Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Midianite's Defeat

Judges 7:16-8:3

“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.” (Judges 7:16-18) 

Realizing how demoralized the Midianite army was, Gideon moved quickly.  Dividing his three hundred men into three groups, he equipped each one with a trumpet, a large pottery pot of pitcher, and a lamp similar to a liquid candle.  The lamps were lit and concealed inside the pitchers to hide the light until the proper moment.  The plan was to surround the Midianite camp, blow the trumpets, then break the pitchers and hold upt eh lamps to give the illusion of being attacked by a huge force.

“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.” (Judges 7:19-21)

With the Midianite camp sleeping soundly except for the guards, three hundred trumpets sounding from all sides created total confusion, greatly accentuated by the sound of the smashing pitchers and lifting aloft of the lamps.  The lamps forming a solid line around them, left no question that they were surrounded, and the trumpets were normally used to direct large groups, so it appeared that there must be many thousands attacking. Yelling the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.  Pandemonium reigned in the Middianite camp and panic set in.

“And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man'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.” (Judges 7:22)  

A panicked swimmer may tip over the boat or shove those who are trying to save him underwater, or a people panicked by a fire may fight the fireman trying to save them and refuse to be carried through the fire to safety.  The panicked Midianites cut down anyone who impeded their flight, with no concern which side he was on.   I suspect the Israelites were glad to remain on the high ground after seeing the slaughter the Midianites and Amalekites were doing among themselves as a result of that initial panic.  The Midianite army split with some fleeing to the northeast to Bethshittah and others to the southeast to Abelmeholah, both known crossings of the Jordan.

“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 7:23-25)

With the Midianite army is disarray and hiding from Gideon’s forces, the men who had been sent home returned, probably in even greater number than had originally come out.  Gideon also sent messengers to Ephraim asking for their assistance to block the crossings to the south.  Catching them at the Jordan, the Ephraimites pursued them. capturing to of the main leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, and executing them before meeting up with Gideon on the west bank.

“ And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply. 

And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?  God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? 

Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.” (Judges 8:1-3)

The men of Ephraim blamed Gideon for attacking the Midianites with such a small force and leaving them out.  They did not understand he was acting according to what God told him.  They thought he had been trying to get all the glory for himself.  By crediting them with the biggest victory in having captured the leaders, he was able to mollify them.

Many times, people who do not understand God’s leading misjudge one’s motives.  By crediting others for accomplishments, rather than claiming it for oneself, resentment and jealousy can be minimized, just as Gideon did.


  1. This was an amazing battle, and historically one of the most one-sided ever recorded. Gideon's wisdom in dealing with Ephraim was well done; unlike Jephthah who does not recieve their anger so graciously.

  2. It probably helped that they didn't threaten Gideon's family.