Smith's Bible Dictionary


Gid'eon. (he that cuts down). Youngest son of Joash, of the Abiezrites, an undistinguished family who lived at Ophrah, a town probably on the west of Jordan, Jdg 6:15, in the territory of Manasseh, near Shechem. He was the fifth recorded judge of Israel, and for many reasons, the greatest of them all.

When we first hear of him, he was grown up and had sons, Jdg 6:11; Jdg 8:20, and from the apostrophe of the angel, Jdg 6:12, we may conclude that he had already distinguished himself in war against the roving bands of nomadic robbers who had oppressed Israel for seven years. When the angel appeared, Gideon was threshing wheat with a flail in the wine-press, to conceal it from the predatory tyrants. His call to be a deliverer, and his destruction of Baal's altar, are related in Judges 6.

After this begins the second act of Gideon's life. Clothed by the Spirit of God, Jdg 6:34, compare 1Ch 12:18; Luk 24:49, he blew a trumpet, and was joined by Zebulun, Naphtali and even the reluctant Asher. Strengthened by a double sign from God, he reduced his army of 32,000 by the usual proclamation. Deu 20:8. Compare 1Ma 3:56.

By a second test at "the spring of trembling, the further reduced the number of his followers to 300. Jdg 7:5, seq. The midnight attack upon the Midianites, their panic, and the rout and slaughter that followed are told in Jdg 7:1. The memory of this splendid deliverance took deep root in the national traditions. 1Sa 12:11; Psa 83:11; Isa 9:4; Isa 10:26; Heb 11:32.

After this, there was a peace of forty years, and we see Gideon in peaceful possession of his well-earned honors, and surrounded by the dignity of a numerous household. Jdg 8:29-31. It is not improbable that, like Saul, he owed a part of his popularity to his princely appearance. Jdg 8:18.

In this third stage of his life, occur alike his most noble and his most questionable acts namely, the refusal of the monarchy on theocratic grounds, and the irregular consecration of a jewelled ephod formed out of the rich spoils of Midian, which proved to the Israelites, a temptation to idolatry, although it was doubtless intended for use in the worship of Jehovah.


Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)