1The Israelites did things which made the LORD angry again. So he sent the Midianites to fight them. The Midianites won the fight. They ruled Israel for 7 years. 2They were very cruel to the Israelites. The Israelites made holes in the hills to hide themselves. 3They planted seeds to grow food. But then the Midianites and Amalekites and the other tribes came and put their tents there. 4They took all their food, and animals too. They left nothing for Israel. They took sheep, cows and animals to carry heavy things. 5Many enemies came with all their animals. They came like a cloud of insects. They were too many to count. They took everything from the land. 6The Israelites became so poor that they cried to the LORD for help. 7The LORD sent a prophet to Israel when they called to him.
8The prophet said, ‘This is what the LORD says. “I brought you out of the land of Egypt. 9I saved you from being slaves to the Egyptians. I also saved you from all your enemies here. I sent them away and gave you their land. 10I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites who live in your land’. But you have not listened to me” ’.
11Joash, the Abiezrite, had a farm in Ophrah. The angel from the LORD came and sat there, under a tree. Gideon was taking the seeds out of their hard skins. He was the son of Joash and was hiding from the Midianites. 12The angel of the LORD said to Gideon, ‘The LORD is with you, powerful soldier’. 13Gideon replied, ‘But sir, if the LORD is with us why has all this happened? The LORD helped our fathers to win fights with their enemies. They told us how he brought them out of Egypt. But now he has left us alone. He has let Midianites make us their slaves’.
14The angel of the LORD turned and said to Gideon, ‘Go with the power you have. Save Israel from Midian. I am sending you’.
15‘But sir’, Gideon asked, ‘How can I save Israel? My family is the smallest in the tribe of Manasseh. And I am the smallest in my family’.
16The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you. Together we will win the fight with Midian’.
17Gideon replied, ‘If I am special to you, please make me sure that you really are the LORD. 18Please stay here and I will bring you an offering’. The LORD answered, ‘I will wait for you’.
19Gideon cooked a young goat and made many flat cakes of bread. He used an ephah (34-45 pounds weight) of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the soup in a pot. He gave them to the angel under the tree.
20God's angel said, ‘Put the meat and the bread on this rock. Pour the soup over them’. And Gideon did so. 21The angel touched the meat and bread with the end of his stick. Fire came from the rock and burnt up the bread and meat. Then Gideon could not see the angel. 22Gideon knew then that he had been an angel from the LORD. He cried out, ‘LORD God, I have seen your angel, face to face’.
23But the LORD said to him, ‘Do not be afraid. You are not going to die’.
24So Gideon built an altar there. He called it ‘The LORD is Peace’. The altar is still there, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25That same night, the LORD spoke again to Gideon. He said, ‘Take your father's second bull, the one which is 7 years old. Break into pieces your father's altar to Baal. Cut into pieces the tree where people give gifts to Asherah. 26Build a proper altar to the LORD your God in their place. There, on top of the hill, use the broken wood to offer the second bull to me. Offer it to me by burning it with fire’.
27So Gideon took 10 of his servants, and did as the LORD had said. He was afraid of the men of his family, and of the men of the town. So he worked at night, not in the day.
28The next day, the men of the town saw that Baal's altar and Asherah's tree were broken. They saw the new altar. They saw that someone had burned the second bull on it.
29They asked each other, ‘Who has done this?’ Then they found that Gideon, son of Joash, had done it.
30The men of the town told Joash to bring Gideon out to them. They said that Gideon must die because he had destroyed Baal's altar. He had destroyed the place where they offered gifts to Asherah.
31Joash replied to the angry men. He said, ‘Are you trying to save Baal? You do not need to save him. If you fight for him, you will die today. If Baal really is a god, he can fight for himself. He will punish anyone who breaks down his altar’. 32Then they called Gideon ‘Jerub-Baal’ (Baal must fight for himself). This was because Gideon had broken down Baal's altar.
33The Midianites, Amalekites and other tribes who lived east of Jordan joined together. They crossed the river Jordan and put their tents in the Valley of Jezreel. 34The Spirit of the LORD took hold of Gideon. He blew a trumpet. He called the men of his city to follow him. 35He sent men to the tribe of Manasseh to tell them to fight. He told Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to fight too. They all met together.
36Gideon said to God, ‘I want to save Israel. You promised to use me. 37Look, I will put the hair of a sheep out on a dry, stone floor. Please make it wet by the morning, but let the ground stay dry. Then I will know that you will use me’. 38That is what happened. The next morning the hair contained enough water to fill a large cup.
39Then Gideon said to God. ‘Please do not be angry. Let me ask one more thing. This time could you please make the ground wet, but keep the hair dry’. 40That night God did so. The ground was wet, but the sheep's hair stayed dry. #6:40 Gideon was afraid and hid from the Midianites. But God's angel called him a ‘strong soldier’. The angel said that the LORD God was with Gideon. This made Gideon strong. The LORD helped Gideon to believe him. #6:40 Gideon 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. Gideon would not die. Then he told Gideon what he had to do. And Gideon did it, at night. #6:40 The men of Ophrah were angry. They wanted to kill Gideon. But Joash, Gideon's father, saved Gideon from them. He had let people worship false gods on his farm. He said that true gods would punish Gideon themselves. Baal could not kill Gideon. Gideon had done as God had told him. So God could use him again. His Holy Spirit made Gideon call many Israelites to fight against their enemies. #6:40 God was not angry because Gideon was afraid. Twice he did things to show Gideon that he was with him. God chose Gideon to be the leader. He really wanted Gideon to believe this. #6:40 Gideon was afraid, but God gave power to Gideon to fight, and to win. Gideon knew that by himself, he was weak. But God made him strong.