Among the enemies that attacked Israel during the time of the judges were the Midianites. Their yearly raids devastated Israel (Judg 6:1-6), and when the people cried to God for help, he chose Gideon to save them. Gideon at first found it difficult to believe that God had chosen him for this task, but his faith was strengthened when an offering he prepared for God was miraculously burnt up (Judg 6:11-24).

Israel was in bondage to the worship of Baal. Therefore, if the people were to claim God’s help, they had first of all to destroy the false religions. In Gideon’s home town of Ophrah, Gideon’s father was caretaker of the local Baal shrine, but when Gideon began his reformation, his father became the first convert. Others in the town were hostile (Judg 6:25-32). This hostility did not last, for when Gideon called the people to battle, the people of his own clan (and therefore probably of his own town) were the first to respond. Others soon followed their example and Gideon was able to assemble a fighting force. Still uncertain of himself, Gideon twice asked God for miraculous signs to confirm that he was the one God had chosen (Judg 6:33-40). God allowed Gideon only three hundred men to launch the attack, to impress upon him the need for total trust in God for success (Judg 7:1-8; Heb 11:32-33). Gideon’s faith was greatly strengthened when he discovered, by secretly visiting the enemy’s camp, that the Midianites were in the grip of an unnatural fear (Judg 7:9-15).

When the Midianites were awoken in the middle of the night by a terrifying noise and found themselves surrounded by Israelite soldiers, panic broke out. Some of the Midianites unknowingly attacked each other in the confusion, and others fled in fear. The larger Israelite force then swept in upon them (Judg 7:16-25). Upon discovering that the Midianite kings had escaped across the Jordan, Gideon set out after them. He eventually captured them, but before executing them, he punished the leaders of one Israelite town for earlier refusing to help him and his soldiers (Judg 8:1-21). Gideon was now a national hero. To his credit he rejected the people’s invitation to become their king (for God alone was their king), but he foolishly celebrated his victory over Midian by making a visible symbol of the invisible God. He may have had good intentions, but he opened the way for idolatry. Soon Gideon, his family and the people as a whole had returned to their former idolatrous ways (Judg 8:22-28).

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