Chapter 7

JUDGES CHAPTER 7

Gideon’s Three Hundred Men

        • Jerub-baal (Gideon) and all those who were with him got up early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. Midian’s camp was located north of them, in the valley, near the hill of Moreh. And Yahweh said to Gideon, “You have too many people for Me to hand Midian over to you because Israel would brag saying, ‘My own strength saved me!’ Therefore, announce to the people, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So, 22,000 of them turned back, and 10,000 stayed.

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible draws our attention to a possible issue with Mount Gilead from Hebrew text. “The traditional reading…creates impossible problems, because the only Gilead known in the OT is the mountainous region east of the Jordan. It seems best to associate the place with the modern name of the spring, Ain Galud.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible agrees adding, “The spring of Harod still flows today, downhill from Mount Gilboa at Ain Jalud. The hill of Moreh is 2 miles to the north.”

        • Guzik writes, “This was a great test of Gideon’s faith. His army of 32,000 men was already overmatched by 135,000 Midianites. Yet God thought his army was too big, and He commanded Gideon to invite all who were afraid to go home. He was left with only 10,000 men… Gideon was probably surprised at the number of men who were afraid to fight and hoped that only a few hundred would leave. But we are told that they assembled in a place where they could see the 135,000 Midianite troops (Judges 7:8). The sight of a huge opposing army made many Israelite soldiers afraid.”

        • Guzik continues, “Israel could still take credit for a victory if they had 32,000 troops. They could believe they were underdogs who triumphed through their own great bravery or strategy. God wanted the odds so bad that the victory would clearly be His alone.”

        • Again, Yahweh said to Gideon, “There are still too many people. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you to determine who will go with you and who will not.”

        • So, Gideon brought the people down to the water and Yahweh said to him, “Divide the men into two groups. The men who lap the water up with their tongues, like a dog, will be in one group, and the ones who kneel down to drink will be in the other group.” 300 men lapped the water from their cupped hands with their tongues, and all the rest knelt to drink. Yahweh told Gideon, “I will rescue you and hand the Midianites over to you with the 300 men who lapped. Send all the others home.” So, they gathered all their provisions and trumpets and Gideon sent all of the men back to their tents except for the 300 that he kept. Midian was camped below him in the valley.

          • Many commentators attempt to provide an explanation for why one group was chosen over the other, but frankly, I don’t find most of them to be very compelling. Therefore, I tend to find myself in agreement with the NLT Illustrated Study Bible entry, “The choice of those who lapped with their hands over those who knelt was apparently arbitrary, but it enabled the Lord to reduce the size of the army.”

Gideon Spies on the Midianite Camp

        • That night, Yahweh told Gideon, “Get up and go down against the camp because I have given it over to you. However, if you’re afraid to go, take your servant Purah with you. Listen to what they are saying and you will be greatly encouraged to go down into the camp.” Then Gideon and his servant, Purah, went to the camp’s outpost where armed troops were stationed.

          • HCSB notes, “…Knowing that Gideon was afraid, God had already given one of the Midianites a dream that would be the means to encourage him (Judges 7:13-15).”

        • Now the Midianites, Amalekites, and the people of the east has settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts, and their camels were as uncountable as sand on the seashore. When Gideon arrived, a man was telling his friend about a dream he had. He said, “Listen, I had a dream. In my dream, a loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat.” His friend replied, “This is none other than the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, the Israelite. God has handed Midian and the entire camp over to him.”

        • Guzik writes, “Only the very poor ate barley bread. The vision meant that the camp of the Midianites would be knocked over by a humble nobody.”

Gideon Attacks the Midianites

        • When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. He went back to Israel’s camp and said, “Get up, because Yahweh has handed the Midianite camp over to you!” Then, he divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a jar with a torch in it.

        • Then Gideon told them, “Watch me and when we come to the camp outpost, do as I do. When I and everyone that is with me blow our trumpets, you all around the camp blow yours also and yell, ‘For Yahweh and for Gideon!”

        • Gideon and the 100 men who were with him came to the camp outpost at the beginning of the middle watch when they had just finished setting up the guard. They blew their rams’ horns and smashed the jars they were holding. All three groups blew their rams’ horns and smashed their jars. Holding their torches in their left hands and their rams’ horns to blow in their right hands, they shouted, “A sword for Yahweh and for Gideon!”

        • Each man stood in his place around the camp, and all the Midianties ran, yelling as they fled. When they blew the 300 rams’ horns, Yahweh caused the Midianites to fight against each other with their swords. They ran as far away as Beth-shittah in the direction of Zererah, and as far as the border of Abel-mehola near Tabbath.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Surprise and deception took the place of a massive army. The war cry, the sudden blast of 300 trumpets, and the torches bursting into light created the impression of a large force. The warriors stood in place while God fought the battle…The fugitives fled in a southeasterly direction, past Beth-shan and toward the fords of Jordan, trying to reach more friendly and favorable surroundings.”

        • And the Israelite men were called out from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, and they chased after the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill county of Epraim saying, “Come down against Midian and take control of the waterways ahead of them as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible explains, “The Ephraimites were located between Shechem and Bethel and were able to cut off the southern retreat of the Midainites.”

        • They captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They continued to chase the Midianites, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was across the Jordan.

          • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Oreb (‘raven’) and Zeeb (‘wolf’) were military leaders, in contrast to Zebah and Zalmunnah, who were kings (8:5). This capture was commemorated in the subsequent names of the rock and the winepress where they were captured.”