Judges 7:1-8

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 15, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, 'There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, “This one shall go with you,” he shall go; but if I say, “This one shall not go with you,” he shall not go.'
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, 'Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.' Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, 'With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.' So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley.” (Judges 7:1-8)

Just before this, Gideon had tested God and was now confident that God would give them victory over Midian. Read last week’s post for more detail on this context.

Gideon’s army was already outnumbered 4:1 by the Midianite army. The numbers were against them, but Gideon had confidence in God that he would take care of them. Things looked a little improbable, but God can handle 4:1 odds, right? So when God tells Gideon that he has too many men, that had to be quite a surprise to Gideon! But even with 4:1 odds against him, having a large army could cause Israel to take credit for their win, rather than giving the glory to God.

The elimination round was to essentially let the cowards go home. This was not a new or unusual thing for Israel, in fact we see it referenced in Deuteronomy 20:8. The idea behind it was that fear spreads easily. If some of the men were afraid, that fear could become contagious and more and more men would become too afraid to fight, thus limiting the army’s power and courage. This sent 22,000 men back home - more than 2/3 of the army! If the odds were slim before, now they’re even worse. Now, the odds are more like 13:1.

But leaving Gideon with just 10,000 men (against around 128,000 men for the Midianites) was still too many in God’s eyes, so they moved on to the second elimination round. If a man drank from the river with his cupped hands, he stayed; if not, he went home. That eliminated another 9,700 men - Gideon’s army was now down to only 300 men! The odds were definitely not in their favor, at over 426:1.

The way the men drank water seems like an odd factor for their qualification to fight in the army, but we can’t always understand God’s ways. God knew what He was doing with this, and Gideon had to trust that. Gideon had to trust that God was still going to use the situation for his glory, even though it seemed like a total long shot and nearly impossible from a human perspective.

Previously, Gideon had tested God a number of times to make sure he could trust Him. Now, the tables were turned and God was testing Gideon’s faith. Going up against the huge Midianite army with his now itty bitty army seemed crazy, but Gideon knew that this was what God wanted him to do, so he was obedient in moving forward with that.

Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed strange at the time? How did He later use that situation for His glory? If you haven’t seen that part of it yet, perhaps it’s still on the horizon. The important thing is that when God tells us to do something, however strange it sounds, we must trust God and obey, so we can give Him the glory when it all works out according to God’s plan in the future.

What happens next with Gideon’s army? Tune in next week to find out!

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