« הקודםהמשך »
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.
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.
This is strange doctrine for our day, when victory is thought always to accompany the largest battalions, when heads are counted rather than weighed, and votes are reckoned rather than character. Many times, however, it has been found that numbers constitute a danger to a cause or an institution, begetting pride and overconfidence, and leading men to trust in them rather than God. It was such pride that Jehovah feared for his people, since they had proved themselves so prone to forget him and his aid, without which they could do nothing.
3. The first test in the sifting of the people was of their courage. All that were fearful and trembling were allowed to return home. The mention of Mt. Gilead is a difficulty here, since Gilead is east of the Jordan. It has been suggested that Mt. Gilboa is meant, as that was near at hand; also that “ Gilead ” is a corruption of
Gideon,” and that the words originally were “ and Gideon tested them," which would require only the inversion of two letters in the verb. It seems strange that so many as 22,000 of the Israelites should have accepted the invitation, and made this frank confession of their cowardice. The degradation of the nation from the days of Joshua is very plain. Contrast this with our army in the Great War.
Repeatedly, when there was a call for volunteers for some especially dangerous exploit, the entire company stepped eagerly forward.
4. The people are yet too many. Ten thousand would be enough to make the people think that they had won the victory. The second test, therefore, weeded out all but the most alert, active, and ready. The ten thousand were to drink from
the spring of Harod, which means trembling “ Cowards' Creek,” Wright translates it. In that hot climate the attitude of a soldier toward water was very significant and important. Those that knelt down leisurely and drank directly from the stream put themselves in a defenceless position with the enemy near, and showed that they were sluggish and had not a soldierly command of their appetites. Those on the contrary that merely stooped hastily, swept up a little water in their
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.
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.
7. And the LORD said unto Gideon, 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.
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.
palms, and quickly lapped it up, showed that they were hardy and could do with little water, that they were prudent, and that they were quick in thought and action. There were only three hundred of the latter, seemingly all of them Abiezrites (Judg. 8:2), and they were the ones chosen to form Gideon's band.
Illustration. Inglis, in Bible Illustrations from the New Hebrides, speaks of seeing the natives drink by stooping till their heads were within eighteen inches or so of the water, then throwing the water into the mouth with the hand as fast as a dog could lap, looking just like the lapping of a dog. And“ it was the strong, vigorous, and energetic who drank water in this way ; never the feeble, lazy, or easy-going.'
How God's HEROES ARE CHOSEN. "• Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait' is the New Testament equation of the scene by Harod's well.”. Rev. H. Elvet Lewis.
Illustration. It is said that Alexander the Great, when in the desert with his soldiers, was parched with thirst. A helmet full of water was handed him and he was about to drink when he saw his soldiers looking eagerly at the water. Instantly Alexander handed it back, refusing to enjoy a blessing that all his men could not share with him.
“ We should all like to be judged by our few splendid hours. But it is not in our dreams we are ourselves. It is in the playground, in the schoolroom, around the fire, at the dinner-table.”. Morrison. God chooses his heroes by their daily, com
“Who ordered Gideon forth
“Oh! I have seen the day
When with a single word,
God helping me to say,
'My trust is in the Lord,'
My soul hath quelled a thousand foes,
Fearless of all that could oppose.
Self-righteousness and pride,
My weapon from my side!
Will help his servant to the end." III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF A DREAM, Judg. 7:9-18. Throughout the story of Gideon we see that the hero is a remarkable compound of prudence and boldness. “ Be sure you are right and then go ahead ” might be said to be his motto. It is a good motto, for heroism is a far remove from foolhardiness, and bravery is none the worse for coolness and foresight. Our Lord himself bade us count the cost before building and count our soldiers and our enemies before advancing.
9. Get thee down into the camp. Jehovah promised success to Gideon if he should make a night attack at once ; but he did not overburden Gideon's faith, he offered him the alternative of a night reconnoissance which would encourage him. Gideon was no Jonathan (1 Sam. 14), and he chose the reconnoissance. Like David at Ziph (1 Sam. 26), Gideon took a companion and went down from the hills into the camp of his enemies, the Midianites.
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.
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.
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.
12. Midianites . . . like locusts for multitude ; and their camels sand. Gideon, traversing the vast encampment, realized what a tremendous task he had before him, and his heart may have quailed ; but he was also to realize that with God's help even this great victory could be accomplished. It does no harm for a child of God to see that he is confronted by the humanly impossible, for with God all things are possible.
13. A man telling a dream. Every dream in olden time had its meaning, and was in some sort a message from the Deity.” — New Century Bible. Gideon overheard the account of a dream that was full of significance. The cake of barley bread was a flat round cake such as nomads use. Its tumbling into the camp of the Midianites signified an attack from without. Its rolling on its edge like a wheel, striking against the dreamer's tent, and turning it upside down, signified that the attack would be successful. Most of all, the ready answer of the other Midianite that the dream meant a successful attack by Gideon showed the listener that his name was known to the Midianites and that they feared him. Moreover, the coincidence that Gideon himself should be at hand to hear all this showed him that Jehovah was in the matter and was guiding his destiny. Nothing could have been imagined more encouraging to the young hero. 15. Gideon
.: worshipped. Surrounded by deadly foes as he was, Gideon bowed himself to the earth in recognition of God's presence, inspiring the dream and its interpretation. He could say with Jacob at Beth-el, “ Surely Jehovah is in this place ; and I knew it not ” (Gen. 28 : 16). God's children are known by this prompt realization of God's presence, in the wonders of nature and the marvels of providence. Arise ; for Jehovah hath delivered. Gideon proposed to take no credit for the coming victory; it all belonged to God.
16. He divided the three hundred men into three companies. They were to come upon the Midianites from three directions, so that the enemy would think they were surrounded by a great host. Saul used the same device against the Ammonites, 1 Sam. 11:11. Similarly when, in the Revolutionary War, the men of Truro on Cape Cod saw a hostile British ship approach the town, though they were only a handful, they marched that handful of men over a hill, in view of the British, then, screened by a sand dune, they marched back of the same hill and over it again, doing this so often that the British thought the town defended by a considerable
Trumpet force and so sailed away. Trumpets, and empty pitchers,
(Made from a ram's horn.) with torches within the pitchers. “ The pitcher was an earthenware vessel, with one or two handles, used for carrying water, and commonly borne upon the head or shoulder." - International Bible Encyclopedia. The troops that were sent home left with Gideon both their pitchers and their trumpets, which accounts for the number of these.
GOD STRENGTHENS Faith. “ The gentleness of God stooped to the feebleness of Gideon's faith, because it was faith that had striven even unto fainting.” — Rev. H. Elvet Lewis.
“ The same gracious willingness to help a tremulous faith, which carries its tremulousness to God in prayer, moves the Father's heart to-day.” Alexander Maclaren.
IV. THE VICTORY AND PURSUIT, Judg. 7:19-25; 8:1-35. Gideon did not procrastinate. He took immediate advantage of the timidity which he had discovered. He had waited only to be sure ; when sure, he was as swift as lightning.
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.
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.
21. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
19. In the beginning of the middle watch. The night, beginning at six, was divided into three watches of four hours each, so that the middle watch began at ten. Gideon took advantage of the little confusion attending the changing of the guards, and made his attack then. The three hundred empty pitchers were smashed, thus making a great crash and at the same time allowing the blaze of many lights to flash out suddenly. The three hundred trumpets were blown with vigor, and three hundred triumphant shouts arose : The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!
“ Cromwell's Ironsides, who never were defeated, selected for their battle-cry, the cry which heralded victory at Naseby and Marston Moor, “ The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.'»
Wright. 21. All the host ran. Panic easily seized these undisciplined troops, especially when they were affected by a vague fear in advance. So much of modern warfare is fought at a distance of miles that soldiers can remain cool and brave. Their nerves are tested, however, by “ going over the top.” Much of the terror inspired by the tanks was from the fact that they brought war to close quarters.
22. Jehovah set every man's sword against his fellow. In the darkness and confusion each thought that his fleeing comrade was a pursuing Israelite, and struck out wildly against him. For like events see 1 Sam. 14:16, 20 ; 2 Kings 7:6, 7; 2 Chron. 20 : 23. The four places to which the pursuit extended probably were in the Jezreel valley, as the Midianites would naturally run in that direction back home across the Jordan to the east. Abel-meholah was Elisha's birthplace (1 Kings 19 : 16).
23. The men of Israel were gathered together. Literally, were cried together," by shouting messengers. They joined the Abiezrites in the pursuit — their kinsmen of Manasseh and two tribes that bordered on the plain of Jezreel, Asher and Naphtali. Zebulun had made a part of the original army (Judg. 6:35), but, strangely enough, Issachar is not mentioned, though the battle was fought in the territory of that tribe.
24. Took before them the waters, the fords of the Jordan, especially that at Beth-barah, the location of which is unknown. The Midianites were evidently turning down the Jordan valley, and to prevent their escape the fords of the Jordan would need to be guarded by a body far larger than Gideon's three hundred. Gideon assigned this task to the men of Ephraim (modern Samaria), whose territory bordered the Jordan below Manasseh. The Ephraimites moved so quickly that they captured and slew two of the Midianite princes, who gave their names to a rock and a winepress in that region.
FLAWS IN GIDEON'S TRIUMPH. 1. The fault-finding of Ephraim (Judg. 8:1) was unreasonable. They, the proud and powerful tribe, would not have come if Gideon had summoned them. “No leader born of the poor tribe of Manasseh would have recommended himself to them — except in the brilliant noon of victory."
Rev. H. Elvet Lewis. Gideon's humble answer was a wise one.
2. The hard hearts of Succoth and Penuel. These places were east of the Jordan, near the river Jabbok where Jacob struggled with the angel. The Midianites had effected a crossing of the Jordan and Gideon and his three hundred followed, “ faint yet pursuing.” When he asked food from the men of these towns, they taunted him with his failure to capture the Midianite chiefs, and refused his request. Gideon went on, captured the chiefs, then returned and punished Succoth and Penuel as they richly deserved.
3. The templation of power. Moved by his brilliant exploits, the Israelites approached Gideon and for the first time in history proposed an hereditary monarchy, Gideon's refusal was prompt and was based on the will of God. “Jehovah shall rule over you,” he said (Judg. 8 : 23). " In such a dizzy moment Rienzi fell in Rome; Gideon stood.". Rev. H. Elvet Lewis.
4. The temptation of wealth. Alas, that Gideon did not so successfully stand the next allurement, that of riches !, Rewarded with the golden earrings of the slain Midianites, and nearly seventy pounds of gold, besides the golden plates in crescent form which the Midianites wore around their necks, golden pendants, valuable purple garments, and silver-mounted collars of camels, of these Gideon made an ephod, either an image, or a rich facsimile of the high-priest's sacred garment. Whatever it was, he hung it up in his home at Ophrah, and it became an object of worship, thus negativing Gideon's own work, the destruction of the Baal and Asherah.
Illustration. A writer has fancied that Gideon's mother took the fleece of the miracle at the opening of Gideon's career and made a mantle which he wore under his armor in all his battles and got good courage from it. But Dr. Whyte says that from the day when Gideon put on his golden ephod, this mantle his mother had made for him ceased to have its influence for good.
5. The temptation of sensual indulgence. Gideon had many wives, who bore him seventy sons, besides Abimelech, who after Gideon's death slew all his brothers but the youngest, Jotham, reigned iniquitously for three years, and finally, met a violent death. Thus Gideon's sin of polygamy was punished. “ The desecrated hearth is always defenceless. We may possibly say that the age permitted it, but Heaven, in his as in David's case, openly rebuked it, flinging judgment after judgment on the unkept hearth.” — Rev. H. Elvet Lewis. How honest is the Bible, thus exposing the weakness and sins of some of its greatest heroes !
THE GREATNESS OF GIDEON. “In Gideon we have reached the climax of the period. There is a sweetness and nobleness blended with his courage such as lifts us into a higher region; something of the past greatness of Joshua, something of the future grace of David.”. - Hastings.
“He is not unworthy of a place among the champions, the liberators, the protectors, whom history has immortalized. His life and daring form one of the most interesting pages in the records of faith.” Lang. See Heb. II : 32.
“ There is far too much trimming and seesawing in our day ; the age wants men of stern fidelity to God and his cause. Davidson.
“I would call Gideon an inverted Elijah. Elijah begins in full flame and gradually mellows down ; Gideon begins in trembling and gradually gathers heat.” - George Matheson.
“ We should all of us be hoping, like Gideon, to work some deliverance in the earth before we leave it.” – Marcus Dods.
"Once for the least of children of Manasses
God had a message and a deed to do,
Called him and hailed him greater than he knew;
Filled him with valor, slung him with a sword,
Mingled his name with naming of the Lord.” — F.W. H. Myers.
LESSON IV. — April 25.
PRINT Ruth 1:14-22.
Devotional Reading : Psalm 91.
Lesson Material : Ruth 1 and 2.
Memory Verse : Let us love one another : for love is of God. 1 John 4: 7. Junior Topic : RUTH AND NAOMI.
Lesson Material : Ruth 1:1-22.
Memory Verse : Ruth 1 : : 16. Intermediate and Senior Topic : LIFE DECISIONS. Topic for Young People and Adults : The Power of PERSONAL INFLUENCE. Additional Material : Matt. 5:13-16 ; 2 Cor. 3:2, 3.