Study Notes

Judges 7:1-8:35


The Lord has chosen Gideon to head up the deliverance of Israel from the Midianites. Gideon has begun this ministry by obeying the Lord to tear down his own father's altar to Baal. When the townspeople saw what he did, they were going to kill him, but his father said, "If Baal is a god, then he doesn't need your help or defense. Let Baal contend with him." As a result of this, Gideon picked up the nickname "Yer-oob-BAH-al," which means, "let Baal contend."

The Midianites, along with their allies, have assembled together to wipe out Israel. Gideon sounds a trumpet, and the Ab-ee-AY-zerites, Gideon's clan in the tribe of Manasseh, gather with him. The Israeli army gets bigger, as warriors from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali join with Gideon.

Now, as we pick up in chapter seven, we read,

7:1-8 Too Many People

While Gideon's army of 32,000 camped beside the spring of Khar-ODE, the Lord speaks to Gideon, saying, "There's too many of you. If you win this battle, you'll just become boastful and confident in your own selves. We've got to pare this bunch down a bit."

So the Lord told Gideon to let anyone who was afraid go home. God had spoken in the book of Deuteronomy,

Deut. 20:1 "When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots {and} people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.

Deut. 20:8 "Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, 'Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers' hearts melt like his heart.'

It was better to have a small army of men who trusted God than to have a big army that included the fearful, because fear is contagious.

But as a result, more than two thirds of Gideon's army left.

With 10,000 people, there were still too many for God's taste. The Lord told Gideon to send home anyone that knelt down to drink at the water. The only ones that were to stick around were the ones that had brought the water up to their mouths with their hands. That only left 300 guys! But that little number perfectly suited God.

God's Method Of Subtraction

We should notice something about the people that God chose. He got rid of those that were fearful of the enemy, but kept those that were watchful of the enemy.

We too have an enemy, the devil. And there are two things we should remember about him: we needn't be fearful of him, but we must always be watchful regarding him. Peter tells us,

1Pet. 5:8-9 Be of sober {spirit,} be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in {your} faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

Not fearful, but watchful. Those who walk in this manner will be useful to God.

7:9-15 The Dream Of Victory

This is actually rather funny to me. Gideon was afraid - he should have been one of the ones to be sent home in the first elimination! But the Lord had chosen him and was being merciful to him.

Gideon is told to sneak into the camp with his servant Poo-RAW. There he overhears two Midianite soldiers discussing a dream one of them had: a loaf of barley bread - the food of poor people - rolling into their camp and trashing it. The other man understood the dream's significance immediately: "This means that Gideon will defeat us!"

This was the boost that Gideon needed to gather courage. First he worshiped, then he mustered his 300 troops.

7:16-22 Broken Vessels Shine Light

Gideon divides his men into three groups of 100. Each one had a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a torch. Hiding the torches in the pitchers, they encircled the camp. Then they blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and exposed the light of the torches.

There is a picture here that we shouldn't miss. Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 4,

2Cor. 4:6-7 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves

This treasure, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, is in earthen vessels. Just as Gideon's troops had to break their earthen vessels to shine the light, so we too must be broken. Each of us who are Christians have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God inside of us. But that light cannot shine until we are broken. David wrote in Psalm 51,

Ps. 51:15-17 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise. For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

The Lord desires us to continually be broken and contrite. That word "contrite" in Hebrew comes from a root word meaning to be crushed or beaten to pieces. When we are contrite, broken to pieces, that's when the light of the knowledge of the glory of God can shine out of us.

When Gideon's army shined their light, their enemy was defeated. They ran as far as Bayth Hash-shi-TAW toward Tser-ay-RAW as far as the edge of Aw-BALE Mekh-o-LAW, by Tab-BATH.

7:23-25 Gathered For Victory

Although only 300 were used at first, now that their enemy has turned tail, more are called in from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Manasseh, and Ephraim to the pursuit. "Let's chase them to Bayth Baw-RAW and the Jordan, guys! Let's run 'em out of town!"

They catch and kill the two Midianite commanders, O-RABE and Zeh-ABE, bringing their heads back to Gideon.

8:1-3 Contention Among The Brethren

Now the men of Ephraim were offended that Gideon had not called them to the first battle. Hey, Gideon hadn't called most of the other tribes either, but Ephraim was just looking for something to complain about. Ever since Manasseh's and Ephraim's first-born rights were switched back in Genesis 48, there had been rivalry and contention between them and their descendants. We read in Isaiah,

Isa. 9:21 Manasseh {devours} Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, {And} together they are against Judah...

Gideon's tribe of Manasseh and the Ephraimites had a history of contention and strife that Gideon could have bought into. But rather than entering into an argument, Gideon applies the proverb,

Prov. 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

How blessed we would be in so many situations if we did the same! Gideon tells them how much better their victory was than his, and their wrath was turned away.

8:4-9 No Support

Gideon and his 300 men went out in pursuit of the two Midianite kings, ZEH-bakh and Tsal-moon-NAW. When they got to Sook-KOHTH, they asked for supplies. But the men there say no way. Same story at Pen-oo-ALE. Gideon had expected camaraderie, patriotism, and support, but instead was rejected. He tells the men of both cities that when he returns victorious, they will pay dearly.

8:10-12 Zebah And Zalmunna Captured

ZEH-bakh and Tsal-moon-NAW were in Kar-KORE, along with 15,000 troops. Let's see now: 300 vs. 15,000. When God's on your side, those sound like good odds! They attack the unsuspecting enemy, and are victorious.

8:13-17 Repayment

When Gideon returns to Sook-KOHTH, they grab a boy and find out from him who the princes and elders of the city are. Those 77 men were painfully put to death, along with others in the city. Gideon also made good on his promise of vengeance to the men of Pen-oo-ALE.

8:18-21 As The Man, So Is His Strength

Gideon again turns his attention to ZEH-bakh and Tsal-moon-NAW, wanting to find out if they were the ones who killed his brothers at Taw-BORE. When he discovers that it was them, he gives them both a death sentence.

He turns to his oldest son YEH-ther and says, "Get up and kill them." But YEH-ther was only a boy and was afraid.

ZEH-bakh and Tsal-moon-NAW are actually relieved because of two things: One, it was a disgrace to die at the hand of a child, and two, their deaths would certainly be swifter and less painful at the hands of a strong man.

8:22-23 I Will Not Rule Over You

The Israelites are supposed to be living under a theocracy - they are supposed to be governed by God. The Lord of course knew that they would only endure this for a time before finally demanding a king. Even in Deuteronomy, He had given the instruction regarding this.

Deut. 17:14-15 "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,' you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses..."

They were to be governed by God. If they chose not to be, they were at least to seek God regarding who would be king. But they do neither.

Gideon here makes a tough decision in denying their offer. After all, it's not every day an entire country asks you to rule over them! But incredibly, he says,

Judg. 8:23 ..."I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you."

That really speaks well of Gideon's character.

8:24-31 A Golden Snare

Good as his decision was to turn down the kingdom, Gideon was not perfect by any means. He asked for some of the gold that was taken in the battle and made it into an ephod, a sort of apron.

He takes it to his city of Of-RAW and puts it on display to remind the people of the Lord's victory and their deliverance from the Midianites. But as the Israelites were so prone to do, they turned it into an idol. It became a stumbling block to Gideon and his family as well, because rather than pointing the victory to God, Gideon became the "hot shot" and the guy who was going to be made king. Gideon became a very prideful man as the years progressed.

With the Midianites defeated, Israel enjoyed another 40 years of peace. Meanwhile, Gideon multiplied wives and concubines to himself, and named one of his sons "Ab-ee-MEL-ek," which means, "my father is king." That gives us an insight into Gideon's heart at the time.

8:32-35 Downhill Again

Once again, the statement we read in chapter two proves to be true.

Judg. 2:19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways.

As soon as Gideon died, Israel began to worship BAH-al Ber-eeth, a god of the Philistines.

As we'll see next week, things go from bad to worse for Gideon's family.

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