WE learned of one enemy of Israel who had chariots of iron. Again the people forgot the Lord and the Midianites troubled them. The Midianites were a different kind of enemy from the Canaanites. You remember the old home of these people by the arm of the Red Sea, where Moses lived when he fled from Egypt. They roamed through the country far to the east and north. They were wandering people like the Bedouins of to-day, living in their black tents of goats’ hair, which they moved about from place to place. They had their flocks for which they must find pasture and water, and their camels with which they did trading between one country and another.
The Midianites, when they could, crossed over the Jordan from the east when the harvests were ripe in the land of Canaan. They crossed below the Sea of Galilee, and came up the green valley that leads between the mountains of Gilboa and Little Hermon, into the great rich meadow of Esdraelon; and sometimes they would go over to the seashore plain as far as Gaza. “When they came they pitched their tents where they pleased, and took all that they could of the grain, and pastured their camels and their flocks on the rest. They carriedoff the flocks of the Israelites too, and took themselves away again across the Jordan. To this day, if the people in the plain of Esdraelon should raise agood crop, the Bedouins would be sure to come just as the Midianites came in the old time and carry it away.
No wonder that the children of Israel were afraid and hid themselves in caves when the Midianites came like a swarm of locusts, eating up every green thing. The Amalekites and the children of the East came with the Midianites, wandering people like themselves. Where have we heard of the Amalekites before?
The Lord sent a leader to deliver the children of Israel; it was Gideon. He lived in the tribe of Manasseh, in a called called Ophrah, not far from Shechem. Gideon was afraid like all the rest of the people, and was threshing out wheat in a wine-press to hide it from the Midianites.
The threshing-floor was usually a piece of ground made level, or sometimes a smooth ledge of rock, just outside the village, where the grain was brought from the field to be threshed and winnowed. Later in the chapter we read of ” the floor.” A wine-press in that country was usually a vat cut in the rock, where the grapes were trodden out. Such a vat would be a good place to hide the wheat.
Now find on the map the three mountains, Tabor, Little Hermon, and Gilboa, which stand at the east side of the great plain of Esdraelon. To the north of Mount Gilboa between it and Little Hermon, , which is the same as the hill Moreh, is a wide branch of the plain stretching down to the Jordan. The town of Jezreel stood at the north west end of Giboa, on the floot-hills above the plain, and gave its name to the valley near by. There is a beautiful great spring under the cliff on the north side of the mountain, which makes a large pool where the cattle drink and cool them selves, and runs down towards the Jordan. This is probably the well of Harod, near which Gideon and his army camped. The Lord would give them the victory; but some of the men must first be sent home lest they should say, ” Mine own hand hath saved me.”
All who were afraid were told to go home. Ten thousand men were left; still too many. As the Lord commanded, Gideon brought them to the great spring. Some kneeled down to the water to drink, and some lapped as a dog lappeth, stooping and putting their hand to their mouth. There were three hundred who drank so, not lingering comfortably by the water but snatching it as they went. These the Lord said should go with Gideon, while all the rest were sent to their tents.
In the night, the Lord scattered the great host of Midian before Gideon and his little band. They fled by the way they had come, down the valley to the Jordan. Beth-shittah, “the place of the acacia trees,” and the other towns named, were probably in the plain not far from Bethshean which you find on the map.
We must read together this grand story of the Lord’s help.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came upagainst them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O LORD God! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. …
Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them. And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place. So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant downto the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp; and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set everyman’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath. And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites. And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.—Judges VI. 1-24, 33-40; VII.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Midianites >> False thoughts and reasoning that excuse evil ways of life
Gideon and his men >> Goodness aroused and strengthened by the Lord
Rising early >> Performing rightful duty while perception is clear
By the spring of water, upon the mountain Gilboa >> In Truth and Heavenly might
Way of drinking water >> The way the Lord’s Truth is received
Water jars >> The Truth from the letter of the Word
Trumpets >> The Lord’s voice in the commandments and the Word
Dream of barley cake >> Victory and satisfaction is near