Gideon at the River

Now that the Spirit of God was in Gideon, he was ready to lead the Israelites to stand up to their neighbors who had been stealing their food. Many strong young men from Gideon’s clan had gathered around him, ready to defend their land.

“Gideon,” God whispered to him, “I don’t want you to fight with such a big group. I want it to be obvious that I am the one giving you this victory. Tell everyone who is afraid to stand up to the Midianites that it’s okay for them to go home.”

After Gideon told the soldiers this, twenty-two thousand men went home, leaving only ten thousand to help Gideon.

“Ten thousand is still too may,” God told Gideon. “Go to the water and I’ll show you which soldiers I want you to keep.”

So Gideon did what God told him. He brought all the volunteers to the water and told them to drink. Most of the soldiers crouched down and drank right out of the spring. But three hundred scooped up water in their hands and brought their hands to their mouths.

“Those men are the ones who will make the best soldiers,” God told Gideon. “Have them stay and send the rest home.”

So Gideon was left with only three hundred soldiers. He might have wondered how only three hundred men could stand up to the Midianites, who felt like a swarm of insects because there were so many of them, but God had a plan.

A few hours after dark, when the first group of guards had gone to bed and the second group was beginning their turn, Gideon and his three hundred soldiers quietly crept toward the camp of the Midianites. They surrounded the camp in a giant circle.

Each of them carried a trumpet and a torch with a jug held over the fire to keep anyone from seeing them. When Gideon gave the signal. Everyone blew their trumpets. They smashed the clay jars onto the ground and yelled out, “For the Lord, and for Gideon!”

The Midianites woke up out of a sound sleep. All around them they saw fire from the torches, while the sound of the trumpets and clay jars breaking confused them. Unsure of what was happening, they leapt out of bed and began to fight each other.

Meanwhile, the Israelites didn’t have to do a thing. They stayed in their positions surrounding the camp, while the Midianites defeated themselves.

The Midianites left and stopped stealing the Israelites’ food. Everyone was so happy, they told Gideon they wanted him to become their king. “Then your son and grandson can rule after you,” they told him.

“No,” Gideon insisted. “I don’t want to be king. God is your ruler.”

So Gideon served as a judge in Israel. But after his time, the Israelites forgot that the Lord was their God once again. The stories their parents told about God defeating the Midianites with only three hundred soldiers became boring, and the mystical worship of their neighbors began to attract them again.