The Midianites give Israel trouble
1 The Israelites did things that the Lord saw were evil. So the Lord put them under the power of the Midianites for seven years. 2 They used their power to be cruel to the Israelites. The Israelites built huts in the hills to live in. They hid themselves in caves and other safe places. 3 When they planted seeds to grow food, their enemies would attack them. The Midianites, Amalekites and people from the east would come to rob them. 4 They made their camps on Israel's land. They took all their crops, as far south as Gaza. They left nothing for the Israelites to eat. They took away their sheep, cows and donkeys. 5 The groups of enemies came with their animals. They put up their tents all across the land. They came like a cloud of locusts. They were too many to count as they arrived on their camels. They took everything that grew on the land. 6 Because of the Midianites, the Israelites became poor and weak. So they called out to the Lord for help.
7 When the Israelites asked the Lord to rescue them from the Midianites, 8 he sent a prophet to them. The prophet said to them, ‘This is what the Lord, Israel's God, says: “I brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves. 9 I saved you from the power of the Egyptians and all those who were cruel to you. I chased away your enemies and I gave their land to you. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You are now living in the land of the Amorites, but you must not worship their gods.’ But you have not obeyed me.” ’
The Lord chooses Gideon
11 The Lord's angel came to sit under a big oak tree in Ophrah. It belonged to Joash, from Abiezer's clan. When the angel arrived, Joash's son Gideon was threshing wheat. He was doing it in a winepress because he wanted to hide his food from the Midianites. 12 The Lord's angel appeared to Gideon. He said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, brave fighter.’ 13 Gideon replied, ‘But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this trouble happened to us? Our ancestors told us about all the great things that the Lord did for them. They told us how he brought them safely out of Egypt. But the Lord has not helped us like that. He has turned away from us. He has put us under the power of the Midianites.’
6:12Gideon was afraid and hid from the Midianites. But God's angel called him a ‘brave fighter’. The Lord would help Gideon to be strong and brave.
14 The Lord himself then said to Gideon, ‘Go now and use the strength that you have. Rescue Israel from the power of the Midianites. I myself am sending you to do this.’
15 Gideon said, ‘But sir, how can I rescue Israel? Look at me! My clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh. And I am the youngest person in my family.’
16 The Lord answered him, ‘Understand that I will be with you! You will destroy the Midianites as if they were only one man.’
17 Gideon replied, ‘If you are pleased with me, please do something special. I want to know that you really are the Lord who is speaking to me. 18 Please stay here so that I can bring a gift for you.’ The Lord answered, ‘I will stay here until you come back.’
19 Gideon went home and he cooked a young goat. He also used an ephah of flour to make some flat bread. He put the meat in a basket and he put the soup in a pot. He took the food to the one who was sitting under the oak tree.
20 God's angel said to him, ‘Put the meat and the bread on this rock. Pour the soup over them.’ Gideon did what the angel told him to do. 21 Then the Lord's angel touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick that he held in his hand. Fire came from the rock and it burnt up the meat and the bread. Then the Lord's angel disappeared.
22 Gideon realized that he had been talking to the Lord's angel. He cried out, ‘Oh no! Almighty Lord, I have seen your angel, face to face.’
23 But the Lord said to him, ‘Do not worry. Do not be afraid. You will not die because of this.’
6:23Gideon thought that he would die because he had seen God. The angel told Gideon that he must not be afraid. He accepted the gift that Gideon gave him.
24 So Gideon built an altar there to give honour to the Lord. He called it ‘The Lord is Peace’. The altar is still there, in Ophrah, on the land of Abiezer's clan.
Gideon destroys Baal's altar
25 On the same night, the Lord said to Gideon, ‘Take your father's bull from among his animals. Also take a second bull, one that is seven years old. Use them to pull down your father's altar to Baal. Also cut down the Asherah pole that is there. 26 Then build an altar in their place to give honour to the Lord your God. Build it in the proper way, on top of that hill. Then use the wood from the Asherah pole to burn the second bull as a burnt offering to me.’
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants, and he did what the Lord had said. He was afraid of the people in his father's family and the men of the town. So he did this at night, not in the day.
28 Early the next morning, the men of the town saw that someone had destroyed Baal's altar. They saw that someone had cut down the Asherah pole. They saw that someone had burned the second bull as a sacrifice on a new altar.
29 They asked each other, ‘Who has done this?’ They asked many people until someone told them, ‘Joash's son Gideon has done this.’
30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, ‘Bring Gideon out of your house. We must punish him with death. He has destroyed Baal's altar, and he has cut down the Asherah pole that was beside it.’
31 Joash said to the angry men who were against him, ‘Are you trying to save Baal because he is in trouble? Why should you do that? Anyone who tries to help Baal will die before tomorrow arrives. If Baal really is a god, he should fight for himself. It is his altar that someone has pulled down!’
32 So after that, people called Gideon ‘Jerub-Baal’. That was because Joash had said, ‘Baal should fight for himself. He himself should punish the person who pulled down his altar.’
33 At that time, the Midianites, Amalekites and people of the east made an agreement to fight together. They crossed the Jordan River and they made their camp in the Jezreel valley. 34 Then the Lord's Spirit came to Gideon with power. Gideon made a loud noise with a trumpet. He called the men of Abiezer's clan to follow him. 35 He sent men to take a message to Manasseh's tribe. He told them to send their men to join him. He also told the men of the tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to come and join him too. They all came to meet with Gideon.
36 Gideon said to God, ‘I want to know that you will do what you have promised to me. If you will really use me to rescue Israel, please show me that it is true. 37 I will do this: I will put the wool of a sheep's skin out on the stone floor. During the night, please cause the dew to make it wet. If it is wet but the ground around it is dry, I will know that it is true. You will use me to rescue Israel, as you have promised.’
38 That is what happened. When Gideon got up the next morning, the wool was wet. Gideon squeezed water out of it. It was enough to fill a bowl!
39 Then Gideon said to God. ‘Please do not be angry with me. Let me ask you to do one more thing. I will put out the sheep's wool again to see what happens. This time please make the ground wet with dew, but keep only the wool dry.’ 40 That night God did what Gideon had asked. The sheep's wool was dry, but the ground around it was wet with dew.