- GIDEON (Heb. גִּדְעוֹן, derived from גדע; "to cast down"), also called Jerubaal (Heb. יְרֻבַּעַל; "let Baal contend," or "let Baal replace," Judg. 6:32), son of Joash, the Abiezrite from ophrah , in the area of the tribe of Manasseh. Gideon is regarded as one of the judges although his biography (Judg. 6:11–8:32) does not contain the usual formula that "he judged Israel." He was appointed to leadership in an angelic revelation reinforced by signs and wonders of folkloristic nature, which were intended to confirm his divinely ordained mission and to emphasize his charismatic personality (6:34). Gideon was destined to deliver Israel from the Midianites and their allies, Amalek and "the children of the east" (6:3; cf. midian , amalek , kedemites (Benei Kedem), described as camel-mounted bedouin who came marauding from the fringes of the desert into the cultivated areas west of the Jordan. In the course of their invasions they menaced those Israelite tribes, especially Manasseh, whose settlements bordered on the Valley of Jezreel. These areas made good targets for plunder, and provided convenient passage to the interior and to the coast. Gideon's brothers appear to have been among those killed in such an attack (8:18–19). At first, only The war of Gideon against the Midianites. After Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah, Macmillan Bible Atlas, Carta, Jerusalem, 1968. The war of Gideon against the Midianites. After Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah, Macmillan Bible Atlas, Carta, Jerusalem, 1968. the Abiezrites responded to his call, but he was later joined by the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali (6:34–35; cf. 7:23). From more than 30,000 followers, a carefully selected force of 300 men was assembled at his camp at en-harod (7:2–7). Upon gathering intelligence as to the state of the enemy's morale, Gideon struck with a surprise night attack that wrought havoc in the Midianite camp. The Midianites and their allies withdrew eastward to the Jordan, and Gideon summoned support from Naphtali, Asher, Manasseh, and Ephraim to block the escape routes, thereby ambushing the retreating enemy. In the pursuit, two Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb, were captured and beheaded (7:25; cf. Ps. 83:12–13). At this point, the Ephraimites complained about their exclusion from the original operations, but Gideon diplomatically settled the affair (Judg. 8:1–3). Gideon then resumed the pursuit of the enemy beyond the Jordan, requesting material support, meanwhile, from the non-Israelite cities of Succoth and Penuel. The rulers of these cities refused, fearing Midianite reprisals should Gideon fail. After decisively defeating the enemy, who retreated deeper into the desert, Gideon returned to Succoth and Penuel to settle accounts there (8:4–21). The military victory over the Midianites was remembered and cited for many generations (Isa. 9:3; 10:26; Ps. 83:10; cf. I Sam. 12:11). There can be no doubt about the outstanding position Gideon occupied prior to the founding of the monarchy. Not only are his exploits recorded with unwonted detail, but also, and most exceptionally, the narrative is concerned with his post-military activities. Clearly, he enjoyed some special leadership status, though its precise nature is unclear. It is in Gideon's time that we encounter a desire for change from tribal, charismatic rule to a more comprehensive, hereditary type when the "men of Israel" offer to make Gideon the founder of a dynasty (Judg. 8:22). However, it should be noted that the verb employed is "rule" (mshl) rather than "reign" (mlkh), the word usually employed for kingship. Apparently, the incident represents an intermediary stage in the movement toward the establishment of a permanent monarchy. Despite his refusal of the offer, Gideon continued to play a leading role. He had a large harem and fathered 70 sons (8:30). Through his concubine in Shechem (8:31) he was related to some of the leading families in that town (9:1–4), and a son born of the union, abimelech , was later crowned king of that city-state (9:6). Gideon also exercised authority in the sphere of the cult. At the outset of his career he had built an altar to the Lord at Ophrah and had dared to destroy a local Baal altar, an act which earned him the name Jerubaal (6:24–32; cf. I Sam. 12:11; II Sam. 11:21). Subsequent to his military victories he fashioned an ephod from the spoils of war (Judg. 8:24–27), which, while it did not meet with the approval of the editor of Judges, illustrates the deeply religious character of Gideon. (Nahum M. Sarna) -In the Aggadah Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson were the three least worthy of the Judges (RH 25a and b). Because on the eve of one Passover Gideon said of the Lord, "Where are all the miracles which God did for our fathers on this night" (Judg. 6:13), he was chosen to save Israel (Yal. Judg. 62) and that victory was also gained on Passover (cf. Yannai, "Az Rov Nissim," Passover Haggadah). Another reason was his filial piety (Mid. Hag., Gen. 48:16). When Gideon sacrificed his father's bullock after the angel appeared to him, he would have transgressed no less than seven commandments, were it not that he was obeying an explicit divine command (TJ, Meg. 1:14, 72c). The cake of barley bread seen by the Midianite soldier in his dream (Judg. 7:13) indicated that the children of Israel would be vouchsafed victory as a reward for bringing the offering of an omer of barley (Lev. R. 28:6). On the breastplate of the high priest the tribe of Joseph was represented by Ephraim alone. To remove this slight upon his own tribe Manasseh, he had a new ephod made after his victory, bearing the name of Manasseh. Although he consecrated it to God, after his death it became an object of adoration (Yalkut, Judg. 64). He is identified with Jerubaal of I Samuel 12:11 and from the juxtaposition of this name in that verse with that of Samuel, the rabbis deduce that even the most worthless of individuals, once he is appointed as leader of the community, is to be accounted as the greatest (RH 25a and b). -In the Arts Literary works on this theme have tended to stress Gideon's heroism and patriotic motivation. Probably the first treatment occurs in the early 17th-century Old Testament dramatic cycle known as the Stonyhurst Pageants, in which an English writer devoted some 300 lines to the Hebrew judge. Several works in verse and prose dealt with the subject from the 18th century onward, including Gideon; or the Patriot (London, 1749), a fragmentary epic poem by the English dramatist Aaron Hill, a rival of Alexander Pope. In the 20th century, Grete Moeller wrote the verse play Gideon (Ger., 1927), two other dramas being August Schmidlin's Gedeon, biblisches Heldendrama …aus der Zeit der Richter (1932) and Gideon (1953), a "tragedy in 22 scrolls" by the Yiddish writer david ignatoff . An unusual modern interpretation of the story was the U.S. writer paddy chayefsky 's play Gideon (1962), which dramatizes man's alternate dependence on and rebellion against God. In art the typology of Gideon is particularly subtle. The miracle of the fleece was interpreted as a symbol of the Jews, first chosen and favored (or wet), and then rejected (or dry). The fleece also became the emblem of the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece, one of the supreme honors of knighthood. Gideon is usually represented as a knight in armor, helmeted, and with a broken pitcher in his hand, as in the 17th-century statue in Antwerp Cathedral. Narrative cycles are rare (though Chartres offers a 13th-century sequence of four episodes) with most representations concentrating on the appearance of the angel, the miracle of the fleece and the dew, the selection of the 300 warriors, or the victory over the Midianites. The angel's appearance and Gideon's incredulity, seen as a prefiguration of the Annunciation, are depicted at Chartres and in the tapestry of La Chaise-Dieu (1510). The miracle of the fleece occurs frequently at Chartres; in the Amiens and Avignon cathedrals (15th century); in the Petites Heuresd'Anne de Bretagne (15th century); in a 16th-century fresco in Chilandari, Mount Athos; and in a fresco by Salvator Rosa (1615–1673) in the Quirinal. The selection of the warriors is illustrated in the French Psalter of Saint Louis and the English Queen Mary's Psalter (both dating from the 13th century) and by Federico Zuccaro (1540/43–1609) in a drawing at the Louvre. The victory is again portrayed at Chartres. An early musical interpretation of the Gideon theme occurs in Daz Gedeones wollenvlius ("Gideon's Woollen Fleece"), an allegorical song by the minnesaenger Rumelant (c. 1270), which typically combines the search for biblical prototypes of the knightly ideal with the mystical concept of divine love. The martial atmosphere also prevails in at least some of the later compositions on this subject, beginning with "Gideon – Der Heyland Israels," the fifth of J. Kuhnau's Biblische Sonaten for keyboard instrument (1700). Johann Mattheson's oratorio Der siegende Gideon, written for the Hamburg celebration of Prince Eugene of Savoy's victory at Belgrade (1717), was begun, completed, and performed in the record time of 11 days. One of J. Chr. Smith's oratorios for which the music was taken wholly or largely from Handel was his Gideon (1769). Other compositions inspired by the subject include oratorios by Friedrich Schneider (1829) and Charles Edward Horsley (1959) and a choral work for eight male voices, Les soldats de Gédéon (1868), by Camille Saint-Saëns. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bright, Hist, index; S. Tolkowski, in: JPOS, 5 (1925), 69–74; Malamat, in: PEQ, 85 (1953), 61–65; Yeivin, in: Zion Me'assef, 4 (1930), 1ff.; idem, in: Ma'arakhot, 26–27 (1945), 67ff.; idem, in: BIES, 14 (1949), 85ff.; Kutscher, ibid., 2 (1934), 40–42; Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 2 (1942), 118; M. Buber, Koenigtum Gottes (19362), 3–12, 27–30; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 39f.; 6 (1928), 199f. IN ART: G. Reese, Music in the Middle Ages (1940), 235–6; L. Réau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 2 pt. 1 (1956), 230–4. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Boling, in: ABD, 2:1013–15.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.