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Judges 5-7

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Judges Chapter 5

Humans have been making music since the earliest times, when man was only a few generations old i.e. "Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the Lyre and pipe" (Genesis 4:21 RSV). When the Israelites crossed the sea after the Exodus, they celebrated with music: "Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them" (Exodus 15:20-21 RSV). And so the Israelites also made music after their victory in the time of Deborah:

Harp

"Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: "That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless The Lord! "Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to The Lord I will sing, I will make melody to The Lord, the God of Israel. "Lord, when thou didst go forth from Seir, when thou didst march from the region of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, yea, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before The Lord, yon Sinai before The Lord, the God of Israel." (Judges 5:1-5 RSV)

But back and forth they went, from victory to defeat. When they obeyed The Lord, they could not lose; when they disobeyed The Lord, they could not win. Nations that truly obey God know only peace. Nations that disobey The Lord, either by worshipping pagan gods, or by worshipping The Lord in their own worthless way (see I Did It My Way and "Thou shalt not take The Lord's Name in vain"), will be attacked.

"When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates" (Judges 5:8 RSV)

"So perish all thine enemies, O Lord! But Thy friends be like the sun as He rises in His might [see "Strong Is He Who Has Come Down"]" (Judges 5:31 RSV)

Judges Chapter 6

The Midianites were actually related to the Israelites. The Midianites were also descendants of Abraham, through Abraham's wife Keturah. Prior to returning to Egypt for the Exodus, Moses learned how to live and work in the Sinai wilderness from Jethro the Midianite, and Moses' two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, were born from Moses' Midianite wife Zipporah. So it wasn't about race, because the Israelites were racially the same as the "foreign" nations around them (another ancient version of the saying, "we have seen the enemy, and they are us"). It was about a nation that was either protected by The Lord, or attacked by The Lord, according to how they behaved after they were given to know better.

Midian

"The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of The Lord; and The Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed over Israel; and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves and the strongholds. For whenever the Israelites put in seed the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up and attack them; they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the land, as far as the neighborhood of Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep or ox or ass. For they would come up with their cattle and their tents, coming like locusts for number; both they and their camels could not be counted; so that they wasted the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian; and the people of Israel cried for help to The Lord." (Judges 6:1-6 RSV)

The Lord's chosen deliverer, this time, was Gideon, one of the most famous of the judges.

"Now the angel of The Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of The Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." And Gideon said to him, "Pray, sir, if The Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all his wonderful deeds which our fathers recounted to us, saying, 'Did not The Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now The Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." And The Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" (Judges 6:11-14 RSV)

Gideon would have his work cut out for him. He would be facing a large allied foreign army of Midianites, Amalekites and "people of the East" (i.e. Arabs) that had crossed the Jordan into Israel.

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East came together, and crossing the Jordan they encamped in the Valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of The Lord took possession of Gideon; and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they went up to meet them." (Judges 6:33-35 RSV)

Judges Chapter 7

The routine response to a large invasion force was to muster every homeland defender available to battle. That is what the invaders were expecting, and that is what Gideon assembled in response. But The Lord was with Israel, so only a small token force of Israelites would be needed, "lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, 'my own hand has delivered me." So Gideon reduced his battle group from 32,000 to 10,000 men.

Shofar

"Then Jerubbaal, that is, Gideon, and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The Lord said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, 'my own hand has delivered me.' Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home.'" And Gideon tested them; twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained." (Judges 7:1-3 RSV)

But 10,000 was still far more than would be needed. The Lord further reduced the Israelites to only about 300 men - who would then go to battle against an enemy army that outnumbered them by more than 400 to 1.

"And The Lord said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; take them down to the water and I will test them for you there; and he of whom I say to you, 'This man shall go with you,' shall go with you; and any of whom I say to you, 'This man shall not go with you,' shall not go." So he brought the people down to the water; and The Lord said to Gideon, "Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself; likewise every one that kneels down to drink." And the number of those that lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And The Lord said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand; and let all the others go every man to his home." So he took the jars of the people from their hands, and their trumpets; and he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley." (Judges 7:4-8 RSV)

How would Israel win such a victory? The Lord could of course simply have annihilated the invaders without the Israelites having to do anything. But instead, first, a magnificent ruse. The invaders were naturally expecting a large Israelite army to meet them in battle - that is what they "knew" was coming. So, when they were attacked by surprise, in the darkness of the night, by what they "knew" would be a large Israelite army (that Gideon did have, but had sent home) that had somehow taken the high ground above them on three sides, the invading army cut and run at the sound of the Israelite battle trumpets. What they didn't realize was that the battle trumpeters were all that Israel had - they were leading a charge of an army that wasn't there.

"So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, "A sword for The Lord and for Gideon!" They stood every man in his place round about the camp, and all the army ran; they cried out and fled." (Judges 7:19-21 RSV)

Gideon then recalled the large force of Israelites to join him, not to battle, but to simply hold what Gideon had taken with nothing more than the sound of trumpets.

"And Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan." So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they seized the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan." (Judges 7:24 RSV)

Fact Finder: Is Gideon spoken of in the New Testament? Why?
Hebrews 11:32-34
Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes known as "the faith chapter of the Bible"; read Hebrews 11:1-40 and note how timeless faith is.


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