The Word Made Fresh
1Early the next day Jerub-baal (Gideon) and his men made their camp near the spring at Harod. The Midianites camped just north of them below the hill of Moreh in the valley.
2The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men with you. If you defeat the Midianites with them, they’ll just think they did it themselves without any help from me. 3Say this to them — ‘Whoever is afraid can go back home.'” Twenty-two thousands of them went, leaving Gideon with ten thousand. 4The LORD said, “You still have too many. Take them to the spring and I will separate them for you there. The ones I tell you to take with you will go with you, the others can go home.”
5Gideon led them to the spring, and the LORD said, “Those who lap the water like a dog, set over on one side. The ones who kneel down to drink with their hands, put on the other side.” 6Only three hundred lapped like dogs; the rest knelt down to drink. 7The LORD said, “I will save Israel from the Midianites with the three hundred. Tell the others to go home.” 8Then the three hundred gathered the provisions and the trumpets and Gideon sent the rest back to their tents. The Midianites were camped below them in the valley.
9That night the LORD said, “Get up and attack their camp. I have given it to you. 10If you’re not sure, take your servant Purah down there. 11Listen to what they are saying, and you will be ready to attack them.”
Gideon went with Purah to the Midianite camp. 12The Midianites were there along the valley with the Amalekites and the people from the east as thick as locusts, with numberless camels like the sand on the seashore. 13When Gideon got there, he heard a man telling his companion about a dream he’d just had. “In my dream,” he said, “A huge loaf of barley bread rolled into our camp and struck my tent and tumbled it upside down.” 14His comrade said, “This has to be the sword of the Israelite, Gideon, son of Joash. It means that God has given Midian’s whole army over to him.”
15When Gideon heard them, he worshiped God. He returned to Israel’s camp and said, “Get up! The LORD has already delivered Midian to you!” 16He divided his three hundred men into three groups and gave each man a trumpet and a jar to hide a torch. 17He said to them, “Follow me, and when we reach the edge of their camp, do what I do. 18When I blow my trumpet, blow yours from where you are stationed around their camp, and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon!'”
19Gideon and his hundred men came to the outskirts of the camp just as the middle watch was being set. They blew their trumpets and smashed their jars. 20All three companies joined together with trumpets in their right hands and lighted torches in their left hands, and they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21They stood there around the camp, and all the enemy in the camp screamed and fled. 22When the trumpets sounded the LORD caused the enemy to strike one another, and they ran all the way to Beth-shittah toward Zererah, and over to the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath. 23Israel’s men from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh also entered the fray and pursued the Midianites.
24Gideon then sent messengers through the hill country of Ephraim to tell them to come and fight the Midianites and take the territory along the Jordan as far as Beth-barah. 25The men of Ephraim seized all the springs and also the Jordan all the way to Beth-barah. 26They caught Midian’s two captains, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at Oreb’s rock and Zeeb at Zeeb’s wine press. They gave chase to the Midianites, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon over at the Jordan.
1-23: Gideon leads out his army, but God thins them down considerably in a series of tests. Still, strategically he has the advantage of high ground when he camps that night (verse 8). God wakes him up and gives the go signal. Gideon again needs a sign! So, God provides a sign — the dream of a Midianite soldier. So, using the elements of surprise, flanking movements, noisy distractions and the benefit of high ground, Gideon and his 300 men rout the Midianite army, and the rest of his army joins them in chasing them across the Jordan.
24-25: Word is sent to Ephraim, and they respond by securing more of the land and the Jordan River from the Midianites, capturing and killing two generals in the process.
With a small group of soldiers and a surprising strategy, and, of course, with the LORD’s guidance, Gideon’s small troop sends the whole Midianite army packing. The actual numbers may well be exaggerated – a primary feature of Hebrew hyperbole — but impressive still. God can accomplish much with little. Remember Jesus and his “mighty” unit of twelve untrained followers, one of whom was a traitor. God used them to change the world anyway.