Vv 1-8: Purging of Gideon's army: typ of judgment of
responsible in preparation for great day of battle.
AT: Prob "over" or "above": that is, up the hillside
from the spring and brook.
HAROD: At southeast end of valley of Jezreel. Cp Jdg
6:33. Below Mount Gilboa. Sig "trembling" or "afraid" (see v 3 here). In 1Sa
28:5; 29:1 Harod was again a spring of trembling.
THE CAMP OF MIDIAN: The Jews, 32,000 strong (v 3), saw
to the north, in the valley, the Midianites, 135,000 strong (Jdg 8:10).
Outnumbered more than 4 to 1.
Numbers mean nothing in God's battles: Lev 26:3,7,15,37; 1Sa
14:6; 17:47; Psa 33:6. "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Mat 20:16).
"Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few" (1Sa
"Lest his brother's hearts faint also" (Deu 20:8). We must
"stand fast" in our faith (Phi 1:27,28).
ANYONE WHO TREMBLES WITH FEAR: Why were so many afraid,
Jews as well as Midianites (vv 13,14)? Had the whole host of them, Jews as well
as Midianites, seen a revelation of the glorious fiery Cherubim of Glory? Notice
the refs to "sword" -- ie, the sword of the LORD -- and cp with Gen 3:24; Eze 1;
Num 22:31; Deu 32:41; Josh 5:13. Gideon's victory was won by a display of bright
flashing lights and loud noises -- as though to suggest the Cherubim again! Cp
2Ki 6:17; 7:6.
TURN BACK AND LEAVE: "If anyone comes to me and does
not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and
sisters--yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple" (Luk
MOUNT GILEAD: "It should perhaps be read as an allusion
to the sunrise over mount Gilead, ie, next morning.
"But why the mention of mount Gilead, since Gilead is
certainly on the other side of Jordan? A favourite guess is that by a scribal
error 'Gilead' has come to be read for 'Gilboa'. This would certainly make very
good sense, inasmuch as Gideon's army was encamped on the northern slopes of
mount Gilboa. But there is no textual evidence for this emendation. Another
possibility is that this reading anticipates the naming of the high land between
Harod and Jordan, as mount Gilead, in honour of Gileadite Gideon and his
victory. The twentieth century Arab name Jalud suggests a derivation from
'Gilead' " (WJR).
Gideon's army was relatively safe while on the mountain, but
to get to the water they would have to go down into the valley, where they would
be exposed to the enemy.
I WILL SIFT THEM: Or "try them", as metal is
Those who lap would be keeping an eye on the enemy, who were
Or, alternatively: "There is available an explanation which is
simple, historical and which fits the context splendidly.
"Archaeologists have remarked on the accumulation of evidence
to show that it was customary among the pagan tribes of Palestine and
neighbouring countries to regard wells and springs as the haunts of nature gods
and demons. Traces have been found of images and idolatrous sanctuaries close by
many of these important places.
"So it is highly probably that there was by the spring Harod,
the image of some Canaanite deity, so placed that anyone stooping to drink from
the water would by that very action be bowing down before the idol. Thus
Gideon's test becomes full of meaning.
"Those who put their faces down to the water were men
dominated more by thoughts of thirst that by scruples of conscience. On the
other hand, the minority was made up of men who supported to the full Gideon's
onslaught on Baal, and who showed this by their choice of a highly inconvenient
mode of drinking in order not to countenance in the slightest the ascription of
honour to that which was 'not God' (Prov 13:14)" (WJR).
300: Less than 1% of total in v 3.
This would convince the enemy that the Israelites were
retiring from the field. The element of surprise.
Vv 9-14: God gives Gideon a further chance to bolster his
LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: 'There was no language
difficulty, for (as Mesha's Moabite stone has clearly shown) the tongue of these
people was virtually identical with Hebrew" (WJR).
BARLEY: The only grain left, due to the depredations of
the Midianites (Jdg 6:11n; LB 449). Barley ripened before wheat (Exo 9:31). Used
in Passover (Lev 23:10-12). Thus sym Christ our passover (1Co 5:7), in sincerity
and truth. Lowest form of food (2Ki 7:1), used for horses (1Ki 4:28). Sym
Gideon's humble beginnings. Barley here repr Gideon and his 300, lowly and
feeble and despised, but able to win a victory with God's help.
Thus also sym Christ, despised of men (Isa 53:3), but
nevertheless the bread of life (Joh 6:48-58).
THIS CAN BE NOTHING OTHER THAN THE SWORD OF GIDEON:
"Gideon immediately perceived that the enemy were ripe for panic, and that his
fame amongst them as a leader had already been inflated by wild rumour far
beyond anything that his natural skill or courage warranted. But what would
surely impress him most of all was that this Midianite told the same story as
the angel of the Lord: 'I will deliver the Midianites into thy hand' "
Vv 15-24: "From now on everything Gideon did was marked by the
most complete confidence in God. So he well deserves to be included in Heb 11
with those who wrought 'by faith'. But -- it should be especially noted -- this
was a faith maturing from personal experience of the ways of God.
"He now pushed forward preparations for the most unorthodox
military operation in history. The three hundred elect were equipped with
weapons of a unique kind. Trumpets were gathered from among the host, so that
each of the three hundred might have one. Torches were fashioned and kindled,
and carried in earthenware jars. Weapons they may have had, but not for use in
the wild melee that was to ensue in this grotesque operation. Divided into three
groups, these men of faith went forth into the night to take up assigned
positions on the perimeter of the Midianite camp.
"His last instructions rang in their ears: 'Look on me, and do
likewise -- as I do, so shall ye do.' Was the faith of these three hundred any
less than that of Gideon himself? They were prepared to give implicit obedience
in carrying through the most quixotic scheme ever detailed to a band of
"Time passed slowly as they crept stealthily to their
appointed stations. There they waited, tense and motionless. Then, suddenly the
air was filled with a hideous crashing sound, the smashing of three hundred
pitchers. Midianites, Amalekites, Arabians rushed forth in bewilderment and
alarm from their tents to see all round the camp hundreds of torches describing
vivid circles of fire like so many outsize Catherine wheels; and at that moment
their ears were assailed by a deep-throated thunderous shout: 'The Sword of the
Lord and of Gideon!'
"Immediately all was panic and chaos indescribable. Camels,
plunging violently, broke their tethers and ran amok in the darkness and
confusion. The startled Bedouin, already expecting the worst, were convinced
that their enemies were in the midst of the camp in large numbers. Thus they
fell to fighting furiously among themselves, an error made all the more easy
since they were a mixture of at least three different tribes. And all the time
there was this startling appearance of fire on the edge of the camp, as though
supernatural powers were taking a hand in the bedlam of noise and carnage now
rapidly intensifying. Many a son of Ishmael fell in violent bloody struggle that
night as 'the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all
the host.' At last, crazed with fear by unaccustomed sights and sounds and
baffled by the mysterious destruction in their midst, the remnant broke and fled
eastward through the night.
"As that night of horror passed, and morning broke over the
shattered, mangled remnants of the camp, Gideon rapidly organized for instant
pursuit and destruction of the enemy, the rest of his forces -- those out of the
thirty-two thousand who had not yet gone back to their homes. Cross-country
runners went out to the Ephraimite villages away to the southeast to warn
fellow-Israelites there to hold the fords of Jordan. And the drama moved to the
last act in the utter destruction of the hated Bedouin oppression"
EMPTY JARS: Domestic pots for food or water (1Ki
17:12-16; Gen 24:14-26). We have our treasure in earthen pots (2Co
WITH TORCHES INSIDE: Flaming torches, used with glory
of cherubim (Eze 1:13). Lamps of fire (Dan 10:6). The treasure is the glory of
BLOW... TRUMPETS: To raise the dead (1Co 15:51,52),
when 7th angel sounds (Rev 11:15).
MIDDLE WATCH: Approx 10pm to 2am.
AND BROKE THE JARS: Five broken things in the Bible and
the results achieved by them: (1) broken pitchers (Jdg 7:18-20), causing the
light to shine forth; (2) a broken jar (Mark 14:3), causing the ointment to be
poured out; (3) broken bread (Mat 14:20), causing the hungry to be fed; (4) a
broken body (1Co 11:24), causing the world to be saved; and (5) a broken will
(Psa 51:17), leading the sinner back to God.
SWORD: Heb chereb, or cherub: a simulated vision of the
A SWORD FOR THE LORD AND FOR GIDEON: "Remember that the
true war-cry of the Church is Gideon's watchword... God must do it, it is His
own work. But we are not to be idle; instrumentality is to be used... If we only
cry, 'The sword of the Lord!' we shall be guilty of an idle presumption; and if
we shout, 'The sword of Gideon!' alone, we shall manifest idolatrous reliance on
an arm of flesh: we must blend the two in practical harmony, 'The sword of the
Lord, and of Gideon!' We can do nothing of ourselves, but we can do everything
by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in His name determine to go out
personally and serve with our flaming torch of holy example, and with our
trumpet tones of earnest declaration and testimony, and God shall be with us,
and Midian shall be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts shall reign for ever
and ever" (CHS).
"Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord": Exo 14:13,14;
WHEN THREE HUNDRED TRUMPETS SOUNDED: If so many
trumpeters, who would be small in proportion to the number of troops -- they
must have thought -- then what a great army Gideon must have
TO TURN ON EACH OTHER: Mutual slaughter: Eze
AS FAR AS BETHABARA: They went east to Jordan, then
south toward ford of Bethabara.
Fleet messengers might outrun the fleeing army and summon
additional help further south.
BETH BARAH: North of the confluence of Jabbok and
Jordan, the scene of much work by John the Baptist (John 1:28).
OREB AND ZEEB: Two lesser princes of Midian (cp Jdg
OREB: Sig "raven", unclean bird (Lev 11:15), living in
desert areas (Isa 34:11).
ZEEB: Sig "wolf", ferocious, nocturnal, attacking
helpless sheep. Cp the double meaning in Jer 5:6: "A Zeeb of the Orebs (Arabs)
shall slay them."