called also Jerubbaal (Judg. 6:29, 32), was the first of the
judges whose history is circumstantially narrated (Judg. 6-8).
His calling is the commencement of the second period in the
history of the judges. After the victory gained by Deborah and
Barak over Jabin, Israel once more sank into idolatry, and the
Midianites (q.v.) and Amalekites, with other "children of the
east," crossed the Jordan each year for seven successive years
for the purpose of plundering and desolating the land. Gideon
received a direct call from God to undertake the task of
delivering the land from these warlike invaders. He was of the
family of Abiezer (Josh. 17:2; 1 Chr. 7:18), and of the little
township of Ophrah (Judg. 6:11). First, with ten of his
servants, he overthrew the altars of Baal and cut down the
asherah which was upon it, and then blew the trumpet of alarm,
and the people flocked to his standard on the crest of Mount
Gilboa to the number of twenty-two thousand men. These were,
however, reduced to only three hundred. These, strangely armed
with torches and pitchers and trumpets, rushed in from three
different points on the camp of Midian at midnight, in the
valley to the north of Moreh, with the terrible war-cry, "For
the Lord and for Gideon" (Judg. 7:18, R.V.). Terror-stricken,
the Midianites were put into dire confusion, and in the darkness
slew one another, so that only fifteen thousand out of the great
army of one hundred and twenty thousand escaped alive. The
memory of this great deliverance impressed itself deeply on the
mind of the nation (1 Sam. 12:11; Ps. 83:11; Isa. 9:4; 10:26;
Heb. 11:32). The land had now rest for forty years. Gideon died
in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of his
fathers. Soon after his death a change came over the people.
They again forgot Jehovah, and turned to the worship of Baalim,
"neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal" (Judg.
8:35). Gideon left behind him seventy sons, a feeble, sadly
degenerated race, with one exception, that of Abimelech, who
seems to have had much of the courage and energy of his father,
yet of restless and unscrupulous ambition. He gathered around
him a band who slaughtered all Gideon's sons, except Jotham,
upon one stone. (See OPHRAH T0002798.)