Over the horizon
It was then that the messenger of Yahweh came and sat under the oak at Ophrah belonging to Joash the Abiezrite. Gideon, the son of Joash, was threshing wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. "Yahweh is with you, you mighty warrior," said the messenger. "But sir," protested Gideon, "if Yahweh is with us, why has all this happened?" Then Yahweh said: "Go in this strength of yours and deliver Israel!" "How can I save Israel? my family is the weakest in Manasseh and I am its least member!"
But that night Yahweh said to him, "Pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, cut down the totem pole. Build there an altar to Yahweh your God. Slaughter your father's sacrificial bull, and offer it there as a sacrifice to Yahweh." (The Israelites had taken over and kept Canaanite altars in the belief that 'once holy always holy'. So this would seem like blasphemy - striking at the roots of religion.) Gideon did as Yahweh had instructed him, but he did it under cover of darkness for fear of the guardian family and the townspeople, and he took ten servants with him.
Early next morning, when the townspeople saw this sacrilege,
they demanded to know who was the culprit. And when they learned that
it was Gideon they ordered Joash to bring out his son for execution.
With unexpected insight Joash countered: "Will you presume to defend
Baal? If he is a god let Baal do that himself!" Hence a new
name for the unharmed Gideon: Jerubbaal.
Gideon gathered an army. "It is too large," the word came. "A victorious Israel will take the credit, and claim that by their own power they have delivered Yahweh. Let the apprehensive return home!" Twenty-two thousand departed, ten thousand remained. "Still too many! Watch how they drink from the stream. Send away the ones who simply lap water like animals. Keep the ones who show caution and cup their hands to drink." Just three hundred.
In a strategy of nerves, Gideon ordered a sudden blowing of trumpets and loud smashing of jars, at night, around the camp of Midian. The Midianites screamed in panic and fled.
After that the people urged Gideon: "Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson!" "No, I will not rule over you and my son will not rule over you. Yahweh shall rule over you."
Israel was learning that salvation comes from within a people, even as the God of Israel was becoming free from god.