Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Defeat of the Midianites

Gideon, as we have seen, had a very large army. But all his men were not needed on this occasion: for it seems that the Lord wished to prove to his Chosen People that they needed only to rely upon him and all would be well.

God therefore spoke to Gideon, and in obedience to his command the general made a proclamation, saying, "Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return.” Twenty-two thousand men gladly seized the opportunity thus given to leave the army, and hastened away to a place of safety.

Then, seeing that the army was still too large, God bade Gideon lead his men down to the river to drink, and select from among them all those who lapped the water. When counted, these were found to number three hundred men. They were to be Gideon’s only army, and with this handful of men he was to drive away all the Midianites.

That same night God bade Gideon go alone with his servant and reconnoiter the enemy’s camp. Under cover of the darkness, Gideon and his attendant drew near the camp unseen. There, crouching out of sight, they overheard a soldier relating a dream that he had just had. This man said that he had dreamed that a barley cake had come rolling into their camp, with such force that it had overthrown a Midianite tent.

One of the soldier’s companions then began to interpret this dream, and said that the barley cake stood for the sword of Gideon, and that it was plain that the Midianites would be conquered. Gideon, seeing that these soldiers were already a prey to superstitious fears, now hastened back to his own camp, and roused his men. He divided them into three companies, armed them with trumpets and empty pitchers containing lighted lamps, and bade them noiselessly follow him and imitate his every movement.

Silently he now went back to the Midianite camp, followed by all his men, and a little before midnight he gave the signal for attack. At the same moment he and all his men blew their trumpets and broke their pitchers.

The sudden din, the crash, and the blinding light so terrified the Midianites that they all "cried and fled," and in their panic they even fell upon each other with drawn swords.

The Israelites, urged by Gideon, now pursued the fugitives, and slew many of them; but when they came to the towns of Succoth and Penuel, they vainly tried to obtain food. As this was refused to them because the people feared to incur the anger of the Midianites, Gideon cursed the inhabitants of both cities.

He could not pause, however, and rushed on after the fugitives. But when all pursuit was ended, and the Israelite army returned in triumph, Gideon ordered that the men of Succoth should be beaten and the tower of Penuel pulled down. Next, he killed the princes who had refused to help him by giving him food.

In their joy over the successes they had won, the Israelites now came to Gideon and asked him to be their king; but he refused the honor, saying, "The Lord shall rule over you." He did this because he knew that the government of the Chosen People was to be what is called a Theocracy; that is to say, a government in which God is the ruler.

The only reward which Gideon would accept for his services was the golden earrings worn by the slain Midianites. These were collected for him, and amounted to the value of seventeen hundred shekels of gold.

With this precious metal, and the ornaments taken from the king’s camels, Gideon made an Ephod, a rich garment for the priest; and it was not long before the ignorant people began to worship this, forgetting the commandment which they had first heard from Mount Sinai in the days of Moses.

Gideon, the fifth judge of Israel, ruled forty years, and during all that time the Midianites did not dare renew their oppression. But when he died, at a good old age, the people again went back to the worship of Baal, and entirely forgot the Lord who had delivered them so many times from the hands of their enemies.