The Expository Files


Gideon Answers God's Call
Gideon (Part 2 of 3)

Judges 7

Gideon was the fifth judge of Israel. He played a small but important role in the history of God's people. Gideon lived during a time when Israel had forsaken God and had worshipped idols. The nation had abandoned its true source of national strength and the source of its blessings much like our own nation has done today. God had withdrawn his blessings and protection, and the nation had suffered. As voices began to call upon God for deliverance, God used Gideon to answer the need. Gideon was a reluctant leader who was finally convinced of the power of God. He ultimately led the children of Israel in victory over their enemies, the Midianites.

“Saved By My Own Hand”
After God had called Gideon and Gideon had been persuaded to accept the task God gave him, it was time to act. We find the account of Gideon's defeat of the Midianites in Judges 7:1-8:21.

Gideon's army of 32,000 was reduced in size (vss. 1-8). Already sorely outnumbered (the enemy numbered over 120,000 swordsmen), most would see this as a time to go out and recruit more warriors. But it might be that after the victory the Lord would give them, the people might think it had been by their own strength and ability that they had won the victory. So, the Lord commanded Gideon to further reduce the number under his command "...lest Israel claim glory for itself...saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" (Judges 7:2). Any who were “afraid and trembling” were told they could go home. Some 22,000 departed leaving 10,000 to fight the Midianites.

So, it went from being outnumbered 4 to 1 to being outnumbered 12 to 1. No doubt Gideon was surprised to hear what the Lord said next: “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.'” (Judges 7:4).

At the site to which the Lord had directed Gideon's army there was drinkable water. The army stopped to drink and 9,700 knelt down on their knees so they might drink directly from the stream. The other 300 cupped their hands and took water into them, drinking it from their hands as a dog would lap water from his bowl. “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.'" (Judges 7:7).

“The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon”

Gideon attacked the Midianites with his 300 men who took torches, pitchers, swords, and trumpets. (vss. 9-23). “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.'” (Judges 7:9).

Gideon's 300 divided into three groups of 100 each. They spaced themselves around the Midianite camp, and when signaled, they broke the pitchers revealing the torches. They shouted, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" (Judges 8:20-23).

There was much confusion in the camp as startled Midianite fought against Midianite in the darkness. That night the Midianites were routed. As they retreated, the assistance of the tribe of Ephraim was requested to cut off the fleeing Midianites as they crossed the Jordan.

As Gideon's 300 continued to pursue the scattered remnants of the Midianites, the people of Succoth and Penuel refused to give bread to Gideon's army. They did not want to give assistance because they were not sure which way the battle was going. If they helped, and Gideon lost the battle, they might be punished by Midian. Later, after the battle was won, Gideon would return and destroy the two towns (8:5,8,16,17).

The final battle of the campaign was fought at Jogbehah. The Midianite army was routed again, and the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna were killed.

One Man and God is a Majority

God does not depend on large numbers of people to accomplish His goals. This is certainly one of the things we learn from the battle Gideon and his 300 waged. The Lord has often demonstrated His power by taking a few and accomplishing His purpose. To His disciples Jesus once said, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:31-32). Don't be afraid of being in the minority if that is what it takes to be right with God! It is better to be in what Jesus referred to as “little flock” just as it was better to be among Gideon's 300. Paul once stated it this way: “...let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” (Romans 3:4). Our number one priority is to stand with the Lord on any and every issue. We are at war; a spiritual conflict (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We can go with the majority, or we can go with God.

God's Power and Victory

Another thing we learn from Gideon's victory over the enemy is that God's power is enough to win in any conflict. All spiritual victories occur because of God's power and not because of ours. The Scripture says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Whether it be Gideon and his battle or ourselves and our salvation, the power for success is God's.

Those of Gideon's day had no reason to boast concerning their own power. The Lord wanted them to realize that they did not deliver themselves from the Midianites. Likewise, He does not accept our own boasting about our salvation. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

Assisting Those Who Fight the Lord's Battles

One final point to be made from Gideon's experience is that we should always be willing to assist those who are carrying out the Lord's will. The people of Succoth and Penuel had refused to give bread to Gideon's army and were punished. They wanted to see the outcome first before they risked anything. Sometimes, people of faith simply must be willing to take risks when it comes to doing the will of the Lord. Paul expresses his gratitude for

“Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks…” (Romans 16:3-4). We are encouraged to support those who put forth effort in the field. This is a worthy and noble endeavor (3 John 5-8). Sometimes the battle will be ours, and we should be able to have confidence in our good brethren's support. Likewise, when the battle is theirs, we must fill the supportive role, that God's work might be done.


By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 14.6; June 2007