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.Jdg 7:1. Gideon rose up early — As one whose heart was upon his business, and who was afraid of losing time. Being now sure God was with him, he is impatient of any delay. And pitched by the well of Harod — That his army might not be distressed for want of water; and he gained the higher ground, which possibly might be some advantage to him, for the Midianites were beneath him in the valley. Our faith in God’s promises must not slacken, but rather quicken our endeavours. When we are sure God goes before us in any undertaking, we must be the more active, and exert ourselves the more to accomplish it.
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.Jdg 7:2. The people that are with thee are too many — The army consisted of thirty-two thousand men, a small army in comparison of what Israel might have raised on so great an occasion, and a very small one in comparison with that which the Midianites had now brought into the field. Gideon, doubtless, was ready to think they were too few; but God comes to him and tells him they were too many. It is indeed the same thing with God to save by many or by few; but man being prone to attribute every thing to natural causes rather than to God, it is one great design of God in all his dispensations, both of providence and grace, to counteract this evil disposition in our nature which robs God of his glory, and to cause us to consider him, and see his hand more in all things.
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.Jdg 7:3. From mount Gilead — Not that mount Gilead which was on the east side of Jordan, for the camps, both of the Israelites and Midianites, were on the west side of that river, in the land of Canaan; but another mount Gilead in the tribe of Manasseh. There returned of the people twenty and two thousand — These, finding their whole army very small, in comparison of that of their enemies, who were a hundred and thirty-five thousand, (Jdg 8:10,) and all, no doubt, well armed and disciplined, and encouraged by long success, whereas the Israelites were dispirited with long servitude, and many of them unarmed, lost the courage which they had at first, and therefore returned.
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.Jdg 7:4. The Lord said, The people are yet too many — For my purpose, which is so to deliver Israel that it may appear to be by my own act; that so I may have all the glory, and they may be more strongly obliged to serve me. God foresaw that if the Israelites had fought against the Midianites, even only with ten thousand men, they would have attributed victory to their own strength and courage; they were therefore reduced to three hundred only, that there might not be the least room left for thinking that their own hand had saved them. Bring them down unto the water — Either that which ran from the well of Harod, mentioned Jdg 7:1, or some other brook.
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.
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.Jdg 7:6. That lapped — Taking up a little water in the palm of their hands. It is probable that Gideon, upon this occasion, commanded his whole army to leave their baggage behind them, and among that the vessels and cups they used to drink out of; and, when he had brought them to the river-side, told them to drink of it, as they were going upon an expedition which would not admit of the carrying water with them, and in which they would not soon meet with any. Something of this kind we may reasonably imagine, to account for the whole army’s drinking at the same time, and not one of them using any kind of cup. The whole army, except three hundred men, upon the command being given, seem to have flung themselves down on the river’s bank, as it were, to indulge themselves, which is probably meant by bowing down their knees to drink. But the three hundred men, probably more intent on the expedition, contented themselves with taking up some water in the palm or hollow of their hands, and so quenching their thirst, without laying aside their arms, or putting themselves off their guard.
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.Jdg 7:7. Every man unto his place — That is, to his own home. “By this further distinction,” says Henry, “it was proved that none should be made use of, but, 1st, Men that were hardy, that could endure fatigue, without complaining of thirst or weariness; 2d, Men that were hasty, that thought it long till they were engaged with the enemy, preferring the service of God and their country before their necessary refreshment. Such as these God chooses to employ, that are not only well affected, but zealously affected to his work.”
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.Jdg 7:8. Their trumpets — That is, the trumpets belonging to the whole army, which he retained for the use following. Gideon seems to have been now inspired with the thought of the stratagem which he put in execution afterward, otherwise he would not have ordered every one of the three hundred to take a trumpet in his hand.
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.Jdg 7:9-11. The same night — After he had dismissed all but the three hundred; the Lord said — In a dream or vision of the night; But if thou fear to go down — Namely, with thy three hundred men, to attack the Midianites. Afterward shall thy hand be strengthened — Thou wilt be encouraged to proceed, notwithstanding the smallness of thy number.
But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
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.
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.
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.Jdg 7:13-14. And lo, a cake tumbled into the host of Midian — A weak and contemptible thing, and in itself as unable to overthrow a tent as to remove a mountain; but, being thrown by a divine hand, it bore down all before it. His fellow answered, &c. — As there are many examples of significant dreams, given by God to heathen, so some of them had the gift of interpreting dreams; which they sometimes did by divine direction, as in this case. For it is evident that God influenced the mind of this man, to give this interpretation to the dream of his companion, for the encouragement of Gideon; otherwise, considering the numerous host of the Midianites, and the small force which Gideon had, it does not seem probable that a Midianitish soldier should have entertained such a conjecture; and one may observe the soldier speaks as if under some prophetic influence. Into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host — It is certain, at least, that the hand of God was in this affair, that Gideon should be directed to this particular tent, and that the soldier should be telling his dream just at that very moment.
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.
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.Jdg 7:15-16. When Gideon heard, he worshipped — He praised God for this special encouragement. He divided the men into three companies — To make a show of a vast army. Lamps within the pitchers — The lights were put into the pitchers, partly to preserve them from the wind and weather, and partly that their approach to the Midianites not being discovered, they might surprise them with sudden flashes of light. But when every man had taken his post just on the outside of the camp, then they broke the pitchers, that they might have the advantage of the lamps, and at the same time cast a great terror upon the Midianites; who, from the number of the lights in different places, doubtless concluded that they were surrounded by a numerous army; and to this terror the number of trumpets, (each man sounding one,) and the shouts from different parts, greatly contributed.
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.
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.Jdg 7:17-18. He said to them, Look on me — For though two hundred of his men were placed on other sides of the camp, yet they were so disposed, that some persons, set as watchmen, might see what was done, and give notice to the rest to follow the example. The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon — He mentions his own name, together with God’s, not out of arrogance, as if he would equal himself with God, but from prudent policy, because his name was grown formidable to them, and so was likely to further his design. See Jdg 7:14.
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.
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.Jdg 7:19. Middle watch — That is, of the second watch; for though afterward the night was divided into four watches by the Romans, (Matthew 14:25,) yet in more ancient times, and in the eastern parts, it was divided into three: he chose the dark and dead of the night, to increase their terror by the trumpets, whose sound would then be loudest, and the lamps, whose light would then shine most brightly, to surprise them, and conceal the smallness of their numbers.
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.
And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.Jdg 7:21-22. They stood — As if they had been torch-bearers to the several companies. Every man’s sword against his fellow — They slew one another, because they suspected treachery, and so fell upon those they first met with; which they might more easily do, because they consisted of several nations, because the darkness of the night made them unable to distinguish friends from foes, because the suddenness of the thing struck them with horror and amazement, and because God had infatuated them, as he had done many others.
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 Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
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.Jdg 7:23-24. The men of Israel gathered themselves together — Upon advice of this flight of the Midianites, by swift messengers sent on purpose, the Israelites immediately poured down from all parts, to intercept them in their flight. Take before them the waters — That is, the passes over those waters to which they are likely to come; unto Beth-barah and Jordan — The fords of Jordan, which they must pass over into their own country.
And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
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.Jdg 7:25. To Gideon on the other side of Jordan — For Gideon, in the pursuit, had passed over Jordan. Oreb and Zeeb had probably taken shelter, the one in a rock, the other by a wine-press. But the places of their shelter were made the places of their slaughter, and the memory of it preserved in the names of the places.