Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Gideon's Fleece

Ruth gleaned all day in the harvest field, and when evening came she went joyfully home to show Naomi how much grain she had gathered, thanks to the kindness of that charitable man, Boaz.

When Naomi heard this name she started, and at once told her daughter-in-law of his relationship to them. Ruth worked at gleaning every day, and at the end of the harvest time she was greatly surprised when Naomi bade her go back to the field, enter the booth where Boaz and his workmen slept, and lie down at his feet. When he awoke, she was to remind him of the law which commanded that a widow was bound to marry her husbandís nearest kinsman, whose duty it was to take care of her.

Although this custom seemed very strange to a Moabite woman, Ruth immediately obeyed. When Boaz awoke and asked her what she was doing there, she told him that she was the widow of his relative, and asked that he should give her her rights.

Boaz then sent Ruth away with a promise that he would do justice to her, although there was a man more nearly related than he. Early the next day, he found out that this man was willing to give up all claim to the young widow; and then he publicly took Ruth to wife.

Thus freed from want, Ruth soon grew happy in her new home; and she became the mother of a son named Obed, the grandfather of David, a great king of whom you will hear much. But Ruth, the Moabite woman, was not the only one of Davidís ancestors that was not an Israelite; for Boaz, as you will remember, was the son of Rahab, who was spared from the general massacre when the Chosen People took Jericho.

The Israelites, in the meanwhile, had again misused the peace they had won, and soon after the death of Deborah and Barak, they again began to worship idols. In punishment for this sin, they were now allowed to fall into the hands of the Midianites and the Amalekites, who came in great numbers, being "as grasshoppers for multitude."

The enemy took possession of the land, and drove the Israelites to the caves and dens in the mountain side. Whenever the people of God came down into the valley, they were ill-treated and oppressed; and only at the end of seven years did the Lord consider that they had been punished enough, and prepare to deliver them.

The judge sent to save them this time was Gideon, a "mighty man of valor." He was secretly threshing wheat near his fatherís barn, to save it from the Midianite thieves, when an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared before him, and bade him rescue Israel from the hands of the enemy.

Gideon at first tried to excuse himself, saying that he was neither worthy of such an honor, nor capable of winning it; but the angel repeated the command, and the man, seeing that he was talking to an angel, now wished to offer up a sacrifice to him.

The angel, however, refused this act of worship, which was due to God only, and bade Gideon lay the victim on a rock. When all was ready, the angel touched the rude altar with his staff, miraculously setting fire to the victim, and then disappeared.

Gideon knew that the spot had been made holy by the presence of a divine messenger, so he set up an altar there. That selfsame night, the Lord visited Gideon in a dream, and bade him overthrow the altar of the heathen god Baal, where the people had worshiped, cut down the sacred grove, and offer up his fatherís bullock in sacrifice to the true God.

When he awoke, Gideon did as the Lord had commanded, and called all the people together. While waiting for their coming, the young leader prayed God to show by a sign that he would save Israel. For this purpose, Gideon spread out a fleece upon the threshing floor, and asked that it should be wet with dew, while the ground all around it staid dry.

When Gideon came on the morrow, he found the fleece so wet that he could wring a great deal of water out of it, while the ground all around it was perfectly dry. But he was not quite satisfied with this one miracle, so he now prayed that the fleece might remain dry and the ground be wet.

This second sign was granted also, and when Gideon saw the dry fleece and wet ground, he believed all that the Lord had told him, and with a force of Israelites, numbering thirty-two thousand men, he marched off to meet and overwhelm the enemy.