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ISRAEL'S ARMY REDUCED BY GOD
Gideon's influence had gathered 32,000 men, and they encamped south of the encampment of the Midianites, prepared for battle (v. 1).Compared to Midian, this army was pathetically small, but in God's eyes not small enough.He told Gideon that there was a danger of Israel's boasting of their victory if they thought that their strength had anything to do with it. Therefore, he must decrease his army.First, he was told to tell any who were afraid, to leave.This depleted their number by 22,000, leaving only 10,000 (v. 3). But the Lord required a further decimation, telling Gideon to bring the army to the water to test each man as to how he drank.Those who got down on their knees to drink were refused, but those who took the water in their hands to lap it were chosen to go with Gideon (vv. 4-5).Only 300 passed this test (v. 6), but this was sufficient for God to use.He promised Gideon that by the 300 men He would deliver the Midianites into his hand (v. 7).
Gideon and his 300 men were on a hill above the camp of the Midianites, while 31,700 of his men returned home! Certainly the Lord knew that Gideon would feel pathetically weak with his small company, so he told Gideon to go down to the camp with only Phurah his servant, to hear what those in the camp might be saying (vv. 10-11). Verse 12 tells us of the tremendous number of men and of camels that might well have struck fear into Gideon's heart.
But God had sent a dream to a Midianite soldier and God so ordered events that the man was telling his dream to another, which Gideon heard from the shadows. He had dreamed that only a loaf of barley bread had tumbled into the camp of Midian, overturning and collapsing a tent (v. 13). What a surprise it must have been to Gideon to hear the man's friend interpret the dream as he did!He made not the slightest question that this dream indicated that Gideon the son of Joash would lead Israel in defeating Midian, God delivering all the camp of Midian into his hand (v. 14).
GOD GIVES THE VICTORY
How could the slightest doubt remain in the mind of Gideon? He may go forth with firm confidence. Yet first he takes time to worship the Lord in the calmness of being guided by His faithful hand (v. 15). Then he alerted his 300 men for immediate action. He divided them into three companies of 100 each, giving each man a trumpet and a pitcher with only a lighted torch inside. The men came to the edge of the camp, being spaced wisely around the camp (v. 16).
Then Gideon told them to look at him and to do do as he did. How lovely a picture of having Christ as our true leader! He does not only tell us what to do: He shows us by His own example, and we need only to follow Him (v. 17).
When Gideon blew the trumpet, they were told to do likewise, and say, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" (v. 18). Coming then in the middle of the night, just after the changing of the watch, the trumpets were blown and the pitchers were broken so that the torches were exposed.Thus 300 lights suddenly appeared around the camp of Midian (vv. 19-20). Rushing from their tents, the Midianites, hearing the trumpets and seeing the lights, were thrown into confusion (v. 22). They thought the enemy had infiltrated into their camp, and therefore lashed out with their swords against others who had swarmed out of their tents. Thus the Lord set every man's sword against his own companions, and the whole army fled.
It was the element of surprise that gained the victory.God's methods of warfare are different than men's, and the spiritual significance of God's instructions to Gideon is by far the most important matter for us in this victory. The light speaks of the testimony of the truth of God in practical life. The vessels speak of our physical bodies. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). But the vessel must be broken that the light may shine out, as 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 indicates, for the vessel must not have the honor for the victory: that honor belongs to God alone, though He uses frail human beings to accomplish His own ends. The trumpet speaks of testimony also, not the testimony of practical life, as the lights, but a declared testimony.In other words, we are called to both declare the truth of God and to live the truth of God.
The enemy being routed, then Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh gathered and pursued the Midianites (v.23). Also Gideon sent messengers throughout Ephraim to bring their armies to help in mopping up operations by taking from the enemy the watering places that are so necessary for the welfare of an army.In doing this they also captured and killed two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, then brought their heads to Gideon on the other side of Jordan.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Judges 7". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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