Much has been spoken, praised and extolled about the heroic stand of the famed 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae, approximately 480 B.C. But equally impressive, if not more so, is another battle which to much of the world, is less known and glamorous. The battle of Gideon and his 300, has appeared in more printed pages than any other battle in the history of the world by virtue that it originated from of the Bible, the most printed book in literature. Today, the battle of Gideon and his 300 man army is still being studied in many military academies, it is required material for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), officer training school.
In the Book of Judges, the story of Gideon and his 300 man rag-tag army has escaped the attention of a Hollywood who normally would pounce at the opportunity to portray another Biblical epic. This account of Gideon, his supernatural encounter with an extraterrestrial, and his 300 man army, is historically set when Israel was barely surviving as a band of loosely knit tribes lacking leadership or a vision.
In the sixth Chapter of the Book of Judges, at about 1169 B.C., we read that Israel was under constant attack by Midianite marauders. Everything that could be attacked and plundered was open to destruction: crops, livestock, and people themselves. Israelites were reduced to living in caves with their livestock in constant fear of Midianite attacks.
Yet, it is written in the Book of Judges that there was a supernatural turning point initiated by a visitation of an extraterrestrial which brought new direction to Israel and establish her in history as a nation. Let us examine several aspects of events which led to the famous battle of Gideon and his 300.
Israel around 1169 B.C., was in the early Iron Age. She appeared to be a confederation of tribes without any authority figure. There were twelve different tribes loosely knit together trying to irk out a meager living off of the land which they themselves had invaded years before under what they believe was a Divine directive.
They were a group of illegal aliens who had infiltrated the land of Canaan. They found themselves in an insurgency by the native inhabitants of the conquered land. The story of Gideon took place in an area close to the Valley of Jezreel, which is still somewhat the bread basket of the nation of Israel. R. Illust. Midia Approx.1160 B.C.
Israel at the time had no weaponry nor a standing army. It is written “…not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel” (Book of Judges 5:8). There is no record of individual Israelites using the sword, and the only conventional weapon were slings. We are told that 700 left-handed slingers from the tribe of Benjamin could sling a stone at a hair and not miss (Judges 20:16).
On those occasions when the Israelites did prevail against their enemies, it was credited to Divine intervention from God or His extraterrestrial beings – angels. Yet, some of their success must also have been the result of better tactics and not strategy, per say.
Secondly, there is the question of leadership. Gideon, son of Joash, was no hero, a trained warrior or military leader. Although later rejecting kingship, he was one of the Judges of this period. He was the son of a toiler of the land fearfully trying to barely produce a living. He seemed to be, along with the rest of the loosely knit tribes, always hiding in caves to avoid attack and detection. He came from the smallest of the tribes, Manasseh, and from the weakest clan within the tribe. And his family was the very smallest of the clan and he viewed himself as the weakest component of all. He was afraid of everyone, including God. Having a supernatural encounter by either God or an extraterrestrial angelic being (also called, “the angel of the Lord”), Gideon was blind sided by terror. At the time of his first supernatural encounter he was hiding in a winepress to avoid detection by the Midianites.
L.Ilustr. Gideon in his winepress hiding
The Third Strategy Unfolds:
Most people, incorrectly use the words “strategy” and “tactics” interchangeably. Tactics can be taught or they can be instinctive at times. They are engaged in to promote a response or reaction from the enemy in order to determine the outcome of a battle. There also seems to be an element many times of either luck or Divine intervention.
Up to this point, no planned military strategy for the conquest of Canaan existed nor in it’s aftermath. The Israelite tactics consisted of skirmishes, hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare.
In this series of event, infusing courage to the cowardly seemed to be part of a predetermined strategy, and not necessarily that of Gideon. Upon the first extraterrestrial encounter, the angelic being begins to build up the perception Gideon has of himself: from being a worm to that of a “mighty man of valor”. According to the Biblical account in Judges Chapter 6, verse 12, an extraterrestrial known as the “angel of the Lord” or God Himself, told Gideon that he was being sent to deliver Israel from the Midianite terror. Then a second part of the same message was related. He or it, further told Gideon that he was to “go with what you had.”
The strategy continued to unfold by God (or an extraterrestrial being) putting Gideon through several confirming experiences to gradually but quickly build up his courage and confidence. God was telling Gideon, “Fear not.. I’m on it and I have your back.” R. Illust. Present Day Winepress
Then, this extraterrestrial provided Gideon with something more tangible, not so ethereal. A ram’s horn, or shofar, was fashioned and given to Gideon to blow. An amazing thing began to take place: the clans of the tribe of Manasseh began to fall in line one after another. A fighting spirit began to overtake the tribe. Messengers were sent throughout the rest of the tribe of Manasseh and other clans joined him. Then to the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. They also joined.
Thousands began to catch a vision of being able to fight, overtake, conquer and acquire their freedom from oppression. “Yes! We can do this!” The Biblical account states that 32,000 men were amassed. Men who were mostly were farmers, herdsmen, servants, craftsmen, household men and a few who may have had some previous experience in defending their homesteads. Some may have had tools, pruning hooks, a few swords as weapons but nothing in the way of an organized army or militia. And they were trembling in fear.
How they went from this loosely knit and poorly trained band of makeshift warriors to the 300 army of Gideon which accomplished the seemingly impossible against overwhelming odds remains to be explored in Part II of the encounter of Gideon with an extraterrestrial being. Was it strategy from the mind of Gideon or that of an extraterrestrial?
Written by Beverly Anne Sanchez, 1/4/2011