Notes on Judges 7:1-8
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 7:1, KJV 1 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.
Gideon had raised 32,000 soldiers from the tribes of Manasseh (his own tribe), plus Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, all in the northern part of Israel. The LORD would later tell him, though, that this number was too large (see the next verse). One reason for pitching (tents) by the well of Harod was to protect the well from the Midianites and others, plus, to ensure adequate water for themselves. The exact location of this well is not certain.
The “hill” of Moreh is probably different from the “plain” of Moreh, near Sichem, where Abram stopped on his journey (Genesis 12:6), or the “plains” of Moreh near Mts. Gerizim and Ebal (Deut. 11:29-30). The hill of Moreh mentioned here was near the valley of Jezreel, where the Midianites and others had pitched their tents (Judges 6:33).
2 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.
The Midianites had at least 135,000 soldiers (Judges 8:10), but the LORD told Gideon he had too many soldiers in his army. Even if all 32,000 Israelite soldiers remained, the Midianites would have outnumbered Israel by over 4 to 1. The LORD knew the hearts of the Israelites, that had they been able to defeat Midian, they would have taken the credit for the victory and left the LORD out of it.
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.
In the Law (Deut. 20:5-8), the LORD gave exemptions from active military service for those who met one or more conditions. Those who were fearful or afraid (fainthearted) were excused from combat. Gideon honored that part of the Law by allowing the fearful ones to leave.
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.
Now the LORD tells Gideon there were still too many soldiers. The LORD is going to put each of the remaining volunteers to a test. He would give Gideon the details in the next verse.
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.
Here is the test the LORD mentioned, to see which soldier would kneel down and drink from the water (which body of water is not specified) or to see who would scoop up a handful of water and drink from what they could hold. The ones who basically grabbed a handful of water were to be set apart from the ones who knelt down to drink from the water.
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.
Only 300 tried to drink water by the handfuls. The rest knelt down (on the banks?) to drink the 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.
The 300 who “lapped” were the ones the LORD chose to achieve victory over the enemies. He told Gideon to let the others return “unto his own place”, probably meaning each went back to his own home.
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.
“Victuals” is simply another word for food, or rations. Where they got them, or had stored them, is nowhere stated. The Midianites and others had basically stolen the harvest for years so it may have been a true sacrifice to take food on a military campaign.
Gideon indeed sent all but the 300 back to their own tents after the test at the water. With the Midianites and the others “beneath him in the valley”, Gideon and his men were apparently on a hilltop.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).