Gideon is Given a Sign
When Joshua was dead the people of Israel went out to war with their enemies, and the Lord gave them many victories. They did not drive out the Canaanites from all their cities, however, but allowed some of them to live in the land. In fact they mingled with the heathen people, and even married among them. The men of Israel married heathen women, and the women of Israel married heathen men. In this they disobeyed the Lord and came to grief as he had told them they would.
In many cases the people began to worship the heathen gods, Baal and Ashtaroth. When they did this the Lord sent enemies to fight against them, and overcome them and treat them as captives and servants. Thus Israel went on in the land of Canaan for three hundred years, sometimes sinning and then repenting, sometimes victorious over their enemies and sometimes being conquered by them. Often the Lord punished them for their sins, and then always forgave them when they repented and turned again to him and to his worship.
One time when the people had behaved wickedly and had displeased God, the Midianites arose against them and made servants of them and treated them very harshly. They even drove the people from their cities and their homes so that they had to live in dens and caves in the mountains.
The Midianites destroyed all the growing crops of the Israelites, or took away that which was ripe. They seized the oxen and goats and sheep so that nothing was left for the people to eat.' The Midianites were as grasshoppers for multitude' and their camels were without number. And the Israelites were distressed, and cried unto the Lord.
There was a man of Israel named Gideon. He sat under an oak tree one day threshing wheat and hiding it from the Midianites. An angel appeared unto him and said to him: "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor. Go in your might and you shall save Israel from the hands of the Midianites."
But Gideon was in doubt and asked the angel: "Wherewith shall I save Israel? My family is poor in Manasseh and I am the least in my father's house."
The angel, who was the Lord himself, replied: "Surely I shall be with you, and you shall smite the Midianites as one man."
But Gideon wanted a sign, for he could not believe that he was chosen of the Lord. So he killed a kid and brought the flesh with some bread, and also some broth, and set them all before the angel as he stood under the oak tree. Then the angel said:
"Take the flesh and the unleavened bread and lay them upon this rock and pour out the broth." And Gideon did so.
Then the angel put forth the end of his staff and touched the flesh and the unleavened bread and there rose fire out of the rock and consumed all the flesh and the bread. Then the angel left him, and Gideon built an altar there to the Lord.
The Lord then ordered Gideon to throw down the altar of Baal and cut down the grove that was near it. Gideon took ten men and did as the Lord told him. Then the Lord directed Gideon to build an altar unto Him and offer burnt offerings upon it, and use the wood of the grove he had cut down. And Gideon did that also.
When the Midianites saw what Gideon had done they were very angry and asked: "Who has done this thing?" When they found out that Gideon had done it they wanted him put to death, but the Lord had other purpose for Gideon, and the people refused to deliver him into the hands of the Midianites.
The army of the Midianites came down against Israel and camped in a valley near them. Then Gideon asked the Lord to give him another sign to show that he would help him against the Midianites. Gideon said to the Lord: "I will put a fleece of wool on the floor. If the dew be on the fleece only and if it be dry upon the earth beside it, then shall I know that you will save Israel."
In the morning when Gideon arose and took the fleece in his hand it was wet with dew, so much so that he wrung a bowl full of water from it, and the ground all around the fleece was dry. Gideon again said to the Lord: "I will put a fleece of wool on the floor. If the fleece be dry and the dew be upon the ground only, then I shall know that You will save Israel."
In the morning Gideon arose and took the fleece in his hand and it was dry, and all the ground was wet around it. By this Gideon knew that he would overcome the enemies of Israel.