1The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord's sight. So the Lord handed them over to the Midianites for seven years.
2The Midianite oppression was so great that because of them the Israelites made themselves hiding places in mountains, caves, and fortifications.
3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites, and other peoples from the east would come and attack them.
4They would set up their camps and destroy the country's crops as far away as Gaza. They didn't leave anything to eat in the whole of Israel, and they took for themselves all the sheep, cattle, and donkeys.
5They arrived in huge numbers with their livestock and tents like swarms of locusts, with so many camels they couldn't be counted. They invaded the land to completely devastate it.
6The Israelites were made desperately poor by the Midianites and they called out to the Lord for help.
7When the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help because of the Midianites,
8the Lord sent the Israelites a prophet. He told them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought you out of Egypt; I led you out from the place where you were slaves.
9I saved you from the power of the Egyptians and from everyone who oppressed you. I expelled them before you and gave their land to you.
10I warned you: I am the Lord your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you're now living.’ But you didn't listen to me.”
11The angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak tree in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress there to hide it from the Midianites.
12The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, great man of courage!”
13“Excuse me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Gideon replied. “Where are all his wonderful miracles that our forefathers reminded us about when they said, ‘Wasn't it the Lord who led us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has given up on us and has handed us over to the Midianites.”
14The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength that you have and save Israel from the Midianites. Aren't I the one sending you?”
15“Excuse me, my lord, but how can I save Israel?” Gideon replied. “My family is the least important of the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least important person of that family!”
16“I will be with you,” the Lord told him. “You will defeat the Midianites as if they were just one man.”
17“Please, Lord, if you think well of me, give me a sign that it's really you telling me this,” Gideon asked.
18“Don't leave until I come back and present my offering to you.” “I will remain here until you return,” he replied.
19Gideon went and cooked a young goat, and baked some unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. He carried them out and presented them to the angel under the oak tree.
20The angel of God told him, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock and pour the broth over them.” So Gideon did.
21The angel of the Lord held out the staff he was holding and touched the meat and unleavened bread with the tip. Fire flamed from the rock and burned up the meat and unleavened bread. Then the angel vanished.
22When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he cried out, “Oh no, Lord God! I've seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
23But the Lord told him, “Peace! Don't worry, you're not going to die.”
24So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it “The Lord is Peace.” It's still there today, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25That night the Lord told Gideon, “Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and tear down your father's altar of Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.
26Then build an altar to the Lord your God in the proper way on hilltop. Using the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down as firewood, take the second bull and present it as a burnt offering.”
27Gideon accompanied by ten of his servants did what the Lord had told him. However, because he was afraid of his family and the people of the town, he did it during the night rather than in the day.
28Early in the morning when the people of the town got up, they saw that the altar of Baal had been torn down and the Asherah pole beside it had been cut down, with the second bull sacrificed on the altar that had just been built.
29They asked one another, “Who did this?” They made inquiries and they were told, “Gideon, son of Joash, did it.”
30“Hand over your son,” the people of the town ordered Joash. “He must die, because he has torn down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”
31Joash replied to all those confronting him, “Are you arguing on Baal's behalf? Do you have to save him? Anyone who argues for him will be put to death by morning! If he is a god let him fight for himself against those who tore down his altar.”
32That day Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal fight with him,” because he had torn down his altar.
33All the Midianites, Amalekites, and other peoples of the East gathered together and crossed over the Jordan. They camped in the Valley of Jezreel.
34The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew the trumpet, calling Abiezrites to join him.
35He sent messengers through the whole territory of Manasseh, calling them to join him, and also to Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so they also came and joined the others.
36Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel through me as you promised,
37then look—I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If the fleece is wet with dew but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to save Israel through me as you promised.”
38That's what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he pressed on the fleece and squeezed out the dew, enough water to fill a bowl.
39Then Gideon said to God, “Please don't get cross with me. Just let me make one more request. Let me do one more test with the fleece. This time let the fleece be dry and the whole ground covered with dew.”
40That night God did exactly that. The fleece alone was dry and the whole ground was covered with dew.