After the death of Joshua, the Israelites turned away from God, and served idols. Therefore the evils came upon them of which they had been warned by Moses and Joshua. But at different times God, seeing their distress, raised up |judges| to deliver them from their enemies, and to judge over them. The first of these judges was named Othniel. He was Caleb's nephew. The last was Samuel. One that lived about one hundred years before Samuel was named Gideon.
The Israelites were at this time in great trouble. They were hiding in dens and caves because of the Midianites, who had conquered them and overrun their country. When their corn was ripe these enemies came and destroyed it, so altogether they were in sad plight. One day Gideon was threshing wheat in a secluded place, so as to escape the notice of the Midianites, when an angel from God appeared to him, bidding him to go and save the Israelites from their foes. Gideon obeyed the command: but before commencing the battle he much desired a sign from God showing that He would give the Israelites the victory. The sign Gideon asked for was, that when he laid a fleece of wool on the ground, if the victory were to be his, then the fleece should be wet and the ground dry. He placed the wool on the ground, and taking it up the next morning found it wet, although the ground was dry. So he knew God had answered him as he desired. But he was not quite satisfied. He begged God for a second sign. This time the ground was to be wet and the fleece of wool dry. God gave him this sign also: and then Gideon felt sure that the Israelites would be victorious over the Midianites.
[Illustration: EXAMINING THE FLEECE.]