The seventh book of the Bible (Judges) received its name from the men who delivered Israel during the time from Joshua to Samuel. This was a period of about 450 years.
This time period showed that the prophets were necessary for the life of the elect. These people are called judges because they delivered the Israelites from their enemies (a picture of Christ) when they committed wicked sins.
After the death of the judges Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Israel again fell back into sin (Judges 17:6 “…but every man did that which was right in his own eyes). This evil originated from the mixed multitudes of Israel with the Canaanites. This was also the evil of idolatry. So God sent Midian to punish Israel for their idol worship.
The Midianites had been the foes of Israel in the past. The hatred of the Midianites against the Israelites originated when Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, had a son named Midian. Midian grew up and Abraham had sent Midian away from Isaac. However, the law says that whosoever is sent outside of the covenant will be the covenant’s most hated enemy. Now Midian, the hated enemy, ruled over Israel.
God sent Gideon, a humble man from the tribe of Manasseh, to deliver Israel from their hated enemy. God gave him the natural gifts and encouragement for the duties of his important work.
The story starts when Gideon was commanded by God to destroy an altar of Baal and a grove of Asherah. This infuriated the men of Israel so much so that the men wanted to kill him (Judges 6:30). Due to Israel’s desire to worship other gods, God sent the Midianites to plunder Israel’s crops and livestock (Judges 7:12). After Midian did their plundering they burned and killed everything they could not carry back home. The point of this plundering was to destroy Israel by famine.
God encouraged the victory to Gideon by sending him and his servant to the outskirts of the Midian camp. They overheard a Midianite soldier tell his dream of a cake of barley bread tumbling into camp and overturning the tent of Midian (Judges 7:13). This sign confirmed the deliverance of Israel from the Midianites and strengthened Gideon’s faith.
After the wonderful signs that God gave Gideon, Gideon presented before the Lord an army of 32,000 men. According to the Lord, the number was too many. So Gideon decreed that whoever was afraid of fighting the Midianites could return home. This left Gideon with 10,000 men, of which the Lord didn’t approve. Gideon then ordered his army to take a drink from the brook. All those who crouched down to lap the water were sent home. After this, Gideon was left with a mere 300 men to destroy a Midianite army of 135,000 men.
This is important for Christians today. Numbers of people are insignificant. God preserves, defends, and reforms his church with no sort of physical weapons or man power. Hosea 1:7 proves this point: “But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” Having used no weapons in the fight of Gideon, God shows his church that we must put our trust in him alone.
After sending the men home, the Lord instructed Gideon to supply each of his 300 men with a trumpet and a lamp inside a pitcher. 300 men gathered around the camp of the Midianites and they blew their trumpets, broke their pitcher, and cried, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” (Judges 7:18,20). The “sword of the Lord” was the power of God that struck into the hearts of the Midianites. That sword sent chaos into the camp of the Midianites and made them flee. God gave Israel the victory.
This history of Gideon gives us evidence of God’s wrath to destroy his enemies. In his love for the elect he accomplished their deliverance by destroying Israel’s enemy. Psalm 68:1 confesses, “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered.”
The story of Gideon gives us a good example of how we should act as Christians. We should always depend on God in times of need by placing our trust in him. This story also gives us hope of Christ’s second coming and of his great deliverance for us.
- Engelsma, David J. Unfolding Covenant History. Vol. 5, Grandville, Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2005, pp. 62-94, 5 vols.