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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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BARAK and Deborah died about the same time. After their death the Midianites called to their assistance the Amalekites and the Arabians, and made war against the Israelites, and defeated them, and drove them from their cities and from their houses, so that they lived in caves in the mountains. The Midianites also carried off their grain and their cattle, and there was great danger of a famine.

Then the Israelites cried to the Lord for assistance. There was a man among them named Gideon. One day he was secretly threshing some wheat in his wine-press, for he was too fearful of the enemy to thresh it openly on the threshing-floor. And God appeared to him in the form of an angel, and said to him that he was a happy man and beloved of God.

[105] To this Gideon answered, laughing scornfully, "Is this an indication of God's favor to me, that I am forced to use this wine-press instead of a threshing-floor?" But the angel exhorted him to be of good courage, and told him that he should make an attempt to recover liberty for his people.

"Nay," said Gideon, "it is impossible for me to do that, for the tribe to which I belong is a small one, and I myself am young and not fit for great actions."

But the angel answered that God would supply what he was deficient in, and would afford the Israelites victory under his guidance.

Gideon told this story to other young men, and they believed him, and immediately there was an army of ten thousand young men got ready for fighting. And Gideon was chosen their captain.

At night, as Gideon slept, God appeared to him in a dream, and said that He wished the Israelites to acknowledge that victory came from Him and not from the greatness of their army, and therefore all this number of men would not be necessary. So He told him to bring his army, about noon, in the violence of the heat, to the river, and those men that bent down on their knees and drank calmly he should look upon as brave men, while those who hurriedly scooped up the water with their hands were cowardly and in dread of their enemies.

And when Gideon had done as God commanded, there were found to be three hundred who drank water hurriedly from their hands. God told him to choose out this number, for with only three hundred cowardly men under him He would give him the victory. But, as Gideon himself was in great fear, God wished to reassure him, and He told him to take one of his soldiers and go near to the tents of the Midianites at night-time, for that he should have his courage raised by what he saw and heard. So he obeyed, and went, taking his servant Phurah with him; and as he came near to [106] one of the tents he discovered that those who were in it were awake, and that one of them was telling his fellow-soldier a dream of his own. And Gideon could hear every word he said. The dream was this: He thought he saw a barley-cake, such a one as could hardly be eaten by men, it was so vile, rolling through the camp, and overthrowing the royal tent, and the tents of all the soldiers. Now the other soldier explained this vision to mean the destruction of the army.

"For," said he, "the seed called barley is allowed to be the vilest sort of seed, and the Israelites are known to be the vilest of all the people of Asia, and since thou sayest thou didst see the cake overturning our tents, I am afraid God hath granted the victory over us to Gideon."

When Gideon had heard this, hope and courage came upon him. Commanding his soldiers to arm themselves, he told them of this vision of their enemies. They also took courage, and were ready to perform what he should enjoin them. So Gideon divided his army into three parts, each part containing a hundred men: they all bore empty pitchers and lighted lamps in their hands. Each of them also had a ram's horn in his right hand, which he used instead of a trumpet. And at dead of night they stealthily crept into the enemy's camp, and on the signal given sounded with the rams' horns, and broke their pitchers, and lit their lamps, and shouted, and cried, "Victory to Gideon, by God's assistance." Whereupon a disorder and a fright seized upon the Midianites while they were half asleep, so that a few of them were slain by their enemies, but the greatest part by their own soldiers, on account of the diversity of their language, and when they were once put into disorder, they killed all that they met with, thinking them to be enemies also. As the report of Gideon's victory came to the other Israelites, they took their weapons and pursued their enemies, and overtook them in a certain valley, and slew them all, with their kings. And Gideon was made judge over Israel, and ruled forty years.

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