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Why Gideon Bibles Are Found in Hotel Rooms

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Gideon Bible

Gideon Bible

Most people have seen a Gideon Bible in a hotel room or other places of lodging. There is a very important reason why the Gideon Bible is in the drawer of a nightstand in the room. There is a very interesting story behind the Gideon Bible tradition that dates back to 1898.

About the Gideon Bible

The Gideon Bible is named after the group that places the Bible in hotel rooms. It is not a study Bible or a modern-day revision. Instead, it is the King James Version which is very cheap to print.

The Bible is produced and provided by Gideons International. The group got its start when two traveling businessmen met by accident at the crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin in 1898.

There was only one double room left when John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill arrived for the night. They had never met before and did not know each other. However, they were willing to share a room for one night. During the night, the room was not the only thing they shared. They began talking and shared their faith. During their conversation, they had an idea for other businessmen to do the same while traveling around the country. Their idea for an evangelical association for Christian businessmen was birthed during that accidental meeting.

The two businessmen called a meeting for interesting men to gather the following year. Only one man showed up to join Nicholson and Hill. It was William J. Knights, who suggested they name their organization after Gideon, an Old Testament judge who led a small band of men to defeat a much larger army. Another idea was for their organization to leave Bibles in every hotel room in the United States so guests could read God's word during their travels. Today, the Gideon Bible is printed in over 100 languages and more than 1.7 billion Bibles have been distributed in the United States and 200 countries, territories, and possessions.

The Gideon Bibles are not limited to just hotel rooms. They are also distributed to hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, schools, colleges, universities, military bases, jails, and prisons. The Bibles are entirely free of charge. Gideons rely on donations to help them keep the Bibles in public places so they can be available to everyone.

Gideon Bible in Hotel Night Stand Drawer

Gideon Bible in Hotel Night Stand Drawer

The Gideons do not have to sneak around to distribute their Bibles and other Christian literature. They have permission for local Gideons members to give the Bibles to the hotel's general manager. After having a small ceremony, members then give enough books for each room and some extras to the staff to keep on hand.

The organization replaces any books that wear out or go missing. Usually, they last up to six years. The Gideons claim that about 25 percent of the people who check into a hotel room will read it during their stay.

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Other religious groups also distribute their own free literature to hotels. The Marriott hotel chain was founded by a Mormon. Therefore, it is no surprise that The Book of Mormon is in the rooms. Many hotels also offer Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Scientist or Scientologist books along with the Gideon Bible.

Gideon and His Small Army Going Against the Midianites

Gideon fighting the Midianites

Gideon fighting the Midianites

The association takes its name from Gideon whose profile is found in Judges 6. Gideon was a military leader, judge, and prophet whose calling and victory over the Midianites are recounted. The leader was at a disadvantage with a small group of only 300 men going up against a much larger group. They fought with only a horn that made large noise and flames. When the Midianites heard them, they thought the group was much larger than it really was.

The Gideons International's goal is to establish in all its members to be ready like Gideon to do God's will at any time no matter how slim the odds seem to be.

The symbol on the Gideon Bible is a two-handled pitcher and torch based on Gideon's victory with his small army over the big group of Midianites that's recorded in Judges 7.


Gideon International is not available to just anyone.

  • Members must be current or retired businessmen or professional men.
  • The minimum age for members is 21.
  • To join, men must be in good standing of an evangelical or Protestant church.
  • Wives of Gideons may join the Gideons International Auxiliary.


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on July 14, 2019:

RTalloni, I am always interested in the origin of traditions. I found the story of how the two men met by accident and started something way back then that is still current today. What a blessing!

RTalloni on July 14, 2019:

What the Gideons do is amazing. Yes, I've seen their Bibles in hotels, also at county fairs, and with members of the military. Their blog page at The Gideons International website is an interesting read. Thanks so much for highlighting their work here.

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