In course of time the Midianites conquered the Israelites. To escape them the Israelites made for themselves dens in the mountains and caves and strongholds. When the Israelites had sown their crops, the Midianites would come up and leave nothing for the Israelites to live on, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass; for they came up with their cattle and their tents. The Israelites were so robbed by the Midianites, that they cried to Jehovah for help.
Then the angel of Jehovah came and sat down under the oak which was in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezerite; and his son, Gideon, was beating out wheat in the wine-press to hide it from the Midianites. The angel of Jehovah appeared to him and said, “Jehovah is with you, able warrior!” Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if Jehovah is with us, why then has all this overtaken us? Where are all his wonderful acts of which our fathers told us, saying, ‘Did not Jehovah bring us from Egypt?’ But now Jehovah has cast us off and given us into the power of the Midianites.”
Then Jehovah turned to him and said, “With this strength which you have go and save Israel from the rule of the Midianites: do I not send you?” But Gideon said to him, “O Jehovah, how can I save Israel? See, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Jehovah said to him, “I will surely be with you, and you shall overthrow the Midianites as if they were only one man.”
Then the spirit of Jehovah took possession of Gideon, and he sounded the war trumpet, and the Abiezerites assembled under his leadership. He also sent messengers throughout all the land of the Manassites, and they assembled under his leadership; and he sent messengers to the Asherites, the Zebulunites, and the Naphtalites, and they went up to join him. But Jehovah said to Gideon, “You have too many people with you; if I give the Midianites up to the Israelites they will boast, ‘We have saved ourselves!’ Therefore, proclaim to your people, ‘Whoever is afraid may go home.'”
Then Gideon separated them, so that twenty-two thousand of the people went back home, but ten thousand stayed. But Jehovah said to him, “The people are still too many; take them down to the water, and I will try them out for you there. Every one of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you; and every one of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”
So Gideon brought the people down to the water. And Jehovah said to him, “You shall put by themselves all who lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps, and all who kneel down on their knees to drink by themselves.” The number of those who lapped with their tongue, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men; but all the rest of the people knelt down on their knees to drink. Then Jehovah said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you and deliver the Midianites into your hands. Let all the rest of the people go home.” So they took the food that the people had in their hands, and their trumpets; and Gideon sent home all the other Israelites, keeping only the three hundred men.
Then Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed it, and the three hundred men were with him, faint yet pursuing. And he said to the men of Succoth, “Give, I beg of you, loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are faint and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” But the rulers of Succoth said, “Are Zebah and Zalmunna already in your power that we should give bread to your band?” Gideon replied, “When Jehovah has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my power, for this insult I will thrash your bare flesh with desert thorns and briers.” He went on from there to Penuel and made the same request of the men of Penuel, but they made the same answer as the men of Succoth. To the men of Penuel he also said, “When I come back victorious, I will break down this tower.”
Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their forces were with them, in all about fifteen thousand men. Gideon went up by the caravan road and surprised the horde as it was encamped with no fear of being attacked. He divided the three hundred men into three companies. Into the hands of all of them he put horns and empty earthen jars. In each jar was a torch. He also said to them, “Watch me and do as I do. When I reach the outside of the camp and those who are with me blow a blast on the horn, then you also shall blow your horns on every side of the camp and cry, ‘For Jehovah and Gideon!'”
So Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the outside of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when guards had just been posted; and they blew the horns and broke in pieces the jars that were in their hands. The two other companies also broke their jars, took the torches in their left hands and their swords in their right, and cried, “The Sword of Jehovah and of Gideon.” And as they stood where they were, about the camp, the entire horde awoke, sounded the alarm, and fled. Zebah and Zalmunna also fled; but Gideon followed and captured the two kings of Midian and threw all the horde into a panic.
When Gideon returned from the battle, he captured a young man who lived at Succoth. At Gideon’s request he wrote down for him the names of the rulers of Succoth and its leading men. There were seventy-seven in all. When Gideon came to the men of Succoth, he said, “See, here are Zebah and Zalmunna about whom you mocked me, saying, ‘Are Zebah and Zalmunna already in your power that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'” Then he took desert thorns and briers, and with these he thrashed the leading men of Succoth. He also broke down the tower of Penuel and put to death the men of the town.
Then Gideon said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were those whom you killed at Tabor?” They replied, “They were just like you; each of them looked like a prince.” Gideon said, “They were my own brothers, the sons of my mother. As surely as Jehovah lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you now.”
Then he said to Jether, his oldest son, “Up and kill them.” But the boy did not draw his sword, because he was afraid, for he was only a boy. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Get up yourself and fall upon us; for a man has a man’s strength!” So Gideon rose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescents that were on their camels’ necks.
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, and not only you but your son and your son’s son after you, for you have saved us from the power of the Midianites.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; Jehovah shall rule over you; but let me make one request of you: let every man give me the ear-rings from his spoil” (for they had golden ear-rings, because they were desert dwellers). They answered, “Certainly, we will give them.” So they spread out a blanket and each man threw into it the ear-rings from his spoil. The weight of the golden ear-rings for which he had asked was nearly seventy pounds of gold. Then Gideon made of the gold a priestly robe to wear when asking questions of Jehovah, and placed it in his own city, Ophrah.
Gideon died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash, his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezerites.