A close-up photo of a weathered shepherd's fleece, symbolizing comfort and protection, reminiscent of the biblical passage highlighting God's care for his people.

What Is A Fleece In The Bible? A Complete Explanation

Have you ever heard someone talk about ‘putting out a fleece’ when they are trying to discern God’s will for a decision? This concept comes from a story in the Old Testament about Gideon asking God for a special sign involving a fleece.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In the Bible, a fleece refers to a wool coat that was used by Gideon to ask God for signs regarding going into battle. He asked for miracles involving dew settling on the fleece to confirm God’s will.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the full story of Gideon’s fleece, examine other biblical references to fleeces, analyze the meaning and symbolism, and discuss how it relates to modern concepts of discernment and knowing God’s direction for our lives.

The Story of Gideon’s Fleece in Judges 6

Gideon’s Doubts and Requests

Gideon was chosen by God to lead the Israelites against the Midianites, but he doubted his abilities. Before going into battle, Gideon tested God’s promise of victory by putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor over two nights (Judges 6:36-40).

The first morning, Gideon found the fleece wet with dew but the ground all around it dry. The second morning, the fleece was dry but the ground was wet with dew. This sign confirmed for Gideon that God would indeed give Israel victory under his leadership.

The Signs with the Fleece

The signs Gideon requested with the fleece demonstrated God’s power over nature. The miraculous wetting and drying showed that God controlled the dew. Even though the circumstances seemed impossible in human terms, God intervened to provide confirmation to Gideon, bolstering his wavering faith.

By providing a sign through this ordinary item – a wool fleece – God met Gideon in his state of doubt with great compassion and patience. The fleece represented the ordinary means by which God reveals Himself to His people in extraordinary ways.

Even today, God still reassures those struggling with uncertainty.

Lessons from Gideon’s Story

There are several key lessons that emerge from this biblical account about the fleece:

  • God understands human weakness – He does not condemn honest questioning but graciously overcomes doubt through signs of His power and reassurance of His promises.
  • While seeking signs is often discouraged, there are unique occasions where God accommodates it to demonstrate His sovereignty.
  • Ordinary items and events can become symbols of God’s miraculous work when He infuses them with profound meaning.
  • As shown through Gideon’s later mighty victory, God patiently works through unsure leaders who recognize their weakness and rely wholly on His strength.
  • Other Biblical References to Fleeces and Sheep Imagery

    Fleece References in the Old Testament

    In the Old Testament, fleeces are often used symbolically to represent God’s care and provision for His people. For example, in Psalm 147:16, God “covers the sky with clouds” and “prepares rain for the earth” and “makes grass grow on the hills.”

    This imagery shows how God provides water and food for His creation, like a shepherd cares for the sheep.

    The book of Job also uses fleece symbolism. Job compares the welfare of the wicked to a fleece that dissolves in the rain, showing their prosperity is only temporary (Job 24:19). In contrast, Job says the righteous are firmly established by God like an enduring fleece (Job 29:14).

    The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel use fleece metaphors to describe Israel’s rebellion against God. Isaiah says “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it” (Isaiah 1:5-6).

    Ezekiel says Israel has become “worthless slag” that God will melt down like metal in a furnace (Ezekiel 22:17-22).

    Sheep and Shepherding Imagery in Scripture

    Sheep and shepherds are common images throughout the Bible. God is often portrayed as a shepherd who leads, protects, and provides for His people. For example, Psalm 23 famously says “The Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus called Himself the “Good Shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).

    Individuals are compared to sheep who follow God’s leading. Isaiah says “We all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus sent out His disciples saying, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). Scripture urges, “Listen to the Shepherd’s voice” (John 10:3).

    The Bible warns against false shepherds who mislead the flock. Ezekiel 34 denounces Israel’s bad shepherds who ruled with cruelty instead of God’s loving care. Jesus said false teachers “come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

    Sheep also represent those who will populate God’s kingdom. Jesus said His followers will be separated like “sheep from the goats” at final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Revelation envisions a scene where people from all nations worship God saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).

    Symbolic Meaning of Fleece and Wool

    Wool as Symbol of Purity and Cleansing

    In the Bible, wool is often used as a representation of purity and cleansing. Sheep were important in ancient Israelite society, providing food, milk, leather, and wool for clothing. Wool was seen as a valuable, unsoiled material that came from clean animals.

    The color white is also symbolic of purity in the Bible. Isaiah 1:18 states, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” This metaphor connects the cleansing power of wool to the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness.

    The Passover Lamb Connection

    There are connections between wool and the sacrificial Passover lamb. Exodus 12 details the first Passover meal eaten by Moses and the Israelites before fleeing Egypt. God commanded them to sacrifice an unblemished male lamb and use its blood to mark their doorframes for protection.

    This Passover lamb foreshadowed Christ’s later sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The lamb’s wool was white and pure, representing the sinless nature of Christ. Just as the Passover lamb died to save Israel, Jesus died to save all people from sin and death.

    Fleece Representing Provision and Sacrifice

    The story of Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6 demonstrated God’s care and provision for His people. Gideon laid out a sheep’s fleece to ask God for signs of coming victory. On the first night, God covered the fleece in dew while the ground was dry.

    The next night, the fleece was dry but the ground was wet with dew.

    This miracle involving a sheep fleece showed that God would provide for the Israelites and lead them to triumph, just as a shepherd cares for his sheep. The lamb fleece also symbolizes self-sacrifice, as sheep were commonly sacrificed in ancient Israelite religious rituals.

    Putting Out a Fleece: Discerning God’s Will Today

    Can We Use Fleeces Like Gideon Did?

    The story of Gideon putting out a fleece in Judges 6 shows that God sometimes gave special signs to confirm His will in biblical times. However, believers today should use caution and wisdom when considering putting out fleeces to discern God’s guidance.

    While God may still sovereignly give confirmations on occasion, fleeces can easily become a crutch that demonstrates a lack of faith. Christians have the complete Word of God and indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them, which Gideon did not have.

    Additionally, fleeces can be misused to “test” God or manipulate Him into giving the answer we want. Overall, believers should prayerfully rely on God’s Word and Spirit rather than demand specific signs from Him.

    Cautions Regarding Fleeces and Sign-Seeking

    There are several potential dangers with using fleeces or other signs to discern God’s will today:

    • They can reflect a lack of faith in God’s clear commands in Scripture.
    • We can manipulate the circumstances to get the answer we want.
    • They can become a crutch or idol that replaces seeking God in prayer.
    • We risk missing God’s guidance when the “sign” does not occur as expected.
    • We may be disobedient to God’s will by waiting for a sign before acting.

    Healthy Ways to Discern God’s Guidance

    Instead of putting out fleeces, Christians can discern God’s will through:

    • Reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible (Psalm 119:105).
    • Praying for wisdom and direction (James 1:5).
    • Getting counsel from spiritually mature believers.
    • Examining your gifts and desires.
    • Being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
    • Considering if a choice aligns with biblical principles.

    Additionally, guidance often comes progressively as we step out in faith. We may not receive complete clarity before acting in obedience to God’s commands and wisdom.


    In summary, Gideon’s fleece in the Bible was literally a wool coat used to seek confirmation of God’s will. But it has become a widespread concept today for asking God for guidance through supernatural signs.

    While there are cautions against demanding signs from God, Gideon’s story highlights important truths about walking in faith according to God’s leading. As we stay grounded in scripture and wise counsel, we can trust God to make His will clear to us, even in uncertain times.

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