By Joan K. Snipes

Categories: Men in the Old Testament

  • Gideon is mentioned in two books of the Bible - Judges and Hebrews. (Judges, chapters 6 to 8; Hebrews 11:32)
  • Gideon was one of fourteen judges, including Eli and Samuel, in ancient Israel.
  • Gideon is the fifth of the judges described in the book. The others are: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Jephthah, Samson, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. The last five listed are minor judges whose battles are not recorded in the Bible.
  • The story of Gideon opens with an account of "an angel of the Lord" appearing to him. Gideon asks the angel some agonizing questions. "Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?" Gideon glumly concludes that God has forsaken him and his people and delivered them into the hands of the Midianites. Judges 6:13
  • Gideon is the son of Joash, and the family is of the tribe of Manasseh. They live at Ophrah, and Gideon is busy threshing wheat when the angel first appears. (Threshing is the process of separating grain from the straw.) God instructs Gideon to throw down the altar of Baal that his father had. Gideon is also told to cut down the grove next to the altar.
  • When the men of the city, idolaters, demand that Joash should surrender his son to be put to death for the sacrilege, Joash shrewdly responds, "If he [Baal] be a god, let him plead for himself." Judges 6:31
  • Fleece is the coat of wool covering a sheep. When God tells Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites, Gideon tests Him. Gideon puts fleece on the floor. Gideon says, "If the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said." When "it was so," Gideon asked God to keep the fleece dry, even when there was "dew on all the ground." Once again, God did what Gideon asked. Judges 6:36-40
  • When Gideon prepared to attack the Midianites, the Lord directed him to reduce the number of troops to 300 men. Gideon did this by requesting those who were afraid to return home. Since the number of troops was still too large, the Lord instructed Gideon to bring them down to the water. Those who bowed down upon their knees to drink were sent home. Those who brought the water to their mouths to drink were kept. Some have interpreted this event as God's way of finding those who were most alert to the enemy. If they brought the water to their mouths in their hands, their eyes could continue checking the area for enemies.
  • Gideon's small force surprised the Midianites encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. Each of Gideon's men was given a trumpet and a pitcher. The loud sound of the breaking pitchers and trumpets frightened and confused the enemy. Following the initial night attack, the Midianites fled. Gideon and his men subsequently captured their kings. This victory "was a vivid illustration to Israel of God's power to save His people." (Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, p. 78.)
  • Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews is sometimes called the Honor Roll of the faithful. Mentioned in this passage are three judges as well as Deborah's military leader, Barak. Thus, we are reminded of the contributions of Gideon and the other judges who ruled in Israel for about 300 years until the monarchy was established under King Saul.


Ackerman, Susan. Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen. New York: Doubleday, 1998.'

Auld, A. Graeme. "Joshua, Judges, and Ruth." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.

Block, Daniel. "Judges, Ruth." The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Gehman, Henry Snyder, ed. The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974.

Hamlin, E. John. "Judges, At Risk in the Promised Land." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1990.

Harris, J. Gordon. "Joshua, Judges, Ruth." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

McCann, J. Clinton. "Judges." Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Nelson's Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.

Bible Characters