6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
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I would say that one possible interpretation could be that those who picked up water with their cupped hands and lapped it while remaining standing showed a consciousness of not placing themselves in as vulnerable a position as those who chose to get down on their knees (which might have also led them to not be in the best possible fighting posture) in order to drink directly from the stream. This would testify to the "lappers" retaining that same consciousness when actually fighting the enemies whom they would face.
The point of the winnowing of the 32,000 man Israeli army to 10,000, and then to just 300 was not to focus you or then-Israel on the qualities of the 300 men, but on the Almighty God who could defeat the Midianite hoard with so few men. Scripture says the Midianites were "vast without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude". By man's reckoning, it would be obviously impossible for 300 men to defeat so large an enemy, no matter how good of fighters they were. That was God's point. So who were these men? What we know is that God can use anyone for His purposes, as Gideon himself was "least in my father's house" (Judges 6:15). Yet when God calls someone to His purposes, he always lifts them up to be able to fulfill the part God gives to him (or her) to do. It wasn't their fighting skills, or even really how they drank water that mattered, but rather their faith and trust in God. If 2/3 of a 32,000 man army were afraid to face Midian's immense fighting strength, how much moreso should 300 be! Yet they chose to go on, in faith that God would save and deliver them and their nation. An application we can take from this account is how few faithful are required in order to save a nation from the destruction of God's judgment. With 300 willing men, God saved the millions of Israel. God promised Abraham that for the sake of just 10 righteous he would spare all of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding valley from judgment (Gen. 18:32). Likewise, Jesus called us "the salt of the Earth", knowing that those saved would always be a small minority (the narrow gate), but that Jews well-knew that a little salt can preserve a lot of food. But as it turned out, back in Judges, these 300 men didn't have to fight at all, as God "turned each man's sword against his fellow" among the Midianites upon just hearing the trumpets of the 300. God fought the battle, and when God goes to battle He always wins.
"Were they the best fighters?" I'd say 'No, they were probably just the opposite.' I think the detail about how they drank from the brook is told to us for a reason that's not very obvious to us. It sounds as if they were being tested to see which of them would make the best soldiers. The ones who would drink and stay alert would be chosen. I think the opposite was the case. God is notoriously known for using the weak, the inexperienced, etc. Why did he choose Moses, who had a speech impediment instead of Aaron who had no trouble speaking? Moses owned up to being "slow of tongue." (Exodus 4:10) God insisted on sending Moses even after admitting he knew that Moses' brother Aaron "speaks fluently." (vs14) Why not just send Aaron? Because God wasn't looking for an eloquent speaker; he wanted someone who was obviously flawed; (someone who wouldn't try to upstage him). Why did God choose a 75-year-old man (Abraham) to be the beginning of a new nation who would be his own special people? (Genesis 15) And why a barren woman, Abraham's wife Sarah, to bear the son who would get it started? Then he waited 25 years before revisiting the couple and delivering on the promise. (Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting for God to do his part and enlisted the services of a surrogate to take Sarah's place; they had a son by Hagar, Sarah's maid). God had done more than what we might think. Obviously, he had renewed Abraham and Sarah's sensual vigor and stamina. They were trying to get pregnant. When God initially proposed the offer for the couple to produce a son, Sarah laughed and made fun of the thought of them having sexual pleasure at their age. (Did people their age have sex only for pleasure?) God hadn't opened Sarah's womb, but Abraham got the power to impregnate Hagar when he was almost 90 years old. Then after Sarah died, he married Keturah and produced more children with her (Genesis 25). He was well over 100 years old while doing all of this. God's specialty is making something new from that which we traditionally throw away. It's clear that God uses the weak and feeble in order to display his strength. I think that's why he chose these particular 300 men; I've heard it said so many times that the men were chosen because they 'passed the drink test.' That would be in direct contradiction to God's personality. He almost never uses anyone of whom we would approve, or even nominate. I'd be willing to wager that most of them couldn't walk and chew gum in rhythm. Did God not know that Samson would be as worldly as he was? Of course, he did! (Judges 13-16). And how about Rahab? The two men sent to spy out the city of Jericho prior to the invasion, went to Rahab's brothel. While they were there, she cut a deal with them to go unharmed during the breach (Josh 2). The men went back and told Joshua everything: (here it is) Joshua said to the two men who spied out the land, "Go into the harlot's house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her." (Josh 6:22) If two deacons are sent on a mission today to gather vital information for a church project and they end up at a brothel, even if they get good information, they probably won't tell their pastor they got it by going to the house of a prostitute. (It's as if our benchmark of propriety is higher than God's) Yeah, most of us would probably test our potential picks for an important project to see if they meet our criterion; it's the natural thing to do; we look for the better qualified candidates. The scriptures prove that God chooses the exact opposite. I don't know if we will ever completely understand that...
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