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So now again we read how in forty years after the Lord had granted His people so great deliverance from Jabin and Sisera, they forgot His mercies, and again did evil in His sight. And the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Midianites and the Amalekites. These people came up in very great numbers, too great to be counted, even as the sand of the sea-shore. They rode upon camels and they destroyed all the land, both in its fruits, and all the cattle. Thus the Israelites were brought into great need, and they were forced to hide themselves in caves and rocky dens of the mountains for fear of their terrible foes.

After seven years of this misery, Israel turned to God, and the people cried to Him for help. Then He sent a message to the people: “Thus saith the LORD your God, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, , and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land. And I said unto you,

I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell : but ye have not obeyed My Voice.”

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Now there dwelt in Ophrah a certain man called Joash, of the tribe of Manasseh, who had followed the heathen among whom he lived, and had an altar of Baal, and a sacred grove of trees around it. This man had a son

. named Gideon, whom the LORD chose now as the means of saving the Israelites from their enemies' hand.

Gideon was threshing wheat near to his father's winepress, fearing lest the Midianites should come and take away what little he had got, when the Angel of God came and sat under an oak tree hard by, and showed himself to i Gideon, saying, “ The Lord is with thee, thou ,

i mighty man of valour.” Gideon saw that his visitor was from heaven, and answered, “O my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt ? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites."

Then the LORD looked upon Gideon, and said, “ Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites : have not I sent thee?"

Then Gideon was afraid, and answered, O

my LORD, wherewith shall I save Israel ? behold, my family is poor, and I am the least in my father's house."

But the LORD said unto him, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” Now Gideon knew that it was the LORD Who spoke to him, but in his humility he could hardly yet believe that he was really chosen of God to do this great work. So he besought the LORD to give him a sign that he had really found grace in His Sight, and that it was indeed the LORD Who spoke to him by His Angel. If it was really even so, he entreated that the Angel might tarry there while he went and fetched a meatoffering, as was the Hebrews' custom.

And the Angel answered, “I will tarry until thou come again.”

Then Gideon went in, and made ready his meat-offering, and brought it out—the flesh of a kid, and the broth in which it was boiled, and unleavened cakes of flour—and he presented it to the Angel where he sat under the oak. And the Angel bade Gideon place the flesh and the bread on a rock near, and pour out the broth. When this was done, the Angel put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the cakes ; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and : burnt them up. And directly the Angel disappeared from his sight.

Then Gideon saw that his guest was not merely an earthly messenger sent by God, but one of His Holy Angels, and he was afraid, and said, “ Alas! O Lord God! for because I have seen an Angel of the LORD face to face !” for he thought that after so great and rare a favour he would not live. But the LORD said i unto him, “ Peace be unto thee, fear not: thou shalt not die.” Afterwards Gideon built an altar to the Lord on that same spot, and called it Jehovah-shalom, which means, “The LORD

, send peace.”

That same night the LORD commanded Gideon to throw down the altar of Baal, and to cut down the grove of trees by it, and to take one of his father's bullocks and offer it as a burnt sacrifice with the wood cut down in the grove. So Gideon, with ten of his own servants, did this during the night; they dared not do it by day, for fear of the men of the city, and even of Joash his own father's household.

When the morning dawned, the men of the

city saw what had been done, and they were very angry. And when they found that it was Gideon who had done this, they went to Joash, and required him to give up his son Gideon that they might put him to death, because he had thrown down the altar of Baal and cut down the sacred grove.

But Joash refused, and told the people that Baal was no god; for if he were, he would surely be able to plead for himself when men overthrew his altar. And Joash called his son Jerubbaal, which means, “ Let Baal plead.”

Then all the Midianites and Amalekites and the children of the East gathered themselves together into a great army, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, and gathered together the people of Abiezer; and he sent messengers throughout the country to the children of Manasseh, and Asher, and Zebulon, and Naphtali, that they should come and fight for the LORD of Hosts.

Before going up to war, Gideon asked a sign of the Lord that He would indeed save Israel by His servant Gideon's hand.

He put a fleece of wool out upon the ground, and God caused all the dew to fall upon the fleece alone,

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