Against the odds
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others… Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside.
- Judges 7:7,8,16
Yeah, that’s gonna work. Now that we’re outnumbered 450 to 1 and we don’t have a free hand to carry a weapon even if we had brought one with us… Great strategy…. No way, in human terms, that Gideon and his men should have had a chance. Right? Oh, but that leaves out the single most important factor: This battle is not being fought in human terms. The everlasting GOD of the universe just showed up. The 300 guys under Gideon’s command were not so much soldiers as they were witnesses to what YHWH was about to do.
There was some logic to the approach. It was not unusual to have trumpeters signaling the call to battle, each one stationed with a battalion of up to a thousand men. And the three companies had spread themselves out on three sides to create the illusion, in the darkness, that Midian was completely hemmed in. Awakened from a dead sleep and assuming they were surrounded by as many as 300,000 armed troops, it is not surprising the Midianites panicked.
Of course, none of that explains how the heavily armed, highly trained war machine that was the army of Midian turned on each other and did not stop hacking away until 120,000 swordsmen lay dead on the ground. Or how 300 Israelite soldiers were able to pursue into the next day the 15,000 Midianite warriors who survived the night and finish them off. No, to accomplish that, you need a GOD who fights for you. That is what tipped the scales. And it still does today.
Thanks to Justin for reminding us this was not an isolated incident. Throughout Scripture, and into the present day, it almost seems like God intentionally orchestrates situations where His people are backed up against insurmountable odds so His might can be showcased. He says as much in 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.’”