RIOT MESSAGE Judges 7
So part two of a double header about dear ole Gideon. To hear the first message, go back in time and show up last week. 🙂
So let’s catch you up in case you weren’t here- here’s the armies, camped out, gettin ready for battle. Gideon went all scaredy cat, and double triple checked that God was still God. Spoilers, he was. Now here we are, battle getting ready. Prolly some dude in a skirt going on about freedom- that kind of moment.
Then God puts a pause on that. Let’s read- and as we do, try to figure out what’s going on.
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’ ” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.
4 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 anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” 5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” 6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” 8 So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.
9 That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. 11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp. 12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” 14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”
15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.” 16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’ ”
19 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. 20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naphtali and from Asher and from all Manasseh, and they pursued after Midian.
So what happened here? They surrounded the camp, and just when you’d think he would want all them to have, I dunno, a sword or something, he has them all carry jars, then the SMASH them and scare the crap out of the bad guys. Now- was anyone scared enough to stab their friend when we did this? Good, then you understand how things work. So it’s important to us, because it was important to God, to understand that this wasn’t some cunning great play on the part of Gideon. He wasn’t some expert strategist. He’s just a guy, and we’re glad God did the amazing miracle of making an army dumber than they should be and sowing chaos in them to make his plan happen.
24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and capture the waters against them, as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they captured the waters as far as Beth-barah, and also the Jordan. 25 And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan.
8 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger against him subsided when he said this.
Then they went out and chased down the stragglers around the country, and it even has a group of fighters mad they didn’t get to be part of the action, Gideon just talks them down by massaging their pride. You’re sooo great, all this, what is it in light of what you’ve done? Ok, I guess it’s fine you didn’t have us help… Nice on G-man for being diplomatic and willing to swallow some pride to keep the peace.
So then, lets see how the rest plays out:
And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5 So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” 7 So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8 And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.
13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’ ” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.
18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.
I’m just gunna recap this next part and not read it- Gideon passes through two places-His men, a small elite fighting force is chasing down the survivors of the bad guys, and it’s just the 300 of them, chasing al over a desert. They come across some places and ask for supplies, water. But the “friends” were like “has God delivered them into your hands already that I should use my hand to give you stuff?” So then he keeps going, fine, let’s go chase down the enemy, but then once they came back, having won their battle, the Bible calmly and casually explains how they sack the city of the jerks- “so they got some branches with thorns, and thought them a lesson” “then they killed the men of the city and knocked over their buildings. Also, it’s fun to point out- that it gives us the numbers here that we didn’t have before- the original bad guy fighting force was 120,000, and the “remnant” was still 15,000. How many men did God keep again? So if you’re thinking 300 vs 120k then 300 vs 15k isn’t a fight where the 300 win twice over, YOU ARE RIGHT, but that’s the point.
So then the battle is over. It ends after all this with Gideon having to do the killing of some of the last guys himself. He asked his eldest son to do it, but he just couldn’t do it, too young. So the guys ready to be killed asked him to do it. And he does, and it includes an odd commentary that after he kills them, he takes the pretty pretty off their camel for himself. Let’s keep reading and see if that’s foreshadowing for ten seconds of reading later, but a lot of Gideons life later.
22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.
This is a sad moment- after al this time, and all these ways of seeing that it was GOD who provided, GOD who secured the victory, GOD who was in control, Gideon gets asked to lead the people, and says the right thing, that he nor his sons should be kings over Israel, but rather God- which is what God said the people should do- just let HIM lead! But then in the next breath, he lets his love of gold go nuts and he made a big gold thing that people idolized and forgot how they ever got out of this mess.Like, come on man…
The Death of Gideon
29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.
So key takeaways here:
the Bible isn’t for children- it’s not cute little caricature stories- it’s real stories of real people, If you were making it up, it wouldn’t have this level of complexity- guys who in one verse do the right thing and the next screw it all up. That’s us- you aren’t all good, you aren’t all bad- you’re just a person, messed up and in need of a savior, but also, hopefully wanting some good in the world.
No matter how messed up you are, God can use you. He has a role for you in this story.
People are real- not just bit players. Everyone thinks of themselves of this nuanced person with complex emotions and thoughts, but others as caricatures. This is how you get weak intellectual high school nerds calling people sheeple. They think others are just one dimensional, when they can feel more readily the complex thoughts of themselves. BUT here’s Gideon, and we wanna say he was a good guy, a bad guy- smart, a moron, brave- he’s just real- like us. He did dumb things back to back with great things, he did wrong things for good reasons and good things for wrong reasons. But he still had a part to play in God’s story. If you know you’re gunna be all over the map in your life, why not let the good and the bad serve Jesus, so even your weaknesses can be useful. The only parts of our story that matter is when it’s being used by god.
Next though- Giden went into battle and God wanted him to know that it was not his own strength, but God, that won the day. What about your day actually relies on God? Being nice to your friends? Not getting into a fight? Not failing out of school? We need to push God more. God wants to prune out your easy goals so you KNOW that it was him who changed things- can you love your enemies, pray for those that hate you? Share your faith with people and make your life not just about yourself, but about what God wants you to do? Now all the sudden it might really take God working in you to accomplish that?