Gideon: The Unlikely Hero of the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, Gideon emerges as an unlikely hero tasked with freeing the Israelites from the oppressive rule of the Midianites. From testing the Lord’s signs to assembling a small but effective army of 300 swordsmen, the story of Gideon is one of faith, courage, and victory. Keep reading to discover more about the interesting life and legacy of this legendary biblical figure.

Early Life and Call to Duty

Gideon: The Unlikely Hero of the Old Testament

Gideon, one of the Judges in the Old Testament, was an unlikely hero who was called by God to save the Israelites from the Midianites. He was also known by the name Jerub-Baal. Gideon was born in the city of Ophrah in the tribe of Manasseh. He was a member of a poor family, and his father’s name was Joash.

During his youth, the Israelites had fallen into idolatry, worshipping the false god, Baal. Gideon’s family was among those who had also turned away from the Lord. One day, an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and called him to deliver his people from their oppressors, the Midianites.

Initially, Gideon was hesitant to accept the call, as he did not believe that he was capable of fulfilling such a daunting task. However, the Lord assured him, saying, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive” (Judges 6:16).

Gideon’s first task was to rid his own family of the idolatry that had taken hold. He destroyed his father’s altar to Baal and erected an altar to the Lord instead. The people of the nearby town were outraged and demanded that Gideon be put to death, but Joash, Gideon’s father, defended him, saying, “If Baal is a god, let him defend himself” (Judges 6:31).

Gideon then sought a sign from the Lord, asking that if it were truly His will for him to lead the Israelites, then let the fleece he had laid out be soaked with dew while the ground around it remained dry. The Lord granted his request, and Gideon was convinced of God’s call.

Gideon, being a man of faith, did not hesitate, but with the Lord’s guidance, began to gather an army. Initially, he had gathered a force of 32,000 men, but the Lord ordered him to reduce the number of soldiers, saying that if he defeated the Midianites with an army that size, then the Israelites would claim the victory as their own, rather than acknowledging the Lord’s help.

Gideon’s final army consisted of only 300 men, who were all armed with trumpets, torches, and clay jars. The Midianite army, who had camped in a nearby valley, was overwhelmed by the noise and light of Gideon’s men and fled in terror. Gideon’s small force pursued them and eventually defeated them.

After the battle, Gideon was offered to become the king of Israel, but he replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23). Gideon died at an old age of 40 years and was buried in his hometown of Ophrah.

Gideon’s story illustrates how the Lord can use anyone to fulfill His purposes, no matter how unlikely they may seem. It also emphasizes the importance of faith and trust in God’s plan, even when faced with seemingly impossible challenges.

a book open on a table

Testing the Lord’s Signs

After being called by the Angel of the Lord to deliver the Israelites from the hand of the Midianites, Gideon had some doubt and asked for a sign to confirm his calling. He asked the Angel of the Lord to stay until he returned with an offering, and the Angel agreed.

Gideon returned with an offering of meat, bread, and broth, which the Angel instructed him to place on a rock. The Angel then touched the offering with his staff, causing fire to come out of the rock and consume the offering. This sign was enough to convince Gideon that he was truly called by the Lord.

However, Gideon was still unsure of his ability to lead the Israelites to victory over the Midianites. So he asked the Lord to give him another sign – that the fleece he laid on the threshing floor would be wet with dew but the ground around it would be dry. The Lord granted Gideon’s request and the next morning the fleece was indeed wet with dew while the ground around it was dry.

Despite receiving these signs from the Lord, Gideon still hesitated and asked for one final sign – that the fleece would be dry while the ground around it would be wet. The Lord granted his request, and the next morning the fleece was indeed dry while the ground around it was wet.

These signs not only assured Gideon of his calling but also demonstrated to the Israelites that the Lord was with him. As a result, Gideon was able to assemble a large army of 32,000 men to face the Midianites.

However, the Lord had other plans and instructed Gideon to reduce his army to just 300 men. With these 300 swordsmen, Gideon was able to defeat the Midianites and deliver the Israelites from their hand.

Gideon’s faith was tested through the signs he asked for, but ultimately he followed the Lord’s instructions and was rewarded with victory. His story serves as an example of how faith and obedience can lead to great things, even when facing overwhelming odds.

Assembling the Army

After Gideon received the signs from the Angel of the Lord, he was confident that he was meant to lead the Israelites against the Midianites. He blew the trumpet and called the Israelites to assemble for battle.

The word of Gideon’s call to arms quickly spread, and 32,000 men joined him in his fight against the Midianites. However, the Lord instructed Gideon to whittle down his army, as he did not want the Israelites to boast that their own strength had won the victory.

Gideon first told anyone who was afraid to go home, which led to 22,000 men leaving the army. This left Gideon with only 10,000 men. But the Lord was still not satisfied and instructed Gideon to test the men’s courage and obedience.

Gideon brought his army to a stream, and the Lord instructed him to send home any soldier who knelt down and drank from the stream like a dog. Only those who cupped their hand and brought water to their mouth were allowed to remain in the army.

Only 300 men passed this test, leaving Gideon with a small but highly committed fighting force. The Lord then spoke to Gideon, telling him that he would defeat the Midianites with just these 300 swordsmen.

Gideon divided his small army into three groups and gave each man a trumpet, a torch, and a clay jar. They all surrounded the Midianite camp during the middle of the night, broke their clay jars, blew their trumpets, and shouted, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”

The Midianites were terrified and ran away. Gideon pursued them, and with the help of the other tribes of Israel, he was able to defeat the Midianites and their kings, Oreb and Zeeb.

Gideon’s victory over the Midianites established him as the deliverer of Israel, and the Israelites lived in peace for forty years under his leadership. His faith was tested when he asked God for signs, but he trusted in the Lord and was able to lead his small army to a tremendous victory.

Gideon’s story is also a reminder to us not to rely on our own strength but on the Lord’s power. We must have faith and trust Him, for He will deliver us from our enemies, just as He did for Gideon and his army.

Assembling the army was just one step in Gideon’s journey towards victory. In the next section, we will explore the tactics and strategy he employed to emerge victorious over the Midianites.


  • Gideon assembled a large army of 32,000 men to initially fight the Midianites.
  • The Lord instructed Gideon to reduce his army’s size to 300 swordsmen to ensure that Israel did not boast in their own strength.
  • Gideon divided his small force into three groups with each soldier equipped with a trumpet, a torch, and a clay jar.
  • The Lord gave Gideon victory over the Midianites by surprising them in the middle of the night.
  • Gideon’s victory serves as a reminder of the power of faith and trust in the Lord’s deliverance.

Gideon’s 300 Swordsmen

After assembling an army of over 30,000 men, Gideon sought guidance from the Lord on how to proceed with the battle against the Midianites. The Lord instructed Gideon to reduce his army significantly, stating that Israel’s victory would not come from the strength of their numbers but from the strength of their faith in God.

Gideon obeyed the Lord’s command and sent home all but 300 of his men. These 300 soldiers were chosen based on how they drank from a nearby stream. Those who lapped water like dogs were chosen to fight, while those who cupped their hands to drink were sent home.

With his 300 swordsmen, Gideon prepared for battle. To strike fear into the hearts of the Midianites, Gideon divided his small army into three groups and instructed them to surround the enemy’s camp at night. The soldiers carried trumpets and jars containing lit torches.

At the sound of a signal given by Gideon, the soldiers blew their trumpets, smashed their jars, and shouted, “A sword for the Lord and Gideon!” The noise created by the trumpets and broken jars caused confusion and panic among the Midianites, who had no idea what was happening in the dark.

The Midianites began to fight amongst themselves, and many were slain by Gideon’s 300 swordsmen. The Israelites had victory over the Midianites, thanks to Gideon’s faith in God and his willingness to obey His commands.

In addition to his bravery and faith, Gideon was also known for his humility. When the Israelites wanted to make him their king, Gideon refused, stating that the Lord alone was their ruler.

Gideon’s victory over the Midianites inspired the Israelites to turn away from idolatry and towards the worship of the one true God. Gideon went on to serve as a judge of Israel for 40 years before passing away.

The story of Gideon and his 300 swordsmen serves as a reminder that victory is not always achieved through sheer force but through faith, courage, and obedience to God.

a book open on a table

Victory over the Midianites

After assembling an army of over 30,000 Israelites, Gideon continued to have doubts about whether they would be able to defeat the Midianites. In an effort to strengthen his faith, he requested a sign from the Lord. Gideon placed a fleece on the threshing floor and asked the Lord to make the fleece wet with dew, but leave the surrounding ground dry. The next morning, Gideon squeezed the fleece and wrung out a bowlful of water.

Gideon then requested a second sign and asked the Lord to make the fleece dry and the surrounding ground covered in dew. The following morning, the ground was covered in dew, but the fleece was completely dry. These signs gave Gideon the faith he needed to lead his army into battle against the Midianites.

Gideon divided his army into three groups, giving each soldier a trumpet and a torch hidden in a clay jar. They surrounded the Midianite camp and at Gideon’s signal, the soldiers blew their trumpets, smashed the jars, and revealed their torches. The Midianites were thrown into confusion and began to flee, but Gideon and his men pressed the attack.

Gideon’s army pursued the fleeing Midianites and captured their two leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They also killed the Midianite princes, Zebah and Zalmunna, who had refused to help Gideon’s army earlier in the battle. With the victory over the Midianites, Gideon had fulfilled his duties as a deliverer and judge for the Israelites.

Aftermath and Legacy

Following the battle, the Israelites asked Gideon to become their king. However, Gideon refused, saying that only the Lord should rule over them. Gideon did accept their offer of gold, which he used to create an ephod, or ceremonial garment. Unfortunately, this ephod became a source of idolatry for the Israelites, and Gideon’s legacy was tarnished.

Gideon’s son Abimelech later claimed the throne of Israel and tried to stamp out his brothers and cousins. This led to a bloody conflict in Shechem, which resulted in Abimelech’s death. The Israelites were once again in need of a deliverer, and the judges Tola and Jair rose to the occasion.

Overall, Gideon’s story is one of faith being tested and victory being won through unconventional means. He was far from perfect, but his commitment to God and his people ultimately led to his success as a judge and deliverer for the Israelites.

Aftermath and Legacy

After the dramatic and stunning victory over the Midianites, Gideon’s story in the Old Testament of the Bible doesn’t come to an abrupt halt. Instead, the aftermath of the battle and Gideon’s legacy among his people receive some attention.

Gideon proves to be an admirable and effective leader who didn’t let his power and victory go to his head. Rather than arrogantly plunder the Midianites’ spoils of war or rule with an iron fist, he humbly refused the offer from Israelites to become their king, saying, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23 ESV).

It was the opposite of what his antagonistic predecessor, Abimelech, did when he ruthlessly slew his own brethren and sought to establish his control as a king. Gideon’s refusal exemplifies his faithfulness to his God and his integrity as a leader. He understood that the Israelites people were not meant to be ruled by a mortal man or woman. It is God who alone reigns supreme in their hearts.

However, Gideon’s legacy didn’t end with his refusal to become the king of Israel. He, too, had a remarkable military strategist’s mind, and he knew what it took to lead the Israelite people to victory.

Moreover, recognizing that war had overrun the land, Gideon established justice and peace in his home city of Shechem. He built an ephod, a vestment typically worn by a high priest. While it may have appeared to be a sign of idolatry, it was instead a symbol of Gideon’s devout trust in Yahweh and his desire to foster a closer relationship with God.

It’s easy to remember Gideon as the bold underdog who waged a miraculous war with just 300 men and defeated the vast Midianite army with little more than a show of faith. But it is essential to remember that Gideon was a flesh-and-blood character who experienced incredible personal growth. His faith was heavily tested, and he constantly sought signs from the Lord to confirm his duty.

Nevertheless, Gideon never lost sight of the reason for his mission, and he remained loyal to God. He wasn’t frightened of taking risks or of challenging the status quo. He overcame a difficult beginning to become a remarkable and unlikely hero, a man who, in his own strength, was not powerful enough to rule a country but who was wise enough to let God’s will be done.

Gideon’s story is an inspiring example of how faith can lead to incredible victories. It demonstrates how a single person can make a significant difference by following God’s divine call. His life was transformed by the miracles that God worked through him, and through his story, all of us can gain hope and inspiration to pursue our individual God-given purpose.