Sunday, October 21, 2012

LXXVI - Judges 6-8 - Gideon and the Midianites

Judges 6 - 8   -   Gideon and the Midianites

Deborah was a strong leader in Israel.  She was very influencial beyond just her territory of Ephraim.  One reason for this was that she initiated the war against the Moabites who were oppressing mainly Naphtali and Zebulun, both considerably north of where Deborah served as judge.  But following Deborah's rule, Israel returned again to its idolatrous ways, and God allowed the Mideonites to raise up to power and oppress Israel.  The Mideonites were joined by the Amalekites and other tribes, all of whom were from the east side of the Jordan.  So God raise up Gideon to lead Israel.

I always liked the story of Gideon.  Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, a descendant of Joseph.  It will take more than one post to cover Gideon.  The Scripture goes into particular detail about Gideon's personality.  I think he was somewhat Moses-like.  See what you think.

Chapter 6  -  As you read the first six verse of this chapter you will get a flavor of the level of cruelty the Mideonites and the Amalekites place on Israel.  God reminds Israel in vs 10 that He warned them about worshipping other gods, but they did not listen.  In vss 11-->  the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon as he threshed wheat in a winepress to hide it from the ravaging Midianites.  He announced to Gideon that God would deliver Israel through Gideon.  {This must have been a shock to this young man who was working hard to hide what he was doing out of fear for the Mideonites.}  Like Moses, Gideon tries to talk his way out of being God's vessel for Israel's deliverance.  He said that his clan was the weakest in Manasseh and he was the weakest (youngest) in the whole clan.  {This is just the kind of person God likes to use.}  Gideon asked this man (what he would consider a guest for the time being) to wait while Gideon went to prepare a meal fit for serving such an honorable guest.  The angel caused the meal to be consumed miraculously, convincing Gideon that he was indeed dealing with the Lord, or at the very least, His messenger.  Note in vs 24 that Gideon built an altar to honor this occasion.  This was an act of worship which we have seen often already in our study.  In the verse following it tells us that God instructs Gideon to do something that will take courage:  He must tear down the altar to Baal and cut down the pole of Ashteroth.  Notice Gideon recruited some help to do this but made certain it was done in secret due to what he knew the towns people would think of such a gutsy act of civil disobedience.  In vss 28-->  the people reacted just as Gideon predicted:  They wanted to kill Gideon to please their Mideonite oppressors for bringing the anger of Baal on the territory.  But look who comes to Gideon's defence.  His father Joash.  He handled the crowd excellently.  To paraphrase, Joash told them "if Baal is so powerful, let him defend his own honor". 
Now that Gideon had shown his faith in God by his obedience, it was time to get to work in carrying out God's main purpose for calling Gideon.  God had Gideon blow the trumpet to gather all the Abiezrites (Abiezer was among the principle families in the tribe of Manasseh).  Gideon sent messengers throughout Manasseh calling them to arms.  He also recruited from Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.

6: 36-40  -  Gideon Lays Out The Fleece

Gideon had successfully gathered a formidable army and is as ready as he can be, but just like us, he needs yet another confirmation that this is what God wants him to do.  God understands just how human Gideon and we are.  Gideon lays a piece of lamb's fleece outside overnight and asked that if God really wants him to attack the Mideonites to make the fleece wet with dew, but let the ground around it remain dry, which is exactly what God did.  Then, Gideon (somewhat apologetically) asked God to do it the other way around the next night, which God did also.  {Be careful about laying out a fleece when trying to make a difficult decision.  There is nothing wrong with seeking God's will, but Jesus was careful to caution against "tempting the Lord your God".  We'll discuss this further in due time.}

Chapter 7  -  Gideon's army was thirty thousand men, which is a large army, but small compared to the army of the enemy.  It is important at this time to note that the Mideonites, together with the Amalekites and the other soldiers from the east side of Jordan were so numerous that they were "thick as locusts" (7:12), even their camels were as the sand on the sea shore.   But God told Gideon he had too many men to fight the Mideonites.  So Gideon was to tell all the men who were frightened of battle to step forward and they could go home.  Twenty thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand to fight this tremendously large army.  But God told Gideon that he still had too many.  God told him to take them down to the river to drink.  There would be two types of men who drank from the river:  1) those who knelt down on their knees and drank directly from the river, and 2) those who cupped their hands and brought the water from the river up to their mouths (always vigilantly watching).  Only three hundred out of the ten thousand cupped their hands and brought the water to their mouths.  These were the three hundred men that God wanted to use.  Gideon sent the other 9700 men home.

Vss 17-25  -  God gave Gideon an ingenious plan to defeat the Midianites.  Remember there were Gideon's 300 men against more than 130,000 enemy soldiers.  Gideon had each of his men to get a trumpet, a torch, and a clay pot (to hide the torch in).  Gideon and the 300 men surrounded the Midianite camp.  At Gideon's signal, all the 300 would sound their trumpets, break the clay pots (noisy), and hold up the torches.  So surprised were the Mideonites, they turned on each other, killing each other in a fit of frenzy.  {How else could 300 men defeat 130,000?  The only way was to get them to kill each other.  All the Israelites had to do was watch.  Also, an army that large, coming from different nations, wouldn't know who was who anyway.}  Gideon, having dispatched his entire army around the enemy's camp, called on the other soldiers of the Manasseh, Naphtali, and Asher tribes to cut off the escape of the fleeing enemy soldiers.  Neat story, huh?  Be sure to read all of this Scripture, as I have expounded on only selected passages.

In the next post we'll pick back up on Gideon and how he handles the childish Ephraimites' complaints. 

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