Gideon was Israel's fourth major Judge after the birth of Joshua, who eventually led a small army of Israelites against the Midianites. He was known by his pagan neighbors as Jerubbaal for desecrating an idol of Baal. While Gideon was the instrument God used to rescue Israel from Midian, he also had significant struggles with idol worship and polygamy. Gideon bore seventy-sons, making him the leader of a very large but conflicted family. After his death his sons Jotham and Abimelech fought over succeeding his position as Judge.
Gideon was the son of Joash, who was a member of the Abiezrite clan, the weakest in the entire Tribe of Manasseh. Gideon had the weakest position in his entire household, indicating he was probably the youngest son.
At the time of Midian's occupation of Israel, Gideon not only had at least one son, but a grandson.
Gideon lived in the small town of Ophrah where he worshipped pagan Baal-gods, such as Asherah. Though Gideon practiced false religions, he had familiarity with the accounts of Yahweh delivering Israel from Egypt. He may have been reminded of God's miracles in the past when a prophet spoke to all of Israel on their disobedience. Since Israel was so indulged in pagan Baal worship, all of Israel was oppressed under the rule of Midian.
Under the dominion of Midian and other Canaanite nations, food was a scarcity. The Canaanites loved to steal valuable commodities like wheat from the Israelites. In an effort to hide the wheat from Midian, Gideon processed it in a winepress at his home. While Gideon was hiding the food, the Angel of Yahweh approached him. The Angel told Gideon that God was with him as a mighty man. Gideon was astonished at these words and asked how God could be with Israel when there were no miracles like those at the Red Sea.
All Gideon was told in reply was to go save Israel in his "might". Still, Gideon insisted he was not qualified, because he was the least important family member of the smallest clan in Manasseh.
Gideon would not offer his trust off to the God who performed miracles as his ancestors had told him about. Needing to be convinced, Gideon decided to test his favor with God, so he asked the envoy Angel to wait for him while he prepared an offering. He placed a goat on a rock and it was burned up, then the Angel immediately disappeared. Gideon then realized that Yahweh had truly been speaking to him, so he built a memorial altar and called it Yahweh Shalom (Yahweh is Peace).
Allegiance to Yahweh
Later that night, God spoke to Gideon and told him to remove the altar of Baal that the townspeople had maintained at his homestead. Fearing the reaction of the Ophrahites, Gideon went his servants in the night and tore down altar to Baal and the Asherah pole. In the morning, the townspeople discovered that the pagan idols had been destroyed. After discovering Gideon was the culprit, the townspeople demanded that Joash have his son brought forth for execution. Joash defended his son, by saying that if Baal were truly powerful he would be able to defend his own altar. This earned Gideon the name, Jerubbaal- for they wished Baal to contend against him.
Rally for War
The Holy Spirit dressed onto Gideon, marking the impending mobilization of the army against the Midian-Amalek coalition. Gideon sounded a trumpet and summoned his own clan, the Abiezrites to battle. Gideon also had messengers dispatched to the rest of Manasseh and to the northern tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. Gideon did not request the Ephraimites, the other Tribe of Joseph to send forces. Wishing to have reassurance of God's promised victory, Gideon asked him for the sign of wet fleece, but no dew on the ground. God performed this sign for Gideon, yet Gideon asked for another sign- the complete opposite of the previous one.
Gideon took his army and encamped near the Spring of Harod. Here, Yahweh spoke to Gideon and told him that his assembled forces were took great; they needed to be narrowed to a more humble size, so they would not claim the victory from their own hands.