After the victory gained by Deborah and Barak over Jabin, Israel once more sank into idolatory. The Midianites and Amalekites crossed the Jordan each year for seven successive years for the purpose of plundering and desolating the land.
In this scenario, Gideon, also called Jerubbaal, received a direct call from God to undertake the task of delivering the land from the invaders. As is common with a lot of prophets, Gideon doubted his ability to fulfil the task.
"But Lord ," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."
The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." (Judges 6:15-16)
Gideon's first attack was rather modest. Along with ten servants, and under the cover of darkness, he destroyed the altar of Baal that people worshipped and cut down the Asherah pole that stood beside it.
His next attack was more forceful. He mustered a force of 22,000 Israelites to do battle, which God reduced to only three hundred men. Before he went to battle, however, Gideon told God that he wanted confirmation that his support would be there, in an incident that would be famous as "laying down a fleece before the Lord."
Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew-a bowlful of water. (Judges 6:36-38)
At midnight, armed with a rather strange assortment of arms - torches and pitchers and trumpets - Gideon's force of 300 men rushed in from three different points on the camp of Midian. Terror-stricken, the Midianites were put into dire confusion, and in the darkness slew one another, so that only fifteen thousand out of the great army of one hundred and twenty thousand escaped alive.
The land now now had rest for forty years.
Gideon died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of his fathers.