For a while the Israelites people worshiped God, but then they started worshiping a false god called Baal. Because of that God let the Midianite people rule over them. The Midianites stole their sheep, cattle, and donkeys, and destroyed their crops. Many of the Israelites went to live in caves to try to hide from the Midianites.
The Israelites turned back to God and cried out to him for help. He sent a prophet with this message, "I brought you out of Egypt and gave you this land. I told you not to worship other gods. But you have not listened to me."
Then the angel of the Lord appeared to a man named Gideon as he was threshing some wheat in a wine press, trying to hide it from the Midianites. The Lord's angel looked like a man and at first Gideon thought he was a man. He sat under an oak tree and told Gideon, "The Lord is with you, brave man." Gideon answered, "If the Lord is with us, why is all this happening to us?" Then the angel said, "Go with all your strength and save the Israelites from the Midianites. I myself am sending you."
Gideon began to realize that this was not just a man speaking, so he said, "If you are pleased with me, give me some proof that you are really the Lord. Stay here until I bring you an offering of food." So Gideon went to his house and prepared goat meat and bread and brought them back. The angel said, "Put them on this rock." Gideon put them on the rock. Then the angel touched them with the stick in his hand. Fire jumped up from the rock and burnt up the food, and the angel of the Lord disappeared. Gideon was afraid and said, "I have seen the angel of the Lord face-to-face. Now Gideon's father had an altar used to worship the false god Baal. So that night the Lord spoke to Gideon and told him, "Take your fathers bull and pull down the altar to Baal and cut down the pole beside it that stands for the goddess Asherah. Then build an altar to the Lord. Use the pole for firewood and offer another bull on it as a sacrifice." So Gideon took ten servants to help him. They tore down the altar and cut down the pole and sacrificed the bull, but they did it at night, because Gideon was afraid.
The next morning when the people of the town found that the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole were gone, they were angry. When they found out that Gideon had done it, they told Gideon's father, "Bring your son out that we may kill him." But his father said, "Are you defending Baal? If Baal is a god, let him defend himself; it is his Altar that was torn down." So the people let Gideon alone.
After that the Midianite army came into the land of Israel again. The Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon and the called out his clansmen to fight them. He also sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to help them.
Gideon was still not sure God was with him, so he told God, "I am going to put a sheepskin on the ground, if in the morning it is wet with dew and the ground is dry, I will know you are going to use me to save the Israelites." The next morning the ground was dry, but he squeezed a bowl full of water out of the sheepskin. He was still not sure, however, so he told God, "Please don't be angry. "This time let the sheepskin be dry and the ground wet." The next morning the sheepskin was dry and the ground was wet with dew.
Now thirty-two thousand men gathered to Gideon at mount Gilead to fight the Midianites. God told Gideon, "You have too many men. They might think they won the victory by themselves, and not give me the credit. Tell them that anyone who is afraid should go back home. "So when Gideon told them this, Twenty-Two thousand of them went home.
Gideon still had ten thousand men, so God said, "you still have too many men. Take them down to the water and I will separate them there. Put the men in two groups: those who use their hands as a cup so they can lap the water out of their hands and those who get down on their knees to drink." So Gideon did what God said, but only three hundred men lapped the water out their hands. God said, "I will give you the victory over the Midianites with the three hundred men; tell the other to go home." So Gideon sent the other men home.
That night God told Gideon, "Get up and attack the Midianites. But if you are still afraid, take your servant and sneak down to their camp first. So Gideon and his servant went down to the edge of the Midianites' camp. There they overheard one man tell his friend about his dream. The man said, "I dreamed that a loaf of barley bred rolled down the mountain into the camp and hit a tent. Then the tent fell down." His friend said, "It's about Gideon! God has given him the victory over your army! "When Gideon heard the dream and its meaning, he thanked God and returned to his men.
Then he told them, "Get up! God is giving you the victory over the Midianites." He divided his three hundred men into three groups. Then he gave each man a trumpet and a jar with a torch inside it. He told his men, "You do what I do. When my group blows over trumpets you blow yours and shout, "For the Lord and for Gideon." The three groups went down the mountain to the Midianite camp and got there about 10 o'clock at night. They surrounded the camp, blew their trumpets, broke their jars, held up their torches and shouted. They stayed where they were and kept blowing their trumpets. The Midianites jumped up and fled. In the confusion of the night, they started fighting each other. Those who weren't killed fled to the Jordan River. More Israelites came to fight the Midianites along the way. Gideon sent messengers to the Israelites in the tribe of Ephraim and told them to defend the river, to keep the Midianites from escaping. Only 15,000 men out of the army of 135,000 were able to escape across the river. The rest were all killed.
Gideon and his 300 men followed them and attacked the 15,000 Midianites when they were not expecting it. The Midianite army was scattered and their two kings were killed by Gideon. After that the Israelites wanted to make Gideon their King. But Gideon said, "I will not be your king. God is your King. But he did serve as a judge of the Israelites and they had peace for 40 years.