The people of Israel did what the LORD considered evil. So the LORD handed them over to Midian for seven years.
Midian's power was too strong for Israel. The Israelites made hiding places in the mountains, caves, and mountain strongholds [to protect themselves] from Midian.
Whenever Israel planted crops, Midian, Amalek, and Kedem came and damaged the crops.
The enemy used to camp on the land and destroy the crops all the way to Gaza. They left nothing for Israel to live on--not one sheep, cow, or donkey.
Like swarms of locusts, they came with their livestock and their tents. They and their camels could not be counted. They came into the land only to ruin it.
So the Israelites became very poor because of Midian and cried out to the LORD for help.
When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help because of what the Midianites had done to them,
the LORD sent a prophet to them. He said, "This is what the LORD God of Israel says: I brought you out of Egypt. I took you away from slavery.
I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and from the power of those who oppressed you. I forced people out of your way. I gave you their land.
I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God. You must never fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you will live.' But you have not obeyed me."
The Messenger of the LORD came and sat under the oak tree in Ophrah that belonged to Joash from Abiezer's family. Joash's son Gideon was beating out wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites.
The Messenger of the LORD appeared to Gideon and said, "The LORD is with you, brave man."
Gideon responded, "Excuse me, sir! But if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracles our ancestors have told us about? Didn't they say, 'The LORD brought us out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and has handed us over to Midian."
The LORD turned to him and said, "You will rescue Israel from Midian with the strength you have. I am sending you."
Gideon said to him, "Excuse me, sir! How can I rescue Israel? Look at my whole family. It's the weakest one in Manasseh. And me? I'm the least important member of my family."
The LORD replied, "I will be with you. You will defeat Midian as if it were [only] one man."
Gideon said to him, "If you find me acceptable, give me a sign that it is really you speaking to me.
Don't leave until I come back. I want to bring my gift and set it in front of you." "I will stay until you come back," he said.
Then Gideon went into [his house] and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread made with 18 quarts of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. Then he went out and presented them to the Messenger of the LORD under the oak tree.
The Messenger of the LORD told him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them." Gideon did so.
Then the Messenger of the LORD touched the meat and the bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared up from the rock and burned the meat and the bread. Then the Messenger of the LORD disappeared.
That's when Gideon realized that this had been the Messenger of the LORD. So he said, "LORD God! I have seen the Messenger of the LORD face to face."
The LORD said to him, "Calm down! Don't be afraid. You will not die."
So Gideon built an altar there to the LORD. He called it The LORD Calms. To this day it is still in Ophrah, which belongs to Abiezer's family.
That same night the LORD said to Gideon, "Take a bull from your father's herd, a bull that is seven years old. Tear down your father's altar dedicated to the god Baal and cut down the pole dedicated to the goddess Asherah that is next to it.
Then, in the proper way, build an altar to the LORD your God on top of this fortified place. Take this second bull and sacrifice it as a burnt offering on the wood from the Asherah pole that you have cut down."
Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the LORD had told him to do. However, he didn't do anything during the day. He was too afraid of his father's family and the men of the city, so he did it at night.
When the men of the city got up early in the morning, they saw that the Baal altar had been torn down. The Asherah pole next to it had also been cut down. They saw that the second bull had been sacrificed as a burnt offering on the altar that had been built.
They asked each other, "Who did this?" While they were investigating the matter, someone said, "Gideon, son of Joash, did this."
Then the men of the city told Joash, "Bring your son out. He must die. He has torn down the Baal altar and cut down the Asherah pole that was beside it."
But Joash said to everyone standing around him, "You're not going to defend Baal, are you? Do you think you should save him? Whoever defends him will be put to death in the morning. If he's a god, let him defend himself when someone tears down his altar."
So that day they nicknamed Gideon "Jerubbaal" [Let Baal Defend Himself], because they said, "When someone tears down Baal's altar, let Baal defend himself."
All of Midian, Amalek, and Kedem combined their armies, crossed [the Jordan River], and camped in the valley of Jezreel.
Then the LORD's Spirit gave Gideon strength. So Gideon blew the ram's horn to summon Abiezer's family to follow him.
He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh to summon the people to follow him. The tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali were also summoned to follow him, and they went to meet the enemy in battle.
Then Gideon said to God, "You said that you would rescue Israel through me.
I'll place some wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the wool while all the ground is dry, then I'll know that you will rescue Israel through me, as you said."
And that is what happened. The next morning Gideon got up early. He squeezed out a bowl full of water from the wool.
Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be angry with me. But let me ask one more thing. Let me make one more test with the wool. Let the wool be dry while all the ground is covered with dew."
During the night, God did what Gideon asked. The wool was dry, but all the ground was covered with dew.