Chosen by God
Gideon came on the scene when the Israelites had done evil in the sight of the Lord and had been given over to the Midianites who were heavily oppressing them. This went on for seven years until an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him he had been selected to free Israel from Midian's bondage. Gideon was concerned since his clan was the weakest of the tribe of Manasseh, and he was the least in his family. Gideon asked for a sign and fire flared from a rock consuming a meal he had prepared.
Gideon began by tearing down his father's Asherah pole during the night and setting up an altar to the Lord. The men of the town found out Gideon was the cause, and told his father that Gideon must die. But Gideon's father replied that if Baal is a god, then he can fend for himself, and it wasn't their place to plead Baal's case. The men agreed.
Gideon raises an army
The armies of the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples camped in the valley of Jezreel. The spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he summoned the people of Israel to join him and fight. That night he had God give him a sign, whereby a fleece he put on the floor would be wet from dew when he awoke the next morning, but the ground around it would be dry. God caused this to occur. Gideon begged one more test. This time he wanted the ground to be wet and the fleece to be dry. God made that occur as well. And so Gideon and the army he raised camped out near the armies of the Midianites. But Gideon had 32,000 men and God told him that was too many. The people might think they won on their own and not because of God. So Gideon had all men who were fearful leave. Only 10,000 were left, but God said that was still too many. So Gideon had all of the men take a drink by the river and those who lapped the water with their tonuges like dogs were kept while all others were sent home. The number of men to face the armies of Midian was now 300.
The 300 men were split into 3 companies with trumpets and torches in empty jars. Once they were near they broke the jars and blew the trumpets and shouted. The Midianite army turned on each other in confusion and ran. Then the people of Israel rose up and pursued them, forcing them back to their own land with heavy losses.
As Gideon and his 300 came to the Jordan river and crossed it, they were exhausted from the pursuit. They asked the men of Succoth for bread, but they were refused since they hadn't yet captured the kings of Midian. When Gideon captured the kings, he came back to Succoth and punished them for not helping him. He then found out the kings had earlier put his brothers to death, and so had them killed.
The people wanted Gideon to rule over them, but he told them God would rule over them, not him. (This was before the time when there was a king in Israel.) Gideon created a golden ephod, which was a snare to him and his family as it was worshipped, even though it was not God.
There was peace in Israel for 40 years after Gideon's victory. Gideon had 70 children. Upon his death, the people of Israel turned again to worshipping Baal and did not respect Gideon's family for what he had done for them.