Today’s thought “Judges Discussion Notes” (June 10)

Here is an extract from the notes relating to today’s reading, Judges chapter 7:

“Gideon’s volunteer army is drastically reduced at God’s command, for victory must be seen to have come from Israel’s God, not their military might. Any remaining doubts Gideon had are settled when he overhears a conversation between two enemy soldiers. Dividing his forces, he uses darkness and the element of surprise to disorientate the Midianites, who flee downhill to the Jordan in disarray. Their two leaders are executed as Gideon calls out the Ephraimites to join in the pursuit.

Too many men

Verse 1. It had taken much effort to persuade thirty-two thousand men to leave home and follow Gideon. Compared with the enemy it was still a tiny force, but it looked a respectable number. Gideon camped near the Spring of Harod. This is still there in the Valley of Jezreel, in a National Park, with clear, cold water running out of a cave. The enemy were camped in the valley beneath the Hill of Moreh, five miles from Mount Tabor where once Barak defeated Sisera.

Verses 2,3. Gideon now receives a strange message from the Lord. He must drastically reduce his army. Anyone fainthearted was to be allowed to return home (a rule built into the Law of Moses – see Deuteronomy 20:8). Two thirds departed. Which group would we have been in?

Verse 4. The Lord insists a further reduction is needed, and gets him to bring the ten thousand down to the pool.

Verse 5. Explains the basis on which the numbers must be pruned. It sounds as though the chosen men were to be those who stayed on their feet and used their hands to bring water to their mouth, compared with the vast majority who went down on their knees with their face at water level: “Separate those who lap the water as a dog laps from those who kneel to drink” (NET). As so few stayed on their feet it was easy to pick them out. Some have argued these were the more alert soldiers. Staying on their feet means they were free to react swiftly in an emergency.

Verses 6-8. Gideon was left with a vastly reduced force – three hundred out of thirty-two thousand. The men must have wondered why they were being sent home, and may not have been too pleased to be dismissed, since they had shown they were not cowards. But God wanted to teach a lesson to His people, that salvation comes from Him, not from human resourcefulness and might.

Verses 9-11. It reads as though Gideon now moved his tiny group up into Mount Moreh, so that they looked down onto the enemy camp. The Lord gave him two choices – to attack there and then in the darkness, or if he was scared, to reconnoitre first. Being Gideon, he chose the latter.”

From: Judges Discussion Notes, by Brother David M. Pearce, price e-book £5.50 or paper version £7.50 plus postage.

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