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God's promise had been enough for Moses when he doubted his ability to confront Pharoah: "Go and make disciples of all nations... And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19, 20) But it wasn't enough for Gideon who went on and on with this questioning and despite consistent reassurances, kept doubting himself. Gideon is not only weak, he also lacks real faith. He didn't want to die which is strange because all chosen people are supposed to be fearless. Gideon on the other hand was very fearful and wanted to be reassured that he won't die. He was not even sure if the messages were coming from God so he asked for signs:
He demands a sign, and soon receives one that ought to have convinced the most sceptical mind in the world. But Gideon, the true ancestor of all those who come from Missouri, puts a fleece of wool in the floor, and suggests that if the dew fall only on the fleece, while all the earth beside is dry, then he will believe. On the morrow the miracle has happened; he wrings a bowl-full of water out of the fleece, while all around the ground is dry. One can see the expression on his face as he makes the further request that on the following night everything be wet except the fleece. The divine patience is inexhaustible, for now the fleece becomes a little island in a sea of dew." (Phelps: 107-108)
Gideon was still terrified of undertaking a task so daunting. He choose to accomplish the first task of breaking up the altar to Baal and building another altar in its place at night so no other soul could see him. Gideon is still a fragile warrior who shouldn't even be called a warrior for he lacked all the characteristics of one. The only thing good about him was his obedience. At least with his self-doubt and extreme timidity, he still didn't say 'No' to God and carried out his commands. But still Gideon doesn't cut an impressive picture. He was unbearably weak but only God had inexhaustible patience to keep assuring this man of His power and help. The Bible thus "portrays Gideon as a man of little faith. Even after seeing the angel of the Lord (6:12), he questions God (v. 13) and needs three signs (vv. 17, 37, 39) and a dream (7.15) before his faith is sufficiently bolstered for battle." (Takarkin Reis, 1997 p.292)
When the forces of Midians prepare to launch another attack, even the readers are sceptical of Gideon's ability to confront them properly. Many in those days must have wondered why God would choose someone like Gideon but when the day of actual fighting came, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." However what was the point of God's spirit engulfing Gideon, we shall never know. This is because Gideon was still very much a chronic doubter. He was still wondering if God could be trusted.
But in this, lies the message for those who feel that a faltering warrior is a sign of weakness. It is true that Gideon doubted himself, but it is equally true that even Jesus was sent to the Cross to die. But in 1 Corinthians, Paul explains why this happens: "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18)... since... The world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:21). In Corinthians, we also get our answer to the lingering question: why would God choose someone like Gideon to deliver Israel of the miseries caused by Midianites. It is here the we read the passage that explains why weak are often preferred over the strong and this also lends support to our claim earlier in the paper that the faltering powers of the weak are often utilization by God to stamp His sole authority on the universe and to teach the strong a lesson.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption -- that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
But Gideon finally gains some faith in his God and the night before the big day, he decides to go ahead with it with courage in his heart even though all odds were still against him.
During that night the LORD said to Gideon, "Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp."...Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. "I had a dream," he was saying. "A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed." His friend responded, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands." When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped God. (Judges 7:9-15)
This illustrates the significance of dreams for those who believe in God. Many prophets and Holy men in sacred texts have narrated dreams that came true. Gideon's dream worked to strengthen his faith. Gerber (1963) adds: "Hearing a dream narrated, Gideon gained sufficient courage to launch a campaign immediately (Judges 7:13-15). Dreams offer consolation, deliver warnings, gratify secret longings, and offer solutions to the inner conflicts of the dreamer." (p. 202)
The small 300-men army of Gideon went on to attack 135,000 Midianites the next day and scored an overwhelming victory over the enemy. "Terror-stricken, the Midianites were put into dire confusion, and in the darkness slew one another, so that only fifteen thousand out of the great army of one hundred and twenty thousand escaped alive." (Easton's Bible Dictionary) It was the time of real triumph not just for people of Israel but for God himself. It was triumph of God's promise and His power that never fails and never lets anyone down. "Let the final word be from the Word of God itself, for in telling the story of men mighty in faith, the writer to the Hebrews says: Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson,... who through faith... stopped the mouths of lions" (Heb. 11:32-33)." (Ravenhill)
After victory, Gideon severely punished the people of Succoth and Penuel who had refused to supply his army with food. In his essay entitled: "The Punishment by Gideon of Succoth and Penuel in the Light of Ancient Near Eastern Treaties" (pp. 148-50), Malamat maintains that such cruel punishment was justified since "the expected punishment for the breach of a treaty made with Israel" (p. 150). He further assumes that "there existed a kind of vassal-treaty between Gideon and the cities of northern Trans-Jordan, obliging them to supply his army with food during a military campaign" (p. 149).
But the existence of such a treaty is not mentioned in the Bible so we can only conclude that Gideon expected Succoth and Penuel to help out since they were Israeli cities but it also makes one wonder about Gideon's leadership skills and his human side.
After the victory, Gideon was asked to rule Israel but he refused on the grounds that monarchy or kingship was something he wasn't interested in. In the Book of Judges, we find that monarchy has been condemned throughout as an improper way of ruling the people. Gideon had seventy sons and numerous wives. Even when his son tries to attain monarchy by unfair means and tries to exert his power over the land of Israelites, this action is severely disapproved in the book. "Kingship is directly and indirectly presented as religiously and constitutionally wrong throughout the book. Gideon specifically turns down the people's offer that he become their king for religious and constitutional reasons. His offspring, Abimelekh, who is portrayed as an improper ruler in every respect, from his ancestry, his seizure of power, and his personality,…[continue]
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