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(MT versing)
Gideon's 300 Chosen Men Gideon's Valiant Three Hundred Gideon
Gideon Defeats the Midianites Yahweh Reduces the Number of Gideon's Army
7:1 7:1 7:1 7:1 7:1-3
7:2-3 7:2-3 7:2-3 7:2-3
7:4-8 7:4-8 7:4-8 7:4-8 7:4-8
An Omen of Victory
7:9-14 7:9-14 7:9-14 7:9-12 7:9-11
7:15-18 7:15-18 7:15-18 7:15-18 The Surprise Attack
Confusion of the Enemy 7:16-18
7:19-23 7:19-23 7:19-23 7:19-22 7:19-22
The Pursuit
7:23-25 7:23-25
7:24-25 7:24-25 7:24-25

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. YHWH must limit Gideon's army to show His power (cf. Jdgs. 7:2).

  2. Gideon is still afraid and must have yet another sign (cf. Jdgs. 7:9-14).

  3. Judges 7:24-25 shows how geographical places in Canaan, after the invasion of Israel, got their names.

  4. Gideon, like Samson, clearly shows the fallen, frail nature of Israel's judges/deliverers. YHWH's will and Spirit are the true forces behind the historical events. YHWH uses fallen, weak people (i.e., Noah, Jacob, Moses) to accomplish His purposes.


1Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped 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.

7:1 "Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon)" See note at Jdgs. 6:32.

▣ "the spring of Harod" This name (BDB 353) means "trembling" (cf. Jdgs. 7:3). The valley of Jezreel or Esdraelon is the geographical setting.

▣ "Midian" The LXX (Alexandrinus) adds "and Amalek" (from Jdgs. 6:33), both here and 7:12, but LXX (Vaticanus) has only "Amalek" at Jdgs. 7:12.

▣ "the hill of Moreh" This is located to the southeast of Mt. Tabor (see The Macmillan Bible Atlas, p. 15, maps 8, 60).

This is not the same locality as "the oak of Moreh" (Gen. 12:6; Deut. 11:30), which is near Shechem.

The name (BDB 435 II) means "teacher." Trees were sacred sites in the ANE, probably because they identified in-ground water sources.

2The Lord said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, 'My own power has delivered me.' 3Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'" So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.

7:2 "The people who are with you are too many" God's ways are not man's way (cf. Isa. 55:6-9)!

▣ "for Israel would become boastful" God wanted all to know it was His victory, not Israel's (cf. Deut. 8:17-18).

7:3 "Whoever is afraid and trembling" Lack of faith in God could cause panic to spread within the troops (cf. Deut. 20:8).

Notice YHWH reduces the army of Gideon in two ways.

  1. those who are afraid, go home (22,000 reduced to 10,000)
  2. those who drink without watching (Jdgs. 7:5-8), go home; the group left would have been the best soldiers (10,000 down to 3,000)

▣ "depart from Mount Gilead" This seems to be an early scribal error for Mt. Gilboa. Mt. Gilead is on the eastern side of the Jordan, while Mt. Gilboa is in the plain of Esdraelon.

The UBS Text Project gives "Gilead" an "A" rating (certain). However, it does not fit the context. Context is crucial and determines word meaning.

  1. Gilead ‒ גלעד
  2. Gilboa ‒ גלבע

The REB has "Mount Galud," from LXX, "Mount Galaad," which is a spring at the foot of Mt. Gilboa.

▣ "depart" This VERB (BDB 861, KB 1050, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense) occurs only here.

There are several options.

  1. NKJV ‒ "let him depart at once from Mt. Gilead"
  2. NJB, Peshitta ‒ "go back and watch from Mt. Gilboa"
  3. JPSOA ‒ "as a bird flies from Mt. Gilead"
  4. REB ‒ "to leave Mt. Galud at once"
  5. LXX (B) ‒ "leave Mt. Galaad"
  6. Kimchi ‒ "depart early" (Young's literal)
  7. G. F. Moore (ICC) ‒ "Gideon put them to the test" (BDB 861, #2; NAB)
  8. C. F. Burney ‒ "decamp"

Obviously no one knows. JPSOA marks this as "meaning of Heb. uncertain."

4Then the Lord said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go." 5So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, "You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink." 6Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. 7The Lord said to Gideon, "I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his home." 8So the 300 men took the people's provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

7:4 "I will test them" YHWH Himself "tests" (BDB 864, KB 1057, Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense). This term is from metallurgy and means to heat something to purify it (i.e., smelter; cf. Isa. 48:10; Zech. 13:9). In this context it refers to YHWH trying human's hearts (cf. Ps. 17:3; 26:2; 66:10; 105:19; 1 Pet. 1:7).

7:5 "he brought the people down to the water" Josephus (Antiq. 5.6.3) tells us it was at noon when they were very thirsty.

▣ "everyone who laps the water. . .everyone who kneels to drink" There are two opinions about these different drinkers.

I tend to see the smaller group as the most inexperienced soldiers. YHWH brings victory through the least likely group in order to show His power (cf. Jdgs. 7:2). It seems the former group was alert and prepared, while the latter group was concerned more with their immediate physical needs. Josephus says the first group were cowards (Antiq. 5.6.3) and the Jewish Study Bible agrees (p. 525).

Jewish tradition says that those who knelt showed they had at some point worshiped Ba'al (see Jewish Study Bible, p. 525).

7:8 "provision" This term (BDB 845) usually means "food supply" (i.e., Jos. 1:11; 9:11), but here it seems to refer to the empty food jars used to conceal the torches in the nighttime surprise attack.

It could also refer to the "trumpets." Not every person would normally have a trumpet but the remaining 300 each had one.

▣ "each to his tent" This is a Hebrew idiom for "return home." It does not imply anything about what kind of structure (cf. 1 Sam. 4:10; 13:2; 2 Sam. 18:17; 19:8; 20:1, 22).

9Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. 10But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, 11and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp." So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp. 12Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 13When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, "Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat." 14His friend replied, "This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand."

7:9-14 Gideon's tendency toward doubt is revealed again and dealt with by God again (i.e., a sign, cf. Jdgs. 6:17, 36-40).

7:9 Notice YHWH reveals Himself in two dreams.

  1. Gideon's in Jdgs. 7:9
  2. a man in Jdgs. 7:13 (i.e., one of the enemy); God uses many ways to accomplish His will

▣ "for I have given it into your hands" This is a PROPHETIC PERFECT. This victory has not yet occurred but YHWH's promise was certain.

7:10 "Purah your servant" This is obviously an eyewitness account!

7:12 There are three groups of invaders identified (cf. Jdgs. 6:3): (1) Midianites, (2) Amalekites, (3) "all the sons of the east."

Notice the three ways the opposing army is characterized.

  1. as numerous as locusts
  2. camels without number
  3. as numerous as the sand on the seashore

It was a large coalition. No wonder Gideon was shocked to be told to reduce his 33,000 soldiers to 300! This is the faith element in Israel's battles (cf. Deut. 3:22; 7:18; 20:1; 31:6, 8; 1 Sam. 17:45, 47; Ps. 20:7; 33:6-17; 44:1-3, 5-7; Isa. 63:1-6,9). YHWH was their covenant God and Divine Warrior (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 545-549)!

7:13 "loaf of barley bread" This was food for the poor. The Hebrew word "loaf" (BDB 853) occurs only here in the OT. The New Jerusalem Bible's footnote and Jewish Study Bible (p. 526) both say the "barley loaf" represented the agricultural Israelites, while the "tent" represented the nomadic enemy.

7:14 This interpretation by another enemy soldier is also a revelation from YHWH. There is no reason why an army as large as the one described (Jdgs. 7:12) should be afraid of Gideon and his much weaker troops.

YHWH has placed fear in the hearts of the enemy (cf. Jdgs. 7:22).

15When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, "Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands." 16He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. 17He said to them, "Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, 'For the Lord and for Gideon.'"

7:15 "its interpretation" This NOUN (BDB 991 I) used in this sense (i.e., "breaking" a dream's meaning) is found only here.

▣ "he bowed in worship" Gideon has a worshipful moment amidst the enemy's camp!

7:16 Torches will not burn in an overturned pottery jar. The jar had some hole in it or this is another miracle of God!

7:18 The war cry of Jdgs. 7:18 leaves out "a sword for" (see Peshitta) but the full form appears in Jdgs. 7:20.

This war cry (Jdgs. 7:18, 20) was the only part of the battle required of Gideon's soldiers. YHWH, as the Divine Warrior (i.e., Holy War), is the victor!

The Jewish Study Bible, p. 526, supports this by noting that Gideon's soldiers had both hands full (i.e., jar and torch), so no hand for the sword. The sword was YHWH's sword! However, there is the question of how they also carry a trumpet.

19So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" 21Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran, crying out as they fled. 22When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.

7:19 "middle watch" This was the second night watch from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am.

▣ "when they had just posted the watch" The Hebrew text has an intensified form here (i.e., an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a PERFECT VERB from the same root, BDB 877, KB 1086). Exactly why is uncertain. Apparently the guards were not yet settled in for their watch, while the other guards were walking back to their tents.

▣ "trumpets" They used ram's horns.


7:20 "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon" This was their battle cry!

7:21 "crying out" This VERB (BDB 929, KB 1206, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) is the opposite of the war cry of Gideon's army in Jdgs. 7:18 and 20. This VERB is never used for victory, only the sound of fear, defeat, and flight (i.e., Micah 4:9).

There is another word for "crying out" (BDB 858, KB 1042) used in Jdgs. 7:23, for Gideon calling out to the other Israeli tribes.

7:22 "the Lord set the sword of one against another" This is also mentioned in 1 Sam. 14:20; 2 Chr. 20:23.

▣ "Beth-shittah" This location is uncertain. The name (BDB 112) means "house of Acacia. It is not the same as "Shittim."

▣ "Abel-meholah" It means "dancing brook" (KB 7). This is located very close to the Jordan River, about level with Samaria (cf. 1 Kgs. 4:12; 19:16).

24Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan." So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. 25They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.

7:24 The Ephramites are invited by Gideon to join in the pursuit of the invaders, especially at the fords of the Jordan. This was so that several tribes could be part of the victory.

  1. Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, Naphtali (Jdgs. 6:35)
  2. Ephraim (Jdgs. 7:24; 8:1); they cut off the enemy's retreat towards the fords of Jordan

▣ "Beth-barah" This name means, "house of the ford" (BDB 111). Its location is uncertain but must be close to the Jordan (cf. Jdgs. 3:28).

7:25 "Oreb" This word means "raven" (BDB 788).

▣ "Zeeb" The word means "wolf" (BDB 255 II).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How does Jdgs. 7:2 explain the rest of the chapter?
  2. There are two options of how the soldiers drank and what it meant. Which one do you think is correct?
  3. How does Jdgs. 7:10 characterize Gideon?
  4. How did God defeat the invaders?
  5. Why was Ephraim invited to participate?

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