Notes on Judges 7:13-25
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 7:13, KJV: 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.
Gideon was apparently just outside the tent where these two soldiers were staying. The time of night is not given but it was most likely dark enough that Gideon and Phurah were not noticed.
Sometimes dreams are a message from God to His saints. Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob, had a couple of dreams that his family definitely took the wrong way. After this, Daniel had dreams and used the meanings to explain God’s messages to various people in Babylon. In the New Testament era, Joseph, husband of Mary, received at least four dreams from God in relation to his care of the Baby Jesus.
But God also spoke to pagans in their dreams, such as Pharaoh in Joseph’s time, this dream here, and the dreams or vision of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel (chapters 2 and 4).
14 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.
If the first soldier didn’t understand the dream, the second one surely did. In the first soldier’s dream, he mentioned a cake of barley bread tumbling into the camp and knocking down a tent, meaning Gideon. Barley was a lesser quality of grain, compared to wheat, and the Israelites may have been forced to use barley instead of wheat for their grains, although the text does not mention this. The idea may be that, in his dream, the soldier saw something small or relatively worthless destroying the best that was in the field at that time. At any rate, the second soldier knew the dream’s meaning, and explained it to his friend, but incredibly did nothing about it.
Compare this with the reaction of Rahab the harlot and her family in Jericho during the time of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. She had explained to the spies that everyone in Jericho knew about all of the mighty deeds Israel had done by following the LORD but only she and those in her house were spared when the walls came tumbling down (Joshua 6:17-25).
15 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.
Worship can take place anywhere but this was no doubt one of the more unusual locations! Note that Gideon worshiped before he went back to the camp (“host”) of Israel. This was the confirmation which the LORD had promised Gideon.
Now Gideon repeated the words which the LORD had spoken to him, “the LORD hath delivered Midian into your hand (paraphrased)”,
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.
This was one of the first times this strategy had been employed. The LORD had told Joshua how to defeat Jericho, by walking around and then giving a shout; and Ai, in a different manner (Joshua 6-8). Now, many years later, He is giving instructions to Gideon on how to achieve victory over the Midianites and other invaders. Would Gideon have come up with this strategy by himself?
The size of the pitchers and lamps is not specified, nor the materials for the trumpets. Some trumpets were made of horns (Joshua 6:4), others of silver (Numbers 10:2), each one with a special purpose.
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.
Gideon had come to the outside of the (Midianite) camp just a short time before (see verse 11). Here he is telling the 300 soldiers with him to follow his example once all of them came to the edge of the camp.
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.
would be the signal to attack the Midianite’s camp. Gideon mentioned “every side” of the camp so the 300 would be scattered all around the edges of the camp itself.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.
Gideon brought his 100 soldiers to the outside of the Midianite camp. The time period for “middle watch” is not certain but could have been anywhere from midnight to 3 a.m. At any rate, it must have been extremely dark at that moment.
Then, once they got to the camp, Gideon and his hundred blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers. The noise must have been tremendous! This was the signal for the other two companies to do the same thing.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.
Now the other two companies followed the first company’s example. They blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and cried out, “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon”. At least one or two of the Midianite soldiers already knew about Gideon (verses 13-14) so the mention of his name might truly have frightened the Midianite soldiers.
Gideon’s troops had already gone around the edges of the enemy camp (verse 19). When Gideon’s men raised the lamps, the enemy saw their whole camp surrounded, even though they had no idea how many soldiers they might be facing.21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
Fear or panic set in among the enemy soldiers. Some had been standing guard and were no doubt tired, others had just woken up and may have still been sleepy at this changing of the guard. Regardless, all of the enemy ran, cried or shouted, and fled.
Perhaps they had done or witnessed the same or similar actions earlier when they had come against Israel, seeing them run when the Midianites and others came in to plunder the land (chapter 6).22 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.
This may mean the 300 Israelite soldiers blew their trumpets at least the second time. The enemy was already in disarray so some, at least, seemed to attack other enemy soldiers inside the camp. Some, however, escapted to Bethshittah and other cities (exact location unknown).23 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.
Naphtali’s and Asher’s territory was north of Manasseh’s. Now a number of men from all these tribes joined in the pursuit of the Midianites.24 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.
Apparently these messengers ran ahead of the Midianites as Gideon and other Israelites were chasing the enemy south, towards Ephraim’s territory. The text is not clear here but may mean the Ephraimites took or secured the waters unto Bethbarah (location uncertain) and the Jordan river. 25 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.
This is an irony: the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, were executed at places matching their names. The Israelites would seldom remove the head of a dead enemy from the body but this was the case here, proof to Gideon the enemy leaders were dead.
Later, David would remove Goliath’s head from his body (1 Samuel 17:57) and the Philistines (in revenge?) later did the same thing to Saul’s body after they had defeated Israel at Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:8-10). But this practice was nowhere commanded.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).