JUDGES - CHAPTER 7
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“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.”
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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).
“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.”
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
“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
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
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 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.
“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.
“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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
“But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the
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.
“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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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
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.
“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.”
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.”
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
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.
“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
on every side of all the camp” indicates the extent of our
witnessing: it is to be to the whole world.
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).
“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.”
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
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).
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).
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.
“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.”
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.
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).
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.
“And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the
host ran, and cried, and fled.”
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.
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
“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.”
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).
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.
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
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.
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
“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.”
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
“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.”
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).
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.
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.
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).
“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.”
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.”
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).
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.