For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

7:1.  “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.”

As noted in our study of 6:32, a new name signifies a new relationship with God, and the reference here to the two names may be to remind us that Gideon had entered into such a relationship.  The retention of the old name, however, would remind us that the old nature remains with us as long as we are in these mortal bodies.

Harod means trembling, and while certainly it may be connected with the trembling of Israel confronted with the hosts of Midian, a very necessary practical lesson to be learned is that trembling (lack of confidence in ourselves) is a necessary condition if we are to know anything of the power of God put forth on our behalf, as He Himself has declared, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Co 12:9), so that Paul could say, “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Co 12:10). 

Their rising up early would speak of their willingness to be about God’s business, and of putting His business before their own.  Abraham similarly rose up early in response to God’s command to offer up Isaac.  It would be well if the same diligence marked us relative to the Lord’s work.

Its being a well would mark it as a type of the Word, and Israel’s being assembled around that well would teach us the necessity of being gathered around the well of the Word, having it as the very center of our lives.

As noted already, Midian means contention: strife, so that this foe represents the spirit of contention and strife that wreaks such havoc amongst God’s people.  Since the north is the direction that speaks of mere human intelligence (almost invariably operating in opposition to God), their being on the north side of Israel would link together symbolically, contention and strife, and human intelligence, an evil trio frequently joined together in the promotion of trouble in the assemblies of the saints.

Moreh means teacher: former rain, and as the place beside which the Midianites encamped, would remind us that Gideon was to be the instrument, true to the meaning of his new name Baal will be contended with: Baal will be taught, through whom these hordes were to be taught the folly of contending with God, or of seeking to harm those who were dear to Him.

As noted in other studies, the valley represents the sphere in which there is to be labor and fruit-bearing for God.  The presence of the enemy in the valley therefore would speak of hindrance to such labor and fruit-bearing, and none will deny that few things are more inimical to such spiritual activity than contention and strife combined with mere human wisdom.

7:2.  “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.”

This is the very opposite of what human intelligence would dictate, but then that same intelligence all too often leaves God out of its reckoning.  Faith however, believes that while God may graciously deign to use human instruments, He is in no way dependent on them.  And the very evil He mentions is all too common in the hearts of many who have been used of God: they very quickly begin to imagine that they themselves have done the work or won the victory.    

7:3.  “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.”

This was in accord with the command given by God in the days of Moses, and recorded in Dt 20:8 “What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.”

It is necessary to distinguish between the fear that sometimes accompanies courage, and that which accompanies cowardice.  As noted already, the Lord Jesus Christ shrank from the experience of Calvary, yet would permit nothing to hinder His going there to accomplish the Father’s will.  That fear casts itself upon God, and finds in Him the courage to do His will.  This is a very different thing from the cowardly fear that will not look to God, and will not therefore do His will.  The former emboldens others, the latter simply transmits its contagion.

Any doubt as to the extent to which fear hinders our doing the Lord’s work, is removed by reading that in response to this command “there returned of the people twenty and two thousand....”  The Hittites were one of Israel’s most formidable foes, and they represent the principle of fear, for the name means terror.

We have noted already that Gilead, meaning heap of witness: rolling for ever, is a picture of Calvary, so that these twenty-two thousand sent from Gilead, as unfit for any part in the work to be done, may represent those whose fear of man is greater than their fear of God.  They may, in fact, very well represent those described in Mt 13:20-21, “... he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”

There is ominous significance in the fact that the fearful head the list of those who will “have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Re 21:8).

7:4.  “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.”

Since water is one of the symbols of the Word of God, their being brought down to the water for further separation teaches us that the Word is the touchstone by which all things are measured.  We obey it, or we don’t!  There is no middle ground.

7:5.  “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.”

Commentators in general take the view that the three hundred who lifted up the water to their mouths with their hands were more vigilant than the others who bowed down on their knees to drink, but clearly the test has far deeper significance than that, for there can be no doubt that the spiritual truth being taught transcends the literal.  The difficulty however, is to determine what that spiritual significance is.

The clue to the meaning may lie in the phrase “as a dog lappeth.”  We recall that as well as meaning whole-hearted, the second meaning of Caleb’s name is a dog, and as noted in earlier studies, the whole-heartedness which he represents cannot be divorced from his own low esteem of himself which is indicated by the second meaning of his name a dog.  These two things, whole-heartedness and low self-esteem, make for spiritual greatness.  The spiritual lesson of the three hundred who lapped as a dog lappeth may be that they were those who thought little of themselves.  It is such men that God can use.  He who retains any other view of himself disqualifies himself from effective service.

The others who “bowed down upon their knees to drink,” and who were rejected, may well represent those whose humility is outward only.  The bent knee doesn’t always necessarily indicate a bowed heart - and God looks on the heart.

7:6.  “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.”

Since the hand is the symbol of service, the linking together of the hand and the mouth in connection with the water, may be meant to teach us that the testimony of the lip is to be confirmed by the activity of the life, both being governed by the water of the Word.

The three hundred, out of ten thousand, would appear to be an accurate reflection of the condition existing in Christendom today.  Those who are represented by the three hundred are today, as then, a small minority - but with that three hundred God destroyed the might of the Midianites.  May God give us the grace to be counted worthy to be numbered amongst His “three hundred.”

Since three is the number of resurrection, another lesson connected with these three hundred is that they may represent those whose crucifixion to the world by the cross of Christ, is a reality, and not merely a shibboleth on the lip.

7:7.  “And the Lord said unto Gibeon, 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.”

“... his place” may perhaps indicate that these remaining ninety-seven hundred were sent to a special place appointed by God to wait until the time when they would be called to take up the pursuit of the fleeing Midianites.  If so, then one lesson at least is that while not all are called to a public ministry, all may have a part in God’s work.  Those who pray faithfully, for example, are serving His cause no less than are those who preach.

7:8.  “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.”

Those separated three hundred may represent the believing remnant separated from the unbelieving nation in the Apostolic age, and which became the Church, and they may also represent the believing Tribulation remnant, that will be the new Israel in the Millennium.  Other translations indicate that Gideon took food and pitchers from the others to supply the need of the three hundred who were to go to the battle, and in this God would teach us the necessity and privilege of similarly meeting the temporal needs of those who give themselves full-time to the Lord’s work, (Dt 25:4; 1 Co 9:9; 1 Tim 5:18). 

Even a casual reading of the Bible reveals the importance which God attaches to man’s food, the literal, of course, being but the symbol of the spiritual.  As man cannot live without literal food, neither can the believer live without spiritual food, i.e., the Word of God.  Nor should we miss the significance of its being said that they took the food “in their hand,” for the hand is the Biblical symbol of work or service.  This linking of the food and the hand reminds us that he who attempts to serve without being fortified and instructed by the Word, is attempting the impossible.  Service must be according to God’s Word, not according to the dictates of our own faulty thinking.

The lesson of their taking also trumpets is easily deciphered, for the trumpet is the symbol of testimony.  God would remind us that the work for which we have been left here on earth is to preach the Gospel, that work being the very foundation of all other Christian service. 

His sending the others to their tents, apparently to wait till they would be called upon, would teach us the need of passing through this world as pilgrims and strangers (i.e., as tent-dwellers) if we would be of any use to God.  It teaches also that for the few who are called to a public ministry, there are a great many whom God has called to serve in obscurity, their work being no less important because only His eye sees it.

Its being repeated that Midian was encamped “in the valley” continues to emphasize that the contention and strife which Midian represents, still camps in the valley, i.e., in the sphere where we ought to be producing spiritual fruit for God’s glory and our own eternal enrichment.  The expulsion of the enemy from “the valley” is as necessary today as it was in the days of the Judges.

7:9.  “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.”

Beyond every Scriptural reference to literal night is to be understood the more important announcement of truth relative to spiritual darkness.  It is in the night time of earth’s spiritual darkness that God reveals to faith the knowledge of His will.  The believer and the unbeliever may read the same Scripture, but only the spiritual man discerns the spiritual message.

God never tests us beyond what we are able to endure.  He knew full well what a trial of faith it was to ask Gideon to go against the host of the Midianites with only three hundred men, and to encourage His servant, He sent him down by night to the outskirts of the enemy camp to hear from the lips of the enemy himself the assurance of Israel’s victory.  Gideon was to have not only the assurance of victory from God, but from the enemy also.

7:10.  “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:”

Phurah means he was fruitful.  Having regard to the fact that the Holy Spirit is the One Who serves us here on earth, it may be that this servant of Gideon is a type of the Holy Spirit, for it is He alone Who produces fruitfulness in our lives, as we submit ourselves to His control.  And in Phurah’s being the apparent antidote for Gideon’s fear, God would teach us that the indwelling Holy Spirit is the all-sufficient answer to all our fears, for the knowledge that He is God, and that He indwells us, ought to be enough to banish every fear from even the most timid heart.

7:11.  “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.”

In Ps 103:13-14 it is written, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”  The demonstration of this truth was God’s tender regard for His servant Gideon whom He would encourage by having him hear from the lips of the enemy himself the assurance of victory.

7:12.  “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.”

Since we have already considered the significance of the Midianites, Amalekites, and the children of the east (see 6:33), there is no need to repeat the details here.  Midian represents contention and strife; Amalek, the lusts of the flesh; and the children of the east, evil in general.

Grasshoppers is literally locusts, and as the locust leaves famine and ruin in his wake so do the evils represented by Midian, Amalek, and the hordes of the east.  We should note also the repeated reference to “the valley.”  God would impress upon us the necessity of driving the enemy out of the sphere of service, and the extent to which that admonition is needed today is demonstrated by the almost total lack of spiritual service rendered by professing Christians.

We have noted in earlier studies that the ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature; and the camel, the body as the servant of the new nature.  This, however, raises the question as to what is represented by these countless camels of the Midianites.  The question is easily answered.  Even in his self-willed rebellion against God, man is unwittingly made to accomplish the Creator’s purposes, as it is written, “surely the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Ps 76:10).  As the body of the obedient believer obeys the new nature, albeit reluctantly, so here, in alluding to the camels of the enemy, God would declare in symbol that in the final analysis the unbeliever is no less His servant than is the obedient believer, the former serving unwittingly; the latter, willingly.

“... as the sand by the sea side....”  This points to what they were spiritually: they were simply men of earth, and therefore earthy.  Note that Abraham’s seed were likened both unto dust, and unto stars, the former representing the mere natural posterity; the latter, those who were believers.  The Midianites were natural, earthy, not spiritual.

7:13.  “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.”

In other ages God used various methods, including dreams, to communicate with men, and, as here, His communications were sometimes to the unconverted.  And in His using this Midianite soldier to declare that which would encourage Gideon, we have a further demonstration of His using even His enemies to accomplish His purposes.

As is made clear in the next verse, the cake of barley bread represents Gideon, and the propriety of the symbol is the more apparent when we remember that barley bread was the despised food of the equally despised poor.  At the beginning, Gideon had been careful to emphasize his own insignificance, but as noted already, it is just such men that God can use to do exploits for Him, and for their own eternal glory.  It is through such vessels that the power of God can flow unhindered.

7:14.  “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.”

There seems to be little doubt that the man’s interpretation of the dream was the result of his having been given that revelation from God.

We should note also the significance of the three names used here - Gideon, Joash, and Israel.  First, there being three, the number of resurrection, reminds us that Gideon, like every other believer, stood on resurrection ground spiritually, and lived in anticipation of the literal resurrection of life.  His name, meaning the cutter down, points to the truth that as one who belonged to God, his work was to cut down all that would oppose itself to God and to His people.  We have been given the same work.

Joash, meaning Jehovah has become man, would remind us that apart from God’s having become man in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have remained forever dead in trespasses and sins.  But now relative to us who are members of the body of Christ, it is God’s desire that Christ should be able to live His life in us, as Paul has written in Ga 2:20, “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Men ought to see Christ in us as a result of how we live.

And finally, Israel, meaning he shall be prince of God, assures us that at the moment of conversion, we become children of God - God’s princes, those who will one day reign with Christ.  We are to walk therefore, as becomes our high calling, displaying in our daily lives the dignity that men have a right to expect of those who are God’s princes.

7:15.  “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.”

Fortified with God’s assurances, the heart that was formerly filled with fear, now welled up in worship.  So must it be with every man who grasps with living faith the promises of God.  Worship ought to characterize us, for God has given unto us the full assurance of victory in such words as, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Ro 8:37).  Nor should we fail to note the Divine order: first there was worship, and then the call to action.  That order may not be reversed.  We come in on the first day of the week to worship, and then go out to serve.

7:16.  “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.”

Having regard to the fact that three is the Scriptural number of resurrection, the reference to the division of the three hundred men into three companies reminds us that only those who have known resurrection out of spiritual death, i.e., been born again, can render God any service.

“... a trumpet in every man’s hand” declares the need to obey the command of Christ and preach the Gospel, for the trumpet is the Biblical symbol of testimony.  Since the hand is the symbol of work or service, the trumpet in the hand would remind us that our principal work is to sound out the good tidings of the Gospel; nor should we miss the significance of its being said that there was a trumpet in every man’s hand.  The proclamation of the Gospel is not the work of a special few, but of all of us.

“... with empty pitchers.”  Inasmuch as the pitchers were of earthenware, we are reminded of what is written in 2 Cor 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,” and significantly, the context in which this verse is found is specifically connected with the Gospel, verse 6, in fact, being a very obvious parallel to the breaking of these pitchers so that the light might shine out, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

“... and lamps within the pitchers.”  Lamps is literally firebrands or torches, and since fire is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, the truth being emphasized is that only those indwelt by the Holy Spirit can be witnesses for Christ.

7:17.  “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.”

No one will fail to be reminded of the words of Paul, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Cor 4:16), with the plea repeated in 1 Cor 11:1, and the important qualification added, “... even as I also am of Christ.”

As noted at the beginning of these studies, every judge is a figure or type of Christ (as well as being also a figure of what each one of us may be), so that Gideon’s exhortation is simply an OT echo of Christ’s exhortation to us to follow Him.

“Look on me” emphasizes the necessity of having our eyes fixed on Christ.

“... when I come to the outside of the camp” is meant to teach us that our preaching of the Gospel is to be from a place of separation.  It is very wrong teaching that advises believers to cultivate the friendship of the world in order to make our testimony more effective.  We do well to remember the warning of Scripture, “... know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4).  The response of the Sodomites to the preaching of Lot who had chosen to live in their midst, was mockery.  It was very different with Abraham who lived in separation from the wicked nations around him.  Their testimony was, “Thou art a mighty prince among us” (Ge 23:6).  Men will not be rescued from the quicksand by our joining them there.  They will be saved in response to the preaching of the Gospel by those, who having once been in the quicksand themselves, preach Christ, from the rock to which He has lifted them.

7:18.  “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.”

“... on every side of all the camp” indicates the extent of our witnessing: it is to be to the whole world.

The reference to “the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” reminds us that it is the Word of God we are to preach, for it is the “sword” which must first cut men down (convict them of sin) so that God may then raise them up as new creatures in Christ (see Heb 4:12).  But its being also the sword of Gideon reminds us that God has been pleased to identify us with Him in the great work of salvation, bestowing upon us the privilege of being His ambassadors here on earth (2 Co 5:20).

7:19.  “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.”

Since a hundred is the square of ten, and ten is the number of God in government, these hundred men represent those who live in obedience, for God will not use the disobedient.

The middle watch was from 10:00 p.m. till 2:00 a.m., and while some details may be obscure, there are not wanting indications that we are being presented with a symbolic picture of what will be when the Lord returns in power and glory to destroy the rebel armies assembled at Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation, for there is an obvious parallel between this Midianite coalition gathered to destroy Israel, and the one that will be assembled under the Beast for the same purpose at the end of the Tribulation.  The newly set watch, for instance, would have begotten a confidence (very ill-founded) that pictures the unjustified confidence that will mark a rebel earth prior to the Lord’s return, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them ... and they shall not escape” (1 Th 5:3).  Significantly this is written in connection with the warning that “the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (verse 2).

We should not forget, however, that before He returns in power and glory, the Lord will come with the same unexpected suddenness to rapture His Church, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Co 15:52).  “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not” (Lk 12:40).  “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods”  (Mt 24:45-47).  We are responsible, not only to preach the Gospel, but also to provide food for the household of faith (give them meat).

The blowing of the trumpets, as noted already, speaks of the preaching of the Gospel, but the breaking of the pitchers (symbols of ourselves) reminds us that God requires His servants to be “broken pitchers,” i.e., men whose wills are broken, men whose lives are the living demonstration of the truth that “Thy will, not mine” is not just a shibboleth on the lips, but a reality governing the life.

7:20.  “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.”

The same implicit obedience to God’s commands must mark us if we expect to know anything of victorious Christian living.  Nor should we miss the lessons connected with the fact that they held the lamps (torches) in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands.  In the Tabernacle, the lampstand was placed on the south side of the Holy Place, i.e., it was on the left of the  priests as they approached the golden altar, but the lampstand is a picture of the Word ministered to us by the Holy Spirit, as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105); and the south is the Biblical direction of faith, so that the lesson here becomes the reminder that we are to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Co 5:7), in the light of the written Word as ministered to us by the Holy Spirit.

Still continuing to look at the Tabernacle, we remember that the table of shew bread was on the north side, i.e., on the priests’ right hand (the hand of power) as they approached the golden altar.  But the north is the Biblical direction that speaks of intelligence, while the table represents the Word as our spiritual food to strengthen us.  The lesson couldn’t be clearer.  We are to feed on the Word, and walk by faith in its light, resting on its promises for what we cannot understand, but we are also to be governed by spiritual intelligence, as Paul directed Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). 

The lamp in the left hand speaks of a life of faith, but the trumpet in the right hand speaks of a Spirit-directed, and therefore spiritually intelligent service.  Service, like worship, must be in Spirit, and in truth (Jn 4:24), i.e., under the Spirit’s direction, governed by the written Word.

7:21.  “And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.”

This reminds us of the success that attends obedience.  All God requires of us is that we stand in the place which He has appointed.  All else may then be confidently left in His hand.

The whole host of the enemy “ran, and cried, and fled” without Gideon’s men having to do anything more than stand where God had told them.  If we but grasped how simply our victories may be won, we would be more obedient.

7:22.  “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 Beth-shittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abel-meholath, unto Tabbath.”

All Gideon’s company had to do was blow the trumpets.  God then took over, and caused the enemy, in their panic, to slay one another.  Did we but grasp what power there is in the Gospel we would be more ready to sound it out.  As Paul reminds us, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth....” (Ro 1:16).

Beth-shittah means the acacia house: house of the scourge; Zererath, oppression: straitness; Abel-meholath, mourning of dancing; and Tabbath, thou wast good.  These places to which the enemy fled, like all the names in Scripture, have a spiritual lesson for us.

Looking first at Beth-shittah, we note that the acacia tree is extremely thorny, and thorns are the symbol of the curse (Ge 3:18), so that their fleeing to Beth-shittah declares that the ultimate end of the unrepentant rebel is to be brought into the eternal torment of the lake of fire, the place of the curse, and the place of eternal “scourging” (punishment).

Zererath announces that the eternal recompense of God’s enemies will be that they who oppressed His people, and lived apart from Divine restraint, will themselves know what it is to be oppressed by God, and confined to the “straitness” of the lake of fire.  And Abel-meholath continues to add details of the eternal misery of those who die without Christ.  They who danced on earth in careless independence and defiance of God, will mourn eternally.  And Tabbath assures us that in a lost eternity, too late to be of profit, the rebel will confess what he refused to recognize on earth - that God was good, giving men and women years on earth in which to repent, and save their souls by believing the Gospel. 

Today men may choose whether they will obey Christ, but in eternity there will be no choice: then every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Php 2:10-11).

7:23.  “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.”

We have noted already that the names of the tribes of Israel declare what ought to mark us as believers.  Since therefore Naphtali speaks of wrestling; Asher, of happiness; and Manasseh, of forgetting, what we are being taught here is that those who wrestle against the forces of darkness, who are happy because they recognize the blessedness of obedience, and who, with their eyes on the mark for the prize of God’s high calling, forget the things which are behind, and run the heavenly race with patience and without distraction, are they who will be first to know the joy of victory, first to put the enemy to flight.  The contention and strife which Midian represents cannot survive long amongst such believers.

7:24.  “And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan.  Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan.”

Joining the trio which represents wrestling, happiness, and forgetting, is Ephraim, meaning double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, and the lesson of this is easily read.  Where there is the exercise of the qualities represented by the first three, there will be spiritual fruitfulness.  (As has been noted in other studies, the ash-heap represents what has been discarded, and the lesson is obvious: spiritual fruitfulness will be in proportion to the measure in which we are willing to discard what would hold us back in the heavenly race).

“Take before them the waters” is generally understood to mean that they were to prevent the escape of the enemy over the fords of Jordan or its tributaries.  The location of Beth-barah meaning house of eating: house of choice is unknown, but that is of little consequence, for almost invariably, the lesson is conveyed in the meanings of the names rather than the locations.

Eating speaks of being satisfied and made strong, while choice represents freedom of the will.  The enemy was to be denied all of these things; and the spiritual lesson is easily read.  Contention and strife are to be afforded “nothing to eat,” or given any liberty amongst God’s people.  In the professing church today it is far otherwise however.  This pernicious enemy is fattened by the very ones he seeks to destroy, and is allowed complete liberty in their midst.

The guardianship was to be not only unto Beth-barah, but also unto Jordan, which is always the Biblical symbol of death, and at least two lessons are being taught here.  First, this warfare is to continue as long as we are here on earth.  Second, since the Canaan side of Jordan represents the realm of faith; and the wilderness side, the world, we are being shown that the enemy is not to be permitted to live within that spiritual area of our lives.  We can do nothing about the contention and strife in the world (though some Christians think they can), but we do have control over the realm of faith into which we have been brought by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We entered that realm by “crossing Jordan into Canaan,” i.e., when we trusted Christ as Savior, seeing ourselves by faith as those who are crucified with Him (Ga 2:20), but also risen with Him to walk in newness of life (Ro 6:4).

7:25.  “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.”

We have noted already that in this coalition arrayed against Israel, we may have a foreshadowing of Armageddon, and it is not without significance that as there the two prominent leaders, the beast and the false prophet, will be destroyed, so also here two prominent leaders are slain.

Oreb means a raven; and Zeeb, a wolf.  The raven was one of the unclean birds described in Le 11:13 as an abomination; and the wolf likewise was an unclean animal, presented in both the Old and New Testament as a type of those who would ravage God’s people.  God would have us see in the character of these unclean creatures the true nature of contention and strife.  They also ravage God’s people, their evil work being all too evident in the present state of the professing church.

The reference to the rock and the winepress in connection with the death of these two Midianite princes may be intended to remind us of the significance of the rock and the winepress in connection with the destruction of him who is the source, not only of contention and strife, but of all evil.  Christ is a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word (1 Pe 2:8), the One in regard to Whom the warning is given that on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Mt 21:44).

That Rock Who will yet grind His enemies to powder, Who will yet tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Re 19:15) is the same One Who Himself, as man’s Representative, was in the winepress of God’s fury at Calvary.

Inasmuch as the raven and the wolf were unclean creatures, their being slain, the one at the rock, and the other at the winepress, reminds us that the enemy they represent was slain only because Christ was willing to be made the equivalent of the raven and the wolf, i.e., He Who was holy was willing to be made sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Co 5:21.  When He took our place at Calvary He knew what it was to be ground between the millstones of God’s wrath against sin; what it was to be in the winepress of God’s righteous anger.

The bringing of the heads of these two Midianites to Gideon would remind us of God’s assurance to Satan in Ge 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

There is, however, a further significance to this mention of their heads.  The head is the seat of the intelligence, and we should never forget that before there can be a wrong word or deed, there must be first a wrong thought.  There is great need to guard our thoughts, as Paul warns in Ro 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

“... on the other side Jordan” was the east or wilderness side to which Gideon had followed the foe.  Since that side represents the world, the truth being presented is that the day is not far off when it will be manifested that Christ’s victory at Calvary includes the redemption of the earth, as well as of men’s souls, “Because the creature (creation) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Ro 8:21).

A practical lesson is also to be learnt.  Even in the earthly affairs with which we must be occupied on our way home to heaven, we are not to allow contention and strife to exist in our midst.

[Judges 8]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough