The Midianite Oppression
6:1 The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian for seven years. 2 The hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the Israelites provided for themselves hiding-places in the mountains, caves and strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they and their livestock would come up, and t hey would even bring their tents, as thick as locusts; neither they nor their camels could be counted; so they wasted the land as they came in. 6 Thus Israel was greatly impoverished because of Midian; and the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help.
7 When the Israelites cried to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the Israelites; and he said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of slavery; 9 and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you, and gave you their land; 10 and I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.” But you have not given heed to my voice.’
The Calling of Gideon
11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.’
13 Gideon answered him, ‘But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, “Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?” But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.’
14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; I hereby commission you.’
15 He responded, ‘But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’
16 The Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.’
17 Then he said to him, ‘If now I have found favour with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. 18 Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.’ And he said, ‘I will stay until you return.’
19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the
meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, ‘Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ 23 But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.’ 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.
25 That night the Lord said to him, ‘Take your father’s bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt-offering with the wood of the sacred pole that you shall cut down.’ 27 So Gideon took ten of his servants, and did as the Lord had told him; but because he was too afraid of his family and the townspeople to do it by day, he did it by night.
Gideon Destroys the Altar of Baal
28 When the townspeople rose early in the morning, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the sacred pole beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 So they said to one another, ‘Who has done this?’ After searching and inquiring, they were told, ‘Gideon son of Joash did it.’ 30 Then the townspeople said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son, so that he may die, for he has pulled down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred pole beside it.’ 31
But Joash said to all who were arrayed against him, ‘Will you contend for Baal? Or will you defend his cause? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been pulled down.’ 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, ‘Let Baal contend against him’, because he pulled down his altar.
33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the east came together, and crossing the Jordan they encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 But the spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon; and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.
The Sign of the Fleece
36 Then Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’
38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Gideon Surprises and Routs the Midianites
7:1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the troops that were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was north of them, below the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand. Israel would only take the credit away from me, saying, “My own hand has delivered me.” 3 Now therefore proclaim this in the hearing of the troops, “Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.” ’ Thus Gideon sifted them out; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained.
4 Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The troops are still too many; take them down to the water and I will sift them out for you there. When I say, “This one shall go with you”, he shall go with you; and when I say, “This one shall not go with you”, he shall not go.’ 5 So he brought the troops down to the water; and the Lord said to Gideon, ‘All those who lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps, you shall put to one side; all those who kneel down to drink, putting their hands to their mouths, you shall put to the other side.’ 6 The number of those that lapped was three hundred; but all the rest of the troops knelt down to drink water.
7 Then the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes.’ 8 So he took the jars of the troops from their hands, and their trumpets; and he sent all the rest of Israel back to their own tents, but retained the three hundred. The camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
9 That same night the Lord said to him, ‘Get up, attack the camp; for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you fear to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah; 11 and you shall hear what they say, and afterwards your hands shall be strengthened to attack the camp.’
Then he went down with his servant Purah to the outposts of the armed men that were in the camp. 12 The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the east lay along the valley as thick as locusts; and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, ‘I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed.’ 14 And his comrade answered, ‘This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.’
15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, ‘Get up; for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand.’ 16 After he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put trumpets into the hands of all of them, and empty jars, with torches inside the jars, 17 he said to them, ‘Look at me, and do the same; when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!” ’
19 So Gideon and the hundred who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands.
20 So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’21 Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled.
22 When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah towards Zererah,as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after the Midianites.
25 They captured the two captains of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb; they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the wine press of Zeeb, as they pursued the Midianites. They brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan.
Gideon’s Triumph and Vengeance
8:1 Then the Ephraimites said to him, ‘What have you done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against the Midianites?’ And they upbraided him violently. 2 So he said to them, ‘What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the captains 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.
4 Then Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the three hundred who were with him, exhausted and famished. 5 So he said to the people of Succoth, ‘Please give some loaves of bread to my followers, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’ 6 But the officials of Succoth said, ‘Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your army?’ 7 Gideon replied, ‘Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will trample your flesh on the thorns of the wilderness and on briers.’ 8 From there he went up to Penuel, and made the same request of them; and the people of Penuel answered him as the people of Succoth had answered. 9 So he said to the people of Penuel, ‘When I come back victorious, I will break down this tower.’
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the east; for one hundred and twenty thousand men bearing arms had fallen. 11 So Gideon went up by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the army; for the army was off its guard. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and threw all the army into a panic.
13 When Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres, 14 he caught a young man, one of the people of Succoth, and questioned him; and he listed for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven people. 15 Then he came to the people of Succoth, and said, ‘Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, “Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your troops who are exhausted?” ’ 16 So he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. 17 He also broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city.
18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, ‘What about the men whom you killed at Tabor?’ They answered, ‘As you are, so were they, every one of them; they resembled the sons of a king.’ 19 And he replied, ‘They were my brothers, the sons of my mother; as the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.’
20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, ‘Go, kill them!’ But the boy did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a boy. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, ‘You come and kill us; for as the man is, so is his strength.’ So Gideon proceeded to kill Zebah and Zalmunna; and he took the crescents that were on the necks of their camels.
Gideon’s Idolatry22 Then the Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian.’ 23 Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.’
24 Then Gideon said to them, ‘Let me make a request of you; each of you give me an ear-ring he has taken as booty.’ (For the enemy had golden ear-rings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 ‘We will willingly give them,’ they answered. So they spread a garment, and each threw into it an ear-ring he had taken as booty. 26 The weight of the golden ear-rings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold (apart from the crescents and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and the collars that were on the necks of their camels).
27 Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the Israelites, and they lifted up their heads no more. So the land had rest for forty years in the days of Gideon.
Death of Gideon
29 Jerubbaal son of Joash went to live in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. 32 Then Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals, making Baal-berith their god. 34 The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side; 35 and they did not exhibit loyalty to the house of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
Abimelech Attempts to Establish a Monarchy
9:1 Now Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s kinsfolk and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2 ‘Say in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem, “Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?” Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.’ 3 So his mother’s kinsfolk spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the lords of Shechem; and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, ‘He is our brother.’ 4 They gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 He went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. 6 Then all the lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem
7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, ‘Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.
8 The trees once went out16 ‘Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and honour when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as his actions deserved— 17 for my father fought for you, and risked his life, and rescued you from the hand of Midian; 18 but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his slave-woman, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kinsman— 19 if, I say, you have acted in good faith and honour towards Jerubbaal and towards his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; 20 but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the lords of Shechem, and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the lords of Shechem, and from Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.’ 21 Then Jotham ran away and fled, going to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.
22 Abimelech ruled over Israel for three years. 23 But God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem; and the lords of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech. 24 This happened so that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be avenged and their blood be laid on their brother Abimelech, who killed them, and on the lords of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 So, out of hostility to him, the lords of Shechem set ambushes on the mountain tops. They robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was reported to Abimelech.
26 When Gaal son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his kinsfolk, the lords of Shechem put confidence in him. 27 They went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards, trod them, and celebrated. Then they went into the temple of their god, ate and drank, and ridiculed Abimelech. 28 Gaal son of Ebed said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Did not the son of Jerubbaal and Zebul his officer serve the men of Hamor father of Shechem? Why then should we serve him? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would remove Abimelech; I would say to him, “Increase your army, and come out.” ’
30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech at Arumah,saying, ‘Look, Gaal son of Ebed and his kinsfolk have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the troops that are with you, and lie in wait in the fields. 33 Then early in the morning, as soon as the sun rises, get up and rush on the city; and when he and the troops that are with him come out against you, you may deal with them as best you can.’
34 So Abimelech and all the troops with him got up by night and lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. 35 When Gaal son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, Abimelech and the troops with him rose from the ambush. 36 And when Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, ‘Look, people are coming down from the mountain tops!’ And Zebul said to him, ‘The shadows on the mountains look like people to you.’ 37 Gaal spoke again and said, ‘Look, people are coming down from Tabbur-erez, and one company is coming from the direction of Elon-meonenim.’ 38 Then Zebul said to him, ‘Where is your boast now, you who said, “Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?” Are not these the troops you made light of? Go out now and fight with them.’ 39 So Gaal went out at the head of the lords of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.40Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. Many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate. 41 So Abimelech resided at Arumah; and Zebul drove out Gaal and his kinsfolk, so that they could not live on at Shechem.
42 On the following day the people went out into the fields. When Abimelech was told, 43 he took his troops and divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the fields. When he looked and saw the people coming out of the city, he rose against them and killed them.44 Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed on all who were in the fields and killed them. 45 Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.
46 When all the lords of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the temple of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the lords of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 So Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the troops that were with him. Abimelech took an ax in his hand, cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. Then he said to the troops with him, ‘What you have seen me do, do quickly, as I have done.’ 49 So every one of the troops cut down a bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women.
50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the lords of the city fled to it and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and came near to the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire.
53 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armor and said to him, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, “A woman killed him.” ’ So the young man thrust him through, and he died.
55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home.
56 Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers; 57 and God also made all the wickedness of the people of Shechem fall back on their heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham son of Jerubbaal.
Audio Classes on Judges
Deborah the Prophetess
The Days of the Judges
THE Angel of the Lord
No King in the Land
Summary of Judges by Ray Stedman
Summary of The Message of History
God's judgment of the Canaanite peoples, by Glenn Miller
In Canaan Land
Pots, Potters, and Clay