7:1 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.
The time for battle finally arrived. Gideon’s hastily assembled volunteer army of 32,000 (v. 3) was camped and waiting to do battle with the Midianite coalition of more than 135,000 (see 8:10). Perhaps Gideon thought that he had too few with which to face so many.
7:2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for Me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her,
God did not want for Gideon to place his faith in the size of his army. Nor did God want for the army to boast that they had won the victory over the Midianites. This word from the Lord must have come as a surprise to Gideon. God however, did not need a large army to defeat Midian — “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).
7:3 announce now to the people, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
The Lord began the process of sifting and reducing the size of Gideon’s army. The first to be released from service were the fearful. The presence of fearful men could have had a negative impact on the rest of the army (see Deut. 20:8). Twenty-two thousand men returned to their homes after Gideon’s announcement, leaving him with an army of only ten thousand.
7:4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them 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.”
God instructed Gideon to take his men “to the water” to sift and further reduce the size of his army.
7:5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.”
The men who drank water did not know they were being tested. The Scripture does not tell us the significance of the test of drinking water. Some have conjectured that those who knelt to drink and brought the water to their mouths were more alert and kept their eyes on Gideon and their surroundings. Perhaps. The important thing to keep in mind is that this was a simple way to reduce the size of Gideon’s army without raising suspicion. On a practical note, this occasion reminds us to always be alert because we may not know when we are being tested. Marsden said, “Make every occasion a great occasion, for you can never tell when somebody may be taking your measure for a larger place.”
7:6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
Gideon’s army was now reduced from 32,000 to only 300 men.
7:7 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 other men go, each to his own place.”
God gave Gideon yet another promise of victory.
7:8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents 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.
Gideon claimed God’s promise by releasing all but the 300 men that lapped water with their hands. The other men were released but left their equipment for use by the 300 men — torches, trumpets, and jars. The word “kept” implies that the 300 also had an urge to leave with the others.
7:9 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.
God instructed Gideon to “go down against the camp” and again assured him of victory.
7:10 If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah
God however, still had to deal with the fear in Gideon’s heart. As a final means of assurance (see 6:14,16; 7:7 for three previous assurances), God instructed Gideon to go down to the Midianite camp with his servant Purah.
7:11 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.
Gideon was to eavesdrop on a conversation between two soldiers (v. 13).
7:12 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.
It took courage for Gideon and Purah to go to the Midianite camp, especially because the Midianite coalition seemed innumerable.
7:13 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.”
As Gideon and Purah listened from the shadows, a man related his dream to a friend. Barley was a grain used by poor people and here indicates weakness — a stale barley-cake that rolled into the Midianite camp like a wheel overturning the “tent“ (symbol of the nomadic forces).
7:14 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.”
Gideon heard from the lips of his enemy the very thing God had repeatedly told him. The man’s friend interpreted the dream as an indication that God would deliver Midian into the hands of the Israelites.
7:15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”
Gideon’s immediate response was to worship God. He then returned to his camp to muster his forces. We can only wonder if Gideon shared with his soldiers about the dream and its interpretation.
7:16 Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
Gideon armed his small army with peculiar weapons. By dividing his army into three companies, Gideon would give the enemy the impression that his army was much larger. The trumpets also helped create the impression of a large army. Only the leaders blew the trumpet in battle to give signals to their troops. Therefore, three hundred trumpets would give the enemy the impression that they were under attack by a very large army.
7:17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I go to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do.
Gideon instructed his men to follow his example. Gideon is a new man. His words reflect great confidence.
7:18 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.’”
Gideon’s strategy was simple. Surround the camp. At Gideon’s signal, blow the trumpets (ram’s horn or shofar), break the jars, reveal the lights, and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon.”
7:19 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.
Gideon courageously led his men from the Spring of Harod (“trembling”) to the edge of the Midianite camp in the Valley of Jezreel. With each company in place, they waited for Gideon’s signal and then blew their trumpets and broke their jars.
7:20 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!”
What a surprise this sight and the sound of the battle cry must have been to the slumbering enemy. The Midianite coalition must have thought a large army was attacking them.
7:21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.
7:22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
A spirit of confusion caused the enemy soldiers to turn on one another and then flee.
7:23 Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites.
The Israelite army pursued their confused enemy.
7:24 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 took the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah.
Gideon sent messengers to call for reinforcements to assist in pursuing the Midianites. Perhaps many of the original 32,000 returned to pursue the Midianite army. This time the powerful tribe of Ephraim joined in to assist Gideon.
7:25 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.
Oreb (“raven”) and Zeeb (“wolf”), two generals (princes) of Midian, were captured and slain. The story of Gideon began with Gideon hiding in a winepress (6:11) and ended with the enemy prince being slain at a winepress.