For the LORD and for Gideon – Judges 7

Gideon gathered all his men and camped at the spring of Harod, as the Midianites were camping in the valley of the hill of Moreh north of them. Gideon’s rousing speech had gathered more than thirty thousand fighting men from his tribe and from the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. He would have been feeling pretty confident going into battle with such a large army behind him, but God had other plans.

The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead. ’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

Judges 7:2-3 (NIV)

However, ten thousand was still an unacceptable number for the LORD as He placed before them another test to thin out the herd. He asked Gideon to take them to the waters and separate the men based on how they drank from it. On one side were three hundred men who cupped the water with their hands and lapped it up like dogs and on the other side were the rest who had kneeled on the ground and drank straight from it.

The LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

Judges 7:7-8 (NIV)

God always wants to show his strength to make us realise our helplessness. During preaching and healing sessions God still does this but people still depend on their theological knowledge and seminary studies to carry out the work of God. The three hundred men represented the worthlessness of Israel’s own efforts for the last seven years as God thinned the herd so that they don’t boast about their strength in numbers.

The LORD knew that Israelites would count the victory as theirs if they had the slightest confidence in their own numbers. He used a barebones version of Israel’s army to rout the mightiest of forces leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that He is the one in control. But people still found a way to redirect their gratitude towards a mortal vessel that God had used to deliver them.

In our lives, we too give credit to our doctors or modern medicine when we receive divine healing or praise our talents when we accomplish the unachievable or attribute the end of our ordeal to the influence of mortal men and women. It is God who bails us out of our problems and elevates us to glorify His name but we keep finding ways to celebrate the mortal vessels over Him.

A Round Loaf of Barley Bread

Gideon was running low on confidence, especially since the numbers he so desperately counted on were reduced to only a few men. God knew the fears of his heart and sought to stabilise his wavering faith again. During the night, the LORD told Gideon to go down into the valley where the Midianites had camped and listen in on what they were saying. So Gideon took his servant Purah and sneaked into one of the outposts of the Midianite camp. The sight of the armies of the opposing allied forces along with their innumerable camels would have been overwhelming to Gideon and Purah. They could have very well turned back at that point and returned with even less confidence than before but they went deeper into the camp and were able to eavesdrop on an interesting dream that one of the men was retelling his friend.

Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

Judges 7:13-14 (NIV)

Though the interpretation of the dream is not clear, but it could have been symbolism for the inferior state of the army of Israel in comparison to the one the allied forces had assembled. A loaf of barley was considered a poor man’s bread as it was inferior to bread made from wheat which was far more valuable. The Midianites who had controlled the region through their oppressive regime for the last seven years had gotten used to the fact that they were superior to the tribes of Israel.

Whatever be the interpretation of the dream, it was clear from the timing of Gideon and Purah’s arrival that it was a message from the LORD. And the message needed to come from the horse’s mouth to have an impact on Gideon’s confidence. So, God used a gentile warrior to send His message across to Gideon. God can use anyone as His vessel to communicate with us as He even uses satan to send His message to us. It is His word that we should be focusing on rather than the vessel He chose to deliver it to us.

A Jerichoess Charge

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshipped God thanking Him for building up his faith once again. He returned to the camp of Israel with confidence and proclaimed that the LORD had given the Midianite army into their hands. He divided the men into three groups and gave them trumpets and empty jars with torches in place of weapons. “Follow my lead”, he said as he and his men surrounded the valley where the Midianites had camped, from the Spring of Harod till the hill of Moreh.

“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”

Judges 7:17-18 (NIV)

At the beginning of the middle watch (which would have been about a little before midnight when most of the Midianite camp was fast asleep), Gideon and his men reached their respective positions. The three groups in unison smashed their jars and blew their trumpets with their torches held in the other hand. The Midianite men would have already been afraid of the dream one of them had which was interpreted as the sword of Gideon attacking them. Now suddenly they hear loud noises coming from the end of the valley, shouting, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon”. The Midianites ran in confusion towards the southeast side of the valley, the only place that the Israelites had not blockaded. As the trumpets blared through the Midianite camp, the LORD caused them to turn on each other as they slaughtered their own.

The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. … all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb.

Judges 7:22-25 (NIV)

When we were first introduced to Gideon, he was hiding in a winepress afraid that the Midianites would attack him at any moment. Towards the end of this chapter, we see him capturing a Midianite ruler who was hiding in a winepress. God used a man who was afraid to even thresh wheat into a mighty warrior who without any weapons and with only three hundred men, uprooted the army of the allied forces that were against Israel. There were many hurdles along the way but God kept strengthening Gideon whenever his faith was wavering. God could have accomplished His will even without the three hundred men but He allows Gideon and his men to partake in their display of His strength and power. They witnessed the protective hand of God up close as God helped them overturn the seven-year oppression of the wicked Midianites.

We even see Gideon brimming with overconfidence as he chases the retreating army and uproots them. He commands his men to shout, “For the LORD and for Gideon” cementing his status as the redeemer of Israel. Later in his life, Gideon turned away from God forgetting how he was redeemed and chosen to deliver His people. God builds our faith so that we can accomplish His purpose, however after being equipped with His strength, we use it to carry out the desires of our hearts. We must return to our days of innocence when we were hiding out in our respective winepress and God brought us out of our troubles. Let our life’s motto be ” For the LORD and Him alone”.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did God thin out the men of Gideon on the eve of their battle against the mighty Midianite army?
  • What does the dream mean and how is a gentile who was part of the opposing armies able to interpret it?
  • What can we learn from Gideon’s encounter with the Midianites?


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