Gideon’s Trial – Why did God use the water-drinking test?

I heard a sermon this morning from Pastor David Jeremiah on Gideon’s trial of faith. For some reason, this is a passage that I’ve heard many sermons on.  One of the weirdest aspects of this particular event in history is the method God used to whittle down the army to the numbers He wanted.

Pastor Jeremiah mentioned that God’s entire goal in this exercise was to demonstrate that when Israel triumphed, it was due to the hand of the Lord, and not their own strength.

The Lord said to Gideon, The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, My own hand has saved me. – Judges 7:2

We must understand all of God’s activities based upon the purposes He has set forth.  If He says that His intent here was to demonstrate that it was the power of the Lord that won against the Midianites, then we can ascertain that His goal in whittling down the army was NOT to cull the herd of the more unfit soldiers.

However, this was my problem with Pastor Jeremiah’s message.  He did a great job in explaining that the Lord was the reason for the victory of the Israelites.  He explained that thinking that God’s goal in reducing the numbers of the Israeli army was to demonstrate His power and remove the Israelites’ ability to boast is not mere conjecture.  The above quote shows that to be the case.  However, when he came to the part where God uses an admittedly odd method for deciding who stays and who goes, Pastor Jeremiah seems to have forgotten about God’s goal.

This is the passage I am speaking of, here:

And the Lord said to Gideon, The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, This one shall go with you, shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, This one shall not go with you, shall not go. So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink. And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home. So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. – Judges 7:4-8

Pastor Jeremiah admits that many commentators will say that there is no reason for the Lord to use this particular test; that it was merely a way to whittle the numbers down to ridiculous amounts.  However, he then asks his listeners to assume that there is a purpose in God’s methods, and that this purpose is to choose the best and brightest among the soldiers for God’s army.  Pastor Jeremiah explains that God only wanted the best soldiers for his army, and that this test would show who was really worthy for service in defeating the Midianites.

He explains that those who stayed mostly upright would have been more alert, watching out for a sneak attack or anything out of the ordinary.  Thus, these people would be better suited to be watching the flanks of the army, etc.

He explains that those who put their face in the water were more concerned about worldly needs than anything else, and thus they were not wholeheartedly serving their commanders, etc.

He says that while God’s army contained less people, it now contained more men. (A point which is mathematically impossible without referring to percentages, which he did not.)

He also said that God wanted people who were willing to go against the majority to do what is right.  (Not sure how he assumes that lifting water to your face is more “right” than drinking directly from the stream in such a situation, but that was what he said.)

Ultimately, however, I don’t find these points to be very compelling.  Given that God’s purpose was to display that Israel’s victory could not have come from them, I see no reason why God would then attempt to ensure that His army was comprised of the best and brightest.  Aside from the fact that Pastor Jeremiah is making parallels to the Christian life right and left, casting a great many problems on his understanding of God choosing only the best and brightest to serve Him, he has completely abandoned the first part of his message…the groundwork that should now be used to understand God’s actions.

At the very least, the Lord is merely reducing Israel’s military numbers to display His power. If you must attribute some reasoning as to why God used this method, I don’t think it’s consistent with what the Lord is doing in that passage to assume that He was trying to retain the best and brightest soldiers.

It’s far more likely, based on God’s stated purpose here, to assume that He is actually trying to retain the least fit soldiers.  Soldiers know that when they can get sustenance, they need to get sustenance and get back to work.  They know that if they’re without water, and in a desert climate, they need to avail themselves of any ponds or streams that they come across.  They may not have another opportunity anytime soon.  If a battle approaches, they know they need to be in top fighting shape, and that includes being properly hydrated.

A soldier who, on the other hand, stayed upright and drank from his hand might be more concerned with etiquette, and far less likely to want to get their hands dirty when it came to it.

Such a test would be more in keeping with God’s stated goal of eliminating Israel’s ability to boast in their own power.

However, we need to leave room for the fact that there could be no real purpose in God’s choosing His army by this method or any other.  We could be reading much more into this than God intended.  One thing is certain: The Lord did not give His reason, so any speculation we make is quite unnecessary.  If God had wanted us to know why He chose this test, He’d have given that information to us.

40 thoughts on “Gideon’s Trial – Why did God use the water-drinking test?”

  1. This post has given me an idea. Someone needs to make a parody of 300, using this story.

    *quiet*

    Gideon: THIS! IS! ISRAEL!

    *stylized slo-mo pot smashing*

    Duh Deedodow dado dudu duduu dudee…

    (that’s the 300 music from the trailer. <_<)

  2. If you lift your hand up to drink you can see in front of you thus staying vigil. On the other hand, if you get on all fours and lap the water like a dog someone could take you by surprise. I would say the later position would make one less dependable thus showing to be the weaker choice. If God was making a point to show his power through men’s weakness, this would be the one.

  3. Welcome to the blog, Lyle, and thank you for your comment.

    I would tend to agree that IF God had a method to the manner He chose (more on that in a moment), it would be in keeping with His stated intention to remove Israel’s ability to boast in their own prowess.

    However, what I’d like the takeaway point for this post to be is that the Lord does not explain Himself, here. He doesn’t say “I’m trying to keep the best, or the worst.” He says only “there are still too many men.” If God had wanted us to draw parallels for Christian living, He would have explained Himself better.

    “Gideon, I only want the best and brightest to serve in my army. I will devise a method to get rid of the unfit. I don’t want anyone serving me who is not the cream of the crop. Therefore I will use THIS method to determine who stays and who goes.”

    God didn’t do this, and it would be ridiculous of God to say it, since God’s whole point throughout Scripture was that man is not worthy of any sort of favor from God. God doesn’t seek the best and brightest to serve Him. “Not many wise…were called”, etc. Pastor Jeremiah’s parallels, therefore, are somewhat specious.

    This is one of the prime dangers with people reading so much into passages wherein not much was said. One of the most commonly speculated passages is the one where Jesus doodles in the sand. Pastors are always saying “What Jesus COULD have been doodling was…” Or “Wouldn’t it have been neat if Jesus had been doodling thus and such?!?!” Rather than spending their time expositing the Word of God, they’re speculating about a topic that God obviously didn’t think was important enough to exposit, Himself! I hear it constantly, as though Pastors don’t think the Word of God is interesting enough on its own. It needs to be added to by them.

    I guess this could have been an additional blog post, huh? lol

    Thank you again for the comment, Lyle.

  4. Interesting discussion… But if God wanted the weakest, then wouldn’t in the first test rather than letting the timid go home, they would send the ones that were courageous and ready to battle to go home? I mean why take the bravest and then take the weakest of the brave. Following your train of thought, why not take the most timid, and then take the weakest of those.

    I am inclined to think, that God wanted the best. He took those that were courageous, sent the rest home. Then he took the vigilant and sent the rest home. Why? They had to have the most courageous, vigilant men to be able to do a crazy thing like going into a battle against crazy odds, armed with strange weapons, and a strange tactic.

    It takes the most faithful, most courageous and most vigilant to obey God against all odds.

    Mahalo for facilitating this discussion….

    Blessings…

  5. Thank you for your comment, David.

    However, I have to return to God’s own stated purpose here, which is to remove the Israelites’ ability to boast that they saved themselves. Ultimately, the why’s and wherefore’s of God’s test are less useful than us remembering that God needed no one to best the Midianites. He certainly didn’t need the best and brightest in Gideon’s army.

    I am far more in agreement with the commentators who say that there really was no purpose for the choice, or at least we’re not told why God chose it. What we are told is that God wanted no doubt left in the minds of all who would contemplate this history that it was God, and not man, who destroyed the Midianites that day. Any conjecture about why God chose the various tests must be understood in light of what God told Gideon, namely that he didn’t want anyone to be able to say their own hand delivered them.

  6. This is a great discussion, as iron sharpens iron… you’re really making me think this through.. Thank you!

    So if we were to take your point that God wanted to avoid the possibility that Gideon’s Army could take any credit for the victory, why wouldn’t God take the timid and shaking into the battle?

    Those that passed the first test where the courageous ones, couldn’t the boast be that victory came because the fearful didn’t get in the way?

    What if we reversed the selection of the tests i.e. all you are fearful and trembling, stick around. You who are courageous, you can leave, we won’t use you for this battle? Wouldn’t God get a greater glory?

    I need to remind myself that Gideon didn’t design these tests, God did.

    So God said the criteria for both tests. God knew what outcome He wanted.

    The outcome of the first test was that the fearful and timid went home. The brave remained. I believe that’s what God wanted. (I believe God wants strength and courage i.e. with Joshua, God said be “strong and courageous”)

    So what outcome did God want out of the second test? Did God now want the worst of the brave? That would be an interesting thought. First cut, take the good, send home the bad. Second cut, take the bad, send home the good.

    Yes it is possible that God would do that, His ways are so far above ours.

    However, could it be that God needed men that were courageous and vigilant, so they could carry out a seemingly nonsensical strategy that would result in God’s will being demonstrated i.e. delivery from the enemy, but not as the exclusive result of the army’s action?

    After all God told Gideon in chapter 6 (14, 16), that Gideon would rescue the people, that Gideon would defeat the Midianites.

    I’m thinking that God needs people that are courageous, vigilant and faithful to carry out His will to save, redeem and defend the world from the enemy. We need to have courage that He does not have plans for us to fail, we need to vigilant in keeping our eyes on the Master, and we have to have faith to obey Him completely, even though it doesn’t make sense at the time.

    Again, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this discussion. I am blessed by your perspective.

  7. First off, God stated His purpose, not me. His purpose is stated as follows:

    “The Lord said to Gideon, The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, My own hand has saved me.” – Judges 7:2

    So, God was whittling down the numbers to remove Israel’s ability to boast. This cannot be argued down using logic, or any other method. God wanted the credit for delivering Israel.

    Something else to notice, here:

    “And the Lord said to Gideon, With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand…” – Somewhere between Judges 7:4-8

    Who is saving Israel? Not the strong, brave men. Not the weak, fearful men. My ultimate point, and the point of this passage as stated by God, Himself is that it doesn’t matter what method God used. His desire was to remove the ability of Israel to boast.

    There is a problem with your logic when applied to the Christian life, however, that I’d like to address. God does not NEED man at all. God does not NEED us to be strong to be shown to be powerful. In our weakness, He is strong. When it comes to choosing whom will serve Him, he does not look for the most fit. When it comes to serving God, none of us deserve in any way the grace which He bestows on us.

    This was my problem with Pastor Rogers’ sermon. God is not looking for a few good men, as it were. He’s not looking for those who seek after Him. No one seeks after Him except that they first be drawn by Him. Paul tells us this.

    So when it comes to Gideon, it doesn’t matter whether the men were weak, ineffective, fearful men or not. The point of the passage is the might and power of God. We are not told why God chose the method He did, but we ARE told that God chose it to remove the Israelites’ ability to boast. There’s no getting around that.

    Couple that with what we are told elsewhere in Scripture about God’s self-sufficiency in Scripture, and we can easily see that no, God does not need the strong at all. He’s perfectly capable of destroying Midian on his own. He condescends to USE man, but does not NEED man. Thus, I see no reason why God needs the strong only.

  8. Interesting debate. The reason God showed for possible boasting was not courage or vigilance but shear numbers. So, in this respect I think both sides of this debate are correct. It seems God did in fact choose the better qualified courageous and vigilant soldiers, but that doesn’t mean there was a reason to boast. No one, no matter how brave or vigilant, can claim seriously victory when outnumbered by those odds. It was all God, all the way.

  9. I’m not saying God could have chosen the strong. However, I think we all need to recognize that God doesn’t NEED the strong to serve Him. He doesn’t NEED anyone.

    When God finds us, we are weak, broken, and not worthy of the gift of eternal life. We don’t even choose Him…He chooses us. We are dead in our transgressions.

    My main problem is when people take this passage and try to draw parallels with the Christian life, saying things like, “If you want God to use you, you need to be strong, and ready to serve him.” No. The Lord uses everyone, saved and unsaved, relatively weak and relatively strong. (Relative to humans, because to perfect, holy God, we’re all weak, sinful and ugly.) If he wants one of us to be strong, HE grants us the strength.

    God didn’t NEED the strong to fight for His cause. Just like He didn’t need the many. God wanted the glory from this battle, since it was God’s hand that delivered the Midianites to Israel. The problem I have is with the implication that God needed the strong in order to defeat the Midianites. Comments like this:

    “They had to have the most courageous, vigilant men to be able to do a crazy thing like going into a battle against crazy odds, armed with strange weapons, and a strange tactic.”

    That makes me think that people believe that without the strong, God would have been out of luck, here. THAT is a dangerous belief, and not supported by Scripture here or elsewhere. God didn’t have to have the strong. He may have chosen the strong, though I don’t believe that’s proven at all.

    This is another one:

    “However, could it be that God needed men that were courageous and vigilant, so they could carry out a seemingly nonsensical strategy that would result in God’s will being demonstrated i.e. delivery from the enemy, but not as the exclusive result of the army’s action?”

    Again, I have to caution against using statements like this. God does not need anyone. He condescends to USE us, sure. We’re blessed for it. But He did not need the strong here.

    Rick, I know that David made those comments, and not you. I’m just posting my hesitancy to say things like “God needs the strong”.

  10. Taliesin,

    I like this discussion. I am studying the book of Judges and am writing on the portion about Gideon. Taken in its context, the exploits of Gideon, his conversations with the Angel of the Lord, Gideon’s fear, the fear of his men, and the cycle of Israel repeatedly forsaking God and then crying out for Him to save them is all a part of understanding this.

    In this, I see God’s patience with a fearful, cynical, hesitating guy (not really a great specimen) to accomplish His will. He could have done it without Gideon or any man, but he chose to use Gideon. It should not be surprising that God may have chosen the weak:

    27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NASB)

    In this same vein, did you realize for instance that Gideon’s men had a trumpet in one hand and a pitcher with a torch in the other? What were they holding their swords with? The had no offensive or defensive capabilities when the deliverance began.

    The whole point was that it was God’s victory, God’s way. After all was done and won, those “best and brightest or worst and not-so-bright” fell into idol worship again.
    –surefoot

  11. If you’re studying Judges, then you have perhaps a clearer picture than many that the entire history of redemption is based on God, and no one else.

    Judges is all about the cycle of returning to sin even after miraculous things have been done in the lives of the Israelites. In fact, when you take the whole thing in context, my point becomes even more apparent, as you pointed out. They all went back to the same sins. They all did was was right in their own eyes.

    The fact that God used such as these to accomplish His purposes is a tremendous bit of grace.

    Thank you for the comment.

  12. You’re welcome. The older I get, the more I realize what is cost to redeem me. As I saw on a tee shirt: “I am the Wretch the song talks about”.

    It’s sometimes hard to balance in our minds the new sense of worth and strength given to us by the Lord against we we would be without HIM.

    If we are strong, it is only because of HIM. All that we are and have originates from HIM, and we are vessels for HIS Spirit. One of the most encouraging thoughts passed along to me was that the jar is not worth much by itself; it’s what it contains that makes it priceless.

    It gives me great joy to know that God has loved me this much.

    A bit off thread, but had to mention it.

  13. Hey John, thank you for your comment.

    I’m not going to say that God couldn’t have used women, as He most certainly could have. However, God did choose to use Israel’s army (or some of them) to accomplish His purposes, for whatever reason. That would not have included the women at that time.

  14. Even 300 very brave, very vigilant men would have been so outnumbered that only God could be named the victor. These 300 men faced “the host of Midian” below them in the valley. What’s 300 against a host? (Ch 7:8) Apparently, a host is a huge army: vs12

    And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east lay along the valley like locusts for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand on the seashore for multitude….

    It was only after Gideon was obedient to God by tearing down the altar of Baal and the idol of Asherah that the power of God fell on him. (Ch 6:34)

    First obedience, then the anointing.

    Maybe somehow in these tests God was determining who would be faithful and obedient. Men upon whom He could release His power. Note also, that after the Midianites turned the sword upon themselves, then more men from the other tribes of Isreal were called upon to rout them out of land. Probably the same 12,000 that went home originally. Compare 6:35 & 7:23 Interesting.

  15. I do not see that God needs anyone to be obedient to Him before He can use them. Ultimately, the Lord uses all things to bring about His will. This includes the unrepentant, unregenerate men.

    My point in all of this, however, is that God does not NEED willing, obedient men to accomplish His purposes. If He did, He would be a God not worthy of our attention, let alone worship. I alone could thwart all of His plans having anything to do with me. That is an impotent god, not an omnipotent God.

    Your premise appears to be that He needed to determine who would be faithful and obedient, because if they were not so, God could not release His power. I reject the premise as making God out to be fairly miniscule. He does not need our obedience, or even our worship. He is worthy of that and more, but to assume that man may thwart the Lord’s plans is to assume the Lord to be altogether weak.

    He may choose to reward those who obey Him, but he doesn’t need it. The Lord wanted the Midianite army routed. He did not need man’s effort to do it. He chose to use men, but did not need them, let alone their obedience.

  16. True. He doesn’t need us in order to accomplish His purpose, but so often it is the avenue He chooses. When it is His choice, I want to be available and radically obedient.
    Perhaps, then, God was simply looking for availability.

    d

  17. Regardless of God’s desire to keep the best or worst of the few men left, the “vigilance” supposition is ridiculous. It would only apply if one were entirely alone in a creek bottom where an enemy could conceal himself from the drinking victim within range of their primitive weapons, say 60 yards. Any farther than that and reaction time is moot.
    Besides, the rankest corporal would not allow 10000 men to go down into a creek bottom without leaving sentries behind and scouts to cross ahead to observe for the enemy.
    Anyone who has been very thirsty on the trail will know it is ludicrous to drink from your hand when you can slake your thirst quickly and cleanly by drinking directly from the source. Drinking by dipping your hand muddies the water for those drinking downstream because when the hand is lifted the turbulence (and dripping) disturbs bottom sediments. More importantly it is SLOW. Even with sentries, having your forces in a creek or river bottom is not something a commander with any sense would want to prolong, though Gideon may have sent them down in small groups.
    But of course why would God use this as a measure of fighting ability if he wanted the best? Would not some martial-arts test be more appropriate? Were they to engage in water-lapping contests with the Midianites?

    Pastors use these ridiculous speculations to add “interest” to their sermons; someone makes it up and puts it into the pastoral pipeline without considering the fact that adding sheer speculation to biblical interpretation is risky. Eventually it becomes Christian folklore and commonly believed, only to become crises of faith if and when the folklore is disproved.

  18. Today I heard a wonderful message on Faith and Fear, based on the words “Fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12.32). The message was given in December 2010 in a place called Kalimpong in the Eastern Himalayas. The message is also available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xw-S_XcEdA&feature=share

    I too did not understand the Water Test in the story of Gideon in Judges 7. The test is mentioned in Judges 7:5-6. You will observe that God chose 300 men who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth. All the rest knelt down to drink water directly from the stream. Water in the Bible stands for many things; and one such thing is the Word of God (Eph 5.26). The hand stands for ‘doing’, while the mouth stands for ‘speaking’. There are many who preach the Word of God without applying it practically to their life. Those who drank ‘putting their hand to the mouth’, showed that there was practical application before preaching.

    This is the best explanation of the Water Test that I have come across so far.

  19. In continuation of what I said earlier, it becomes clear that God’s warriors are those who practice the Word of God before they preach it. They have proved God’s word to be true and faithful in their lives. Therefore their preaching is with power. (Not eloquence!)

    Remember the words “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon”. The Word of God is the sword of the Lord.

  20. Thanks for all of your comments. I came upon this quite a bit later than the rest of you. I’d like to add something here.

    First, yes a main point is that God is responsible for the victory, and the point is to demonstrate to them AND US that it is Him and not us. The winnowing down of the number of people makes it clear as well as the plain text.

    Next, the method of the winnowing down is clear in the first case. The Lord removed the fearful or those who didn’t trust. I suggest that the second winnowing down would relate to this. Not that the final people were somehow more excellent (perhaps they were, but there is no indication of this from the text). I suggest that the final bunch were at some level more trusting. I admit that this requires some imagination, but it is consistent both with the passage and a multitude of other teachings … and there is application to how we follow the Lord – with trust – somehow in the midst of our imperfections – as Gideon himself was imperfect.

    All the best – Earl

  21. It still takes people who are spiritually sensitive enough to be watching and praying to win battles. People who are courageous enough to obey God. Reducing the numbers made it obvious no matter how good the men were they couldn’t do it without God. I would like to think the 300 were men that had enough sense not to relax while in camp. You are a solider who is always aware of the battle. I doubt God would use Christians who are living like the world that are not aware there is a battle to show himself strong. I suppose we would have to ask an army person if they were in that position how they would get their water. I think you would find it would not be head first, nor kneeling in a vulnerable position. What God can do with a select few who may not be the brightest but are living for Him, and understand the battle for the souls of men.

  22. I will test them for you there – I don’t think in God’s economy He would be testing to see who were the worst soldiers. Not intelligent as we know intelligence but wise alert men.

  23. Taliesin I understand why u disagreed with pastor Jeremiah, God doesn’t need any strong man to do his work, but there is a reason for that water test, God doesn’t do things without a reason. As christians we are supposed to be alert, like those who cupped water with hands..not distracted by worldly cares like the kneelers. The main theme was to show God’s victory. Its not the soldiers that fought,it was God’s hand BUT He wants us to learn sth about our christian life from that water test. The Holy Spirit helps us understand God’s word, you said God didn’t give a reason..He did, He gave us Holy Spirit to help us understand the scriptures when we read the bible. Jesus even told his disciples that He couldn’t teach them everyth But when He was gone the Holy Spirit wud teach us more and remind us too of his teaching. God bless u

  24. Praise The God our Father in Heaven and our Lord His Son Jesus Christ
    Well studied the context of the scriture message that was given by Dr. David Jeremia . Debate like this I always wanted to discuss the Godly Matters in the human way of thinking for more understanding.
    Author’s finding show shortcomings in well experienced preachers teachings. In reformed churches this type of constructive criticism is good for the general church goer to quickly clarify his doubts. I thank the author for his sinceretity in pointing the way that God really matters.
    Finally God wanted his people to obey His words without questioning that is proved in this debate even though Gideon questioned God thrice to make himself clear, so do we also clear our doubts.

  25. If it had been merely a matter of reducing numbers, then drawing lots would have been sufficient. However, God wanted to use those soldiers whose hands were “clean” (enough to use for drinking).

  26. I am late to the game here, but just discovered this blog. Did you know that many disease causing parasites live on the surface of the water? Knowledgeable packers drink from below the surface to avoid Giardiasis and other nastiness. So maybe God used the drinking method selection to pick the idiots who were drinking surface water to show he could win even with them.

  27. I think its funny that people who talk a lot and have the time to criticize never ever really do anything constructive, productive or beneficial for the kingdom. In fact they dont do anything. Way to go! I’m sure the kingdom is better for your criticizing sermons. Sincerely, Jordan Durso.

  28. I think it’s funny that you just placed yourself into this category of people by criticizing this blog post. Nice job.

    Ultimately, I stand by my original post, and further state that critical analysis of the Word and sermons are important if we are to know what Scripture teaches. Don’t believe everything preached at you. Be more like the noble Bereans, who searched the Scripture to find out if what they were hearing was true.

  29. We could be reading much more into this than God intended. One thing is certain: The Lord did not give His reason, so any speculation we make is quite unnecessary. This is what I liked about your post. I am often at odds with my Christian friends about scripture. I do not say they are wrong, just that thier speculation is not scripture.

  30. I am continually bewildered at how people find my blog. This post, for whatever reason, has been a lightning rod for people desiring to remove the glory of God.

    Robert, you’re right. Speculation is not Scripture. Not that it’s a problem, per se. Of course, when entire sermons are completely filled with what it must have felt like for Moses to hold his arms up, I think we’re sort of missing the point of preaching. However, what bugs me about this is how many people are out there earnestly seeking to show how God only wanted the best or brightest soliders in his army. That God somehow NEEDED the most fit, most able soldiers to save Israel. Every story in the Old Testament points to Christ. He is the main character of Scripture. Ultimately, this is somewhat a picture of God’s election of man. God does not NEED anything. He could have swept away the enemies of Israel with nothing more than an anthropomorphic breath from his anthropomorphic mouth. He chose to use man to accomplish His will (much like He does in preaching), and He whittled down the armies of Israel until they were so small THEY COULD NOT BOAST IN THEIR OWN STRENGTH. Now, all of you people who want to talk about how God NEEDED the most vigilant or strongest people look at the WORD OF GOD, here. He made the army smaller so THEY COULD NOT BOAST. God is self-sufficient. He needs nothing. When it comes to salvation, he does not choose only the rich, only the smart, only the strong, only the most fit for salvation. Assuming there is something in natural man which God finds pleasing is the height of hubris.Likewise, God probably chose a smattering of troops. Here’s some more fruitful speculation:

    Jeremiah was a good soldier, he figured. He always followed orders. He begun every battle on his knees, and ended it the same way. The wars in which God’s Chosen fought were just. He’d seen the practices of the enemy and they were disgusting indeed. Plus, Israel had El Shaddai on their side, right? But this battle they were about to face was concerning. Jeremiah had faith in God, but 300 men? And these men…they were not the strongest…they were not the most holy. God is all-knowing, certainly, but some of these men were ignorant of battle strategy. They were ignorant of tactics. He’d snuck past many of them on guard duty, himself. He knew that without God, they were doomed. But, now that Jeremiah thought of it…what better way to show that God is the strength of Israel. Sure, from a human perspective, Jeremiah was scared. He didn’t ever think he’d shake that pre-battle fear. But he’d trust in God. Only God could win a battle such as this with poor soldiers such as THESE!

    That is what I’m talking about. What is God’s purpose in doing anything? God’s purpose in doing ANYTHING is to get the greatest glory. What gives God greater glory? Winning a battle with men who were NOT the cream of the crop, or hand-selecting only the best men so they would have a fighting chance.

    Don’t be so eager to rob God of His glory.

  31. I believe all the accounts could have some validity in their argument as we are all certainly uncertain on the motives, if which any, were included in this ritual. I, however, have my own belief of why this method was used in using the 300 men. Before I present it to you I would like to say that we are all right because this is the beauty of reading the Bible and gathering your own unique interpretations to different stories.

    My theory is that the 300 men who bent down on all fours, like a dog, signified their expression for surrendering to God. Thus ultimately allowing the glory of the aforementioned battle to be his. If you think about it, when we pray or exhibit another act of surrender, it is often represented by getting on all fours and displaying your need for him (God). By this secret way of testing the Israelites actually were surrendering their bodies to glorify the kingdom of God in the ensuing battle.

  32. Actually (and sorry if this has been said), I always thought that the drinking water test was a test of vigilance, a man drinking water from his hand was still able to see what was going on around him and was therefore concerned with the battle whereas a man who lapped “like a dog” was only concerned in getting water for himself and meeting his own needs. Just my tuppence worth.

  33. When I tell Bible stories, I put myself in one of the character’s shoes to gain insights. It is amazing the things that can be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ when I do this. So, in the Gideon story, I want to offer something that’s a little different in the water test, something I could ‘see’ as one standing there drinking by the waters.

    The premise of the story, as stated, it to show the glory of God. So, I think the army that Gideon heads up (who, by the way, is the least of his family, in the least of the Tribes) will not be the mightiest, the bravest, or the best looking. I think the water test is going to remove them and leave the leftovers.

    Here’s how: When it comes to the water test (now, see this with me) who do you see lifting water to their faces and who is on their knees? If you are having difficulty, picture your church congregation. Go one by one. Will Bob the usher go down on all fours? How ’bout Fred – up or down? How about you, the reader? The way you are feeling today, do you go up or down? For me, I am almost 60 years old and I can tell you, I am UP! If I go down on all fours I will have vertigo and fall in. Or, I will wrench my back. Or, my knees will lock and it is game over. The point is, the old bod ain’t what it used to be. But, this was not always the case. Just a few years ago, my youthful self would have plunged my face in the water engorging myself like a thirsty camel. Now, I am not so exuberant. The fact is, I am slow and lethargic. And, I am only getting down on one knee because there isn’t a waiter in sight to bring it to me…with ice.

    I believe the men who are cupping the water to their faces do it because of their age or their physical condition (arthritis, bad knees, loose hips). I think poor Gideon ended up with a geriatric ragtag bunch with no hair, no teeth, and no agility. (I would love to try this as an experiment with several hundred men to actually see if physical conditions play a part into the separation of hulks vs. geezers.)

    Now, I know there is no way of knowing for sure. But, isn’t it a more fun way to tell the story of how God used a bunch of seniors who couldn’t hold their bladders for more than 30 minutes or hold their breaths to blow a horn to completely decimate the enemy? Yes, it is. And, that’s the way I tell it.

  34. The entire corpus of the Tenach has but one purpose. The God of the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Gideon serves this single nation when, and only when, they follow the Decalogue given at Sinai. Those persons, leaders, prophets and priests who do so glorify and extoll this God and demonstrate that it is this God who rules their destiny. Other nations may have other Gods, we Jews can not serve another before or in place of our allegiance which was made at Sinai. Gideon did not have to have a reason given to him because he believed in and trusted his God.

  35. I know its bit late to reply, but i read this post just minutes before as i was preparing for a bible thought on Gideon’s life and thought to put my inputs here if you will.

    Well, i am not making this a debate, but just humbly writing what my opinion is. As we know, the ultimate aim of God was to let Israel know that through God they won the battle. But coming to choosing the 300, we have still confusions that whether they were strong, skilled or weak. Moving forward when the battle occurs, we can see that the 300 soldiers were instructed just to reveal the lights by breaking the pots and blowing the trumpets and nothing more. We know that their enemies were almost 13500 excluding the uncounted camels and other animals, So if a mere army of 300 soldiers should just break the pots and blow trumpets and then do NOTHING, they must need a STRONG heart for this.. Because it’s clear that after blowing the trumpet at enemy’s place, they will be exposed and definitely they must fight , still they did just what Gideon instructed and trusted in him. So may be for this purpose, God might have chosen the most prepared army who were still alert while they drunk water. Also we must consider that none of these 300 men carried any swords with them other than what we mentioned before, so other than strong heart, they also had a character of obedience which we must take into account. And i think for each and every plan of God, we must have that obedience and do just what we have to do and simply trust in him to see miracles.

    God bless..
    Sherin

  36. I continue to approve comments on this post, though I no longer have the taste or motivation for online debate and discussion as I once did. However, it’s been awhile since I tossed in my input, so I think I’ll chime in for a bit, though I don’t know as anyone will ever read it.

    The thought that God “needed” anyone is repugnant to me. It is offensive. It belittles my God. First off, we have God’s stated purpose: “I want you to know that *I* won this battle for you…you did not win it for yourself.” Any conjecture beyond this is isogetic. It reads your opinion into the Scriptures. He chose 300 men because He wanted to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this victory was from God and NOT by the strength of men. End of story, thanks for reading.

    Now, to assume that God “needed” the strongest of men is laughable. God does not NEED ANYTHING. God did not NEED to create the heavens and the Earth. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us, He did it out of “His mere good pleasure.” God did not NEED to create man. God did not NEED to create the plan of salvation. God did not NEED to send His Son to die on the Cross. God did not NEED to save you. Again, He did it out of His mere good pleasure. God did not need the strength of men to win this victory, people. You’re talking about GOD here. If He did not have strength in the hearts of the men He chose, He would give them strength. If He chose the cowards of the army, and gave them the strength they needed, oh WHAT A VICTORY! If the men coming back from the battle were asked “How did YOU, a coward, defeat 13,500 men?!?!”, they would be forced to answer, “*WE* did not defeat them. We could never have. Our knees were knocking; our hearts failed at the mere sight of them. But God flooded our hearts with courage; He filled our bodies with strength. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, I can do anything. All glory be to the Holy One of Israel!”

    God needed the strong? No. God gives strength to the weak, and His glory is all that matters.

  37. “The God of the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Gideon serves this single nation when, and only when, they follow the Decalogue given at Sinai.”

    Wrong. Because if that were the case, then God would never “serve” Israel. For the purpose of the Law, including the decalogue, is to show men that they can never keep it; to show them their need for Someone Else to keep it. The purpose of the law is to point the way to the need for and the eventual arrival of Christ. If you do not believe Christ to be the One Job cried out for: “O that there were a daysman betwixt [God and man]“. If you do not believe Christ is the One promised to Adam and Eve. “The serpent shall bruise His heel, but He shall bruise his head.” If you do not believe Jesus is the Seed that was promised to Abraham, then you too miss the point of the Law. Put your trust in Christ and see what it means to be truly of Israel, not a branch that was broken off.

    Because, you see, the vineyard that God created for His people was taken from ethnic Israel, and was given to the people who would produce the fruit of it. Those to whom the vineyard was given are believing Jews and Gentiles. That is who the people of God is.

  38. Enjoyed the repartee….. I do think you are close to the intent….
    rather than finding the most fit in the remaining group…. God was threshing out the most fearful. Being courageous does not mean experiencing no fear. The first “draft” weeded out those who thought themselves too afraid. The second “draft” weeded out those who then thought themselves perhaps too confident, too courageous, too able. The “cuppers” (vs. the “lappers”) were, yes, more vigilant, but not because they thought themselves more ready, more acute, more alert…. no, they were afraid…NOT to look, watch….. and be able to spy any possible threat…..at least at a distance that might afford them quick and successful exit….escape! Thus, it was a test of genius… to verify those NOT so brave and competent (as they might appear), NOT so strong and confident (as they might want to convey), NOT the boldest and fiercest…. God reduced the armored men to this irreducible minimum: un-self-sufficient, un-independent, uncertain, unnerved, reticent, un-abled, unfabled, unproud, unchoosing,….and at the end of themselves, with odds to the gills stacked against them….and, as His irreducible minimum….found The Way to win the day…. yes, seems like a modus operundi the Lord still works with! Paul, (the spiritual warrior) ….came to Corinth trembling…. when we are (finally admit, confess, own up, demonstrate, verify, validate, know, agree, understand, submit to) weak, then we are strong (strengthened, used beyond our abilities, engaged in kingdom accomplishment way beyond our pay grade!). AMEN.
    …just some thoughts I’ve been ruminating recently….thanks!

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