Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 16 2011 - E100.28b – Judges 7, The defeat of the Midianites

Gideon has been chosen by God to deliver Israel from their Midianite oppressors. So he gathers together an army of 32,000 men. But the Lord tells Gideon that his army is too large – even though the Midianites are described as being as countless in number as the sand on the seashore (see Judges 7:12). With an army of 32,000 the Israelites might be tempted to boast that they had won the victory by their own power.

So begins the process of whittling down Gideon's army to the size of a school outing. All manner of explanations have been given for the way in which the majority are sent home, but the simple explanation is the one given in the text; God is determined to defeat the Midianites by his own power – "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6).

Gideon is given encouragement when, directed by the Lord, he overhears someone in the Midianite camp recounting his dream concerning a large barley loaf that rolls down the hill and flattens a tent. His companion responds by saying, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands" (7:14). Whether this answer is given in fear or in jest we are not told, but evidently the Midianites have heard of Gideon and of his plans to attack their camp.

Gideon's tactics involved surrounding the Midianite camp during the cover of darkness. Then, at midnight, they caused as much confusion as possible with blazing torches, trumpets and shouts – reminiscent in some ways of the fall of Jericho. In their panic and confusion the Midianites end up fighting one another in the darkness. Those that manage to flee the camp are picked off by the cordon of Gideon's men.

Now the surrounding tribes of Israel are recruited to mop up the scattered Midianites and put them, and particularly their leaders, to the sword. So the Midianites are defeated.

The story of Gideon teaches us that God does not require vast armies to accomplish his purposes:

"And now it is our turn... It is our turn to rediscover the beautiful, dangerous, compelling idea that a group of people, surrendered to God and to each other, really can change the world." (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, p.164)

"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6)

Great God, forgive me when I am so overwhelmed with a sense of my own inadequacy that I retreat from the work of your kingdom. Give me the faith of Gideon who went out against a great army with only 300 men knowing that he was going with your promise, your presence and your power.

Give me the faith which can remove
and sink the mountain to a plain;
give me the childlike praying love,
which longs to build your house again.

Peter Misselbrook