The Lord told Gideon that he had too many men. He could not deliver Midian into their hands, or they would boast that their own strength had saved them.
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. Judges 7:1
Gideon had been obedient to Yehovah by destroying his father’s altar to Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole beside it. The townspeople were so furious at what Gideon had done that they wanted to kill him. Joash, his father, defended his son actions and proclaimed, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar” (Judges 6:31b). Therefore the townspeople gave Gideon the name, Jerub-Baal which means, “Let Baal contend with him.”
Gideon and his troops from his own clan and tribe of Manasseh as well as from the northern tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali camped south of the Midianites by a spring.
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. Judges 7:2-3
Although 32,000 men of Israel came to Gideon to fight against the eastern armies, the LORD did not want the Israelites to think that it was their strength or numbers that would secure the victory.
In Deuteronomy 20, Yehovah first encourages the fighting men and then gives commands to the Israelites concerning how they are to engage in battle.
Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” Deuteronomy 20:8
After Gideon makes his announcement to his army, twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. Judges 7:4-6
The vast majority of Gideon’s men immediately got down on their knees to drink because their main concern was their thirst. But three hundred of the men took the water out of the stream in the hollow of their hands and then lapped it while standing upright. Their main concern was to keep a watchful eye out for the enemy as they drank.
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. Judges 7:7-8
Yehovah promised Gideon that with only 300 men who had been chosen, Gideon would be victorious over the Midianites and would not suffer any harm in the battle. These men took the provisions and the trumpets of those who left. The word translated from Hebrew into English as trumpet is actually “shofar” which means “ram’s horn”.
During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. Judges 7:9-12
Gideon had asked for a sign to confirm that it was Yehovah speaking to him when Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress. When a fire flared out from a rock and consumed Gideon’s offering, Gideon was convinced that it was Yehovah who had been speaking to him.
Gideon then asked Yehovah for two more signs using a fleece both times before Gideon would agree to lead the Israelites in battle against the Midianites and the other eastern peoples.
Facing the prospect of engaging in combat with only 300 men against an innumerable enemy, Gideon was understandably hesitant to attack. Therefore, God again was gracious to encourage Gideon by directing him to go down into the enemy camp with his servant.
Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “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.” Judges 7:13-14
The dream was a prophetic picture that confirmed that indeed Gideon would be victorious over the Midianites. But what does a loaf of barley bread symbolize?
Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. John 6:47-48
Jesus our Messiah is the bread of life. We know that He was crucified on Passover.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. Leviticus 23:9-11
The seventh day of the week is the regular weekly Sabbath. Passover is observed at twilight on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar which is the second Sabbath of the month.
The next day is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and is an additional or High Sabbath. Crucified on the weekly Sabbath, Jesus was raised from the dead on the day after this special second Sabbath. The women went to tomb on the day after the High Sabbath which was first day of the week. Jesus arose on the Festival of Firstfruits. He is the “Firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20).
The first grain that is harvested in the spring in Israel is barley. Jesus the bread of life arose on the day that the firstfruits of the barley harvest were offered. The round loaf of barley bread that overturned and collapsed the Midianite tent and who would give the enemy into the hands of Israel symbolized Messiah Jesus – the angel of Yehovah!
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. Judges 7:15-16
Each man who comprised the three companies of one hundred men held a shofar in one hand and a lit torch covered by an empty jar in their other hand.
“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” Judges 7:17-18
Gideon’s orders to have his troops blow shofars and shout before the battle, is strikingly similar to the command that Joshua issued before the attack on the fortified city of Jericho.
After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Before making the crossing, however, Joshua, the Israelite commander, dispatched two spies to reconnoiter the city of Jericho. Narrowly escaping capture, the spies brought back valuable intelligence collected from Rahab, a harlot who lived within the city wall. Although the Jordan was in flood at the time the Israelites crossed, the waters were miraculously stopped and the Israelites were able to cross “on dry ground.” They then marched around the heavily fortified city daily for seven days.
The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. Joshua 6:16
Just as the commander Joshua informed his men that Yehovah had given the Israelites the city of Jericho, and at the sounding of the shofar blast they were to shout; so did Gideon tell his men that Yehovah had given the Midianite camp into their hands, they were to blow their shofars and then shout.
Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. Judges 7:19-21
The pagans divided the duties of their watchmen into three watches of four hours each. The first watch was from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Most of the men would have gotten to bed early in order to rest up for the battle they expected to engage in on the following day. By 10:00 at night, they were sleeping soundly.
As one set of guards were leaving their posts and a new set of guards were taking their positions, the enemy soldiers were suddenly aroused out of their slumber. They were dazed and confused by the sudden blast of the shofars and the wild shout of a war-cry yelled from every side. They stumbled out of their tents, without leaders and without knowledge of the numbers of their foe. All around they saw the flaring torches and heard the trumpet-blasts which seemed to indicate an immense attacking force, so they fled crying out in panic and in the midst of chaos.
When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. Judges 7:22a
When will there be a great shout, the blowing of trumpets (shofars) and these jars of clay (our bodies) opened up to reveal the light inside (treasure in jars of clay)?
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1Thessalonians 4:16
The supernatural defeat of the Midianites is a prophetic picture of the Rapture!
Where did the battle take place in which God defeated the Midianites? The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh (meaning teacher or teaching – where the ungodly are taught it is not by might or power that victory takes place).
The valley near the hill of Moreh is the valley of Jezreel which lies in the view of Megiddo which is the location of the final battle of Armageddon!
The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah. Judges 7:22b-24
The Midianites initially fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah, (Shittah is the same acacia wood of which the ark was made). So it could be translated: “the house of [acacia] wood of the tying/binding.” Or put another way, “the tying/binding of the house of the [acacia] wood.”
The army of the Midianites fled as far as Abel Meholah near Tabbath, but in Hebrew it is: “Avel-Mecholah of Tavat” This can be translated: Avel = mourning, Mechola = affliction; and Tavat = slaying. This can be put together as “the mourning of the afflicted one [on account of] the slaying.”
Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” Judges 8:4-5
Sukkoth means booths or tabernacles.
From there he went up to Penuel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. So he said to the men of Penuel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.” Judges 8:8-9
Penuel means “the face of God.”
They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb ,and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan. Judges 7:27
Gideon pursued the leaders of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, just past Sukkoth toward the tower (migdal) Penuel. So he was chasing these two kings from the place of the “booths/tabernacles” to the “watchtower [of the] face of God.”
The chronology of the flight of the Midianites:
1) The Midianites first fled to Beth Shittah (a picture of the First Advent).
Beth Shittah means, “The house of wood of the tying/binding.” It is a picture of the crucifixion of the Messiah (See – Genesis 22, known as the “Binding of Isaac”).
2) Then as far as Abel Meholah near Tabath which is symbolic of the “Second Coming.”
“The mourning of the afflicted one [on account of] the slaying”
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. Zechariah 12:10-11
3) Then Gideon pursued the leaders of the Midianites, Zebah and Zalmunna past Sukkoth (booths or tabernacles). The feast of tabernacles is a picture of the millennial reign of the Messiah.
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16
4) Finally the enemies of God’s people were pursued to the watchtower of Penuel which means “the face of God.” This is a picture of the White Throne Judgment of the unrighteous after the Millennium.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence (the face of God), and there was no place for them. Revelation 20:11