God delights in teaching his people absolute dependence on him. The Lord spoke to Gideon on the eve of battle and told him that his army was too large. If the battle was won with such a large force, the Israelites might attribute victory to their own power. Gideon was instructed to use the provision of the law of Moses (Deut 20:8) and dismiss all those who were afraid. Twenty-two thousand men were left, and Gideon was left with ten thousand men. Gideon must have been a bit disheartened to see two-thirds of his troops walk away, and he certainly could not have been prepared for what came next. The Lord declared that the army was still too large. Gideon was directed to bring his remaining forces down to the water so that God might test them there. At the water, Gideon segregated those who lapped water like a dog from those who knelt down to drink. The 9,700 who knelt down to drink were dismissed, and Gideon was left with an army of only three hundred men.
That night the Lord again spoke to Gideon. God wanted Gideon to eavesdrop on a conversation in the Midianite camp which would give him some confidence for the upcoming battle. Gideon was afraid as he took Purah and descended into the valley to one of the outposts of the vast Midianite camp. When Gideon and his servant got within listening distance of the outpost, they heard a Midianite soldier relating a dream in which loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian smashing a tent before it. His companion interpreted that dream the barley loaf represented the sword of Gideon and God had given Midian and the camp into the hand of Gideon. When Gideon heard the dream, he bowed and worshiped God on the spot and returned to his camp and inspired his men with the assurance that God had given the Midianite camp into their hands. Gideon divided his men into three companies, and each man was equipped with a trumpet, a pitcher and a torch, the light of which, was shielded by the pitcher. All were looking to Gideon for the signal and when those who were with Gideon blew their trumpets all the others were to do the same while shouting, “For the LORD and for Gideon!” The plan worked to perfection, and while the Israelites stood in their places around the Midianite camp, the enemy began to panic. They thought they were being attacked from all directions by three hundred companies, and they fled.
After the victory, the men of Israel were filled with gratitude for Gideon, and they were willing to make him their ruler posthaste. Gideon declined their offer but did suggest that the troops could show their appreciation by contributing one earring from his spoil, and the weight of the gold was approximately 43 lbs. Immediately, Gideon became a wealthy man. The last days of Gideon were disappointing. His gold shekels were made into an ephod, and that ephod became a snare to Gideon and his household. Perhaps Gideon became a religious innovator, rather than a reformer bent on bringing Israel repentance. Gideon took many wives and concubines in various cities. He named the son of one of his concubines “Abimelech” which means “My father is king.” Gideon may have said that he would not be a king, but he sure wanted to live like a king.
Thing To Consider:
- Do you think God places us in difficult circumstances to help us? Why?
- What do you think was going on in the minds of the army as it dwindled down to 300?
- How do words and deeds go together? How was there an incongruity between what Gideon said and what he did?
- How is power and leadership a snare?
- How can we guard ourselves against greed?