Gideon the Judge

Also known as

  • Gedeon
  • Jerobaal
  • Jerubebbeth
  • Jerub-Baal

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Eleventh century BC Judge of Isreal. See the Readings section below for the Old Testament account of his life.

Name Meaning

  • destroyer; mighty warrior; feller of trees

Canonized

Patronage

Representation

  • man wringing dew out of a fleece

Readings

The Israelites offended the LORD, who therefore delivered them into the power of Midian for seven years, so that Midian held Israel subject. For fear of Midian the Israelites established the fire signals on the mountains, the caves for refuge, and the strongholds. And it used to be that when the Israelites had completed their sowing, Midian, Amalek and the Kedemites would come up, encamp opposite them, and destroy the produce of the land as far as the outskirts of Gaza, leaving no sustenance in Israel, nor sheep, oxen or asses. For they would come up with their livestock, and their tents would become as numerous as locusts; and neither they nor their camels could be numbered, when they came into the land to lay it waste. Thus was Israel reduced to misery by Midian, and so the Israelites cried out to the LORD.

When Israel cried out to the LORD because of Midian, he sent a prophet to the Israelites who said to them, “The LORD, the God of Israel, says: I led you up from Egypt; I brought you out of the place of slavery. I rescued you from the power of Egypt and of all your other oppressors. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you: I, the LORD, am your God; you shall not venerate the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling. But you did not obey me.”

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press to save it from the Midianites, the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “The LORD is with you, O champion!”

“My Lord,” Gideon said to him, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the LORD has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.”

But he answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the meanest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”

“I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him, “and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”

He answered him, “If I find favor with you, give me a sign that you are speaking with me. Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you and bring out my offering and set it before you.”

He answered, “I will await your return.”

So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and an ephah of flour in the form of unleavened cakes. Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out to him under the terebinth and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.” When he had done so, the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held, and touched the meat and unleavened cakes. Thereupon a fire came up from the rock which consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.

Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD, said, “Alas, Lord GOD, that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

The LORD answered him, “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD and called it Yahweh-shalom. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the seven-year-old spare bullock and destroy your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the sacred pole that is by it. You shall build, instead, the proper kind of altar to the LORD, your God, on top of this stronghold. Then take the spare bullock and offer it as a holocaust on the wood from the sacred pole you have cut down.”

So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD had commanded him. But through fear of his family and of the townspeople, he would not do it by day, but did it at night. Early the next morning the townspeople found that the altar of Baal had been destroyed, the sacred pole near it cut down, and the spare bullock offered on the altar that was built. They asked one another, “Who did this?” Their inquiry led them to the conclusion that Gideon, son of Joash, had done it.

So the townspeople said to Joash, “Bring out your son that he may die, for he has destroyed the altar of Baal and has cut down the sacred pole that was near it.”

But Joash replied to all who were standing around him, “Do you intend to act in Baal’s stead, or be his champion? If anyone acts for him, he shall be put to death by morning. If he whose altar has been destroyed is a god, let him act for himself!”

So on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, because of the words, “Let Baal take action against him, since he destroyed his altar.” Then all Midian and Amalek and the Kedemites mustered and crossed over into the valley of Jezreel, where they encamped. The spirit of the LORD enveloped Gideon; he blew the horn that summoned Abiezer to follow him. He sent messengers, too, throughout Manasseh, which also obeyed his summons; through Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, likewise, he sent messengers and these tribes advanced to meet the others.

Gideon said to God, “If indeed you are going to save Israel through me, as you promised, I am putting this woolen fleece on the threshing floor. If dew comes on the fleece alone, while all the ground is dry, I shall know that you will save Israel through me, as you promised.”

That is what took place. Early the next morning he wrung the dew from the fleece, squeezing out of it a bowlful of water. Gideon then said to God, “Do not be angry with me if I speak once more. Let me make just one more test with the fleece. Let the fleece alone be dry, but let there be dew on all the ground.” That night God did so; the fleece alone was dry, but there was dew on all the ground.

Early the next morning Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) encamped by Enharod with all his soldiers. The camp of Midian was in the valley north of Gibeath-hammoreh. The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, ‘My own power brought me the victory.’ Now proclaim to all the soldiers, ‘If anyone is afraid or fearful, let him leave.’” When Gideon put them to this test on the mountain, twenty-two thousand of the soldiers left, but ten thousand remained.

The LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many soldiers. Lead them down to the water and I will test them for you there. If I tell you that a certain man is to go with you, he must go with you. But no one is to go if I tell you he must not.” When Gideon led the soldiers down to the water, the LORD said to him, “You shall set to one side everyone who laps up the water as a dog does with its tongue; to the other, everyone who kneels down to drink.” Those who lapped up the water raised to their mouths by hand numbered three hundred, but all the rest of the soldiers knelt down to drink the water.

The LORD said to Gideon, “By means of the three hundred who lapped up the water I will save you and will deliver Midian into your power. So let all the other soldiers go home.” Their horns, and such supplies as the soldiers had with them, were taken up, and Gideon ordered the rest of the Israelites to their tents, but kept the three hundred men.

Now the camp of Midian was beneath him in the valley. That night the LORD said to Gideon, “Go, descend on the camp, for I have delivered it up to you. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your aide Purah. When you hear what they are saying, you will have the courage to descend on the camp.” So he went down with his aide Purah to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, Amalekites, and all the Kedemites lay in the valley, as numerous as locusts. Nor could their camels be counted, for these were as many as the sands on the seashore.

When Gideon arrived, one man was telling another about a dream. “I had a dream,” he said, “that a round loaf of barley bread was rolling into the camp of Midian. It came to our tent and struck it, and as it fell it turned the tent upside down.”

“This can only be the sword of the Israelite Gideon, son of Joash,” the other replied. “God has delivered Midian and all the camp into his power.”

When Gideon heard the description and explanation of the dream, he prostrated himself. Then returning to the camp of Israel, he said, “Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your power.” He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and provided them all with horns and with empty jars and torches inside the jars.

“Watch me and follow my lead,” he told them. “I shall go to the edge of the camp, and as I do, you must do also. When I and those with me blow horns, you too must blow horns all around the camp and cry out, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon!’”

So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the posting of the guards. They blew the horns and broke the jars they were holding. All three companies blew horns and broke their jars. They held the torches in their left hands, and in their right the horns they were blowing, and cried out, “A sword for the LORD and Gideon!” They all remained standing in place around the camp, while the whole camp fell to running and shouting and fleeing. But the three hundred men kept blowing the horns, and throughout the camp the LORD set the sword of one against another.

The army fled as far as Beth-shittah in the direction of Zarethan, near the border of Abel-meholah at Tabbath. The Israelites were called to arms from Naphtali, from Asher, and from all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. Gideon also sent messengers throughout the mountain region of Ephraim to say, “Go down to confront Midian, and seize the water courses against them as far as Beth-barah, as well as the Jordan.”

So all the Ephraimites were called to arms, and they seized the water courses as far as Beth-barah, and the Jordan as well. They captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, killing Oreb at the rock of Oreb and Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian and carried the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan.

But the Ephraimites said to him, “What have you done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they quarreled bitterly with him.

“What have I accomplished now in comparison with you?” he answered them. “Is not the gleaning of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? Into your power God delivered the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” When he said this, their anger against him subsided.

When Gideon reached the Jordan and crossed it with his three hundred men, they were exhausted and famished. So he said to the men of Succoth, “Will you give my followers some loaves of bread? They are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.”

But the princes of Succoth replied, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your possession, that we should give food to your army?”

Gideon said, “Very well; when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my power, I will grind your flesh in with the thorns and briers of the desert.” He went up from there to Penuel and made the same request of them, but the men of Penuel answered him as had the men of Succoth.

So to the men of Penuel, too, he said, “When I return in triumph, I will demolish this tower.”

Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their force of about fifteen thousand men; these were all who were left of the whole Kedemite army, a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen having fallen. Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when it felt secure. Zebah and Zalmunna fled. He pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, captive, throwing the entire army into panic.

Then Gideon, son of Joash, returned from battle by the pass of Heres. He captured a young man of Succoth, who upon being questioned listed for him the seventy-seven princes and elders of Succoth. So he went to the men of Succoth and said, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom you taunted me, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your possession, that we should give food to your weary followers?’” He took the elders of the city, and thorns and briers of the desert, and ground these men of Succoth into them. He also demolished the tower of Penuel and slew the men of the city.

Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where now are the men you killed at Tabor?”

“They all resembled you,” they replied. “They appeared to be princes.”

“They were my brothers, my mother’s sons,” he said. “As the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I should not kill you.” Then he said to his first-born, Jether, “Go, kill them.”

Since Jether was still a boy, he was afraid and did not draw his sword. Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, kill us yourself, for a man’s strength is like the man.” So Gideon stepped forward and killed Zebah and Zalmunna. He also took the crescents that were on the necks of their camels.

The Israelites then said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son, and your son’s son – for you rescued us from the power of Midian.”

But Gideon answered them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you. The LORD must rule over you.” Gideon went on to say, “I should like to make a request of you. Will each of you give me a ring from his booty?” (For being Ishmaelites, the enemy had gold rings.)

“We will gladly give them,” they replied, and spread out a cloak into which everyone threw a ring from his booty. The gold rings that he requested weighed seventeen hundred gold shekels, in addition to the crescents and pendants, the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and the trappings that were on the necks of their camels. Gideon made an ephod out of the gold and placed it in his city Ophrah. However, all Israel paid idolatrous homage to it there, and caused the ruin of Gideon and his family.

Thus was Midian brought into subjection by the Israelites; no longer did they hold their heads high. And the land had rest for forty years, during the lifetime of Gideon. Then Jerubbaal, son of Joash, went back home to stay.

Now Gideon had seventy sons, his direct descendants, for he had many wives. His concubine who lived in Shechem also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. At a good old age Gideon, son of Joash, died and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. - Judge 6:1-8:32, New American Bible

MLA Citation

  • “Gideon the Judge“. Saints.SQPN.com. 30 August 2014. Web. 16 September 2014. <>