The Gideon Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong Israelite military force by showing that Gideon was an Israelite military hero. If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Gideon Cycle. If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.
Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative
Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.
For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.
Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary
1. The opposing narrative claimed that the Midianites battled with each other. A civil war of sort, with Gideon being head of one of the factions. N provides alternative explanations for what appears to be internal Midianite strife.
2. There was no record that the Israelites had defeated the Midianites. N responds to this by saying that the Israelites didn’t need to fight to defeat the Midianites since they killed each other. Additionally, both hands were occupied to hold a trumpet and a jar so that they were unable to hold a sword and therefore, the Midianites wouldn’t have been defeated by the “sword of the Israelites”.
3. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon defeated the Midianites. N agrees but will add that is was Yahweh and Gideon along with the Israelites.
4. Gideon had killed Zebah and Zalmunna, since they were the heads of the opposing Midianite factions. N responds to this by saying that Gideon killed them because they had killed the Israelite men at Tabor.
5. The Midianite army had turned against itself. The opposing narrative explains this was because of internal strife. N explains it as a work of Yahweh.
6. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon was a Midianite and had led one of the Midianite factions over the other Midianites. N responds to this by making Gideon an Israelite. N does this to show the Israelites were strong at war, but also may have done this because of an alliance with the descendants of Gideon. Those descendents of Gideon would have been excluded from the rest of the Midianite nation, and an alliance with the Israelites would have been mutually beneficial.
7. If Gideon was a Midianite, then he would have naturally been in the Midianite camp. N responds to this by saying that Gideon and his troops were at a different location. Gideon was in the Midianite camp but only on a spy mission, and where he hears the interpretation of the Midianite’s dream. The cake of barley mentioned in the dream may have been a pejorative reference to Israelites since the Israelites were reduced to eating bread made of barley. Gideon is identified with the barley, thus making him an Israelite by N..
8. Gideon had attacked two Israelite cities. N needs to provide an explanation for this and does so by saying that they didn’t provide help for his troops. This may have had a duel purpose 1. Explain why Gideon attacked the cities 2. Serve as a warning to other Israelite cities that might refuse help to Israelite troops.
The opposing narrative may have countered that Gideon already had killed Zebah and Zalmunna before he attached the cities. N responds that Gideon was still in pursuit of them.
9. Gideon had killed the men at Tabor, who were Israelites. N responds by saying that it was Zebah and Zalmunna that had killed them. Furthermore, N makes the men at Tabor relatives of Gideon, which is convenient because, since they were dead, their descendants wouldn’t have been around to deny it.
10. The opposing narrative said that Gideon looked like a son of a king because he was a son of a Midianite king. N responds by agreeing that Gideon did look like a son of a king (with no mention of a Midianite connection) and explaining that the men at Tabor (who were relatives of Gideon) also looked liked sons of a king.
11. If Zebah and Zalmunna were relatives of Jethro, then naturally he would have had some hesitation about killing them. Having Jethro kill them is also a good political move for Gideon since it would solidify Jethro as part of Gideon’s faction. However, Jethro refuses to do so, and N explains that it’s because he was so young. Gideon only kills them because they had killed his family at Tabor.
12. Gideon was a Midianite king, why else would he have royal crescents? N answers that he took them from Zebah and Zalmunna.
Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary
1. N responds by having Yahweh be the catalyst for the rise of Gideon. The Israelites achieve victory over the Midianites only after they cry out to Yahweh.
Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary
1. The Midianites had subdued the Israelites, and N needs to explain how this could have happened.
2. The Midianites had prevailed over the Israelites, but Yahweh will come to the rescue.
3. Lack of crops would keep the Israelites down. This may also be addressing Yahweh’s ability as a fertility God.
Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative
Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary
1. It’s not clear why N wants to make Purah’s status below Gideon’s, but this is a tactic similar to the one made by the Elohist when he made Joshua’s status lower than Moses’ (See Elohist Source - Moses Cycle).
The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above. For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.