Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod…
What a contrast the present position of Gideon as Israel's leader, within a few hundred yards of the dreaded foe, from that in which we first find him, threshing wheat in the wine-press secretly! Thus far has the Lord brought him, but much has to be done ere the soldiery he has shall be rendered efficient. Both leader and men have to pass through an ordeal such as must try them to the utmost. Not yet is the onset to be made that shall definitively retrieve the fortunes of Israel. Truly God's thoughts are not as men's thoughts. Everything is in apparent readiness, but delay is observed, and two mysterious tests are enjoined.
I. THE DESIGN OF THESE TESTS. Although they must have seemed arbitrary, if not capricious, to many concerned, there is evidently "method in the madness." A partial explanation is given in the words, "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." The tests are meant, therefore -
1. To check the unbelief and self-conceit of men. The vast multitude is reduced to a few that men may give the praise to God, and his power be manifest. It is easy to suppose that such a tendency would show itself amongst the miscellaneous crowd. God could do the work by "many or by few," and it was well for them all to know it.
2. To secure efficiency. This would consist first, in the tried courage and discipline of those who remained; and secondly, in their faith and inspiration
II. THEIR ADAPTATION TO THIS DESIGN. By the adoption of the first expedient we are not to suppose that so many as left were lacking in ordinary courage. But they were not all heroes, and it was the heroic spirit that was needed. The anxious, irresolute, and timid were got rid of, and those who remained were men in earnest. The second test revealed the presence or absence of rarer qualities. This seems to be its rationale: the Israelites were close to the camp of the Midianites, who must have been watching the singular manoeuvres of their foes. The water where they drank must have been within easy reach for a demonstration, but they remained inactive. This created carelessness, a spirit of bravado in most. When they came to the water, therefore, they thought only of their thirst, and either forgot or despised the enemy. Flinging themselves down, they abandoned themselves to the luxury of quenching their thirst, and by their attitude exposed themselves to surprise and panic. But the three hundred stood up whilst drinking, and so had to lap. In this way they kept themselves alert, and showed that duty, not self-indulgence, was uppermost in their minds. It is the combination of prudence and self-denial with courage which is the most valuable thing in a soldier. The soldiers so tried are kept for the special effort, and the others who had not gone away are held in reserve to follow up the first blow struck, But over and above the special aim of each test, there was a discipline in the compulsory waiting and observing all that they involved - the loss of time, the trial of temper by apparent folly and arbitrariness, and the insignificant handful surviving the tests. So were Israel and its leader prepared. Is not all this like the discipline of life? God is so dealing with his children. The revelation and guardianship of great truths are committed only to the tried few; the signal movements and heroic duties of his kingdom are the care of elect sou]s, who when tested have been found true. The qualities requisite for a critical movement in a campaign are just those most valuable in life - faith in the leader, dauntless courage, superiority to self-indulgence, and constant prudence. We are to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We know not what faults have to be corrected, what high service lies before us. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod: and the camp of Midian was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.