Following a forty-year rest from oppression, the Israelites again turned from God. The principle of those who forget history are doomed to repeat it held true for Israel. God delivered them to the Midianites, who greatly oppressed them. The Midianites were nomadic wanderers. Crops and livestock were destroyed and the people were greatly impoverished.
After a period of seven years, an angel brought the message from God to Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. Gideon questioned his ability to lead the Israelites because of his own weaknesses. The angel convinced him to take on that responsibility of service for his people. His name was changed to Jerubbaal after he had destroyed the altar of the god, Baal.
Gideon assembled an army of thirty-two thousand men and prepared to attack the Midianites. In order to prevent his army from claiming glory for God’s deliverance, God commanded a reduction in forces. Finally, Gideon approached the enemy with an army of only three hundred men.
The blowing of trumpets, breaking of pitchers, lighting of torches and shouts of, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” by three hundred men caused so great confusion that the Midianites began to attack each other with their swords. About one hundred twenty thousand Midianite men died in the battle with about fifteen thousand survivors fleeing with their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.
Gideon and his three hundred men were hungry and exhausted. They asked men of Succoth and Penuel for loaves of bread as they pursued the kings of Midian. Possibly from fear of future retaliation from the kings, the men refused to feed him and his army. That was a mistake. Gideon later retaliated against those men after he had captured the kings and routed their army.
The Israelites were so elated by the conquest of Gideon that they asked him to rule over them. He refused their request by stating that, “The Lord shall rule over you.”
Gideon, however, made a request that they would give him the gold earrings from their plunder. That gold was made into an ephod that later became an idol to the people.
Israel enjoyed another forty years of peace during the days of Gideon.