in   Judges 7:24 to   Judges 8:3 , which breaks the continuity of the narrative. Disregarding details, the general outline of the history of Gideon is as follows:

Introduction ,   Judges 6:1-10 : For seven years the Israelites suffered under the Midianite oppression; but on their ‘crying unto the Lord’ a prophet is sent, who declares unto them the reason of their present state, viz. that it was the result of their having forsaken Jahweh and served the gods of the Amorites.* [Note: ‘Amorites’ is a general name for the Canaanite nations, see   Amos 2:9-10 .]

The call of Gideon ,   Judges 6:11-14 : The ‘Angel of the Lord’ appears to Gideon and tells him that the Lord is with him, and that he is to free Israel from the Midianite invasion. Gideon requires a sign: he brings an offering of a kid and unleavened cakes, the Angel touches these with his staff, whereupon fire issues from the rock on which the offering lies and consumes it. Gideon is now convinced that it was the ‘Angel of the Lord’ who had been speaking to him, and at Jahweh’s †[Note: On this apparent identity between Jahweh and His ‘Angel,’ see the art. Angel of the Lord.] command he destroys the altar of Baal in Ophrah and builds one to Jahweh, to whom he also offers sacrifice. This act embitters Gideon’s fellow-townsmen against him; they are, however, quieted down by the boldness and shrewdness of Gideon’s father.

Gideon’s victory ,   Judges 7:23  Judges 7:23 ,   Judges 8:4-14 : Allegiance to Jahweh being thus publicly acknowledged, the Israelites are once more in a position to assert their political independence; so that when the Midianites again invade their land, Gideon raises an army against them, being moreover assured by the miracle of the dew on the fleece that he will be victorious. At the command of Jahweh his army is twice reduced, first to ten thousand men, and then to three hundred. At the command of Jahweh again, he goes with his servant, Purah, down to the camp of the Midianites, where he is encouraged by overhearing a Midianite recounting a dream, which is interpreted by another Midianite as foreshadowing the victory of Gideon. On his return to his own camp Gideon divides his men into three companies; each man receives a torch, an earthen jar, and a horn; at a given sign, the horns are blown, the jars broken, and the burning torches exposed to view, with the result that the Midianites flee in terror. Gideon pursues them across the Jordan; he halts during the pursuit, both at Succoth and at Penuel, in order to refresh his three hundred followers; in each case food is refused him by the inhabitants; after threatening them with vengeance on his return, he presses on, overtakes the Midianite host, and is again victorious; he then first punishes the inhabitants of Succoth and Penuel, and next turns his attention to the Midianite chiefs, Zebah and Zalmunna. From this part of the narrative it would seem that Gideon’s attack upon the Midianites was, in part, undertaken owing to a blood-feud; for, on his finding out that the murderers of his brethren at Tabor were these two Midianite chiefs, he slays them in order to avenge his brethren.

The offer of the kingship ,   Judges 8:22-28 : On the Israelites offering to Gideon and his descendants the kingship, Gideon declines it on theocratic grounds, but asks instead for part of the gold from the spoil taken from the Midianites; of this he makes an image ( ephod ), which he sets up at Ophrah, and which becomes the cause of apostasy from Jahweh. The narrative of Gideon’s leadership is brought to a close by a reference to his offspring, and special mention of his son Abimelech; after his death, we are told, the Israelites ‘went a whoring after the Baalim.’

In the section  Judges 8:22-35 there is clearly a mixing-up of the sources; on the one hand Israel’s apostasy is traced to the action of Gideon, on the other this does not take place until after his death. Again, the refusal of the kingship on theocratic grounds is an idea which belongs to a much later time; moreover, Gideon’s son, Abimelech, became king after slaying his father’s legitimate sons; it is taken for granted (  Judges 9:2 ) that there is to be a ruler after Gideon’s death. This, together with other indications, leads to the belief that in its original form the earliest source gave an account of Gideon as king .

The section  Judges 7:24 to   Judges 8:3 is undoubtedly ancient; it tells of how the Ephraimites, at Gideon’s command, cut off part of the fugitive Midianite host under two of their chiefs, Oreb and Zeeb, whom the Ephraimites slew. When the victorious band with Gideon joins hands with the Ephraimites, the latter complain to Gideon because he did not call them to attack the main body of the enemy; Gideon quiets them by means of shrewd flattery. This section is evidently a fragment of the original source, which presumably went on to detail what further action the Ephraimites took during the Midianite campaign; for that the Midianite oppression was brought to an end by this one battle it is impossible to believe.* [Note: Cf. the Philistine campaign under Saul.]

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

Son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the judges of Israel. An angel of the Lord appeared to him while he was threshing wheat to hide it from the Midianites, and said, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." Thus addressed, the true though weak faith that was in Gideon was manifested, and he said to the Lord, "If the Lord be with us, why is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of ?" Jehovah added, "Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Gideon pleaded that his family was poor, and that he was the least in his father's house. He was further encouraged. The first thing he was bid to do was to throw down the altar of Baal, and erect an altar to Jehovah, and offer an offering thereon. Gideon obeyed, but he did it by night, for he feared to do it by day. The men of the city desired his death, but his father protected him, saying, Let Baal plead for himself, and symbolically named Gideon JERUBBAAL, 'Let Baal plead.' In  2 Samuel 11:21 it is JERUBBESHETH, 'Let the shameful thing plead,' meaning the same, without mentioning the name of Baal: cf.   Jeremiah 11:13;  Hosea 9:10 .

Obedience led to strength: the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he blew a trumpet, and sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. But his small though true faith wanted a sign from God that He would save Israel by him. God graciously responded by the moisture and then by the dryness of the fleece of wool. God declared that Gideon's followers were too many: they would take the glory to themselves, and say, "mine own hand hath saved me." So he bade all that were fearful and afraid to return, and more than two-thirds went back, leaving but 10,000: proving that the mass of the people were unfit to fight the battles of the Lord. Still the people were too many, and they are tested at the water: those that fell on their knees to drink were sent away, and only three hundred men remained, those who had lapped a little water from the hand, as satisfied with a hasty refreshment.

God then told Gideon to go down to the host, for He had delivered it into his hand; but if he was afraid, he could first go with his servant and hear what the enemy said. He was still faint-hearted and therefore went to listen, and there he heard himself compared to 'a cake of barley bread,' but that God would deliver Midian into his hand. Gideon at once arranged his men into three companies, each man having a trumpet, and a lamp inside a pitcher. When they reached the camp, the trumpets were blown, and the pitchers broken. The Midianites were dismayed and some of them in the confusion and terror killed one another, and the others fled, pursued by the tribes before named, and by Ephraim. Ephraim proudly found fault with Gideon for not calling them to the battle at first; but a modest answer appeased their wrath. The conquest was complete, and the men of Succoth and Penuel were punished for not aiding Gideon with bread when he was faint.

Israel desired Gideon to rule over them, but he refused, saying, "The Lord shall rule over you." He requested of the army the golden earrings taken from the enemy. With these he made an ephod, and placed it in his city, and all Israel went in idolatry after it, and it became a snare to Gideon and his house. Alas, the man of faith, who had thrown down the altar of Baal, was now led astray with a golden ephod! A memorial of God's intervention is not present faith in the God who has intervened. The time of victory is a time of peculiar danger, when many being off their guard have fallen. During the life-time of Gideon Israel dwelt in peace during forty years, but at his decease the people turned to idols and were ungrateful to the house of Gideon.  Judges 6:11 —   Judges 8:35 . He is called GEDEONin  Hebrews 11:32 , where his faith is spoken of.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Among the enemies that attacked Israel during the time of the judges were the Midianites. Their yearly raids devastated Israel ( Judges 6:1-6), and when the people cried to God for help, he chose Gideon to save them. Gideon at first found it difficult to believe that God had chosen him for this task, but his faith was strengthened when an offering he prepared for God was miraculously burnt up ( Judges 6:11-24).

Israel was in bondage to the worship of Baal. Therefore, if the people were to claim God’s help, they had first of all to destroy the false religions. In Gideon’s home town of Ophrah, Gideon’s father was caretaker of the local Baal shrine, but when Gideon began his reformation, his father became the first convert. Others in the town were hostile ( Judges 6:25-32).

This hostility did not last, for when Gideon called the people to battle, the people of his own clan (and therefore probably of his own town) were the first to respond. Others soon followed their example and Gideon was able to assemble a fighting force. Still uncertain of himself, Gideon twice asked God for miraculous signs to confirm that he was the one God had chosen ( Judges 6:33-40).

God allowed Gideon only three hundred men to launch the attack, to impress upon him the need for total trust in God for success ( Judges 7:1-8;  Hebrews 11:32-33). Gideon’s faith was greatly strengthened when he discovered, by secretly visiting the enemy’s camp, that the Midianites were in the grip of an unnatural fear ( Judges 7:9-15).

When the Midianites were awoken in the middle of the night by a terrifying noise and found themselves surrounded by Israelite soldiers, panic broke out. Some of the Midianites unknowingly attacked each other in the confusion, and others fled in fear. The larger Israelite force then swept in upon them ( Judges 7:16-25).

Upon discovering that the Midianite kings had escaped across the Jordan, Gideon set out after them. He eventually captured them, but before executing them, he punished the leaders of one Israelite town for earlier refusing to help him and his soldiers ( Judges 8:1-21).

Gideon was now a national hero. To his credit he rejected the people’s invitation to become their king (for God alone was their king), but he foolishly celebrated his victory over Midian by making a visible symbol of the invisible God. He may have had good intentions, but he opened the way for idolatry. Soon Gideon, his family and the people as a whole had returned to their former idolatrous ways ( Judges 8:22-28).

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Judges 6:11-8:35

Gideon was given the task of delivering the Israelites from the Midianites and Amalekites, desert nomads who repeatedly raided the country. Their use of the camel allowed them to ride in, destroy crops, take plunder, and then escape back into the desert with such speed the Israelites could not catch them. Gideon was not a willing volunteer. Although he knew the will of God, twice he laid out the fleece in what seems an effort to avoid the will of God by imposing impossible conditions. God met his conditions both times and then set out the strategy that would guarantee victory for Israel.

To reduce their number, two tests were given to the 32,000 men in Gideon's army. This was done that Israel could not claim victory by any other means than continued dependence upon God. Those who were afraid and those who knelt down to get a drink of water were sent home. The remaining 300 were given pitchers, torches, and trumpets, and placed around the Midianite encampment. The strategy was one of terror: at Gideon's signal the pitchers were broken, the torches then became visible, and the trumpets sounded, giving the enemy the impression they were surrounded. They took flight, their leaders were killed, and the Midianite oppression was brought to an end.

The hero of faith ( Hebrews 11:32 ) ended life on a sad note. He angrily punished Succoth and Penuel for not helping in his war against the Midianite kings ( Judges 8:1-17 ). He refused the people's offer to crown him king, testifying that only God was King ( Judges 8:22-23 ), but he ordered the people to give him their golden earrings, taken as war spoil from the Ishmaelites. He made a worship symbol, an ephod, out of it and led his people astray with it ( Judges 8:24-27 ). His family did not follow his God ( Judges 8:33 ). See Camel; Judge; Midianites.

Darlene R. Gautsch

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Gideon ( Gĭd'E-On ), He That Cuts Down. youngest son of Joash, whose family lived at Ophrah,  Judges 6:15, in the territory of Manasseh, near Shechem. He was the fifth and greatest recorded judge of Israel. He had sons,  Judges 6:11;  Judges 8:22; and was called by an angel to be a deliverer of Israel.  Judges 6:1-40. Clothed by the Spirit of God,  Judges 6:34; comp.  1 Chronicles 12:18, he blew a trumpet and was joined by Zebulun, Naphtali and even the reluctant Asher. Strengthened by a double sign from God, he reduced his army by the usual proclamation.  Deuteronomy 20:1;  Deuteronomy 20:8. By a second test at "the spring of trembling" he further reduced the number of his followers to 300.  Judges 7:5. ff, The midnight attack upon the Midianites, their panic, and the rout and slaughter that followed, are told in  Judges 7:1-25. The memory of this splendid deliverance took deep root in the national traditions.  1 Samuel 12:11;  Psalms 83:11;  Isaiah 9:4;  Isaiah 10:26;  Hebrews 11:32. After this there was a peace of forty years,  Judges 8:29-31. He refused the crown.  Judges 8:23.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Judges 6:29,32 Judges 6-8 Joshua 17:2 1 Chronicles 7:18 Judges 6:11 Judges 7:18 1 Samuel 12:11 Psalm 83:11 Isaiah 9:4 10:26 Hebrews 11:32 Judges 8:35Ophrah

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]


Gideon was a man of valour who, according to Judges 6-8, received a visit from Jahweh’s messenger, overturned the altar of Baal, saved Israel from the hand of Midian, chastised the men of Succoth, and finally refused a crown. He is merely named in Hebrews ( Hebrews 11:32) among the ancients who wrought great deeds by faith, time failing the author to recount the achievements of all his heroes.

James Strahan.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

the son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh; the same with Jerubbaal, the seventh judge of Israel. He dwelt in the city of Ophra, and was chosen by God in a very extraordinary manner to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Midianites, under which they had laboured for the space of seven years. See  Judges 6:14-27;  Judges 8:1-24 , &c.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

See Jerubbaal

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

(Heb. Gidon', גַּדְעוֹן , tree-feller, i.e., warrior, comp.  Isaiah 10:33; Sept. and N.T. Γεδεών ), a Manassite, youngest son of Joash of the Abiezrites, an undistinguished family, who lived at Ophrah, a town probably on the western side of Jordan ( Judges 6:15). He was the fifth recorded judge of Israel, and for many reasons the greatest of them all, being the first of them whose history is circumstantially narrated (Judges 6-8). B.C. 1362- 1322.

1. When we first hear of him he was grown up and had sons ( Judges 6:11;  Judges 8:20), and from the apostrophe of the angel ( Judges 6:12) we may conclude that he had already distinguished himself in war against the roving bands of nomadic robbers who had oppressed Israel for seven years, and whose countless multitudes (compared to locusts from their terrible devastations,  Judges 6:5) annually destroyed all the produce of Canaan, except such as could be concealed in mountain-fastnesses ( Judges 6:2). The Midianites, in conjunction with the Amalekites and other nomadic tribes, invaded the country every year, at the season of produce, in great numbers, with their flocks and herds, rioting in the country after the manner which the Bedouin Arabs practice at this day. It was probably during this disastrous period that the emigration of Elimelech took place ( Ruth 1:1-2; Jahn's Hebr. Comm. § 21). Some ave identified the angel who appeared to Gideon (Φάντασμα Νεανίσκου Μορφῇ Josephus, Ant. 5:6) with the prophet mentioned in 6:8, which will remind the reader of the legends about Malachi in Origen and other commentators. Paulus (Exeg. Conserv. 2:190 sq.) endeavors to give the narrative a subjective coloring, but rationalism is of little value in accounts like this. When the angel appeared, Gideon was threshing wheat with a flail (Sept. Ἔκοπτε ) in the wine-press, to conceal it from the predatory tyrants. Such was the position and such the employment in which he was found by the angel of the Lord, who appeared to him and said, "Jehovah is with thee, thou mighty man of valor." It was a startling address, and one that seemed rather like a bitter irony, when viewed in connection with the existing state of affairs, than the words of soberness and truth.

Therefore Gideon replied, "Oh! my Lord, if Jehovah be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all the miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not Jehovah bring us up from Egypt? But now Jehovah hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." The desponding tone of the reply was not unnatural in the circumstances, and what followed was designed to reassure his mind, and brace him with energy and fortitude for the occasion. Jehovah, it is said for, instead of the angel of Jehovah, as formerly, it is now Jehovah himself Jehovah looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites; have not I sent thee?" Gideon still expressed his fear of the result, mentioning his own comparative insignificance, and that of his father's family, but was again met with a word of encouragement, "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man." Gideon's heart now began to take courage; but to make him sure that it really was a divine messenger he was dealing with, and that tie commission he had received was from the Lord, he requested a sign from heaven; and it was given him in connection with an offering, which he was allowed to present, of a kid and some unleavened cakes. These the angel touched with the tip of his staff, and a fire presently rose out of the rock and consumed them. Immediately the angel himself disappeared, though not till he had by a word of peace quieted the mind of Gideon, which had become agitated by the thought of having seen the face of the Lord (comsp.  Exodus 20:19;  Judges 13:22). The family of Joash had fallen into the prevalent idolatry of the times, which was characterized by backsliding from the true worship of Jehovah; and it was the first task of Gideon as a reformer to rebuke this irreligion, and his first sphere was at home.

In a dream the same night he was ordered to throw down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah (A. Vers. "grove") upon it (See Ashesrah) which his father had caused, or at least suffered, to be erected on the family grounds; and with the wood of this he was to offer in sacrifice his father's "second bullock of seven years old," an expression in which some see an allusion to the seven years of servitude ( Judges 6:26;  Judges 6:1). Perhaps that particular bullock is specified because it had been reserved by his father to sacrifice to Baal (Rosenm Ü ller, Schol. ad loc.), for Joash seems to have been a priest of that worship. Bertheaus can hardly be right in supposing that Gideon was to offer two bullocks (Richt. page 115). At any rate, the minute touch is valuable as an indication of truth in the story (see Ewald, Gesch. 2:498, and note). Gideon, assisted by ten faithful servants, obeyed the vision. He deemed it prudent, however, to do this under cover of the darkness. The same night, apparently, he built on the spot desecrated by the idolatrous shrine the altar Jehovah-shalom (q.v.), which existed when the book of Judges was written ( Judges 6:24). As soon as the act was discovered, and the perpetrator suspected and identified, which was immediately on the following morning, he ran the risk of being stoned; but Joash appeased the popular indignation by using the common argument that Baal was capable of defending his own majesty (compare  1 Kings 18:27). This circumstance gave to Gideon the surname of Jerubbaal ( יְרֻבִּעִל , "Let Baal plead," 6:32; Sept. ῾Ιεροβἁαλ ), a standing instance of national irony, expressive of Baal's impotence. Winer thinks that this irony was increased by the fact that ירבעל was a surname of the Phoenician Hercules (comp. Movers, Phoeniz. 1:434). We have similar cases of contempt in the names Sychar, Baal-zebul, etc. (Lightfoot, Her. Fleb. ad  Matthew 12:24). In consequence of the name, some have identified Gideon with a certain priest, Jerosembolus ( ῾Ιερόμβαλος ), mentioned in Euseabius (Praep. Evang. 1:10) as having given much accurate information to Sanchoniatho the Berytian (Bochart, Phaleg , page 776; Huaetius, Deam. Evang. page 84, etc.), lent this opinion cannot be maintained (Ewald, Gesch. 2:494). We also find the name in the fores Jesrubbesheth ( 2 Samuel 11:21); probably indicative of contempt for the heathen deity (comp. Eshlaal,  1 Chronicles 8:33, with Ishbosheth, 2 Samuel 2 sq.). The mind of Joash, at all events, was confirmed by this bold act of his son, and he seems resolved to leave the solution of the controversy to divine Providence.

2. Gideon soon found occasion to act upon his high commission. The allied invaders were encamped in the great plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon, when, "clothed" by the Spirit of God ( Judges 6:34; comp.  1 Chronicles 12:18;  Luke 24:49), he blew a trumpet, and thus gathered round him a daily increasing host, the summons to arms which it implied having been transmitted through the northern tribes by special messengers. Being joined by "Zebulun, Naphtali, and even the reluctant Asher" (which tribes were chiefly endangered by the Midianites), and possibly also by some of the original inhabitants, who would suffer from these predatory "sons of the East" no less than the Israelites themselves, he encamped on one of the neighboring slopes, from which he overlooked the plains covered by the tents of Midian. Mount Gilead, indeed, is named in the movement of Gideon against Midian, but probably only as the first place of rendezvous for his army ( Judges 7:3). For the sake of security, he might be obliged to assemble the people on the mountainous lands to the east of Jordan. Stanley ( Sinai And Palestine, page 342), after Le Clerc, without any authority from MSS., would substitute Gilbaoa for Gilead in the passage referred to. This is otherwise objectionable, its one does not see how thousands from Asher, Naphtali, about and beyond Esdraelon, could have been able to meet on Gilboa, with the Midianitish host lying between. Ewald is perhaps right in regarding the name as a sort of war-cry and general designation of the Manassites. (See too, Gesenius, Thes. page 804, n.).

The inquietude connected with great enterprises is more sensibly felt some days before than at the moment of action; and hence the two miraculous signs which, on the two nights preceding the march, were required and given as tokens of victory. The first night a fleece was laid out in the middle of an open threshing-floor, and in the morning it was quite wet, while the soil was dry all around. The next might the wonder was reversed, the soil being wet and the fleece perfectly dry. Strengthened by this double sign from God (to which Ewald gives a strange figurative meaning, Gesch. 2:500), Gideon advanced to the brook Harod, in the valley of Jezreel. (See Harod). He was here at the head of 32,000 men; but, lest so large a host should assume the glory of the coming deliverance, which of right belonged to God only, two operations, remarkable both in motive and procedure, reduced this large host to a mere handful of men. First, by divine direction, the usual proclamation ( Deuteronomy 20:8; comp.  1 Maccabees 3:56) was made that all the faint-hearted might withdraw; and no fewer than 22,000 availed themselves of the indulgence. The remaining 10,000 were still declared too numerous: they were therefore all taken down to the brook, when only those who lapped the water from their hands, like active men in haste, were reserved for the enterprise, while all those who lay down leisurely to drink were excluded. The former numbered no more than 300, and these were the appointed vanquishers of the huge host which e covered the great plain. It was but a slight circumstance which marked the difference between them and the others, but still it indicated a specific quality; they were the persons that took the more expeditious method of quenching their thirst, and thereby gave proof of a nimbleness and alacrity which bespoke a fitness for executing quick movements in attacking or pursuing an enemy. This affords a perfectly sufficient and natural explanation and there is no need far resorting, as many do, to peculiar usages in the East, and no one who knows anything of the manners of people in rural and highland districts can need to be told how common it is for them, when wisbing to get a hasty refreshment at a a running stream, to lift the water to their mouths in the palm of their hand, instead of leisurely bending down, or laying themselves along to get a fuller draught. Josephus, however, explains these men to have been the most cowardly in the army (Ant. 5:6, 3).

Finally, being encouraged by in words fortuitously overheard (what the later Jews termed the Bath-Kol) (compare  1 Samuel 14:9-10; Lightfoot, flor. Hebr. Ad  Matthew 3:14), in the relation of a significant dream, Gideon framed his plans, which were admirably adapted to strike a panic into the huge and undisciplined nomad host ( Judges 8:15-18). We know from history' that large and irregular Oriental armies are especially liable to sudden outbursts of uncontrollable terror; and when the stillness and darkness of the night were, suddenly disturbed in three different directions by the flash of torches and by the reverberating echoes which the trumpets and the shouting woke among the hills, we cannot be astonished at the complete rout into which the enemy were thrown. It must be remembered, too, that the sound of 300 trumpets would make them suppose that a corresponding number of companies were attacking them. It is curious to find "lamps and pitchers" in use for a similar purpose at this very day in the streets of Cairo. The Zabit or Ayha of the police carries with him at night "a torch which burns soon after it is lighted, without a flame, excepting when it is waved through the air, when it suddenly blazes forth: it therefore answers the same purpose as our dark lantern. The burning end is sometimes concealed in a small pot or jar, or covered with something else, when not required to give light" (Lane's Mod. Eg. 1, chapter 4). For specimens of similar .stratagems, see Livy, 22:16; Polynus, Strateg. 2:37; Frontinus, 2:4; Sallust, Jug. 99; Niebuhr, Desc. de l ´ Arabie, page 304; Journal As. 1841, 2:516. The custom of dividing an army into three seems to have been common ( 1 Samuel 11:11;  Genesis 14:15), and Gideon's war-cry is not unlike that adopted by Cyrus (Xenoph. Cyr. 3:28).

He adds his own name to the war-cry, as suited both to inspire confidence in his followers and strike terror in the enemy. His stratagem was eminently successful, and the Midianites, breaking into their wild peculiar cries, fled headlong "down the descent to the Jordan," to the "house of the Acacia" (Beth-shitta), and the "meadow of the dance" (Abel- meholah), but were intercepted by the Ephraimites (to whom notice had been sent,  Judges 7:24) at the fords of Beth-barah, where, after a Second fight, the princes of Oreb and Zeeb ("the Raven" and "the Wolf") were detected and slain the former at a rock, and the latter concealed in a wine-press, to which their names were afterwards given. The Ephraimites took their heads over to Gideon, which amounted to an acknowledgment of his leadership. but still the always haughty and jealous Ephraimites were greatly annoyed that they had not in the first instance been summoned to the field; and serious consequences might have followed but for the tact of Gideon in speaking in a lowly spirit of his own doings in comparison with theirs. Gideon's "soft answer," which pacified the Ephraimite warriors, became a proverb ( Judges 8:13). Meanwhile the "higher sheiks, Zebah and Zalmunna, had already escaped," and Gideon resolved to pursue them into eastern Manasseh, and burst upon them among the tents of their Bedouin countrymen. On that side the river, however, his victory was not believed or understood, and the people still trembled at the very name of the Midianites. Hence he could obtain no succor from the places which he passed, and town after town refused to supply even victuals to his fatigued and hungry, but still stout-hearted troop. He denounced vengeance upon them, but postponed its execution until his return. Continuing his pursuit of the Midianites southward, he learned that they had encamped with the remnant of their army in fancied security at Karkor, just without the limits of Palestine; he therefore resolved to surprise them by a rapid detour through the edge of the nomadic region of the Hauran, a measure which he accomplished so successfully that, falling suddenly upon them from the east by night, he utterly routed them, and by sunrise was on his way to the Jordan. In this his third victory he avenged on the Midianitish emirs the massacre of his kingly brethren whom they had slain at Tabor. In those days captives of distinction taken in war were almost invariably slain. Zebah and Zalmunna had made up their minds to this fate; and yet it was Gideon's humane intention to spare them till he learned that they had put to death his own brothers under the same circumstances; upon which, as the avenger of their blood, he slew the captives with his own hand. In these three battles only 15,000 out of 120,000 Midianites escaped alive. It is indeed stated in  Judges 8:10, that-120,000 Midianites had already fallen; but here, as elsewhere, it may merely be intended that such was the original number of the routed host. During his triumphal return Gideon took signal and appropriate vengeance on the coward and apostate towns of Succoth and Peniel. The memory of this splendid deliverance took deep root in the national traditions ( 1 Samuel 12:11;  Psalms 83:11;  Isaiah 9:4;  Isaiah 10:26;  Hebrews 11:32),

3. After this there was a peace of 40 years, and we see Gideon in peaceful possession of his well-earned honors, and surrounded by the dignity of a numerous household ( Judges 8:29-31). It is not improbable that, like Saul, he had owed a part of his popularity to his princely appearance ( Judges 8:18). In this stage of his life occur alike his most noble and his most questionable acts. Gideon magnanimously rejected, on theocratic principles, the proffer of hereditary royalty which the rulers in the warmth of their gratitude made him. He would only accept the golden earrings (q.v.) which the victors had taken from the ears of their slaughtered foes, and with these he made an ephod, and put it in his city Ophrah ( Judges 8:22-27). But whether Gideon intended it as a commemorative trophy, or had a Levitical priest in his house, as Micah on Mount Ephraim, and the Danites at Laish, it is difficult to determine ( Judges 17:5-13;  Judges 18:15-31). The probability is that the worship rendered there was in honor of Jehovah. It became, however, a snare to the Hebrews in the vicinity, who thus, having an ephod and worship in their own country, would not so readily go over to the talbernacle at Shiloh, and consequently fell into idolatry by worshipping the gods of the Phoenicians ( Judges 8:33). Gesenius and others (Thes. page 135; Bertheau, page 113 sq.) follow the Peshito in making the word ephod here mean an idol, chiefly on account of the vast amount of gold (1700 shekels) .and other rich: material appropriated to it. But it is simpler to understand it as a significant symbol of an unauthorized worship. (See Crit. Sacr. Thes. 1:425.) (See Ephod).

The evil consequences of this false step in religion were realized in the miserable sequel of Gideon's family. After his death his numerous sons were destroyed by Abimelech, their brother, who afterwards reigned at Shechem ( Judges 8:35;  Judges 9:5). (See Evans, Script. Biog. 2:55; Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations, ad loc.; Stanley, Jewish Churchu. 1:374; Duncan, Gideon, Son of Joash, London, 1860). (See Abimelech).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

gid´ē̇ - un ( גּדעון , gidh‛ōn , "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 Jdg 6 through 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. yārebh bō 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   Judges 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 ( Judges 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 ( Judges 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   Judges 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 ( Judges 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  Judges 7:24;  Judges 8:3 with   Judges 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 ( Judges 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 ( Judges 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 ,  Judges 8:9 ,  Judges 8:13 ).

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.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Gid´eon (destroyer), surnamed Jerubbaal or Jerubbesheth, fifth Judge in Israel, and the first of them whose history is circumstantially narrated. He was the son of Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh, and resided at Ophrah in Gilead beyond the Jordan.

The Midianites, in conjunction with the Amalekites and other nomad tribes, invaded the country every year, at the season of produce, in great numbers, with their flocks and herds. They plundered and trampled down the fields, the vineyards, and the gardens; they seized the cattle, and plundered man and house, rioting in the country, after the manner which the Bedouin Arabs practice at this day. After Israel had been humbled by seven years of this treatment, the Lord raised up a deliverer in the person of Gideon. He was threshing corn by stealth, for fear of its being taken away by the Midianites, when an angel of God appeared before him, and thus saluted him:—'the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.' Gideon expressed some doubt whether God was still with a people subject to such affliction, and was answered by the most unexpected commission—'Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?' Gideon still urged, 'Wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.' The 'Wherewith' was answered by 'Surely I will be with thee.' He then demurred no more, but pressed his hospitality upon the heavenly stranger, who, however, ate not of what was set before him, but directing Gideon to lay it out upon the rock as upon an altar, it was consumed by a supernatural fire, and the angel disappeared. Assured by this of his commission, Gideon proceeded at once to cast down the local image and altar of Baal; and, when the people would have avenged this insult to their false god, their anger was averted through the address of his father, who, by dwelling on the inability of Baal to avenge himself, more than insinuated a doubt of his competency to protect his followers. This was a favorite argument among the Hebrews against idolatry. It occurs often in the prophets, and was seldom urged upon idolatrous Israelites without some effect upon their consciences.

Gideon soon found occasion to act upon his high commission. The allied invaders were encamped in the great plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon, when he blew the trumpet, and thus gathered round him a daily increasing host, the summons to arms which it implied having been transmitted through the northern tribes by special messengers. The inquietude connected with great enterprises is more sensibly felt some days before than at the moment of action; and hence the two miraculous signs which, on the two nights preceding the march, were required and given as tokens of victory. The first night a fleece was laid out in the middle of an open threshing-floor, and in the morning it was quite wet, while the soil was dry all around. The next night the wonder was reversed, the soil being wet and the fleece perfectly dry (Judges 7).

Encouraged by these divine testimonies, Gideon commenced his march, and advanced to the brook Harod, in the valley of Jezreel. He was here at the head of 32,000 men; but, lest so large a host should assume the glory of the coming deliverance, which of right belonged to God only, two operations, remarkable both in motive and procedure, reduced this large host to a mere handful of men. First, by divine direction, proclamation was made that all the faint-hearted might withdraw; and no fewer than 22,000 availed themselves of the indulgence. The remaining 10,000 were still declared too numerous: they were therefore all taken down to the brook, when only those who lapped the water from their hands, like active men in haste, were reserved for the enterprise, while all those who lay down leisurely to drink were excluded. The former numbered no more than 300, and these were the appointed vanquishers of the huge host which covered the great plain .

The overheard relation of a dream, by which Gideon was encouraged , and the remarkable stratagem, with pitchers and torches, by which he overcame , are well known.

The routed Midianites fled towards the Jordan, but were pursued with great slaughter, the country being now roused in pursuit of the flying oppressor. The Ephraimites rendered good service by seizing the lower fords of the Jordan, and cutting off all who attempted escape in that direction, while Gideon himself pursued beyond the river those who escaped by the upper fords. Gideon crossed the Jordan a little below where it leaves the lake of Gennesareth, in pursuit of the Midianitish princes Zeba and Zalmunna. On that side the river, however, his victory was not believed or understood, and the people still trembled at the very name of the Midianites. Hence he could obtain no succor from the places which he passed, and town after town refused to supply even victuals to his fatigued and hungry, but still stout-hearted troop. He denounced vengeance upon them, but postponed its execution till his return; and when he did return, with the two princes as his prisoners, he by no means spared those towns which, like Succoth and Penuel, had added insult to injury .

In his days captives of distinction taken in war were almost invariably slain. Zeba and Zalmunna had made up their minds to this fate; and yet it was Gideon's intention to have spared them, till he learned that they had put to death his own brothers under the same circumstances; upon which, as the avenger of their blood, he slew the captives with his own hand .

Among the fugitives taken by the Ephraimites were two distinguished emirs of Midian, named Oreb and Zeeb, whom they put to death. They took their heads over to Gideon, which amounted to an acknowledgment of his leadership; but still the always haughty and jealous Ephraimites were greatly annoyed that they had not in the first instance been summoned to the field; and serious consequences might have followed, but for the tact of Gideon in speaking in a lowly spirit of his own doings in comparison with theirs (; , sq.).

Gideon having thus delivered Israel from the most afflictive tyranny to which they had been subject since they quitted Egypt, the grateful people, and particularly the northern tribes, made him an offer of the crown for himself and his sons. But the hero was too well acquainted with his true position, and with the principles of the theocratical government, to accept this unguarded offer: 'I will not rule over you,' he said, 'neither shall my son rule over you: Jehovah, he shall rule over you.' He would only accept the golden earrings which the victors had taken from the ears of their slaughtered foes [EARRINGS] and a cloth being spread out to receive them, the admiring Israelites threw in, not only the earrings, but other ornaments of gold, including the chains of the royal camels, and added the purple robes which the slain monarchs had worn, being the first indication of purple as a royal color. The earrings alone weighed 1700 shekels, equal to 74 pounds 4 ounces, and worth, at the present value of gold, about 3300 l. ] With this 'Gideon made an ephod, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah; and all Israel went thither a whoring after it; which thing became a snare unto Gideon and to his house.' An ephod, at least that of the high-priest, was an outer garment like a sleeveless tunic, to which was attached the oracular breastplate, composed of twelve precious stones set in gold, and graven with the names of the twelve tribes. Another plainer description of ephod was worn by the common priests. The object of Gideon in making an ephod with his treasure is not very clear. Some suppose that it was merely designed as a trophy of Israel's deliverance: if so, it was a very strange one. It is more probable that as Gideon had, on his being first called to his high mission, been instructed to build an altar and offer sacrifice at this very place, he conceived himself authorized, if not required, to have there a sacerdotal establishment—for at least the tribes beyond the river—where sacrifices might be regularly offered. In this case the worship rendered there was doubtless in honor of Jehovah, but was still, however well intended, highly schismatical and irregular. Even in his lifetime it must have had the effect of withdrawing the attention of the people east of the Jordan from the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and thus so far tended to facilitate the step into actual idolatry, which was taken soon after Gideon's death. The probability of this explanation is strengthened when we recollect the schismatical sacerdotal establishments which were formed by Micah on Mount Ephraim, and by the Danites at Laish .

The remainder of Gideon's life was peaceable. He had seventy sons by many wives, and died at an advanced age, after he had 'ruled Israel' (principally the northern tribes and those beyond the river) for forty years: B.C. 1249 to 1209. He is mentioned in the discourse of Samuel , and his name occurs in , among those of the heroes of the faith.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]

One of the most eminent of the Judges of Israel, famous for his defeat of the Midianites at Gilboa, and the peace of 40 years' duration which it ensured to the people under his rule.