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Judges -- Chapter 3

[6] The Israelites again did evil in god's sight (undoubtedly by allowing religious freedom) and he gave them over to the Midianites for seven years. The Midianites were so oppressive that the Israelites made shelters in the caves and mountain clefts. Whenever they planted crops the Midianites invaded and destroyed everything. They were like a swarm of locusts; it was impossible to count them. They so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to god, who sent them a prophet.

The prophet told them, "God says he brought you up out of Egypt, delivered you from your oppressors, and gave you the oppressors' land. He then said, 'I am your god. Do not worship the gods of those Amorites where you live.' But you haven't listened to him. You have allowed religious freedom in your land, so what do you expect?"

One day an angel of god came along and decided to sit down under the oak tree in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son, Gideon, was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. The angel appeared in front of Gideon and said, "God is with you, mighty warrior!"

"Pardon me," Gideon, who had a certain sense of logic, replied, "but if god is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about? He has abandoned us to the Midianites."

God turned to him (somehow the angel escaped and god had snuck in), "Go and save Israel out of Midian's hand. I am sending you."

"But god, what can I do? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."

God said, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." God swiped his hands back and forth, "Alright, more killing! Break up the boredom!"

Gideon was not easily convinced, though, knowing how mean those damned Midianites were, and he said, "If I have really found favor in your eyes give me a sign that it really is you talking to me. Don't go away. I will be right back with an offering." Gideon went inside and prepared a young goat, made some nice bread to go with it (without any yeast, because he knew that made god sneeze), and brought it out to god.

Now the angel (who apparently had snuck back in and took god's place again; they just love to play hide and seek) said, "Put the meat and bread on this rock". He did so, and then the angel touched the meat and bread with the staff he was carrying. Fire flared up and consumed the meat and bread, and the angel disappeared.

When Gideon saw this he said, "Oh shit! I have seen an angel face to face." Seeing god face to face was no big deal, but seeing an angel, well, that was another thing!

But god (who had snuck back in after the angel disappeared) said, "Oh, no. Don't be afraid. You aren't going to die. Well, maybe someday...."

So Gideon built an altar to god, called it The Lord Is Peace, and prepared to go to war. (That kind of peaceful war waged in the name of the lord.)

Of course, he couldn't go off to war without a little animal killing, so god said, "Take a bull from your father's herd, tear down your father's altar to Baal, build a proper altar to me, and kill that bull on it."

Gideon did so along with ten helpers, but he did so at night because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople.

In the morning the people discovered the mess and asked, "Who did this?"

After some investigation they were told, "Gideon, son of Joash, did it."

The people called to Joash and said, "Your son will die for this! Bring him out here."

Joash wasn't going to give his son up so easily, though, and responded, "Oh, go suck an egg and let Baal fight his own battles!"

 

Now, all the Midianites, Amalekites and other icky eastern folks crossed over Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. God's evil spirit then came over Gideon and he blew a trumpet to summon the Abiezrites to follow him. Then he sent messengers through Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali so that they would meet up with him.

Gideon still wasn't quite too sure about all this, though, and so he spoke to god, and said, "If you will save Israel by my hand then do this. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If the fleece is wet, but not the ground, then I will know that you mean business."

The next day, sure enough, the ground was dry, but god had piddled on the fleece. Gideon picked up the fleece and wrung a bowl full of yellowish water out of it. Then he said to god again, "Please, don't be angry, Mr. I Am, but I just want to be really sure. I'll do it once more, but this time make the fleece dry but the ground around it wet."

The next morning the fleece was dry and god had piddled on the ground all around it. Then Gideon knew they were ready for business.

[7] In the morning Gideon camped at the spring of Harod. God said to him, "You have too many men. If you all go down and defeat the Midianites you will think you did it by your own power and will forget me. Go tell the men, 'Any little piddly twat who is afraid for his life can just go on home right now.'" Gideon did so, and twenty-two thousand of them went home with their tails between their legs, leaving ten thousand who were too stupid to know any better. God caught Gideon trying to sneak away under a goat skin and threw him back in the fray.

God then said to Gideon, "There are still too many of them. Take them down to the water to get a drink and I will tell you which ones will go and which ones will stay." So Gideon did so, and god said, "Separate those who lap like a dog from those who kneel down to drink."

Three hundred of the men got down and lapped the water like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. God said to Gideon, "With the three hundred that lapped like dogs I will deliver the Midianites into your hands." So Gideon sent the rest home.

Then god said to Gideon, "Go attack the Midianites. However, if you are afraid, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying."

Yup, he was afraid alright, so Gideon and Purah went down. When they arrived they heard a man telling a friend that he had had a dream in which a loaf of bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp and struck the tent with such force that the tent collapsed." (Apparently, the Midianites only had one tent.)

The man listening then said, "This is nothing but the sword of Gideon, son of Joash. God has given the whole camp into his hands."

Well, Gideon liked the sound of that and went back to the Israelite camp and said, "Get up! God has given the Midianites into our hands." He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and gave them trumpets and empty jars with torches inside. (You got that, right? Empty jars with torches inside.)

"Watch me and do as I do!" he said. When I and those who are with me blow our trumpets you blow yours and shout, "For the lord and for Gideon."

They arrived at the Midianite camp just after they had changed the guard. Gideon blew his trumpet and all three groups blew their trumpets, smashed their jars, and called out "A sword for the lord and for Gideon."

While each man stood in his place the Midianites all ran away screaming. God made them turn on each other with their swords. Then the Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh were called out and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon also sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down and join in the fun!"

So the men of Ephraim came and seized the Jordan River as far as Bath Barah, and captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, whom they killed, and brought their heads to Gideon. Those always make nice little presents.

[8] The Ephraimites came to Gideon and asked, "Why have you treated us like this? Why didn't you call us when you went down to fight Midian?"

Gideon responded, "What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren't the gleanings of Ephraim's grapes better than the full harvest of Abiezer. God delivered Oreb and Zeeb into your hands. What could I do in comparison?"

Then their anger subsided.

Gideon continued pursuing the Midianites, crossing the Jordan when he came to it. His men were exhausted, and he asked the men of Sukkoth to give the men some bread so they could pursue Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.

"Have you already captured Zebah and Zalmunna? Why should we give bread to your troops?" they responded.

Gideon said, "Just for that, when we have caught Zebah and Zalmunna I will tear your flesh with thorns and briers."

Then he went to Peniel and asked for bread for the troops, but they answered the same. He responded, "When I return in triumph I will tear down this tower."

Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with fifteen thousand men -- all that were left after a hundred and twenty thousand had been killed. Gideon snuck around and attacked them unsuspectingly. The two kings fled, but he pursued and captured them, routing their entire army.

On the way back Gideon caught a young fellow of Sukkoth and questioned him. The young man wrote down the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth. Then Gideon went to Sukkoth and said, "Here are the men of whom you said, 'Do you have them already in your possession? Why should we give you bread?' He then punished the men with thorns and briers. Then he went to Peniel, pulled down the tower, and, not having had enough of killing Midianites, killed the men of the town to display god's love and forgiveness.

Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?"

"Oh, they were right sharp looking fellows," they responded. "As a matter of fact, they looked a lot like you!"

Gideon responded, "Yeah, they were my own brothers, my own mother's children. If you had spared their lives I would have spared yours, suckers!"

Gideon then turned to his oldest son, Jether, and said, "Kill the suckers!", but Jether was afraid to do so.

Zebah and Zalmunna said, "Do your own dirty work!" So Gideon stepped forward and killed them.

Then the Israelites said, "Rule over us, Gideon. You have saved us!"

Gideon responded, "I will not rule over you; I wouldn't know what the hell to do with you! Mr. god will rule over you; he can have those headaches. I do have one request, though. Each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder." (It was the Ishmaelites' custom to wear earrings.)

"We'll be glad to," they responded, and each one threw an earring onto a blanket on the ground, and all of the earrings together amounted to seventeen hundred shekels. Gideon then made the gold into an ephod (a right snazzy thing they made in those days) which he put in his home town, and all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshipping it, so that it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Thus was Midian subdued. Gideon went back home and Israel had peace for the rest of his life, the next forty years. He had seventy sons, because he had many wives. He also had a son, named Abimelek, by his concubine (sex slave), as all god's men are entitled to do.

Gideon died an old man and was buried in his father's tomb. No sooner had he died, though, when the people stopped prostituting themselves to his ephod and began worshipping the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and forgot Mr. I Am who had saved them. Neither did they show loyalty to Gideon's family.