GI'DEON (Heb. signifies " a hewer" or " cutter down," i.e., " a brave soldier") was the name of the greatest of all the judges of Israel: He was the youngest son of 3oash the Abiezrite, and lived with his father at Ophrah, in Manasseh. The period in which. his youth was cast was a gloomy one for Israel. The people had fallen into idolatry, and as a punishment " the Lord had delivered them into the hand of Midian." It does not appear that the Midianites exercised their supremacy by any actual form of govern ment. Being chiefly wandering herdsmen, like the Bedouin Arabs of the present day, they were rather in the habit of regularly coming up from the desert " to destroy the increase of the earth." So terrible were their marauding expeditions, that it is said. they "left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass." Only in the moun tain strongholds, and in dens and caves among the hills, could the people preserve their liberty and the produce of their fields. At last, however, the Israelites began "to cry' unto the Lord," and a prophet is sent to stir up their religious and patriotic feelings..
They were now obviously ripe for resistance to the enemy, at least portions of them. It is at this point that Gideon is introduced by the writer of the Book of Judges, " threshing wheat by the wine-press to hide it from the Midianites." The steps which he took to secure the freedom of his countrymen are too well known to require descrip tion. It is sufficient to say that, with a small but resolute force of Jewish patriots, he fell suddenly upon the enemy in the neighborhood of Mt. Gilboa, and utterly routed them. The pursuit of the fugitives was continued far across the Jordan, towards the Syrian Desert. The effect of the victory was most decisive. The Midianites, we areĽ told, " lifted up their head no more," and the land of Israel enjoyed " quietness forty years in the days of Gideon." The people wished to make him king, but he religiously refused to tamper with the theocracy. He left behind him seventy sons. .