Gideon part 2
by John Thomas Lowe
During the night, God instructed Gideon to approach the Midianite camp. There, Gideon overheard a Midianite man tell a friend of a dream in which "a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian" (Judges 7:13), causing their tent or camp to collapse. This was interpreted as God giving the Midianites over to Gideon. Gideon returned to the Israelite camp and gave each man a trumpet (shofar) and a clay jar with a torch hidden inside. Gideon and his 300 men marched on the enemy camp. He instructed them to blow the trumpet, give a battle cry, and light torches, simulating an attack by a large force. As they did so, the Midianite army fled (Judges 7:17–22).
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. Gideon invited his eldest son, Jether, to slay Zebah and Zalmunna, but being still young at the time; he did not have the confidence to carry out his father's request, so Zebah and Zalmunna called on Gideon to perform the deed himself. Gideon then killed Zebah and Zalmunna as justice for the death of his brothers (Judges 8:19–21). The place where Gideon slew Oreb after the defeat of the Midianites was called the Rock of Oreb. It was probably the place now called Orbo, on the east of Jordan, near Bethshean. Zeeb was killed at "the winepress of Zeeb."
The Israelites invited Gideon to become their king and create a dynasty, but he refused, telling them that only God was their ruler (Judges 8:22–23). G. A. Cooke, writing in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, notes the discontinuity between Ephraimite anger towards Gideon shown in Judges 8:1–3 and the proposition of kingship over all Israel, and therefore concludes that "these verses appear to come from a secondary source."
Gideon went on to make an *ephod out of the gold won in battle; according to Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews: "In the high priest's breastplate, Joseph was represented among the twelve tribes by Ephraim alone, not by Manasseh, too. To wipe out this slight upon his tribe, Gideon made an ephod bearing the name of Manasseh. He consecrated it to God, but homage was paid to it as an idol after his death. In those days, the Israelites were so addicted to the worship of Beelzebub that they constantly carried small images of this God with them in their pockets, and now and then, they were in the habit of bringing the image out and kissing it fervently." According to the Bible, this action eventually caused the whole of Israel to turn away from God yet again and ruin Gideon and his family. Gideon had 70 sons from the many women he took as wives. He also had a Shechemite concubine who bore him a son named Abimelech, which means "my father is king" (Judges 8:31).
*ephod - (in ancient Israel) a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.
There was peace in Israel for 40 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 (Judges 8:33). Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews records the following remarks on Abimelech: "The parable of Jotham is said to refer to the prominent judges: Othniel =Olive tree, Deborah =fig tree, Gideon =vine, and Elimelech =bramble. He also states that Abimelech reigned for three years. As a reward for his father's modesty, Gideon refused his people's royal crown; see Jud. 8.23.
The wickedness and greed of Abimelech, the King of Getar, were contrasted with the piety and liberality of his father, Gideon. In contrast to his father (Judges 8.27), Abimelech was greedy for riches, and his end came speedily. The ingratitude of the Israelites who permitted Abimelech to murder the children of their benefactor Gideon was counted unto them as though they had forsaken God; ingratitude is as grave a sin as idolatry.
In the early twentieth century, the text of Judges 6–8 was regarded by the "critical school" as a composite narrative, combining Jahwist, Elohist, and Deuteronomic sources, with further interpolations of the editorial comments of the Second Temple period. Emil G. Hirsch alleged a historical nucleus in the narrative, reflecting the struggle of the tribe of Manasseh with hostile Bedouins across the Jordan, along with "reminiscences of tribal jealousies on the part of Ephraim" in the early period of Hebrew settlement, later blended with the religious context of connecting Yahweh with the shrine at Ophrah.
The core (Jahwist) narrative (vs. 6-8) consists of Gideon wishing to avenge the death of his brothers, gathering 300 men of his clan and pursuing the Midianite chiefs Zebah and Zalmunna, slaying them and consecrating an idol (ephod) made from the spoils of war, which makes his city of Ophrah the seat of an oracle and giving Gideon himself the status of a wealthy chief with a large harem (Judges 8:4–10a, 11–21, 24–27a, 29–32).
The name Jerubbaal given to Gideon is originally a theophoric name meaning "Baal strives." However, it was later given the interpretation of "let Baal strive against him" to avoid conflict with the more rigorous development of the religion of Yahweh in later centuries.
*The Jahwist is so named because of its characteristic use of Yahweh for God.
In the New Testament, Gideon is mentioned in chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews as an example of a man of faith, one of several "heroes of faith" mentioned there: "Time would fail me to tell of Gideon and others who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."
He is also referred to in chapter 28 of 1 Meqabyan; a book considered canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Gideon is regarded as a saint by Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Latin Rite Catholic Churches. He is commemorated as one of the Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30 and in the Roman Martyrology of the Latin Rite 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).
The Gideon narrative was employed in polemics against the Catholic clergy. Hans von Rüte's Gideon (1540) compares the removal of saints' relics from churches to Gideon's destruction of Baal's altar.
Gideons International is an American organization dedicated to Christian evangelism, founded in 1899, dedicated to distributing free Bibles. The organization's logo represents a two-handled pitcher and torch, symbolizing the implements used by Gideon to scare the Midianite army.
Much like the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, Gideon has become symbolic of the military success of a small elite force against overwhelming numerical odds. The 12th-century Poem of Almería invokes "the strength of Samson and the sword of Gideon" in the Reconquista of Almería led by Ponce Giraldo de Cabrera (1147). Benedikt Gletting (16th century) invokes the "Sword of Gideon" in a call for a pious and confident defense of the Old Swiss Confederacy against the threat of the Franco-Ottoman alliance. Prior to the Battle of Carbisdale (1650). During World WarII, the Gideon Force was a small British-led special force in the East African Campaign of World War II. El junquito raid code-named Operation Gideon in 2018 and Operation Gideon (2020) were dissident military operations in Venezuela.