TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 6-8
Judges 7:7-8 – “And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the 300 men who lapped I will ave 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.”
Why did God whittle down Gideon’s army from 22,000 to 10,000 to 300?
I have always heard it said that it was because God wants to get the glory. Therefore, God used a small force so that we would know that it was his power and strength that won the victory.
Okay, there’s some truth in that. But, why did God use Gideon by himself then? One is far less than 300. God defeating the Midians with one man, Gideon, would have been even more impressive than 300. In fact, that would have given God more glory and would have more represented Jesus, since he alone defeats our enemies.
So, I ask again. Why did God whittle down Gideon’s army from 22,000 to 10,000 to 300?
To arrive at an answer truly inspired by the Spirit, we need to see Gideon as a type of Jesus Christ. And, we need to see the numbers as symbolic of the work Jesus came to do.
GIDEON: A SHADOW OF JESUS
The name Gideon means “one who hewed down” or “cutter of trees.” Gideon is derived from the Hebrew word gada, meaning to cut off, scatter, cut to pieces, fell.
Throughout the Bible, men are pictured as trees. In John 15:1-2, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” As the vinedresser, the Father is a cutter of trees. He cuts off the parts of the tree that are not bearing fruit.
Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but to divide (Matthew 10:34). Jesus said this because to be friend of the world, to be at peace with the world along with its ruler and its ways, was to be at enmity with God (James 4:4).
But, the dividing that Jesus does is within our hearts. This is where his kingdom resides. Jesus has to divide, cut off, and scatter everything in our hearts that does not belong in his kingdom. Therefore, Gideon, the cutter of trees, represents Jesus as the one who cuts off from us the things of this world.
Hebrew 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God [that’s Jesus] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Jesus divides the soul, the things of the earth, from the spirit, the things of heaven, within us. Ultimately, Jesus is discerning the thoughts and intentions of our heart, cutting off those things that do not belong in his kingdom. Interestingly, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus does this, not just for men, but for everything that God created, every creature, both physical and spiritual.
GIDEON: JESUS AS THE SON OF JOASH, THE ABIEZRITE
The name Joash means “God gives” or “God rewards.” Gideon was the son of Joash. Since Gideon is a picture of Jesus, that makes Joash a picture of the Father.
The Father rewarded Jesus a number of ways.
First, the Father rewarded Jesus for glorifying him. John 17:4-5 says, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
Second, the Father rewarded Jesus for humbling himself and being obedient. Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” (Philippians 2:6-9)
It’s interesting that Joash was an Abiezrite. If we translated the appellation, Abiezrite would mean “Father of the Helper.” Joash, the father of Gideon, pictures the God who rewards and the Father of the Helper.
The Father rewards us with the Helper, the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
So, Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all represented in the story of Gideon.
NOT WITH 22,000
The Lord told Gideon that he would give the Midianites into his head. But, Gideon had too many people with him. In Judges 7:3, God said, “Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.” And, 22,000 of the people returned.
Is the number 22,000 just an actual count of the people that returned home? Or, is the number recorded because of its significance?
Well, we can’t prove the first question. It very well might be an actual count of the people that returned. But, I think it is more important to understand the significance of the number, since we have already seen that beneath Gideon and Joash are lurking Jesus and the Father.
How do we understand the number 22,000?
One clue is that these people were fearful and trembling.
A second clue is that they hurried away from Mt. Gilead. One possible meaning for the name Gilead is “perpetual fountain.” Mountains in the Bible represents. So, the people that were fearful and trembling hurried away from the kingdom of the perpetual fountain.
In Ezekiel 47:1-12, Ezekiel sees a vision “the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple.” As Ezekiel went further and further away from the temple the water got deeper and deeper. I believe this implies that water was flowing from a perpetual fountain underneath the temple. The temple was a representation of God’s kingdom on earth.
Therefore, the people that were fearful and trembling were hurrying away from God’s kingdom.
The number two can represent union or division. Consider creation in Genesis 1. Light shined in the darkness and they were divided. The waters above and the waters below were divided by the firmament. The seas were gathered and the land arose. They were divided. Cain was divided so that Seth, the line of Jesus, could be brought forth. Ishmael was divided from Isaac. Esau was divided from Jacob. Whenever two are divided, it is a picture of the separation of the things of the earth from the things of heaven.
That Gideon’s name means cutter of trees clues us in to the number two meaning division in this case. As does the fact that the people were hurrying away from Mt. Gilead, the perpetual fountain of God’s kingdom, indicating that they were being separated or divided.
The number 11 can represent disorder, chaos, or judgment. In the tabernacle, there were 11 curtains of goat’s hair symbolizing the judgment of Christ on the cross. Israel was to take an 11 day journey through the wilderness to reach the promised land. The 11 days in the wilderness represented a period of disorder or chaos until Israel reached the rest of the promise land. Jehoiakim and Zedekiah were a kings of Judah who did evil in God’s sight. Their reigns were 11 years, symbolizing their reigns as ones of disorder and chaos.
Therefore, the number 22, which is 2 x 11, could be thought of as the concentration of disorder and chaos or the dividing off of disorder and chaos from what remained. Jeroboam, the first king of the ten tribes divided off to form the northern kingdom of Israel, reigned for 22 years.
The number 1,000 represents immensity, fullness, multitude, totality. The first mention of 1,000 is in Genesis 20:16 when Abimelech gave Abraham 1,000 pieces of silver as a sign of full and total innocence and vindication. Deuteronomy 5:10 says that God shows steadfast love to thousands who love him and keep his commandments. The statement does not mean that God shows love just to thousands but to the fullness or totality of those who love him and keep his commandments.
The number 22,000 (22 x 1,000) does appear elsewhere in the Bible. The first mention of it is in Numbers 3:39, which says that all those listed among the Levites to serve were 22,000. The 22,000 Levites represented the totality or the fullness of those that were separated to serve the Lord in the tabernacle.
But, in the case of Judges 7:3, the 22,000 represented the totality of those that were separated from the perpetual fountain of God’s kingdom for fear and trembling. Revelation 21:8 says that cowardly, the fearful, will not enter the kingdom. Also, in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul says that those who cause divisions are of the flesh and will not inherit the kingdom of God.
NOT WITH 10,000
Judges 7:3 says, “Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.”
God said this was still too many people. So, he told Gideon to take them down to the water, perhaps to the water perpetual fountain of Mt. Gilead. God told Gideon he keep take with him all those who lapped the water with his tongue but all those who knelt down to drink he was to send away.
We have already seen that the number 1,000 represents immensity, fullness, multitude, totality.
The number represents testimony, law, responsibility, and completeness of order. In Genesis 1, God brought complete order to the creation with 10 statements. There were 10 generations of men from Adam to Noah before the flood, perhaps representing that man was completely responsible because every intention of heart was evil. God brought complete order to the law through 10 commandments.
So, I believe the number 10,000 in Judges 7:3 represents the fullness or totality of those that were responsible enough to go with Gideon. These were the fullness of the people that could bring complete order. Emphasis on could.
GIDEON WAS TO GO WITH 300
As I mentioned at the beginning, God could have picked any small number to send with Gideon. He could sent 173 or 246 with him. Why 300?
The first mention of 100 is found in Genesis 11:10, which says, “These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood.” Shem was the son of Noah that Jesus would ultimately come from.
The name Shem is the Hebrew word for name. It can also mean identity or personality. The name Arpachshad means something like “light trickles from his bosom.” Therefore, at 100 years of age, the name fathered the light that trickles from his bosom.
This alludes to God fathering his only begotten son, Jesus, the light of the world from the bosom of the Father. Jesus is the identity of God. Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.” And, Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Jesus is the light from the bosom of the Father, or the radiance of the glory of God. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature, the light that is the identity of the Father.
The next two mentions of 100 are related to Abraham and Issac, who are a picture of the Father and Jesus. Genesis 17:17 says, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?’” Then, Genesis 21:5 says, “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”
Issac was the child of promise. Paul says in Galatians that Jesus is the true child of promise. Therefore, the number 100 speaks to the child of promise, Jesus.
The number three most often represents the time between death and life. Have you ever noticed how many things happen in three days or on the third day in scripture? This is because it was on the third day that Jesus rose from the grave, that he was resurrected. The most significant meaning of the number three is resurrection.
Therefore, the number 300 symbolizes the resurrection of the child or promise. Remember that Gideon was a shadow of Jesus. So, it makes sense that he would take with him a number of men that was symbolic of Jesus.
Not only is the number 300 symbolic of Jesus. But, take notice of why these 300 men were selected. They were chosen to go with Gideon because they lapped the water from the perpetual fountain the way a dog laps water. In fact, the only other portion of scripture were the Hebrew word for lapped is used is 1 Kings 21 and 22 in reference to dogs licking up the blood of king Ahab.
The Jews called someone a dog as a term of reproach or humiliation. Of, course Jesus was despised, humiliated, and rejected. The world hated him. To the Jews, he was a dog. In John 15:18-19, Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, there the world hates you.”
A dead dog was something insignificant to the Jews. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 says that “word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.” A crucified man as a king of the Jews was foolishness because the man was clearly insignificant. Why else would he have been crucified? In verses 27 and 28, Paul goes on to say that God chooses what is foolish and low and despised in the world. Paul reminds the Corinthians that not many of them were wise, powerful, or noble. They were viewed as insignificant by the world just like Jesus.
For a dog to drink water by lapping it had to lower its head down very close to the water. This is a symbol of humility and in contrast to men who simply kneeled to drink the water without lowering their heads. We saw above in Philippians 2:6-9 that Jesus Christ took the form of a servant and humbled himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death. In Philippians 2:5 Paul says to us”have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Therefore, these men were chosen because they were humble. But, not just humble as men may be humble. There were 300 men chosen to symbolize that they had the same mind as the resurrected child of promise, Jesus.
There is nothing in the Bible that is there by chance. All of the scriptures are a witness to Jesus. We just have to ask the Spirit to illuminate them for us so that we can see Jesus in every story.