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Who Was Gideon?

Gideon was a judge over Israel. Although the Bible describes him as timid, Gideon is known as the greatest of all the 15 judges.
Updated Jan 25, 2024
Who Was Gideon?

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor. And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”” Judges 6:12-13

And he said to Him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” Judges 6:15

Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” ~ Judges 8:23

Who was Gideon in the Bible? What makes his story significant for Christians today?

Gideon in the Bible

Compared with some of the other judges ruling Israel, Gideon seems to get a lot of press in the Old Testament, covering more than two chapters (compared with some of them only getting part of one chapter). Known as the greatest judge of Israel, readers might be surprised when they dive into the narrative to find a timid ruler. In fact, when we first meet him, he’s hiding from the enemies on a threshing floor.

Gideon, from the least of the least in terms of tribes, receives a call from God to take on the Midianites, a nomadic and huge group of people who depleted Israel’s supplies.

This article will dive into the person of Gideon, what God does to make him an even more unlikely candidate to save Israel, and why it matters to us today.

When it comes to Gideon, readers actually have quite a bit to unpack in Judges 6:11- Judges 8:32. Although this article won't dive into everything, it’ll highlight two major portions of Gideon’s story. I highly suggest reading the entirety of the two chapters to get a full picture of Gideon and all God accomplished through him.

Read the full text of Gideon's biblical account in Judges 6-8.

Gideon Tested God Using Fleece

When Gideon hears he will save the Israelite people from his oppressors, he doesn’t really believe it at first. So he tests God. This, right off the bat, seems to contradict the command not to put the Lord to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). But Gideon appears to test God a lot.

  • First, he requires God to put dew on a fleece he lays out instead of on the ground.
  • Then, he asks for the opposite, a dry fleece and wet ground.
  • Then, once more, the opposite.

As suggested in this article, this wasn’t the proper thing to do and came from a lack of faith. Nevertheless, God will pull out all crutches from underneath him and force Gideon to rely on Him in the next part of the story.

Gideon and the Army of 300

When God wanted Gideon to bring an army to take on the enormous Midianite army, he brought 32,000 men (Judges 7). Although not as sizeable as the Midianites, it’s enough for Gideon to be comfortable with leading the charge.

God has other plans. He decides to enlist a series of tests of His own on Gideon, reminiscent of the tests Gideon had for Him in the previous chapter.

  • First, he makes Gideon send home anyone who is afraid. It turns out 22,000 of the people in the army have their doubts and head on their way.
  • Now, with 10,000 left, God makes them drink water. Apparently, only 300 of the men drank water by putting their hands to their mouths. The other 9,700 who knelt to drink were sent home.

With just 300 men now, Gideon knows he has to rely on God to provide a miracle.

But God has an even odder plan in place. They won’t even have to invade or attack to wipe out the Midianites. He has them create as much noise as possible by blaring trumpets and smashing jars.

This confuses the men in the Midianite camp, and they end up killing each other in the chaos.

What Can We Learn from Gideon’s Story? 

1. God can work with a little bit of faith.

Overall, we can learn that God can work through anyone, even timid believers of little faith.

A leader doesn’t always mean the boldest and most extroverted. God often works through believers who come from the least of the least, like Gideon. When we’re hiding from what scares us most, God compels us to tackle it head-on.

2. But God wants us to trust Him. 

Second, God doesn’t allow metaphorical crutches. Although he plays along with Gideon’s fleece tests, when it comes to the actual battle, he refuses to let Gideon have a cushion of a bulky army. Reducing him to the bare essentials of 300, they know they have to rely on God for victory.

The same happens in our lives.

We can often have various cushions that offer comfort. Maybe we have jobs that provide enough income for a cozy retirement or other members of the church who step up into leadership roles we’d rather not fill ourselves. We can only hide on the threshing floor for so long before God pulls us out of our comfort zones to do His amazing work.

No matter what the case, God will reduce our “numbers” down to 300. When He does so, we have to rely on Him to do what we thought was impossible.

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 400 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they contracted the sequel for 2020. Find out more about her here.

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