Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth
Judges 7: Gideon’s valiant three hundred men.
Gideon and all his men camped by the well of Harod, which can mean “eager”, and also “trembling.” The Lord told Gideon that his army was too large, which could lead Israel to boast that they won by their own efforts (rather than the Lord’s power). Gideon was instructed to send away anyone who was afraid; 22,000 went home, leaving 10,000.
Even still, the Lord said the army was too large, so Gideon tested the men by taking them down to the water to drink. The Lord directed Gideon to call out those who lapped water from out of their hands rather than kneeling down to drink with their mouths. Three hundred men were chosen by this method of selection.
The Lord then commanded Gideon to go down to the Midianite camp, and if he was afraid, to take his servant, Phurah. There, Gideon overheard one of the soldiers telling his companion that he’d had a dream, in which a loaf of bread came tumbling into the camp and struck one of the tents so that it collapsed. The other soldier said that this meant the Lord would give victory to Gideon.
Gideon gave each of his men a trumpet, and a pitcher containing a lit torch. They surrounded the Midianite camp, and at the command of Gideon, they blew their trumpets, broke their pitchers to show the torches, and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” This caused panic in the camp, and every Midianite drew his sword against another, and many fled. Then Gideon ordered the capture and killing of the two Midianite princes, whose heads were brought to him.
We must give glory to the Lord for successes that we seem to earn, as He alone does what is good. The Lord told Gideon to reduce the size of his army, to avoid the dangers of growing too proud. Since we live our lives as if we do everything ourselves, this is a constant threat. The fact that about two-thirds of Gideon’s army were afraid and went home shows the reality of our nature (see Swedenborg’s work, True Christian Religion 442).
Lapping water from the hand reflects our need to see and examine what we take into our minds. Water stands for truth, but it can also stand for false ideas. If we drink directly from the water, we accept indiscriminately and examine nothing. Cupping and holding the water in our hands means that we can see how to apply this truth through our attitudes and actions (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 6047).
Gideon’s army of only three hundred men was all it took to defeat the Midianites. The number ‘three’ stands for something which is complete or full in itself. Some spiritual examples include mind, body and soul, as well as celestial, spiritual and natural (see Swedenborg’s Apocalypse Explained 435 and 532).
The dream Gideon overheard stands for the power of good (the bread) to break down the apparent power of what is evil and false (the tent) (Arcana Caelestia 4247). The name of Gideon’s servant, Phurah, means “fruitfulness”, or “a winepress”, which is where Gideon was first called by the angel of the Lord.
The trumpet and the torch both stand for the power of truth to overcome evil and false ideas, the trumpet by its penetrating sound, and the torch by its illuminating light. There is no mention of swords for the army of Israel.
Finally, the oppression by the Midianites represents knowing what is true, but living a life governed by our own desires. This leads us increasingly further away from obeying the Lord. Of course, this must be addressed. The Midianites destroyed each other in their panic, meaning what is disorderly and against the Lord holds no validity, and eventually destroys itself (Arcana Caelestia 9320).