We left off Chapter 6 right before discussing the laying out of the fleece. Gideon, who now has the nickname Jerubbaal after destroying the altar of Baal and the surrounding grove, blew a trumpet to marshal the Israelites in the surrounding region. All along, we see God gently guiding Gideon and building him up.
Did Gideon lack confidence? Did he lack faith? Perhaps both. This story should illustrate that God gives us even faith. Like the father to whom Christ said, “If thou canst believe…”, we too should be crying out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. ” Human faith just isn’t enough. Even faith comes from the Spirit working within us.
So, Gideon says in Jdg 6:36b-37, “If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.”
Instead of becoming angry at his lack of faith, God does as Gideon requests. However, we then read that Gideon makes another request. It’s as though Gideon smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand, as he realizes that wool would naturally absorb water while it could easily run off of the grass and the ground. So, Gideon says, “Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.”
Again, God grants this request too.
UCG in their Bible Reading Program on this section hints that it may have been as much for Gideon’s followers that these things took place. Perhaps, but that seems a stretch. God has been reassuring Gideon the whole time, and that was before Gideon had followers. Furthermore, we see God yet again does something to reassure Gideon and give him faith in chapter 7. It seems much more obvious that God is working with Gideon to build up his faith, not so much any of his followers. In a nutshell, God is building up Gideon to become a leader. God Himself is opening up the potential that He put inside of Gideon to begin with.
God can do the same for you and I, if we will cooperate.
However, now God does something really counterintuitive, and it could well be one of the reasons He chose to build up Gideon so carefully. God tells Gideon that there are too many soldiers.
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.
~ Jdg 7:2
God is going to show His power and might through a man who was so afraid he was hiding and only leading a very, very small band of men.
Oh, and that’s against an entire army of two nations (remember, the Amalekites as well as the Midianites were oppressing Israel).
We are not to put our trust in numbers of men or weapons but in God.
15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.
16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.
17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
So, God instructs Gideon to announce that all who are afraid should depart and go home. Notice the similarity between this and the rules of war that God had laid down.
1 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4 For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
5 And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
6 And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
7 And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
8 And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.
9 And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
However, God says that 10,000 are still too many (vv 3-5). So, He tests them by how they drink water. God chooses only 300 men to carry out His mission.
God did mighty signs and wonders through individuals down through time. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. God chose a small nation from amongst those on the earth (Dt 4:37-38). Jesus called His followers a “little flock” (Lk 12:32).
Perhaps we should work harder to remember these things when people ask, “How can such a small group do all of this?” Well, we cannot, but God can (cf. Mt 19:26; Lk 18:27).
Now, if Gideon had doubts and fears before, he surely would have them at this point. Yet again, God goes the extra mile to mold and shape Gideon and to reassure him.
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.
10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
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.
So, God tells Gideon to go down into the camp to spy on them and hear what they have to say. God even tells Gideon that “if thou fear” to take Phurah with him.
Who is your Phurah? Have you thanked him or her lately? Are you a Phurah to someone else?
V 12 tells us the enemy is encamped in the valley “like grasshoppers for multitude”. This is what 300 men are supposed to defeat?
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 of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, 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.
How did this man know a barley loaf was Gideon? First of all, barley wasn’t your high quality grain for making bread. It is heavier and not as tasty as wheat. It is also a poor man’s bread. Israel, being oppressed and mostly destitute, would have been eating barley (if anything at all), while the enemy would have been taking all the wheat for themselves.
So, this barley loaf representing Gideon rolls into camp and smashes down the tent in the man’s dream. The fact that the other man knew Gideon by name and by lineage tells us that the whole camp must’ve been in fear.
Gideon first worships and then returns. He rallies his men, telling them that “the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.”
Then, Gideon does something that seems odd at first. He gives each man a trumpet, a lantern and an empty pitcher to put the lanterns in. He then instructs them to follow his lead. So, they go into the camp, and Gideon signals them to blow the trumpets and break the pitchers so that the lanterns all shine. They cry out, “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.”
Did Gideon get the “sword of Gideon” idea from his spy trip? I think he probably did. That was likely what people in the enemy camp were talking about, and now it has come upon them! Their worst fear was being realized – or so they thought, anyhow.
It was probably the middle of the night. Many were sound asleep. It was definitely dark. And so, you have men suddenly woken up, their eyes are not focused and full of eye goo, and on top of that, bright lights surround them hurting what little they can see. Then, there is all the noise of the trumpets and confusion. So, people start whacking swords at … whatever is moving. They actually start killing each other off in all of the confusion.
The Midianites and Amalekites flee. Other tribes notice the commotion and join in. Notice this verse in particular:
24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
~ Jdg 7:24
So, Ephraim joins in the battle after Gideon calls for them. We’ll talk more of this later in chapter 8.
Gideon captures two Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb. Oreb is slain on a rock named Oreb. Most likely, the rock was named Oreb in order to remember the event. Zeeb was slain at a winepress named Zeeb. Same comment.
Rocks and winepresses. Israel was hiding in mountains and caves. Gideon was hiding in a winepress. Oreb and Zeeb were slain in areas where Israel had been hiding. Coincidence?
Oreb and Zeeb become such famous villains that they are named again in Ps 83:11, and the Rock of Oreb is mentioned in Isa 10:26. Ps 83:11 also mentions Zebah and Zalmunna, who we will meet in the next chapter.
The chapter ends with the annotation that Oreb’s and Zeeb’s heads were carried with them over the Jordan. You would think that a man carrying on a war and lugging around the heads of his enemies would be feared, but it seems that we run into some people in Chapter 8 who are still more afraid of the Midianites, and it winds up costing them.