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Chapter 7

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Gideon Defeats The Midianites (ch. 7:1 - 25)   


Note in verse 1 we have another name for Gideon as we saw in chapter 6, verse 32.  Jerub-Baal means "Ball fighter".


In the last chapter you might say that Gideon tested God with his fleeces.  In this chapter you might say that God tested Gideon.  He started out with 32,000 men to fight the Midianites.  God said that was way too many.  The Lord wanted fewer men to prove to Gideon and to Israel that it is He that wins the battle for them.  Yes, they must go and fight, but in the end, God wins the battle.  This is one important principle of Scripture.  I always quote the last verse  in the book of Mark to state this principle.  Mark says that the disciples went out and preached the gospel while the Lord went and worked with them by confirming the disciple's words with miracles.  Simply put, man does the manual labour while the Lord provides the spiritual labour or ability.  Both man and the Lord work together, but in the end, the battle or the work is done because of the Lord.  We as Christians must understand that we can never be affective in the Kingdom of God without the Holy Spirit's involvement.  On the other hand, we just can't sit back and hope the Holy Spirit will do it all.  We have a part to play.


The Lord provided two ways for Gideon to reduce the men in his army.  The first one is seen in verse 3.  Just send the fearful men home.  Twenty two thousand out of the thirty two thousand went home.  I'd say that Gideon was now feeling the test.   We should know that these Israelis weren't finely trained soldiers.  They were herdsmen, so you know many would be fearful of their very lives.


In verse 4 we see that God told Gideon that there are still too many men.  Gideon must have really been sweating now.  He's already lost two thirds of his men and now he'll lose more.  From verse 4 through verse 8 we see what took place.  Gideon took all of his men down to a stream to drink water.  There were basically two groups of men that were determined by how they drank the water.  Three hundred men lapped the water like a dog would.  The text states that the rest got down on their knees to drink.  The text does not give any more details than that.  Many Bible teachers try to fill in the details to distinguish the difference and then determine the reason why God chose the three hundred men.  I'm not convinced we can do that, because in my mind, it is speculation. 


Whatever the case, God chose the smaller of the two groups, and, this might well have been the reason.  The way in which the men drank the water might not have been the determining factor.  The determining factor might well have been the numbers in each group.  We know from the text that all along the Lord wanted Gideon's army to be smaller.  So, this seems to be a plausible  explanation to me.


Verse 8 tells us that the camp of the Midianites was in the valley below.  Most scholars understand this to be the Valley of Jezreel where we have seen so many battles over the years in Israeli history.  This is also the valley in which the last great battle, the Battle of Armageddon will take place. 


I remind you again of the Biblical principle that is stated in verse 9.  The Lord commanded Gideon to take his army and fight the battle and that He would win the battle for him.  We see this all the way through the Bible.  The principle is clearly stated in the last verse of the gospel of Mark.  Mark says that the Lord went with the disciples confirming what they said with miraculous signs.  Men did the manual labour while the Lord supplied the spiritual ability.  The same is true today.  We cannot sit back and wait for the Lord to do it all and we cannot go out in our own strength without the Lord.  It's a combination of both.  We work with the Lord and He works with us. 


In verse 10 God says to Gideon, "if you are afraid "  I suggest that Gideon was afraid and the Lord obviously knew it so He had a plan.  In verses 10 and 11 God tells Gideon to take a man named Purah, sneak down to the Midianites camp and listen to what you hear because he would certainly be encouraged by what he heard.  It is clear that what Gideon was about to hear was the doing of the Lord.


Note in verse 12 how many Midianites there were.  The text says that there were "more than the sand of the seashore".  This phrase is interesting because we see this phrase as how it relates to God's promise to Israel concerning their numbers as seen in the Abrahamic Covenant.   I think I can safely say that there are more grains of sand on the see shore than Midianites in the Jezreel Valley.  Therefore, this term must be taken figuratively to means lots of people, meaning, more people than what can easily be counted.  If this is the case, then we need to understand the Abrahamic Covenant in the same light.  It's not that the exact number of grains of sand on the seashore will eventually be the promised number of Israelis.  The Abrahamic Covenant simply promises that at some point in Israel's future, and I do mean future, that there numbers will be very large. 


Verses 13 through 15 tells us what Gideon heard.  Two men were talking.  These were probably guards.  One man told the other of his dream of a round barley loaf coming down from the sky, hitting his tent, and causing it to collapse.  The other men took this to be a dream directly from God stating that Israel would attack and win the battle. 


We should realize that in the beginning, Gideon had a 32,000 man army getting ready to attack, which the Midianites would have known about.  They did not know that the army was reduced to 300 men. For this reason, these men would have been fearful.


It is clear that God gave the enemy of Israel a dream.  So, we can understand that God can give anyone a dream, whether one who is His or who is against Him, in order to bring His purposes about.  So, just because a non-Christian has a dream or any other such thing, does not necessarily mean it is of the devil.  That being said, we must understand, that whatever the dream or vision, or whatever, is, it must serve the purpose of the God of the Bible, and it cannot oppose Biblical truth.  Also, I suggest that this is not a common experience.


Whether you think this dream was from God or not, Gideon sure thought it was from God.  He heard the dream, and, it says, "he heard the interpretation", and, then he worshipped God.  Gideon believed the interpretation to be true and he worshipped God for what he heard, thus giving him the courage to do what he was called by God to do.


From verse 17 to the end of this chapter we see the battle.  Three hundred men, divided into three camps, waited until the middle of the night to attack when most were sleeping.  Each had a trumpet and a jar with a flame under it.  When Gideon gave the word, they all smashed their jars and blew their trumpets and shouted.  The camp was terrified and confused.  Many fought against each other.  Many headed east while the tribe of Ephraim joined in the battle.  Two of the leaders were killed and their heads were brought back to Gideon. 


The simple lesson to be learned here is when we as God's people obey Him, He will fight our battles along side of us, and in one way or another, we will win. 


Note the fact that the heads of two leaders were brought back to Gideon.  As we have seen over and over again in Old Testament times, these uncultured peoples had no restraints when it comes to war.  They're pretty vicious and very savage. 



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