18 July 2022

Gideon's victory: In the strength of the Lord

Bible study by Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies dissects Gideon’s winning strategy.

Key text

Have you ever prayed for something and then, when it happened, forgot to thank God for it, seeing it as a human – rather than divine – answer?

In our study passage, Gideon attends to the confrontation for which God had called him – the battle with the Midianites and their associates, who had gathered in large numbers on the edge of Israelite territory.

The Bible opened at Judges 7

Judges 7:2

The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, “My own strength has saved me.”

Read the passage

Gideon had called for help from across the Israelite tribes (see Judges 6:34 and 35) and had amassed an army of 32,000 men. God said there were too many. He had already told Gideon that he, God, would win the battle for them.

However, God feared that with such a large army, they would boast about it being their victory and not his. So, he told Gideon to announce that anyone who wished to could leave the camp – and 22,000 men went home.

Pause and reflect

  • Why might someone claim a ‘win’ (something good or positive or helpful) that wasn’t really theirs to claim?
  • Have you done that?

This left Gideon with just 10,000 men. God said it was still too many. He instructed Gideon to lead them to the spring of Harod and invite them to drink. God then asked Gideon to separate the men into two groups: those who got down on their knees to drink the water (thus not being able to move quickly or observe their surroundings) and those who scooped the water up in their hands and lapped it (allowing them to be watchful and ready to move).

God said that those who had knelt could be dismissed. From the initial fighting force of 32,000, this left Gideon with just 300 men.

Understandably, God sensed that Gideon might be fearful of confronting a huge army with such a small number. That night he advised Gideon to sneak down to the enemy camp and overhear what they were saying. Gideon did so, accompanied by his servant, Purah.

Gideon and Purah overheard one of them telling another that he’d had a dream, which his friend interpreted as an indication that Gideon would win the day. This delighted Gideon and was sign enough for him that his army, small as it was, would be triumphant.

He went back to his camp and told the men to get ready because ‘the Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands’ (v15).

Pause and reflect

  • Can you think of other Bible stories where people interpreted dreams to discern God’s will?
  • Do you think that God can still speak to us in dreams?
  • The Midianite soldiers were likely followers of Baal. Does God speak to non-believers and people of different faiths?

Gideon then adopted a brilliant tactic. With a vastly smaller army and an enemy that potentially felt the Israelites were receiving divine help, Gideon decided to play on their fear and use the elements of shock and awe, attacking in the dark of night.

All 300 men were instructed to find a trumpet and a torch they could hide inside a jar or clay pot. The trumpet was most likely a bull or ram’s horn and the torch was most likely a smoking stick that could flame back to life when waved in the air – carrying it in the jar kept any light from it hidden and stopped the wind getting to it before they were ready.

Gideon’s army went to the edges of the camp and, on his signal, smashed the jars, yelled, blew their horns and waved their torches.

The men in the enemy camp didn’t know what had hit them – an army might be led by a few trumpeters but, suddenly, there were hundreds being blasted. The sound of smashing jars added to the cacophony, as the camp was suddenly surrounded by flames in the middle of the night. ‘The Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords’ (v22) and they fled in fear. It was a triumph – not only for Gideon but also for God.

Relying on God’s strength and God’s strategy is a winning tactic.

Pause and reflect

  • What spiritual battles are you facing in your day-to-day life?
  • How do you approach them?
  • Is there a different strategy that you could try?

Bible study by

Major Mal Davies

Major Mal Davies


Let's pray

Dear Father, help me to rely not on my own resources, but on you and your power so that you may achieve through me what might be deemed impossible and receive the glory that is rightfully yours.


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