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Gideon defeated the Midianites with trumpets and fire

Posted in Bible, Religion on Thursday, 28 February 2013

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This edited article about the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 166 published on 20 March 1965.

Gideon, picture, image, illustration

Gideon defeats the Midianites

When you think of a great general what picture comes into your mind? Probably you would never think of a long-haired bearded man in a rough sheepskin cloak, threshing corn with a wooden flail on his father’s farm, or leading a small group of men dressed like himself and carrying only swords and earthenware pots.

There have been great generals like that. One of them lived in Palestine some 3,000 years ago; his name was Gideon.

Gideon was an Israelite and he lived at Ophrah in southern Palestine (modern Israel) at a time when his people had only recently entered the Promised Land and were not yet fully in control of it. From time to time raiders on swift camels, the Midianites, swept down on them, carrying off their cattle and crops.

One day the young Gideon was threshing corn beside his father’s winepress, and according to the Bible story (Book of Judges, Chapter 6) an Angel came to him and said “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.”

The Angel then told Gideon that he was to lead the Israelites against their enemies and destroy them.

Now what Gideon then did might sound crazy to anyone who does not appreciate what makes a good general. First, he did not go around amassing an enormous number of followers to try and equal the power of the Midianites. He called together a fair number and then said “Those of you who don’t want to fight the Midianites can go home.” And out of thirty-two thousand, twenty-two thousand turned away.

Then Gideon picked 300 of the 10,000 and sent the rest home.

Next he gave each of these 300 men a trumpet, a sword and a pitcher (a large earthenware pot) with a lighted torch hidden inside it. Then, at dead of night, he led his warriors to the edge of the Midianite camp, surrounded it, and then, at a signal, each man broke his pitcher, showed his lighted torch, blew on his trumpet, and shouted “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

What happened was this. The Midianites, most of whom were unarmed and sleeping, woke in alarm. They saw the glare of torches, heard the trumpets, and, thinking a huge army had surrounded them, panicked; as the Bible says “and the host ran, and cried, and fled . . . and the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow.”

Only then, when the Midianites were in flight, did Gideon summon the rest of the Israelites to pursue the shattered enemy.

This then is what makes a great general; ability to see the whole problem and take steps to deal with it, a sharp mind, imagination, and above all an understanding of one’s fellowmen.

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