(gihd ih uhn) Personal name meaning, “one who cuts to pieces.” The fifth major judge of twelfth century Israel. He was also called Jerubbaal and was the son of Joash of the tribe of Manasseh. He judged for forty years (Judges 6:11-8:35). See Jerubaal.
Gideon was given the task of delivering the Israelites from the Midianites and Amalekites, desert nomads who repeatedly raided the country. Their use of the camel allowed them to ride in, destroy crops, take plunder, and then escape back into the desert with such speed the Israelites could not catch them. Gideon was not a willing volunteer. Although he knew the will of God, twice he laid out the fleece in what seems an effort to avoid the will of God by imposing impossible conditions. God met his conditions both times and then set out the strategy that would guarantee victory for Israel.
To reduce their number, two tests were given to the 32,000 men in Gideon's army. This was done that Israel could not claim victory by any other means than continued dependence upon God. Those who were afraid and those who knelt down to get a drink of water were sent home. The remaining 300 were given pitchers, torches, and trumpets, and placed around the Midianite encampment. The strategy was one of terror: at Gideon's signal the pitchers were broken, the torches then became visible, and the trumpets sounded, giving the enemy the impression they were surrounded. They took flight, their leaders were killed, and the Midianite oppression was brought to an end.
The hero of faith (Hebrews 11:32) ended life on a sad note. He angrily punished Succoth and Penuel for not helping in his war against the Midianite kings (Judges 8:1-17). He refused the people's offer to crown him king, testifying that only God was King (Judges 8:22-23), but he ordered the people to give him their golden earrings, taken as war spoil from the Ishmaelites. He made a worship symbol, an ephod, out of it and led his people astray with it (Judges 8:24-27). His family did not follow his God (Judges 8:33). See Camel; Judge; Midianites.
Darlene R. Gautsch