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GIDEON AND HIS BRAVE THREE HUNDRED
Judges vi: 1, to viii: 28.
GAIN the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord
in worshipping Baal; and the Lord left them again to
suffer for their sins. This time it was the Midianites,
living near the desert on the east of Israel, who came
against the tribes in the middle of the country. The
two tribes that suffered the hardest fate were Ephraim,
and the part of Manasseh on the west of Jordan. For
seven years the Midianites swept over their land every
year, just at the time of harvest, and carried away all
the crops of grain, until the Israelites had no food
for themselves and none for their sheep and cattle. The
Midianites brought also their own flocks, and camels
without number, which ate all the grass of the field.
These Midianites were the wild Arabs, living on the
border of the desert, and from their land they made
sudden and swift attacks upon the people of Israel.
The people of Israel were driven away from their
villages and their farms; and were compelled to hide in
the caves of the mountains. And if any Israelite could
raise any grain, he buried it in pits covered with
earth, or in empty wine-presses, where the Midianites
could not find it.
One day a man named Gideon was threshing out wheat in a
hidden place, when suddenly he saw an angel sitting
under an oak-tree. The angel said to him, "You are a
brave man, Gideon; and the Lord is with you. Go out
boldly, and save your people from the power of the
THE ANGEL SPEAKING TO GIDEON ON THE THRESHING FLOOR
Gideon answered the angel, "O Lord, how can I save
Israel? Mine is a poor family in Manasseh, and I am the
least of my father's house."
 And the Lord said to him, "Surely I will be with you,
and I will help you drive out the Midianites."
Gideon felt that it was the Lord who was talking with
him, in the form of an angel. He brought an offering,
and laid it on a rock before the angel. Then the angel
touched the offering with his staff. At once a fire
leaped up and burned the offering; and then the angel
vanished from his sight. Gideon was afraid when he saw
this; but the Lord said to him, "Peace be unto you,
Gideon; do not fear, for I am with you."
THE ANGEL TOUCHED GIDEON'S OFFERING
On the spot where the Lord appeared to Gideon, under an
oak-tree near the village of Ophrah, in the tribe-land
of Manasseh, Gideon built an altar, and called it by a
name which means "The Lord is peace." This altar was
standing long afterward in that place.
Then the Lord told Gideon that before setting his
people free from the Midianites, he must first set them
free from the service of Baal and Asherah, the two
idols most worshipped among them. Near the house of
Gideon's own father stood an altar to Baal, and the
image of Asherah.
On that night Gideon went out with ten men, and threw
 the image of Baal, and cut in pieces the wooden image
of Asherah, and destroyed the altar before these idols.
And in place he built an altar to the God of Israel,
and on it laid the broken pieces of the idols for wood,
and with them offered a young ox as a burnt-offering.
On the next morning, when the people of the village
went out to worship their idols, they found them cut in
pieces, the altar taken away; in its place stood an
altar of the Lord, and on it the pieces of the Asherah
were burning as wood under a sacrifice to the Lord. The
people looked at the broken and burning idols, and they
said, "Who has done this?"
Some one said, "Gideon, the son of Joash, did this last
night." Then they came to Joash, Gideon's father, and
said, "We are going to kill your son because he has
destroyed the image of Baal, who is our god."
And Joash, Gideon's father, said, "If Baal is a god, he
can take care of himself; and he will punish the man
who has destroyed his image. Why should you help Baal?
Let Baal help himself."
And when they saw that Baal could not harm the man who
had broken down his altar and his image, the people
turned from Baal back to their own Lord God.
Gideon sent men through all his own tribe of Manasseh
and the other tribes in that part of the land, to say,
"Come and help us drive out the Midianites." The men
came, and gathered around Gideon. Very few of them had
swords and spears, for the Israelites were not a
fighting people, and were not trained for war. They met
beside a great spring on Mount Gilboa, called "the
fountain of Harod." Mount Gilboa is one of the three
mountains on the east of the plain of Esdraelon, or the
plain of Jezreel, of which we read in the last story.
On the plain, stretching up the side of another of
these mountains, called "the Hill of Moreh," was the
camp of a vast Midianite army. For as soon as the
Midianites heard that Gideon had undertaken to set his
people free, they came against him with a mighty host.
Just as Deborah and her little army had looked down
from Mount Tabor on the great army of the Canaanites
(see Story 44), so now, on Mount Gilboa,
Gideon looked down on the host of the Midianites in
their camp on the same plain.
Gideon was a man of faith. He wished to be sure that
God was leading him; and he prayed to God, and said, "O
 give me some sign that thou wilt save Israel through
me. Here is a fleece of wool on this threshing-floor.
If to-morrow morning the fleece is wet with dew, while
the grass around it is dry, then I shall know that thou
art with me, and that thou wilt give me victory over
Very early the next morning Gideon came to look at the
fleece. He found it wringing wet with dew, while all
around the grass was dry. But Gideon was not yet
satisfied. He said to the Lord, "O Lord, be not angry
with me; but give me just one more sign. To-morrow
morning, let the fleece be dry, and let the dew fall
all around it; and then I will doubt no more."
The next morning Gideon found the grass and the bushes
and the trees wet with dew, while the fleece of wool
was dry. And
 Gideon was now sure that God had called him, and that
God would give him victory over the enemies of Israel.
The Lord said to Gideon, "Your army is too large. If
Israel should win the victory, they would say, 'We won
it by our own might.' Send home all those who are
afraid to fight." For many of the people were
frightened as they looked at the host of their enemies;
and the Lord knew that these men in the battle would
only hinder the rest.
So Gideon sent word through the camp, "Whoever is
afraid of the enemy may go home," and twenty-two
thousand people went away, leaving only ten thousand in
Gideon's army. But the army was stronger though it was
smaller, for the cowards had gone and only the brave
men were left.
But the Lord said to Gideon, "The people are yet too
many. You need only a few of the bravest and best men
to fight in this battle. Bring the men down the
mountain, beside the water, and I will show you there
how to find the men whom you need."
In the morning Gideon by God's command called his ten
thousand men out, and made them march down the hill,
just as though they were going to attack the enemy. And
when they were beside the water he noticed how they
drank; and set them apart in two companies, according
to their way of drinking. As they came to the water,
most of the men threw aside their shields and spears,
and knelt down and scooped up a draught of the water
with both hands together like a cup. These men Gideon
commanded to stand in one company.
There were a few men who did not stop to take a large
draught of water. Holding spear and shield in the
right hand, to be ready for the enemy if one should
suddenly appear, they merely caught up a handful of the
water in passing and marched on, lapping up the water
from one hand.
God said to Gideon, "Set by themselves these men who
lapped up each a handful of water. These are the men
whom I have chosen to set Israel free."
Gideon counted these men, and found that there were
only three hundred of them; while all the rest bowed
down on their faces to drink. The difference between
them was that these three hundred were earnest men, of
one purpose; not turning aside from their aim even to
drink, as the others did. Then, too, they were
 watchful men, always ready to meet their enemies.
Suppose that the Midianites had rushed out on that army
while nearly all of them were on their faces drinking,
their arms thrown to one side,—how helpless they would
have been! But no enemy could have surprised the three
hundred, who held their spears and shields ready, even
while they were taking a drink.
Some have thought that this test showed also who were
worshippers of idols, and who worshipped God; for men
fell on their faces when they prayed to the idols, but
men stood up while they worshipped the Lord. Perhaps
this act showed that most of the army were used to
worship kneeling down before idols, and that only a few
used to stand up before the Lord in their worship; but
of this we are not certain. It did show that here were
three hundred brave, watchful men, obedient to orders,
and ready for the battle.
Then Gideon, at God's command, sent back to the camp on
Mount Gilboa all the rest of his army, nearly ten
thousand men; keeping with himself only his little band
of three hundred. But before the battle God gave to
Gideon one more sign, that he might be the more
God said to Gideon, "Go down with your servant into the
camp of the Midianites, and hear what they say. It will
cheer your heart for the fight."
Then Gideon crept down the mountain with his servant,
and walked around the edge of the Midianite camp, just
as though he were one of their own men. He saw two men
talking, and stood near to listen. One man said to the
"I had a strange dream in the night. I dreamed that I
saw a loaf of barley bread come rolling down the
mountain; and it struck the tent, and threw it down in
a heap on the ground. What do you suppose that dream
"That loaf of bread," said the other, "means Gideon, a
man of Israel, who will come down and destroy this
army; for the Lord God has given us all into his hand."
Gideon was glad when he heard this, for it showed that
the Midianites, for all their number, were in fear of
him and of his army, even more than his men had feared
the Midianites. He gave thanks to God, and hastened
back to his camp, and made ready to lead his men
against the Midianites.
 Gideon's plan did not need a large army; but it needed
a few careful, bold men, who should do exactly as their
leader commanded them. He gave to each man a lamp, a
pitcher, and a trumpet, and told the men just what was
to be done with them. The lamp was lighted, but was
placed inside the pitcher, so that it could not be
seen. He divided his men into three companies; and very
quietly led them down the mountain, in the middle of
the night; and arranged them all in order around the
camp of the Midianites.
Then at one moment a great shout rang out in the
darkness, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and
after it came a crash of breaking pitchers, and then a
flash of light in every direction. The three hundred
men had given the shout, and broken their pitchers, so
that on every side lights were shining. Then men blew
their trumpets with a mighty noise; and the Midianites
were roused from sleep, to see enemies all round them,
lights beaming and swords flashing in the darkness,
while everywhere the sharp sound of the trumpets was
They were filled with sudden terror and thought only of
escape, not of fighting. But wherever they turned,
their enemies seemed to be standing with swords drawn.
They trampled each other down to death, flying from the
Israelites. Their own land was in the east, across the
river Jordan, and they fled in that direction, down one
of the valleys between the mountains.
Gideon had thought that the Midianites would turn
toward their own land, if they should be beaten in the
battle; and he had already planned to cut off their
flight. The ten thousand men in the camp he had placed
on the sides of the valley leading to the Jordan. There
they slew very many of the Midianites as they fled down
the steep pass toward the river. And Gideon had also
sent to the men of the tribe of Ephraim, who had thus
far taken no part in the war, to hold the only place at
the river where men could wade through the water. Those
of the Midianites who had escaped from Gideon's men on
either side of the valley were now met by the
Ephraimites at the river, and many more of them were
slain. Among the slain were two of the princes of the
Midianites, named Oreb and Zeeb.
A part of the Midianite army was able to get across the
river, and to continue its flight toward the desert;
but Gideon and his brave three hundred men followed
closely after them; fought another
 battle with them, destroyed them utterly, and took
their two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, whom he killed.
After this great victory the Israelites were freed
forever from the Midianites. They never again ventured
to leave their home in the desert to make war on the
tribes of Israel.
The tribe of Ephraim, in the middle of the land, was
one of the most powerful of the twelve tribes. Its
leaders were quite displeased with Gideon, because
their part in the victory had been so small. They said
to Gideon, in an angry manner, "Why did you not send
word to us, when you were calling for men to fight the
But Gideon knew how to make a kind answer. He said to
them, "What have I done as compared with you? Did you
not kill thousands of the Midianites at the crossing of
the Jordan? Did you not take their two princes, Oreb
and Zeeb? What could my men have done without the help
of your men?" By gentle words and words of praise
Gideon made the men of Ephraim friendly.
And after this, as long as Gideon lived, he ruled as
judge in Israel. The people wished him to make himself
a king. "Rule over us as king," they said, "and let
your son be king after you, and his son king after
him." But Gideon said, "No; you have a king already;
for the Lord God is the King of Israel. No one but God
shall be king over these tribes."
Of all the fifteen men who ruled as judges in Israel,
Gideon, the fifth judge, was the greatest, in courage,
in wisdom, and in faith in God.
If all the people of Israel had been like him, there
would have been no worship of idols, and no weakness
before the enemies, Israel would have been strong and
faithful before God. But as soon as Gideon died, and
even before his death, his people began once more to
turn away from the Lord and to seek the idol-gods that
could give them no help.