Chapter 7: The battle of Gideon against Midian

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Chapter 7: The battle of Gideon against Midian

1. The number of soldiers on the side of Gideon:

  • Yerubaal, who is Gideon, and his entire army got up early and encamped on the wellspring of Charod. The camp of Midian was north of Givas Morah from which they could see into the valley.
  • Hashem instructs Gideon to decrease the number of soldiers that he gathered: Hashem said to Gideon: You have too many soldiers for Me to be able to hand over Midian to the hand of the Jewish people, as perhaps they will boast and say that it is their might and strength that destroyed Midian [and not I]. Now, call upon all the men and tell them that whoever fears [the battle] should return in the morning to the mountain of Gilad. As a result, 22,000 men returned from the battlefield, and only ten thousand remained.
  • Hashem again instructs Gideon to diminish the number of soldiers: Hashem again said to Gideon that the amount of men is still too great, and they should therefore all go to the water and I will select them from there. Whoever I tell you that they will come with you, will come, and whoever I tell you cannot come with you, he will not go.
  • The sign Hashem gave to select the soldiers: The men went down to the water and Hashem gave the following sign to Gideon: Whoever licks the water with his tongue similar to a dog, place him on one side [as they will go with you] and whoever bends down on their knees to drink [as they were accustomed to do when they served idolatry[1], set them aside on the other side, as they will not go with you]. There was a total of three hundred men who licked the water using their hands and all the rest [i.e. 9,700 men] bent on their knees to drink the water. Hashem then instructed Gideon that with the three hundred men who licked the water He will save the Jewish people and hand over Midian into their hands, while the remaining men should return home.
  • So the people took the provisions and the Shofros [of the men who traveled back home, so that each soldier have a Shofar in his hand which he will blow to scare Midian[2]], while the rest of the men were sent home, with only three hundred soldiers remaining.
  • The camp of Midian was under them by the valley [while Gideon was on top by the mountain[3]].

2. Gideon receives a Divine omen of victory:

  • G-d instructs Gideon: On that night Hashem instructed Gideon to go descend upon the camp [of Midian], as it has been handed over to his hands. Hashem said as follows: If you fear going down to the camp [with your entire army] then you and your servant Purah should go down to the camp. Listen to what they have to say, and after your courage has been strengthened, descend upon them with your camp of soldiers.
  • Gideon descends to the camp of Midian: So, Gideon and his servant Purah descended alone to the camp of Midian and reached the area of the warriors who were standing guard by his camp. Midian, Amalek, and Bnei Kedem, were all settled in the valley as numerous as locusts. Their camels were also beyond number, like the sand of the seashore.
  • The dream that Gideon overheard: Gideon came to the camp and overheard a man tell over to his friend a dream. The following was the dream: A roasted loaf of barley bread tumbles into the camp of Midian and hit the tent and made it fall to the ground, turning it upside down. His friend turned to him and replied upon hearing his dream that certainly this dream refers to the sword of Gideon Ben Yoash the Israelite, and that G-d has handed to him Midian and the entire camp [of soldiers]. When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he prostrated to G-d and returned to the camp of Israel, telling them to rise as G-d has handed them the camp of Midian.

3. The war:

  • Splitting the soldiers to three groups: Gideon split the group of three hundred men to three groups [of 100 men each[4]]. Everyone was given Shofros and empty clay jars, and torches which were placed into the jars [to light up the night[5]].
  • The instructions: Gideon instructed his men to see what he does when he reaches the edge of the camp [of the Midianites] and to copy him. He said: I, and all [the 100 men] who are with me, will blow the Shofar, and you too shall blow the Shofar while surrounding the entire camp, and you shall say that the salvation has come by Hashem through Gideon.
  • The Shofar ambush: Gideon and his 100 men came to the edge of the camp, where the night guards stood. He came exactly at the time of the switch of guards where the old group went to sleep and the new group got up. At that time, they blew the Shofaros into the jars that were in their hands and shattered them. All three groups blew the Shofros and broke their jars. They held the torches in their left hand and the Shofros in their right hand to blow, and they called out “The sword of G-d through Gideon.” They all stood around the camp of Midian and the people began to flee, and they blew their Shofar. They blew all three hundred Shofros, and G-d caused the men to fall by the sword of their friends, and they fled until Beis Hashita.
  • The other tribes join the chase: A Jewish man called upon Naftali, Asher, and all Menashe, to come join the battle and they chased after Midian.
  • The bridges of refuge are destroyed: Gideon sent messengers throughout the mountains of Efraim calling on them to greet Midian and destroy the bridges that went over the water of Barah and the Jordon. The people of Efraim did as they were instructed and destroyed the bridges.
  • The two generals of Midian are captured: They captured two generals of Midian, named Oreiv and Zieiv. They killed Oreiv in the area called Tzur Oreiv, and they killed Zieiv in the area called Yekev Zeiv. They chased after Midian and brought the heads of Oreiv and Zeiv to Gideon who was across the Jordon.

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[1] Rashi 7:5

[2] Radak 7:8

[3] Metzudos David 7:8

[4] Rashi 7:18

[5] Rashi 7:16

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