Drawn and Separated: Gideon's Men

But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them. (Judges 6:34-35 ESV)

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:4-7 ESV)

This may seem like an odd place to turn to, to discuss what happened at Pentecost and the nature of tongues, but you'll have to excuse me, I have a bit of an eye for Old Testament patterns and types. Allow me to present the connection, and then I'll leave it to the reader to decide if the typology is valid. The case for the drawing and separating nature of tongues to unbelievers does not stand or fall on this passage; it is just a fascinating little detour, which should, if nothing else, give you something else to ponder.

Gideon was clothed with power from on high when the Spirit came upon him. He sounded the trumpet, and multitudes were drawn to him from all over Israel. The Lord then separated the men at the waters and those who lapped with their tongues were chosen. With those 300 men who remained the Lord brought about a great salvation for Israel.

On the day of Pentecost the believers were clothed with power from on high and spilled out into the streets making a great noise empowered by the Spirit (prophetic noises in scripture are often compared to a trumpet blast or the sound of rushing waters). Multitudes from all over the world were gathered by this noise and came to see what was going on. They were divided with some being amazed, whilst others were scornful. Of those who remained and heard Peter's message, 3000 were added to the church as the Lord brought about a great salvation in Israel.

Is there a connection between Gideon's 300 and Peter's 3000, and the drawing and separating that took place? It's worth chewing over. Let me know what you think.


Matthew said...

OK Chris - as many folk know you and I have similar anoraks, so I like this stuff!

I have always been deeply disappointed by the interpretations given to the significance of the way the men drank.

This is mostly because the verse is so ambiguous as to which drank which way (and the ever accurate ESV seems to make the ambiguity clearer than ever!) that it seems to not allow us to take a simple lesson such as "Gideon chose the vigilant ones who drank but still kept and eye out for the enemy" (as I was taught in Sunday School) from the text.

But the way they drank was what distinguished them... so I like the idea that what was simply a way of God drawing a distinction between men at the time was also a prophetic foreshadowing of the means by which God would achieve the outworking of his greatest victory over the enemy!

Ricky Carvel said...

Sorry Chris, I think you're reading a bit too much into this one this time.

I think the selection of Gideon's men was done in this way so that it was clear that it was nothing at all to do with the men's aptitude for battle or anything like that, it was a purely arbitrary way of selecting a small number of men from out of the larger number. God was to do the fighting, not skilled men.

But I don't think the 'separation' of non-believers in response to tongues is a simlarly arbitrary division.

Chris HH said...

Fair point, Ricky. Thank you.
We always have to beware of taking any symbolic connection, be it in typology or parable, too far. I'm not pressing this one too hard. It's just something that caught my attention.

I do believe there is a seam of typology here though. But I'm quite prepared to accept that I haven't got it pinned down yet.

I think you are absolutely right about the arbitrary vs. non-arbitrary distinction in the separations in these two passages, but that does not necessarily negate the prophetic symbolism which connects them.

carl said...

I had to laugh when I read this. I think it is fun to look for this type of stuff but it is reaching at best. The funny thing is that I used to go to a church that would preach this type of "revelation" as doctrine. After a couple years I finally had to shake my head and declare that this was all groundless babble.

Again, there may be a connection, but scripture does not show it clear enougn to call it a fact. But that does not stop me from agreeing with the analysis.

Please continue this series.

Chris HH said...

Thanks, Carl.
I wonder if Paul's connection between preachers and oxes treading out the grain also raised a chuckle.

OK, I'm reaching. You don't get fresh insight if you don't reach for it. I'd not preach this as doctrine. But I'm happy to share my musings in the Word. Some may help whilst others amuse! ;-) If Jesus shared on the road to Emmaus from all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Then there is much more typology still out there. I like to try to root it out!

Whilst it may be tenuous, I do think there is something here.

Mark H said...

Thanks for exploring this topic, and please continue to do so. I'm receiving tremendous value from it.

I've often felt there is significance to the method of selection of the 300. I agree that God wanted to reduce the numbers to show that it was His hand that would win the battle. But I've always been interested (fascinated, and even amused) that He chose on the basis of those who knew how to "drink properly". Compare this to Ephesians 5:18:

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the Holy Spirit." (Amplified Bible)

"Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him." (The Message)

With respect to a comparison of this passage with Pentecost. I offer that the drawing and separating of Gideon's men is more similar to the drawing and separating of the apostles who were obedient to wait for the Holy Spirit before trying to fulfill the great commission.

Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines too? But I think the church would do well to follow the example of Pentecost and let the Holy Spirit lead the way before trying to fulfil the great commission in our own strength. And clearly, tongues and their interpretation are a powerful demonstration of the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit who draws and separates.

(See also this comment.)