Gideon’s father, Joash, had lost one of his prize bulls, but he wasn’t going to let the town lynch his son for it. The people were demanding:
Judges 6:30Bring out your son … He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.
Joash’s defence of Gideon was wise, and perhaps even wily:
Judges 6:31 Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!
The logic accepted; people backed off and let Gideon live, renaming him to Jerub-baal (which means Let Baal defend himself) in the process.
Thousands of years later, a Chinese Christian, Pastor Hsi, used a similar argument to close down worship of the idols in his village in pre-communist China. He’d accepted a request to be ‘mayor’ of the village on the condition that the local temple be closed down and there be no sacrifices for the year (see Mrs Hudson Taylor 1903, Pastor Hsi. One of China’s Christians, China Inland Mission, London, pp. 35ff).
The village prospered, so it went into and second and then a third year. After this, Hsi resigned, and noted:
By this time the idols must be quite starved to death. Spare yourselves now any effort to retrieve them!