Judges 7–11: Gideon & Battles

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 7: Tuesday

And Yahweh said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, lest Israel honor themselves, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ So now, come, call out in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’”
Judges 7:2–3 LSB

Today’s reading of Judges 7–11, begins with the record of Gideon choosing his army and then going to battle against the Midianites. Gideon was introduced last week in Judges 6. He was one of the major judges of Israel. The judges in this section of Judges include major judges,  Gideon (6–8) and Jephthah 10:6–12:7, and minor judges  Tola and Jair (10:1–5).1

In Judges 6 we were introduced to Gideon, a soldier who fought where and how God commanded him. It’s a truly thrilling stories of how God enabled him, with only 300 men, to defeat the Midianites. When I was a child, our Sunday comics had a weekly half page of Bible stories. I still remember seeing the pictures of Gideon’s men drinking at the stream, and then routing the Midianites with their torches and pitchers and trumpets.

Remember in Judges 6, after Gideon tore down the altar to Baal, he was given the name of Jerubbaal, “Let Baal contend against him”? Sadly, you’ll find that once at peace, Israel turned back to idol worship (8:24, 33; 10:6) as well as to fratricide (Judges 9), with only affliction and misery turning them back to God (Judges 10). God’s words to Israel in Judges 2:1–5, were fulfilled over and over. Yet God has mercy on His people and continues to deliver them.

In Judges 11, Jephthah the Gileadite comes on the scene. The fact that when he fled from his brothers (11:3) worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him, gives you a clue to his character. The story of Jephthah’s vow and his daughter is truly horrifying. Arthur Cundall writes that Jephthah,

“showed his lack of appreciation of the character and requirements of the Lord, and his lack of confidence in the divine establishment, by seeking the favour of God by his rash vow…the designation whoever comes forth from the doors of my house (31 RSV) must refer to an intended human sacrifice. It is certain that this was intended as an act of devotion on Jephthah’s part, a recompense for God’s action through him; but had he been better versed in the traditions of Moses he would have known that God did not desire to be honoured in this way…The lives of others are sacred and are not to be terminated for the private end of an individual, however laudable that end may appear.”2

God had expressly forbidden human sacrifice.

You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.
Leviticus 18:21

F. F. Bruce writes:

“Although human sacrifice was expressly forbidden to Israelites, we need not be surprised at a man of Jephthah’s half-Canaanite antecedents following Canaanite usage in this matter.”3

In these chapters you see so clearly that God is a God of forgiveness and grace to those who repent and cry out to Him. He is also a God who gives courage and victory in overwhelming odds. In our own lives we’re called to fight different battles at different times. For most of us they’re spiritual rather than physical battles.

One of my pastors, Mike Braun, fought fiercely many times at the precise point of attack on the church by the world and by the devil. Not only he, but his family, had scars from those battles. As my pastor in two different churches in different states, I knew he stood for the Lord Jesus without compromise. He was both a shepherd who protected the flock under his care and an example of courage and love for Jesus Christ despite personal cost.

As I sat in his office one day, recounting the end of one of my hardest and longest spiritual battles, he gave me a copy of this poem he had written during one of his fiercest and most difficult times of defending God’s truth at a point of vicious attack.

Jehovah Shalom

But the LORD said to him
Peace! Do not be afraid.
You are not going to die.

Judges 6:23

Sing of the glories of Gideon
Mighty in Israel’s lore
Who pulled down the altars of Midian
And summoned his people to war.

“To death, if death overtake us
With the shield of Manasseh raised high!
Jehovah will never forsake us.
He promised that we would not die.”

The Angel by Gideon’s wine press
Confirmed this wonder of God,
Consuming a youth’s sacrifices
With simply the touch of his rod.

And though Satan sought to inflict him
With penalties rightly come by,
These fell on an innocent victim
So that Gideon would never die.

The shackles of death were broken
Like the spear in Midian’s hand.
The Word Jehovah had spoken
Enabled Israel to stand.

And Gideon saw in that instant
The Promise of Eden pass by.
Through his Savior whose coming was distant,
He believed that he would not die.

At an Abiezerite altar
Under aging Joash’s oak,
Gideon vowed no longer to falter
Oppressed by an alien yoke.

Like Gideon then to battle!
Mind not the enemy’s cry.
Shout above his meaningless prattle,
God’s promise that we shall not die.

For the sacrifice has been accepted!
God’s wrath in the death of His Son
Is turned back through grace unexpected;
Behold what Jehovah has done!

Face the struggles before you,
Though all your hopes run awry,
Though angel or man should abhor you,
Take heart, Christian, you will not die.

Mike Braun

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
God selects Gideon’s armyJan van’t HoffGospel Images. Judges 7:5.
Gideon and the Midianites, Jan van’t HoffGospel Images. Judges 7:19.
1Arthur E, Cundall, Judges: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1968) 22,146–147. (This commentary is published in the same volume as the commentary, Ruth, by Leon Morris).
F. F. Bruce, “Judges,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 269.
“Jehovah Shalom”: Copyright ©2011 Michael A. Braun, used by permission.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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