Understanding the Old Testament

A Sword For the Lord and For Gideon

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

The Midianites and their allies mustered 135,000 warriors and camped in central Palestine, in the valley of Jezreel. (Judges 6:33 and 8:10) In response, Gideon was able to assemble an army of only 32,000 Israelites. (Judges 7:3)

Not surprisingly, Gideon’s faith wavered, so he decided to test the Lord to see “if You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” (Judges 6:36)

Gideon set out a fleece of wool and asked the Lord to put dew only on the fleece and not on the surrounding ground. And the Lord did so. (Judges 6:37-38)

But Gideon was not satisfied. He probably worried that this could have been merely a coincidence. So he set out the fleece again the next day and asked the Lord to put dew on the surrounding ground while keeping the fleece dry.

I have long thought Gideon was fortunate that the Lord did not strike him dead for his audacity and his lack of faith. Yet the Lord honored this request, too. (Judges 6:39-40) Perhaps God was so patient because He had a supreme test of faith planned for Gideon.

When Gideon’s army camped near the Midianites, God told him he had too many warriors, lest the Israelites think that the coming victory was their own doing. So the Lord directed him to send home any warriors who were afraid, and 22,000 left. (Judges 7:2-3)

Then God tested the remaining 10,000 by how they drank water at a nearby spring. Those who stayed upright and drank water with their hands so they could keep watch on their surroundings were allowed to remain, while those who were less cautious were sent home. The puny Israelite army dwindled to a mere 300. (Judges 7:4-7)

Gideon must have been doubting the Lord again, as any of us would have. So the Lord sent him secretly into the Midianite camp, where he heard one man say to another, “God has given Midian and all the camp into [Gideon’s] hand.” (Judges 7:14) Thus reassured, this "valiant warrior" returned to his men and prepared them for the unlikeliest of victories.

They armed themselves with trumpets and concealed torches, but apparently no weapons. Then they approached the Midianite camp at night, in three groups of 100 men. All at once they blew their trumpets, revealed their torches, and cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:20) If God had not been faithful to His promise to give them victory, all would have perished. But of course, God was faithful.

Surrounded by darkness, confusion, and Gideon’s loud warriors, the Midianites panicked. Many fought and killed each other, while others fled for their lives. (Judges 7:21-22) Gideon summoned warriors from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Manasseh, and Ephraim to attack the fleeing Midianites.

Judges 8:10 tells us that only 15,000 of the 135,000 Midianites survived, led by their two kings, Zebah and Zalmunnawith Gideon and his 300 men in pursuit.

Questions to ponder or discuss: 300 vs. 135,000! Those seem like impossible odds. But God wanted those impossible odds so the Israelites could not doubt Who was responsible for the victory. When was the last time you asked God to do the “impossible”? Why do you think we are often reluctant to pray those “impossible” prayers?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15):

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Stories of the Faithful (with some church history)

Christmas Stories

Understanding the Old Testament

The Truth About America Star Books


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I am a member of Trinity Arts Writers Workshop, in Bedford, Texas.