Gideon Defeats the Midianites

Judges 6-8

During the time of the Judges, the Israelites were oppressed for seven years by several nomadic peoples, including Midianites, Amalekites, and perhaps Ishmaelites (see Judges 8:24), who repeatedly invaded the land during harvesttime and ruined all the crops. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to a man named Gideon in the town of Ophrah, which was located in the largely Canaanite Jezreel Valley (see Judges 1:27). The angel called upon him to save Israel from their oppressors. Gideon mustered an army of 32,000 men from the northern tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali and camped by the Spring of Harod, just south of the Midianite army of 120,000 men (Judges 8:10), who were camped in the Jezreel Valley near the hill of Moreh. But the Lord reduced Gideon’s forces to an elite unit of three hundred men. During the night Gideon’s men encircled the Midianites and threw them into confusion by blowing trumpets and breaking jars with torches inside. The Midianites began attacking each other and fled southeast out of the valley, passing Beth-shittah and apparently turning south at Abel-meholah, since the Ephraimites were called out to seize the shallow places of the Jordan River to prevent the Midianites from crossing back over to Gilead. At the same time, Israelites from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh (who may have been among those not selected for Gideon’s elite force) were called out to continue pursuing the Midianites as they fled. The Ephraimites captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, and brought their heads to Gideon by the Jordan. The rest of the Midianites managed to cross the Jordan, perhaps near the shallows at Zaphon, and headed into the hill country of Gilead, likely passing through Succoth and Peniel along the way. Gideon and his men continued to pursue them but were worn about by the time they reached Succoth, so they asked them for bread. When the leaders refused, Gideon threatened to punish them when he returned. The same thing happened at Peniel, and he threatened to pull down the tower there. Gideon continued on with his men to Karkor, likely well to the east in the desert, and surprised the remaining Midianites forces by attacking them from behind. When Gideon returned, he took revenge on the leaders of Succoth and Peniel as he had promised, and then he returned to Ophrah.

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