The book of Judges is a record of God using specific men and women to deliver Israel from their oppressors and guide them back into an obedient relationship with Him. Numerous judges were needed throughout this time in Israel’s history because the nation would turn from God once the judge had freed Israel from oppression and died. Under Israel’s judge Othniel (Judges 3:7-11), Israel was oppressed 8 years and then experienced 40 years of peace. Israel then disobeyed God and faced another 18 years of oppression until Ehud (Judges 3:12-30) delivered them, which gave them 80 years of rest in the land. Shamgar (Judges 3:31) was a judge, but not much is known about his reign. Israel then experienced another 20 years of oppression because of their disobedience, but God sent Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5) to deliver His people and give them 40 years of peace. Once again, Israel did evil in the sight of God and was oppressed for 7 years until God called out a man named Gideon (Judges 6) to give them victory over the Midianites. Gideon was skeptical about God using him to give Israel victory over their enemies, but God provided three supernatural signs (Judges 6:19-24; 6:36-38; 6:39-40) in order to prove that he would destroy the Midianites.
With full confidence that God was with him, Gideon (also called Jerubbaal, see Judges 6:28-32) took the army that he had gathered (6:33-35) and camped “…beside the well of Harod, so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley” (7:1). While they were camped there the Lord spoke to Gideon and said, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (7:2). Although it seems odd that God would require Gideon to cut down on the amount of soldiers accompanying him to battle, the Lord wanted to make sure that Israel knew that it was His power rather than theirs that gave the victory. Gideon first cut down the number of warriors from 22,000 to 10,000 by allowing anyone “fearful and afraid” go home (7:3); however, the Lord still thought there were too many soldiers so He commanded Gideon to take those who remained down to the water where He would reduce the number even more (7:4). When Gideon arrived at the water with his army of 10,000 men the Lord said, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream” (7:5, NLT). The 300 men who used their hands to drink the water were the soldiers God told Gideon to take into battle against the Midianites (7:6-8), whose army was said to be “as numerous as locusts” (7:12). Taking 300 men to battle against a very large army does not make sense humanly speaking; however, God is capable of accomplishing the miraculous even when the circumstance appears to be impossible. God commanded Gideon to go down that same night and overtake the Midianites, but He also told Gideon that if he was scared he could take his servant, Purah, and listen in on a conversation in the enemy camp that would strengthen his hands against the Midianites (7:9-11a). Since Gideon was fearful, he decided to secretly take Purah with him to the enemy encampment and there they heard a man recounting a dream he had and the dream was interpreted by another man as God delivering the Midianites into the hand of Gideon (7:11b-14). When Gideon heard the words of this man, he worshiped the Lord and returned to the camp of Israel where he divided his army of 300 men into three companies and gave each of them a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a torch to go inside the pitcher (7:15-16). These tools would be used to make it appear as if the Midianite camp had been surrounded by a whole host of Israelite soldiers. A little after midnight when the Midianites were asleep, Gideon had the three companies surround their camp, blow the trumpets, break the pitchers to reveal the torches, and shout “The sword of the Lord and Gideon!” (7:17-20). When the Midianites awoke to this chaos, they ran around in a panic and even turned their swords on each other because of the confusion (7:21-22). Those Midianites who escaped from the camp were then pursued by additional warriors from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh (7:23). Gideon also enlisted the tribe of Ephraim to prevent the escaped Midianites from crossing the Jordan River (7:24-25). God had given Gideon and the children of Israel an incredible victory over the Midianites through unorthodox means. Their knowledge that God had helped them would hopefully bring Israel back into an obedient relationship with Him.
Dear God, thank You for overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles.