Meet Gideon: A Doubter Raised Up by God

Profile of Gideon, the Reluctant Warrior

Gideon in the Bible
The angel puts fire on the alter of Gideon. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Gideon, like many of us, doubted his own abilities. He had suffered so many defeats and failures that he even put God to the testnot once but three times.

In the Bible story, Gideon is introduced threshing grain in a winepress, a pit in the ground, so the marauding Midianites did not see him. God appeared to Gideon as an angel and said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." (Judges 6:12, NIV)

Gideon replied: 

"Pardon me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian." (Judges 6:13, NIV)

Two more times the Lord encouraged Gideon, promising he would be with him. Then Gideon prepared a meal for the angel. The angel touched the meat and unleavened bread with his staff, and the rock they were sitting on spewed fire, consuming the offering. Next Gideon put out a fleece, a piece of sheep skin with the wool still attached, asking God to cover the fleece with dew overnight, but leave the ground around it dry. God did so. Finally, Gideon asked God to dampen the ground overnight with dew but leave the fleece dry. God did that as well.

God was patient with Gideon because he had chosen him to defeat the Midianites, who had impoverished the land of Israel with their constant raids.

Gideon gathered a huge army from the surrounding tribes, but God reduced their number to only 300. There would be no doubt that victory was from the Lord, not from the army's might.

That night, Gideon gave each man a trumpet and a torch concealed inside a pottery jar. At his signal, they blew their trumpets, broke the jars to reveal the torches, and shouted: "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" (Judges 7:20, NIV)

God caused the enemy to panic and turn on each other. Gideon called out reinforcements and they pursued the raiders, destroying them. When the people wanted to make Gideon their king, he refused, but took gold from them and made an ephod, a sacred vestment, probably to commemorate the victory. Unfortunately, the people worshiped it as an idol.

Later in life, Gideon took many wives and fathered 70 sons. His son Abimelech, born to a concubine, rebelled and murdered all 70 of his half-brothers. Abimelech died in battled, ending his short, wicked reign.

Accomplishments of Gideon in the Bible

He served as a judge over his people. He destroyed an altar to the pagan god Baal, earning the name Jerub-Baal, meaning contender with Baal. Gideon united the Israelites against their common enemies and through God's power, defeated them. Gideon is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11.

Gideon's Strengths

Even though Gideon was slow to believe, once convinced of God's power, he was a loyal follower who obeyed the Lord's instructions. He was a natural leader of men.

Gideon's Weaknesses

In the beginning, Gideon's faith was weak and needed proof from God. He showed great doubt toward the Rescuer of Israel.

Gideon made an ephod from Midianite gold, which became an idol to his people. He also took a foreigner for a concubine, fathering a son who turned evil.

Life Lessons

God can accomplish great things through us if we forget our weaknesses and follow his guidance. "Putting out a fleece," or testing God, is a sign of weak faith. Sin always has bad consequences.

Hometown

Ophrah, in the Valley of Jezreel.

References to Gideon in the Bible

Judges chapters 6-8; Hebrews 11:32.

Occupation

Farmer, judge, military commander.

Family Tree

Father - Joash
Sons - 70 unnamed sons, Abimelech.

Key Verses

Judges 6:14-16
"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." (NIV)

Judges 7:22
When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. (NIV)

Judges 8:22-23
The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you." (NIV)