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|Judges in the Bible|
|In the Book of Joshua|
|In the Book of Judges|
|In First Samuel|
|†Not explicitly described as a judge|
Gideon or Gedeon (//; Hebrew: גִּדְעוֹן, Modern Gid'on Tiberian Giḏʻôn), which means "Destroyer," "Mighty warrior," or "Feller (of trees)" was, according to the Tanakh, a judge of the Hebrews. His story is recorded in chapters 6 to 8 of the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible. Judges 6–8. He is also named in chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews as an example of a man of faith.
As is the pattern throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites again turned away from God after 40 years of peace brought by Deborah's victory over Canaan and were allowed to be oppressed by the neighboring Midianites and Amalekites. God chose Gideon, a young man from the tribe of Manasseh, to free the people of Israel and to condemn their worship of idols.
Very unsure of both himself and God's command, he requested proof of God's will by three miracles: firstly a sign from an angel in Judges 6:16, and then two signs involving a fleece, performed on consecutive nights and the exact opposite of each other:
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, 37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” 38 And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” 40 God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.(Judges 6:36–40, New American Standard Bible)
On God's instruction, Gideon destroyed the town's altar to the foreign god Baal and the symbol of the goddess Asherah beside it. He went on to send out messengers to gather together men from the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, as well as his own tribe Manasseh in order to meet an armed force of the people of Midian and the Amalek that had crossed the Jordan River and were encamped in the Valley of Jezreel.
However, God informed Gideon that the men he had gathered were too many – with so many men, there would be reason for the Israelites to claim the victory as their own instead of acknowledging that God had saved them. God first instructed Gideon to send home those men who were afraid. Gideon then allowed any man who wanted to leave, to leave; 22,000 men returned home and 10,000 remained. Yet the number was still too many, according to God:
- 4And the Lord said to Gedeon: The people are still too many, bring them to the waters, and there I will try them: and of whom I shall say to thee, This shall go with thee, let him go: whom I shall forbid to go, let him return. 5 And when the people were come down to the waters, the Lord said to Gedeon: They that shall lap the water with their tongues, as dogs are wont to lap, thou shalt set apart by themselves: but they that shall drink bowing down their knees, shall be on the other side. 6And the number of them that had lapped water, casting it with the hand to their mouth, was three hundred men: and all the rest of the multitude had drunk kneeling. 7 And the Lord said to Gedeon: By the three hundred men, that lapped water, I will save you, and deliver Madian into thy hand: but let all the rest of the people return to their place(Judges 7:4–7, Douay Rheims)
During the night God instructed Gideon to approach the Midianite camp. Gideon overheard a Midianite man tell a friend of a dream in which God had given the Midianites over to Gideon. Gideon worshiped God for His encouragement and revelation. Gideon returned to the Israelite camp and gave each of his men a trumpet (shofar) and a clay jar with a torch hidden inside. Divided into three companies, Gideon and the three hundred marched on the enemy camp.
- 17And he said to them: What you shall see me do, do you the same: I will go into one part of the camp, and do you as I shall do. 18When the trumpet shall sound in my hand, do you also blow the trumpets on every side of the camp. 19 And Gedeon, and the three hundred men that were with him, went into part of the camp, at the beginning of the midnight watch, and the watchmen being alarmed, they began to sound their trumpets, and to clap the pitchers one against another. 20 And when they sounded their trumpets in three places round about the camp, and had broken their pitchers, they held their lamps in their left hands, and with their right hands the trumpets which they blew, and they cried out: The sword of the Lord and of Gedeon; 21Standing every man in his place round about the enemies' camp. So all the camp was troubled, and crying out and howling they fled away. 22 And the three hundred men nevertheless persisted sounding the trumpets. And the Lord sent the sword into all the camp, and they killed one another...(Judges 7:17–22, Douay Rheims)
Gideon sent messengers ahead into Israel calling for the Ephraimites to pursue the retreating Midianites and two of their leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. Gideon and the three hundred pursued Zebah and Zalmunna, the two Midianite kings. When he had asked for provisions in his pursuit, the men of Succoth and Peniel refused and taunted Gideon. After capturing the two kings, Gideon punished the men of Succoth, and pulled down the tower of Peniel killing all the men there. Finally, Gideon himself killed Zebah and Zalmunna as justice for the death of his brothers.
The Israelites pleaded with Gideon to be their king, but he refused, telling them that only God was their ruler. Interestingly, however, he carries on to make an "ephod" out of the gold won in battle, which causes the whole of Israel again to turn away from God. Gideon had 70 sons from the many women he took as wives. He also had a concubine who bore him a son that he named Abimelech (which means "my father is king"). There was peace in Israel for forty years during the life of Gideon. As soon as Gideon died of old age, the Israelites again turned to worship the false god Baal-Berith and ignored the family of Gideon.
Historical-critical scholars consider the story of Gideon to be a composite narrative. Behind these various elements, and molded according to different view-points and intentions, lie popular traditions concerning historical facts and explanations of names once of an altogether different value, but now adapted to a later religious consciousness. The account of Gideon's war against Midian is a reflection of the struggle of his own clan or tribe with the hostile Bedouins across the Jordan for the possession of the territory, mixed with reminiscences of tribal jealousies on the part of Ephraim.
Christian Orthodox and Catholic interpretation
Gideon is regarded as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox/Eastern Catholic Churches as well as the Roman Catholic Church, who hold his feast day on September 26 (those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, September 26 currently falls on October 9 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). His feast day is listed in the 2004 edition of the "Roman Martyrology" as (2) on September 26. He is also commemorated, together with the other righteous figures of the Old Testament, on the Sunday before Christmas (Fourth Sunday of Advent). He is commemorated as one of the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30.
Gideon of Manasseh
Cadet branch of the Tribe of Manasseh
|Judge of Israel||Succeeded by
- LDS.org: "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «gĭd´ē-un»
- Gigot, Francis. "Gideon." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Jan. 2013
- An interesting theory about the significance of the shofar is advanced in Chapter 3-1 of Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn. The author, Michael Chusid, hypothesizes that most of Gideon's troops owned their own shofar and used them as drinking vessels similar to rhyton. The three hundred that had to kneel were so poorly equipped they did not even own a shofar. This underscores that God wanted Gideon to have a weak force so it would be impossible to claim that their victory was by force of arms and not by divine intervention.
- "Gideon", Jewish Encyclopedia