Once again the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So for seven years he handed them over to the people of Midian.
The Midianites treated the people of Israel very badly. That's why they made hiding places for themselves. They hid in holes in the mountains. They also hid in caves and in other safe places.
Each year the people planted their crops. When they did, the Midianites came into the country and attacked it. So did the Amalekites and other tribes from the east.
They camped on the land. They destroyed the crops all the way to Gaza. They didn't spare any living thing for Israel. They didn't spare sheep or cattle or donkeys.
The Midianites came up with their livestock and tents. They came like huge numbers of locusts. It was impossible to count all of those men and their camels. They came into the land to destroy it.
Midian made the people of Israel very poor. So they cried out to the LORD for help.
They cried out to the LORD because of what Midian had done.
So he sent a prophet to them. The prophet said, "The LORD is the God of Israel. He says, 'I brought you up out of Egypt. That is the land where you were slaves.
I saved you from the power of Egypt. I saved you from all those who were beating you down. I drove the people of Canaan out to make room for you. I gave you their land.
" 'I said to you, "I am the LORD your God. You are now living in the land of the Amorites. Do not worship their gods." But you have not listened to me.' "
The angel of the LORD came. He sat down under an oak tree in Ophrah. The tree belonged to Joash. He was from the family line of Abiezer. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress at Ophrah. He was the son of Joash. Gideon was threshing in a winepress to hide the wheat from the Midianites.
The angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon. He said, "Mighty warrior, the LORD is with you."
"But sir," Gideon replied, "you say the LORD is with us. Then why has all of this happened to us? Where are all of the wonderful things he has done? Our parents told us about them. They said, 'Didn't the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has deserted us. He has handed us over to Midian."
The LORD turned to Gideon. He said to him, "You are strong. Go and save Israel from the power of Midian. I am sending you."
"But Lord," Gideon asked, "how can I possibly save Israel? My family group is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh. And I'm the least important member of my family."
The LORD answered, "I will be with you. So you will strike down the men of Midian all at one time."
Gideon replied, "If you are pleased with me, give me a special sign. Then I'll know that it's really you talking to me.
Please don't go away until I come back. I'll bring my offering and set it down in front of you." The LORD said, "I will wait until you return."
Gideon went and prepared a young goat. From more than half a bushel of flour he made bread without using yeast. He put the meat in a basket. In a pot he put soup that was made from the meat. Then he brought all of it and offered it to the LORD under the oak tree.
The angel of God spoke to Gideon. He said, "Take the meat and the bread. Place them on this rock. Then pour out the soup." So Gideon did it.
The angel of the LORD had a wooden staff in his hand. With the tip of his staff he touched the meat and the bread. Fire blazed out of the rock. It burned up the meat and the bread. Then the angel of the LORD disappeared.
Gideon realized it was the angel of the Lord. He cried out, "LORD and King, I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!"
But the LORD said to him, "May peace be with you! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die."
So Gideon built an altar to honor the LORD there. He called it The LORD Is Peace. It still stands in Ophrah to this very day. Ophrah is in the territory that belongs to the family line of Abiezer.
That same night the LORD spoke to Gideon. He said, "Get the second bull from your father's herd. Get the one that is seven years old. Tear down the altar your father built in honor of Baal. Cut down the pole that is beside it. The pole is used to worship the goddess Asherah.
"Then build the right kind of altar. Build it in honor of the LORD your God. Build it on top of this hill. Then use the wood from the Asherah pole you cut down. Sacrifice the second bull as a burnt offering."
So Gideon went and got ten of his servants. He did just as the LORD had told him. But he was afraid of his family. He was also afraid of the men in the town. So he did everything at night instead of during the day.
In the morning the men in the town got up. They saw that Baal's altar had been torn down. The Asherah pole that was beside it had been cut down. And the second bull had been sacrificed on the new altar that had been built.
They asked each other, "Who did this?" They looked into the matter carefully. Someone told them, "Gideon, the son of Joash, did it."
The men in the town spoke to Joash. They ordered him, "Bring your son out here. He must die. He has torn down Baal's altar. He has cut down the Asherah pole that was beside it."
But Joash replied to the angry crowd that was around him. He said, "Are you going to stand up for Baal? Are you trying to save him? Those who stand up for him will be put to death by morning! Is Baal really a god? If he is, he can stand up for himself when someone tears down his altar."
That's why Gideon was called Jerub-Baal that day. He said, "Let Baal take his stand against him." Gideon had torn down Baal's altar.
All of the Midianites and Amalekites gathered their armies together. Other tribes from the east joined them. All of them went across the Jordan River. They camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon. So Gideon blew the trumpet to send for the men of Abiezer. He told them to follow him.
He sent messengers all through Manasseh. He called for the men of Manasseh to fight. He also sent messengers to the men of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. So all of those men went up to join the others.
Gideon said to God, "You promised you would use me to save Israel.
Please do something for me. I'll put a piece of wool on the threshing floor. Suppose dew is only on the wool tomorrow morning. And suppose the ground all around it is dry. Then I will know that you will use me to save Israel. I'll know that your promise will come true."
And that's what happened. Gideon got up early the next day. He squeezed the dew out of the wool. The water filled a bowl.
Then Gideon said to God, "Don't let your anger burn against me. Let me ask you for just one more thing. Let me use the wool for one more test. This time make the wool dry. And cover the ground with dew."
So that night God did it. Only the wool was dry. The ground all around it was covered with dew.