views updated May 29 2018


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 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 Heldendramaaus 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.


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.


views updated May 21 2018



Impacts and Issues



The Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Online Network (GIDEON) is a web-based software system designed for use in geographic medicine, a branch of medicine that deals with international public health issues including infectious and tropical disease. GIDEON is located at <>, and helps physicians to diagnose any recognized infectious disease occurring in the world.

The first module of GIDEON generates a ranked list of potential diagnoses based on signs, symptoms, laboratory tests, country of acquisition, incubation period, exposure (foods, animals, insects) and other relevant details. This list is not intended to replace the expertise of health care workers, but rather, present a comprehensive group of diseases which can focus further analysis of the case, suggest additional diagnostic tests, and offer in-depth analysis of each individual disease. At this point, the user can “ask” GIDEON why additional diseases are not listed, display information on the country-specific status of each disease listed, or access links to specific therapy and diagnostic options.

Additional options allow for generation of a list of diseases compatible with bioterrorism, and simulation of disease scenarios not associated with a specific patient. For example, the user might access a list of all infectious diseases associated with diarrhea or diseases associated with diarrhea in the United States, and then limit the listing to agents of diarrhea associated with water, or diarrhea which might develop in the United States within 24 hours of ingesting water.

The second GIDEON module presents the epidemiology of individual diseases, including descriptive text (infective agent, route of infection, incubation period, diagnostic tests, therapy, vaccines), a global and historical overview of the disease, and its status in every country and region. Country notes include specific regions of activity within each country, local foods, insects, etc. involved in transmission, reported incidence and rates (cases per 100,000 population per year) and a chronology of regional outbreaks. The vaccination standards for every relevant disease in every country are also listed. As of February 2007, the epidemiology module contains three million words of text and 30,000 references in 16,000 text notes. Reference numbers are electronically linked to available abstracts and titles in the medical literature. Over 22,000 graphs and 342 maps are automatically generated to follow the status of all diseases, both worldwide and in each specific country. Five thousand images include life-cycle charts, photo-micrographs, x-rays, skin lesions, and the like. More than 5,700 outbreaks and 11,000 surveys are listed; for example, all outbreaks of measles reported in scientific literature, prevalence studies of hookworm, AIDS and liver fluke in African countries; and studies for food contamination in all European countries.

The third module follows the pharmacology and usage of all anti-infective drugs and vaccines. Drugs of choice, contraindications, doses for special patient groups, and interaction with other drugs, are presented in great detail. An index of all drug trade names (over 10,000) reflects the international nature of the program. The user may access a list of drugs for a specific indication, such as AIDS or tuberculosis; or antibiotics associated with a specified form or toxicity or drug interaction.

The vaccines module presents similar information regarding all vaccines, including lesser-known preparations used to prevent diseases such as Kyasanur Forest disease and Argentine hemorrhagic fever. Dosage schedules, boosters, side effects, and trade names are accessed through interactive menus.

The fourth module is designed to identify, compare, and characterize all species of bacteria, mycobacteria (tuberculosislike organisms) and yeasts. Technical material used in evaluating susceptibility standards of bacteria to anti-infective agents is also available.

All text, maps, images, and graphs are designed for transfer to PowerPoint®, word processors, or e-mail for preparation of publications, syllabi, student handouts, and other formats. A built-in network option allows for installation on any computer network. The network manager can add custom notes in their own language to the program regarding any disease, drug, or pathogen (disease-causing agent) relevant to his own institution. A text box allows the user to append custom notes in their own font and language to the GIDEON text, including, for example, contact information, submission of specimens, pricing, or ongoing outbreaks.


BIOINFORMATICS: Bioinformatics, or computational biology, refers to the development of new database methods to store genomic information (information related to genes and the genetic sequence), computational software programs, and methods to extract, process, and evaluate this information. Bioinformatics also refers to the refinement of existing techniques to acquire the genomic data. Finding genes and determining their function, predicting the structure of proteins and sequence of ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the available sequence of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and determining the evolutionary relationship of proteins and DNA sequences are aspects of bioinformatics.

GEOGRAPHIC MEDICINE: Geographic medicine, also called geomedicine, is the study of how human health is affected by climate and environment.

INCUBATION PERIOD: Incubation period refers to the time between exposure to disease causing virus or bacteria and the appearance of symptoms of the infection. Depending on the microorganism, the incubation time can range from a few hours (an example is food poisoning due to Salmonella) to a decade or more (an example is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS).

INCIDENCE: The number of new cases of a disease or injury that occur in a population during a specified period of time.

OUTBREAK: The appearance of new cases of a disease in numbers greater than the established incidence rate, or the appearance of even one case of an emergent or rare disease in an area.

PATHOGEN: A disease causing agent, such as a bacteria, virus, fungus, etc.


The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) calls GIDEON “.an intellectual tour de force for helping physicians quickly and successfully respond to the diagnostic and therapeutic problems of seeing patients with infectious illnesses that either are intrinsically complex or may have originated in unfamiliar, foreign settings/”

SOURCE: Vincent J. Felitti, MD, Reviewer for JAMA, 2005

Impacts and Issues

As of 2007, 342 generic infectious diseases are distributed haphazardly through 230 countries and regions, and are challenged by 350 drugs and vaccines. An average of two new infectious diseases are described in humans every three years. 2,500 pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi have been reported, and a new species is discovered almost every week. Books and journals are inadequate for disseminating information immediately when dealing with ongoing outbreaks, epidemics, and breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment.

As GIDEON is a web-based program, the server could easily be adopted to follow all diseases analyzed by users. This form of “syndromic surveillance” is an example of bioinformatics (using computers as tools to manage data and solve problems in the biological sciences) that can be useful to health departments or other agencies worldwide for rapid identification of disease outbreaks or unusual disease patterns in the community.

See AlsoGlobalization and Infectious Disease; Notifiable Diseases; ProMED; Public Health and Infectious Disease; Travel and Infectious Disease.



Felitti, Vincent J. “GIDEON: Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Online Network.” JAMA. 293 (2005): 1674–1675.

Web Sites

GIDEON. “GIDEON Content-Outbreaks.” <> (accessed May 1, 2007).

Stephen A. Berger


views updated May 17 2018


A "major" judge from western Manasses who saved Israel from disaster c. 1070 b.c. (Jgs 6.18.28). Gideon's vocation to save Israel involved first the vindication of the unique cult of Yahweh against syncretist tendencies (Jgs 6.2532). His struggle against religious assimilation was summarized in the popular explanation of his second name, Jerubbaal, "Let Baal take action against him, since he destroyed his altar" (Jgs 6.32), although the correct meaning of the name is "May Baal defend him." Through Gideon, then, the cult of Yahweh ousted that of Baal, because Baal was powerless to defend his rights. That Gideon's name was formed with Baal, while his father's, Joash, with Yahweh, illustrates the confused religious situation of the time. Many had adopted the cult of local gods, the Baals; only a few along with Gideon remained faithful to Yahweh, and through them monotheism finally triumphed.

Annually, at harvestime, camel-riding nomads "Midianites, Amalekites, and the Kedemites" (Jgs6.3) irrupted into Palestine from the Arabian desert, ravaging the land. The avalanche of marauding nomads threatened to drive Israel from Palestine. The story of Gideon's war against Midianthe second stage in his liberation of Israelcombines a series of distinct episodes; hence, reconstruction is difficult. Yahweh's intervention and leadership were the sacred author's primary affirmation and concern. The Lord delivered Midian into Israel's hands. He was the real victor. The timid were sent away, and the army was reduced to 300 men to make the divine intervention even more striking. "For Yahweh and for Gideon!" was their battle cry. Yahweh threw the enemy camp into confusion and victory followed. The victorious Israelites, sensing their military weakness, offered Gideon hereditary principality: "Rule over us you, your son and your son's son." He refused because, "The Lord must rule over you" (Jgs 8.2223). That he

did, however, exercise some type of authority is indicated by his large harem, a mark of power and rule (Jgs 8.30). The eventual ruin of Gideon's family was occasioned by an ephod made from the spoils of victory. Though he intended it for Yahweh's cult in the sanctuary at Ophrah, "all Israel paid idolatrous homage to it" (Jgs 8.27).

The story of Gideon poses some delicate problems. There are, apparently, two different traditions concerning the origin of the worship of Yahweh in Ophrah. A double convocation of the tribes is recorded and discrepancies appear in the narrative of the campaign against Midian. Many commentators attribute these apparent inconsistencies to the intermingling of two sources. Perhaps a basic narrative has been enriched by independent pieces, with several documents being used in a complementary fashion.

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 846847. h. cazelles, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 4:140304. R. G. BOLING, Judges Anchor Bible 6A. (Garden City, NY 1975).

[j. moriarity]


views updated Jun 08 2018

Gideon in the Bible, an Old Testament warrior and judge of Israel, under whose leadership (Judges ch. 6–8) the Midianites were conquered.
Gideon Bible a bible placed in a hotel room or hospital ward by Gideons International with the aim of spreading the Christian faith.
Gideons International an international Christian organization of business and professional people, founded in 1899 in the US.


views updated May 23 2018

Gideon ★½ 1999

Clunky schmaltz about the slightly retarded Gideon (Lambert), who moves into a rest home and changes the lives of its depressed residents for the better. 100m/C VHS . Christopher Lambert, Shelley Winters, Carroll O'Connor, Charlton Heston, Shirley Jones, Mike Connors, Harvey Korman, Barbara Bain, Taylor Nichols, Crystal Bernard, Mykelti Williamson, Christopher McDonald; D: Claudia Hoover; W: Brad Mirman; C: Joao Fernandes; M: Anthony Marinelli.


views updated May 14 2018

Gideon. One of the biblical judges. His activities are recorded in the Book of Judges (6. 11–8. 32).