Judges 7: Gideon's Victory
We left the Midianites with their camels in the beautiful meadow spoiling the fields and gardens, but the angel of the Lord had come and called a man who would lead the children of Israel against these enemies. Do you know his name? It was Gideon. Here were the Midianites over across the green valley, and here were Gideon and his men on the mountainside near the beautiful great spring which we see in our picture.
The Lord would give Gideon the victory, but he must not have too many men lest they should think that they gained the victory themselves and say, "Mine own hand hath saved me." First, all who were afraid were sent home. Still there were too many. Those who stayed were taken down to the spring to see how they would drink. Some kneeled down lazily to the water; these were not chosen. Some only stooped and lifted the water in their hand. There were three hundred who did so, and they were the ones chosen by the Lord to go with Gideon.
How few the little army was, compared with the host of the Midianites swarming like locusts in the valley. It was night, and the Lord let Gideon and his servant go alone across the fields in the darkness to the edge of the Midianites' camp. There Gideon heard a dream which gave him courage. A man was telling his fellow how he dreamed that a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian and rolled along and overturned a tent. It meant that the whole army would be overthrown before Gideon.
Now Gideon came with his men in three companies. They were so few, only a hundred in each company. And what did they have in their hands? Only trumpets and earthen jars or pitchers with burning torches in them. They came from three sides to the Midianite camp. They watched the hundred men with Gideon and did what they saw them do; they blew the trumpets; they broke the jars and held the torches and cried, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." The Midianites ran and cried and fled, fighting against each other, down the valley to the Jordan, the valley in which the stream runs from Gideon's spring. So the Lord gave Gideon power to drive out the strange people who were spoiling the land.
We are with the men whom Gideon called together by the beautiful great spring on the north side of Mount Gilboa, and the Midianites with their cattle and their camels are camped across the valley toward the hill Moreh, called also Little Hermon. The name Mount Gilead (verse 3) seems to mean a part of Mount Gilboa, where we are with Gideon and his men.
You will not need much more help to understand the story. When tested at the water, those were chosen who "lapped, putting their hand to their mouth." They stooped and snatched the water as if eager to be going. Those who were not chosen "bowed down upon their knees to drink water."
How did Gideon arm the three hundred men who were to go with him to the fight? The "pitchers" were probably the common earthen water jars of the country. "Lamps" seem rather to mean firebrands or torches. Read of the visit of Gideon and his servant to the Midianite camp and of the dream which Gideon heard which gave him courage. How did Gideon divide his men? What instructions did he give them? At what hour was the attack? The Midianites and Amalekites and others who had swarmed into the land fled down the valley and across the Jordan.
You may like to look forward into the next chapter and read how, after this victory, the people would have made Gideon king. He refused, but he asked a rich present, which they gave him. (Judges 8:22-27)
As you read this grand story you will also remember that it describes the strength and courage with which the Lord as a child and a young man met and overcame false and evil things and drove them out of His life; and at the same time it describes the strength and courage that we may have from Him. What does the story tell us about our battles? If we are to be strong and successful in driving out the enemies, should we go against them timidly, afraid, expecting defeat? We must begin by sending away all such fears. (Verse 3)
And what are our water jar and torch and trumpet? What did the trumpet blast at Jericho mean? It was the voice of the commandments. Gideon's trumpets are the same. Can you show me how the commandments and all of the Lord's Word are like a water jar and a torch within it? You ought all to be learning every day the power that is in the commandments and in other Divine words from the Bible to send flying the hosts of evil thoughts and feelings that invade your minds, however many and however strong they seem.
1. Against what enemy did Gideon lead the children of Israel? From what way did this enemy come? Into what part of the land? At what season of the year?
2. How many were there of the enemy? How many in the army which put them to flight? Why were there not more men with Gideon?
3. Who were first sent home from the camp of Israel? How was the choice made at the water?
4. How were Gideon's men armed? Why was there power in the jars and torches and trumpets?
5. What water jar and torch and trumpet must I take to be one of Gideon's men?
This story of deliverance has a power and charm because in its deeper meaning it tells of spiritual victories gained by the Lord in His life on earth and of victories which we may gain with His help.
What spiritual enemies are especially represented by the Midianites? Recall our study of last week, the false thoughts and reasonings which excuse seemingly pleasant but evil ways of life. (A. 3242, 5955) Gideon and his men represent something of goodness and right which has been aroused and strengthened by the Lord to resist these evil things and false excuses. Gideon and his men "rose up early" for their task. There is a beautiful thought in this rising early, here and in other Bible stories. It means going about a duty which we know is right while our perception of duty is clear, before it becomes obscured by contact with evil and selfish things. What spiritual thought is there in camping by the spring of water? What further thought in the fact that they were upon the mountain Gilboa, while the Midianites were beneath them in the valley? Remember how the army with Deborah and Barak gathered upon Mount Tabor and came from the mountain to fight with Sisera in the plain. (A. 2673, 5221)
You see the spiritual thought in reducing the number of men with Gideon to three hundred, lest they should feel that they gained the victory in their own strength. Self-confidence is weak; real strength is found by trusting in the Lord.
What lesson do you see in the choice of soldiers by the way in which they drank? Not all who pitch by the water become strong and victorious; it depends upon the way they drink. Some people may receive the Lord's truth lazily, with intellectual enjoyment. Some may take it in their hand, eager to be up and doing. The drinking of these is also compared to the lapping of a dog, for a dog in a good sense represents an affection which is simple but very devoted and earnest. Compare Matt. 15:27; E. 455.
Make a little study of the things with which Gideon armed his men. The water jars, like the water itself, represent the Lord's plain truth as it comes to us in the commandments and in all the letter of the Word. And what is the light which shines out when the jars of parable and history and prophecy are broken open? And the trumpets are the Lord's voice in the commandments and the Word, in which is power against all that is false and evil. Remember the trumpet voice at Sinai when the Ten Commandments were spoken (Exod. 19:13; 20:18), and also the blowing of trumpets at Jericho when the commandments were carried around the city. (Joshua 6:20; E. 502; A. 8815)
Will someone make a little study of the barley bread and show how the dream of the barley cake represented the victory which was near? Bread represents the satisfaction which we find in life. Barley bread, like that with which the Lord fed the five thousand, represents the more external satisfaction of loving service to the neighbor. The cake of barley bread in our lesson may in a good sense represent the simple goodness of Gideon and of those for whom he stands, with whom there is blessing and power from the Lord. In a bad sense it represents the evil pleasures of the Midianites which invert the true order of life, as the barley cake overturned the tent. Read the interesting interpretation in A. 7602.