The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 53: The Earlier Judges
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The Israelites were stationed on the brow of a hill overlooking
the valley where the hosts of the invaders lay encamped.
"And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of
the east lay along in the valley like locusts for multitude; and
their camels were without number, as the sand which is upon the
seashore for multitude." Judges 7:12, R.V. Gideon trembled as
he thought of the conflict of the morrow. But the Lord spoke to
him in the night season and bade him, with Phurah his attendant,
go down to the camp of the Midianites, intimating that he
would there hear something for his encouragement. He went,
and, waiting in the darkness and silence, he heard a soldier
relating a dream to his companion: "Lo, a cake of barley bread
tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and
smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along."
The other answered in words that stirred the heart of that
unseen listener, "This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the
son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered
Midian, and all the host." Gideon recognized the voice of
God speaking to him through those Midianitish strangers. Returning
to the few men under his command, he said, "Arise; for
the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."
By divine direction a plan of attack was suggested to him,
which he immediately set out to execute. The three hundred
men were divided into three companies. To every man were
given a trumpet, and a torch concealed in an earthen pitcher.
The men were stationed in such a manner as to approach the
Midianite camp from different directions. In the dead of night,
at a signal from Gideon's war horn, the three companies sounded
their trumpets; then, breaking their pitchers and displaying the
blazing torches, they rushed upon the enemy with the terrible
war cry, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!"
The sleeping army was suddenly aroused. Upon every side
was seen the light of the flaming torches. In every direction was
heard the sound of trumpets, with the cry of the assailants. [p. 553] Believing themselves at the mercy of an overwhelming force, the
Midianites were panic-stricken. With wild cries of alarm they
fled for life, and, mistaking their own companions for enemies,
they slew one another. As news of the victory spread, thousands
of the men of Israel who had been dismissed to their homes
returned and joined in pursuit of their fleeing enemies. The Midianites
were making their way toward the Jordan, hoping to reach
their own territory, beyond the river. Gideon sent messengers
to the tribe of Ephraim, rousing them to intercept the fugitives
at the southern fords. Meanwhile, with his three hundred, "faint,
yet pursuing," Gideon crossed the stream hard after those who
had already gained the farther side. The two princes, Zebah
and Zalmunna, who had been over the entire host, and who had
escaped with an army of fifteen thousand men, were overtaken
by Gideon, their force completely scattered, and the leaders
captured and slain.
In this signal defeat not less than one hundred and twenty
thousand of the invaders perished. The power of the Midianites
was broken, so that they were never again able to make war
upon Israel. The tidings spread swiftly far and wide, that Israel's
God had again fought for His people. No words can describe
the terror of the surrounding nations when they learned what
simple means had prevailed against the power of a bold, warlike
The leader whom God chose to overthrow the Midianites
occupied no prominent position in Israel. He was not a ruler, a
priest, or a Levite. He thought himself the least in his father's
house. But God saw in him a man of courage and integrity. He
was distrustful of himself and willing to follow the guidance of
the Lord. God does not always choose for His work men of the
greatest talents, but He selects those whom He can best use.
"Before honor is humility." Proverbs 15:33. The Lord can work
most effectually through those who are most sensible of their
own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader
and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting
their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their
ignorance with His wisdom.
If they would cherish true humility, the Lord could do much
more for His people; but there are few who can be trusted with
any large measure of responsibility or success without becoming [p. 554] self-confident and forgetful of their dependence upon God. This
is why, in choosing the instruments for His work, the Lord passes
by those whom the world honors as great, talented, and brilliant.
They are too often proud and self-sufficient. They feel competent
to act without counsel from God.
The simple act of blowing a blast upon the trumpet by the
army of Joshua around Jericho, and by Gideon's little band
about the hosts of Midian, was made effectual, through the power
of God, to overthrow the might of His enemies. The most complete
system that men have ever devised, apart from the power
and wisdom of God, will prove a failure, while the most unpromising
methods will succeed when divinely appointed and entered
upon with humility and faith. Trust in God and obedience to
His will are as essential to the Christian in the spiritual warfare
as to Gideon and Joshua in their battles with the Canaanites.
By the repeated manifestations of His power in behalf of Israel,
God would lead them to have faith in Him—with confidence
to seek His help in every emergency. He is just as willing to
work with the efforts of His people now and to accomplish
great things through weak instrumentalities. All heaven awaits
our demand upon its wisdom and strength. God is "able to
do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
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