Finally, the account of Gideon’s judgeship reaches the point of action in its mission to save Israel.
Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. (Judges 7:1)
His fearful, sputtering start is behind him now. God has shown patience with His Judge; the questions of God’s covenant integrity, the self-centered sacrifice, the undercover operations against Baal, and the hesitant deal making. Gideon and his army are now camped opposite the enemies of Israel, preparing for the battle of redemption. And, at first light, they…
…stopped to count noses!
Well, God did. When we read the account in English we can lose some of the wordplay that paints a truer picture, one that we have come to expect with Gideon at the center. Gideon and his army are camped at Harod which means trembling in Hebrew. His opposite number is camped near Moreh, a close cognate to mora’ or ‘fearful.’ So we envision ‘trembling’ Israel facing down the ‘fearful’ Midianites. As He overlooks this impending confrontation, God does something that we can all probably relate to, he makes Gideon even weaker.
To ensure that the glory for the victory and the subsequent worship are appropriately assigned, Yahweh tells Gideon that his army is far too large. The temptation will be to claim the victory of their own hands rather than to God so Yahweh reduces the force. Anyone trembling with fear at the coming war is excused and we witness 22,000 soldiers turning and accepting the reprieve. Did this decrease the trembling factor of the remaining army? We are not told but we can place ourselves in Gideon’s position. We are called to fulfill a purpose of God and yet, at every turn, the Lord weakens us such that our only hope is further dependence on Him. Do we have sufficient faith to take the next step?