We see Gideon here in connection with the people and in his public performance. After Gideon the people are now being prepared for their service. The army that will help him consists of carefully selected people. The selection criteria are different from those we use. Nothing is imposed on them. Every soldier is given the opportunity to prove that he meets the criteria. These criteria have nothing to do with physical strength or military insight. The most important principle is total commitment to the LORD’s cause with abandonment of any other interest.
Some characteristics of people who meet these requirements are:
1. They are brave (verse 3).
2. They only take with them what they need (verse 6).
3. They look after their captain and obey him (verse 17).
4. They let their light shine (verse 20).
5. They use the cry of war (verse 20).
6. They stand in their own place (verse 21).
In the discussion of this chapter we will discuss these characteristics more in detail, but it is good to let them affect us already now. We also want to be part of a ‘Gideon’s band’ to gain victories for the Lord and His people, don’t we?
1 Harod and Moreh
1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.
Then Gideon starts his task. He is called Jerubbaal here. Each time he is referred to by this name, it is a reminder of his victory over the Baal in Judges 6 (Jdg 6:25-32). Now he goes out to achieve new victories. Early in the morning he rises.
Also in other important events in the Bible we see that people rise early. Thus Abraham rises early when he sacrifices his son Isaac (Gen 22:3). Job also rises early in the morning to search God’s face for his children (Job 1:5). In the history of God’s people on earth through the centuries, people who have meant a lot to the work of the Lord have often been people who rose early.
We’ve already seen that Gideon isn’t the type of hero that is appreciated in this world. Until now, he has always seemed a little frightened. The place where he and the people camp is called Harod, which means ‘trembling’. They are close to the enemy, who is in an overwhelming crowd at the hill of Moreh. Moreh means ‘fear’. The impression that the enemy makes on the people is one of fear and trembling.
That is no different today. The enemy’s greatest weapon, the devil, is the fear he can instill in people. I was given an example of this when I saw demons being driven out of a young man. In a conversation we had after that event, I asked why it was possible that these evil spirits had taken hold of his life. His answer was: fear. Those who fear the devil fall prey to his attacks. The Christian may know that he is in the victory that the Lord Jesus gained on the cross. In Him we are even more than victors. To know this and to live up to it are two things.
What Gideon experiences, all do who want to do a work for the Lord. The intimidation of the devil, who in many ways will try to destroy the work of the Lord, comes at anyone who declares himself willing to fight for the Lord. The miraculous thing is that God uses the trembling to sift the army that has declared itself willing to chase away the enemy.
2 Too Many Soldiers
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’
Gideon is told a curious word: “The people who are with you are too many for Me.” Has anything like this ever been heard by a people who are going to wage war? His army consists of 32,000 men. But what do they mean against an army of at least 135,000 men (Jdg 8:10)? The ratio is already 1 to 4.
Yet God finds Gideon’s army too big. The reason He gives is that Israel will boast of having overcome in its own power when it wins. God will be forgotten. He wants to prevent the people from becoming arrogant and proud, so that the Israelites will again deviate from Him. They, and we, must know how God works: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zec 4:6).
It is instructive to compare what God says here with the events in Joshua 7-8. With all the conquests in Joshua the whole people have to go up. In the case of little Ai, Joshua thinks it is not necessary. But God cannot do anything with human considerations. All He asks is obedience and then He takes care of the rest. The result is that Israel is defeated (Jos 7:1-5). Luckily there will be a second chance (Jos 8:1-29). Then victory is achieved. But a lot of effort is required. They should have acted directly according to God’s will. That would have saved them all that extra trouble.
In the book of Judges the time is over that the whole people can go up. Decay has left its mark on the condition of the people of God. It is the same now. We live in a time when the church is no longer building up a unity. It is also, however, a time when enormous challenges await those who wish to dedicate themselves entirely to the Lord.
3 The First Selection
3 Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.
The army must be stripped of all elements that could stand in the way of victory. The first element is fear. Any person who, on closer inspection, is very reluctant to fight with a powerful enemy, may return home. This is in keeping with the law of war that God has given His people: “Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart’” (Deu 20:8). It is extremely discouraging when some people in the heat of the battle suddenly start to lose their heads and leave. That is why everyone must know what they are doing in advance. The costs must be considered (Lk 14:31,33).
The people who are allowed to leave first are those who are more under the impression of the power of the enemy than of the power of God. They did show up to fight after Gideon’s call, but now that they are face to face with the enemy, it turns out that they have little faith.
We too can be attracted by someone who enthusiastically brings forward a plan to do a work for the Lord. The person who does so is himself motivated for this plan because he has spoken about it with the Lord. It is an assignment he has been given. It is a good thing that he wants to involve others. But those others will only become good co-workers when they have gone through this plan themselves with the Lord and do not go along only on the basis of the enthusiastic story.
You can be impressed by someone else’s faith in a particular work, but that is something other than personal faith in that particular work. For people who only want to participate on the basis of an emotional impression of the moment and not on the basis of a personal conviction, there is no place in this work. That can and must also be said.
Something similar Paul does when he asks for intercession to be “rescued from perverse and evil men” because “not all have faith” (2Thes 3:2). He does not need people who do not have the same faith and dedication to the work of the Lord that characterizes him.
What will have gone through Gideon when he sees his already small army getting smaller and smaller? No less than 22,000 men go home. If the ratio first is still 1 to 4, and that is by no means a great starting point, now it has been reduced to the ratio of 1 to 13 to 14, which is impossible in human eyes.
4 The Second Selection
4 Then the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
What would have gone through Gideon when the LORD says to him, “The people are still too many”? In any case, we do not hear any objections from Gideon. His attitude is beautiful here. He always connects to what the LORD says to him.
If the first selection leaves it to everyone to decide for themselves, this is not the case with this second selection. The 10,000 that remain will be tested by the LORD, and without them noticing. Gideon must invite them to go to the water, and the LORD says to him: “I will test them for you there.” The way in which the water should be drunk is not indicated. Everyone is free to do so. Yet the way of drinking water determines whether someone belongs to the corps of the electorate, or whether he is declared unfit for battle.
5 - 6 The Drinking Attitude
5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” 6 Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.
God could have selected the warriors in every conceivable way, but He ensures that the real warriors reveal themselves. The natural attitude to drinking is kneeling down, focusing on drinking. Whoever does not kneel, but takes the water with his hand, remains ready to take action at any moment. This unnatural attitude of drinking makes it clear that the principle of faith prevails and not drinking itself. What is revealed by the water is the difference between those who drink the water at their leisure and those who drink it casually because they are engaged in the battle.
Thirst may be quenched. It is written of the Lord Jesus: “He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up [His] head” (Psa 110:7). He has found here and there a refreshment for His soul, but without ever losing sight of the purpose of His coming: the triumph of the cross and the glorification of God, His Father.
Thirst may be quenched, but the question is what place it occupies in our lives to quench thirst. We can compare taking water to us with the needs of life, such as food, clothing and covering, and also the necessary rest after work. What matters is what place these things occupy in our lives. God sees how we deal with it, without us even noticing. The way we deal with earthly matters makes it clear how we view the things of God.
Putting water in the hand means that we only take in those earthly things that we control and that do not dominate us. It is to live in this awareness: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1Cor 6:12b). The dedicated Christian is free to enjoy everything. At the same time, he is aware that there are things that may jeopardize his dedication to the Lord. He only takes what he can hold in his hand, nothing more.
Lapping as a dog laps means taking the place of a dog. That place takes for example Mephiboseth opposite David (2Sam 9:8). It speaks of the recognition that we in ourselves are not worthy to be or do anything for the Lord. The Lord’s grace increases when we think about who we are and what He wants to use us for, despite what we are in ourselves.
Not only bravery and courage are required, but also complete dedication, and this proves itself in the way we deal with earthly blessings. The dedicated Christian can be recognized by doing only one thing, to which everything else is subordinated. Paul says, “One thing [I do]” (Phil 3:13). He forgets what lies behind him and reaches forward to Christ Jesus. Because of this attitude, he can rightly say to Timothy, and to us: “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2Tim 2:4).
The Lord Jesus said to Martha, who is busy with earthly, necessary things: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but [only] one thing is necessary” (Lk 10:41-42). This one thing is sitting at His feet, as Mary does. She is told that she has chosen the right part. What Martha does is not wrong in itself, it is even necessary. But she gives it such a great place that listening to the Lord is compromised, and that is what the Lord wants to teach her.
7 - 8 The 300 Men
7 The LORD said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the [other] people go, each man to his home.” 8 So the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the [other] men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
There they go. Of the 10,000 that remained, he has to send another 9,700 away. They have proven, without wanting to, that they were not committed enough to be used in the fight against Midian. Again we read nothing of Gideon’s defense.
God has achieved His goal. The remaining army of 300 men is totally powerless in itself to drive out the enemy. The ratio has become 1 to 450. All hope for the success of this undertaking must be directed towards the LORD. And that is exactly what He wants. We hear what the LORD says to Gideon: “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands.” The LORD says: “I will.” If He says so, there can be no doubt about the outcome. He guarantees the successful outcome of the battle. That is the great encouragement that Gideon gets. First he receives this promise and only then does God tell him that the rest of the people can leave.
But before those 9,700 leave, they give their provisions and trumpets to the men who will fight. This shows a nice character trait. Although they may not be part of the chosen army unit, they support the warriors with their resources. There is nothing of jealousy.
Even if we may not actually be able to participate in the fight, perhaps because we are too busy with earthly things, we can still help by providing the warriors with what is needed. In this way, even on the sidelines, we contribute to the victory that is achieved and we share in its joy.
Then the 9,700 leave. But he “retained the 300 men”. The word “retained” means “hold firmly”. This may indicate that the 300 men have a strong desire to follow the example of their departing colleagues and that Gideon needs to talk firmly to them to keep them with him. It is no small thing, therefore, to observe a massive exodus and to have to conclude that there are only a few left. Then the tendency becomes great to follow the masses on their retreat. The battle is still to be fought. To make it clear once again that the seriousness of the crisis has not changed, at the end of verse 8 the Holy Spirit again points to the presence of enemies.
Fortunately, the 300 men stay with him. It is reminiscent of what we read in John 6. In reference to everything the Lord Jesus has told us in that chapter, it says at the end of that chapter: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (Jn 6:66-68).
Although these are different events, in both cases the matter is the choice we make. If we are internally convinced that the Lord Jesus provides everything we need, we will want to stay with Him. Whatever happens and no matter how many people drop out because the sacrifices become too great, it will not make us doubt the faithfulness of the Lord.
9 The Command
9 Now the same night it came about that the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands.
When the preparations are over, the LORD tells Gideon to go to the camp to attack the enemy. Gideon gets the certainty of victory. God has already given him this certainty in Judges 6 (Jdg 6:16). God has also met Gideon’s doubt when he asks for the sign with the fleece (Jdg 6:36-40).
When God commands the invasion of the enemy’s camp, He confirms, to exclude all doubt, His promise to give the enemy in Gideon’s power. Gideon has to deal with a defeated enemy. What he only has to do is to appropriate that victory.
Something similar has been said to Joshua (Jos 1:1-9). God has given the Israelites the whole land. They only had to take possession of it. There too He says He would be with them.
10 - 14 A Dream to Encourage
10 But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, 11 and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. 12 Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” 14 His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.”
We may say that God knows the heart of His servant. Despite all the encouragements and promises, there is still a glitch in Gideon’s heart. There is still a residue of doubt. And see how God meets this too. What a God full of patience He is.
The way in which He strengthens Gideon’s hands requires courage. Together with his servant Purah, Gideon must enter the enemy’s army to hear something that will encourage him. How wonderful is the way of God to encourage Gideon. Gideon must actually go to the enemy to hear something there, while God Himself has so often pointed out to him the power that is present in Him.
What God still wants to teach him is that the enemy is more imbued by this power than he is. The enemy himself already sees himself as defeated, although he never gives in and must actually be defeated. Gideon hears it from the mouth of his enemies: “God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand” (verse 14).
The spies who in Joshua 2 went to spy out the land and came to the Rahab the harlot have heard the same. Rahab says to them “that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you” (Jos 2:9). They have heard what great deeds the LORD has done for his people (Jos 2:10-11). Despite this knowledge, Jericho did not surrender either, but had to be conquered.
Gideon takes his servant Purah with him on the command of God. The name Purah means ‘wine press’ or ‘growth’. If God calls this servant of Gideon by name, it may be to remind Gideon of His appearance to him when he was beating out wheat in the wine press (Jdg 6:11). Remembering our previous encounters with the Lord and what He has said to us on those occasions often gives us courage to continue. Such memories also indicate that there is spiritual growth through the relationship with Him.
Gideon accepts God’s offer. He goes and hears one of the Midianites tell a dream. He even hears the dream interpreted by another Midianite. We do not know how the man knows the meaning of the dream. We can assume that God has shown him that. If God can control things in such a way that Gideon comes to that tent at the right time to witness this conversation, He is also able to let that man say things that are important to Gideon.
What Gideon hears is not so elevating to him. He is reminded how weak he is in himself. He is presented in the dream as a barley bread. But the explanation shows that God makes a sword of it to defeat the enemies. Barley bread is the bread of the poor. God often works through poverty and weakness.
The sword that brings victory here is food. When God’s people are fed with Christ, they have a sword in their hands that beats the enemy. God can use our weakest appreciation for Christ to defeat the enemy. As it were, Paul rolls a barley bread into the camp, the church, in Corinth when he says: “Paul was not crucified for you, was he?” (1Cor 1:13). He just wants to say that he and others do not want to function as party leader. He does not participate in party formation and division. He is but a servant. It is about Christ. He enciphers himself.
Opposite to it he places the cross of Christ. What remains of man’s pride and own wisdom when he looks at the cross? Paul ‘carries’ the cross of Christ into the church in Corinth, thus overthrowing the ‘tent’ of battle, mistrust and division. The effect of every simple truth about Christ served in love is that the ‘tent’ of anger, quarrel and strife is thrown to the ground.
15 Gideon’s Response
15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the camp of Midian into your hands.”
Encouragement first of all works worship. With this Gideon gives us a good example. If the Lord has made anything clear to us, He would like us to thank Him first. Only then can we pass on our own experience to others. This applies in particular to the study of the Bible. What we discover in it of truths and other beautiful things, will awaken our hearts to first thank Him and make His Name great.
If this does not happen, there is a danger that what He gives and shows will become greater than Himself Who is the Giver. The Giver is always greater than the gift. Except of course with the Lord Jesus, the Gift of God. There, Giver and Gift are the same. But everything we have received on the ground of the work of the Lord Jesus, we owe to God. Everything we discover about it, we may thankfully tell Him and then pass it on to others.
Someone once said,: “You can only call something your property if you first have given it back to God in thanksgiving. Daniel has the same attitude as Gideon. Daniel begs God to reveal a matter to him (Dan 2:18). God does that and the first thing Daniel does is to praise God (Dan 2:19).
After Gideon himself is encouraged and has worshipped, he says to the people that the LORD has already given them victory. It is remarkable that he says to the people that the LORD has given the enemy in their power, while God has told him that He will give the enemy in his hand (verse 9). What God has personally promised him, he makes a matter for the whole people. The same we have seen in his calling (Jdg 6:12-13).
16 Strange Weapons
16 He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers.
The weapons that Gideon gives out to his men are not of the kind that can make an impact on the enemy. It is not an army armed to the teeth. Each is given three ‘weapons’: a trumpet, an empty pitcher and a torch that has to be put in the pitcher. The trumpet used here is the ramshorn. A horn speaks of power and energy and is blown to pass on a message. These trumpets or horns the inhabitants of Jericho have heard day after day as the people moved around the city seven consecutive days (Jos 6:4-20).
The blowing of the trumpet near the enemy speaks of the strong confidence that God will live up to His Word against the enemy. It is to give a testimony that victory is certain. We can let God’s Word speak because we are convinced of its truth. We can therefore say it with Paul: “We also believe, therefore we also speak” (2Cor 4:13).
We also find the pitchers in 2 Corinthians 4. There they are called “earthen vessels” and there is talk about a treasure in them (2Cor 4:7). In the Bible, a vessel often refers to a person or a body (Acts 9:15; 1Thes 4:4; 1Pet 3:7). In 2 Corinthians 4 is still the addition that it is an earthen vessel. As a result, the emphasis is placed on its fragility.
Unlike a treasure, which represents something precious, an earthen vessel is of low value. The treasure about which Paul writes to the Corinthians is “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2Cor 4:6). It may be that Paul, when writing 2 Corinthians 4, thought of Judges 7.
So the weapons of Gideon and his men consist of:
1. a trumpet, which is a picture of the Word of God,
2. an earthen vessel, which is a picture of a weak, fragile body; and
3. a torch, which is a picture of the Light of the glory of God.
In the following verses we see how they are used.
17 - 18 Look at Me and Do Likewise
17 He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”
The real leader is someone who not only says what needs to be done, but who leads the way and shows how to do it. We see this in perfection with the Lord Jesus. He washes the feet of the disciples. Then He says to them: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (Jn 13:14-15). We can observe this ‘being an example’ throughout the life of the Lord Jesus. He never asked His disciples anything that He Himself did not live up to and in which He Himself did not precede.
We can only motivate others for a particular cause if they can recognize its value in our lives. Another striking case we see with Peter and John. Peter can say to the crippled one who expects something from him and John: “Look at us!” (Acts 3:4). That may seem presumptuous, but it is not. Peter and John have something that can heal the man. They believe in this themselves and bear witness to it throughout their lives.
If a Christian cannot say so, he is not well off. This has nothing to do with pride or self-esteem. Whoever is convinced of the Lord’s power and shows it in his life is a living illustration of what he is confessing. His confession is confirmed by his life. It is certainly true that we can fail, but that need not be the daily pattern of someone who wants to live with the Lord.
We too can say this as far as we follow Christ. Paul says: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1Cor 11:1). That is essentially the content of the battle cry that Gideon let call: “For the LORD and for Gideon.” He has received the LORD’s command and follows Him therein. The others have seen this in Gideon and are following him.
Through his example, Gideon inspires his army to do as he does. That means full obedience to his example. If someone called something else, or attacked the enemy on his own and with his own means, it would mean confusion and defeat. The watchword is: pay close attention to the captain and do precisely what he does and call out what he calls.
19 - 20 The Battle Ignites
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”
Shortly after midnight the battle burns loose. Every warrior has taken the place that Gideon has appointed him. Everything happened in the greatest possible silence. The time of the posting of the watch is used to come to the outskirts of the camp, close to the enemy’s army. All the warriors keep an eye on Gideon and the hundred men who are with him.
Then the signal comes. Three hundred trumpets make their sound audible that sounds deafening in the silence of the night. The sound reflects off the mountains and the valley fills up with a swelling trumpet sound. At the same time the pitchers are smashed and around the enemy army three hundred torches become visible. It seems as if there is a large army behind every torch.
From this we can learn how to deal with our (spiritual) enemies. First we see that blowing the trumpet is connected to breaking the pitcher. There is no other way. Testimony cannot be given without renouncing ourselves. Then we see that by breaking the pitcher the light becomes visible. Testimony and darkness do not belong together. Light and testimony belong together. Also in Philippians 2 these two are brought forward together for the purpose of our abode among the people of the world, “among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil 2:15-16a). That gives such a great revelation of power, that it overcomes the enemy.
There are four things mentioned in the Gospels that can hinder the shining of light. In Luke 8 two are mentioned. There the Lord Jesus says: “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed” (Lk 8:16). A container or vessel is the first hindrance to the shining of light. The vessel, as has already been mentioned, represents a person. Here is the hindrance that someone finds himself important. In the history of Gideon we have seen that the vessel or pitcher must be broken. The self-importance must disappear and then the light can shine unhindered. The second hindrance, the bed, speaks of laziness. Whoever takes his ease and does not intend to commit himself to the Lord will spread little light around him.
In Luke 11, two more hindrances are mentioned: “No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket“ (Lk 11:33). Here first is mentioned a cellar or hidden place. That’s what we points to the hidden sins in our lives, things we secretly do and don’t want to show off. As long as we don’t confess and forsake them, these things are an obstacle to let our light shine. The second obstacle is the basket, which is a picture of trade, to be busy making money. This can have such an important place in our lives, that it also becomes an obstacle to let our light shine. Anything that prevents the light from shining must be removed from our lives (cf. Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21).
The only thing that has to happen to the pitcher is: smash it. Then the light is no longer blocked by anything and it can shine fully. We realize only too well that we ourselves are the greatest blockade to the shining of “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2Cor 4:6). The torches are held in the left hand. The left hand speaks of weakness. Holding the torch in the left hand suggests that we acknowledge our weakness with which we spread light. Breaking the pitcher is equal to not trusting the flesh. Whoever breaks the pitcher can also blow the trumpet held in his right hand. The right hand speaks of power.
The call of verse 18 “for the LORD and for Gideon” becomes in practice “the sword of the LORD and of Gideon” (verse 20). That is to say, choosing for the Lord and for those who follow Him means acting in obedience to the Word of God. The sword is a picture of the Word that God has given and is visible in the lives of men and women of God. When we say we want to follow the Lord, we can only show it by obeying His Word in everything.
21 - 22 Each in His Place
21 Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When they blew 300 trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.
It is important in the battle that each person takes the place appointed by the Leader. To make clear the importance of this, we can look at a picture that is used in the Bible to characterize the church. It is about the picture of the body. When we think of a body we do not immediately think of struggle, but we will see how taking our designated place in the body makes us useful in the spiritual struggle.
In this comparison, every member of the church is a member of the body and therefore has a task to perform in that body that is related to the function of that member. What each member has to do is arranged by the head. In order for the church, seen as a body, to function as a harmonious unity, it is important that each member follows the commands given by the Head, that is Christ. All members are connected with each other via the Head.
Problems begin when a member is not satisfied with the place God has given it, for He “has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1Cor 12:18). Dissatisfaction because we don’t have a more important place, or pride because we think we don’t need the other members and can do it all by ourselves, make the body as a whole no longer function as a unity. Then we don’t think about the use that another member has from us, but only about ourselves. Both dissatisfaction and pride stem from selfishness. Today, this selfishness is often translated into individualism. Everyone goes his own way and does not care much about the other and about the whole. If ‘I’ just feel good.
Christianity is a hopelessly divided whole. Unfortunately, because of among other things the individualism mentioned, this same division is also increasingly manifesting itself in faith communities where people want to come together and live in accordance with God’s Word. This creates disorder in the ranks. The result is powerlessness in the fight against the enemy. The church has to give up a lot of terrain, because the members do not each continue to take their own place under the direction of the Head.
The solution is not to start structuring everything and to create your own order. There is only one solution and that is to return to the dependence of the Head and obedience to the commands He gives through His Word. Then He takes over the battle and sows confusion among the enemy.
Blowing on the trumpets, breaking the pitchers and making the torches visible have an enormous effect. Midian’s amazing army starts to run, crying, which only increases the noise. The surprise is complete. In the great confusion that has arisen, the Midianites no longer know how they are doing. Every Midianite sees an enemy in his companion. They think they are overwhelmed by a force majeure and fight their way out of the turmoil of battle, without seeing that they have to deal with their own people. This is how the LORD deals with the enemy, because it is His hand who directs this whole event.
23 - 24 Others Involved in the Battle
23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.
It is quite conceivable that many of the men who are now being called in and who are going to get involved in the battle are among the 32,000 who have already signed up for the battle. Although they themselves have not had the courage and dedication to enter into the battle before, they can now begin to do their share in completing the work that others have started.
Gideon is not so stubborn as to think he can do it all by himself. At the right time he knows how to motivate others. His actions and those of his 300 men will have been a great encouragement to the others.
25 Oreb and Zeeb
25 They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.
The princes and kings of the hostile peoples have always had a special place in the struggle for the land. In particular, they are a picture of the demonic powers that aim to lead the people of God to destruction. They are the leaders and inventors of the strategy with which they exercise their dominion. They impose this strategy on their subjects and order them to implement it. The realm of Satan is a well-organized realm. But “we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2Cor 2:11). We do not therefore need to be surprised by his cunning attacks.
The names of the two princes make it clear how he proceeds. Oreb signs ‘raven’ and Zeeb means ‘wolf’. Here we see the two main forms of the evil that occurs in the world. The raven represents the principle of corruption and impurity. The raven is an unclean bird (Lev 11:13,15). The wolf represents the principle of violence, robbing and devouring (Jn 10:10,12). Through these two principles, that of corruption and violence, Satan has controlled the world since the Fall.
The first sin committed is that of corruption. By the lie of Satan believed by Eve (Gen 3:1-7), the image of God and the pure relationship between man and God are corrupted. The second sin is that of violence: Cain kills his brother Abel (Gen 4:1-8). We can classify any form of evil under one of these two categories.
These forms of evil must be stopped in the life of the church. That is to say, they must be judged if they have gained access to and exercise their authority in the church through unfaithfulness. Lying and violence come to an end at a rock and a wine press. In both we see a picture of the cross of the Lord Jesus, where the enemy is defeated.