Judges 7

 

 

1 “Then Jerubbaal,” - The mention of this name seems intended to keep before our

minds that it is emphatically the servant of the Lord who is going forth to victory –

who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched

beside the well of Harod:” - i.e. of trembling, so called, no doubt, from the incident

recorded in v. 3, that every one who was afraid (Hebrew, hated) departed from Mount

Gilead. The well of Harod is not mentioned elsewhere, though two of David’s mighty

men are called Harodites (II Samuel 23:25); but it is thought to be identical with “the

fountain which is in Jezreel(I Samuel 29:1), on the slope of Mount Gilboa, and now

called Ain Jahlood, the spring of Goliah -“so that the host of the Midianites were

on the north side of them,” -  Gideon and his Abiezrites were naturally on the south

side of the plain, on the hill, apparently Mount Gilboa, which there shuts in the plain.

The Midianitc host was encamped to the north of him (so it is in the Hebrew), in the

valley, i.e. the plain of Jezreel (ch. 6:33, note) -“by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.”

Nowhere else mentioned; probably only a hillock, of which there are many in that

part of the plain.

 

2 “And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are

too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel

vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved

me.”  It must be remembered that this whole movement was essentially a religious

one. It began with prayer (ch.6:6-7), it was followed up by repentance (Ibid. vs.

27-28), and the great purpose of it was to turn the hearts of the nation back

 to the God of their fathers. The Lord Himself, therefore, graciously forwarded

this end by making it plain that the deliverance from their oppression was

His work, and HIS ONLY!   For the general sentiment compare Deuteronomy

8:10-18; Psalm 44:3-8; Zechariah 4:6.

 

 

Success Not Dependent on Numbers (v.2)

 

One of the first objects of a general’s anxiety is to see that he has a

sufficient number of men under his command. But Gideon is made to

understand that he has too many, and must reduce his hosts before going to

battle with the sanction and assistance of God. In Christian work the

tendency is to rely on external appearances of strength manifested by a

great array of workers rather than on the inconspicuous spiritual sources of

real power from God.. While remembering the need of more laborers of the

right kind for God’s field (Matthew 9:37-38), we must also understand that

the work may be suffering through excess in numbers of those laborers,

whose character and method of work are not of the highest order.

 

  • THE POWER OF GOD IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY

HUMAN AGENCY. In all Divine work the real energy is centered in God.

We are but the instruments in His hands. The temptation is to forget that

the TRUE POWER AND BLESSING COME WHOLLY FROM HIM!

 (Deuteronomy 8:17), and to think so much of our labor in planting and

 watering as to ignore the one most important thing, God giving t

he increase (I Corinthians 3:7). A gardener can only minister to the

spontaneous life of nature; and if he becomes so infatuated with his skill

as to attempt to manufacture a plant, his total reliance on his own resources

will, of course, only reveal folly. So anything which leads us to magnify

human agencies at the expense of Divine power will as surely produce

failure.

 

Ø      The imposing appearance of too great numbers may lead us to

neglect the aid of God. When we are few we feel our helplessness,

and so learn to turn to God for strength; when we are many we

imagine ourselves strong, and thus while we are (apparently) strong

in ourselves we are really most weak. Presumption takes the place

of faith, and human agency is relied on instead of Divine energy.

The numbers of the Church, the elaborate organization of her

societies, the gifts and genius of individual men are all snares if

they tempt us to neglect the one supreme source of success. The

danger of the Church in the present day is to rely too much on the

machinery of her institutions, instead of seeking the vital power

which can alone inspire the energy of spiritual work.

 

Ø      The character of too great numbers may be such as to hinder the

bestowal of the help of God. God cannot bestow His spiritual gifts

on a people who are not spiritually-minded. If we gain numbers at

the expense of spirituality, we do this also at the expense of Divine

aid. Better be few, and constituting such a worthy temple that the

Holy Ghost can dwell and work in us, than numerous, but

possessed by a worldly spirit which degrades the temple into a

house of merchandise.

 

  • THE QUALITY OF ANY HUMAN AGENCY IS MORE

IMPORTANT THAN THE SIZE OF IT. It has been well said that it

would be better for the cause of Christianity in the world “if there were

fewer Christians and better ones.” Xerxes found the vast numbers of his

Asiatic hordes a hindrance to effective warfare with the disciplined

Greeks.  The great want of the Church is not more laborers, but better

ones — better ministers, missionaries, teachers; not more sermons, but

more able preaching; not a more ponderous library of Christian literature

to meet the attacks of unbelief, but a few more powerful works (one book,

‘Butler’s Analogy was probably more effective in counteracting the

 influence of Deism than all the rest of the voluminous apologetic writing

of the eighteenth century). It would be well if Church discipline were a

reality, and Christian workers selected with conscientious care. The

workers should be sifted by tests applied to their character and abilities.

 

Ø      Tests of courage and zeal are useful; so Gideon dismissed the timid,

and only willing men were retained. The only valuable soldiers in

Christ’s army are the volunteers who delight in His service.

“Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus

Christ.”  (II Timothy 2:3)

 

Ø      Slight incidents will often reveal character, and serve as tests of

the quality of God’s servants (v. 7).  “He that is faithful in that

which is least is faithful also in much:  and he that is unjust

in the least is unjust also in much.”  (Luke 16:10)

 

3 “Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying,

Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early” –

Depart early. The Hebrew word so rendered only occurs here. Its exact

meaning is uncertain, but the old versions generally give the meaning of “depart,”

go back.” Some, with much probability, connect the word with the Hebrew for

a sparrow, and give the sense of “flying,” i.e. returning in haste. The sense of

early” expressed in the Authorized Version does not seem to be any part of

the meaning of the word. See Deuteronomy 20:8 for the form of the proclamation.

from mount Gilead.” – From Mount Gilead. These words cannot be explained

with certainty. The conjectures are:

 

  • That there may have been a Mount Gilead on the western side of Jordan,

on which Gideon’s army was encamped, though it is not elsewhere

mentioned.

  • That Gilead is a transcriber’s error for Gilboa, which only differs by one

letter in Hebrew. It is pretty certain that Gideon was encamped on Mount

Gilboa.

  • That the phrase was the formula used by the whole tribe of Manasseh,

on the west as well as on the east of Jordan, although properly applying

only to those on the east.

  • Some (reading maher, in haste, for mehar, from the mount) render “let

him return in haste to Gilead,” i.e. to his home.

 

“And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there

remained ten thousand.”  4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people

are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for

thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with

thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee,

This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.”

 

5 “So he brought down the people unto the water:” - viz., of the well or spring

of Harod - “and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the

water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself;

likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.”  It showed

a much more soldierly and self-controlled spirit just to quench the thirst by lapping

the water out of the palm of the hand, than to kneel down and drink without stint

out of the spring itself. The Lord saw the difference of character indicated by the

two actions, and chose His instruments accordingly.  6 “And the number of them

]that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men:

but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.”

 

7 “And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that

lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand:” -

Compare the saying of Jonathan, “There is no restraint to the Lord to save

 by many or by few” (I Samuel 14:6). The same principles which run through the

choice of God s instruments on other occasions appear here. The instruments are to

be such in quality or in quantity as to make it quite manifest that THE EXCELLENCY

OF THE POWER IS GOD’S,  not man’s; and yet the instruments themselves are

to be conspicuous for their rare excellence. The shepherd boy who sat on the

throne of Israel was manifestly made to sit on that throne by the appointment of God;

but what a ruler, what a noble character David was!  It has always been deemed one

of the proofs of the Divine origin of Christianity that its apostles were men of such humble

station, and yet were able to change the whole religion and morality of the world;

and yet what noble stuff Peter and John and Paul were made of! And so here the

overthrow of the hosts of Midian by three hundred Israelites was manifestly the effect

of the power of God fighting on their behalf. But yet what marvelous heroism was there

in those three hundred!  What strength of purpose, what iron-firmness of nerve, to see

above thirty thousand of their comrades leave them in the face of the myriads of their

foes; to remain quietly at their post, and, when the time came, to leave their camp

and pour down into the plain. Their self-possession and self-restraint and

absence of self-indulgence in the matter of the water was a true index of

the unequalled qualities which they displayed in the sequel - “and let all the other

people go every man unto his place.”

 

8 “So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets:” - It is almost

certain that the passage ought to be rendered, “And they took the victuals of the

people in their hands, and their trumpets,” i.e. the three hundred took or borrowed

what provisions they needed for a few days, and the trumpets, which were to

play an important part in the stratagem, from the people who were about to

return to their homes - “and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto

his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian

was beneath him in the valley.” The writer repeats this to give a perfect picture

of the situation. The whole army returned to their homes; the three hundred alone

with Gideon in the camp; the Midianite host in the plain beneath.

 

 

 

 

The Sifting (vs. 1-8)

 

When we consider the extraordinary reduction of Gideon’s army from

32,000 to 300 by a process of winnowing, not merely as an isolated fact,

but as a portion of the instruction of God’s word, we are at once struck

with its analogy, in principle, to other broad teachings of the same

Scriptures. Let us first consider the case before us, and then compare with

it the analogies to which we allude.

 

  • In a great emergency, at the call of Gideon, 32,000 men with much

apparent devotion flocked to his standard. Leaving their homes and their

families and their substance, they came forward willingly to meet danger

and to endure hardship. To all outward appearance they were all animated

by the same spirit, and might alike be credited with a resolution to die for

their country and for their faith. But by and by a test was proposed:

Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart” (v.3); and

forthwith more than two-thirds of that band shrank from the undertaking.

Their hearts failed them; they thought of their homes left unprotected, they

thought of the dreadful Midianites and Amalekites and children of the East,

so numerous, so fierce, and so irresistible; their faith in God was a dead

letter; the shame of deserting their comrades was not sufficient to restrain

them; they left the camp and returned, 22,000 in number, to their own

homes. But 10,000 remained true to the cause. These faced the danger and

stood firm. Another test was then proposed, which should go much deeper,

and sift the very choicest spirits from those of more ordinary mold. Of the

10,000 that remained, only 300 were found whose rigid self-denial, and

stern self-discipline, and self-possessed presence of mind, showed them to

be of that stamp which was necessary for a hazardous undertaking

requiring boldness, endurance, watchfulness, and perseverance to insure

success. And these 300 elect were accordingly retained to do the work

alone; and they did it.

 

  • Now this is in accordance with THE ANALOGIES both of nature and

of Holy Scripture. Take the creation of mankind viewed as intended to

glorify God by the proper exercise of the splendid gifts bestowed upon

them. Sift them first through a coarse sieve which will only separate the

grossly wicked and ungodly, and yet what a large number will thus be

found to come short of the purpose for which they were created. If all the

irreligious, all the evil livers, all the impure and violent and unjust among

mankind, stand separate, what a comparatively small number will remain

who seem true to the end of their being, even in outward appearance and in

the rough! But if we go on further to sift with a finer sieve, so as to

separate the careless, and the selfish, and the worldly, and the hypocrites,

and the lukewarm, and so on, and so as to isolate the true saints of God,

the little flock, the faithful followers of the Lamb, those who shall shine as

the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and he to Him for a name and a

praise, alas, how will the number be reduced! Apply the same method to

Israel. The seed of Abraham were separated from the rest of mankind to

be God’s peculiar people, to fulfill a special purpose in the world as

witnesses for God’s unity and truth. But, as Paul teaches us, they are

not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of

Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

(Romans 9:6-7)  There be many called but few chosen (Matthew 20:16).

There were the multitude, a disobedient and gainsaying people; and there

was the remnant according to the election of grace, who believed the

gospel, and who trusted in the promised Messiah and obeyed His voice.

Or take the parable of the sower. (Matthew 13),  One lot of seed

falls by the wayside, and the fowls of the air devour it; another lot

falls on the rock, and is soon burnt up by the scorching sun; a third is

choked by the thorns, and brings no fruit to perfection; it is only one

quarter of the seed sown that falls on good ground, and brings forth fruit

with patience. Any one looking at the whole sample would have thought it

all destined to be fruitful; but lo! only one fourth part comes to anything.

 

Now it is important to note this:

 

Ø      With a view to ourselves, that we may sift ourselves before any

winnowing of God comes unawares upon us. There are states of

the world, or states of society, or conditions of outward

circumstances, when the grain and the chaff, the wheat and the

tares, the good fish and the bad, all pass muster, and there is no

marked difference between them. Gideon’s 32,000 all pass for

good men and true. There come changes of circumstances, there

comes a winnowing of God, events and situations which try men,

which test their character, which put their faith, their integrity,

their sincerity, their conscientiousness, their principles, to the

proof, and presently of the 32,000 only 300 stand firm. Now it is

a matter of infinite moment that we should examine our own

selves and prove our own selves before such a sifting takes place.

Just as workmen try the strength of the iron which is to support

a certain weight, and do not leave it to chance whether it shall

be found strong enough or not, so ought we carefully to try our

own religious principles, whether they are of a kind that will

stand the day of temptation, or of the kind that will break down.

It is not enough to come to the front like Gideon’s thousands for

a moment; are we prepared to stick to our post like Gideon’s 300

in the day of conflict and danger? It is not enough to be on the

Christian side with the world s multitude for a time; we want that

 strength and perseverance which will secure our standing with the

few when the multitudes fall away. It is important:

 

 

Ø      To notice this lesson of sifting with a view to forming a correct

estimate of the probable issues of events. Look at any number of men

engaged in any work, secular or religious, that requires steadfastness,

tenacity of purpose, fixedness of principle, fortitude to brave danger

and meet difficulties, and the probability is that only a small

proportion of them will go through with what they have begun.

Faint-heartedness, weariness, fickleness, inconstancy, and clashing

considerations, will stop the many midway, and the work, if

accomplished at all, will be the work of the few.  Especially in work

done for our Lord Jesus Christ, for the advancement of His kingdom

and for the good of His Church, we must look to the few. The

men of prayer, the men of earnest faith, the cross-bearing men, the

men whose conversation is in heaven, and who are waiting for Christ,

are the handful; but they are the men who will fight the real battle,

and who, by grace, will win the real victory.

 

9 “And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise,

get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.” i.e. attack

the camp at once with thy 300 men.  10 “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with

Phurah thy servant down to the host:” But if thou art afraid to do  so,go down

first alone with Phurah thy servant, and hear what they are saying in the camp.

 

11 “And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands

be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with

Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in

the host.”  The armed men. The exact meaning of the word here

rendered armed men (chamushim), and which occurs Exodus 13:18;

Joshua 1:14; 4:12, is a little uncertain, but it is generally thought to be

synonymous with another word (calutsim), also rendered armed

(Numbers 32:32; Deuteronomy 3:18), and to mean literally girded,

i.e. prepared to fight. These fighting men, as distinguished from the

numbers of the nomads who were with their camels and cattle scattered all

along the plain, were all collected in the camp, to the edge of which Gideon

and Phurah crept stealthily in the dark.

 

12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the

east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and

their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for

multitude.”

 

13 “And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a

dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo,

a cake” – A cake - The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else - “of barley

bread” - The commonest kind of bread, the food of only the poorer classes,

indicating, therefore, the humble origin and station of Gideon - “tumbled into

the host of Midian, and came unto a tent,” -  Rather, the tent; what in a

Roman camp would be the pretorium, the general’s tent. The words at the

end of the verse are heaped up to indicate the total and entire upsetting and

overthrow of the tent, symbolic of the rout and destruction of the Midianite

host - “and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.”

 

14 “And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the

sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand

hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.” The dream and the

interpretation are striking evidences of the terror which Gideon’s name had

already inspired among the Midianites. Because, although both the dream

and the interpretation were of God, for the encouragement of Gideon in his

great undertaking, yet they followed the course of nature and the laws of

psychology. The presentiment that God had delivered Midian into

Gideon’s hand is exactly like the terror in the minds of the Canaanites

which preceded the arrival of Joshua (Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 2:25;

11:25; Joshua 2:9-11).

 

15 “And it was so, -“when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and

the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the

host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into

your hand the host of Midian.” The effect upon Gideon was like magic. He

not only learned the state of panic in which the Midianites were, but he had a

further certainty that God was with him. His simple piety and adoring

gratitude threw him at once upon his knees to thank God, and to cast

himself anew upon his strength with undoubting trust. His hands were

indeed strengthened, and he lost not a moment in returning to his 300 men,

relating in a few words the incident of the dream, and bidding them follow

him.   Compare I Samuel 14:20.

 

16“And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put

a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the

pitchers.”  The trumpets had been collected from the whole  army (v. 8, note).

Lamps. Rather, as in the margin, torches, within the pitchers, so as not to be

seen till the pitchers were broken, when the torches would flare with a sudden blaze.

The pitchers were vessels for drawing water, as appears from Genesis 24:14,16,18,20.

They were doubtless of earthenware, as they were so easily broken.

 

17  And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold,

when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so

shall ye do.”  18 “When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me,

then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The

sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.”  The word sword is not in the original here,

though it is in v. 20. It has either dropped out of the text accidentally, or what we

have here is the shorter form of the war-cry. It is observable how careful Gideon

is to PUT THE NAME OF JEHOVAH FIRST!   It was His cause against Baal,

and the battle was to be fought in His strength, and the glory of the victory was to be

His. The cry, “The sword of Gideon,” would be peculiarly terrible to the many who

had heard of the dream, of which the fulfillment was come so quickly.

 

19 “So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the

outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch;” - The ancient

Israelites divided the night into three watches of four hours each, from sunset to

sunrise, i.e. from six p.m. to six a.m. The first watch, from six to ten, is not mentioned

in the Old Testament; but we have the middle watch mentioned here (from ten to

two), and the morning watch (from two till six): Exodus 14:24 and I Samuel 11:11.

According to this, Gideon’s attack would have taken place soon after ten p.m.,

or towards eleven, the time when the sleep would be the deepest, the watchmen of

the first watch having lately fallen into their first sleep. The later Israelites adopted the

Roman division of the night into four watches (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; compare

Luke 12:38; Mark 13:35) - “and they had but newly set the watch: and they

blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.

20  And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers,

and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands

to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.”

 

21 “And they stood every man in his place round about the camp;” -  Gideon’s

men did not advance, but stood, each company in the place assigned to them, at

different sides of the-camp. This had the effect of awakening the whole camp

simultaneously, and they started to their feet and ran hither and thither in confusion,

shouting as they went. Undisciplined troops, especially excitable Orientals, are very

liable to be thus thrown into a panic - “and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.”

.Fled. The Cethib has, caused to fly, i.e. either “put to flight,” or “carried away,”

as in ch.6:9; Exodus 9:20. In the former case the nominative must be the Israelites;

in the latter, their tents, herds, stuff, etc., must be understood. Both are very

awkward. The Keri, fled, is probably right, unless caused to fly has the sense of

bid them fly,” in which case the preceding word, cried, might be taken in its

common sense of they sounded an alarm. The whole clause would then run thus:

And all the camp ran; and they sounded a retreat, and bid them flee.

 

22 “And the three hundred blew the trumpets,” - Hearing the confusion, the

three companies blew their trumpets, probably more loudly than before, to give

the impression of a hot pursuit being at hand. The Midianites, thinking the

enemy were upon them, and not being able in the dark to distinguish friend

from foe, mistook their flying comrades for pursuing Israelites, and fell

upon and slew one another. In like manner the Philistines had done when

attacked by Jonathan and his armour-bearer (I Samuel 14:20), and the

Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites when attacked by Jehoshaphat

(II Chronicles 20:23) -  “and the LORD set every man’s sword against

his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah” -

House of acacias. The exact situation of it, and of Zererath and Tabbath, is

unknown. They must have been villages lying on the route from the plain of

Esdraelon to the banks of Jordan, probably between Little Hermon on the north

and Mount Gilboa on the south, where there was a very ancient high road from

Jezreel to the Jordan by Beth-shan.  Indeed it is highly probable that Shuta, a

village mentioned by Robinson, marks the site, as it retains the name of Beth-shittah

in Zererath,” – For Zererath some read, with some of the old versions and

manuscripts, Zeredath (r and d being scarcely distinguishable in Hebrew), and

identify it with Zarthan near Succoth, mentioned Joshua 3:16 and I Kings 4:12;

7:46 - “and to the border of Abelmeholah,” - Abel-meholah (the meadow of

the dance) was the birthplace of Elisha (I Kings 19:16), and is mentioned in

conjunction with Beth-shan, Jezreel, and Zartana in (Ibid. ch.4:12). Eusebius tells

us that in his time Abel-meholah was called Beth-maiela, and situated ten miles

below Beth-shan, or Scythopolis. There was also, he says, close by an Abelmaiela -

 unto Tabbath.”

 

23 “And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of

Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued

after the Midianites.”  Gideon’s disbanded army got together

again very quickly when they heard of the flight of the Midianites. Zebulun

is not mentioned.

 

24 “And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim,” -

Rather, the hill country  of Ephraim. For some reason Gideon had not invited

the Ephraimites to join in the war before (ch.8:1); but now, seeing the extreme

importance of seizing the fords of Jordan, so as to stop the escape of the Midianites,

he sent messengers in all haste to the men of Ephraim, who accordingly “took the

waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan” -  “saying, come down against the

Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.” - 

The waters seem to mean a number of streams running from the hill country of

Ephraim into the Jordan, and which had to be crossed by the Midianites before

they could reach the Jordan fords. The site of Beth-barah is unknown. It is not

thought to be the same as Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing

(John 1:28).  Beth-barah must have been on the west of Jordan. “Then all the

men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto

Bethbarah and Jordan.”

 

25 “And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb;” - 

Oreb, a raven, and Zeeb, a wolf - “and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb,

and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and

brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon” - The rock known afterwards

as the rock of Oreb (Isaiah 10:26), and the wine-press known  as the wine-press

of Zeeb, were so called from being the places where these  two princes were taken

and slain by the Ephraimites.  In like manner the well  of Harod is called by the

name it afterwards received (v. 1), and the palm tree  of Deborah in like manner

(ch.4:5), and Lehi (ch.15:9). These are valuable  indications (to which many more

might be added) of a living tradition older than  the written history. The capture of

Oreb and Zeeb is celebrated in Psalm 83:11  and Isaiah 10:26 -  “on the other

side Jordan.”  i.e. the east side of the river, which Gideon had now crossed,

as is related in ch.8:4. The narrative runs on here to complete the history of the

doings of the men of Ephraim, and goes back at ch.8:4 to take up the thread of

the history of Gideon (see Judges 2:1-6, note).

 

 

Faith  (vs. 9-25)

 

The whole Book of Judges is so full of lessons of faith, as the author of the

Epistle to the Hebrews teaches us when he refers to “Gideon, and Barak,

and Samson, and Jephthah” (Hebrews 11:32), that we cannot help

recurring to the subject of faith if we would honestly draw the instruction

which each portion of Scripture is intended to convey. But though the

same general lessons of faith — its nature, its triumphs, its sure rewards —

recur in the successive histories, yet each has some proper lesson peculiar

to itself. Referring then to the remarks on ch. 1:8-21 for such general lessons,

we will notice some peculiar trials to which the faith of Gideon was subjected.

 

  • THE SACRIFICES OF FAITH. Let us put ourselves in Gideon’s place.

Suddenly called out of insignificance and obscurity, he had played the part

of a statesman, a leader, and a general. As the result of his well-concerted

measures, he found himself at the head of 32,000 men. As he reviewed this

great force, so unexpectedly got together, how must his heart have swelled

with pride and hope! No doubt that great army was the instrument by

which he was to deliver Israel, and he could but feel some self-

congratulation at the success of his plans. To a man of an eager spirit as

he must have been, no greater disappointment could have occurred than

to be told to dismiss that army without striking a blow. Just when he was

about to acquire immortal fame to himself, and to save his country, and

establish the great religious reformation which he had begun, by their

means, to see them, and all his own prospects with them, melt away like a

heap of snow before the sun, and that by his own act, must have been a

trial indeed. But Gideon’s faith stood the trial. Before God’s clear

command all his natural feelings and wishes gave way at once. He might

have said with Paul,“What things were gain to me, those I counted loss

 for Christ” (Philippians 3:7); for he acted in that self-same spirit. His

faith prompted him to obey, at whatever sacrifice of inclination and

natural desire. That places him on a very high pedestal among believers.

But let us look again at the extraordinary singleness of eye with which

Gideon’s faith led him to act. The loss of the first 22,000 men was indeed

a heavy one, but still they went away of their own free will. But the

10,000 who remained had given proof of a brave and constant spirit,

and how could he put upon them the affront of sending them away,

after a test of an arbitrary kind, as men unfit to face the enemy?

It was now not Gideon’s ambition only, not his amour-propre, which

would rise in rebellion against a hard command, but his feelings as a

soldier, as a comrade, as one who desired to retain the good opinion of his

countrymen, and who wished to be popular amongst them. Dismiss the

9700 men who had left home, and were come to share the danger with him,

and who had refused to leave him when they might have done so! Expose

himself to the charge of fickleness and folly — to be thought like a man

who builds a house and then plucks it down with his own hands; to be

liable all his life to the hatred and resentment of those whom he had so

affronted! (See II Chronicles 25:10.) How could he obey such a hard

command? But if Gideon’s natural man spake thus, the voice of his faith

spake in contradiction to such thoughts, and spake with authority. His

faith still prompted him to obey, and he did obey, because he looked

with a single eye to the will of God, and took no count of consequences

to himself or others. Here again then his faith was of a very high quality.

 

  • THE RISKS OF FAITH. But we may look at Gideon’s faith in a little

different light, and mark the immense risks that he ran, having all human

probabilities against him, and only the promise of God for him. Here was

a vast host of 135,000 men within less than an hour’s march of him. His

position was anyhow one of the utmost danger. To weaken his force even

by 1000 men must seem an act of great imprudence. To denude himself of

his whole force except a handful of 300 men was like courting destruction,

like putting his head in the lion’s mouth. Humanly speaking, Gideon and

his 300 would be crushed like insects under the feet of the Midianite host.

And yet he deliberately reduced his force to 300 men, and then marched

down from his stronghold into the enemy’s camp. He set the word and

promise of God on one side, and all the fearful risks and dangers on the

other, and these last were in his eyes as nothing in comparison with the

former. He went down with his 300 in full confidence of the victory

which he won. In this too his faith was worthy of all praise and imitation.

 

  • VERIFICATION OF THE WORD OF GOD. But here perhaps a

caution is necessary, Lest we mistake what faith is. Faith is such an entire

trust in the word of God that IT PRODUCES OBEDIENCE TO THAT

WORD whatever it requires of us. But we must not mistake our own fancy,

 or our own wishes, or our own opinion, for the word of God. Had Gideon

rushed down upon the Midianite host upon the impulse of his own courage,

or in reliance on his own stratagem, or under an unfounded belief that God

had sent him, instead of admiring his faith, we should have had perhaps to

blame him for foolhardiness, or to accuse him of foolish vanity, or to pity

him for his fanaticism. It was because his course was founded upon the

clear and distinct word of God that it is held up to us as an object of

admiration and imitation. And it is worth observing in this connection

what abundant assurance was given to Gideon that the very word of God

was his warrant for what he did, and how cautious Gideon was to obtain

such assurance. The distinct appearance and words of the angel at first, his

tarrying by the terebinth tree at Gideon’s request, the fire which consumed

the sacrifice at the touch of the angel’s staff, the vanishing of the angel out

of his sight, His reappearance that same night, the sign, twice repeated, of

the fleece of wool, the reiterated communications by the word of the Lord,

and the dream that he heard in the Midianite camp are so many proofs

upon proofs, like our Lord’s appearances after His resurrection, GIVEN

BY GOD TO MAKE HIS RESURRECTION CERTAIN  and so many

evidences of Gideon’s wise caution in ascertaining beyond a doubt that

it was the word of God which was directing him in this terrible enterprise.

In trying to take Gideon’s faith as a model of our own, we must first

imitate his care in ascertaining what the word of God really does require

of us. The sad mistakes that have been made by misguided men in all

ages, CONFOUNDING THE PASSIONS OF THEIR HEARTS or

THE HALLUCINATIONS OF THEIR OWN BRAINS with the

requirements of the ‘written word of God, and even in their heated

fanaticism imagining that special revelations were made to them by the

Holy Ghost, confirms the lesson, given us by Gideon, of not accepting

anything as the word of God upon light or insufficient evidence. To accept

as the word of God without sufficient evidence any impression, or impulse,

or vision, or dream, or interpretation of Scripture, is not a proof of a

strong faith, but an evidence of a weak, and rash, and credulous mind. We

may place, therefore, as first in order of importance, as well as the first that

rises to the surface from the history of Gideon, the lesson of taking all due

care and caution in verifying the word of God. This implies: circumstanced

as we are, diligent and prayerful study of Holy Scripture, so as to be

imbued with its true spirit, and to know thoroughly what it requires of us

under the various circumstances of life. (To aid this is the SOLE GOAL

of this web site, GOD DIRECTING OUR ENDEAVORS!  – CY – 2012)

But when once the requirements and meaning of the word of God are plain,

 then A TRUE FAITH WILL OBEY it, in spite of any sacrifice of worldly

interest or self-pleasing which such obedience may incur, and in spite of any

risks of worldly evil which may ensue. And the reason is obvious. FAITH

RESTS UPON THE PERFECT GOODNESS AND POWER OF GOD!

 If once, therefore, we know that God commands us to do such or such a

thing, or to leave such a thing undone, we are certain that it is really for

our good to do it, however much appearances may be the other way. We

are CERTAIN too that THE POWER OF GOD is sufficient to bear us

harmless through all dangers, however insuperable they may seem to us.

It is of the very essence of faith, therefore, to give more weight to the

unseen power and love of God than to the visible losses and dangers

which threaten to be the result of obedience to God’s word, and to make

light of sacrifice of worldly advantages, or of selfish interests, in view

of that CLOSER COMMUNION WITH GOD WHICH COMES

OF OBEDIENCE TO HIS COMMANDMENTS!  (Jesus said,

“If a man love me, he will keep my words:  and my Father will

love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with

him.”  - John 14:23)  So Gideon acted, so Abraham acted, and so

Moses acted, and thus must we act if we would be reckoned with them.

The sacrifices we are called to make and the risks we are called to run

by a conscientious obedience to the word of God in all its breadth will

probably be much smaller than theirs were; perhaps only the sacrifice of

some gratification to our vanity, or some addition to our self-esteem,

the risk of some loss to our gains, or some check to our haste to

get rich; but every such sacrifice made in the spirit of a true faith, and

every such risk run in simple trust to the promises of the word of God,

will be accepted of God in His Fatherly love, and will help to make us

rich in faith, and to secure our place among the heirs of that kingdom

which God hath promised to them that love Him.

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.