🔼The name Gideon: Summary
- Hewer Down, Cutter Off
- From the verb גדע (gada'), to hew down or cut off.
🔼The name Gideon in the Bible
There's only one Gideon in the Bible. Gideon, son of Joash the Abiezrite, is the fifth judge of Israel, the successor of Deborah. Gideon is called by God to judge Israel after Israel's been on a losing streak for seven years and Midian has them in the pocket. Gideon's first act is to tear down the local Baal and Asherah shrine. The next morning the townsfolk demand his extradition but Gideon's father Joash talks them out of it by saying that Baal should stand up for himself, if he's really a god. And he calls his son Jerubbaal, meaning Let Baal Contend Against Him.
After that Gideon goes after the Midianites and the other members of the Eastern Coalition. Of the 32,000 men from Israel who show up for the battle, only 300 remain after God has Gideon weed out the chosen ones from the masses. He gives the 300 each a trumpet, a pitcher and a torch. By midnight they attack and their unusual approach causes the Midianites to stampede. As they flee, Gideon summons the entire army of Israel and they pursue them, kill their leaders and 120,000 of their swordsmen (this story obviously connects Gideon to Abraham, who attacked and defeated the vast armies of Mesopotamia with 318 homegrown shepherds; Genesis 14:14).
After Gideon's victory over Midian, Israel remains undisturbed for 40 years. When Gideon dies, his son Abimelech takes the office of Judge of Israel. In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul mentions Gideon as a hero of the faith (spelled Γεδεων, Gedeon; Hebrews 11:32).
Gideon had 72 sons, namely Abimelech, the seventy brothers he killed, and Jotham who got away. The number 72 is of course a highly significant number in mathematics and cosmology and shows up in many legends and stories (Luke 10:1, Revelation 21:17).
🔼Etymology of the name Gideon
The name Gideon comes from the Hebrew verb גדע (gada'), meaning to hew down or cut off:
The verb גדע (gada') means to hew down or cut off, mostly of religious regalia and holy trees and such. Strikingly, there are no nouns formed from this verb, suggesting that whatever was cut off, was no longer discussed and even cut off from speech itself.
The waw-nun extension of the name Gideon denotes a personification of the verb: he who does what the verb means.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament doesn't often discuss the meaning of names but for Gideon it makes an exception: "His name is connected with his occupation, that is, he was a Hacker or One Who Hewed Down the enemy".
NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Cutter Of Trees, but the tree-part is unnecessary. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names renders Feller, Cutter Down.