Bible students are familiar with the great victory that God brought about when He defeated the Midianites and the Amalekites with Gideon’s 300. The contrast of strength could not be more apparent. Midian fielded an army that was as numerous as locust. For seven years they had descended upon Israel and, like locust, consumed their harvest, leaving the land desolate and God’s people in despair. Not only were the armies of Midian unrelenting, but their ranks were also swelled by the armies of the Amalekites and the sons of the east. When the great battle was joined, the forces arrayed against Israel were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Judges 7:12).Gideon was allowed to field just 300 men. The first call-up had produced 32,000 men willing to fight. The description leaves no doubt that they were sadly outnumbered, yet the Lord wanted a smaller army. Twice their numbers were reduced. Those who openly admitted fear were sent home, costing Gideon 22,000 men. Then the remaining troops were cut down to 300. The lopsided contest could only result in complete slaughter.
To give Gideon courage, God allowed him to over-hear the conversation between two Midianite warriors in which one told the other, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand” (Judges 7:14).
Sword is mentioned three times in the chapter. Once, by the Midianite guard (7:14), a second time by the 300 soldiers of Gideon who, as the battle was engaged, cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (7:20), and a third time when the text tells us that on that night, “the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army” (7:22).
We’ll never know just how many swords were employed that terrible night. All we can say with certainty is that not one of Gideon’s 300 men wielded a sword! They held torches in their left hands and trumpets in their right hands. Only the hordes of Midian, Amalek, and the sons of the east used swords that night, and in the confusion and terror of their route, they used them on each other.
Three important lessons to be learned from this account are:
- God always gives the faithful great victories even in moments when it seems that we are hopelessly outnumbered. No matter how overwhelming the forces of evil seem, God always outnumbers the evil (1 Jn. 4:4).
- God will use the power of the wicked against them. They will always be caught in the plots which they have devised (Ps. 10:2). Haman could attest to that truth. Pride does go before the fall (Prov. 16:18)!
- God will require something of you! God didn’t need a single man to stand with Gideon, but He chose 300 men. He provided the victory, but He still had those 300 men do something. In their case it was a simple task. “Each stood in his place around the camp” (17:21). Taking a stand for God is still the surest way to victory today.
Keep standing, and keep studying!
DC Brown ©2012